As most who know me know, expressing an intriguing idea in my presence always carries with it the risk of me thinking deeply on the matter and then giving you my $0.02 (and by “my $0.02,” I of course mean $0.02…with about $17.98 in spare change to go with it). In an e-mail to another Christian — one I admittedly do not know well, but know well ENOUGH to know that both Easter and Lent are on his radar screen — I closed with a cordial word of hope and a reference to the resurrection:
“As we, with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, progress through this holy season and prepare to celebrate the grace and mercy of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”
His response was:
“Maybe joy of the resurrection transfigured our whole world”
Which, of course set me to tho thinking…and thinking…and thinking some more. What follows is my response…
[I preface the following with the reminder of my intent toward Theological Studies as a major…and that I have had more time than normal American humans to read/write/think about theology; normal American humans watch TV at night instead]
I thought about it, and maybe you’re right and the resurrection did transfigure the whole world. Maybe it’s like C.S. Lewis in The Last Battle where we come upon the dwarves who are in Aslan’s Country but think they are still in the stable and actually came to a place of such total resolve to self-reliance that they were blind to the truth of reality? Lucy begged for compassion for them, but they were not able to receive it because their own perspective was too warped. Or perhaps it is like all the “ghosts” in The Great Divorce — the ones who wouldn’t get on the bus, the ones who wouldn’t get off the bus, the ones who headed back to the bus, the ones who couldn’t be persuaded to stay and preferred the awfulness of the place from whence they came? That place that may or may not have been heaven was available to anyone if his or her heart and mind were in a place to be able to receive the beauty and blessings that were on offer…yet many either left that offer on the table or else were so damnably self-absorbed they never knew the offer had been made. The joy of the resurrection may or may not have transfigured the whole world, but even if it did I can tell you truly that not everyone in the world has noticed. There is a lot of dark brokenness in this world trying to mess things up and distract people away from the glorious joy and truth of the promises fulfilled by the crucifixion/resurrection/ascension. Those three are inseparably co-dependent on each other to fully complete God’s great rescue plan, and while I think I need to think about this a little more before I’m comfortable to give what I’m about to write status as my “final answer,” I’m leaning in the direction that — of the three — the ascension was and is the one that has had the biggest impact for transfiguring the whole world because the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is “present progressive.”
Christ is truly awesome in every sense of the word, but in life the gospels are replete with stories of desperate people following him in great thronging crowds for just the chance to MAYBE encounter this Jesus. And though his resurrected body apparently had cool abilities like being able to walk through walls, there was still only one of him. A pastor friend of mine preached a very good sermon last fall as part of a series on The Nicene Creed where he ran through a very amusing “What if?” on “What if there was no ascension?” as the intro. It was imaginatively funny, but drove home the point in a way I don’t think I’ll ever forget, because without the ascension we wouldn’t have the Holy Spirit. And it’s the Holy Spirit that makes possible Christ’s power in plurality across the whole world and all time. Christ set his immediate world ablaze, but the Holy Spirit set the WHOLE world ablaze (and being at least 7/8 filthy gentile scum in ancestry, thanks be to God for THAT!). And while God is God is God regardless of person, and while the Holy Spirit’s primary function is to point to Christ, the Holy Spirit enables Christ’s power to transfigure the world in an amazingly unique (and present progressive!!! 😀 ) way.
So while the crucifixion and resurrection began the transfiguration of the world, I would argue that the best news of all is that the Holy Spirit has been/is/continues to carry the torch for the transforming power of Christ in the world. But I reiterate, even such a great and glorious manifestation of Christ’s power still — on some level — requires notice to be appreciated; notice of God and Christ is inversely proportional to degree of self-focus (and my brain with its Calvinist bend is of the view that the primary operating gear of humanity in its post-fall “natural” state is “self-focus”).
So all that to say that I think I agree with you, but with some corollary modifications to your original statement (mea culpa, it’s the mathematician in me).
Blessings to you in all things