Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.
We are so concerned to say at once, if anyone even suggests such an idea, that we are imperfect, weak, frail, that we fail and sin and fear and fall. And of course all that is true. But read Paul again, read John again, and discover that we are cracked vessels full of glory, wounded healers. God forgive us that we have imagined true humanness, after the Enlightenment model, to mean being successful, having it all together, knowing all the answers, never making mistakes, striding through the world as though we owned it. The living God revealed his glory in Jesus and never more clearly than when he died on the cross, crying out that he had been forsaken. When we stand in pain and prayer, following Christ and reshaping our world, we are not only discovering what it means to be truly human, we are discovering the true meaning of what the Eastern Orthodox Church refers to as “divinization.
N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Easter
The poor in spirit will be making the kingdom of heaven happen. The meek will be taking over the earth, so gently that the powerful won’t notice until it’s too late. The peacemakers will be putting the arms manufacturers out of business. Those who are hungry and thirsty for God’s justice will be
analysing government policy and legal rulings and speaking up on behalf of those at the bottom of the pile. The merciful will be surprising everybody by showing that there is a different way to do human relations: some people know only how to be judgmental, to give as good as they get, to lash out and get their own back, but the Beatitude-people will unveil, and by their example encourage, a refreshingly different way. You are the light of the world, said Jesus. You are the salt of the earth. He was announcing a programme yet to be completed. He was inviting his hearers, then and now, to join him in making it happen. This is what it looks like when Christian faith is doing its job within the public life of today’s and tomorrow’s world.
What has eschatology to do with ethics? What has the new heavens and new earth, for which we long, have to do with my moral struggles here and now? Exactly this, I’ll tell you . Love is not our duty, it is our destiny. Love is the language they speak in the new creation and we get to learn it here. Oh, it’s difficult. There are lots of irregular verbs. There’s vocabulary that will be very difficult to get into your head and get your tongue round. But learn it and one day you’ll be singing in it.
The characteristic actions and activities of Christians marked them out from the very beginning as a new sort of grouping in the ancient world. In many ways they were not like a ‘religion’; they had no sacred sites, no animal sacrifices. They were not like a political group, since they looked for a kingdom not of this world. They were like Jews, not pagans, in that they gave allegiance to the one creator god, and they reused standard Jewish polemic against paganism. But they insisted, too, upon using the language of divinity for Jesus, and upon a completely non-racial fellowship, both of which put them decidedly outside the range of mainstream Judaism. What sort of movement was this? From our brief study of early Christian praxis we can only say that Aristides got it about right. It was a new sort of movement, that could only properly be described by creating a new category alongside Greeks, barbarians, and Jews. It was a new way of construing what it meant to be human.
N.T. Wright, The New Testament And The People of God, p. 365
You know, sometimes when somebody you know has been sick, suffering from some nasty illness, you look at them and you say “poor old so and so he’s just a shadow of his former self. He looks so diminished.” The good news is that if you are in Christ, if you are indwelt by the Spirit, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are just a shadow of your future self. The person you are right now is as it were a signpost pointing to the wonderful, extraordinary, glorious, unique person that you will be in God’s good time and in God’s new world. That is the hope that is set before us.
The great revolution of thought which happened in Europe over three centuries ago, associated with Descartes in particular, was the attempt to grasp truth as it were from scratch: by doubting everything, we would see what we could be sure of and build out from there. We would know the facts, and the facts would set us free – free from God, free from any responsibility except to our own self-interest. There’s a straight line from Descartes to Dawkins: we can doubt God, but we can’t doubt the facts, the empirical evidence. And the results of that arrogant attempt to possess truth are all around us, etched in the horrors of the twentieth century and now already the multiple follies of the twenty-first, as we in the West blunder blindly on, believing firmly that because we know the facts and have the technology we can do what we like with other people’s countries, other people’s stem cells, other people’s crops, other people’s money, other people’s lives. And meanwhile the worm in the apple has hollowed it out more or less completely: the ‘truth’ which we thought we knew has been eaten away not just in theology and philosophy but in its heartland of physics, by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and in its deeper heartland of the human being, where Descartes began. We have become a society paranoid about truth: so we make each other fill in more and more forms, and set up more cameras to spy on each other, to check up on one another because we want the truth, we want an audit trail, we want more and more Enquiries and Judicial Reviews and Investigations, but we can’t get at truth because Descartes’ experiment has itself made it impossible, has generated a world of suspicion and smear and spin. The project of truth without grace has become one of facts without trust, and has finally run into the buffers in the smashed cities of Iraq, in the Snooping and Sniggering Society, in the tail-eating philosophies of postmodern deconstruction. That is the darkness where we have waited for too long in Advent hope, waited for a fresh word, a living Word, the tabernacling of glory in our midst, and for truth to be called forth to its long-awaited marriage with grace. Only when we receive this world as a gift from the creator can we understand truth; only when we see one another as bearing his image can we relearn trust.
Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power—not very Anglican, perhaps, but at least we ought to shout Alleluias instead of murmuring them; we should light every candle in the building instead of some; we should give every man, woman, child, cat, dog, and mouse in the place a candle to hold; we should have a real bonfire; and we should splash water about as we renew our baptismal vows. Every step back from that is a step toward and ethereal or esoteric Easter experience, and the thing about Easter is that it is neither ethereal nor esoteric. It’s about the real Jesus coming out of the real tomb and getting God’s real new creation under way.
There is no joy like that of ministering in the name of Jesus Christ – just as there is no sorrow like that of ministering in the name of Jesus Christ. The two go together, as joy and sorrow do in real life; but part of the point of priesthood is to bring into sharp, clear relief the fact that the real God has entered our real life in Jesus Christ and has made it his own, taking the deepest sorrow upon himself and sharing the deepest joy with his people…And, of course, part of the good news of Jesus is that with him the Temple has been turned inside out. The inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies – the place where Christ is in you as the hope of glory, the place where heaven and earth meet in sacrificial love and glorious new creation – is now out on the street…And you are the bearers of that costly love, that joyful glory.