Because I Live
May 25, 2014
Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter—a season of seven weeks, seven weeks of celebrating the joy of the Resurrection. It has been a season filled with challenges: challenges to respond to the Risen Lord; to remember our identity as Children of God; and to remember the promise Jesus made to be with us even to the end of the age. We have had a few additional highlights along the way—such as Confirmation Sunday, when ten young people proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ, and one of their parents also took the step of becoming a member of Cunningham. We have had the joy of singing hymns of the Gospel. We have come a long way.
But today, we return again to the Resurrection as our theme. We have had six weeks to ponder the mystery of the Good News. Today, however, it is time to look more deeply at the question “Why is the Resurrection important to me today?”
The answer appears in today’s Gospel Lesson. Before Jesus was executed, he said to His followers, “Because I live, you also will live …” (John 14:19b).
Notice that these words were spoken by Jesus in the present tense, but in these words He give us a future promise. Because I—the One who is “the resurrection and the life”—because I live, you also will live (John 11:25). There two layers of promise here.
There is the hope for all of us that we too will learn what eternal life with God will be like. There is a future tense for all of us. Not that we understand exactly what that life will be like, but we get glimpses, once in a while. Perhaps it comes to us in those moments when we witness one we love crossing that threshold from life into eternal life. Perhaps it comes to us when, in the middle of our struggles to cope with our present, we receive a word of assurance, a word of hope, that this life is not all there is. But try as we might, we cannot really “know” in an experiential sense what the future will be like until we get there. We have to wait for it. That is why we refer to “eternal life” as our Christian “hope.” The Apostle Paul wrote that, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b-25). We wait with hope in the One who said, “because I live, you also will live.”
There is a second layer of meaning here in these words of Jesus. Bear in mind that when He spoke these words two thousand years ago, what we call the present moment was a future moment to Him. Could it be that Jesus was not referring to our hope for eternal life in the future, but to our lives in the present. Could it be that Jesus was suggesting that through Him, the One who is the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), we can discover eternal life now, in the present dimension? After all, Jesus did tell his followers that He came that they—and we—“may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).
Yet so much of the time, we walk around in prisons—prisons that we ourselves have helped to build around us; prisons of brokenness, enslavement to unhealthy living, broken relationships, guilt. All the product of our own past actions and the actions of those around us. It is the law of cause and effect at work—what some religious traditions call “karma.” In so many ways, we let the lives of our past dictate who we are today and who we will be tomorrow.
But Jesus Christ calls us to freedom. We no longer have to be slaves to who we are—He calls us to become a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), a “royal priesthood” and a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). He calls us to be transformed and restored into the image of God in which we were created. We no longer have to be slaves to our past. Our past does not have to hold us forever, any more than that tomb in the rock could hold Jesus. Jesus came to free us. Because He tasted death but lives again, we too can be freed from the live-enslaving histories of our past. Because He lives, we too can live—in the present moments of our lives.
Carla Lee introduced me to a podcast called “The Moth,” where you can hear people tell the stories of their lives. The one rule they must live by is that they must tell their stories without notes. Other than that, just about anything goes. Sometimes, that freedom leads to stories that I would not repeat from this pulpit; but sometimes, I hear life-changing stories. I heard one of those stories this past week.
Kevin McAuliffe is a fourth grade teacher in New York City. As a child, Kevin had developed normally until, at the age of thirteen, he developed an obsession with washing his hands. He would wash his hands over and over again, like a surgeon, until they became red and chapped. He would hold his hands upright, trying to avoid touching anything. He refused to go to his own bedroom, fearing that something awful had taken up residence there that would get him. He wouldn’t go to the barbershop because he feared contamination from the scissors. His sister tied his shoes for him, so that he wouldn’t get germs from his shoes and shoelaces—germs that were just waiting to attack. He “was a wreck.” His parents came up with one last solution—to send Kevin alone to New York City—a place where Kevin was convinced that “germs were born.” But Kevin had a brother named Michael, the trailblazer in the family, who had graduated from college and was living in Manhattan. Maybe Michael a visit with Michael would serve as a sort of “intervention.” Michael was intense, one of those personalities that overtook every room in which he entered. Kevin didn’t know how he would ever make it back alive. He describes his search on the train to find the seat with the fewest stains on it. He arrived at his brother’s apartment. Michael didn’t ask Kevin about his craziness—he just said to him, “we are going out.” Kevin gulped and instinctively went to the sink to wash his hands. Just as he put his hands into the water, Michael stopped him and said “you aren’t washing your hands this weekend.” They ate dinner at a restaurant in New York, and as Kevin adjusted to the notion that he could live without the chains of his compulsion, for the first time in ages he felt normal again.
He did okay until they were walking back to the apartment and, on the way, his old compulsion started taking over again. Kevin discovered that the sidewalk was a minefield of spots—spots that he was certain could destroy him. Kevin focused on the spots, taking great care to avoid stepping on a single one—it could contaminate him forever. They almost had made it back to the apartment when he stepped on one last spot, and his world fell apart. Once again, he was defiled. Now, all he could think about was how he was going to get rid of the only pair of shoes that he had brought with him to New York. When they got back to the apartment, Michael could tell that something was wrong. When he finally could get Kevin to tell what had happened, Michael said nothing. He simply got up, walked over to the defiled shoe, picked it up, and licked the sole. He said, “Kev, I’m still alive.” He sat back down. Kevin felt great like a great weight had been lifted from him. He was not cured immediately that night, but he discovered how good it could feel to win a battle. He discovered that he could live free from the fears that had broken him.
That story was not told from a religious perspective; but I can see in that story such a graphic portrayal of what God did for us through Jesus Christ. When God saw our brokenness, when He saw that we would not listen to His messengers, He took the step of becoming one of us. In the life and person of Jesus of Nazareth, He showed us how to live abundantly, how to love divinely. He literally tasted death, so through His resurrection, He could say to us, “See, I am still alive.” Because I live, you also will live.
We no longer need to be contaminated by the spots on the sidewalks of our lives. We can be freed to live in the present. And by living fully and freely in our present, we can face the future unafraid. As one writer put it, “The more I trust in God and allow Him to lead me the more I experience hope in Him, who raises me up from weakness, poverty and pain to the joy of His Resurrection.” 
Yet, we seem to spend so much time focusing on the life-denying circumstances that surround us.
What does it mean to live in hope of the Resurrection? It does not mean that we will live without weakness, poverty or pain. It does not mean that we will not experience physical death. But it does mean that we are free to live abundantly, free from the fears and chains that have bound us, in whatever circumstance we face, whether in weakness or in strength, in pain or in comfort, in life or in death or in life beyond death.
Because I live, you also will live. I pray that you will live in that hope today. May it be so!
Copyright © 2014 by Thomas E. Frost. All rights reserved.
 Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia.
 Kevin McAulliffe, “Sink or Swim” on The Moth: True Stories Told Live. Recorded August 28, 2012; broadcast on April 28, 2014. Accessed on May 24, 2014 at http://themoth.org/posts/stories/sink-or-swim.
 Father George Aschenbrenner S.J., “Examen,” Fr. John English, ed., viewed on the internet on May 20, 2014 at http://www.diocese.cc/upload/images/originals/Examens 070510A.pdf