The Hope of Easter

I wish my brain were not so completely fried at this moment, or I would write much more about NT Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. But the truth is, I just completed my seven-page paper and need to get some sleep before my all-day class tomorrow. This book is one that every pastor and really, every Christian, should read. We have gotten way off-track in our theological orientation toward “saving souls from hell for heaven,” rather than working alongside the Spirit to bring in the Kingdom!

I am not suggesting (nor is NT Wright) that heaven and hell do not exist, but when Jesus was raised from the dead, the Kingdom broke through on earth and it continues to break through… when Jesus returns at the end of this age, Heaven and Earth will be joined… all creation will be redeemed and made new, all things will be set right once again, our bodies will be raised and transformed (and we all will face judgment… all of us). This world is NOT headed for disaster, but for new creation!  “May God’s Kingdom come, may His Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!”

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As I often do, a few key quotes:

“The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious expeirence, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being “left behind”), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises this hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is the true Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun… how can the church announce this [good news]? If it’s actively involved in seeking justice in the world, both globally and locally, and if it’s cheerfully celebrating God’s good creation and its rescue from corruption in art and music, and if, in addtion, its own internal ife gives every sign that new creation is indeed happening, generating a new type of community, then suddenly the announcement makes a lot of sense” (p. 227)

“The large-scale hope of the whole cosmos is the great drama within which our little dramas are, as it were, the play within the play.” (p. 80)     SURPRISE, it’s not all about us! (that’s me talking, not NT)

“Every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity– doing justice, making peace, healing families, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom– is an earthly event in a long history of tings that implement Jesus’ own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation and act as signposts of hope, pointing back to the first and on to the second.” (p. 295)

“When the church is seen to move straight from worship of the God we see in jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world; when it becomes clear that the people who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of work to eliminate hunger and famine; when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the poeple who seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed– then it is not only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be part of.” (p. 267)

“When [God] corners us and finally takes us in his hand– we find to our astonishment that he is infinitely gentle and that his only aim is to release us from our prison, to set us free to be the people he made us to be. But when we fly out into the sunshine, how can we not then ofer the same gentle gift of freedom, of forgiveness, to those around us? That is the truth of the resurrection, turned into prayer, turned into forgiveness and remission of debts, turned into love. It is constantly surprising, constantly full of hope, constantly coming to us from God’s future tos hape us into the people through whom God can carry out his work in the world.” (p. 289)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. willohroots
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 02:05:20

    I would like to believe N.T. Wright, but the establishment of a kingdom of God by human hands is just too hard to believe. I do not see where the resurrection of Christ defeated Evil. The evidence of the last 2000 years belies his theory. The church in the last thousand years has been responsible for great sin. I really feel that in going against Augustine and everyone after him is just a excuse for the social gospel.
    I am always suspicious of a theology developed by one man.

    Reply

  2. krisanneswartley
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 08:29:35

    willohroots, thanks for stopping by to read and comment. A couple responses– I totally agree with you that the Church has a checkered history, a terrible history in some senses. However, there have always been those who have stood against the sin of other Christians (example: Karl Barth standing against the German church when it supported Hitler). Secondly, of course we should be suspicious of theology developed by one man… Wright has not developed his own theology. He is articulating streams of thought are shared by many other theologians– John Howard Yoder, Hauerwas, and this book, he quotes others. Lastly, I am no theologian, but I doubt Wright would agree with you that he is “going against” Augustine. His position is much more nuanced than that. I probably failed, in my quick post, to convey the nuance.

    Of course you are right to criticize a position that sounds like a kingdom established by human hands… let me just clarify that there is NO WAY that is possible… only by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit could we ever hope to do anything of eternal value. We are only human.

    Christ’s resurrection won the war, but for now, the battle still rages. Creation groans under the weight of it. You are right, we don’t see how his resurrection broke the power of evil… that’s where faith comes in. I see little Easters every now and then… new life coming from places where there, previously, was only death.

    Again, thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you, willohroots.

    Reply

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