Friday, 6 November 2015

Faint for the Fainthearted: The J Word Part 2

In last weeks post I did that toe curlingly awkward thing in our culture and decided to talk to you about the J Word. Yup, it's Jesus! Because as I mentioned when I set about writing this series on Faith for the Faint-hearted I realised quickly that there was little I could say about life, faith, spirituality, self esteem, the world, the universe and everything without talking about Jesus. And today, buckle up, we are going to get pretty deep. We really are talking life, death and everything!

So here we in Part 2 which, as I alluded to in the last post, is all about some of the loftier claims that Christians make for Jesus. What the story of Jesus can't do, I'm afraid, is give up a nice 'Be positive and everything will be ok' approach to the world because, well, it doesn't portray the world in that way at all. What the story of Jesus doesn't do is make any promises to you that life is going to be ok, that you will have all the things you hope for or even that it will be that comfortable. I'm really selling this aren't I?
Because the story of Jesus, though it begins with and is suffused with such joy and hope, ends in death and a pretty violent one at that. It seems to me that we do a pretty good job in our culture of living as if we never die. As I become more and more acquainted with death in my work life I am fast becoming one of those people no on wants at a dinner party, chatting away about whether burial or cremation is more preferable. At which point my companions are like 'Errr....calm down and pass the peas...'
But death is a reality, darkness is a reality. Some people are born into such excruciating poverty that any worldview which has nothing to say to that has very little to offer in my view. Jesus' story is one that says, in his own words, you are blessed when you mourn and you will be comforted, the weak will become strong, there is hope in this world that can be so desperate at times. It recognised evil and it recognises good in a dramatic and in you face kind of way but that is really what I like about it.
And what of this hope I mention? This perhaps the more radical thing to justify given how the world is. Well it stems from that rather bold claim I dropped in at the end of the last post - that Jesus is God come to be with us. Taking our on our human life so that we can see the way to live, yes, but also to reconcile this broken and hurting world to the source of all goodness, light, health and healing which is God.

For the Christian what we are missing in this world is God. Because where God is there is no darkness, there is only light; there is no death, there is only life. God is the source of life, the creator and sustainer of all that is beautiful and true and good in this world and the point of Jesus' life and death is to bring us into that life of God, so close that it infuses our whole life, everything we are and everything we will be. This transforms life right here, right now and gives us hope whatever the darkness around us.

But yes, this comes through death. Perhaps it might help to think of it like this. In dying on the cross God experiences death. Imagine that, the source of all life experiencing death, just imagine that for a moment. This unthinkable possibility is real, we say, because of God's deep and unwavering love for humanity which is so vast that he would go to these lengths to overcomes death and to bring us into life, fully restored, again.
In this way comes a major building block of the way I see the world me. Yes, death and pain and suffering is 100% real, not to be ignored and impossible to avoid, but also that love overcomes all of these things and that love is the greatest power there is. Marcus Braybrooke puts it like this 'Love which through suffering absorbs evil and is completely vulnerable is of its very nature indestructible. Such love cannot be defeated by evil and death, whereas enmity eventually exhausts itself.'
I don't have all the answers to why the universe is as it is, why the world is so desperately unfair. But in the story of Jesus I see God's intervention, that he can't stand it either and has stepped in to change it. And I also see something which I know to be true. That in life there is that golden thread of goodness and of light as well as that darkness and death. And that golden thread of goodness and light is so glorious that I can quite easily believe that, after all, love really does win.

So there we go, bit more than you bargained for with your morning brew eh? Don't worry, next time we will be exploring the completely uncontroversial topic of the Bible! ;)

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