Saturday, January 8, 2011

Surprised by Hope - Part 2

for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

(see Part 1 here)

With the issue of the resurrection settled once again in my mind, Wright moves to why a good understanding of Easter is important. Easter is not “Jesus is raised; therefore there is life after death.” Easter announces that “Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun – and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” [1]

This gives life so much more purpose than waiting and watching for death to come or the end of the world to arrive so that I might go to Heaven. I have a job to do, and the resurrection means that “nothing done in the Lord, in the power of the Spirit, in the present time will be wasted in God’s future.”[2] It brings meaning to everything I do in His name.

The Enlightenment and the Renaissance say that “history is accelerating towards a wonderful goal…[and] we will become what we have the potential to be by education and hard work.” [3] Platonic Dualism that says the physical is evil, the body is a tomb to escape. But Christianity says that the new creation was birthed through the resurrection of Jesus and it is only through the work on the cross that redemption occurs.

Early Christians didn’t believe in progress nor in deterioration of the world with a goal to escape it. “They believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter”[4] and that they were to be His instruments for that work. They, along with all of creation, had a forward look to the future in God.

“It looks as though God intends to flood the universe with himself, as though the universe, the entire cosmos, was designed as a receptacle for his love…it is designed to be filled, flooded, drenched in God…”[5] Creation is not yet complete and is waiting for that day when all the forces of rebellion have been vanquished and creation is completely free to respond to the love of the Creator.

In Revelation, joining of Heaven and Earth is not the separation of the world from God, but the right joining of God with creation in a redeemed relationship. Erroneous end-times theology says that this world is doomed for destruction and Christians will be rescued out of it. Judgment is mistakenly seen as vengeful. In reality it is that “God…in the end, [will] put it all to rights, straighten it out, producing not just a sigh of relief all around but shouting for joy from the trees and the fields, the seas and the floods. “[6]

The settling happening deep within me is an echo of that sigh that all of creation will breathe on the last days. It’s the recognition that this process, this journey that I am on is all part of God’s straightening-out plan that He’s called me to be a part of. The resurrection is not all about me and my redemption, although it certainly is a part of it. My ultimate destiny is not the ultimate question. Israel thought that how they were going to be rescued by God was the ultimate purpose of God. But what God was really acting on was how He was/is going to rescue the world through Israel and rescue Israel in the process. Asking instead what my part is in God’s rescue mission of the world puts me in a position for being rescued in the process of the world being rescued. [7]

Jesus was doing in the present what He was promising in the future, giving people the opportunity to experience redemption in the present so that they might enjoy the renewal process leading into the future, becoming co-laborers with Him in this renewal, re-creation, redemptive process. “The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do in the present – by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself – will last into God’s future…They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”[8]

Thus, my whole life, every act of worship must be reordered around the resurrection. “…our present space, time, and matter are all subject not to rejection but to redemption.”[9] I must look at my world with new lenses because of the resurrection. It infuses hope into every situation because God is at work right here and right now through His agents (you and me empowered by His Spirit) to redeem the whole of creation. This world is passing away in the sense that the old is gone and the new is here. It is not awaiting destruction but rather redemption and that work began at the cross and was birthed at the resurrection.

While some days it may feel like my world is sliding into greater and greater chaos and disarray, the truth in light of the resurrection is that it is being redeemed bit by bit through the power of the redemptive work of Jesus. My hope that was being whittled away by the worries and cares of this world so needed an infusion of the Truth that came via N.T. Wright and Surprised by Hope. There will still be days of struggle. There will probably still be days when I find my hope in need of refreshing. But now I stand stronger, wiser, more firmly convinced of Whom I have believed, of the reality of His resurrection, and of the wonderful, redeeming move of God that has been sweeping the planet since the day Jesus rose from the dead.

Glory, halleluiah. What a Savior! I have been surprised by Hope.

[1] Ibid, 56.
[2] Ibid, 26.
[3] Ibid, 81,85.
[4] Ibid, 93.
[5] Ibid, 102.
[6] Ibid, 121.
[7] Ibid, 185.
[8] Ibid, 192-193.
[9] Ibid, 264.

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