Of this I am sure

I did say that these posts will be somewhat random, jumping from one area to another… I read today of a writer who described himself as ‘a post-classical-trinitarian-wondering-what-comes-next’… On a number of issues I am post-this-and-not-sure… That’s how it is and I think it is really healthy. (I think) there is one strong anchor point for me in my faith and it is the resurrection of Jesus.

I find the resurrection so incredible it just has to be for real. The central claim – that could have been repudiated – was that his body is no longer in the tomb. It was not that he is alive beyond death, for such a claim would not have meant very much particularly in that early Jewish context. Resurrection, a hope that was a predominant hope among Jews, was expected to happen in the future for the righteous (and the unrighteous?) and would mark that ‘the end’ had come. The claim that Jesus had been raised from the dead was very divisive in the early Jewish context. It was not so much a declaration of a new faith, but of a new era. I think this is why the term ‘this generation’ had such a strong temporal warning element to it in the early (Jewish) context of the book of Acts.

The challenge for us is we have not had a visitation from the Risen Christ (even a direct visitation from Jesus is it is from the Ascended Christ) and so our faith is based on those eye-witness reports. But I find the context so compelling. How on earth would the message of ‘Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18, ‘he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection’) have gained any level of traction. People did not rise from the dead, certainly not after being crucified and buried! (Resurrection not being that of the order of Lazarus (resuscitation) but permanent and in Jesus’ case with both discontinuity and continuity of physicality.) People did not rise, but the message takes root and in one city after another in the Roman empire people came to believe. They did not add ‘Jesus’ in as another god into their pantheon but belief in Jesus nullifed belief in all other gods, and put the recipients of this new faith in conflict with the whole Imperial setting. If there was no substance behind the claim that ‘he is risen’ there would have been no response within the Jewish culture, forget the ‘ends of the earth’.

I believe in the resurrection, and it marks Jesus out not as a ‘son of God’ but as the son of God (each Caesar was declared the divine son of the previous Caesar who had been divinised – the claim for Jesus, made by Paul in the letter to the believers in the capital is very poignant).

Belief in the resurrection has implications. Time being one of them. A new era is here now. That calls for sight at a different level, for without sight at that level it is evident that there is no new era present. It calls for a place to work from as much as a place to work toward. What does the new era consist of? No more tears, no more death (and decay). We can fight the old disorder or work from the new. I read with great appreciation the comments Ann makes on some of the posts. She knows more about climate change and crisis than most people I know and she of all people could be hopeless. I am sure her hopes are challenged many times, but her approach (and I hope I am reflecting it accurately) is that we are where we are, in that sense the old world has passed there is a new one here now. In the new one how can we respond in a way that we don’t simply grieve what is gone but within this context work for the future, for the next and subsequent generations. The resurrection of Jesus has much to say about the environment for Jesus is the first born of all creation – no burning up… and in the same way that at the return of Jesus that which is physically present will be transformed, so with those alive and that which is alive.

Inbreakings, irruptions from heaven. Disruptions, outbreaks. All of that become possible, and both together. Heaven (as a symbol of the new era) can break in. But that has to mean that the old gives way to the new. I think there is too much prayer for ‘heaven to invade earth’ without the corresponding commitment for ‘earth’ (as symbolic of the way things are) to give way. The resurrection of Jesus is not a simple add on that enhances this life but also displaces / transforms all values that we have been taught are normal.

It is my anchor point. In the light of that how do I live, for beliefs can be less than what is considered ‘orthodox’ but it seems that actions and behaviour are so important.

2 thoughts on “Of this I am sure

  1. Thanks Martin. I’m glad you appreciate my posts.
    It is a duty and responsibility, especially of those of us who are elders, to be hopeful. It is not based on my feelings which are sometimes overwhelmed by the science or the foolish politics of our time. Sometimes I have to step back and away from it all too. I intend to step into a garden. . . the most hopeful and despairing landscape on the planet right now. The garden is where we must experiment with what will grow and where in this new landscape. But that is another topic.

    I think the despair and lack of hope for many is born in two things. The first is the now constant sense of crisis that permeates our world with ongoing disasters due to the new climate on this new planet. A climate that is much more extreme than we have planned, built, or governed for. It frightens us. And for good reason. We are unprepared.

    That leads to the second cause of despair. It is a sense of powerlessness due to the leaders from the last climate regime who are still in power and continue to cling to power. A new climate requires new leadership. Many of the current leaders appear increasingly incompetent, ineffective, foolish or downright malicious in their refusal to cope with the new context in which we all live.

    How do we move forward?
    1. Recognize that we are now on a new planet, under a new climate regime, and all of us are learners who will constantly readjust our expectations. This applies especially to urban planners, engineers, educators, those in the construction industry, health professionals, farmers, water managers, etc (I am sure I missed a lot, just fill in the blank). Anyone who has to plan around the land or deal with the outcomes is responsible to be ready to learn, constantly, as we go along. And there is no going back. Ever. We must accept that. The door is closed to returning to the old climate. Even if we do what we must – hit net zero by 2030 – we will still never get back to the climate we knew. It will settle down, the disasters should decrease but I anticipate permanent changes. Deal with it. Do what you need to do to cope with that knowledge and then get on with hope.
    2. In that recognition also realize we need new leaders and new types of governance. The extreme far right believes they have an answer for that and would like us to promote them to power in many countries right now. However, historically, authoritarian governments of any type tend to do governance poorly as that is not their first concern. We need good governance, which tends toward a more consensual approach at every level. Good solutions to problems require lots of learning and feedback. Neither are hallmarks of authoritarian style governments.
    3. Having recognized and acknowledged the first two, it is time for all of us to get moving. We determine the next steps. We point to the direction that will enable the rest of the planet and humans (all 8 billion of us) to find a new life on this new planet. It is on us. Everyone one of us. That is not going to be easy or even safe. No matter. Hope is a duty and it leads to action, right action, action in care of the whole community. All species. The whole planet. In consensus, with wisdom and love. Doesn’t matter what any of us do for a living. We all need to get on with the task ahead of us. We have the opportunity to reshape human culture to both meet the demands of the new climate and the demands of a more just and peaceable world. We cannot afford to miss this chance. To do so means more misery for more people and more species. It is literally life and death. Not an option. That is what following a risen Jesus means.
    To use the resurrection of Jesus as a metaphor and a guide, we are in a time of death right now. The landscapes around us have been dying for a long time under the onslaught of extractive industry, agriculture, and poorly planned development. But now, the death has become very, very visible to those of us who could ignore it before. We have entered a tomb. But if Jesus is the resurrection and we actually believe that, then new life is coming. A different life in a new place. We can see the outlines of the new planet, the new place. We haven’t yet understood well what our new lives look like in the new context. Can our lives be better? Of course. Could they be a lot worse? Absolutely if we fail to get on making them better. Its on us. The resurrection, a new life, is offered to us. We choose it or turn away. But when we turn away we must accept that we can affect other people and species in doing so. It is never just about us. And when we move forward in hope, we can effect a lot of good for other people and species.

    What do we want our new life in this new place to be like? How should it be for others?
    Hopefully yours,

  2. Gosh Anne, I agree with every word! Your thoughts about the resurrection bringing new life are so encouraging – a great perspective. Thanks too Martin for bringing up the topic…👏👏

Comments are closed.