Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where Is The Victory?

There is a word which sums up the week after Easter very nicely: Anticlimax.

If you take half of the claims that the Church makes about Easter seriously you’d almost have to regard the next couple weeks, decades, centuries, even millennia, as a pretty colossal anticlimax....

...at some point this last week, I’m willing to bet, normal life intruded on your Easter glow and it wasn’t quite so triumphant. While the Church shouts “Victory!” from the pulpit, someone we love dies of cancer. While the Church sounds “Victory!” with the pipe-organ, war in Iraq goes on unabated. While the Church sings “Victory!” with our hymns, millions are being defeated by hunger.

To say the least, it is a tad ironic to proclaim that Easter is Christ’s victory over death, when to all appearances death still has the last laugh in the life of every human.

How can we make any sense of this victory one anticlimactic week after Easter?

...Following the trajectory of the narrative it might be easy to imagine that the history of the Church is a straightforward progression from the day of the Resurrection to the day that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess his name. We might comfort ourselves in the face of our own suffering by believing that the victory of the Church is delayed only a while longer until enough missionaries have converted enough people. We could talk about the Bible being translated into every tongue, and churches being planted in every region even though Luke never had any of that in mind.

The problem with all of this is that it is a shallow reading of the text, a shallow telling of the Gospel, with a shallow hope for the hearer. So shallow that it can’t possibly hide the glaring contradiction that faces us post-Easter. The promise is better than that! It is better than conversion of the heathens and incorporation of the nations into a bickering, divisive, feuding Church, where people are still sick, still sinners, still dying. Even if all the world was converted and every corner was reached we would still have to ask the question: where is the victory?!

One answer that is sometimes given to this question in our present era of individualism and psycho babble is to declare the victory of Easter a private victory. A gift of the Spirit, felt in the heart of the believer. A warm glow in our tummies and a confidence in an afterlife. People who view Easter in this way don’t expect the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to have an impact on the world around them. They consider the gift of Easter to be, primarily, a feeling which uplifts us and gives us hope....

We cannot get away from the conundrum of victory by watering down the Gospel. We cannot avoid the harsh reality of suffering continuing even as we declare “He is Risen!” by lowering the bar to a standard far below the complete renewal of creation promised in Scripture. At times we might look at the Church’s Easter witness and be reminded of an infamous President, in an infamous flight-suit, on an infamous aircraft-carrier, with an infamous banner behind him, with the infamous words upon it, “Mission Accomplished!”

What then, can this victory mean, if not Mission Accomplished?
[via Mined Splatterings]

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