This year Easter is different for us. For one, it may be the first Easter I’ve cooked (by myself). We decided to have our main Easter meal on Saturday because we knew we’d be busy on Sunday. In this part of Tanzania the main meats are cow, goat and chicken – and I opted for beef seeing as I’ve not yet had the chance to prepare goat, and I don’t have a chicken handy to slaughter… Because the meat here is often tough, I have been marinating cubes of beef in apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. After doing that for a few hours I brown the meat and add it to a covered casserol with peeled potatoes, carrots and a couple quartered onions. Spiced with rosemary and salt, after a couple hours in the oven, it was ready to eat. Still getting used to our oven here, and next time I will be sure to add a little more liquid as it was a tiny bit dry. It was good overall, and we had leftovers for Easter, which is just what I wanted! Read the rest of this entry →
I have to be honest and say that Easter was a strange experience for me this year. I found it difficult to be at church on Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus in our church building. Something just didn’t seem to add up.
I found it difficult joining in with other Christians joyfully proclaiming that Jesus is risen, not because I didn’t believe it, but because I don’t think I’ve really understood what this means. I believe that Jesus was killed, dead, and that a few days later he was miraculously raised to new life in a resurrected physical body, but what does that mean for the history of the world?
I found I couldn’t celebrate that Jesus was raised to life so I can be in relationship with God. I couldn’t celebrate that Jesus has saved Christians, so that we can have a fun time rejoicing in our salvation and waiting to go to heaven. The best I could manage was a rather fake smile.
Surely Easter is about so much more than this? Surely Easter isn’t just for Christians and for church services but for the whole world? Isn’t the good news that Jesus has made a way for all people to be part of his new Kingdom, God’s new creation? Isn’t the resurrection the proof that God has turned the world upside-down, putting the first last and the last first? Isn’t this Kingdom about new life, heaven coming on earth, freedom from oppression, the end of poverty and loneliness and the restoration of the whole world?
Then how can I sit in church feeling happy that I am saved and going to heaven? (I’m relieved to see I wasn’t the only one feeling this way – thanks John!)
To be honest it was only really this afternoon that I was able to genuinely smile again, coaching soccer with kids from the local neighbourhood, many of whom have probably never heard about Jesus. It was a privilege to watch them and interact with them, seeing them hungry to learn about soccer and also about life. It was a privilege to do so with a good friend who has sacrificed a great deal and traveled from thousands of miles away to tell these kids about Jesus.
Our prayer is that they will know that the resurrection isn’t just something that Christians celebrate when they have their strange meetings on Sunday, but that it was the moment that changed the universe, God breaking in to the cycle of sin and death, starting a new Kingdom of humility, love and peace, restoring what is broken, bringing forgiveness, releasing those who are oppressed, giving hope and a new life to those trapped in poverty, and ultimately through Jesus involving anyone who will accept the invitation in his new and perfect world.
Now that’s something I can get excited about!
I think I may have quoted this before, but re-reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope this Easter has really helped me to rediscover the hope for the whole of creation through Jesus’ death and resurrection that we see in the Bible. I think the following section is particularly relevant as we’re often tempted to put ourselves at the centre, talking about God’s good news as if it were all about getting Christians into heaven…
The whole point of my argument so far is that the question of what happens to me after death is not the major, central, framing question that centuries of theological tradition have supposed. The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos. The destiny of individual human beings must be understood within that context – not simply in the sense that we are only part of a much larger picture but also in the sense that part of the whole point of being saved in the present is so that we can play a vital role (Paul speaks of this role in the shocking terms of being “fellow workers with God”) within that larger picture and purpose. And that in turn makes us realize that the question of our own destiny, in terms of the alternatives of joy or woe, is probably the wrong way of looking at the whole question. The question ought to be, How will God’s new creation come? and then, How will we humans contribute to that renewal of creation and to the fresh projects that the creator God will launch in his new world? …
If what I have suggested is anywhere near the mark, then to insist on heaven and hell as the ultimate question – to insist, in other words, that what happens eventually to individual humans is the most important thing in the world – may be to make a mistake similar to the one made by the Jewish people in the first century, the mistake that both Jesus and Paul addressed. Israel believed (so Paul tells us, and he should know) that the purposes of the creator God all came down to this question: how is God going to rescue Israel? What the gospel of Jesus revealed, however, was that the purposes of God were reaching out to a different question: how is God going to rescue the world through Israel and thereby rescue Israel itself as part of the process but not as the point of it all? Maybe what we are faced with in our own day is a similar challenge: to focus not on the question of which human beings God is going to take to heaven and how he is going to do it but on the question of how he is going to redeem and renew his creation through human beings and how he is going to rescue those humans themselves as part of the process but not as the point of it all. If we could reread Romans and Revelation – and the rest of the New Testament, of course – in the light of this reframing of the question, I think we would find much food for though.
N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, pp184-185