Sunday, April 12, 2020

Journal of a Lockdown No. 31

Man with child
Father and son, Zambales, Luzon, 2019

Easter Sunday worship services remind me of gatherings with other local churches as a young boy in Marbel, just as we beheld the sunrise. Like many friends in Sunday school, I waited for the preaching to be over so I could have pan de sal served with a hot cup of instant Milo, the quintessential breakfast. But the meaning of Easter has changed as I grew older, as most concepts often do. I uphold this truth—this sweet and profound doctrine—as man whose life has been supernaturally turned upside down, his soul regenerated into newness of life.

So Easter is a big deal in evangelical Christianity. It does not have the illustrious and extravagant pageantry of Roman Catholic celebrations, but it is special. In my church, the pastor would say, "Christ in risen," and the congregation would respond, "Christ is risen, indeed." What Easter Sunday represents is the basis for all that I believe in: God's holiness, my depravity and inability to save myself, God's unconditional love demonstrated by Jesus dying for my sins, trusting in Jesus alone for my salvation through faith alone (and not my works), and the promise of adoption into God's fold, the certainty of eternal life and communion with the Triune God. All of these hang on Jesus' resurrection.

The apostle Paul could not have minced words when he wrote:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. — 1 Corinthians 15:14

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. — 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

Without Jesus coming out of the grave and effectively conquering death, Christianity may as well be like the other world religions or philosophies—centered on man trying to improve himself, approaching and appeasing a deity or multiple gods through sacrifices or good deeds, or performing rituals to achieve some other superior spiritual and mental state.

So Easter is a celebration. And I celebrate with God's people in my quiet corner of this small city, in front of a computer monitor. This separation is temporary, just as this sorrow-ridden pilgrimage on earth is. Yet the day will come when we will be reunited—believers and saints of old, family and friends who had passed on ahead, and people from every nation and every tongue—to sing of God's goodness and mercy, so tender and personal that it has brought forth life to our souls. But even in our separation, I celebrate with the household of faith the victory through Jesus' death and resurrection.

Join me as I sing one of my favorite songs that we sing in church, See What a Morning, by Keith and Kristyn Ketty.

See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, “Christ is risen!”
See God’s salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, “Where is He laid?”
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow’r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!

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