Tag Archives: resurrection

Thirty-Three Years: A Life [Poem by Mom]

Have you been impatiently waiting for the monthly poem from my mom? No, we have not forgotten. Here it is, just in time to help you remember the death and life of Christ.

God bless you as you read Mom’s poem and meditate on Christ.

I remember as a young girl, lying on the grass, gazing at the immense blue summer sky above me, and trying to grasp in the “grain of sand” that was my mind, the concept of eternity. As the clouds moved lazily overhead I pondered the puzzle of eternity past and eternity future, tried to envision the vast expanses of “time” implied, and wondered which would be more irrational, that God should have never begun—how could that be!—or that He should have a beginning—but then how and why could He have begun? I would try to stretch my mind across the eons of eternity from past to future until I felt my brain would explode.

G. K. Chesterton said that “poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea… the result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet desires… a world to stretch himself in… asks only to get his head into the heavens… the logician… seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head which splits.”

The Scriptures tell us it is “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…not…of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3, NKJV, italics added).

I was nearing fifty years of age when I wrote the following poem about Christ’s time on earth, and my brain felt no more adequate then of grasping the puzzle of Christ’s work of salvation than it was earlier with the concept of eternity.

The puzzle: Did Jesus come to live or to die for us? His death was only efficacious because of His Resurrection and because of His perfect life. His life alone could not have saved us. He needed a body for the very purpose of dying for us. Remission of sin demands blood shed, a death, a sacrifice.

Romans 5:1 says we are “justified by faith” in Him “who was delivered up [to death] because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25, NKJV, italics added).

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom. 11: 33, NASB)

In humble faith I celebrate and trust in the life and death and resurrection of my Risen Lord and Saviour as all-sufficient for my eternal salvation!

—Elaine Gingrich, March 1, 2016


He came to die, but first He came to live.
Not as some faceless, flat protagonist
Who dies in a pale story, never missed
By readers. No, our captured minds would give
The world to know this Man. The finest sieve
Can catch no fault in Him. Go down the list
From “healed a leper” to “by traitor kissed,”
Then watch Him die unjustly, yet forgive.

Here was a man to tower above men,
With strength to calm the stormy Galilee,
With touch more tender than a baby’s sigh.
Here was a man deserves to live again,
A man to love! We turn the page to see
The script. He lives! But first He came to die.

—Elaine Gingrich, May 2, 2000

While this was not her intent, Mom’s insight about the need to connect the life and the death of Christ has been the subject of some recent discussion in scholarly circles.

N.T. Wright, for example, wrote a book called How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. Wright argues that evangelicals and other confessional Christians, influenced by the pattern of the ancient creeds, have tended to emphasize the virgin birth and the cross of atonement while skipping over the life of Christ with his radical kingdom teachings. Liberal theologians, however, influenced by post-Enlightenment critical scholarship and embarrassed by the miraculous elements of Jesus’ birth and death, have emphasized the exemplary power of his human life.

But true Christianity needs both—the kingdom teachings and life of Jesus on the one hand, and also his miraculous, saving death and resurrection. In Wright’s words, we need both kingdom and cross. (While I have not read this book, I have listened about three times to this lecture Wright gave on the same topic. Highly recommended.)

Wright is a scholar of the first rank, but his book above is written for a general audience. Pastors have also written on this subject, such as Tim Chester in his 2015 book Crown of Thorns: Connecting Kingdom and Cross. (I have not read this book, but am familiar enough with Chester to feel confident it will be a useful read.)

I am excited to see scholars and pastors grasp this insight. But understanding exactly how Jesus’ life and death relate together to save us and shape our lives is secondary to simply trusting and following him. So it’s okay if you identify with what Mom said after I shared some of the above with her:

You can develop the deep debates and I will stick to the simpler faith foundation. 🙂

I am deeply grateful to my mother for helping to keep my faith foundation firm, both in my youth and to this day.

For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

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Remember the Resurrection, to Keep it Central

Thursday is an excellent day to remember Christ’s resurrection!

“The Resurrection changed everything…

“If there is a power great enough to bring someone back from the dead, then anything can happen!…

“Is it any wonder that the news of the Resurrection became the central message of the newly Spirit-powered Christians…? Is it any wonder that the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, the ‘Lord’s Day,’ soon became the usual day for the believers’ weekly outpourings of rejoicing, thanksgiving, and worship?

“Is it any wonder that the early church prohibited fasting or even kneeling for prayer on the Lord’s Day? Sure there, was place for penitence, for supplication, for humiliation. But not on the Day of the Resurrection!

“What does make me wonder, though is how little attention the Resurrection receives in much of Christian worship today… Over the centuries Easter celebrations have been mixed with pagan influences…Too often this has led to a serious neglect of the Resurrection in our worship.

“Perhaps another reason for our neglect of the Resurrection is Reformed theology…–an unbalanced theology that makes salvation depend almost entirely on Jesus’ death, with little need for the Resurrection. (Footnote: “Interestingly, the Reformed theology that minimized the resurrection also borrowed from Old Testament Sabbath requirements to prop up the Lord’s Day observance.”) Or perhaps, as Western Christians mostly living in freedom and prosperity, we have lost something of the urgent sense of need for hope that the early Christians felt, and that many suffering Christians today feel–a hope that is found only in the Resurrection.”

Source: “The Resurrection Day,” an editorial by Leslie A Stover of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in the Mennonite periodical “Hearts and Voices,” Summer 2015 edition, published by Lamp and Light. (Thanks to a blog reader for providing more information on the author!)

I think Leslie Stover is onto something important here in his comments about Reformed theology and Sabbath. However, I would note that this cross-sized, resurrection-downplaying theology began long before Reformed theology, as demonstrated by the crucifix-centered faith of medieval Roman Catholicism. (Please don’t hear me downplaying the cross! Both cross and empty tomb are essential.) Similarly, the practice of borrowing from OT Sabbath requirements to prop up the Lord’s Day began long before Reformed theology, as early as Constantine.

What was interesting to me about this article (besides the ever-needed reminder to remember resurrection) was the juxtaposition of these two ideas: A theology that downplays the place of the resurrection in our salvation has also been a theology that turns to OT Sabbath requirements to interpret and support the Lord’s Day. (See here for more on the resurrection, and see here for more on the relationship between Sabbath and Lord’s Day.)

When we turn to the OT to guide our observance of the Lord’s Day we have lost not only Christian freedom but also something of the joy and hope of participating in Christ’s resurrection. This is a tragic double loss!

I have no desire to mandate Lord’s Day observance, let alone any specific manner of observing the day. Paul clearly taught that in the Lord all days are ultimately equal, and that those who choose to observe one day to the Lord above others must not force their choice on others (Rom. 14:5-6; Col. 2:16-17). That said, when we do meet, on the Lord’s Day and otherwise, let us agree on this mandate: resurrection must be central!

After all, the new covenant cry is not “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8), or even “Remember the Lord’s Day,” but “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor. 6:14). Therefore, remember the resurrection, to keep it central!

Thanks for reading! Share your resurrection-rousing reflections below.

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There Is Hope of a Tree [Poem by Mom]

The Lord is risen! Do you still remember? Yes, I know that Easter was last weekend. But that doesn’t mean that the resurrection is “so last weekend.” Several days ago on Facebook I suggested that those who celebrate 40 days of Lent might consider also celebrating 40 days of Resurrection. A lot of people seemed to like the idea. Even better, as one person replied, we should celebrate Jesus’ resurrection 365 days a year!

In the spirit of such eternal resurrection celebration, I am sharing a resurrection poem from Mom—a poem that, Mom says, “focuses on the growth of the church post-Resurrection.”

First I’ll share Mom’s poem. Then I’ll share Mom’s account of how this poem was born. Finally, I’ll share a bit of my own analysis of this poem’s art. Oh, and a bonus question: Can you identify where Mom got the idea for the poem’s title? Happy reading!

(See here for an introduction to this monthly series from Mom.)


They were the branches, He the Vine.
“Abide in Me,” the Christ had said,
For any branch apart from Me
Will soon be dead.”

And now the Vine lay trampled, dead;
The branches scattered in the field.
Were they to have no leaves to bear,
No fruit to yield?

How could they pierce the tomb, stone-sealed?
“Stay close to Me,” they had been told.
Must they now wither, torn from Him,
Who lay there cold?

None dreamed, their grief but three days old,
Of how the world would scarce have room
For all their fruit when the green Vine
Burst from its tomb!

—Elaine Gingrich, May 1999

Mom’s Memories of the Birth of This Poem

This poem was written in church Sunday morning May 16,1999 when I was supposed to be listening to the sermon. As sometimes happens, the poem arose from a compelling image. The Sunday School lesson was from John 15, about the intimate connection between Christ, the Vine, and the disciples, His branches. When pastor Dave Frey began his Ascension message with reference to the 40-day period between the Resurrection and the Ascension, during which Jesus various times appeared and then disappeared from his disciples’ sight, I suddenly pictured the Vine cast into Golgotha’s tomb, to wither away out of sight, while His followers were scattered and cut off from their source of life. Had they wondered what would happen to Vine and branches now?

As Dave mentioned in his message—yes I do have sermon notes beside my poem stanzas in the notebook :-)—Jesus was teaching them in those 40 days after the Resurrection that He was present with them even when He was not visible. Also, when He was most unseen, He was accomplishing the most important work for them. Still today His hidden work behind the veil makes possible what we do for Him as we abide in Him.

Just as the disciples could not imagine any hopeful future after Jesus’ burial, let alone the birth of the church, so we need the eyes of faith to catch a vision for Christ’s work today.

As compensation for my distracted attention to his sermon, I later gave Dave a copy of my completed poem, which he graciously accepted. I hope that was adequate restitution and that the poem’s readers will not judge it a total waste of time.

Art Serving Life

The structure of this poem is simple, but artful. On the level of plot, it works like this: One stanza establishing the ground rules for life, two stanzas describing the confusion when this life is withdrawn, and a fourth providing unexpected and infinite resolution. On a literary level, it works like this: One stanza of command, two of questions, and one of exclamation.

Also artful is the arrangement of sentence lengths: The first two stanzas each contain two sentences, but of pleasantly contrasting length. The third stanza contains three sentences, which slows the pace of the poem further, suggesting the growing mood of uncertainty. Then the fourth stanza brings a sudden burst of speed by containing only one long sentence. This final sentence begins teasingly, tantalizing us with the possibility of hope in the first two words, hesitating briefly between two commas to remind us of grief, then unexpectedly accelerating with growing fullness and no time to breathe until the last line literally bursts upon us with resurrection life!

If you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

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