Christine Sine is executive director of Mustard Seed Associates. She has written several books including Godspace: Finding Peace in the Rhythms of Life. She is passionate about helping followers of Christ connect their faith to their everyday life. She blogs at http://godspace.wordpress.com.
Living into the Kingdom of God
Next week is Holy week and most of us are already preparing for our celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Some of us have journeyed through Lent and participated in Jesus ordeals in the wilderness as part of our preparation for this great celebration that is at the very center of our faith. But what are we really celebrating?
It amazes me how much information there is on the web about how to celebrate the Stations of the Cross. There is less about Easter Sunday and our celebration of the resurrection. And what is meant to be the culmination of our celebration our joyous entering into the life of the kingdom which Jesus resurrection ushered into being, hardly receives a mention.
No festival in the Christian calendar is more dramatic than Easter with its incredible contrast between the pain and agony of Easter Friday and the joy and celebration of resurrection Sunday. The incomprehensible and enduring love of God stands at the center of human history in the shape of a cross. This symbol of the Roman empire’s violence and power to destroy and control is transformed by God into a symbol of freedom and liberation through which the wonder of God’s mercy and forgiveness is revealed. But even more than that, the cross transforms our broken and distorted world into a new world – God’s new kingdom of love and peace and wholeness.
I do not believe that God’s grand plan is war and violence with an end times cataclysm of death and destruction. God is in the business of renewing the earth and all its creatures. The kingdom of God that we look forward to in the return of Christ will be a place in which the mutual love and concern of God’s original creation is restored. The hope of the New Testament is this life affirming promise of a new heaven and a new earth in which wholeness and abundance come for all creation (Rev 21:4). This is the hope that the Old Testament prophets looked forward to. It is the promise the apostles proclaimed igniting the early church with such fervor that believers radically reoriented their priorities to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. Today too we are invited to live into this kingdom of God world, this resurrection created world as we seek to follow a Christ who defeated death and transfigured the world with the Spirit of life and love. It is the resurrected Christ who invites us to join him in making the life of his resurrection created world flourish in all dimensions of wholeness and shalom.
In his recent book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, NT Wright asserts that Christianity’s most distinctive idea is bodily resurrection. After his resurrection, Jesus was a flesh and blood person and Wright contends that we will be too. He further argues that if we truly believe this than it will impact the way we live our lives now. If God intends to renew all of creation and all of life in order to bring a new kingdom of love and wholeness into being – a process already begun in the resurrection of Jesus – then our responsibility as Christians is to anticipate this renewal by working for hope and healing in today’s world. So how can we learn to live as wide-awake people, as Easter people?… In particular if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up…. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume and in due course bearing fruit” (Surprised by Hope p293)
The good news of the gospel is that we don’t need to wait to see this new world of God’s wholeness and love come into being. As NT Wright asserts, the point that all the gospels make is that : Jesus is risen, therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen, therefore Israel and the world have been redeemed. Jesus is risen, therefore his followers have a new job to do. And what is that new job? To bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical earthly reality.”
The Easter season, this joyous season for celebrating all that is blossoming and flourishing in our lives lasts for 50 days culminating in the celebration of the festival of Pentecost. This is meant to be a season of joy as we celebrate both the resurrection of Christ and the many ways in which the resurrected Christ makes life flourish both in our personal lives and in the world around us.
None of us really know what the kingdom of God will look like but by entering into a life that is founded on God’s values of love and mutual care we can certainly catch a glimpse of that kingdom and live as its representatives. This year in order to really enter into the celebration of the Easter season I have developed an Easter celebration guide to encourage us to live into the kingdom. Over the seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost we will celebrate the many ways in which God’s new world can blossom in our lives – through the outpouring of love, which Wright calls the language of God’s kingdom – and the many ways it can be expressed – in generosity, through compassion, healing and wholeness, hospitality, justice and creation care. The celebration will culminate in that great multicultural celebration at the banquet feast of God. So will you join me for the celebration and truly live into God’s resurrection created world this year?