Psalm 88 • Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20 • Romans 6:1-11 • John 8:33-47
Death and resurrection. Christians share Christ’s baptism into death, as well as his resurrection into newness of life. This phrase summarizes the Gospel. But how can we understand it in our lives? The key is realizing the terms are presented backwards—that is, we generally think of new life as a beginning, with death as the final thing. But the Gospel insists on a different sequence: death comes first, and new life follows it.
Understanding the Gospel emerges when looking for this “backwards” sequence in life experience. New thresholds of life tend to be accompanied by necessary losses. For example, a couple may rejoice in the birth of a child, even as they initially lose large chunks of time (often in the middle of the night) at the expense of adult energy and personal rest.
Patterns of death and resurrection are even more evident in spiritual life. We may expect that God will “reward” devotion with “good things,” but the reverse often happens. When we commit to a deepened relationship with Christ, we may initially feel stuck, bewildered, and out of our depth. Rather than feeling more mature and confident in spiritual practice, we may wonder whether we’re actually moving away from God.
Initially spiritual growth may seem like the loss of something valuable (say, a sense of being cherished by God). Or it may be accompanied by many uncertainties about self and God. This sense of spiritual “dying” is frequently the opening or beginning to a “new life” in Christ. Loss of personal certainty tells us how much we need God and how much we benefit by that steady presence, even and especially when it feels like darkness. Loss is the doorway to birth.
— Norvene Vest