Sunday, April 14, 2013

Living in EasterJoy (3)

My latest reading has focused on Missional God, Missional Church (IVPAcademic 2012) by Ross Hastings. Living in Easter Joy, you say?

Well, yes. In this demanding but exciting read he claims the "Greatest Commission" (as compared with the Great Commission  of Matthew 28: 19,29)  is found in John 20:19-23.  It's the greatest, he claims because its contrast of before/after shows just how powerfully Jesus empowers disciples to participate in God's mission.  His twofold repetition of "Peace be with you, Peace to you" emphasizes the wonder of the shalom which Jesus imparts to make a community of shalom.  There is commission (v21) and it is linked with the Spirit (v.22) and the task of forgiveness (v.23).

He unpacks this wonderful Easter story theologically to show how this event sets the scene for the church (Acts 2 and ever since) with a missional gospel that has the risen Jesus not only sending out, but also bringing in as we participate in God's trinitarian mission.

His analysis of much current thought and church life engages a wide literature which makes it an appropriate book to include in my forthcoming DMin Preaching class.  But what thrilled me was to see again the familiar story of that Easter evening when the doors were shut out of fear treated with depth and such hope for the church in its task today.

I confess that sometimes my reading does not light up my soul.  But this has really added to Easter Joy.   

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Living in Easter Joy (2)

I guess that being back in England for a little while may give me some more jolts of joy like the one I received last Sunday.  We went back to the Arbury Road Baptist Church, Cambridge, where my father became minister way back in the early 1960's.  I have only been back a handful of times, including my mother's funeral in 1979.  During my father's ministry a new church was built and my youthful memory is packed with positive memories of friends, activity and worship.

What was the jolt of joy at Easter 2013, over 50 years later?  It wasn't just being greeted as people remembered my father, amd sometimes me.  Stories came tumbling out. One of the first was from a man for whom I was best man in 1966, and several others reminded me of great times past. I was amazed at the saints still going strong, including a fellow bass who kept me company in the choir (and is now 102 years old).  Now, of course, it is wonderful hearing affirming stories about our past, isn't it? 

But what really thrilled me to the core was how still committed heart and soul to their Lord and to this fellowship these friends remain.  Through some tough times they have never given up.  When I commented to one of the women who was in the youth group with me, that it was extraordinary to see how many of them had stayed together, she said: 'This is where we belong.  This is our community.  Your father would be so proud'. Actually I think the Easter Lord is pleased too! When you have traveled around like me, it is humbling to be reminded of those who have labored in the same spot together for a lifetime, united in faith and service as a community of Easter people.

This really gave me an Easter buzz.  I hope you have enjoyed some Easter experiences where you are, and that you continue to live in Easter joy. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another viewpoint

Enthusiastically I posted about my grandchildren (and me) coloring those sculptures.  Well, yesterday we met some friends who live in the next village.  In conversation I mentioned the event with my grandchildren and the chalks.

'Oh, no!' said my friend. 'When I drove past those sculptures I said - what a tragedy!  Those animal figures have been vandalized.  Look at the mess they have made! I was really shocked that such a thing could happen'.

Frankly, my story and further insistence that the sculptor himself had invited us to chalk our names and make our colors seemed to make no difference.  For them it's now an eyesore (at least until it rains later this week and washes it all off!)  And, if I'm really honest, it does look as though children have just had a good time with chalk.

Isn't that a corrective?  Just when I thought something good had happened which even spoke of bigger Easter issues, adding to life, someone else saw it as a meaningless act.  Is there a further lesson here?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Living in Easter Joy (1)

I always love Easter and its glorious after-glow with life changed for ever by a risen, living Christ. For the first time our UK grandchildren celebrated Easter with us.  The Sunday service was inspiring, but the whole bitterly cold weekend sabotaged other family plans. Easter Monday was another day on which to shiver!

Wearing full Winter gear I took the older boys, Luca and Anton,  out to a village near us. While walking in Histon a few weeks ago I had spotted an unusual front garden where the householder had sculpted a considerable number of animals and human figures.  Using sheet steel, shaped in fantastical and whimsical ways, the bungalow's front garden has turned into a children's wonderland.  Actually, not only the front garden but animals are on the roof, with a gigantic spider climbing the chimney stack.

I parked the car round the corner and the boys could not believe their eyes as the garden came in sight.  A welcome notice encourages children to climb the horse, pig and dog sculptures.  In biting wind they clambered on and then ran excitedly from figure to figure, pointing out creative extras that gave each piece such humor and interest. But, inevitably, the metal figures were brown with rust and seemed so drab in the Winter weather.

I guess the sculptor must have heard the boys.  He shuffled out with a kindly smile and a big carton of chalks. 'Oh, it's too cold!' he said. 'Here, write your names on this board as big as you can, and then start coloring the figures. There's no color.  We need color.'  Quickly he returned indoors. The chalks were immediately opened.  Luca and Anton not only wrote their names on the big board but on the giraffe, horse, penny-farthing, cockerel and pig.  Then began a busy time of giving the pig blue ears, the turkey multi-colored feathers, marking the faces of figures with smiles and highlighting their eyes.  The task of transforming the garden was hopelessly beyond us (yes, I joined in!)  but as we rushed from piece to piece we enjoyed great happiness together.  You can imagine the surprise that the creator of these pieces had given us such a task.  I thought of his comments that there was no color, and how that applies to life before Easter; and how multicolored and rich life truly is when we are joined with the indestructible Jesus and his community. 

May you continue to live in colorful Easter joy!  (For my UK readers, please note my US laptop insists on spelling color this way!)