Jesus’s resurrection: the beginning of the new creation

The nuts and bolts of scripture are so important, and where we live, but we also need to step back and take a look at the whole. And get a breathtaking sweep of what’s going on. Or try to get some sense of that. If we don’t, we may too easily miss the point of it all. Yet it’s something that we need to keep working at. Which is why we need to be in all of scripture, as well as in each part of it, especially noting some of the places of beauty and grandeur such as Romans 8, Isaiah 40 and 53, etc., along with many beautiful scenes along the way. Not to mention a good number of difficult ones as well. Such is life. And we need to pay attention to life. And know that God will show up in unusual, unexpected ways in some of its most difficult, and to us, unlikely places.

But having just celebrated Easter yesterday, remembering Jesus’s resurrection day, we now enter into, what’s called on the Christian calendar, Eastertide, or Easter season. Since we’re no longer a part of a church which observes the Christian calendar, except for the big holy days such as Christmas and Easter, I won’t dwell much on tradition. Just to say that those practices can help us center on the gospel, which in the case of the resurrection is about a new life which begins now through faith in Christ (and baptism, see the New Testament; although it’s symbolic, it seems to be a symbolism which helps us appreciate and perhaps enter more fully into the reality: note Romans 6 and elsewhere).

As C. S. Lewis indicated in his classic, The Great Divorce, “Heaven”, as we call it, is not going to be something more mystical, but actually more material and solid than what we know now, so that if we were to step into the new heaven and new earth without the change to come in the resurrection, we wouldn’t be able to endure it. Heaven coming down to earth and becoming one, is central to the new creation in Jesus which begins at his resurrection (N. T. Wright), so that the new creation in Jesus begins there, he being the firstfruits of those to be raised from the dead, who have fallen asleep in death (1 Corinthians 15).

And this new creation in Jesus does not just include the resurrection of our bodies, but the resurrection and renewal of all things, actually a brand new creation, making all things new. The God who created all things, can make a brand new creation, one not subject to the physics and destiny of this old creation. Just as Jesus’s body was not subject to the limitations our bodies have now, or for that matter his body had before his resurrection, so the material world will then be different. I think there will be those who carry on the work of science during that time. They will be just as astounded as now, probably all the more. There will be an endless amount of worlds to explore, discoveries to be made.

But what does all of that matter for us now? At the end of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul nails it down with the point that since the resurrection of Christ and all that follows is true, then we’re to give ourselves fully to his work, knowing that’s it’s not in vain.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

As N. T. Wright suggests, the tie is surely to what preceded it, the point of the resurrection. Otherwise, as the same passage says, we might as well eat and drink and be merry, live it up now, because tomorrow we die, so that there’s no point in thinking what we do now matters beyond this life. But beside the point that it can actually matter greatly for better or for worse in this life, we need to remember and hold on to the truth that somehow in Jesus what happens in this old creation impacts what will be true in the new creation. The subtleties of that, how it will be worked out remain to be seen. We just have to believe it to be the case, so that on the basis of Christ’s resurrection we know that what we do now in him does matter. Not only for this life, but also for the life to come. In and through Jesus.

Holy Week upon us

We have been taking attending a church which does not practice the church calendar, except for the highest of holy days such as Easter, so that we neither had an Ash Wednesday service, nor is Lent on our radar. I think that’s a loss myself, though I appreciate the church, just the same.

Now Holy Week is upon us, beginning tomorrow with what is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. We remember the Passion, meaning Suffering of our Lord, the way to the cross which was coming to its culmination, followed by the resurrection.

For me it is the most special week of the year. Christmas is just as special in its own way, as we remember the incarnation and birth of our Lord. And actually the entire year is important with reference to the church calendar, just as all in the gospels is important, our Lord’s life and teachings complementing and fulfilling God’s call to Israel as the light of the world. So in a sense there are no non-holy days. And yet there are special times when we remember certain key events that took place, like the Passover followed by the crossing of the children of Israel across the Red Sea.

So today for me will be a preparation for tomorrow, the beginning of Holy Week. We intend to go to a Good Friday service within the tradition we are now a part of. I do miss the traditional liturgy and regular partaking of the Lord’s body and blood. I appreciate the strengths of the church we now attend, but miss the ceremonial aspect of things. And yet, by faith we can enter into a kind of watching and listening, as we meditate from the text of scripture, from the gospel accounts on our Lord’s suffering. And as we pray for ourselves and for those around us, for the world, that we might know this great grace from God in and through Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

New Year’s Eve celebrations

I am not sure why the world makes such a big to-do about New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve Celebrations. I can find it more or less interesting with reference to looking back on the news of the world, even on the political news.

I really like the church  calendar and regret that I discovered it (and am discovering it) late in life. The other calendar is important to me for marking birthdays, holidays, vacations, appointments, deadlines (not in that order, I’m afraid). Apart from Christ I can understand simply boozing it up, or engaging in some trifling occasion. Another year has come and gone with another one around the corner. What purpose does everything have, anyhow? At least one needs to lighten up and have some fun. We can’t carry the world on our shoulders. Maybe we can get off of it, for a bit.

For the follower of Christ, such a time can be a good pause for reflection, maybe joining a bit in some of the fun, but above all thinking in terms of the day itself, the significance it has in the world, and trying to both learn as well as contextualize ourselves, in terms of that. We don’t do well when we simply cut ourselves off from culture. Actually in some ways we need to cut ourselves off, but in other ways not. We need wisdom from God to know the difference.

What I’m likely to do, after working ten hours today, is go home and crash. Maybe drink a little of the wine with my wife, I got for her recent birthday. Maybe do a little reading. Maybe have the television on when the Apple falls down on Time’s Square, although I doubt it. Maybe have some good music concert on, or another program beforehand. For me, nose in a book with classical music on would be ideal, no doubt dozing off here and there in the process. This is a time of grief for us at the loss of my wife’s father, who was a father to me, as well; the funeral just ahead.

We are reminded of the prayer in the psalms that we do well to pray:

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Even as we continue to pray the prayer the Lord taught his disciples to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Scot McKnight on the church calendar being “a gospeling event”

I see another way for us to become people of the Story of Jesus. For some of my readers this will be a bit annoying, but I want to ask you to rethink your instinctive reaction. We need to see the wisdom of the church’s decision to follow a church calendar. My home church had two “church calendar” events: prophecy conference in the fall and missionary/revival conference in the spring. Of course, I’m kidding. Well, only partly. We did only “keep” two events: Christmas and Easter. I don’t recall a Good Friday service at church when I was growing up, and I had never heard of Maundy Thursday until I was in England during college and I got to preach at a church called Maundy Baptist. It had six or so people, but they didn’t want to risk my bad sermon on a big church. Anyway, the church calendar, if examined briefly, is entirely structured around the Story of Jesus. That is, the church calendar is a gospeling event too.

The church calendar is all about the Story of Jesus, and I know of nothing—other than regular soaking in the Bible—that can “gospelize” our life more than the church calendar. It begins with Advent, then Christmas, then Epiphany, then After Epiphany, then Lent, then the Great Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Paschal Vigil on Saturday evening), Easter, and then After Pentecost—with Ordinary Time shaping the calendar until Advent. Ordinary Time is the time to focus on the life and teachings of Jesus. Anyone who is half aware of the calendar in a church that is consciously devoted to focusing on these events in their theological and biblical contexts will be exposed every year to the whole gospel, to the whole Story of Israel coming to its saving completion in the Story of Jesus.

Scot McKnight,The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, 154-155.