An excerpt from Bishop N.T. Wright's Easter Vigil sermon, "Living in God's Future--Now," delivered in Durham Cathedral. Click here to read the full text of the sermon.
My friends are surprised by the fact that I actually like a lot of Wright's theology. As a liberal theologian myself, I find most of Wright's conservative writings to be very clear in what he says--I appreciate that, especially given his Kingdom theology.
"But the Easter message generates two other things which are quite new. Yes, we must live our lives from the coming future – but we now know much more clearly what that coming future is, and that gives particular point and direction to the people we are to choose to become, to the habits we are to choose to develop. And yes, forming habits of character is vital, even though it’s difficult, but for the Christian the all-important difference is that we don’t do it alone. We don’t develop these habits all by ourselves. We do it, basically, with the help and energy of God’s spirit; and we do it in company, all of us together. After all, the most basic Christian habit is love, and you can’t do love all by yourself.
"Let’s think about these two things for a moment. The resurrection of Jesus, the great fact at the heart of the Easter faith, means that we now know, suddenly and in a blinding flash, what our ultimate future will be. Our ultimate future isn’t just that we bumble along trying to live the present life a little bit better until one day we decay and die, and end up either in the grave or in a disembodied heaven or perhaps both. Our ultimate future is that we will be raised to new life in God’s new world, not only to inhabit God’s new creation, a world full of beauty and life and justice and freedom, but actually to run it on God’s behalf. That’s a solid New Testament truth which the church usually keeps quiet about, but it’s time to get it out of the cupboard, blow the dust off it, and see what it means for today. Running God’s world won’t mean, of course, arrogantly imposing our own will on it; it will mean being God’s stewards, and ruling with his gentle, wise love. To be Easter people, we are called to anticipate, here and now, that future vocation, to look after God’s world on his behalf, and to gather up the praises of creation and present them before the creator. Stewardship and worship, the practice of being kings and priests, are the habits of heart and life that Easter people must acquire.
"Our ultimate future is that we will be raised to new life in God’s new world, not only to inhabit God’s new creation, a world full of beauty and life and justice and freedom, but actually to run it on God’s behalf."
"Stewardship and worship take a thousand different forms. Stewardship means working for God’s justice in the world, for the health and flourishing of the planet and all who live on it, for God’s wise order and exuberant freedom to come to birth in all directions. Pray, in the days to come, about the ways in which God wants you to be a steward in his creation. That’s what you’re going to be doing in the resurrection life; start practicing now. Worship means celebrating God’s powerful deeds in history, in your own history, in your community; it means summing up the praises of the whole creation and expressing them, articulately and with understanding and delight, in the presence of the God who made you, loves you and has redeemed you. Pray, in the days to come, about the ways in which God wants you to worship him, where that should be, how often you should come to the eucharist, and how to worship in private as well. Worship is what you’re going to be doing in the resurrection life; start practicing now."