This week, I was required to write a lengthy paper comparing my own beliefs to the Apostles’ Creed. I wrote this about Article 11 of the Creed, which reads, “I look for the resurrection of the dead…”
Jesus spoke of death and resurrection in metaphorical terms on more than one occasion in scripture. When telling the story of the prodigal son, Jesus said that a celebration was in order because the young man once “was dead, and he is alive”. (Luke 15:24) He told a mourner to leave a parent’s funeral procession… “Follow me now,” he said. “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22, NLT) And, he invoked an image of cold death when he called the religious leaders who had become hard of heart “whitened tombs”. Metaphorical death images continue to prevail in scripture, with Paul telling us to die to our fleshly desires, and with the book of Colossians saying that when we are dead to sin, we are alive with Christ.
However, the image that I find most jarring is that of the church at Sardis, which was said to have a reputation for being alive, but was in actuality tragically and uselessly dead. The book of Revelation says that this pronouncement of death was appropriate because the church’s deeds “were unfinished in the sight of God.” It seems that the church may have looked alive because it was busy– however, it was indeed dead because it had forgotten to do the work to which we are all prophetically called.
I find that many churches, like those of which I was a member years ago, are too internally focused. Many of them spend the majority of their money on building upkeep, avoid the communities and people who need God most, and esteem doctrine above the needs of humans—much like the people Jesus so fervently opposed. Churches of this sort seem quite busy, but spend very little time doing what people desperately need: radically loving those deemed “untouchable” by society, boldly liberating those who are in bondage, and prophetically opposing those who would seek to exploit “the least” among us.
I think of the many ways in which we drift from life into death as God’s people—as we limit our capacity to love and as we run from the power of Christ’s convictions. I think of how we accept a slow drift into darkness when we ignore God’s demand that we do Jesus’ “unfinished work,” and I pray for a revival that will refocus our attention toward his ministry.
While I cannot say that I await a resurrection of the literal dead in any eschatological sense, I do look for a resurrection of the metaphorical dead every minute, every hour and every day of my life. I look for resurrection among the people of God—people spanning across denominational lines and outside the bounds of theological orthodoxy. I look for signs that we are emerging from death into a greater consciousness of our responsibility to the world. I look for signs that we are emerging into a greater understanding of our unity as the church universal. I even look for signs that we are resurrecting into greater forms of our individual selves.
I look for signs of resurrection in my midst. At times, I am privileged to see them. Thanks be to God.