1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
What are the images that come to mind at Easter? Aren’t they a mixture of sacred and secular? Eggs, children, family, laughing, chocolate bunnies, chicks, blossoms, Lilies, Jesus, resurrection, overcoming, salvation, rebirth, renewal. Isn’t it great that this religious holiday celebrating renewal and new beginnings just happens to fall in a season that reflects the same qualities…at least in the Northern Hemisphere? In Australia, of course, their celebration of Easter comes at a time when nature is closing down, falling off, and beginning its state of dormancy.
Yet where we live Easter is symbolic of blossoming, arising, and overcoming. Spiritually, that is exactly what Easter is for us: it is the celebration of overcoming death. The Biblical depiction of Jesus dramatically shows us that death is no stopping point – indeed what we think of death doesn’t exist at all.
Today is the defining characteristic of Christianity; it is the culmination of why Jesus came to earth: to show us that we are more than mere physical bodies; we are eternal spiritual beings and death cannot separate us from God or each other.
Last week, we looked at some of the lessons from Palm Sunday, which includes knowing that the good the World offers cannot compare with God’s good for us. It also embodies walking in the name of God, putting God first, and doing His will, not ours. Because Jesus did these things at the highest and deepest levels, he was anointed by God, chosen. The words Messiah, Savior, anointed, and Christ all mean the same thing. As Jesus moved through his life, he became Christed, as I’ve heard it said – he became Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus. He came to exemplify the perfect blending of our human and divine natures; the Spirit of God moved through him powerfully, and he was one with God’s will, a perfect expression of God in this Creation.
The story of the resurrection is not just the story of how Jesus overcame the limitations of death, but it is our story – it is the story of how we can overcome our own constraints. In the Bible and other ancient writings, the earth represented our lowest human levels. The heavens and sky represented our highest nature, our divine nature. When Jesus spoke of being “lifted up from the earth”, he meant that what was human about him and each of us must be consciously united with the Divine potential within us. The Christ spirit indwells each of us. Jesus said that we could perform the miracles that he did, and more. It is through the Christ spirit within us that we can overcome all obstacles, all challenges, climb all mountains, and solve all dilemmas.
Therefore, being lifted up from the earth means unity, harmony and “at-one-ment” in the highest levels of human consciousness. The daily lifting up, or raising up, of our thoughts is necessary if we wish to unite ourselves and everything we do with God. Higher consciousness, a raised consciousness, and our awareness and connection with the indwelling God – the Christ - enables spiritual Power to flow to us and through us and into all our intentions, feelings, thoughts and actions. Jesus was Christ-centered and spiritually awake. He knew that God was the only Power and Presence in the universe. Even today, God continually reveals Himself to those souls who are humble, surrendered, and putting their divinity first in all they say and do.
The point that Paul was making in our Bible verse was that when we die to our human natures, we are born to our spiritual natures. When we become connected with Christ within us, we will experience the full glory, the power, the peace, joy, love, and life that God has to offer.The Bible makes it clear that the death of our human thoughts and actions must take place before we can experience our resurrection. Jesus showed the way: crucifixion, resurrection, then enthronement – true life and liberation.
Our earthbound thoughts are often at war with our heavenward thoughts. God designed us so that by choice we favor one or the other. It is by choice that we listen to our human nature, which leads us to the convenient, the comfortable, the familiar, and the pleasurable, or we listen to our Divine nature, which leads us to joy, peace, do what is right, to serve and love others, and sometimes that is not comfortable, pleasurable, or convenient. Despite this conflict, Jesus came to demonstrate that the same intimate relationship he had with God is ours to have in our lives right now through the power of the now indwelling Christ, and as Paul says, by setting our minds on things above, not on earthly things. Yes, we must live in this world, but we don’t need to be part of this world. When we worship earthly things rather than God, when we value material possessions and self-importance more than our Divine natures, we block our Christ connection.
We don’t need to be monetarily poor in order to be humble and surrender to God; we can partake in all of God’s abundance if we set our minds on things above. This is the lesson to learn when Jesus said it would be harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. It was not simply because the man was rich, but because his focus was on riches and not on God – his mind was set on things below, on earthly treasure, and not on things above.
It reminds me of a story I heard about a man who took his family to the zoo. It was hot, and he really didn’t want to be there. He took pictures of the turtles and monkeys, and all the animals, and he was looking for a little break from the sun.
He came to an eagle’s cage. The Audubon Society had taken in a lame eagle unable to fend for herself. The keepers fed the eagle scraps of hamburger and she was feeding at the bottom of the cage. The thought of seeing this caged eagle reduced to such a dismal future, with head down, unable to fly, sickened the man. He didn’t want a picture of this bird.
Just then, the wind started to blow. It felt good, and the man opened his shirt to feel the welcomed breeze. At that moment he looked into the eagle’s cage. The bird had hopped to the top most perch in her cage. She could feel the growing breeze, and her feathers began to ruffle. The breeze grew stronger and the eagle dug her talons into the perch. As the wind grew in strength, the bird lifted her head so she wasn’t looking down anymore, then raised her wings; the talons held firmly to the perch. She lifted her wings and stretched them to their fullest. She looked to the sky, and for a brief moment, she could taste it, she could feel it, she could fleetingly experience what her fullest potential could be.
The man called to his wife to bring the camera, but before she could get there the breeze died down, the eagle returned her wings to her sides, lowered her head, and once again became the pitiful captive behind the bars. The man no longer wanted a picture of the bird.
Being human, we cannot avoid negative thoughts. Seemingly from nowhere thoughts of revenge, lust, hatred, envy, depression, self-pity, pride, comparison, and judgment of others will enter our minds and encage us. While we cannot avoid them, we certainly don’t have to entertain them. We alone choose our focus, or where we ‘set our minds’– either on worldly things or on the higher ideas, higher thoughts of our divine nature.
Contrary to what our human minds would have us believe, when it is time for us to leave our body behind we move on in life. To humble ourselves and surrender to God’s will is actually to rise above any limitation and come into our fullest being. To bow to the inner Christ is to climb onto the shoulders of God and take the higher perspective. There, we can see things in a new light, empowered by God’s strength, love, joy, and peace. By embracing Christ, we are resurrected into the life, light, and power of God. Through Christ we resurrect from the mud of restlessness into peace and calmness, from the grave of ignorance into wisdom, and from the crypt of disinterest and disconnection into love and joy.
The Easter story is a personal story for each of us; a time to remember who we are: a child of God, with the indwelling Christ as center of our lives and being. Easter is about Joy: a balanced joy of our earthly nature, and the joy of Spirit and our divine nature. So, we continue to hunt for Easter eggs that were laid by a bunny, right after thanking God for the sacrifice that Jesus the Christ made on our behalf.
My prayer is that among all the festivities, food, and celebration that surrounds this time of year we call Easter, we spend a little time enjoying the presence of Christ. Happy Easter! He is risen!