Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed!
This proclamation is a reminder of what we believe. We are now in the liturgical season of Easter – the 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, and we are kicking off a new sermon arc – Fully Alive!
Why fully alive? Because sometimes we are just half alive. Because sometimes we are half-dead. And the difference between being fully alive and half alive isn’t about the situations and circumstances we are in. We can be in difficult times and things are not going well for us, and yet we are fully alive. We can be at the top of our careers, and everything is going well for us, and yet we are only half-alive.
St Irenaeus says “the glory of God is the human fully alive.”
But what does fully alive mean?
What does being fully alive mean to you?
Does it mean going out there and having the time of your life? Go for roller coaster rides, bungee jumps? Carpe diem, seize the day?
No. Being fully alive isn’t about living life to the fullest.
“For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.” St Irenaeus (Against Heresies) translated by John Behr
“For the glory of God is the human fully alive, and the human life consists in beholding God.”
I often think about Lazarus – who Jesus raised from the dead in John 11. What happened to him after that? There are different accounts of what happened to him in the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions – one says he fled to Cyprus and became the first bishop of Kition, while the other says he fled to Provence and became the first bishop of Marseille.
Whatever happened to Lazarus thereafter, what can be applicable to us is the question – what happens to us after we receive new life? We are all Lazarus.
Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
Sometimes we hear this and think that Jesus is promising us a good life – everything will go well for us, we will not be in want, we will have health and wealth.
Jesus also said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themself, and take up their cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24)
To be fully alive means putting our ego, our selfishness aside – so that we are filled with God. And being filled with God means we are filled with the gifts of the spirit – peace, patience, kindness, compassion, generosity, joy.
To be fully alive means to be fully aligned with God’s will. To be fully alive, is to be filled with God. Jesus showed us what being fully alive is like.
It is about dying to ourselves, our selfishness, emptying our ego to allow God to guide us so through us God can be seen.
That’s why Lazarus was brought back to life. ““This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Last week we heard stories of people who joined us as members – and their experiences here in this church. I said this space is like a cave – like the cave tomb that Jesus was buried. And it is here we encounter the Risen Christ in different ways and are also brought back to life.
What you do think God brought you back to life for?
Let me share with you what I think God brought me back to life for.
Many of you will know of my passion for social justice. And over the years I have heard feedback that sometimes I am too focused on social justice, and I have steered FCC too far into social justice work.
I used to react with indignation and anger. I could not understand how social justice work is seen like some church extracurricular activity. Something nice to have, something extra, but still not something central to God’s calling for the Church (here I am referring the Church with the big C, and not just FCC)
But I guess over time, I mellowed. And I also learned from Darryl how not to react with anger, but with curiosity so that I can understand where the other person is coming from to better address the issue.
It may be that we misunderstand what is social justice. The words “Social Justice Warriors” are used in disparaging, derogatory manner – as though what these people are fighting for isn’t really justice.
But what is justice?
Justice is a concept that refers to the fair and equitable treatment of individuals, based on a set of moral, ethical, and legal principles. It involves ensuring that people are treated justly and fairly, without bias or discrimination.
The term “social justice” is to emphasise that justice isn’t just about the justice system that we are familiar with. Justice is more than laws, justice is more than legal system. To get to a place where people are treated fairly, without bias or discrimination, involves the more than the legal system – it requires the entire society (hence, social justice). We need to address social, economic, cultural, political systems and structures that create and maintain inequality so that justice and fairness will prevail.
We should understand that pretty well – 377A is discriminalised but we are still a long way from LGBTQ folks being treated justly and fairly, without bias or discrimination.
At the end of the day social justice IS justice.
And Jesus had been a social justice warrior all along. His critique of the religious elite, his treatment of the marginalised, his breaking of taboos (like not touching lepers), his interactions with people considered “tainted” were all acts of justice.
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14).
God is just.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
I don’t see the work of justice as an extracurricular activity. It is part and parcel of who we are called to be as followers of Jesus.
I am passionate about justice because it is how I understand “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” This is how I understand the kin-dom of God to look like.
Once in a while, someone who is new to FCC will ask me why we use kin-dom instead of kingdom. I think many of you actually have that question in your mind, but perhaps you are too shy to ask, or that maybe it isn’t all that important to you.
So let me ask you – why do think we use kin-dom of God instead of Kingdom of God.
Latina theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, professor emerita of ethics and theology at Drew University, introduced “kin-dom” to public discourse – which she learned from her friend, Franciscan Sister Georgene Wilson. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz talked about a lot in her work about understanding God’s vision for humanity, that the gospel invitation is to move from language of the kingdom of God to the kin-dom of God. The place and way of being in which we are all invited and there is enough for each of us.
The kin-dom of God is central to justice, and the teachings of Christ and being Christian.
(these things are interconnected! To me they are the same!)
It is not because I don’t see God as sovereign. I do! But I don’t see the model of God’s reign like a kingdom.
Jesus didn’t call himself king. Those who tormented him before crucifixion did.
Jesus used the words “kingdom of God” because it is meant to be in direct opposition of the other kingdom – the Roman Empire. Like what Gary shared during Palm Sunday – Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and her colt – the opposite of the other parade into Jerusalem where the Roman governor marches in on an imperial warhorse.
Picture the image of a donkey and her baby colt – what does it symbolise? Family. Kinship.
Throughout Jesus’ teachings, Jesus says a lot about being family than being a kingdom.
Mark 3:35 “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”
We use kin-dom because it better reflects how we see God’s reign that Jesus repeatedly points to. It is a rejection of the idea of a kingdom where there is hierarchy of value – that some are worth more than others, that there is always competition, jealousy and conflict.
We proclaim first realise everyone’s equal – as kin, as family – and that God’s reign means that there is mutuality, cooperation and sharing of what we have so that all of us become fully alive.
When we see God’s reign as the kin-dom, then we will realise justice is social justice.
And this is the way we live out Jesus’ command in John 15:12-17
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this until they down one’s life for one’s friends.
Today / Exco of TWC2 (transient workers count too) promotes fair treatment for migrant workers.
I do this, not because I am a social justice warrior. I do this because I am a follower of Christ, and I see migrant workers as my siblings.
I do this, because I want to participate in the God’s kin-dom – and through this I hope to become fully alive.