Posted by: gcarkner | March 23, 2016

The Power of Good Friday and Easter

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Giovanni Bellini, The Garden of Gethsemane

Faith in God includes one’s ongoing resolve to receive God’s moral character in Christ inwardly, and to belong to God, in the reverent attitude of Gethsemane; Christ in you is the inward agent-power of Christ working, directing at the level of psychological and motivational attitudes, towards a cooperative person’s renewal in God’s image as God’s beloved child; furthermore Gethsemane union with Christ as Lord calls for volitional cooperation and companionship with Christ, who empowers and guides how we think, not just what we think.

~Dr. Paul Moser, Philosopher Loyola University, Chicago

How are we to understand Good Friday and Easter from such a distance? How does it relate to our experience? Is it mere sentiment or something more profound? Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making: recovering our creative calling, (Chapter 8 “Jesus as Culture Maker”) has some brilliant insights into the difference that Jesus life, death and resurrection have for shaping the horizons of possibility (shalom and human flourishing) for societies, ancient and modern. He helps us grapple with the various dimensions of this sorrow and celebration. See also I Corinthians 15 and reflect on the meaningful quotes by other authors and leaders.

~Gordon Carkner

The Cross

He suffered the full weight of the human story of rebellion against God. He was literally impaled on the worst that culture can do–an instrument of torture that stood for all the other cultural dead ends of history, from spears to bombs, gas chambers to waterboards. Like all other instruments of violence, a cross is cultural folly and futility at its most horrible. (141)

The core calling of [Jesus] life is not something he does at all in an active sense–it is something he suffers. The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion–not a doing but a suffering. (142)

On Good Friday, love embraced suffering as Jesus drank the bitter cup. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. self-consciously followed the same journey of the suffering death of Jesus, the way of the cross, as he promoted civil rights for African-Americans in the Southern USA in the 1960s. He worked hard to replace the perverted symbol of the cross which was used as a justification for aggression, hate and violence—e.g. as an instrument of the Ku Klux Klan. His life quest was to restore the cross as a symbol of love, mercy, justice and non-violence. He incarnated a form of extreme love, a committed non-violent protest against systemic injustice.

~Iwan Russell-Jones, former BBC Filmmaker and Professor of Faith and the Arts, Regent College

https://ubcgcu.org/2014/04/17/good-friday-by-malcolm-guite/ Good Friday Poem by Malcolm Guite

Can Beauty Save Us? 

This is the image of a Jewish man from Nazareth, crucified. In fact, his is the face of “the King of the Jews” and yet, it is supremely grotesque, bearing all the marks of suffering. His face reveals real forsakenness; his body aches of real bodily torture and real agony. His corpse lies mangled and bloodied, and his eyes…proclaim the dreadful word that causes all who hoped in him to shudder: death. There is nothing at all glamorous, desirable, or romantic about this image of the crucified One. But, of course, what is so profound about the face of this human is that his is also the face of God. His face radiates the Beauty of divinity, for he is Light from Light uncreated, the perfect image of the Father. He is, as Hebrews 1:3 says, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” The beauty of this person, wholly man and wholly God, lies in the mystery that he brings salvation to the world not by excluding suffering but by uniting himself to it. He refuses to recoil from a world that has become repellent; he does not laugh at the dereliction of others; he does not look at all that is bad and conclude, “all is well.” He does not stand far off. In his beauty, he comes near and embraces the “ugly” ones. He associates with strange and lonely and exiled folk, bringing the outcast in. He is the servant who suffers, and, protesting against “the way things are,” he laments “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He exemplifies and creates a people committed to what David Hart calls “strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness” to those whom Nietzsche would have annihilated…. He brings the whole festival of divine grace to a world that has excluded itself from it and invites…humanity to take part, to enjoy a feast of resurrection where all divisions, segregation, and exclusion are transcended, where all have their place at the supper of the Lamb, where all, who see the face of the Beautiful One and in that seeing are transformed, are inundated and radiated by Beauty itself. In a word, to paraphrase St. Athanasius, he becomes the Ugly One so that we, the original ugly ones who have made this world ugly with our violence, might become beautiful. This reveals the scandalous message of the Christian aesthetic regime, an alternative regime to that of our time: Beauty saves the world, but only by facing the Ugly head on and actually uniting himself to the regime of the Ugly. We cannot be saved by beauty as long as “beauty” is held captive by immanent attempts to achieve transcendence. The thought that we can be saved by immanent beauty is the presumption of a contemporary secularity that thinks that humanity can ever slowly, by carefully putting one foot above the other, ascend the ladder towards infinite beauty that awaits an enlightened race of humans. The truth that will always confront all of us at the top of that ladder, however, is the face of the God who, beyond history, came into history and became ugly, mangled, and ripped apart by deep dereliction and thorns, a face that unbearably whispers: you can only be saved by the beautiful one who has become the ugly one. In other words, the Ugly one alone can save us, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, whose divine Beauty is manifest in his descent to become—Jesus of Nazareth. (Jimmy Myers, Can Beauty Save Us?www.firstthings.com)

The Aftershocks of the Resurrection

The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the “first fruits,” the “pioneer of life.” He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened. ~C.S. Lewis, Miracles

The resurrection was a culture-shaping event…. If indeed it happened as Jesus’ followers proclaimed, [it] changed more of subsequent human history, for more people and more cultures, than any other event one can name. See N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. which examines it using the tools of historical research. (143)

The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30’s [C.E.], whose aftershocks are being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many of whom have never heard of, and many more of whom have never believed in, its origins. (145)

The resurrection is the hinge of history–still after two thousand years as culturally far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since. (145) It is a cultural triumph–an answer, right in the midst of human history, to all the fears of Israel in the face of its enemies. (146)

Indeed one of the most dramatic cultural effects of the resurrection is the transformation of that heinous cultural artifact known as a cross. An instrument of domination and condemnation becomes a symbol of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed; an alternative culture where grace and forgiveness are the last word…. The cross, the worst that culture can do, is transformed into a sign of the kingdom of God–the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life. (146)

Adrienne von Speyr, a 20th century Swiss mystic, offers a reflection:

The Lord knows that all is now finished. His life is finished, what will succeed it is also finished. In the course of his sojourn on earth, he has put in place everything out of which the later Church will arise in the many-sidedness of her life; he has trusted his disciples and all those who believe in him with their special task. After he has then given his Mother to his favorite disciple, nothing further remains for him but to suffer; he can devote himself exclusively to suffering, plunge once and for all into suffering. It is in Christ’s isolation from the Father, where the center point of his suffering lies. To be separated from a love from which one has lived since eternity, one which constitutes the entire substance of one’s being, that is lethal.

Alister McGrath captures Easter’s impact: “The resurrection declares in advance of the event God’s total victory over all evil and oppressive forces—such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.” ~What Was God Doing on the Cross?

Kari Jobe, Forever  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnKhPypW-Co

Jesus is perlocutionary speech act, God’s most powerful communication to human ears and lives (Kevin Vanhoozer). He addresses us, calls our name, calls us forward into an adventuresome life. His words and teaching (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) are a phenomenal culture driver that has helped to shape the world in positive ways. His compassion for the needy and broken is a sign that God has not given up on us, that he is there for us and that he cares deeply what happens to us. His resurrection is a starting point, a singularity that cannot be explained by anything prior; it stands as a huge revelation, an epiphany, a new beginning, a brilliant hope for change, for forgiveness and renewed relationships. It is hope for renewal of all our loves. He speaks for God from a powerful, dynamic center, a communion of love within the Trinity. This communion is the ground of being itself, the ground of human community. Through him, we have been identified and called into a new community, given a new identity as royal priests (I Peter) and the people of God, his loved ones. He is the hermeneutic of a new reconciled humanity, drawn from all the nations of the globe, committed to bless and make peace, to be compassionate, to live with integrity (shalom), to shine as moral light. He is the sign, the signifier and the signified. He calls us to practice resurrection, to move into resurrection life.  ~Gord Carkner from Jesus is the Yes and Amen to It All

If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then He, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message, but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. ~Pope Francis

Andy Crouch, Playing God

Love transfigures power. Absolute love transfigures absolute power. And power transfigured by love is the power that made and saves the world. (45)

Sin and death, and the twin systems they create, idolatry and injustice, are already umasked and have lost the critical battle. Creative love was always stronger and more real—and in the community of the resurrection, the first and latest followers of Jesus find that the reality living, breathing and working powerfully through us. (53)

Within a few more generations, the news of Jesus’ resurrection had indeed “turned the world upside down,” just as the early reports from Thessalonica suggested (Acts 17:6). The proclamation that the true Image Bearer had lived, had not been vanquished by the powers of idolatry and injustice but had risen victorious over them, and had now poured out his spirit on flesh, turned out to be the pivot point of history, the hinge on which the whole story turned. The promise that human beings were not destined to be ground under the history of idols and god players like Caesar, but to lie and rise to participation in the divine nature, set in motion the most wide-ranging social movement in history.” (93-94)

When a man [woman] truly and perfectly says with Jesus, and as Jesus said it, “Thy will be done,” he [she] chooses the everlasting life-cycle. The life of the Father and the Son flows through him [her]. He [she] is part of the divine organism. Then is the prayer of the Lord in him [her] fulfilled: “I am in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”

~George MacDonald, from Creation in Christ

Made for spirituality we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our full human role as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

~N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Dr. Gary Habermas on Transformation in Scholarship on the Resurrection:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M

See also blog on Evidence of a Resurrection https://ubcgcu.org/2013/03/25/evidence-of-a-resurrection/

Rene Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (commentary of the New Testament unmasking of evil and scapegoating in the Easter Narrative)  https://ubcgcu.org/2015/03/30/rene-girard-on-deep-easter/


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