N.T. Wright, my favorite contemporary theologian, says the modern church has gotten the celebration of Easter a bit wrong.
In his book Surprised by Hope, Wright takes readers back to a holistic view of God's purposes in Jesus' resurrection--a purpose that goes beyond personal fire insurance for individuals and encompasses the restoration and redemption of all creation. This means, argues Wright, that Christ's resurrection is not really "about" individuals ensuring a seat in heaven. Yes, personal salvation is indeed part of God's restoring work, but the plan is even bigger; it envisions an entire creation that is restored to a right relationship with God. The Kingdom is coming, and we are the ambassadors who get to help in the work of bringing it about, a work that will ultimately be completed when Jesus returns. This means that, for the believer, what we do today, in the here-and-now, matters. It somehow counts toward God's Kingdom purposes for us, and won't become obsolete after the second coming. We're not just killing time here on earth before heaven; we get to participate in the amazing work of announcing God's Kingdom and living it as best we can, in the "already" and the "not yet."
The above is an abysmally abbreviated view of Wright's amazing book, and I urge all of you to check it out. It changed my life. But let me circle back to Easter. Wright argues that, if Jesus' resurrection is about the restoration of all the cosmos (including, but not limited to, personal fire insurance), then it represents something so colossal, so astounding, so too-good-to-be-true, that it should be the day around which the Christian year is centered. It should hold a prominence in the hearts of believers that is usually reserved for Christmas (which, while a deeply spiritual holiday, is not itself the culmination of God's plan for His beloved earth).
Yet this is often not the case. Many believers spend 40 days celebrating Lent--the season which represents earthly suffering--but then limit the holiday that represents the restoration of the entire cosmos to one Sunday morning, a lunch, and a comatose afternoon of napping. This has largely been my experience, too.
Among other things, Wright suggests that believers begin a practice of celebrating Easter for at least 40 days, using this time to contribute to the world in Christ-honoring ways--by taking on creative endeavors, tackling hobbies, looking into important issues, working to alleviate suffering, studying the Bible, and other things that remind us whose Kingdom we're living out.
This year, I'm taking his suggestion and doing 40 days of celebration. Every day I will try to do something that reminds me whose Kingdom I'm given the privilege of helping to announce and live in. This might mean doing a Bible study. It might mean helping a neighbor. It might mean creating a piece of art. It might mean writing something important on this blog. It might mean plugging in with my hubs a little more closely. All of these things are part of my image-bearing as a creature of God. As J.R.R. Tolkien said, "We make still by the law in which we're made," meaning that being creative and active in the world is part of bearing the image of a creative, active God.
My church touched on this subject today and handed out hashtag ribbons (pictured above) to remind us that God gives us each day to start afresh being ambassadors for His kingdom. I thought I'd start my Easter celebration by posting that picture.
I'll keep you updated on my progress, even if I don't post every day. Will you join me in 40 days of Easter? If you'd like to try it, here are some options to consider: pick up a new hobby, find a worthy charity to donate time or money to, be intentional in relationships, do creative things, find a friend or neighbor who needs chores done, tackle an important project that will help others. Or maybe you've thought of something not on this list. I'd love it if participants would comment on the blog every once in awhile to keep me updated on progress!
He is risen. Grace and peace.
Labels: easter, hope, new creation, starting today