News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
Eugène Burnand. The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection. It is Burnand’s best-known work. The French state acquired it when it was shown at the Salon de de la Société nationale des beaux-arts in 1898.
What is Easter all about? Eggs?; bunnies?; bonnets?; resurrection?; Christian doctrine?; miracles?; community?; the arrival of spring?; hams?; lilies? It can be hard for us to know, and to claim, what it means for us today in our pluralistic culture. If Easter is a religious celebration for us, then should we ban egg hunts? If you’re not a regular participant in a community of faith, should you stay away on Easter because of potential spiritual uncertainties? What is it all about?
French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard is famous for his contribution to the critical theory of postmodernism. “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives.” It sounds like intellectual gobbledygook and yet the question in wrestles with is intimately involved in our individual lives, church life and the questions we’re wrestling with as a society.
A metanarrative (or big story) is a supposedly comprehensive explanation, a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of a (as yet unrealized) master idea. In other words it’s a story with historical connections to us, which we use as a lens (like glasses) to see and understand the world, our place in it, and what life is all about. In 1979 Lyotard brought this term into prominence in with his claim that the postmodern was characterized precisely by a mistrust of the grand narratives (such as Progress, Enlightenment emancipation, Marxism) which had formed an essential part of modernity. Writing after WW2, responding to the horrors of industrial war and the shoah, he wrestles with the notion of what principles societies use to legitimate knowledge, to make decisions, or to form a common worldview. He was predominantly focused on science, and the Englightenment notion that humanity is progressively getting smarter, better and more just. That science contributes to an objective liberating holistic knowledge of the truth and how we should live. He believed that those two metanarratives contributed to the rise of the Nazi party and the global destruction of WW2. The problem is that when meta-narratives are concretely formulated and implemented, they seem to go disastrously awry. Marxism is the classic case of a meta-narrative based on principles of emancipation and egalitarianism which, when implemented, becomes perverted to totalitarianism under Stalin in the Soviet Union.
Lyotard proposed that metanarratives should give way to petits récits, or more modest and “localized” narratives, which can ‘throw off’ the grand narrative by bringing into focus the singular event as well as the diversity of human experience. Knowledge and decision-making is for the most part no longer based on abstract principles, but on how effective it is at achieving desired outcomes. For us at Easter the question comes less to how true, or if the Easter Story is true. The more important how does it impact us?; shape our life, actions and relationships?
Some of the metanarratives with which we live today include that of Bigger is Better, the American Dream, the survival of the fittest, We are what we do, or what we choose.
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Inter-textual links.
The women go to the tomb, with spices to preserve the body, in accordance with Jewish belief and practice at the end of the Sabbath (dawn on Sunday). They go to the tomb to care for the memory of Jesus of Nazareth. By the end of their encounter they have remembered his words and actions. Why? How?
Why do the women who go (and who were considered less important in that sexist day and age) understand what this story means, and Peter is perplexed? How does this story of the empty tomb correspond with that of creation [Genesis 1-3]?; the confusion after the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9]?; The call of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12)? The exodus? [Exodus 1-14]?; the prelude of Luke [Luke 1:1-4]?; & the birth of Jesus [Luke 2:8-40]?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. A world view is the foundational way in which we see the world. It’s our response to the following four essential questions: Who are we? Where are we? What is wrong in our world? What is the solution? Where are we going? How will we get there?
2. How do you answer those questions? What big story – or metanarrative(s) – provide you with an answer, or a framework for answering those questions. What metannaratives shape your worldview?
3. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How does it contain good news for us?
4. What do you think the Bible, and the story of the resurrection of Jesus in particular, is all about? Is it a relevant story with which to shape a life? How is it valid in our society today?