Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter quote from N.T. Wright

via Helen at practicing church, from Wright's book "Jesus, the Final Days: What really happened"

[T]he Gospels never say anything like, “Jesus is raised, therefore there is a life after death” (not that many first-century Jews doubted that there was); or, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall go to heaven when we die” (most people believed something like that anyway); or better, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall be raised at the last.”

No: insofar as the [resurrection] is interpreted in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it has a very “this-worldly” meaning, relating to what is happening here and now. “Jesus is raised,” they say, “therefore he is the Messiah; he is the true Lord of the whole world; therefore we, his followers, have a job to do: we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world.”

It is not, “Jesus is raised, therefore look up into the sky and keep looking because one day you will be going there with him.” Many hymns, prayers, and Christian sermons have tried to pull the Easter story in that direction, but the line of thought within the Gospels themselves is, “Jesus is raised, therefore God’s new world has begun, and therefore we, you, and everybody else are invited to be not only beneficiaries of that new world but participants in making it happen.”


Megs said...

that quote seems weird to me. given that in our culture, death is the big taboo, jesus' resurrection has a very personal meaning for us - it almost sounds as if the writer is deriding us for being us, culturally. and i get very sick of being told to 'get on and do something', because there's already way too much to do - i need to be told to get on and relax and have fun, rather than do something else!!!!

Karin said...

Interesting quote. I like it.

Megs, I'm not sure this means God/Jesus want us to be any busier than we are.

I see it more as meaning that being a Christian/following Jesus/living God's Way is not about feeling smug or being preoccupied with where we go when we die, but doing what we do the way God intended, and choosing to do the things God thinks are important, which actually will make our lives better and more enjoyable/fulfilling at the same time.

If you think that means you have to go and help out at a cafe for the down and outs when you hate the idea, which is what one of my friends thought God would want her to do, I don't think that's how God works. I think God wants us to act on those desires deep within us, on our creative and compassionate urges that life so often suppresses, and fulfill all the potential he has put inside us, but with a bias towards the needy and the well-being of the world around us.

Joe said...

Megs, I hear what you are saying. There is a tremendous danger of burn-out from trying to do too many things.

I think what is being said here is that we all tend to religicise the resurrection. It becomes all about accepting a party line which means we go to heaven: pie in the sky when you die.

N T Wright is saying (as I understand it) that the resurrection should mean something in our busy lives in the here-and-now otherwise it might as well mean nothing at all.

With regard to action, I think this is obviously going to depend on who we are and our situation. In some circumstances (perhaps more than we often recognise) we do just need to relax - if the relaxation rebuilds us mentally and physically, we'll be able to serve better in the future.

In contrast to Karin, I'd say that putting yourself in an uncomfortable position is always valuable. You might learn that you are unsuited for work in a down-and-out cafe, but a lot of sacrificial giving is about the attitude of the heart and refusing to believe that there are some things which are out-of-bounds.

Karin said...

Just to clarify, I was not suggesting that there is no value in putting yourself in an uncomfortable position. I'm sure there is often, perhaps even always, something that can be gained from it and valuable lessons learnt.

My point was rather that God does not require us to do that which does not come naturally to us. Sometimes a situation may occur where doing something we feel uncomfortable doing, or unqualified to do, does seem to be what we must do, but when the church or our own distorted idea of God tells us we must do this, that or the other when we recoil at the idea and/or are already overloaded, then that is probably not what God wants from us, at least not at the present.

Again, we need to be wary of the idea of 'sacrificial' giving. Sometimes this kind of language is used to make us feel guilty if we don't give or do what others require of us.

We have to strike the right balance between looking after ourselves and others, because if our mental or physical health breaks down we shall be the ones in need of help rather than able to give help.

So, yes, relaxation is important as part of looking after ourselves.

Also, we are each able to give in different ways and in different amounts according to our situation. We may already be exhausted looking after young children or an elderly relative, for instance.

As well as taking time to relax, there may be longer periods of our life when we need to concentrate on healing ourselves so that we have more to give in the future. For instance, we may have health issues that need addressing or we may find ourselves drained by using too much emotional energy and need to find ways to counteract that.

For me, the beauty of Jesus' message is that God sees us each as individuals and requires from us what we can give/do, NOT what someone else might be capable of giving/doing.