Sometimes, I worry about the church as a whole being bogged down in hopelessness, being convinced our best days are behind us: those days when we had to get to the sanctuary so many minutes before worship commenced. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a seat for us. As if there was more God to be awed over, then, more Jesus flowing through our hearts, more Holy Spirit rushing through the church building. As if our happiness and joy can only be found looking back as opposed to looking forward; not so sure what God could possibly do with our current resources. Sure, God could pull off a universal-altering Resurrection inside a tomb of nothingness, but this?
It’s what draws me into the hymn, “Rise, O Church, like Christ Arisen” (ELW 548), because the church still has something to rise about, in the end. The Resurrection of our Lord still applies today, not just for personal Good News in terms of soul-saving from sin and death, but for shaping entire communities of faith, no matter the membership roll, and carrying over to the whole world. The words, written by Susan Palo Cherwien (born in Ashtabula, Ohio, by the way), overflow with meaning, including the second verse:
Rise, transformed, and choose to follow
after Christ, though wounded, whole;
broken, shared, our lives are hallowed
to release and to console.
Christ, our present, past, and goal.
I appreciate the honesty in recognizing the woundedness, the brokenness of our own lives. Yes, we are allowed to be frustrated and disappointed not just with anything organized religion-related, but with our own imperfect minds and bodies. And yet, even in that brokenness, we still have something to be shared with others, who have their fair share of brokenness, too. That, somehow, our lives are still “hallowed,” as we are forever claimed, in all conditions, as children of God. Christ is not limited to our past “glory days,” but remains in our present, and is our future goal, who can never be taken away from us, and not from the whole world, either.
This hymn is not sung often by congregations that I know of, since it isn’t the easiest to do so, necessarily, especially when you get to those “Alleluia”s, as the music from Timothy Strand, invites you to go higher-up in your vocal range, and draw those notes out. Just like with ministry as a whole, whether it be in our day-to-day lives as disciples of our Risen Lord, or working with our family in Christ in whatever setting: it may not always be easy to go higher-up in our spiritual stamina, and draw out our energy level, but o my, is it worth it when we do. The third verse:
Rise, remember well the future
God has called us to receive;
present by God's loving nurture,
Spirited then let us live.
Spirit, grace by whom we live.
Yes, there’s still a beautiful future for us individually, and the church as a whole. Sure, it may be different, but o my, is there still just as beautiful of a Risen Lord walking with that church. There still is and always will be the Holy Spirit begging us to live, to rise in whatever way we can. There is more than enough grace to empower us to share the Greatest News of hope and life everlasting, not reserved for a far-off distant future, but right here, right now. Thanks be to God, indeed!