I find his latest short book (153 pp.) to be encouraging, thought provoking, and while theological, is readable, practical, and relevant for the planning of songs and prayers of thanks, praise, hope, petition and lament, and for considering exhortations, readings and testimonies.
Purves aims to show us how in and with Jesus, ministry is to move beyond what he calls ‘the mood of Holy Saturday’ to ministry ‘in the mood of Easter Sunday’ -- the difference between "God help us" and "Hallelujah, Jesus lives!"
In the introduction the author describes events of Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday – from Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday in which we sing praises while knowing the terrible story that soon comes to pass, to Maundy Thursday with the ‘Last Supper’, to Good Friday with Jesus put to death on a cross, to Holy Saturday….a day of strange emptiness, as Jesus lies in Joseph’s cold stone tomb. Purves says,
The day feels like a gap, a space, a blank…There’s a hole in the universe….a day when the power of God is felt as deepest mystery in its absence. What is the Father doing? What does Jesus descent into hell mean?...What are we to make of [Holy Saturday’s] strange day of questions and confusion?...the continuance of death marks the end of the Holy Week.As Purves sees it, even though we know the rest of the story of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, many of us “remain stuck with the experience of the mood of Holy Saturday….not yet entered into the reality of Christian life in terms of Easter Sunday.”
From our present perspective, Holy Saturday is an ‘almost’ sort of day…. atonement is complete, but the victory is not yet won, and the vindication of the Son by the Father is not yet asserted. We lean forward hopefully, knowingly, but as yet there is no power….no basis for joy and no ground for hope (pp. 13-15).
He says perhaps part of the problem is that “eternal life is promised, but we still get sick and die…Jesus lives and reigns, but the cruelty and suffering in the world remain undiminished. In our own lives we confess our faith, yet we often feel trapped in our moral confusions and stuck in our attempts to live holy lives…. Jesus maybe raised from the dead, but we remain still the people of Holy Saturday, looking longingly across the divide that takes us to Easter Day, praying wistfully for the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The author says we need a practical theology of the Easter Lord – about Jesus, resurrected, ascended, acting and reigning – yet avoiding empty triumphalsim by being ever mindful of salvation through the cross of Calvary, and recognizing that
…. the resurrection of ministry is first all about the resurrection of Jesus ministry. Because Jesus is raised, he not only has a new life but his ministry has a new future. Jesus raised and ascended, with work to do, is the basis for joy and the ground for hope.Next time we’ll explore further what it means to live in the victory of God won in, through and as Jesus Christ.
The gospel…is not a metaphor but a personal, living Lord. Perhaps too the resurrection has come to be interpreted as more about us and what we feel than about Jesus and something that happened to him. What ever the reasons for loss of joy and hope in present Christian experience, and especially in the experience of many people involved in ministry, it is right to…reclaim the centrality of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus for our Christian consciousness and practice.
…. because Jesus has a resurrected ministry, we have a ministry that is entirely oriented around his living ministry…It is a foundational realignment of ministry.
…the accent is on joy and the horizon of meaning is filled with hope and the expectation of both charismatic giftedness for the church and God’s ultimate triumph over the forces that made for death and evil.
…the life and ministry of the resurrected Jesus is not just a pleasing theological idea, but directs us to a compelling participation in a living fellowship that surely shapes and informs everything that we do (pp. 18-20).