Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Surprised by Hope, by N. T. Wright

Chapter Fifteen

1.  Wright has a beef with the way Easter is typically observed.  His corrective:  The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.

What might this new Easter expression be for you…for us?

2.  The mission of the church must therefore include, at a structural level, the recognition that our present space, time, and matter are all subject not to rejection but to redemption. Despite the tendency in some parts of the emerging church to marginalize space, time, and matter, I remain convinced that the way forward is to rediscover a true eschatology, to rediscover a true mission rooted in anticipating that eschatology, and to rediscover forms of church that embody that anticipation.

What value do we give to space, time, and matter in our context?

3.  What I am saying is, think through the hope that is ours in the gospel; recognize the renewal of creation as both the goal of all things in Christ and the achievement that has already been accomplished in the resurrection; and go to the work of justice, beauty, evangelism, the renewal of space, time, and matter as the anticipation of the eventual goal and the implementation of what Jesus achieved in his death and resurrection. That is the way both to the genuine mission of God and to the shaping of the church by and for that mission.

How does this statement mirror the Apostles’ & Nicene Creeds?

4.  Wright provides a brief outline of six central aspects of Christian spirituality that arise in the light of our Easter hope.  They include: New Birth & Baptism; Eucharist; Prayer; Scripture; Holiness & Love.

Discuss the role that each of these plays in directing our lives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Surprised by Hope, by N. T. Wright

Chapter Fourteen

1.  The resurrection isn’t just a surprise happy ending for one person; it is instead the turning point for everything else. It is the point at which all the old promises come true at last: the promises of David’s unshakable kingdom; the promises of Israel’s return from the greatest exile of them all; and behind that again, quite explicit in Matthew, Luke, and John, the promise that all the nations will now be blessed through the seed of Abraham.

What are the promises of these individual periods and people?  How do they coalesce to form a unified promise for all people of all times?

2.  In this story, fishing seems to stand for what the disciples, like the rest of the world, were doing anyway whereas shepherding seems to stand for the new tasks within the new creation. To develop that as a metaphor, it seems to me that a good deal of the church’s work at the moment is concentrating on fishing, and helping others to fish, rather than on shepherding.  Those who find the risen Jesus going to the roots of their rebellion, denial, and sin and offering them love and forgiveness may well also find themselves sent off to be shepherds instead.

How do we characterize “fishing” and “shepherding” today in the context of the Church’s mission?  Which do you feel called to do?

3.  Paul declares that the speculations and puzzles of pagan theology and philosophy can now all be put on a different footing because the one true God has unveiled himself and his plan for the whole world by appointing a man to be judge of the whole world and has certified this by raising him from the dead. This is what the resurrection does: it opens the new world, in which, under the saving and judging lordship of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, everything else is to be seen in a new light.

How has your understanding of Jesus resurrection shed new light on your life and the lives of others?  How has it shed new light on God’s work in the world today?

4.  We can sum this up in the following way. The revolutionary new world, which began in the resurrection of Jesus—the world where Jesus reigns as Lord, having won the victory over sin and death—has its frontline outposts in those who in baptism have shared his death and resurrection. The intermediate stage between the resurrection of Jesus and the renewal of the whole world is the renewal of human beings—you and me!—in our own lives of obedience here and now.

What does this require of us today, as baptized followers of Jesus?

5.  But at the start of Colossians 3 he focuses on what it actually means to share, here and now, in the resurrection of the Messiah. Paul insists that if you are already raised with Christ—in other words, if you through baptism and faith are a resurrection person, living in the new world begun at Easter, energized by the power that raised Jesus from the dead—then you have a responsibility to share in the present risen life of Jesus. “If, then, you are risen with the Messiah, seek the things that are above; set your thoughts on things above, not on things of the earth.” It is no use simply saying, “I’ve been baptized; therefore God is happy with me the way I am.” Paul’s logic is: “You have been baptized; therefore God is challenging you to die to sin and live the resurrection life.”

What does this mean for us?  What does this resurrection life look like?

6.  Part of getting used to living in the post-Easter world—part of getting used to letting Easter change your life, your attitudes, your thinking, your behavior—is getting used to the cosmology that is now unveiled. Heaven and earth, I repeat, are made for each other, and at certain points they intersect and interlock. Jesus is the ultimate such point. We as Christians are meant to be such points, derived from him. The Spirit, the sacraments, and the scriptures are given so that the double life of Jesus, both heavenly and earthly, can become ours as well, already in the present.

In Jesus, you and I become points where heaven and earth intersect and interlock.  When and where do you acknowledge and experience this?

7.  Christian holiness consists not of trying as hard as we can to be good, but of learning to live in the new world created by Easter, the new world we publicly entered in our baptism. There are many parts of the world we can’t do anything about except pray. But there is one part of the world, one part of physical reality, that we can do something about, and that is the creature each of us calls “myself.” Personal holiness and global holiness belong together. Those who wake up to the one may well find themselves called to wake up to the other as well.

Where is the wisdom and challenge in this powerful statement?