Risen Indeed

Easter Sunday

John 20:1-18

Death is the peak of all that is contrary to God in the world, the last enemy, thus not the natural lot of man, not an unalterable divine dispensation. … Peace cannot and must not be concluded just here in such a way as to establish a spiritual-religious–moral Kingdom of God on earth, while forgetting the enemy. There is peace only in prospect of the overcoming of the enemy.

-Karl Barth

I recently accepted an invitation to write an encyclopedia article on death and dying, and I wonder if I am up to the task. In particular, I wonder if I have it in me to tell the truth about death. The fact is death intrigues me even as it scares me. I think about it all the time. I read books and essays about it. I have my students read and talk about it.

And yet, I find that I rarely tell them or myself the truth about death. That truth, if Barth is to be believed (and I think he is), is that death is an enemy, one with which we are never to make peace. More importantly, death is a defeated enemy, defeated by God’s raising Jesus from death. Read more

The Deep Hope of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34.

What is the new covenant that God has made in Christ and what does it mean for our life in Christ today? This question is an essential one raised by today’s Old Testament text.  The ways in which Christians have answered this question through the centuries have often led to anti-Semitic attitudes and oppression of the Jews.  The gist of the reasoning has been that the Jews screwed up and God had to start over from scratch and now the Christians are the people on whom the blessing of God rests (and, of course, the Jews are outsiders, heretics and the ones who had Jesus crucified, and thus worthy of having all manner of violence inflicted upon them).

Is this really the sort of God, covenant and people that Jeremiah is proclaiming here?  I hope not, but let’s look a little deeper.  Gerhard Lohfink, in his classic work Does God Need the Church?: Toward a Theology of the People of God sheds some light on this passage:

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The Close-at-Hand God

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

“On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” John 14:20

For several weeks now the doomsday prophecy of one Harold Camping has been on the minds of many. First, it was the shared anticipation as the projected date got closer—and the requisite jokes about being left behind. Then it was the (no-surprise) failure of the prediction which resulted in . . . more jokes about being left behind.

Attempts to counter Camping’s misguided views consisted mostly of pointing to passages in the New Testament which speak to the unknowability of the “day or hour” of the Lord’s return. But such proof-texting did little to challenge the core flaw of rapture theology—its fundamental misreading of biblical eschatology. Within the last few days, thankfully, thoughtful essays have appeared which have noted that “tribulation” is a past and present reality, not a future horror for the damned, and that matter—bodies, earth, the stuff of life—matters deeply to the God who restores and makes all things new. I also penned some thoughts (shameless plug alert) on the connections between eschatological time and the exquisite new French film Of Gods and Men. Read more