It’s Easter, yet I’m playing ‘Devil’s advocate’ a little here. I’m poking a little at Easter from within.
Today on Easter Sunday, I thought I’d scribble a quick bit on this subject matter in my head today of powerless Christianity and beyond.
Many Christians exist here in this weird and wonderful Province of Northern Ireland, even happily attending Church of one form or another on a regular basis, but yet why is there so little evidence of the risen King Jesus in everyday life or true Church it sometimes seems?
And why is this Province so messed up and dysfunctional anyway, you might also be asking, if we think we consider ourselves Christian?
And why are young talented journalists being shot dead in the street for no good reason again, by the way, too? Such a horrendous, heartbreaking, ghastly waste.
I’m sorry in advance, I certainly don’t have all the answers.
The Apostle Paul, however, wrote of his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, (and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, by the way too). Becoming like him – Jesus – eventually through such a journey, of death to self.
But if the apostle PAUL needed to pray such a prayer, and knew he lacked the power of Jesus’ resurrection, then why on earth is it so seemingly acceptable for religious Northern Ireland Christians and/or church-goers to be so okay with not knowing this same power, or actively hungering after more? ( Or wherever you happen to be reading this from). How can it be Christian and acceptable to remain weak and anaemic in the things of the Spirit? And sit back and let others struggle and suffer deeply around us, often, because we lack the power (or even desire!) to pray and see actual tangible power of God come forth and bring change and breakthrough to very real and pertinent situations all around us. Where did we allow ourselves to become so well acquainted with the head knowledge, too, and not the heart knowledge matters of God, and simply live in our own wee cosy, comfortable worlds?
Why is it acceptable in Christian circles in Northern Ireland to never have experienced a miracle personally in one’s own life or sphere, or a healing, for example, despite calling oneself a follower of Jesus Christ? Surely the two go hand in hand. Jesus never meant for his resurrection power to be elusive to his disciples. Jesus, in fact, said we would do, “greater things.”
And whilst we’re on it all, why is it acceptable to simply care more about particular types of posh, snobby coffee, for example, or stroking one’s well groomed beard, than to actually know the power of his resurrection, in a personal, living, meaningful, practical way? What have we been teaching people?
Why is it socially acceptable and more normal to have Easter tea parties or dinners rather than Easter prayer and prophesy parties, for example, in Churches or living rooms in Northern Ireland at this time of year? Where is the hunger to know him, or decisive growth over years, hungering as Paul hungered, and to know his resurrection power, rather than just middle class social respectability? – as has so often been the case in Northern Ireland Christianity it seems. Surely this ought not to be so.
This Easter Sunday, it is surely time for it to be about more than Easter eggs and simply knowing ( and posting a nice wee fuzzy social media post about ) the knowledge of Jesus’s resurrection. Though there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, per se.
“Christ is risen. He’s risen indeed, ” I see often displayed or written of on people’s pages today, or in a email I received even into my inbox today. Which is all great.
Yeah He is, but if that statement really is true, and we really believe that, is it any wonder many non (or pre) Christians struggle to think Jesus’ resurrection story is nothing more than a nutcase, fairytale-like, ludicrous belief? Afterall, where are the radical real signs of such a radical, crazy statement? Where is the tangible evidence it’s all not just empty religion? Where is his resurrection power on display here and now today, for example, in Northern Ireland and beyond?
Is it in the rambling rat of Ramore?!
(Or the judgemental, rambling opinionated rants I heard many of about the aforementioned rat this week?! Think not. )
Of course now I’m being somewhat facetious.
But seriously – where is the radical love?
Can we blame non-believers for still not yet believing?
Why would they want anything to do with most of what presents itself as this “radical” Christian belief and way of life in this country?
Again, I’m being perhaps more than a little provocative – forgive me – but if Jesus really rose, and God really is so good, surely it ought to be oh so much more life-changing, liberating and loving – in clear evidence all around? Surely there are to be more regular stories beyond the pale of religion, and a lesser amount of false humility, not to mention plain pride, judgementalism, increasing vanity and age-old tribalism (for starters) around.
If we call oneself a follower of Jesus, or an adopted son or daughter of Father God, we owe it to the world around us to have living, breathing life-giving relationship with God with stories and examples of Jesus’ resurrection power in our lives too, and on display for the world around us to see and know. Not just scattered servants, but flourishing sons (that includes daughters too, for Sonship is ahead of its time, and gender neutral!!).
We are created to be flourishing sons, and daughters, with vibrant stories. Not just from last century. Or the 1st century. Or indeed last year even, But from today. This year. Fresh vibrant encounters in the everyday here and now of following and knowing Jesus today, this week, in the 21st century. An organic overflow from love within. ( And no that absolutely does not need to be on social media!). If we are not, in that place, as Christians, going through a dark night of the soul, health issues, bereavement, attacks or whatever, then that’s okay too, but those who are strong must help the weak, and together collectively contribute, not simply hide away in our wealthy middle class castles and avoid those who are suffering deeply.
We owe it to the hurting, confused, broken, chaotic and messy world around us reeling freshly from today’s horrendous, hard, heart breaking stuff, including the huge, evil, deeply shocking attack in Sri Lanka, for example – whom my heart goes out to – to offer refreshing, living lives and stories of resurrection power, not to mention radical forgiving, loving hearts. The latter is so incredibly counter-cultural in this increasingly anger-filled, hate-filled world.
We owe the world an encounter with Jesus.
We owe the World an encounter with the true God of true love, including Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And actions that speak louder than words. ( I’m prodding myself here and now as much as anyone).
He’s no longer dead, (and if this is true – and it is – for I’ve talked with him today!), why do we act so much like he is?! New expressions of Church in this land – which I’m happily prophesying are set to come forth in this next decade – are not just needed, but also going to come forth. His life demands our all. Not just a wee bit of us, but our all. Vibrant living faith is an example of our vibrantly alive Jesus. Only then does our Jesus get seen and glorified on earth more fully.
Where have we got the false belief that it’s ok to simply accept ‘social club’ Christianity in Northern Ireland?
And can we expect much less than powerless Christianity if we are also a prayerless Church? Prayer must become a fresh, everyday pillar of our church communities in these times if we are to live out our mandate in this World. Even changing communities, gathering in fresh new expressions of the Sunday thing we call ” church”, focused on prayer, and true community, becoming praying people, not simply tolerating them – if even. Not to mention fasting and praying communities, consecrated fully to the Lord. For, after all, Jesus said not ” IF you pray” and “IF you fast”, but WHEN.
‘So then if God is so good, why does all this suffering happen the world?’ I hear in my regular conversations with self-confessing atheistic or agnostic friends. Or perhaps, you as you read this as a curious onlooker.
“Good question” I say, before we discuss it all some more. Usually over a granny-ish cup of tea.
Regularly I am brought back to the fact we – those of us who are the Church, and claim to be followers of God – have done a rather lousy job, often, of displaying God’s goodness, to a hurting, broken, often deeply suffering World. I of course include myself in all of this.
And He allows us to go through journies that prod at such things very personally too.
But we still owe the World an encounter. Even through and amidst our own pathways of suffering or pain.
We owe the World a living, breathing encounter with a 21st century expression of Jesus’ resurrection. In the creative unique ways we each have been created to express him. Perhaps most beautifully in a humble, ordinary everyday ‘Norn Irish’ kind of way.
This Easter. Even now.
After all, Christ is risen. He IS risen indeed.