Stop trivialising Easter

by Richard on April 12, 2009

Tom Wright :: Times Online:

Easter was the pilot project. What God did for Jesus that explosive morning is what He intends to do for the whole creation. We who live in the interval between Jesus’s Resurrection and the final rescue and transformation of the whole world are called to be new-creation people here and now. That is the hidden meaning of the greatest festival Christians have.

This true meaning has remained hidden because the Church has trivialised it and the world has rubbished it. The Church has turned Jesus’s Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”. Easter then means: “There really is life after death”. The world shrugs its shoulders. We may or may not believe in life after death, but we reach that conclusion independently of Jesus, of odd stories about risen bodies and empty tombs.

Let’s be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn’t mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God’s life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect - and in the whole world.

Now, suddenly, the real meaning of Easter comes into view, as well as the real reason why it has been trivialised and sidelined. Easter is about a new creation that has already begun. God is remaking His world, challenging all the other powers that think that is their job. The rich, wise order of creation and its glorious, abundant beauty are reaffirmed on the other side of the thing that always threatens justice and beauty - death. Christianity’s critics have always sneered that nothing has changed. But everything has. The world is a different place.

Amen and Amen!

With thanks to Bishop Alan for the pointer.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 04.13.09 at 11:11 am

The depressing thing is that Christians themselves seem to need reminding of these theological commonplaces.

2

John Meunier 04.13.09 at 2:01 pm

The language “God is remaking His world” has a hint of progressivism in it to me. If God is working - ever so slowly - then the world should be getting just a bit better every day, every year, every decade, every century.

This sounds like the modern project.

I do not have any quibble - wouldn’t it be presumptious of me it I did - with Wright’s point about Easter being blueprint for all of creation, but the idea that the world is getting more like God’s kingdom often seems a rather leaky bucket in which to place my theological water.

3

Steve 04.13.09 at 4:20 pm

John,

Perhaps the progress is so slow as to be nearly imperceptible until the time when heaven comes down upon earth at the end, but the model set forth by Christ and his early church was clearly one where the Kingdom of Heaven broke into history. The healing of lepers, the leaving behind of brokenness, the feeding of the poor, and the end of Roman practices of infanticide and gladitorial contests were certainly ways in which the church was able to bring the world (at least that part of the world it could touch) more in alignment with God’s kingdom.

From my understanding of N.T. Wright’s theology (which is quite limited, to be sure, as I’ve only actually read one of his books and a few of his other writings), it is not so much that the church will be able to completely usher in the Kingdom of God prior to Christ’s return, but that it is a model for the new Kingdom which will reign at that time. While the earth may remain largely unchanged in the current era, the church is called to serve as a window into the coming kingdom and be a model of what is to come.

4

DH 04.13.09 at 5:04 pm

Scripture still points, no matter what Wright says, that Jesus did physically arise from the dead. Also that we too, if we have received by Faith Christ, can be risen from the dead as well at the Last Day as well. I don’t see this as “rubbish” at the same time time I don’t deny that Christ is at work through His Spirit (Holy Spirit) to draw as many as receive into His Kingdom now AND in the one to come.

Jesus’s resurrection SHOULD lead people to understand that Jesus DID rise from the dead and is alive today. To deny that really shows a denial of God Himself and the nature of God as well.

5

Kim 04.13.09 at 6:13 pm

… a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so.

Yet again, DH, READ before you open mouth and insert foot.

6

DH 04.13.09 at 6:39 pm

KIm, then why does he say it is “trivilizing Easter” to say ““There really is life after death” and from that conclude; “We may or may not believe in life after death, but we reach that conclusion independently of Jesus, of odd stories about risen bodies and empty tombs.”?

I personally don’t believe it is trivilizing Easter to believe in the resurrection of Jesus because of Jesus.

He downplays ““He went to Heaven”. when Scripture says “He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.”

If Easter is way more than what I conclude from Easter then Easter is way more than what Rev. Wright concludes from Easter by bad mouthing what I conclude and what the 1st Century church concluded from Easter which is definitely the physical resurrection of Jesus. Remember the sending of the Holy Spirit was at Pentacost 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus.

7

Kim 04.13.09 at 9:11 pm

Talking with you, DH, makes herding cats seem like a sensible enterprise.

8

Tony Buglass 04.13.09 at 10:37 pm

DH, I suggest you read some of Tom Wright’s works before you write him off so glibly. Try “Surprised by Hope”. When he says “he went to heaven” is trivialising Easter, he is referring to those who do not believe in real resurrection, but think the resurrection accounts are simply stories to illustrate a spiritual reality.

Wright is a very thorough and very systematic thinker, and probably a lot nearer to where you’d want to be than you think. He is certainly a very dedicated Christian, and a very learned biblical scholar (just keeping track of the footnotes in his major book “The Resurrection of the Son of God” is a massive exercise). He’ s swimming in deep water, where you have got in as far as your ankles, pal.l

9

DH 04.14.09 at 2:09 pm

Tony, I have read some of Wright’s work on the proof of the Resurrection and I have never doubted or suggested that he is not a dedicated Christian. I just take issue with the way he presents his work. To indirectly suggest that the physical resurrection of Christ can be trivilized seems rather strange. To me the trivilizing is having all of the Easter eggs or for people to suggest that Jesus didn’t physicaly rise from the dead and that He is not seated at the right hand of the Father. To me that is just as important as the other aspects of the Resurrection that I have not denied by Wright.

10

DH 04.14.09 at 2:26 pm

The world is becoming more and more like God’s Kingdom? Doesn’t Scripture say that like the days of Noah so the Last Days will be? It seems to me that things get worse before they get better. That is not to say God is redeeming people and that His Kingdom isn’t growing but to say that it is getting slowly better seems rather strange in light of reality. Maybe its his preterism and anti pre-millinial belief coming out.

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