Never? Or Resurrection?

Since 2009, the acclaimed neo-soul/hip-hop act The Roots have performed as the house band for Jimmy Fallon, first on Late Night, and for the last year on The Tonight Show. They met at a performing arts high school that’s around the corner from my house on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia, so I’ve always followed their work with interest. Several months ago, they released their latest album, an avant-garde effort entitled “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin.”  Soon after its release, they debuted a track on The Tonight Show entitled “Never.” Dressed in black, against a ghostly-white backdrop, and accompanied by the Metropolis String Ensemble, the song is a haunting reflection on life’s brevity and the unflinching reality of death:

Sweet dreams, close your eyes
Sweet dreams—say goodbye to your memory
This is the moment
The moment that feels like forever
This is the end to where I began
And it feels like forever
I look down... all I see is never.

These are the questions that have long haunted humanity: is the destiny of humanity, and the cosmos, simply a meaningless end, and an infinite chasm of “never”? The belief of Christians in the bodily resurrection on Jesus of Nazareth is a bold protest to the seemingly bleak finality of death.  

When Christians affirm that Jesus is risen from the dead, they do not merely mean that Christ is “with us in spirit,” or that his teachings will live on forever. They mean that the tortured, executed body of Jesus of Nazareth reknit—his heart began to beat again, and that, in a show of power not seen since the dawn of time, God burst Jesus from his tomb, undoing sin and defeating death forever.  

The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the very lynchpin of Christian faith, and it seems utterly unbelievable to 21st century people. We should not, however, suppose that this is because we are more sophisticated and advanced than the ancients; people have been dying, and staying dead, for a long time now. And, staggering as the claim sounds, N.T. Wright, the world’s leading 1st-century historian and biblical scholar, makes a powerful case that believing that Jesus is indeed risen from the dead is the most historically plausible, reasonable conclusion one could make about the birth of the Christian movement and its explosion across the world.  

So then, why is Jesus’ resurrection so difficult to believe? I think, at the root of things, it’s because resurrection makes a claim on us. As one woman who was investigating Christian faith at my church put it to me in a conversation a couple years ago, “If the tomb of Jesus is empty, then I’m not in charge of my life anymore.”  


Among the last words acclaimed Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan spoke before his death were these: “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen, then nothing else matters.”  

If Christ is not risen, all that lies ahead of you, I, and the universe is one gaping, empty chasm of “Never.” Nothing else matters. But, Christ is risen! So, nothing else matters.

Jared Ayers is the founding and preaching pastor of Liberti Church in Philadelphia, PA. He is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College, and is currently finishing an M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary’s Newbigin House of Studies. Jared and his wife Monica have been married for 10 years, and love calling Philadelphia home. They’ve been graced with two sons (Brennan and Kuyper) and a daughter (Rae Ann).


BuzzFeed, Myers-Briggs, and the Typology of a Generation

From Debra Rienstra

I am away at an academic conference today, so I would like to introduce you to Gabe Gunnink, a 2014 Calvin grad who is now teaching middle school English and Spanish in Grand Rapids. This essay originally appeared on September 20 on the Postcalvin, an alumni blog for Calvin grads in their 20s. During the month of September, the Postcalvin’s regular bloggers (all 28 of them!) wrote on the theme “millennials in thirty things.” The idea was to meditate on the quintessential stuff of daily millennial life. For more hilarious, poignant, and trenchant insights on being a young adult, please visit the blog and discover some wonderful young writers. -- Debra  

By Gabe Gunnink

Confession: I have never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. Neither have I taken the StrengthsFinder evaluation nor any IQ assessment. The closest I’ve come to placing my identity under a multiple-choice microscope was an aptitude test I completed in high school. It told me I should be an animal trainer. I now work with middle school children, so maybe I should be taking these things more seriously.

But, for whatever reason, I have not felt the desire to encode my sense of self into an acronym or all-telling digit. Apparently, it’s another of my abnormalities, because the Myers-Briggs test is administered to around 1.5 million individuals annually from Fortune 500 employees to self-concept starved college students to most Lord of the Rings characters (thanks to BuzzFeed). However, the quest for them all seems to be the same: to find themselves and (in the darkness) bind themselves into one cohesive sense of self.

In this way, the Myers-Briggs has captured in a jargony, statistical fashion the primary aim of our generation: self-discovery. We millennials are an identity-hungry bunch and are endlessly goaded by a string of new, you-centric slogans: “Be Yourself,” “Live Your Life,” “Do You,” “YOLO,” and far too many more.


The big house is gone

From James C. Schaap

It is no more, but for a 100 years in Zuni there was only one “big house.” 

To say it loomed over the pueblo risks understatement. Even in its declining years nothing in town could rival its massive triangular bulk. It was not just one-of-a-kind, it was defiantly so, as if some miscreant Kansas tornado dropped it in the middle of town.

The first buildings the Christian Reformed Church built at the Zuni pueblo were hardly spectacular, but the denomination hadn’t been in the mission business long. In fact, Rev. Herman Fryling and Andrew Vander Wagon were just about the first to leave west Michigan for mission fields teeming with what they called "the heathen." The CRC itself was only 50 years old; there wasn’t money for a mansion.

But the big mission house had to look like a mansion to Zunis, who lived in adobe homes of square-cut Zuni brick. When the big house sprouted up in 1914, nothing looked anything like it in the pueblo, nor has there been anything like it for the entire next century. Nobody else had colonial windows, a spacious front porch, or a peaked gable jutting from a huge, swooping roof line. 



What a Waste ...

From Thomas C. Goodhart

The Girls (whom I have written about before) as they are commonly referred to around here, Ila and Lisa, are five and one-half years old, which in chicken years is pretty up there. On average the typical laying hen lives one to three years before she is culled. For commercial/economic reasons they usually have one to two good seasons of egg laying before they are retired. In comparison to contemporary chickens bred and raised for meat who on average are slaughtered at six to eight weeks, one to three years is long. How long an average lifespan a chicken would have if it did not become dinner depends upon its breed and type and obviously overall health but they have been known to live into their mid to late teens. Nevertheless, nearing the six year mark, the Girls are certainly on the upper age range of the average chicken.

Many folks who have not had much contact with live poultry will often ask how many eggs they lay a day. Again this depends on breed and type but for the most part a hen in the prime of her laying years—one to two seasons—will often lay one egg a day which can add up quickly enough to nearly 300 eggs a year. As she ages she will continue to lay but will produce fewer eggs each season. For the Girls, Ila even as a five-year-old hen was laying an egg just about every other day since early February with only recently entering a molting stage or resting period where her energy is redirected and she replaces her old feathers with new ones. Not bad for an older bird. (Incidentally, Lisa has some reproductive health issue and is no longer laying but she does well with providing Ila company so she certainly earns her keep.)


The Earth Is the Lord's

From Jes Kast-Keat

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
    the world, and those who live in it. Psalm 24:1


Last week, like many others this autumn, I went to an apple orchard to pick apples. I was so happy to walk on dirt and not concrete that I went to the pumpkin patch and just laid on the ground watching the clouds in the sky. As I laid there I thought of a class I took in seminary called "The Earth is the Lord's" which Dr. Carol Bechtel taught. One of the texts for that class was written by Ellen Davis and it was called Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible. The idea of the book was to help us read Scripture with the land as one of the main characters. I pay much more attention to how often the land is mentioned in Scripture now due to this class. I often find myself asking questions like: How is the land referenced in this passage? Who is talking about the land and in what way are they talking about the land? What is distinct about this land? What is God's relationship with the land in this passage?