Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Day of Resurrection!

The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad;
the Passover of gladness,
the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
from earth unto the sky,
our Christ hath brought us over,
with hymns of victory.

Today is the day that either makes fools of us believers or that reveals the reality of our life in God. Either the resurrection was, as Bishop David Jenkins famously said, ‘more than a conjuring trick with bones’ (he was, of course, infamously misquoted as saying ‘merely a conjuring trick with bones’), or it was just a resuscitation, not a resurrection?

People have been resuscitated before — think of Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus, both raised back to life by Jesus — and there are many more stories across the faiths and traditions of the dead being miraculously brought back to life. The persons so raised presumably lived out their earthly lives and then died a second time, for good.

The resurrection was something else, an unprecedented event that, if true, changed the basis of our relationship with God, with other people and with the rest of creation. It makes possible the seemingly fanciful teachings of Jesus, as when he states that if his followers had even a little faith they could move mountains and perform miracles greater than they have seen him perform.

If the resurrection is what we believe it to be, then the risen Christ ushers us into a new kind of existence, a positioning in eternity within the life of Trinity, with all the power of the Divine available to us now. This is what Saint Paul believed and what he attempted to express in his great charter of emancipation in Romans chapter 8: ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.’ Paul was so convinced of the transformative effect of the resurrection that he repeatedly insisted that those who were in Christ were tantamount to being a ‘new creation,’ people who would be able to express in their lives the very nature of God.

The resurrection blows out the walls, the floors and the ceilings of our understanding of our own spiritual identity. What we do with open access to the Holy Spirit is up to us. It becomes a question of how much truth can we bear? How much life can we live? How much love can we take? How much do we trust the God who explodes our limited perceptions of who we are and what life is all about?

This Easter my prayer is that we will all be given the courage to open ourselves more to the infinite God, whose love we know and whose face we have seen in the man who resolutely climbed the hill to Golgotha.

Now let the heavens be joyful!
Let earth the song begin!
Let the round world keep triumph,
and all that is therein!
Let all things seen and unseen
their notes in gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord hath risen,
our joy that hath no end.

Christina Rees

Posted by Christina Rees on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 5:30am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: just thinking
Comments

Not clear to me if Christina Rees believes in an afterlife/eschatological resurrection (whatever the precise mechanism). I dislike this kind of cloudiness.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 5:00pm BST

This sort of triumphalism does nothing for me. Christina Rees is sometimes called 'liberal' but obviously not liberal theologically - in that it comes across, to me, as a contemporary person, as contextless "noise" especially when contrasted with Jonathan Clatworthy's attempt, in previously highlighted opinion from here, to put views of resurrection into a time and place context and derive some modern positive use from the very different understandings of people of the past.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 5:10pm BST

John, I'm an absolute *hurricane* compared to Christina Rees' "cloudiness"! I believe that GOD is in that Pillar of Cloud, that Cloud of Unknowing. Sorry if it's not your thing---but I get (painfully) blinded in the light of (any particular) certitude. Praise the Risen Christ for all our God-given diversity!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 8:04pm BST

"It becomes a question of how much truth can we bear? How much life can we live? How much love can we take? How much do we trust the God who explodes our limited perceptions of who we are and what life is all about?"

I like that. Because the greatest challenge in Christian life involves the challenge to open to the love of God and really engage in our lived lives and encounters with people.

Opening ourselves to the vastness of the love, to the God who dwells within us and without us... well it is so tempting to retreat from that. The love of God is like a fire. Sometimes like a searing judgment, sometimes stripping us (and our pretences) naked, but sometimes wrapping us and enfolding us, accompanying us, sharing with us.

But yes, how much truth, how much love, are we willing to bear, in the devotion and the baptism of our lives?

May the God of grace, who comes and dwells with us, and waits within our souls, open our hearts and minds. And may God be with us in our lives, our relationships, our community and service of one another.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 8:08pm BST

Thanks for this, Christina - a wonderful exploration of the Christian Gospel.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 9:10pm BST

JCF,

I'm not personally into 'certitude'. I was applying 'cloudiness' to the particular issue I mentioned. As regards that particular issue, if Christianity doesn't claim it (however hard it is to believe it), it can't be theologically or morally coherent, and it certainly can't offer any real comfort/support to people.

Posted by: John on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 9:09am BST

People here seem to be saying that, for all the reasoning available, all the methods, all the ethical potential, Christianity in the end stands or falls on its one main miracle. If the miracle happened, it stands, if it didn't, it falls.

I suppose there will always be a legacy of 'great literature' and so derived spiritual resources.

It's why, of course, theologians may ask what other academic disciplines think of this or that, but other academic disciplines while straying into other territories never ask what theology thinks. Theology dependent on miracle just disappears.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 5:40am BST

Honestly, I've always believed the assertion that without bodily resurrection our faith means nothing to be indecent.

Really? What is your faith in? Does compassion, fighting injustice, standing against the status quo, secular and ecclesial, only have value or reality if you, personally, get to live forever? I've always felt it was evidence that Paul really hadn't progressed to "adult food," at that point.

Whether Jesus rose, whether bodily resurrection, spirit, or not at all doesn't matter at all. If your faith is only in that, only bolstered by lights and whistles, big production numbers that involve God violating His own set rules of the physical universe for your entertainment and amazement, then you don't have faith in anything Jesus lived or taught, just in what, for an omnipotent being, amounts to parlor tricks. It's sad, really, and one of the reasons Christianity has to be ashamed of itself.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 8:15am BST

Mark,

I regard your comment as mistaken on so many different levels that I can't even begin to discuss it.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 7:48pm BST

Mark (Brunson), granted that 'eternal life' means also the 'here and now' of this terrestrial existence; surely the resurrection has the promise of something more?

I believe that the whole essence of the Eucharist is that we are something more than just our physical, earthly bodies - important as they are for the housing of our spiritual being.

If our 'life in Christ' were limited to our earthly existence; what was the point of Jesus' offering of Himself for our salvation?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 1:43am BST

The resurrection of Jesus is not just about 'evidence that I personally am going to live forever'. The earliest Christians apparently believed that it was primarily evidence that Jesus is Lord of all - which is their definition of the Gospel.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 5:26am BST

I will say that the "I don't know where to begin" response is because you have no place to begin. It's knee-jerk based on "we've always done it that way" and points to the lack of critical thinking that makes Christianity an object of contempt in a grown-up world.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 5:49am BST

Mark, my language is different from yours.

I don't say it lightly, but I don't do 'knee-jerk' thinking and I'm greatly concerned with Christianity's being an object of contempt to the outside world. If you ever read me properly, you would see both those things writ large.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 8:29am BST

Ron,

If all you're doing it for is for the promise of a future "life," what is your faith in?

That isn't faith, it's simply hopping on to the pragmatic bandwagon, hoping to get a little of the Eternal Good Life. I don't believe, for a second, that Jesus used miracles for any reason other than to get the attention of us spoiled and rather stupid apes, so He could tell us that this life here and now *is* the eternal one, so live it wisely. If not, why bother being liberal? Just live the rulebook and all your suffering here means nothing 'cause you'll cash in after you die. I don't consider that faith, even remotely, but you're welcome to it.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 8:45am BST

Believe me, I've read what you've written. You don't seem to understand where the contempt lay. It isn't because we don't talk magic anymore, or because we don't all quietly pretend to get along at the expense of the least among us.

It's because we wrap ourselves in otherworldly nonsense and ignore the world God set before us with insulating theological rationalization, while hypocritically pretending to actually care for that world.

Do you think someone starving to death gives the slightest damn about whether the Trinity is one or three persons or how. Do you think a single mother working four bad jobs is impressed that someone she never met may have pulled a Dracula and risen from the dead? Do you think that a gay youth considering suicide is uplifted by the thought that his being abused magically keeps the church together? Can you possibly believe that someone who is in terror of their life from day to day really, really is concerned about promises that their suffering means pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by?

They don't believe the old stories, and don't give a damn about the old controversies. They don't want to be told how they can peaceably exist in the same room with the people who will kill them, given a chance. Christianity has become seen as irrelevant because IT IS, as presented by the churches, which, like it or not, is what Christianity is seen to be. They don't care that you may treat them differently and call yourself Christian. That just makes you a nice person who's painfully delusional.

And all because of just this rechewing of 3rd century cud.

Do you think any of this theological self-pleasuring gives the slightest hope to a hopeless world? How have you all managed to blind yourselves?

What *do* you believe in? What *do* you think Christ came for? What *possible* Good News do you think you're giving? Because I think Jesus would tell us we're wasting our time and His.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 6:27am BST

I think the miracles were beautiful in themselves, and their own huge moments in eternity.

I agree that the miracles served a purpose as signs and demonstrations, but they were also moments of deep reality.

Just as we may encounter moments of deep reality in our daily lives and work.

Reality doesn't get any greater than the risen and eternal Jesus Christ.

Wherever, and in whom, we meet him.

Of course, words trail off...

But the miracles of Jesus Christ are acts of sharing of the deep and divine love, they are acts of liberation, they are tender little moments of gentle love, they are the deeper physicality and wholeness of eternity breaking through in our transient, passing world.

From everlasting to everlasting 'I am God'.

Miracles are the breaking through of that reality.

They are not simply signposts. They are also the 'moment', the Xaipos time, the coming, they are moments of destination itself.

(Or so I believe)

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 7:15pm BST

OK, right - in my current church, and in all the other churches where I have ever been a member for any time, there have been people working passionately for a world which is more just - a world where hunger is ended, where all genders and all sexualities are celebrated as equal, where the natural world is no longer destroyed, to name but a few.

However, in every church which has held me long, many have always also believed that Jesus did actually rise from the dead, that he was transformed, and that we can be too, both here and now, to act for his Kingdom here on earth, and, finally, to be transformed with him and to enjoy him for ever.

This has never appeared to me as an either/or but as a both/and. The fact that we are transformed NOW, or are being transformed now, is (for me, and for others) an little foretaste of something big and exciting which we do not expect to see fully realised in our earthly lives. That is orthodox Christian belief.

Now, it is perfectly fine not to believe it, and perfectly fine to argue against it. But I remain to be convinced that it is terribly helpful to accuse others of 'doing all this to win eternal life' when there is not a shred of evidence that this is true. It comes perilously close to an ad hominem attack.

I myself try to help others because I value them, and I work for justice because I believe in it. If my work and my love are helped along the way by prayer, by the belief I meet Somebody larger than myself, and if I think I gain insights from this Person, and if I expereince and believe in this Person as three - well, the worst that can be said is that I am mistaken, not that I am venial.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 7:30pm BST

Rosemary Hannah: "This has never appeared to me as an either/or but as a both/and..."

Those were the *exact* words I had thought to post, but decided not to get embroiled (so I posted my little thoughts on the power and prettiness of miracles instead).

You so often seem to think along similar lines to me, and I do agree.

As a nurse, things often don't get much more real and basic. But is that diminished, if my day starts in contemplation, or if I believe in the physical resurrection, or the eternity beyond (and within) the world where people are crying out for help?

You are a delight, Miss Hannah. I wish I knew more about you.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 12:03am BST

Oh well said, Susannah Clark

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 12:07am BST

Neither of which answer the question of which is "What do you believe in."

The point of all this was that without bodily resurrection our faith is nothing.

So, what is your faith in. Instead of deflecting by complaining about ad hominem attacks and beautiful drifting in the clouds about the timeless now, how can you say any of this would cease if it were proved that Jesus didn't rise and that miracles are just to get your attention?

What do you *really* believe in?

I don't care if you believe in the bodily resurrection or not, have no intention of sharing with you whether I believe it or not, and am not to be put off the central point which is:

What are you, what do you believe, and what is your faith really in if it all hinges on that one supernatural act? Will you cease to care for others if it is proved untrue. If Jesus tells you in the afterlife that it never happened, would that mean you won't actually be in Heaven? What is your faith *in*?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 6:48am BST

Um, hope this helps...

I believe in one God,
Almighty Parent of us all,
Maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of God, before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the parental God,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us women and men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
And was made man,
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father-who-is-also-Mother.
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
The Ruler and giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father-who-is-also-Mother, and from the Son,
Who with all God together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.

And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism as the way to remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the world to come.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 9:32am BST

My faith is that love is stronger than hate, that resurrection is better than healing, that the world has meaning. See above.

@Susannah my well said was for your post on miracles not your kind words about myself.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 10:29am BST

Trying to reply to your question a little more directly, Mark: "What do I really believe in?"

I believe in a deeper dimension to the world we live in, where I may encounter God on a different level to the scientifically observable level.

So for me, God, and this deeper reality is like a starting point and source of all our being and lives and existence, and the starting point of what I believe in most.

I believe that this deeper encounter and experience is transforming, and teaches me about the way God shares - love, community, even consciousness.

I believe in the Trinity, as the eternal community and love of God. As the very nature of God, the relational and sharing nature of God.

I believe in the historic intervention of God in Jesus Christ, in the virgin birth, in the human life of Jesus, in the miracles.

I believe in the death and physical resurrection of Jesus.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, in the power and wind of the Spirit, in the gift of tongues, in the dynamic life and power of the Bible.

I believe in the primary call to open our hearts to love, and to find the God I've talked about, in other people.

I am a communist and I believe in 'community' as a basis for relationships.

I believe that everyone may find their own way to God, so your way may be different to mine.

I believe that we are born with much original beauty, in the image of God.

I believe it gets hurt and injured, and sometimes needs unlocking by forgiveness and love and trust.

I believe we are eternal beings, and that eternity is not just something that starts when we die. I believe we exist with God in eternity. And that that is happening now.

I believe God loves and desires us.

I believe in the supernatural.

I believe, meanwhile, we grow into who God has made us, through practical love and opening up to the great love and sharing of God.

I believe God is a laughing girl, a female neighbour, a devoted father, the child Jesus, the numinous other.

I believe all the books in the world cannot hold what God is...

I believe God is love.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 12:40am BST

(Susannah,
as regards wanting to get to know people better, you can find many of us here on Facebook)

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 3:48pm BST

Alas, Erika, I eschew Facebook.

I do, however, do face to face with coffee.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 6:22pm BST

Susannah,
then you could ask Simon to forward your email address to people you might like to get to know. Maybe they don't live too far away or travel occasionally.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 10:49pm BST

I can confirm the fact that Erika has been known to have coffee with people who live far away and travel occasionally!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Sunday, 27 April 2014 at 11:45pm BST
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