In preparing for class next week, I came across this paragraph in Ernst Käsemann’s golden oldie, Jesus Means Freedom.
This paragraph comes at the end of chapter three, which is about a theology of resurrection.
The basic message here is a challenge to live into the reality of God’s call, made real in the resurrection of Jesus.
There is a new life, a new creation—and the church is called to live into this new creation, though we hardly ever do.
The good news is that even so God’s way cannot be finally suppressed.
What Käsemann asks us to do is to pray for this life, ‘Come, creator Spirit’ —make this real in us. But in praying this, we put ourselves on the line …
Here it is, with apologies for the gender-exclusive language. Where is says ‘men’, please read ‘human beings’ or ‘people’.
"Our world is waiting for the revelation of the glorious liberty of the children of God. The fact that it turns away in such disappointment proves nothing against our Lord; but it does prove that we have still failed to give the world the right message and practice, however much we talk about the resurrection of the dead. For the most part, notwithstanding all our external and internal missionary work, which must not be broken off, we are a closed religious society. We certainly have to pray, and no prayer is more necessary than ‘Come, Creator Spirit!’. Then, however, we must take what is promised in answer to this prayer, namely the open expanse under heaven and on the earth, an expanse which no prison can deny us. The voice of free men cannot be suppressed; it still cries from its graves. Neither God nor men expect us to be perfect, but they demand that, under the cross of Jesus and in the strength of the first commandment, the travail should come about which leads to the birth of perfect freedom and to the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of the free (Gal. 4. 26). If we look at things in this way, we shall see that the real struggle has not yet begun in earnest. We are still contending more about philosophical presuppositions than about Paul’s concern. Generally speaking, we let the theology of the cross and the theology of freedom play the part of Cinderella. But without them any theology of resurrection becomes, from a Christian point of view, an interesting (or boring) religious mental exercise of little substance or value.’ (page 84)
Käsemann’s call is for a theology with heart and hands. We must pray. We must live. We must work and suffer, in order to know—in that sense of knowledge which is lived experience, not mental apprehension—the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
This is what will bring the church to be more than a ‘closed religious society’, and will invite the world to know the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God’.
Here there is to be no pretence that our efforts will create this reality. We cannot raise ourselves any more than Jesus raised himself. We cannot create this glorious liberty. It is given. It is the creation of God’s Spirit.
But we can fail to engage with it, preferring our own closed society, or our own ‘theology’ of resurrection.
What a challenge. What a life!