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The Challenge of Easter {2}

Paul, the Resurrection and the Messianic Movement

{juli kalbaugh}


On this second Monday of Easter, our guide for the second chapter of The Challenge of Easter is Juli Kalbaugh. 
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Tell me baby
What’s your story –
Where you come from,
And where you wanna go…?
~Red Hot Chili Peppers

They seem to be everywhere.  The more I look, the more I find.  One on my chin – a dive into home plate.  One on my wrist – chickenpox in second grade.  Several on my legs – falling off my bike, falling in love, falling down… again.  A nice big one on my left knee – ACL torn and remade.  There are also ones that can’t be seen with the eyes.  Some are small.  Others aren’t easily hidden.  Some have a funny story or fond memory.  Others are bathed in shame.  Each one a mark, revealing a little bit of where I have been and who I am.  Signs that I have lived – here and now.  All of them telling a piece of a story – my story.

My mom used to tell me not to worry about some of the especially nasty scars. “They’ll be gone by the time you’re married,” she would assure me.  While I believe my mom had good intentions, I fear something gets missed by easily dismissing part of the story.  I also fear that we, as Christians, have this same sort of sentiment about heaven and earth.  “Don’t worry about it – everything that is here will be gone when you ‘get to heaven’.  It will all be erased and you will be rid of your body!”  It seems good at first glance.  I mean, of course I want to be healed and freed from the hurt and pain and awful things I experience in this life.  And yes, I believe that God can and will do that.  But if the answer is that everything is simply wiped out and heaven is someplace I escape to, away from all that I have known or been or done – then why the hell does anything matter now?

I fear that when we tell God’s story this way we are not telling all of the story.  Surely there must have been something more to Easter than simply an erasing of what has been, more than an escape from earth.  It must have been something that was big enough, deep enough, real enough for the first Christians to have it be, as Wright said, “the ground not only for [their] future hope but for their present work.”  This same reality must also have something to do with us here and with us now.  Perhaps if we take a closer look at Jesus’ resurrection we might be able to tell a bit about God’s heart for the world as well as something about our part in the story.

Jesus’ bodily resurrection reveals that this was not simply, and only, a “soul-saving” work.  Wright puts it another way in his book Surprised by Hope, “[The early Christians] believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter.”  The whole cosmos.  All of creation.  Not just part of it.  All of it.  He’s not going to, and didn’t, only redeem the immaterial and spiritual – He has and is renewing the material, the corporeal, the dirty, dusty, messy, earthy stuff too.  He has and is redeeming me and you and all of the marks we have made on our selves and on each other and on this earth – both seen and unseen.

Jesus’ resurrected body holds both continuity and discontinuity with this world – it is similar but radically different.  His resurrected body still has evidence of the wounds and scars He received on earth.  It holds signs of the past –  signs of where He had been and what He had been through.  The resurrection didn’t just erase everything or pretend that it didn’t happen.  After the resurrection Jesus also continues to hold His identity.  The disciples knew who He was, but they also knew that something was drastically changed.  And, in His resurrected state, He continues His relationship with us.

Jesus’ resurrection tells His story – where He came from, who He was, who He is, and also reveals what is to come.  The resurrection is His life made new – not erased, not dismissed – but healed, and glorified, and most true.

Why does it matter that Jesus actually and physically rose from the dead?  Because the resurrection also tells our story – where we have been, what we have done, what has been done to us, and what is to come.  It acknowledges all of who we are.  It says: you – matter.  What you do – matters.  Your body – matters.  What you do to another person – matters.  The earth and how you treat it – matters.

“The present life of the church, in other words, is not about ‘soul-making,’ the attempt to produce or train disembodied beings for a future disembodied life.  It is about working with fully human beings who will be re-embodied at the last, after the model of the Messiah,” says Wright.  So, when Jesus tells us to care for the sick, feed the poor, plant trees, sing songs, paint a picture, restore a house, say you’re sorry – He’s not just telling us to do them so we’ve got something to keep us busy we wait “to go to heaven.”  No, in fact, the Bible says heaven is coming to earth and it started with the resurrection of Jesus. He tells us to do those things because we are invited to be a part of His redemptive work on earth.  It’s because it matters – here.  It matters – now.  It’s because we are a part of the story.  We are a part of building God’s kingdom and what we do matters both now and later.  This is why Paul is able to say, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  Because what we do and who we are – matters.

So, tell me, baby… what’s your story?  Where have you been?  And where are you going?

Juli and her husband Corey currently live in Charlottesville, VA where she is a resident visual artist at Skylight Studios. Juli will attend Duke Divinity School this fall and hopes to invite people to wrestle through questions about God and issues of theology as viewed through the lens of the arts, the senses, and the imagination.Juli loves nooks and crannies, cheeseburgers, and 80s music. You can keep up with her at EveningSoultide or see more of her art at JuliKalbaugh.com.

8 thoughts on “The Challenge of Easter {2}

  1. First off, everyone needs to know that the painting here is one of Juli's. It is called "Motion," and if you want to see it in person, stop by Skylight Studio downtown.

    Second, Juli neglected (but really wants to, I know) to add in her bio that one of her favorite parts of life right now is living in amazing community @ Brookwood House 🙂

    But, on to the resurrection at hand.

    I love the notion that "in [Jesus'] resurrected state, he continues his relationship with us." We love to clamor on about resurrection as if it is primarily a philosophical idea, but at its core, its relational, isn't it? Reconciliation is about restoring relationships. Forgiveness is about restoring relationships. Resurrection: relationships. I can be renewed with my God, renewed with my friends and family – and enemies, renewed with my neighborhood and the earth – and they renewed with me.

    I love this line: "So, when Jesus tells us to care for the sick, feed the poor, plant trees, sing songs, paint a picture, restore a house, say you’re sorry – He’s not just telling us to do them so we’ve got something to keep us busy we wait 'to go to heaven.'”

    Why do you think we are so drawn to think of God's redemption as ultimate about escape/removal rather than renewal/restoration?

  2. Thanks so much for your reflection Juli. I always love to see your art and your words hand in hand.

    In the reflection, Juli wrote "Why does it matter that Jesus actually and physically rose from the dead? Because the resurrection also tells our story – where we have been, what we have done, what has been done to us, and what is to come. It acknowledges all of who we are."

    This past weekend I got to wrestle with similar questions with a great group of women, we just used different words. I heard people ask if they would know their child as their child in heaven. Others pondered questions pertaining to their ongoing relationship with their spouse in eternity. We wrestled with what "knowing" someone would look like in the resurrection body.

    I think we hold so tightly to Jesus' resurrection and the account of his interaction with the disciples because resurrection and encounter promise the possibility of knowing and being known. And isnt that what the journey of faith is really all about – the pursuit of being seen and known and loved as we truly are and in turn being able to love and worship in return.

    At the end of the day I doubt that I will know my daughters as my daughters in heaven, because there the title will not define them in relationship to me or anyone else. I dont believe in marriage in heaven either. But I do believe that we tie our spirits to others throughout this life and that those bonds will last into the eons. Those who knew Jesus in his life, may not have immediately recognized him in his resurrected body (Emmaus Road) but once he is recognized, he is not ever forgotten – there is a deeper and truer knowing that happens in that revelation. And it is that same awakening that happens in the transformed life of the believer today. We are tied to him and that bond can never be severed.

    Despite outwardly wanting to cast off all the hurts and pains and failures of our past – to run to an idea of heaven that allows us to experience escape – I think our souls quietly long for renewal and restoration. We may say that we want escape from this life, but the very fact that we worry over whether we can hold onto the broken limited relationships we have here speaks to the deeper longing to be known. And I think in our deepest heart of hearts we even want to take our scars with us because they define us and tell our story. But we also want them to be redeemed. Scripture provides such a beautiful picture of this – Jesus in the resurrected body holding out hands still scarred by nails allowing Thomas to touch him. His scars still existed, but they were no longer pain-filled, they were redeemed and in his interaction with Thomas both men were known to one another.

    (On a side note I am also glad that in this day and age women are no longer just "unreliable witnesses" and I thank God for the inclusion of their story in the gospel accounts of the resurrection)

  3. I don't have NT Wrights book, so am joining in here somewhat unprepared – but I'm so excited about this discussion!

    I've been wrestling with the death/resurrection thing & have been really stuck on the idea that God used the worst consequence of man's failure (death) & transformed that into the entrance to amazing, vibrant, abundant, forever, love-filled life!!

    Just how God does things! Takes what we are, the mess (or otherwise) that we are in, our hurts and scars, our talents and gifts too – & breathes His life into it all. I love that you have touched on this – that resurrection is not an erasure of all that has been – but God's life transforming what is!!

  4. Juli, great post and I love the artwork! Duke Divinity? Nice, very nice.

    I don't know if N.T. knows Marilynne Robinson, but here's a quote from the novel Gilead that's a keeper, possibly one of the most beautiful I've come across in a long, long time:
    "And I can't believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don't imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try."

  5. Juli,
    THANK YOU for a great post, I really enjoy your perspective and writing (as well as the other comments and thoughts). This topic is spurning some deep thinking and pondering on my part, something I'm not always prone to do…

    I'm really wrestling with a particular part from the book and post:

    “[The early Christians] believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter.” The whole cosmos. All of creation. Not just part of it. All of it. He’s not going to, and didn’t, only redeem the immaterial and spiritual – He has and is renewing the material, the corporeal, the dirty, dusty, messy, earthy stuff too. He has and is redeeming me and you and all of the marks we have made on our selves and on each other and on this earth – both seen and unseen."

    I don't disagree with these thoughts; I believe them all to be true. Where I struggle is fully grasping the current renewal and redemption work being done. I don't comprehend what me being redeemed looks like because I have nothing to compare it to before Jesus. As far back as I can remember with understanding, I was fallen and broken until coming to Jesus.

    So in a real sense for me, all I've known up to Jesus was brokenness. When I look at my life now compared to when I started walking with Jesus, I do see change, but I find that I long for what Paul had and what was described in the book as a powerfully changing experience! That blinding light-can't breathe-birthing-encounter on the road.

    Not even sure if I'm explaining myself very well, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the words being shared here…thanks everyone for posting.

  6. @ Dayna (schoon scoop): I love it that a woman (Mary Magdelene) was not only the first reliable witness, but also the "apostle to the apostles," the one entrusted to go and tell all the other pillars of the would-be church that their God has risen from the dead.

    @ Kerry: there's still time to pick up the book : ) It's cheap, and you can easily catch up, just sayin'

    @ John: Ah, Gilead…

    @ Travis: that line you quoted is one of my faves from the book. I think we are all in the same boat, all of us fallen and broken and all of us longing with creation (as Paul said – and I love that, us and the whole of creation longing together) for full redemption. We have only hints and whispers now (powerful as they are), but just hints and whispers still of all the good that is to come.

  7. Winn – Indeed, one of the best parts about Charlottesville is the Brookwood House! There it is again – community… relationship…

    Dayna – Thank you for your kind words. I loved this thought, "But I do believe that we tie our spirits to others throughout this life and that those bonds will last into the eons." So beautiful. Relationship runs deep in the heart of our God and our story. Being fully and truly who we are and being fully and deeply known are a part of this glorious transformation. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

    Karen – Your thought reminded me of something I read the other day. Julian of Norwich wrote, "God's servants, [the] Holy Church, will be shaken in sorrows and anguish and tribulation in this world, as men shake a cloth in the wind. And to this God answered: 'I shall make some great thing out of this in heaven, something eternally worthy and everlastingly joyful.'"

    John – Thank you, also. Love Marilynne. Love Gilead. Love the quote – especially the last line.

    Travis – A fellow wrestler… you are in good company my friend. I’m not sure that I have any words to say at the moment except to let you know I am with you in the struggle…

    All – I can’t help but think upon God’s redemption of the whole cosmos and what it means that we will be made fully human within a context/world that is fully redeemed. I go back to Winn’s first comments about relationship – it’s not only about right relationship with God and with others, but also with our surroundings… what sorts of questions or thoughts come up when you think about how God created a home for us to live in, a space within which to have relationship. And this space and place doesn’t just provide basic needs – it is full of unnecessary variety and variation…

  8. Juli & Winn- thanks for your comments, it's such an indescrible emotion to know and realize that other people wrestle and think through these thoughts, that as an individual, I'm not crazy while everyone else has it all figured out 🙂

    Juli – your comment: "what sorts of questions or thoughts come up when you think about how God created a home for us to live in…" is a great question. I have always associated this with just our future home – heaven, but I think it's also about our current home too. For the longest time I used to think of this home as a mansion, a place where I'll have a great house to live in, a place that is beautiful, a place that is always happy and everything is perfect. Its a place that will be bright and essentially, all my dreams come true. My perception was largely shaped by how I was raised and how I was taught as young child on up through college.

    That being said, I have to say, I don't really care about those things or concepts of my future home. The only thing I find my heart crying for is to see and be with Jesus. To fully know Him as He knows me. To just sit with Him, walk with Him, talk with Him, and be with Him. I love the quote/question that I think I read in Francis Chan's Crazy Love: "If heaven had everything you ever wanted or could imagine, if everyone you ever loved or everything you ever valued was there, if it was perfect in every way, BUT it didn't have Jesus, would you still want to go?"

    That rocks my world. In fact, I long with every fiber of my being to scream No, I wouldn't want to go without Jesus. Honestly, I'm not fully there, part of me still says yes, I still want to go, but with each passing day, I discover the truth of nothing satisfying me like He does. I guess that brings us right back to RELATIONSHIP. As Winn said, I get whispers of the fullness of Jesus now in my life, and that is like heaven, those moments feel like I'm at home. I can't wait until that is my full time reality.

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