Practicing Resurrection Where It Matters Most

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Unlike Christmas, our culture doesn’t seem to care much about Easter. There’s only so much retailers can do with chocolate eggs and bunnies, although the fashion industry does count on significant interest in new dresses for women and girls. But when was the last time you saw an empty tomb display in somebody’s front yard? Everyone knows when Christmas is, but we have to check our calendars to find out when Easter falls each year.

In the church, though, it’s a different story. Preachers, worship coordinators, choir directors, praise teams, visual arts committees, and Sunday school kids are all gearing up. For many churches, Easter is the event of the year. More than any other Sunday of the year, it’s the time when guests, former members, occasional attenders, and prodigal sons and daughters show up in church. There’s pressure to sustain the Alleluia momentum as long as possible.

Believe me, I know. This will be my 34th Easter as a pastor.

So we get the word out as effectively as we know how. A large display ad in the local paper. Invitation cards to pass out to friends, neighbors, coworkers, or classmates. Easter egg hunts on the front lawn of the church.

I’m on board with the Alleluia extravagance. The resurrection of Jesus is, after all, at the heart of the good news. The fact that Christ was raised from the dead was the ultimate game-changer for a world gripped by the power of death—not just death as life’s last move, but in the biblical sense of a pervasive power that drags life down. Of course we should embellish our celebration of Easter!

Perhaps all of Holy Week will be inspiring and exhilarating, culminating with an Easter morning service that sends chills up our spines. And maybe we’ll wonder how we might capture that excitement all year long. What if every Sunday could rouse us like Easter does?

But then on Monday morning we’ll get up and go back to the daily grind. Perhaps the glow will carry over for a day or two. But all too soon we’ll find ourselves submerged by the mundane and the utterly unglamorous, with Easter fading out of sight in the rearview mirror.

This raises a critically important question. Where is our greatest Easter impact? The amount of time, energy, creativity, and imagination we invest in planning and conducting Easter Sunday worship services seems to indicate that they are our most effective witness. How better to “get the word out” than to fill the pews on Easter Sunday? If these services can’t stir people and open their eyes and hearts to the power of the resurrection, what can?

 

It doesn’t matter how grand our Easter worship is, how polished our sermons, how inspiring our praise teams.

The truth is that, for a growing number of our neighbors, it doesn’t matter how grand our Easter worship is, how polished our sermons, how inspiring our praise teams. That’s because they aren’t coming to church—period. They are far too immersed in the Final Four or the opening of the baseball season or enjoying Spring Break on a Gulf Shore beach.

So what’s the most effective way to leverage our influence and “get the word out” to these neighbors? It’s by practicing resurrection in our daily work.

Think about it. For most adult Christ-followers in North America, work is the primary arena for practicing discipleship and displaying a Christian witness. Assuming a career of 40 years and an average work-week of 50 hours, we spend more than 100,000 hours in the workplace! By comparison, even the most active church member devotes only about 5,000 hours to church activity over that same 40-year period.

Let that sink in. For every hour we are called to follow Jesus in church activity, we are called to follow him for more than 20 hours in our occupations as trash collectors, corporate CEOs, small-business owners, assembly line workers, middle managers, farmers, truck drivers, teachers, accountants, baristas, homemakers, students, or volunteers.

There simply is no other arena where we have as great an opportunity to witness to the transforming power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than in our workplaces.

This is the gloriously good news of Easter: God raised Jesus from the grave on the third day. By baptism we share not only in Christ’s death but in his resurrection. In him we are raised to new life—the very thing our baptism signifies (Rom. 6:4).

Christ’s resurrection signals the beginning of God’s new creation: “The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17). Which means we not only live new lives by the power of the resurrection, but we also participate in God’s new creation by the power of the resurrection.

New world. Renewal of creation. Restoration of creation. New era of recovery. All of these phrases capture the transforming consequences of Easter. All point to our strategic calling and opportunity to point people to the meaning of the resurrection in our daily lives.

So what might this look like in our daily work?

  • We practice resurrection in the diligence and competence we bring to our daily work. The average American worker wastes more than two hours a day, which adds up to $759 billion a year in lost productivity. Web surfing and workplace socializing are the main culprits. Absenteeism and lateness cost the U.S. and Canadian economies more than $100 billion each year! As those who share in God’s new creation, we live by a kingdom ethic. We bring diligence and competence to our work, and in so doing we help restore our workplaces to what God intends them to be.
  • We practice resurrection in the way we influence the workplace environment. Approximately half of all workers in North America are unhappy with their jobs. While there are a variety of reasons for this, one of the major factors is unhappiness with the workplace environment. Consider the devastating impact of such widespread unhappiness: growing cynicism and frustration, eroding self-confidence, and the effect these have on spouses, families, and friends. What a strategic calling we have to give our work environment a new creation shape! Whatever our position, we can cultivate conditions that convey to our fellow workers that they are known and that their work is valued. By practicing resurrection in our workplaces, we witness to the transforming power of Easter.
  • We practice resurrection in the values we espouse. For many, the workplace is an environment of temptation, disrespect, abuse, selfishness, manipulation, dishonesty, unbridled competition, and vindictiveness. By the power of the resurrection, we have “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). We practice resurrection in our workplaces when we exhibit values like integrity, modesty, humility, service, and purity, becoming light and salt in places that are often dark and decaying.

Let me say it again: there is no area of life where we can leverage the transforming, game-changing, life-renewing power of the resurrection with such practical impact as in our daily work—whether that work takes place at home, in an office, or elsewhere. It would be wonderful if all our neighbors would join us in church for our fabulous resurrection celebrations. But they won’t. Instead, we display the transforming resurrection power of Easter every time we do the work we’re called to do.

That’s practicing resurrection where it matters most.

About the Author

Ken Baker is a pastor at Third CRC of Kalamazoo and the author of What Do I Do With My Life? Serving God through Work (Faith Alive). The expression “practicing resurrection” comes from Eugene Peterson’s book of the same title.

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Comments

Good comments, Ken!!

It also means that we seek courage to speak against injustice in the workplace, against disrespectful treatment of employees, against those who would disregard an employee's home and volunteer commitments, those who grossly undervalue an employee's contribution, those who act arbitrarily against employees, etc.

Great article, Ken! Thanks. This material would make for a great discussion in an adult Sunday School class.

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