Joy, resurrection joy

Having the Watoto choir minister to your church on Easter morning is like having RESURRECTION proclaimed in the fullest measure. Bellowed into your ear, shouting into your eyes, exploding into your heart. Having Watoto choir sharing their lives with you is seeing Redemption in full force – you cannot look away. You cannot but realise that transformation has happened and is continuing to happen throughout the world as a result of the inclusive love of God and His invitation for the nations.

2,000 over years after the resurrection of Jesus, we see the magnified version of the continuing work of the God, after Jesus announced, “the Kingdom of God is here”, we see today it is here, and it is here to stay in increasing measure. I see the resurrection life evident in my fellow Christians from Uganda, and my heart is so filled with hope. There is hope.

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today we his friends died

At this point, Jesus was to them, (permanently,) dead. Pick up the pieces yourself. Game over.

The ghastly Friday where Jesus was stripped of all His earthly identity culminating in His death, must have been terrifying to watch. How did Jesus’ disciples feel?

As the weight of the experience of Jesus slowly sinks into my mind and throughout my busy day, I wonder. How did Jesus’ disciples take it? Did they even sleep?

They certainly shared in His suffering because of how their lives were intertwined. They had given up everything for Jesus and lived a carefree, happy life with Him. They could pluck grains to snack on on Sabbath and Jesus would tell off the Pharisees. They could get away with not doing the ablutions before meals, and Jesus would have their back. They drove away demons in His name. They survived a storm because Jesus calmed it. Things were really good with Him.

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Jesus, becoming obedient to death

Even though it is said that Jesus came to die, I often reflect it over and over in my mind that many things preceded His death. Many important things, preceded His death. His final hours were not an abrupt and neat death sentence, but a series of events when Jesus became increasingly emptied of Himself at every turn.

Jesus’ death was not only the giving up of His breath, it was the complete emptying of Himself.

At today’s Good Friday Tenebrae service, the reflections at Bangsar Lutheran Church led me to reflect on how Jesus’ earthly self was gradually stripped away as the evening went on.

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As Death hovers, where is our home?

God is not in the business of whisking His people away from an awful place (earth) into a faraway castle (heaven) to stay in. That’s a European fairy tale.

If heaven is our ultimate home, why do we need new, resurrected, physical bodies? If God is Creator and Lord of the heavens and the earth, why is our final home merely “Heaven”? Isn’t that, a downgrade, especially after all the hoo-ha about earth in Genesis 1? Wouldn’t it be a regression to see that after Jesus has brought about salvation on the cross, heaven is all we are looking forward to as our final home (after all the majesty and glory described to us about earth)? You mean to say, Jesus died just so we can get to heaven in the afterlife, and just stay there, only?

If life is a train ride that everyone is destined to hop off… then doesn’t that make death just a necessary albeit uncomfortable door to the final destination (presumably, heaven)? If our only concern is for our destination in the afterlife, then doesn’t that make death a lot more acceptable? If death is an acceptable and necessary doorway to heaven or hell, then… why did Jesus come to defeat death and destruction? Why was Jesus said to have triumphed over (sin and) death (1 Cor 15:55-57), if death is no biggie after all?

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The work of God on earth

Gleanings from Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Part 3)

…the situation in the world demands that God fixes it Himself.

To be honest, Tom Wright doesn’t tell anything particularly new in his book that I haven’t heard of. For example, my belief system includes the resurrection (check), the new heavens and the new earth (check), the mission of the church in the world (check), the reinstating of humanity-under-Christ as the rightful stewards of the earth under God the creator (check). But what he does is to reaffirm that these represent the fundamental backdrop from where the biblical narrative springs forth.

He arranges the facts of the biblical narrative to a coherent worldview that both transcends and encompasses our individual / private experience of God to a larger framework of creation. This is paramount to Tom Wright’s work, and again, this is not new. What I am seeing is this — we cannot extract our personal faith in Christ and moral piety from the broader existential question of our role as stewards of the earth. In my own reading of this and my own arising position, piety is holiness, but holiness is not piety per se because piety is only a subset of holiness; and morality is stewardship but stewardship is not morality per se because morality is only a subset of stewardship. And I would add that not only are individuals co-partners of God, the whole of humanity was meant to be co-partners of God.

We move on to the next part of my reflections from Surprised by Hope.

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Resurrection. So what?

summary of Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Part 2)

The implications of His death and resurrection brings forth a new reality we cannot ignore.

N.T. Wright emphatically establishes that the resurrection of Jesus is the single most defining moment for Christianity. No resurrection, no Messiah. No Messiah, no Kingdom. No Kingdom, no church. The entire perspective of N.T. Wright hinges and is powered by the resurrection of Christ. The question is how he sees the resurrection and where he takes it. And this is one of Wright’s most significant contributions to the church today.

In the first century, the resurrection of Jesus — and in fact the very idea or mental framework of it — was peculiar, incomprehensible and even an unsophisticated notion to the Greeks (imagine snobbish highbrow Greeks pooh-poohing the idea). (Not to mention that He died a criminal’s penalty). As mentioned in Part 1, Greeks generally believe that people just go to Hades when they die. Unless you’re a god or related to one, you don’t die and rise up again. It’s just not how things work in the scheme of things. Plato thinks it’s better for the invisible soul to be torn away from the body where it can live happily ever after freed from its bodily corruption, while Aristotle thinks it’s better to just live a good life here on earth by indulging the body.

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Life in the Body is Good

a summary of Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Part 1)

‘Look, if we instinctively dwell on and celebrate our disembodied state of existence post-death, we are actually stuck in the Greco-Roman dualistic view, which says that ultimately, we really want to be liberated from the body, and when we are, it’s the best thing ever.’

I had already been on a somewhat steady diet of N.T. Wright’s online courses when I picked up Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church from my office library. It felt like, ‘Okay, I’ve gone through some of his lectures on Romans and Jesus, I’d really like to get a more involved with his work and it’s time to pick up his books.’ I think what makes Wright both accessible and credible to me is that he has both pastoral and scholarly credentials, being a former Bishop of Durham of the Church of England and now a New Testament scholar at the University of St. Andrews in the UK — he is involved in the rigorous tradition of study that accompanies pastoral roles, and therefore, doesn’t live in an ivory tower far removed from people’s everyday joys and quandaries. He also goes at things from the way of a historian, as opposed to a lawyer, scientist or theorist. He is also to me a parallel of what CS Lewis was to me in my childhood.

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