I haven’t written for a while because things have been pretty busy, with both my secular employment and my role at the Uniting Church I attend. Easter is always a busy time!
But I was recently asked to write an article for the cover of our preaching plan, which details who is taking our worship service for a quarter of the year. We operate with only me, a part time pastor, visiting preachers and lay people, if you were wondering. So I duly wrote something, and then forgot about it.
Yesterday I was reminded of what I wrote when a person sent me a card, detailing her epiphany about Easter and about the resurrection, not only from what I wrote but also from a service she attended. As she said, “its amazing that learning can come at any age”, she is 83, and she says its the first time she truly understands what resurrection means for her. I was amazed and touched, and realised one never knows when we are going to even make a small difference in someones life. The thing for me is to continue to explore and ask questions, questions that I have and many other have about our faith. Faith is not cast in stone, as some would have you believe, but a growing dynamic and at times amazing journey of discovery. At any age.
So I place here the cover that I wrote…
The idea of these short writings is to talk about worship. But we know worship is much wider and deeper than going to church. We can focus on our place in the world and the place of the unseen mysterious more we call God anywhere. Outside, inside, when we are happy or sad or when things are going well, or not so well. When we are studying or playing, when we are lazy or productive, when we are caring for another or caring for ourselves. Anywhere. Suddenly we become aware that this is part of something bigger, grander, more universal, and for a mere moment we might feel humble, comforted, amazed or just thankful we are alive to experience it.
I for one seek wisdom and insight in lots of places, good literature (and sometimes bad), in walking and talking to people, in caring and sharing with others. I am also a product of my technological age and I listen to programs, podcasts and videos that can give me greater insight into what it is to be human and a follower of Jesus.
One such podcast is by Rob Bell, who interviews people, from his own family to the most outrageous or most committed and influential in the faith and justice space. One of these is Peter Rollins, a philosopher, theologian and incredible thinker and speaker from Belfast. He recently spoke to Rob about parables, which I listened to while walking around the lake…
Parables are stories that turn things upside down, and which change the way we see things. Jesus used them to wake up his followers, and Peter writes many himself. In fact, he has produced a book of them, called the Orthodox Heretic.
While there were many that spoke to me, one in particular stood out, since it’s just been Easter. I will summarise it here, as it’s a bit long.
A group of disciples were despairing after Jesus’ death and leave Jerusalem, never to return. They find a place and set up a community, vowing to keep the memory of Jesus alive in simplicity, love and forgiveness, just as he had taught them. And they did this for a 100 years. Eventually a group of missionaries find them, and when they discover that this group had no knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, they eagerly share this good news.
What follows is a great celebration, but the leader goes off on his own and is found by one of the missionaries, weeping and praying. “What is wrong, he asks?” He explains that for so long the community has followed the ways taught by Jesus, even though it was costly and despite the belief that death had defeated him and would one day defeat them all. Each day they have forsaken their own lives for him because they judged him wholly worthy of the sacrifice, wholly worthy of their being. But now, following the news, he is concerned that his children and his children’s children may follow Jesus, not because of his radical life and supreme sacrifice, but selfishly, because his sacrifice will ensure their personal salvation and eternal life.”
“With this the elder turned and left the hut, making his way to the celebrations that could be heard dimly in the distance, leaving the missionary on the floor.”
Worship, we worship the wrong thing if we “worship” Jesus. Or if we dream of another life somewhere else. Jesus was pointing to something a great deal more amazing, and more radical. He shakes up our ideas of what gives life, and turns them upside down. Powerless rather than powerful, poor rather than rich, weak rather than strong, forgiving rather than revengeful, nonviolent rather than violent, humble rather than proud, crucified rather than crucifier. We expect the leader in the parable to be happy but he’s not, which shakes up our own thinking about what the resurrection really means. I love it!
What if we only had knowledge of the crucifixion, and not the resurrection?
What if we are not called to believe the resurrection, but to live it out, every day!
What if we are to be Christ’s resurrection!
Makes one think about the meaning of resurrection, and the aim of worship. Which is the aim of parables!