“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:5
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
The first time I smoked a Marlboro I held it unlit, full of reverence. I could be a philosopher. I could be Keith Richards. I could be French. I could be a detective. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. Then I lit it, took a deep drag and vomited on my shoes.
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few. Confronted by a big problem? Drop a bigger bomb. We’re death experts. We deal it out and we absorb it. So when death hits us, our possibilities are two: cremation or embalmment.
Not so for God. Before the cross God didn’t know a thing about death. God doesn’t die. God speaks and existence jumps up. God breathes and Adam walks. God is the power pumping blood in your veins. God is life. Then, on the cross God dies for the first time, as a beginner. Possibilities abound.
I imagine death hit God the way that cigarette hit my innocence. Pure revulsion. He couldn’t stand it. There would be a powerful response. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities.
He could stay in the grave, act by not acting, the ultimate in passive aggression, let the earth’s rotation grind to a halt. He could become enraged. He could take the high road, slip back to paradise quietly, wash his hands of us forever.
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. Including a deeper encounter with who God has always been. The life-giver. The forgiver. The One who loves us.
Christ rose so that we could rise. “Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.” He gave us new life. This means that we’re beginners too, a people with many possibilities. That fact can transform the everyday into a better adventure. Even better, it can do the same thing to the day you die.
O God, thank you for giving us new life, beginners’ lives.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.