As often happens, I only really get the opportunity to reflect on Christmas or Easter a few days after the ‘main thing.’ You may or may not realise, but a lot of your pastors’ minds are fixed on making sure that you have the opportunity to really share in the fulness of these seasons, and with the transforming message of the gospel. At least, that’s what is on my mind…maybe I can’t really speak for others! For me, to nurture people into deep reflection on the significance of the passion and the resurrection is such an important task. And, if that means that my own experience takes a back seat for a while, then so be it. However, Eastertide continues for the 50 day period and although some churches are very quick to move on, it is so important that we linger on resurrection hope even beyond the 50 days…in fact, moving towards Pentecost should then inspire us so deeply that there is nothing else in the bigger scheme of things that should loom so large in our lives than the cause of Christ and our mission.
This is why I will never understand an expression of Christian faith that remains unmoved, uninspired or unchanged by walking through the Christians seasons which, although invite us to go deep, also invite us to considerable joy. As I’ve said before, I know all the reasons that get in the way of discipleship and people’s spiritual development, but I’ll never understand it. How can anything be more important than our being in Christ, our discipleship and our engagement in his cause?
Jesus is everything to me. Even in my imperfect moments, my low moments, and even when I’m somewhat distracted by ‘stuff,’ the Spirit in me just doesn’t let me stray far from Christ…I’m continually drawn back. Most folks in ministry deal with some pretty difficult stuff from time to time, but it all pales into insignificance when even one person responds to Christ in a new way, when faith grows and he becomes more real.
Incidentally, I’m glad I responded as fully as I did to the call to take Lent really seriously this year. I was strongly drawn to it with a sense that God was going to do something in me and he did. I feel fortified in almost every way. I’ve had some amazing encounters with Jesus over this lenten season, and he’s spoken profound things into the depths of my being and I feel different about several things because of that.
Sitting here, this side of Easter, I hear the call to being strongly resolute in my commitment to Christ in new ways and, like Paul, to seek the strength from God’s Spirit to ‘proclaim the gospel clearly as I should.’ It is such a huge story and I’m deeply saddened to be in touch with communities which would seek to ‘explain away’ God’s work in and through Jesus to the point where its potency is lost, greatly diminished or reduced to ‘moral therapeutic deism’ (i.e. have your own sky god who panders to your needs, and demands nothing but you behave yourself). Some of the stuff I hear round and about is so alien to the gospel found in the Scriptures and in the tradition of 2000 years of the church that it isn’t recognisable, and impossible to get to without dismissing significant chunks of the biblical narrative. It is just modern versions of all the councils of the church met to deal with – heresies galore. The mind boggles. This deconstruction work simply doesn’t ‘work’ because Christianity is not just giving assent to a set of theological ideas, but is a radical commitment to the way of Jesus and an openness to do what he commands.
So, I’m filled with both hope and despair, to be honest. Hope that Christ is still risen, but despair that we spend so much time missing the point….still. However, there is no place I’d rather be than with the community of Christ however it expresses itself. For me, disengagement with ‘the church’ is not an option, even if it would sometimes be a preference! He is in the resurrection business and if he can invade, save and resurrect my life, he can do it anywhere. This is the power of the resurrection….Christ in us, the hope of glory. I still have it in me to believe that another church is possible, that another vision is still within reach…but I’m also realistic enough to know that no expression of church will ever be perfect. We must continue, however, to aspire to greater things…the resurrection demands it. Why? Because there is a world who still need to hear the message and the church is the light of the world following THE Light of the World.