The Life of the World to Come
posted on April 07
The Life of the World to Come
“We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
-The Nicene Creed
One of the best gifts Christian parents can give their children is to impress upon them the importance of Easter. My siblings and I grew up enjoying Christmas, but truly celebrating Easter. Christmas is amazing, don’t get me wrong. (Jesus could never have grown up to be our Savior if he had not been born in the first place.) Easter, however, is the most important day in the Christian year, the richest and most ancient feast, the biggest deal.
Even people who only mildly appreciate the idea of resurrection and new birth will come out for Easter. This is the weekend of the pandemic when we will miss worship the most. We were coming to see lilies, hear trumpets, eat yummy rolls, sing hymns that bring tears to our eyes, and even display the spring wardrobe. We were coming to seek newness of life. We were coming to hear a word of hope.We were coming to make sure that the Apostles’ Creed didn’t end with the phrase, “crucified, dead, and buried.” We were coming to embrace the last line of the Nicene Creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
The Nicene Creed, the most ancient in our United Methodist Hymnal, is not for sissies. It’s not one that we pull out every weekend. It’s our heavy hitter, expressing specific deeply held beliefs about the Trinity, the church, baptism, forgiveness, and our final destiny.
The global pandemic has made all of these topics much more real for us. To “look for” the resurrection of the dead is to find ourselves in a very thoughtful, and even desperate, place. As Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb knew, one only finds resurrection if one does look, as they did on Easter morning. I have “looked for” the resurrection most in my times of grief and personal need.
Now, for “the life of the world to come.” That is a topic truly worthy of our attention, at Easter and always. In my view, this describes more than heaven. “The life of the world to come” expresses a faith in something that is not limited to the future tense or to another plane of existence. The “life of the world to come” can be the life we live as we move forward from this pandemic. After the death of hatred and the death of self-righteousness, after the death of fear and the death of division, there will be “the life of the world to come.” Our Christian faith calls that the Kingdom of God, and we believe it is both a present and a future reality. John the Baptist announced it; Jesus brought it. We live it out. Oddly, I have seen more signs of the coming Kingdom over the past three weeks than I have seen in the past thirty years.
As you observe Easter, perhaps in a new, different, and even deeper way this year, may you take a moment to consider your role in “the life of the world to come.” When you have the opportunity to return to worship, and your church celebrates Easter together on that fine morning, consider reciting the Nicene Creed. Perhaps you will hear it in a whole new way. Remember, Easter is not a set day in the Christian year. It is designated based on an ancient algorithm first discussed around the time the Nicene Creed was written; simply put, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring. But I don’t think Jesus would mind if we celebrated again, and again, and again. May every Sunday be a little Easter for you, now and always.
Love and Peace to All,