Part of getting used to living in the post-Easter world -- part of getting used to letting Easter change your life, your attitudes, your thinking, your behavior -- is getting used to the cosmology that is now unveiled. Heaven and earth, I repeat, are made for each other, and at certain points they intersect and interlock. Jesus is the ultimate such point. We as Christians are meant to be such points, derived from him. The Spirit, the sacraments, and the scriptures are given so that the double life of Jesus, both heavenly and earthly, can become ours as well, already in the present...
...The message of Easter, then, is neither that God once did a spectacular miracle but then decided not to do many others nor that there is a blissful life after death to look forward to. The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it. And precisely because the resurrection was and is bodily, albeit with a transformed body, the power of Easter to transform and heal the present world must be put into effect both at the macrolevel, in applying the gospel to the major problems of the world... and to the intimate details of our daily lives. Christian holiness consists not of trying as hard as we can to be good but of learning to live in the new world created by Easter, the new world we publicly entered in our baptism. There are many parts of this world we can't do anything about except pray. But there is one part of the world, one part of physical reality, that we can do something about, and that is the creature each of us calls "myself." Personal holiness and global holiness belong together. Those who wake up to the one may well find themselves called to wake up to the other as well... Surprised by Hope N.T. WrightTwo currents of thought are radically changing my life right now; a deeper understanding of the inner workings of my sinful nature thanks to the writings of John Owen that I have often quoted on this blog, and a radical shift in my understanding of the resurrection, thanks to the book quoted above. It is no coincidence that I have come across these books and find myself working through them concurrently. Owen says that proportionate to our understanding of sin will be our desire for grace, and I find that my desire for grace creates a desperate need to rightly understand the resurrection of Christ.
I have, like most other Christians these past few months, been overwhelmed by the sins of the world coming to light in stories of murder, blindness, and manipulation. I mostly marvel, though, that we are surprised by these stories. Because apart from Christ, I could justify any one of these actions. In grieving the world I've noticed a terrible temptation to judge myself in comparison to the the world only, without respect to Christ. To lash out in judgement, thinly veiled as righteous horror, is my first impulse, but the deeper I go into Christ the more I am aware of my own sinful nature and need for grace, and the more I realize that apart from grace I would do these exact same things. Then I find myself caught up in grief and prayer in strange new ways and I find answers I never quite expected. Consider this:
But Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we can't throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don't do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn't take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It's long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in the church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it's time to wake up. That always comes as a surprise...
...But we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children's games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take away Christmas, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don't have a New Testament; you don't have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins....
...In particular, if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again -- well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative.... Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant out a few cuttings. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blooming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course, bearing fruit...I was tempted to quote the whole book, but I'll stop there. Do you get it? Do you get that the deep griefs of this world are answered completely by the resurrection, the promise of forgiveness and a new creation. Therein lies a deep, hopeful, and wildly joyful cause for dancing and kissing and champagne for breakfast!
I have tried these past few years to travel my own road of grief with an open hand. The temptation to bury grief under activities or false idols or work or alcohol or sex or any other distraction is overwhelming at times. But I have found that real grief, rightly experienced with Christ, coexists with a joy beyond my ability to express in words.
As I walked the Ganier trail at Radnor lake yesterday, I was met at the top by a furious barrage of wind that nearly blew me over. I laughed and wanted to shout hallelujahs and shake my fist and say, "do your worst because I know who made you and he loves me!"
But of all the things in Wright's book, one small side note haunts me more than any other. In his discussion on how the resurrection works itself into our pursuit of justice, he mentions offhandedly that at the center of the peaceful dismantling of apartheid was a black African archbishop who spent the first three hours every day in devout, fervent prayer. Thirty years prior, no one could imagine the peaceful dismantling of apartheid, and yet it happened. I'm not sure why this example stood out among so many other examples he gave, but I am convicted that as believers we don't shout hallelujahs and raise our fist to the wind and go on our way in personal triumph, otherwise unchanged.
Deep grief and wild joy are made for each other. Because I shake my fist at that same wind by bowing my knees in prayer and asking him to change me and bring healing to this broken world. I cannot meet the brokenness of the world until I've deeply reveled in the knowledge of my redemption and new life. So this morning I'm raising a toast to the creator and bowing my head in grief all at the same time, all while gaping in wonder at the mystery of this whole crazy mess.