The Christian calendar year: Easter in its fullness
by Steve Bell
Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world
by coming forward from the future into the present.
Easter, in its fullness, is the period of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. In the resurrection of Jesus, we perceive what could be considered the big bang of God’s new creation exploding as a renewing, recreating power in the midst of the old. In the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s new creation continues to emerge in the Church. The Church is given to a despairing world to bear witness to that which has already begun, a process in which others may joyfully participate and which even death cannot destroy.
The mystery and meaning of Easter are beyond human knowing, but there are profound themes we can ponder together. One theme is the redemption of materiality implied by the resurrection of Jesus. On that first Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene and the other women of Jesus’ inner circle went to tend to the body of Jesus, they were astonished to find it gone (John 20:1, 2). Those who have believed that the good news of the gospel is the promise of escape from the body to an immaterial (spiritual) existence need to re-examine this story. For, in resurrecting the Son from death, God the Father did not discard Jesus’ material body, but recreated from the old something marvelously new; something incorruptible over which death will have no sway, but which is material none-the-less.
Think about the implications of this for a minute, because the good news that Christianity outrageously proclaims, is that “what the creator God has done in Jesus Christ, and supremely in His resurrection, is what He intends to do for the entire world – meaning, by world, the entire cosmos with all its history.”
N.T. Wright admits that attempting to say anything about the future is like erecting a signpost pointing into a fog. However, in Jesus, God’s future comes to us out of the fog, and we catch a glimmer of the glory that God has intended for creation all along:
The world is beautiful not just because it hauntingly reminds us of its creator but also because it is pointing forward: it is designed to be filled, flooded, drenched in God, as the chalice is beautiful not least because of what we know it is designed to contain or as a violin is beautiful not least because we know the music of which it is capable.
The glory of God’s good creation is a glory that sin has obscured but that will be restored in God’s new creation, of which Jesus is the “first-fruits” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Therefore, it is good and right that we reverence now what God has no intention of abandoning.
Another theme of the Easter story has to do with the redemption of history implied by the resurrection. When the risen Christ first appears to the disciples, they are afraid they have seen a ghost – until Jesus shows them His hands and His side (the wounds of His pre-resurrected life), at which point they are suddenly “overjoyed” (John 20:20). Upon reflection, what is evident in this detail is that God’s redemption includes history as much as materiality. If what God has done in Jesus is what He intends to do for us, then our histories as well as our bodily lives will be redeemed and carried forward in God’s new creation. Our life experiences won’t be forgotten in a meaningless and regrettable past: rather, once transformed and fulfilled, they will become building blocks of the new creation. The wounds of Christ, evident in His resurrected body, suggest that the trials of our lives will be wondrously redeemed in the eternity of things.
But if it be true that God can redeem our cruelties and sorrows, then how much more can He do with our loving acts of neighbourliness and creativity? What we lovingly do now – the songs we compose, the gardens we plant, the tools we design, the relationships we forge, our acts of neighbourliness, mercy and justice, imperfect as they are – become the building blocks of God’s new creation. Our creative labours and loving attention to others are eternally significant. They derive their energy and sustenance not from the pleasure such acts give us now, but from eternity itself (1 Corinthians 15:58).
If Jesus really is God’s future arrived-in-the-present, then those who believe might hear the spirit of Christ inviting and empowering us to collaborate with Him in transforming the present in light of God’s future already among us.
WAS IT A MORNING LIKE THIS
music and lyrics by Jim Croegaert
Was it a morning like this?
When the Son still hid from Jerusalem
And Mary rose from her bed
To tend to the Lord she thought was dead
Was it a morning like this?
When Mary walked down from Jerusalem
And two angels stood at the tomb
Bearers of news she would hear soon
Did the grass sing?
Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?
Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound, “He is risen!”
Over and over in a never-ending round
“He is risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!”
Was it a morning like this?
When Peter and John ran from Jerusalem
And as they raced towards the tomb
Beneath their feet was there a tune?
Did the grass sing?…
Listen to the above song at www.pilgrimyear.com/songs :Easter Chapter One.
Steve Bell is a storyteller through and through. For 30 years he has offered encouragement to audiences throughout North America through concerts, song-writing and teaching. With a vocational calling to “refresh Christian faith and spiritual tradition for the weary and the wary,” Steve is known as much for his award-winning musical career as he is for his social commentary and theological insights. He has written numerous articles for online and print publications and has penned books on Scripture and the Liturgical Year. He lives with his wife Nanci in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 Territory and homeland of the Métis Nation.
Steve’s Pilgrim Year series (Novalis Press) is a 7-volume collection of reflections based on the Christian calendar year. It is available for purchase at www.pilgrimyear.com.
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