1 Corinthians 15:1-5
15 Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Alex Dingle is a good friend of mine. He was also in my student ministry when I was at Northminster Presbyterian Church many years ago. He was in middle school when I first met him. We clicked from the beginning. He loved adventure and was always doing crazy stunts like skateboard jumping off of extremely steep ramps that he’d build…or doing tricks on his bike. He also loved the outdoors.
In high school, we would take students on wilderness experiences. Our favorite was Pioneer Plunge. It’s a wilderness camp on the property of Young Life’s Windy Gap. It seems like many lifetimes ago that we were involved with Young Life, but we had some great memories with Young Life. Their Windy Gap is not a typical camp, it’s more like a Disney world in the mountains with all some extreme obstacle courses, slides, swings, go-carts, horseback riding, modern cabins that look more like large hotel rooms, Jacuzzi, things called blobs on the lake, zip lines, etc.
However, Pioneer Plunge was built in the middle of the woods with no running water, no electricity, and the bare minimum of luxuries or entertainment.
It was build for students to get away, to learn to be dependent on each other, and to have distractions at a minimum in order to foster relationships with each other and with God.
Alex went on several of these trips. Our last trip there when he was in high school was the best though. We had a great weekend filled with laughing, deep conversation, and really good community. On the way out of camp, in our van, we were listening to music in the van, singing at the top of our lungs, and I can remember thinking and then voicing this out loud to Alex, “there is no place else in the entire world that I’d rather be right now than here, in this van, after this weekend, with you”. I really meant it. It was a “now” moment filled with life, new life. A time when things slowed down, relationships were deepened by simply being fully present with each other.
I’ve had other moments in my life like that. I believe they happen most often when we come to a relational place of deep contentment within ourselves and with those around us…and with a sense of the holy or “other” being present around and in us holding it all together.
In 1989, I spent a summer working with a group called EAPE in Philadelphia before my senior year at the University of Kentucky.
The founder of this group was a man by the name of Dr. Tony Campolo. I heard him give a lot of speeches over the years, but one on Quantum Physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity captured my imagination. I wasn’t much of a physics student in high school, at all…we had a great teacher, and many of my friends were members of the All-Vector team as they deemed themselves. However, I was not. But, now I’m finding myself drawn to it. Dr. Campolo is a brilliant sociologist and who studied very briefly under Albert Einstein. In this talk, he gave a great picture of how time is suspended according to Einstein. Time isn’t always linear either.
Here are some words that Tony has shared over the years:
According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, time is relative to motion.
The faster we travel, the more time is compressed. You know that, don’t you-from StarTrek?-from the movie Contact, right? You know that time is relative to motion. The faster you travel, according to Einstein, the more time is compressed. So, if we put you in a rocket, sent you into outer space traveling at 170,000 miles a second (relative to us); if you came back in ten years, you would be ten years older. All the rest of us would be twenty years older. Our twenty years would be compressed into ten years of your time. If we got you traveling at 180,000 miles a second, our twenty years would be compressed into one day of your time. If we got you traveling at the speed of light-(we can’t do that, because, as you approach the speed of light your physical mass increases outward in a geometric progression; your size and weight increases dramatically, as you approach the speed of light.) I tell you that-don’t let anybody ever say you’re fat. Just say, ‘I’m traveling too fast’. You know, just say that. But if I could get you traveling at the speed of light-186,000 miles a second-there would be no passage of time at all. Everything would occur simultaneously. You say, ‘Well, why did you do us that-why did you take us through Einstein?’
Tony goes on to say: For a very important reason: I believe that Jesus is not only very human of very human, I believe that Jesus is God. I believe he has this humanity and this divinity, simultaneously.…Let me say this: When Jesus hung on the cross, 2000 years ago-because Jesus is simultaneously God, he was, and he is contemporary with this very moment! You say, ‘But there’s 2000 years separating me from Jesus on the cross, back there. There’s 2000 years separating these two events.’ At the speed of light, these two events are occurring now.
Jesus is God, and experiences time in a different dimension. All things happen now with Jesus.
That’s why the very name of God is “I am that I am”. That’s why, when they asked Jesus, “Who are you?” he said, “Before Abraham was…I am”…Which means that, right now, Jesus is looking at you. Right now, Jesus, on the cross, has you in his consciousness. He sees you sitting here.
The lecture that Dr. Campolo gave talked about the events of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection as happening now…not something in the distant past. Since God is in a different dimension, not constrained to linear time, which science gives testimony to as well, that the drama of creation and redemption with God through Christ are happening all of the time with God, all of it, right now. He even went on to say that we are brought up into God’s newness when we die. When we die, we enter God’s now…therefore, we all arrive into the Presence of God at the same moment…into eternity, or God’s now. Crazy.
In the fullness of time, Christ gathered all things, all people to him. We have been drawn, are drawn, and are being drawn into Christ…right now. We are bound together by God’s Spirit, God’s Otherness to each other and to God. Because of that, God’s actions on our behalf are happening right now…and always.
Now, one thing we should ask, did Jesus die on the cross to appease God for our sins? Well, it’s interesting, there are multiple orthodox theories of atonement, or why Christ went to the cross. Penal Substitutionary atonement, or Jesus going to the cross to appease God the Fathers desire for sacrifice to pay for our sins, is one of many….personally, I don’t think it matches up with the trajectory of scripture and a loving God.
The scandal of the cross is that Jesus disrupted the system, some folks felt threatened. They made up charges, put him to death in a humiliating and violent way. BUT, the beauty of the cross is that God’s love for us overcame the humiliation and violence and that love resurrected Jesus.
The atonement is an “at-one-moment” when we see the sense of God’s now in a dynamic and dramatic union of the divine and human. We see Jesus and Jesus sees us. What’s more, that moment is happening right now, all of the time.
Corinthians was written to a group of Jewish believers with the intent of giving them a hope in a salvation that has already here. It was good news for them, and good news for us now.
This resurrection life, this overcoming the humiliation and violence of our lives, this conquering of death, is happening now, right now! We are being healed, now. Our job is to work on cultivating the reality that is God’s newness. To be still at times, to work towards a goal of loving our neighbors well, to seek a Kingdom that God has already established for us. It can be hard work, yes, discovery the beauty within and without takes time and effort…yet, it’s already there, waiting to be discovered and experienced. Someday, when linear time is complete, or full, we will have the opportunity to see things more clearly. But, now, we catch inklings of those transcendent moments of being in the now.
Fleming Road UCC, the church in my neighborhood that I pastor is growing in the confidence that all that we need is here, now. Yes, we will do lots of new things as well as some old things. We will continue to grow and learn to “be” ourselves in community with others and with God. We will experience the confidence of knowing that the entire drama or narrative of God’s work on our behalf, of God’s pursuit of us throughout history and in the future is happening NOW.
I believe, like that moment with Alex, that God is saying to us, right now, there’s no place I’d rather be than here, with you, now, in all of our struggles and triumphs, shedding awareness into the depths of who we are.
As we go into 2019, may we live in the Now of God and, as we go through the birthing, living, dying, and resurrection of things in our lives, know that the good news of life in Christ has been happening, is happening, and will continue to happen forever.