The Prepared Place

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Right before I spent a summer in Russia in 2009, I read a scripture from Hebrews 11:13-16, that speaks of the promises of God, being a wanderer on the earth and seeking a homeland better than a country, a desire which is satisfied in the city of God. Since that summer, my definition of home has become fluid, if not murky and inconclusive. I can relate to the longing described in those few verses in Hebrews. Like those motivated by faith, I know that this “home” Scripture speaks of is not a place I can return to, otherwise I’d go back to it, and while I am not quite sure what it is; I know it is something better than a place I go to sleep at night.

Jesus says in John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus goes on to tell his disciples, that the only way to get there is through Him. Jesus himself takes his people home. This home, however, is not a big spacious mansion for you to live in alone or with the family members you liked the most here on earth.

While Revelation 21 does give us some indication of the craftsmanship of the city of God, the purpose of this home is not isolated or exclusive to those we have the most in common with. In fact, the city of God invites us to quite the opposite. To Jesus, home is the gathering of all His people together including those who we may scarcely relate to outside of a mutual love for Jesus. He invites the IRS and the prostitutes (Matthew 21:31). If you relate all too well to those individuals, he invites the poor and immobile (Luke 14:21), he even invites the wealthy next generation leader (Matthew 19:20-24). Jesus prepares the place, extends the invitation, and is the avenue to Heaven through faith in his death and resurrection, demonstrated by our fully surrendered life.

It’s odd that Jesus says He prepares this place so that “where He is, we would be also.” If that is the case: why leave, Jesus? He leaves because what we have here and now is not the full extent of His or our home. He leaves us here with His Holy Spirit to prepare us for our home by making us holy while inviting others to a reconciled relationship with God. He wants us to become a hospitable people, learning to love the lowly and our enemies with the awareness that they were created to share in our home. If home is where the heart is, and where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also, then the human heart is most at home when our treasure is in Christ.

-James Passaro

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The resurrected king is resurrecting me?

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Lately on Sundays, we as a church have been singing Resurrecting by Elevation Worship during morning worship. I really like this song, and ever since I first heard it my thoughts have taken a new (and personally unexpected) direction.

Repeated in the song are the following lyrics:

By Your spirit I will rise/ From the ashes of defeat/
The resurrected king/ Is resurrecting me/

In Your name I come alive/ To declare your victory/
The resurrected king/ Is resurrecting me

What does it mean to say that the “resurrected King is resurrecting me”? The “resurrected King” part is easy for me to grasp. I believe Jesus lived, was crucified, died, and rose again.  I’ve known this since I was little. Death could not hold Christ. He died to save humanity, overcame death, and will return at some point in the future.

The new and unexpected turn for me is the idea that Jesus, this resurrected King, is resurrecting me.  The time implied by ‘resurrecting’ is now. The lyric isn’t “the resurrected king will resurrect me.” Jesus is doing it now. How can this be? I’m not dead, right?  How can I be being resurrected? This is the thought that I keep coming back to: I’m not dead, right? How could I be dead?  And if I’m not dead how could God be resurrecting me?  But something about the song keeps nagging me.  I can’t shake it. I can’t dismiss it as just a catchy tune or a fun song.  I think there’s something more, so at the risk of over-theologizing and proof-texting, let’s take a quick look!

In order for God to be resurrecting me, I would need to be dead or dying. So the first question is: Is it possible for me to be dead and alive? Short answer, no. I can’t be both dead and breathing.  But, I can be ‘dying’, and if we expand our definition of ‘death’ beyond physical death, we can be ‘dead’ [in some way] and breathing. (Sidenote: I never thought I would be surmising how I could be both ‘dead’ and alive…)

If we take Romans 3:23 (“…all have sinned…”) and 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death…”) then we should expect our death (that is, if we remain in our sin). (Redemption and life everlasting are ours in Christ, but that’s topic for another day).  When do we get paid for our sins? The time is unspecified but if we get paid/are getting paid now then we are ‘dying’, and when we are paid in full ‘death’ will be our paycheck. It’s the long walk that all humanity shares. We in our sin are dying. But Jesus himself also says we should daily take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). This is also the language of death, of Christ’s own death, that we would take up our crosses and die daily. So, it seems that we are dying twofold: We are dying because we sin, and we are dying because we emulate Christ.  But this can’t refer to physical death.  We can’t physically die every day and comeback to life every morning. So what does it mean? How do these pieces fit together?

I think that Colossians 3 is helpful here.  In Colossians 3:3, Paul writes “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Let it sink in: You. Have. Died.  He goes onto explain beginning in v5 what this means—We are told to put to death our lust, our immorality, our anger, our impurity, our obscenities, etc, etc. In short, because we have died and our life is with God we are to put away that which is unholy. Our ‘deadness’ is a deadness to unholiness, to impurity, to sin.

As we die to our unholiness, to our fleshly tendencies, it is here, I believe, where we find resurrection. God has made the way of life for us. If we are dying in our sin, so much more are we alive in Christ who saves and redeems us.  God makes known to us the path of life (Psalm 16:11; see also John 6:48).  And as we take up our cross daily, and in our death cast off our impurity, we are made anew—resurrected—daily. We are resurrected to a fullness of joy, to peace, to patience, to love, to kindness, to mercy and grace. We are everyday resurrected into the loving arms of our Savior.  God’s mercies are new every morning.

To me, saying ‘the resurrected King is resurrecting me’ is to say that Jesus makes the way of life for us every single day. It acknowledges that we are sinners in need of salvation from sin and death. It acknowledges that we who believe in Jesus Christ are called to cast off our impurity and strive every day to live holy lives. It cries out that God loves us and every day tirelessly pursues a relationship with us. It is a testament that our God is bigger than death and ‘deadness’—that we are not beyond redemption. (And it foreshadows a time not yet when we are resurrected from our physical deaths into eternal relationship with God.) We are every day experiencing God’s love because we die and live in Jesus Christ.

My thoughts are still budding on this, but I’ll keep thinking on it! I hope you will, too!

-Daniel Debelak