I gave a short, post-Easter Sunday talk today in one of the smaller class chapels today at SAGU. Here’s the manuscript (ish):
Post-Resurrection Life is Often Ambiguous
I’d like to start today by being a little bit vulnerable. I hope that’s okay.
Some of you probably know who I am, but if my hunch is correct, I haven’t met or interacted with most of you. And certainly none of you really know my story very well. My name is Chris Baca, and I’m currently the Director of Student Billing here at SAGU. I also graduated from SAGU in December of 2012 with a degree in Theological Studies. For the most part, while I was a student here, my goals after school were either to become a professor of theology, or a pastor, or do some mix of the two. As you can see, that’s… not exactly what happened.
In fact, while I was still a student here, in the summer of 2011, I started working in the same office that I work in now. Back then, it wasn’t called “Student Billing,” but “Accounts Receivable” (which sounds really formal and intimidating, so I changed that as soon as possible). Anyway, after a series of events in my own life — getting married, having two daughters, going through several faith crises — I found myself, well, stuck. Working in the Student Billing office was never my intention. I mean, what kid hopes to be a money collector when they grow up? (If you did, that’s really weird)
In any case, I spent most of my time, for MANY years frustrated, bitter, and anxious that I didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I felt like I had no way out, and each day, I found myself doing a job that I didn’t want to do, day in, and day out, over and over and over again. I had to have (and still have to have) lots of tough conversations with students and parents, often about financial situations that I sometimes didn’t have a very good answer to. Not only that, but most of the time, I didn’t feel like the work that I was doing was meaningful, and I felt like I was above it.
I grew up in the kind of culture that made me feel like my life could only be meaningful if I was doing something big and extraordinary – my big “calling.” Every day, every moment of my life was meant to be spiritually significant, or I wasn’t really living my life for Jesus. And when that didn’t happen — when I didn’t seem to be on a path to do that BIG THING I thought I should be doing, that sent me into a downward spiral of fear, and anger, and disappointment.
Based on my experience the last few years, I think humans have two ways of approaching life. On one side of the spectrum there are people who essentially view life as not having any inherent or overarching meaning. Each day is essentially no different than any other day. There might be some relative highs and lows, but in the end, our lives are ultimately not really significant.
On the other side of the spectrum (and I think this is the direction most of us in this room tend to lean), there are people who think that every single day, even every single moment is ultimately significant and meaningful. That doesn’t mean that they’re “amazing,” — simply that each and every moment of their lives are understood as eternally or cosmically significant. And most of us that have grown up in the kind of culture that demands that we be “on fire for Jesus” experience life this way.
During my time working in the Student Billing office, my problem was this: one end of the spectrum ended up pushing me to the other end. I spent so much time as a teenager and twenty-something year old thinking that my actions and career and day-to-day life had to add up to this big, extraordinary thing. When that didn’t happen, my frustration and bitterness led me to the other end of the spectrum. Eventually, each day seemed not so different from the last. Life, at least for me, wasn’t all that significant. I had difficulty finding any kind of ultimate meaning — in my life or in anyone else’s.
I think both ends of the spectrum are poor ways to approach life. There may be some element of truth in each of these approaches, but neither provides a healthy way to understand the day-in, day-out realities of each of our lives. I found myself thinking about this during and after the Easter service at my church yesterday.
The Resurrection is a beautiful, victorious occasion — the thing that God has done that redeemed and still redeems the world that we live in. You would think that, after the Resurrection of Jesus, the world would have immediately, obviously, irrevocably changed. But what bothers me about the end of the Gospels is that… well, it simply doesn’t. Let me read a passage out of Luke for you:
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.
They go on to have a conversation, and then:
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him,and he disappeared from their sight.
This is a little bit strange, right? The God of the universe, made flesh, has died on a cross, and performed the miracle of all miracles by rising from the dead. And then, he hides himself from them! These disciples are going about their regular business, walking on the road, eating dinner with a stranger, and all of a sudden, they realize the guy they’ve been hanging out with is Jesus, whom they know has been crucified. And then he just disappears!
This is how Luke chooses to talk about life, post-resurrection. It’s a beautiful thing, something that changes everything. And yet, somehow, it changes nothing. Life goes on. The world still turns. The disciples’ regular, daily routines are normal, but interrupted by the living Jesus.
I think this is an indication that God doesn’t operate by our rules, or by the spectrum I mentioned earlier. The whole world has changed in an unbelievable way, and yet, God doesn’t turn the world upside-down. Not every moment is this grand, significant experience. In this story, God is showing up directly within the mundane, daily tasks of the disciples.
So, at the end of all of this, I just want to remind you that, even after what may have been an incredible Easter Sunday for you, God rejects this spectrum of approaches to life. Life won’t always be this extraordinary, awe-inspiring experience. Neither does it have to be ultimately mundane, meaningless, or arbitrary. Even in a post-Resurrection world, most of us are called to routine, daily tasks. Some of us are called to do jobs that may not feel all that spectacular or special or impactful. But the reality is that the Resurrection redeems even those things. God meets us there, though his face may sometimes be hidden.