Sometimes when I feel the pain of life, whether my own or that of others, I just long for the kingdom of God to become fully realised in this world. I recall the words of the U2 song, Peace on Earth: “Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this hanging around…sick of the sorrow, sick of the pain.”
I relate to that. I’m sick of the pain, I just want justice, peace and love to rule the world now.
This morning at church we remembered the passing of a much-loved member of our congregation. He died two years ago today. At the end of the service we sang a song he wrote before he died. The lyrics are as follows:
Another Easter has come and gone. As we reflect on what it means 2,000 years after the event, I am reminded that the circumstances in which the world finds itself in today, early in the 21st century, are similar to that in which the first Christians found themselves 2,000 years ago.
On that first Easter day, a handful of Jesus’ disciples became convinced that a new King had been enthroned, a new Lord. They became convinced that the teacher from Nazareth who they had been following around for three years was alive again, was the saviour of the world, and was the world’s rightful Lord. He actually was who he said he was, and now they finally understood.
I have recently been asked to contribute to a blog called Godspace, run by Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates. In its own words, MSA “seeks to enable followers of Jesus, especially those who are innovators and unsatisfied with status quo faith, to a counter cultural way of life.” Right up my alley.
My first article was a reflection on Lent. I’m surprised how many Christians have never heard of Lent. I find it one of the most wonderfully solemn times of the year, a time to reflect more deeply on the suffering and sacrifice that Jesus went through.
This article focuses on something many Christians don’t see as an essential part of being a follower of Jesus; that is, that Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow. Or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”. Jesus aches for us to have the resurrection life, but there is no resurrection without death.
Here’s the article…
Walking Through Death
By Nils von Kalm Lent is a solemn time of year for me. In a way, it’s possibly my favourite time in the Christian calendar, alongside Christmas. They are my favourite times for vastly different reasons though. The season of Lent is traditionally seen as a time of sacrifice in preparation for the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
Today the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches at Normandy in France. For Hitler’s army it signalled the beginning of the end. Many battles would still be fought and many lives lost. But, for all intents and purposes, the war was over.
The D-Day landings provide a wonderful analogy of the assurance and hope that the resurrection of Jesus provides. NT Wright, who provides this analogy, says that, just as D-Day was the beginning of the end of the war, so the resurrection was the same. Because of the resurrection, the new age of the reign of God had begun. Many battles and persecutions were still to take place, but the result was decided.
Injustice, war and corruption still mark the lives of millions of people the world over. The kingdom of God has not yet fully arrived. The warfare remains, but the war does not. The hope of the world is that love and justice wins in the end. In fact they have already won. And this hope is not a confident optimism. It is a hope based on fact – the fact of the resurrection.
The Letter to the Hebrews also highlights this “now and not yet” situation. The heroes of the faith persevered, even losing their lives, because they knew that better days were ahead.
For all the controversy a few years ago about Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, he is right about at least one thing: love does win; indeed it already has. The result is finalised and no correspondence will be entered into.
Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community in the US tells the wonderful story of a time during the South African apartheid years when Desmond Tutu was speaking at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, and heavily armed security forces were sent to intimidate Tutu and others. As the men with their weapons lined the inside walls of the church, Tutu, in his unique way, welcomed them and urged them to join the winning side. “How do I know we will win?” he asked. “Because I have read to the end of the book (the Bible), and we win.” A little man with huge courage, he knew what it was to have the sure hope of Christ in him.
Things are not as they seem. The world is still a mess; people still die, corruption still gets its way. But it will not stay this way. The wonderful words of Revelation 21:1-5 ring true throughout the universe, the universe whose moral arc bends towards justice, as that great man of peace, Martin Luther King, eloquently stated:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home[a] of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
On this commemoration of what was called the longest day, the day of the new world of transformation of everything is coming, and that will be the longest day of all.