Fairy Tales and Real Life

Have you ever read your children a fairy tale and come to the final words, “And they lived happily ever after”, and paused to consider the implications of such a bold statement?  Too often we are consumed with the everyday concerns of life that we fail to see that it is a whole story that we live out, divinely authored, and with a certain end in mind.  Now, I’m not implying that life is like a fairy tale, or am I?  Consider this tale for a moment.

Long ago two people, our ancestors far removed, by the name of Adam and Eve, inhabited a veritable Paradise on earth.  Not a bad place to start a fairy tale in the grand tradition of such stories.  In this Paradise they communed with God, were clothed in immortality, had divine knowledge infused into their nature, and were free from all pain and suffering.  Their only burden (if it could ever be considered as such) was to remain in obedience to one simple command of God.  Now into this happy realm came Satan, the enemy of mankind (and of God for that matter), the arch-fiend, followed by his two hideous offspring, Sin and Death.  In minds that had never known anything other than blessedness he sowed deceit and, by the twisting of God’s word, provided the occasion whereby our two ancestors fell from grace through disobedience.  Then the judgment of God came swiftly.  Paradise was lost.  The man and woman were exiled from the presence of God and the full effects of sin and death were laid upon their nature. The earth itself was cursed deeply because of their sin.  No longer would it remain a paradise, but it brought forth hedgerows of thorns and thistles to confound the man.  Thus burdened under the curse of death, our ancestors cried out to the God who had created them, “a boon, Lord, a boon!”  Now that may not have probably been what Adam said, but it’s in keeping with the poetic tradition of a good story, so hear me out.  In mercy, the Creator of the universe looked upon the man and woman whom He had created and loved, and gave a cryptic promise concerning a divinely-appointed deliverer who would one day overthrow their enemies and restore all things.

And now the story jumps far into the future, to the fullness of time, an appropriate place to pick back up.  This promised deliverer was born of a virgin in a Bethlehem stable, grew to maturity in Nazareth, was despised and rejected in Jerusalem, was put to death at the hand of godless men, and was sealed in a tomb.  Wrapped by the chains of death, having borne upon His body the sins of all mankind, having had the just curse and judgment of God exacted upon His person, He descends into Hell, the realm of Satan himself.  Now we get to the good part!  There the divine promise, the seed of hope for mankind, begins to blossom forth.  The head of the serpent is crushed beneath the Deliverer’s feet, the chains of death are broken and cast aside, and Hell is turned inside out as the conquering Deliverer leads captivity captive in triumph through the heavens, the keys of Hell and Death firmly grasped in His hand.  Heaven’s gates swing open full wide once more to mankind, and the proclamation that we are no longer slaves to the baser elements which once held sway over us, but that we are now sons and daughters of God once more is heralded through the kingdom.  A new race from every tribe and nation and tongue is born with their Deliverer-King as its head.

Now that’s a pretty good storyline.  I can’t remember reading one more glorious or exciting.  But what makes this story different from all so many other fairy tales that have the same elements of romance, happiness, heroism, virtue and triumph is this: it is absolutely true.  And this very story is that story of life in which each of us moves and has a part to fulfill.  It would do us some good (eternal good) if we allowed ourselves to be reminded of that truth during this season of Resurrection and see again the panorama of human history, and our own lifetime, from God’s perspective.

And if that’s not enough reason to be uplifted in body and spirit, I’ll let you in on another marvelous thing.  I peeked at the end of the book, and guess what?  All of God’s people live happily FOREVER after–all by the grace of God.  In this season of Resurrection let all glory and power and honor be given to His Name, both now and forever, world without end.  Amen.

The IF and BUT of Resurrection Sunday

“…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…”  I Corinthians 15:14

Webster’s dictionary defines vain as “having no real value, marked by futility or ineffectualness, foolish.”  That which is vain has an appearance that would make it desirable to our eyes, but it has no substance or worth behind its facade; it is a costume-jewelry diamond.  That which is vain has an appearance of strength and security, but has no foundation or underlying reinforcement; it is a house built upon sand.  That which is vain has an appearance of direction and purpose, but it is always bound up in the experiential and has no real basis outside itself; it is a pipe-dream, a grand and glorious promise that can never deliver.  That which is vain has an appearance of power and effect, but it lacks the integrity and harmony to accomplish anything; it is a broken tooth, or a limb out of joint.  And the Apostle Paul states emphatically that our religion, our doctrine, our faith, our liturgy, and our heritage is vanity if Jesus Christ be not raised.  Consider what this means.

If Christ be not raised, mankind remains dead in their sins, destined to be forever separated from their Creator.  If Christ be not raised, then our only destiny is death, and after death a certain awful judgment.  If Christ be not raised, then the soul of mankind remains chained in captivity forever, and the gates of heaven shall never be opened to them.  If Christ be not raised, then all the souls of the righteous dead have no hope of the promise of God being fulfilled for them.  If Christ be not raised, then we are not just lost, but deceived, and our religion and life is void of purpose.  It is a charade.  If Christ be not raised, then we are squandering what little life we have upon this earth pursuing the wind.  If Christ be not raised, then this world and all contained within it are shrouded even now in darkness, and will always bear the curse of sin as its lot.  If Christ be not raised, then all creation is subjected to Satan’s dominion and his unholy lordship mocks the Name of God.

That is, if Christ be not raised.  But Resurrection Sunday shouts hallelujah, He is raised; and because He is, our sins are forgiven, we have fellowship as sons and daughters of God, we have eternal life, heaven’s gates are opened wide to us, we are joined in the glorious communion of saints before God’s throne, our religion is alive and able to touch mankind’s heart, our lives have purpose which goes beyond this age, light has come in the world and people have seen it, and the serpent’s head has been crushed and his mocking accusations silenced forever.

For a time our world had been shrouded in darkness, and for a season Satan had his dominion. But the winds have changed, the fullness of time has come, and this season now belongs to us.  It is a season of light and life, a season of joy and grace, a season of healing and deliverance, a season of power and the breaking in of the kingdom of God.

So lift your eyes to the heavens and hear the words of the angel proclaim, “He is not here, He has risen!”  Hear those worlds of life and know that all the promises of God have become “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus Christ.  And then go forth in joy, knowing that the season of darkness has passed away with the rising Son, and that the salvation of our God has today been made manifest in our hearts!  Christ is risen, truly He is risen!  We are a Resurrection people and Hallelujah is our song.