A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
10th March 2008
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It was as I left the shop that I heard her voice: “Sir, Sir” she called. I was not sure she was calling me. There were many others she could be calling. But there was an urgency about her call that made me turn to face her.
There are a number of reasons that a shop assistant can challenge you as you leave a shop—but it is usually about money or goods. You may have got the wrong change or the wrong goods, or you may have forgotten something or dropped something. But there are two basic mistakes: either you are taking goods that you have not paid for or you are forgetting the goods that you have paid for.
We are a consumer society. We love shopping. We love coming home with the latest and newest gadget to make our life happy. It does not ultimately work. Our goods never satisfy the longing of the heart. They always age and wear out. They are soon superseded in the shops. They are soon superseded by our own next purchase. But we love the idea and feel of bringing home something new. We love the idea of starting life in a new way with our latest prized possession.
The fact that all this fails does not alter the sense of new beginnings that each purchase brings us. Buying, like fishing, is an optimist's activity. It expresses the hope of a better life. It looks forward to greater happiness. Those who worry about maintenance do not go shopping—like those who hate cleaning fish do not go fishing.
So as I left the shop, why was the girl calling out? Was I leaving without my purchase? Such an oversight makes you feel silly—grateful to the assistant who chased after you—but feeling foolish for forgetting. The whole point of being at the shop is to take the goods home. The whole reason for paying the price was to take the goods out of the shop. So to pay the price and leave the goods defeats the purpose of the shopping expedition.
Or was she calling out because I was taking the goods without paying? It can be an oversight, but it is so commonly theft. Shoplifting is one of the great curses of the modern retail industry. It is not your possession until you have paid the price. You have to have the receipt demonstrating that all is paid for before you can remove the goods from the shop. The goods belong to the shop until the agreed price is paid. The shop assistant is kind to stop you before you leave the shop with unpaid for goods. Once you leave the shop you can be arrested, forced to return the goods and face the serious consequences of being a thief.
Easter is a package deal. You cannot have Easter Day without Good Friday. Nor can you have Good Friday without Easter Day. There is no point having Good Friday if you are not going to celebrate Easter Day. There is no Easter Day without Good Friday.
Jesus did not pay the price for our sin in order for us to continue living under the domain of evil. Jesus brings us new life by paying the price for our freedom. Without the death there is no resurrection. Without the resurrection the price has not been paid.
“you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”. (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20)
“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— … If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.&8221;(Colossians 2:20, 3:1)
We must not so rejoice in the new life of the resurrection that we fail to see its connection to the price Jesus paid. Spring comes around each year, but the resurrection happened only once when the Christ had fully paid the price for our sin. To celebrate the resurrection without the cross is to walk out of the shop without the goods being paid for.
We must not so concentrate on the old life of sin and death that we fail to walk in the newness of life. We are not to spoil the pleasure of our purchased freedom by constantly regretting that the price was too high. Our continued remorse over our failings, our deep fearfulness of guilt, our creation of new laws and requirements, our longing for the old life of sin, our sense of being deprived of worldly pursuits, our desire to re-enact the crucifixion by participating in its pain and suffering—are all ways we fail to accept that the price is paid. We are free to walk out into the new life.
To celebrate the cross without the resurrection is to walk out of the shop without the goods that have been paid for—or worse still to never walk out of the shop into a new life. How dreadful to be an eternal customer—never finding the door to the shop but constantly playing with what is on offer in the funeral director's parlour.