That question seems to always be asked after a major moment, whether it is a big celebration or a highly-anticipated time of life. We sort of look around and ask what is next on our plates or the next thing we need to do.
Of course, the question can elicit a whole slew of responses based upon the context of the question. It could be cleaning up after a party. It could be trying to figure out what to do with our lives after graduation. It might mean trying to save for college after having children. The potential answers are endless.
It is a question many of us may be asking today. Now what? We have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning and now we find ourselves one week later wondering what is next.
It is a question that we might have asked as early as Monday morning. I believe one of the reasons for this is that we live in a culture that does not allow us time to sit back and reflect on the meaning of anything more than the moment we are in. Culture has taught us that we are to move on to the next big thing and to leave the previous moments behind. Life is lived in the moment, we are told, and not in the reflection of where we have been and where we are going.
Fortunately, Easter does not allow us to quickly move past its announcement that the tomb is empty. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection does not allow us to ask “what’s next?,” but it asks a different question. The question Easter asks of, “What does the resurrection mean for my life today?” It is a question that seeks to understand the implications of the resurrection in the moment and what it means for daily living.
What it means for us is that we are always celebrating Easter. Everyday is an opportunity to celebrate Easter, because every day is a chance to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Every day is a chance to allow the Good News of the resurrection to influence how we live and share life with others.
Doing so allows us to recognize that we are Easter People. We are people who are defined by the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every day we desire to be people who are inspired, driven, and shaped by the fact that the tomb is still empty and that Jesus is alive. We are people led by hope not just on one day of festive celebration, but every day, every moment, every hour, and every second of our lives. We are Easter People.
Over the next six weeks, we will reflect on what it means for us to live out our faith and be people shaped by the hope of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ calls us to have our entire identity shaped by this Good News and to have it inform how we live today.
This allows us to think about how the hope of the resurrection affects how we live today. It is not an event that promises a future hope that we cannot enjoy now. It is a hope that we can live into today. This is what we can take from our reading from 1 Peter 1:3-9. These words are written to a group of Gentile Christians with the purpose of offering words of encouragement to them in a time of difficulty. These words remind us that we have an inheritance of salvation that gives us hope that is strengthened through the trials of faith. What these words tell us is that we are Easter People who can live with hope through our salvation offered to us through faith in Jesus Christ.
Salvation is the key idea in these words. Peter writes that it is a “priceless inheritance” that is “kept in heaven” for us. It is something that comes to us, by God’s mercy, when we accept the free gift of grace through faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus, we receive this inheritance of salvation and the promises it offers of everlasting life with our Lord.
That is often the only way we think of salvation. Especially in the modern church, salvation has been thought of only about “getting into heaven” and protecting us from eternal death and separation from God. In this way, salvation is something like a promissory note that we cash in upon our death. By this way of thinking, the only affect salvation would have on our life today is the hope it offers in the future.
Our way of thinking about salvation, though, only scratches the surface of its meaning and importance. For the early church, salvation was more than a promise of everlasting life. It was about living into the hope of our salvation, today, as we await its future realization tomorrow. Salvation isn’t about a promise that takes us out of the world, it is about being led into the world to share the hope of the resurrection. The hope and trust we have that the tomb is empty calls us to be people who share the joy of Jesus Christ in such a way that people will see Jesus through us. We do this by living in such a way that the resurrection and the reality that Christ is alive informs everything about us and everything we seek to be.
This means having our entire identity shaped by the hope of Christ. Our hope in the resurrection means that everything about us is to be defined and shaped by the life-giving and life-altering hope of the empty tomb and our Lord, Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ who are shaped by the resurrection, we are called not to be defined by the things of this world, but to be defined by the things of Christ and the hope our Lord offers through the resurrection.
As we claim our salvation through faith in the resurrection, it calls us outward to be part of God’s work of building the kingdom in our world. This is an important though. Often we believe that our full salvation inheritance, life with the Lord, will be received in a distant place beyond this world. When we read the New Testament, however, we see that this is not the case. Our inheritance will be found in this world, for Christ will come down to earth and redeem creation and make this the place of everlasting life. This makes it important for us to consider how we live in response to the hope of the resurrection and our salvation. What we do today and how we live as Easter people will have eternal implications, because this is where God’s kingdom will eternally live.
If our hope and salvation calls us outward, then we cannot be Easter People who sit on the sidelines. We have to be willing to engage our faith and recognize that all of us are called to share the message of Jesus Christ by our words and actions. Doing so allows each of us to make a difference in our communities in the name of Christ. Often, we think this only comes about through major initiatives and programs. However, it is often the little things that make more of an impact on someone’s life and our communities. Things like sharing an encouraging word, forgiving someone, or living in peace are more lasting expressions of the hope of the resurrection, because they often meet real needs and build real relationships.
All of us are called to be Easter People who share hope into the world by how we live and inspire others. There is a challenge though to this. Doing so, Peter reminds us, will cause us to face trials of faith. What are they? These are not life challenges, such as the car not starting or our kids giving us a difficult time. That is life and life happens. A trial of faith occurs when we seek to be Easter People, people who are defined by the hope of the resurrection, and we face resistance and challenges by those who would rather us live as if God’s love and presence has no real meaning. At the same time, a trial of faith can also come by our own responses to life and difficulties we all encounter. When we allow them to overwhelm us, it becomes a trial of faith when it leads us to consider giving up on the life God desires for us. These trials will come to all of us. We do not seek them out, but they will come as we are being shaped by the resurrection and offer hope to others out of Christ’s love.
We wish this wasn’t the case but we know that Jesus does not promise us that following him will be easy. Instead, Jesus often taught that living out the truth the resurrection will be difficult. The good news comes in that as we face these difficult moments we will find that our faith in God is strengthened. Our hope in the resurrection grows deeper by seeing God’s guidance and direction in these difficult moments. We are never alone. God is always with us.
All of us have experienced this strengthening. All of us have grown deeper in our hope in Christ by how God’s presence has guided us through these trials. We can look back to those moments and see how we have come out of them stronger in our faith, closer to God, and more dependent upon the Lord’s love than ever before. These moments strengthen our hope and allow us to live more deeply into the reality of the resurrection every day.
My hope is that this will lead us to be Easter People who are willing to take risks. Not to be people who allow fear of the unknown or fear of possible trials to keep us from doing what God asks us, but to be people who live out their salvation, move from the sidelines, and share hope with others. To be people who are defined not just by future promises, but the promise that God has provided us a hope of a new life to share with others.
No matter who you are, no matter how old you are, no matter what life has placed in front of you, you are called to be Easter People who lives each day shaped by the hope of the resurrection and our hope in Jesus Christ. You are called to share hope with others. It will be difficult. It will be messy. Indeed, we will make mistakes along the way. The good news is that as we seek to be Easter People God is with us strengthening us and encouraging us along the way.
And that, my friends, is the hope of the resurrection and the promise of our salvation today.