Honest Christianity – when lives don’t conveniently follow the church calendar

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Many years ago at Spring Harvest, the preacher, Tony Campolo, taught on the phrase that has become almost
Easter folk law, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. The sermon was full of hope in the light of current difficulties or circumstances. What do we do when we don’t experience resurrection?

Most of us are personally and or personally know people that are still living in crucifixion Friday rather than resurrection Sunday. Life for them is full of sadness and loss; grief in relationships, careers, health, church etc.
the promises of new life, is still that, a hopeful promise, even still a far off one. Even today as I was dressing to get ready to go and lead an Easter Sunday Morning service at the Children’s Hospital, I was called in before I had even got there to support a family with a very poorly child. It might be Sunday but it feels like Friday. Their hope of resurrection is a literal immediate one. “He is risen, indeed, hallelujah” is a muted chant alongside the cry of lament. It is a needed truth and promise but not our only song in a strange land.

Hope is still needed today as much as it was Friday or any other day. We need compassion and patience for those whose lives don’t follow the seasons of the church. It is many times multi reasoned and complex why life is so full of desolation. We live in the hope of resurrection for ours and others circumstances but in today’s celebrations, let’s be mindful, it may not be today.

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Honest Christianity – Take me, break me

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Sometimes I read something and it goes straight to my heart and I wish I had written it! This poem is one of those things and fits so well many of the things I have been reflecting on in this Easter season. Thanks Steve.

Take my eyes Lord.
Strike me blind.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may see with Your eyes.

Take my hands Lord.
Crush every bone.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may touch with Your tenderness.

Take my ears Lord.
Deafen me.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may hear with Your sensitivity.

Take my feet Lord.
Amputate without hesitation.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may walk only on Your path.

Take my tongue Lord.
Sever it.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I speak only with Your words.

Take my life Lord.
End it
Please.
* * *
Then resurrect me Lord
That I may have life only in You.

Hear my prayer.

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Wondering Wednesdays – corporate atonement

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This quieter post Easter period has enabled me to do a little more reading for my thesis. Unclean is a fascinating book by Richard Beck with a subtitle of Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality. Sometimes just a phrase leaps out of the page and in a season when we are thinking about the cross this resonated:
understandings of atonement – that salvation is an active communal engagement that participates in God’s cosmic mission to restore all things – are vital to efforts aimed at motivating spiritual formation and missional living.
Studying shame has helped make me much more aware of the ways we present Christian faith and doctrine and introduced me to new ways of seeing things, this is one of them.

Reference:
Richard Beck. (2011). Unclean. Eugene: Cascade, p41..

Honest Christianity – what got crucified this Easter?

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Well, obviously, the son of God. But did anything sacrificially die? Well again obviously, if we had given anything up it is likely to be self, our ego. We may have had to make decisions not to do, eat, drink, etc or do, think etc something that has been sacrificial.

I have been reading the book of Romans over Lent and Paul has a lot to say about these themes – dying to self, living for Christ, dead to sin, not a slave to sin, alive to God.

So the question becomes, what got resurrected? Possibly, it has been a self that has become less focused on self-serving. What stayed dead? What I reflect would be some of my desire to serve myself.

Our sacrifice has been nothing like our saviour Jesus, but our modeling has been enabled by not just his death but by today remembering and celebrating his resurrection. I now have resources to live a life that is not driven by my own self-interest. And maybe the real consequential gift of this is not that I am now more likely to be effectual in serving others, as I do not always know how to do this, but that I am released not to serve myself.

Reference:
Image from http://www.freelyphotos.com

Wondering Wednesdays – a dangerous cross

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There is a lot of discussion around at the moment about Christianity, politicians, newspapers… I am not intending to add to all that commentary, many much more eloquent than I am are encouraging that debate.  As we move into what liturgically is called the Easter season I am hoping not to lose some of what was gained in Lent.  While I am not thinking of giving up chocolate (although that might be good for me!) I want to have that same sense of making choices that reflect a commitment to sacrifice for my faith, to remember others who do not have the many choices that I do.  I am hoping that as Christians and churches there is a little bit of this notice in how we mediate the cross – that it is dangerous to follow Jesus, that it is life-changing, risky and if you don’t want to engage with that then keep away!

I wear a cross everyday, usually a necklace but sometimes earrings and sometimes choose which one I want to wear because of what it says to me, sometimes that relates to who gave it to me, or where I bought it or what sort of cross it was.  During holy week I wore my cross that had a picture of three crosses on it, I wanted to remember those who died on each side of Jesus and the promise of eternal life Jesus gave the one who turned to him.  When I tell my salvation story I am so grateful to the many people that appear in the journey along the way – who reached out to me with an invitation, a comment, a hand and have been blessed that like Jesus was they were aware enough of someone struggling alongside them to mediate a cross that draws people to Jesus.

 

Honest Christianity – Easter reflections

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There have been several things that have struck me this Easter. One has been hearing about the culinary delight of a deep fried cream egg, not yet tried. Another was a home-made hot cross bun so good we shouldn’t call it by the same name as what we buy in the shops. Another was reading the research commissioned by the Bible Society:
• One in three children have no idea why Christians mark Good Friday
• One in four of them do not know why Easter Sunday is celebrated
• More than a quarter of British children think the Hare and the Tortoise may feature in the Easter story.
• A council bans Good Friday Passion of the Christ play fearing it was a live sex show!
Seems we don’t communicate the Easter message very effectively!

This morning I preached at our hospital service on Matthew’s resurrection story and encouraged particularly the women, the mothers to continue to have faith in the quality of their witness even within the midst of their earthquakes. This is what continues to impress me, the faithfulness of their vigil, in the uncertain waiting, but holding onto resurrection hope. This is what I encouraged them in, to live in resurrection hope, in the midst of the cross,

I love the commonality between the Christmas and Easter angels. They both encourage “Do not be afraid”, at the beginning and end of the Jesus story, perhaps the same angel has the same line… This seems to be what we need to hear in the light of the revelation of the incarnation and resurrection. Do not be afraid but have resurrection hope. This seems to be an honest Christian message, taking seriously our fears and our faith. Both are true.

Honest Christianity: What week is it?

 

Easter Basket with Easter Eggs

Many of  us know this coming week as “Easter week”.   Many Christian leaders called this week “I’m knackered, I need some time off” week having been very busy with all the different elements that make up the Holy week liturgy.  Sally has been at compline, and a vigil on the wasteland, we both went to the community passion play, Maundy Thursday supper and stations of the cross.  The sweep of emotions evoked by the Holy week liturgy takes its toll even though it ends in joy on Easter day.   Eastern Orthodox Christians (who don’t celebrate Easter until 5th May)  have a different term for this week, they call it “bright week” or “renewal week”, interesting terms that I had not come across.  During that week Christians are encouraged to celebrate the risen Christ through reading psalms, Scripture, spiritual songs and hymns.  It is during this week that the doors of the icons are left open which represents the tomb with the stone rolled away.

I confess that I do not always live my life in the reality of resurrection.  Some of my days seem like Good Friday or even the darkness in the cave of Easter Saturday, a day of  lamenting.   Once the easter eggs have all been eaten and the bank holidays have gone I want to commit myself to having a bright renewal week that is not dependent on having a holiday, lots of chocolate or Chelsea winning.   But I have also been a Christian long enough to know that it is inevitable that there will be Good Fridays and Easter Saturdays in the weeks ahead and that’s okay.  Sometimes it feels like we are failing God if we are not always bright and positive and smiling.  A read of the Psalms shows what a nonsense that is but there are some places where it can be hard to be a Christian and be real about what is going on inside.  I am sure this week and forthcoming weeks will have Good Fridays and Easter Saturdays, but to live in resurrection is a commitment as well as truth but the joy of the resurrection only comes out of the sadness of grief and the darkness of not knowing, both are parts of our journey of faith.