In the resurrection we can be raised to justice
Pastor David Armstrong-Reiner
June 28, 2020
I know that this may sound like an obvious question, but have you ever asked, “What does the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus mean?” We proclaim and believe that we find forgiveness of our sin in this death and life of Jesus. But how does that death forgive our sin? Why was it necessary?
Some churches will tell you that God needed some sacrifice for sin to put us right before God, and Jesus was that ultimate and final sacrifice. But what type of God would do that? Perhaps that made sense in a temple and sacrificial culture of 2,000 years ago. But we are long past such a time. Holding on to such a picture of God, holding on to such an explanation, ultimately holds on to a vision of a vengeful, spiteful God.
And I do not want to follow such a God. Nor do I believe that is the God proclaimed in Scripture and proclaimed in the church.
Indeed, if we look at Scripture, we have several ways of interpreting the crucifixion and resurrection. My favorite is found in Romans 6:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Here Paul invites us to identify with Jesus in the crucifixion, to see our old life put to death. By identifying with Jesus in the crucifixion, we then also identify with Jesus in his resurrection, rising again in new life. We do not have to live by old patterns or habits any longer. We are renewed in the power of the cross and the empty tomb.
Paul takes that identification one step further by connecting the death and resurrection of Jesus with our baptism. Baptism is a visual reminder of this reality, and one we participate in daily. In our baptism, we can picture our old self drowned in those waters even as they die with Jesus. So when we are raised from that water, we are raised to a new life, a life lived in love, hope, justice and peace.
We need this reminder most especially today as we witness the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. We need this reminder most especially as last week we remember the Emmanuel 9, the nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston killed five years ago on this date.
These deaths stand as visual reminders that racism is alive and well in our country. We have much to repent for. The old ways are not working. They never did.
But in our baptism, in the crucifixion of Jesus, we can die to these old ways. We can put our systemic racism to death and be raised to new life. In the resurrection, we can be raised to justice. We can be raised to peace. We can be raised to love.
In the power of baptism, let us so be raised to such a new life. May we know that we are not bound by our past. May we in our baptism die daily to sin and rise again to life.
The Rev. David Armstrong-Reiner is pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 2375 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers. Contact him at email@example.com.