Easter hope for a post-pandemic world | The trade

Easter hope for a post-pandemic world | The trade

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I knew early on that something was wrong. I heard Easter sermons from good evangelical preachers and they seemed to miss the point. I suspect the same problem stands in the way now as we try to draw from the Easter message the hope the world so desperately needs after the pandemic.

The sermons I heard tended to emphasize two points. First, belief in the resurrection of Jesus could be supported by a personal testimony: “You ask me how do I know he is alive? He lives in my heart! "Second, the resurrection of Jesus proved (we were told) that there really is 'life after death'.

There's nothing wrong with that on one level. Personal experience of the presence and power of the living Jesus is an essential part of a true Christian life. And of course, God the Creator did not make us his image just to annoy us with this alluring present life. We are made for more.

But “he lives in my heart” is the truth of Pentecost, not Easter.

Easter is about something that happened and opened a new world before the impact on believers changed. You cannot explain the rise of Christianity historically unless you say that Jesus' tomb was really empty and that his followers really met him again alive. The stories are strange; You are not what people might have made of what they believed in before. For example, although marked by the marking of the nails and the spear, the resurrected Jesus seemed somehow different. He was not recognized immediately. Paul gets the point: what happened at Easter is the start of a new creation. The resurrection body of Jesus was the first example of a new order of being: a reality of heaven and earth. The ancient prophets had promised that. that affirms the New Testament.

After all, the new creation is not about "life after death" in the normal sense. We are promised that when God creates the last new heavens and new earth, all of his people will be raised from the dead to partake of (after an interim period that early Christians were not particularly interested in). But the new creation that was introduced at Easter was about the current worldly reality.

So here's the difference.

If you promise the post-pandemic world a “spiritual” experience of Jesus here and now, or a heavenly afterlife, most people will shrug. It will not help rebuild the economy. It will not provide jobs for the millions who are now unemployed. It will be cold comfort to those who have lost loved ones. We would be in the same place as Martha when Jesus challenged her about the resurrection (John 11: 23-25): Yes, she says, I know my brother will be resurrected on the last day. Jesus' answer is what we need to hear now: "I am the resurrection and the life!" Resurrection is not just a distant, distant hope. (It's not about getting to Heaven either!) It's a person. And it – he – emerged from God's ultimate future to enter the present with new life and new hope. That was and is the message the world needs.

Since the 18th century, the western world has done its best to suppress the rumor of the resurrection of Jesus. This is hardly surprising. The gospel stories are about the climax of world history and the birth of God's new creation. But the so-called Enlightenment believed that history had climaxed not with Jesus but with the European and American cultures of the time, and that their own science, philosophy and democracy had produced the real New World. There cannot be two high points in history.

The church tragically went along. We have decided to leave the practical work of the new creation to the “secular” authorities and to be content with cultivating personal experiences and otherworldly hopes. As Nietzsche saw, the church has offered a form of Platonism with someone called "Jesus" who is loosely connected. It's a comfortable place. No secular empires are challenged in the making of this film.

But the church should offer comfort to others and not seek for itself. The post-pandemic world needs the true Easter message: the message of a new creation that began when Jesus was raised from the dead. A new reality of heaven and earth, fueled by God's powerful new breath that flows through the followers of Jesus, transforming them (to their surprise and in some cases alarming) into a multicultural, outward-looking community determined to its good news the world so obviously needed. Paul's great vision in Ephesians was that God would bring everything in heaven and earth together in the Messiah (1:10), a reality that is expected when Jews and Gentiles come together as a single family (2: 11-22 ) and sends a signal to the powers of the world that God is God and Jesus is Lord (3: 1-13). When Paul said that we were "made for good works in the Messiah," he was not referring to "that we may do right," although this is obviously implied. "Good works" in Paul's world meant that people were making a positive difference in their larger communities. The church has nothing to do with outsourcing its heavenly mission of hope to secular organizations. We should stage them.

Fortunately, this is already happening everywhere. The Holy Spirit is often far ahead of the teaching and preaching of the church. In my country, Christian groups have pioneered initiatives such as food banks. The use of cathedrals as vaccination centers (not as an alternative to worship, of course, but as a natural drain) has sent a strong signal: the church is there for the healing of the community. Again and again in practice the Church was what St. Paul said: people of prayer and hope in the places where the world is in pain.

But this happy, outward-looking life can easily get off course or diverted into the wrong channels. To avoid this, the true resurrection message must be grasped, preached, and lived. The world changed when Jesus of Nazareth emerged from the grave on Easter morning. It takes exactly the same faith to believe this truth as it takes to roll up your sleeves and go where help is most needed – from the soup kitchen in the parish under the tracks to the World Economic Forum.

After all, the Easter stories in the Gospels don't end with people saying, "He lives in my heart." Also in those first stories people don't say, "Ah, that's fine so we can get to heaven." In the end, people say, "Jesus was raised – that's why the new creation has started and we have a job to do."

There is a straight line from the heavenly reality of Jesus' resurrection to the calling of his followers on heavenly earth. Through his spirit, we can be the difference the world needs. We can make the difference the world needs.

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