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Reboot and Restore: Resurrection in Progress April 9, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Theological Reflection.
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RESURRECTION: it’s the very core of the Christian faith, the belief — reaffirmed by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Easter sermon yesterday — that Jesus came back to life. Not that he recovered from a near-death experience, as some have attempted to claim, nor that someone else such as Judas Iscariot was crucified instead, as some Muslims have claimed, but that Jesus himself died, was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day.

Nor is this a throwaway belief, an added extra for addled minds: it’s the essence, the kernel, the central tenet without which the entire edifice falls apart to become nothing more than a pick & mix set of Cameronesque common-decency values that “people of any faith, or no faith, can also share in, and admire” as outlined in our beloved Prime Minister’s Easter Message. Not that there’s anything wrong with such values, of course, but without the resurrection they’re values without power that those with power can ignore as they please, which is, of course, precisely what Mr Cameron does as he cites Jesus — “Do to others as you would have them do to you” — then presses on with his welfare and health service reforms regardless of their impact on those at the bottom of the social ladder, trampled underfoot by those eagerly clambering to get to the top as they live out that twisted version of Jesus’ words — Do unto others before they do unto you — that seems to resonate so much more with so much government policy in practice.

Enough of Mr Cameron and his ilk, however. For me, this Easter weekend, belief in the resurrection has taken on a whole new significance as I’ve been forced to think about what a reboot means:

Reboot and restore: my ankle

Reboot and restore: my left ankle

Every morning, I have to reboot my left ankle, literally, strapping this contraption in place to hold it together to give the broken bone a chance to restore itself whilst still allowing me to get about on it. The medics say it’s going to take at least six weeks, then I go back for an X-ray and reassessment and hopefully — hopefully — get to ditch the boot and the crutches.

But with Jesus we’re not talking about a slow recovery, nor even a rapid one: we’re talking death, total shutdown and complete reboot into a whole new way of being human: new bioware configuration, complete mindware rewrite-and-restore and a brand new Resurrection-OS install that takes him to another level of existence. He doesn’t come back as a ghost or a disembodied spirit or even as an undead zombie but as a living, breathing, eating, drinking human being throwing beach parties for his disciples, upgraded. Here’s how I expressed it recently in another post:

[Jesus] dies and — the ultimate coup — suckers Satan into doing the dirty work of killing him: God’s biggest ever fart, right in Satan’s face, and Satan doesn’t even realise until it’s just too damned late. Once again, God does what Satan can’t: he dies, and he dies horribly with all the wrath, agony and hatred of humanity poured into his soul, into his very self. Satan, the one who hates humanity, delivers the death blow that finally nails God into the human story with no way out — and nails the lid onto his own coffin, for ever. The deceiver, deceived; the usurper, usurped; and whilst Satan throws a party in his fantasy world where he thinks God is no more, Jesus throws a party in the underworld, kicks down the gates of hell, breaks the chains, heals the wounds and sets every captive free — then returns, reboots his wreck of a body with a brand new Resurrection-OS, and throws a beach party for his confused disciples.

This is Christianity at its best, at its most basic and its most glorious: completely down to earth with the God who undermines every rule of religious propriety, turns every dogma and social norm on its head, tears down the walls and raises the dead. God with us, God incarnate, God one of us; and it doesn’t stop there: once God has written himself into the story, the story itself is rewritten with the promise of the same Resurrection-OS reboot for the entire universe. Quantum theology: time and space explode, ripping the old order apart as the Jesus Event reverberates backwards, forwards and every which way in time, rewriting history and writing an even better future. New creation, new beginning, new everything. The old dividing line between spiritual and physical, between heaven and earth, becomes nothing but a line in the sand, washed away by the tide: everything becomes sacred, gender distinctions are wiped away, the first become last, the last become first and in God’s new creation there is neither slave nor free, rich nor poor. Jesus becomes the point at which creation begins and the anchor holding it in place.

It’s hard, very hard, to get your head around that when you’re on the outside looking in, when you’ve got friends and family battling all sorts of illnesses, mental and physical; when you see nations tearing themselves and their neighbours apart in bloody warfare, missile launches, terrorist atrocities, roadside bombs and security cordons; when you see natural disasters, earthquakes, avalanches, famine, fire and floods; when you see road and rail accidents, ships sinking, aircraft crashing and senseless shootings, bigotry, hatred, inequality, injustice, unfair trade, sweatshops and slave labour, child abuse, adult abuse, sickness and disease raging out of control… the list goes on and on… and even the church, the very community that should know better, just as wartorn and divided as the world around it…

But when you’re on the inside looking out, then it’s another story. You’ve still got the same problems, the same fears as you face the same world; you break and bleed just as easily as the next person; but inside you, you’ve got this kernel planted: the complete package downloaded. You won’t find it with a surgeon’s scalpel anymore than you’ll find a software download on a computer with a screwdriver. In the Bible, it’s called the Holy Spirit: God’s guarantee, the down payment, the deposit; and at times it’s like a fire in your bones, like lightning in your veins, an explosion in your heart waiting to happen; other times, it’s a quiet presence, a calm in the storm, a voice that whispers; and sometimes it’s an ache, a void, a gutting absence. But you know, you know that no matter how shitty it gets out there, no matter how much shittier it gets inside or outside, when the shutdown comes — and it will — there’s a reboot waiting.

That, my friends, is what the resurrection is about: death defeated in a transformation that puts every science fiction writer’s dreams of nanotech upgrades into the shade. Why? Because it’s already happened. And because it’s available, gratis, to anyone who wants it. Which brings me full circle back round to the Archbishop’s sermon:

How do we know that it is true? Not by some final knock-down would-be scientific proof, but by the way it works in us through the long story of a whole life and the longer story of the life of the community that believes it. We learn and assimilate its truth by the risk of living it; to those on the edge of it, looking respectfully and wistfully at what it might offer, we can only say, ‘you’ll learn nothing more by looking; at some point you have to decide whether you want to try to live with it and in it.’

Or as the people who run the national lottery say, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Only in this lottery, every ticket’s a winner.

That is what gives those values summarised in that statement of Jesus their power: when you’ve got the full download, when you know there’s a reboot waiting, you don’t need to trample everyone else underfoot to get to the top. You can give yourself away and you can give yourself away and you can give yourself away.

And I’m not talking about dying and going to heaven or any of that wishy washy nonsense. I’m talking about God’s kingdom come, here on earth, living it now: do to others as you’d have them do to you. Get the download and join the revolution.

If you dare.

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