Ok, so I know it's technically Saturday while I'm writing this, but I wanted to get down these Good Friday reflections before the weekend is over…

In pulpits across the country this weekend, congregations will hear various messages about the meaning of Easter: Christ's death and resurrection, the triumph of Christ over sin and damnation, etc.  Obvoiusly, these are fitting subjects to pursue.

However, when we think of Christ's death and resurrection, what does it mean beyond the sin-oriented connotations?  That is, is the cross merely about forgiveness of sins and the defeat of the powers of evil, or it is possible to find even more basic threads of meaning?

For example, is there a primal meaning in Christ's death and resurrection for existence itself?  Let me explain.

We live in a universe that, according to the best evidence, is at least 15 billion years old.  This history of temporal existence is marked by cycles of life and death, decay and new birth.  Stars grow, age and then spectacularly supernova, spewing in their deaths the seeds of "life" that will become the incubators for yet-to-form stars.  Animal life is similar: we grow, age and reproduce, the energies of our lives being passed on (whether through genetic information, assistance with survival, etc.) to prime the ground for the springing into life of new beings.  

As we look at the universe and, more granularly, at our own species, then, we see a dance of life and death, becoming and fading.  Rather than something that is alien and unnatural, we find that this interplay of life and death is, in a very real sense, how the universe "is."  Neither has a moral equivalency to the other, for both walk hand-in-hand in the unfolding of the divine plan for creation.

Now while the rest of the universe has no problem with this arrangement, and goes on in blissful ignorance, humans get tripped up on the reality of death-in-the-universe.  Whether it is something inherent to being self-conscious, or perhaps because humanity's sinfulness has caused us to take an unnaturally close examination of the meaning of our lives in relation to the dance of life and death in the universe, the fear of death is overwhelming to most.  We live our whole lives running from it, scarcely realizing that at every step of growth and movement we participate in the greate dance, ever giving ourselves over to it more completely.  Because we become so self-absorbed with the question of persistence beyond our inevitable un-becoming, death is the ultimate existential taboo, the great moral terror that rules over all.

So to overcome this great existential crisis, we attempt to shore up our personal existence against the overwhelming march of life and death by suggesting an existential transcendence over the same.  We are immortal souls placed in mortal containers, it is said, and when the shell passes we–our true, immortal selves–will persist.  But even with such a brilliantly devised escape from the "problem" of mortality, we are hounded by the nagging terror of losing the self-conscoiusness which we hold so dearly, and ostensibly curse our mortality to sanctify the immortal.

Into this conflagration comes the Incarnation of very God in Christ, and Christ's death and resurrection into the newness of life in God.  But what does this mean in light of the history of the universe?  In my mind, the juxtaposition of the history of the universe and the reality of Christ's death and resurrection is one of the most profound truths that could possibly be comprehended.  You see, immortal souls do not need a resurrection.  If we–our "true" selves–are defined not by our mortality and "creatureliness," but rather by some abstract metaphysical principle of ontology, then the resurrection is moot, for "we" would persist in being beyond the cessation of mortal experience.  In such a scenario, the resurrection is an odd appendage and might be understood as even a unneeded hindrance to an existence of immortal soul-life.

Yet as the history of the universe and our own experiences in life clearly reveal, we–our true selves–are not simply embodied immortality; rather, we are products of the universe in which we live, the sons and daughters of the interplay of mortality–life and death.  But interestingly, when this perspective is assumed, an entirely new vista of meaning is opened for contemplating the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  The meaning of the Incarnation, is exploded wide, for in the coming of God to creation, we begin to see more radically the immense love of God.  Rather than coming merely to "rescue" us from sinfulness, the Incarnation is a beautiful manifestation of God's care and valuation of creation.  It is the story of a God who loves the finite so much that God enters into the primal existence of creation that it might be assumed into the very life of God; the Creator has become, in Christ, the created so that the creation might share in the abundant and eternal life of God.

But even more profoundly, the resurrection of Christ sheds light on the seeming meaninglessness of the cycles of life and death in our universe.  Christ did not enter into the resurrection life of God simply through Incarnation.  Rather, like the seed which must first die before it can spring to the newness of life, it was in death that resurrection was granted unto Christ by the Father.  Yet lest we miss the point, notice how closely Christ's life, death and resurrection mirror the cycles of life which have already been outlined.  It is the epic drama of God embracing creation not simply as something to be possessed, but rather as a reality in which very God will participate fully, even to the death of Christ, the God-man.

So what is this all moving towards?  Let us grant that the life-death-resurrection of Christ is somehow corollary to the experience of mortal existence in the universe.  What does it mean?  

If it is truly God who is in Christ and who is bringing into the life of God the whole of creation through the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, then we must certainly reevaluate the nature of the universe.  That is, if Christ, in his life-death-resurrection, is somehow an archetype for the nature of that which Christ subsumes in his person, it is no longer possible to look on the history of the universe as a series of random, chaotic and meaningless occurences.  To the contrary, as God in Christ has taken unto Godself these very cycles of existence, it is clear that the structure of such a universe is a providential act of God, a setting of the stage for the ultimate fulfillment of the divine plan for the cosmos in the person and work of Christ.  These cycles of life and death, from the very first moments of space-time, have been moving, building and working towards God's design for creation, the making of all things new in Christ through resurrection.  As Christ's coming marks the ultimate unfolding and fulfillment of God's creative work, so in death and resurrection Christ sums up, or recapitulates the whole history of life and death, revealing them to be the handiwork of very God.

But further, such conclusions force us to resist the temptation to reduce the meaningfulness of resurrection to the salvation of the "immortal" soul.  Rather, it seems that the story of God's plan in the history of creation as revealed in Christ is that God has come not to simply to save immortal souls, but to more thoroughly to grant newness of life and perpetuation of existence to that creation which God created mortal and finite.  In the resurrection of Christ, it becomes plain that the universe's history of the dance of life-and
eath is not so
mething alien and undesired by God; rather, it is the mysterious unfolding of God's plan for the completion of God's creative work in the newness of life granted in resurrection.  Thus, in a master brush stroke, the lines of salvation as realized in Christ's death and resurrection are exploded beyond the narrow bounds of forensic justification or the procurement of a final destination for the immortal soul.  Much more profoundly, the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour reveals that the whole of our beings–life, death mortality and existense itself–is being transformed radically to participate in the everlasting life of the Father, a life which is never ending and whose light shall shine eternally.

So as we contemplate the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection, let us remember intently that its meaning is not constrained merely to conceptions of forgiveness and justification, but is expanded infintely to powerfully proclaim the fulfillment of God's creation as realized in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.