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Finding Faith: Living the resurrected life

On a recent springtime hike in Michaux State Forest, beside a trail was an enormous section of a pine tree that had toppled over during the winter. It was dead — gray bark, rotten branches, hollow inside.

I imagine in its day, it was the largest pine tree in the woods, towering majestically above all the others. But now, it was reduced to dead sections of what would become detritus.

But peering into its rotten core, I saw so much life. There were a dozen or so pine tree shoots nesting inside the log, as if living in an incubator; there were insects swarming around a larva pool; and there were the unmistakable scratch marks of a rodent telling me that there were seeds or grubs deep in the cavity.

What had appeared completely rotten — dead — was in fact teeming with life.

Is this not the picture of resurrection? As Christians, we understand profoundly that our savior died for us, taking our sins away in trade for a new life — a resurrected life. But resurrected life for us doesn’t just begin when our mortal bodies die; the resurrected life happens while we’re still alive.

Before the Paul became a disciple of Christ, he was a pharisee who persecuted Christians. In Acts 9, we see Jesus taking Paul by the collar and transforming him on the road to Damascus. There was the former Saul, with court orders in hand, traveling far outside of Jerusalem to hunt down Christians and bring them to trial.

On the road, he is struck blind by Jesus: “…suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?'”

From that moment on, Paul was a changed man. Jesus showed him that although he thought he was as high and mighty as the forest’s tallest pine tree, he really was just a rotted husk of what God wanted him to be. Still standing high above all the others, he was dead inside.

Jesus gave him new life. Paul was resurrected.

We can be transformed — reborn, resurrected from death to life. But here’s the catch: We have to know that we’re dead first. Like Paul, we need Jesus to grab us by the collars and open our eyes to the blindness of our former dead lives.

Only then will we see.

And while we might proclaim our faith, there still lives within us dead spots — places of brokenness that we may not recognize or try to cover up. Like that old pine tree, we, too, may be standing upright, yet it’s just a matter of time before a storm comes and blows us over.

The new life — the resurrected life — happens when we’re able to see those weak spots, give them to God and let our healing begin. This is the gift and the power of resurrected life — not only for one day when our time here ends, but today, while we’re still alive.

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Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column is written by Pastor Christopher Passante of Trinity United Methodist Church in Bellefonte and The Gathering emergent worship. Visit him at TrinityBellefonte.com or email cpassante@susumc.org.

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