Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.
I watched “Risen” recently. Whilst fictional – like “Ben Hur” – it was nonetheless a moving story. Since it was from the Roman Tribune’s perspective it didn’t need to try to slavishly follow the accuracy of the Gospels and allows for some poetic license.
If you’ve not seen it, I strongly recommend it. It begins with the Crucifixion and follows the initial Roman search for Jesus’s body, shows the bribing of the guards for their silence, and the slow realisation beginning to creep into the hardened soldier’s cynical existence that there is something very different here.
Anyone who’s read my stuff here knows I like movies. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a scene that sticks in my head. Indy stepping out onto the optical illusion bridge over the chasm.
Not as moving, granted, but a moment nonetheless.
Moments in movies like that make me look at my own life, and how things have impacted me. We all need to take time to reflect on what is going on in our world, our friendships need to be tended or they fall away. Our relationship with God is the same. Not many people deliberately decide to turn their back, it just happens over time. On average about half the people I knew through church 20 years ago don’t believe now, and from conversations I’ve had that seems to be the norm. Storms come and cause us to doubt or force us deeper into God, depending on a cornucopia of conditions.
There are moments we look at where we have a conscious choice to make. Decide on a path for our life.
Sometimes we have no choice but to face that decision, and sometimes we can defer it for a while, but eventually the decision needs to be made – and not making a decision is actually a decision in itself.
The defining moments in our lives lead us to where we are today. Me writing this blog is a result of hundreds of moments where I’ve had to choose a direction. Usually because of circumstances I had no control over.
My dad’s sister died in a fire in 1981. My brother in a road accident in 1985. Cancer took my mum’s parents in 1988 and 1991. My dad died of a brain cancer in 1999.
All of those events forced a choice onto me. Dare to believe, or walk away.
And there were other things I went through as well. The more “normal” growing up things like girlfriends, GCSE and A Levels, leaving home, getting married etc all made a profound impact on who and where I am today physically, emotionally and Spiritually.
I deferred the decision after Yvonne died in the fire. I was only 9 and it upset me. Robin dying in 1985 was the big one. I had to choose how to move forward. For nine months I put off the decision, then in the November I met Jesus in a very real, physical way.
And I dared to believe.
I dared to believe He could mend my broken heart. That He could soothe my soul. It was hard. I went to church already. I’d sung in the choir for years and now I was a Server, helping out during the service with preparations for communion, candle-bearer and Crucifer for ceremonies and services. But this was different. In those nine months I’d kept going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.
Then I met and I dared to believe.
I dared to look to the Cross for my answers. I strive to do so every day (some more successfully than others!)
I place my hope in the Cross. All my hope hangs there. At the end of the day, if you are Blessed by my writing then I am truly Blessed to offer it. But I write because Christ has put it in my heart to do so. In the movie (here I go again with movies) “Chariots of Fire”, Eric Liddell is challenged by his sister to abandon the Olympic games and follow his call to be a missionary. His reply is that while God made him able to teach, He also made him fast, and that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure.
I didn’t understand that until I began writing, and there is something in every single person reading this that will give you the understanding I now have. When I write (or preach) I feel God’s pleasure. I can feel Him cheering me on and that is when His presence is closest to me.
We were made for a reason. Atheists and agnostics claim it was random, but the mathematical odds of exactly the right conditions for life happening on this small, blue rock are remote. The likelihood of life “spontaneously” beginning is even more remote. It takes greater faith to believe only in science than to believe in a Creator who designed it!
I said this was an argument for the Cross. I guess it’s really more me trying to express the centrality of the Cross in my life, and why I believe it is time for us as a Church, irrespective of colour, native language or denomination to turn back and really examine our lives.
Are we living authentic Christian lives? Are we truly imitators of Christ?
If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to make the case?
For myself, I hope so. I hope these thoughts, usually written in the middle of the night – it’s 3am here as I’m writing now – would serve as some evidence of the presence of Jesus in my heart. That the words I speak in conversation and when I am alone and I think nobody can hear me would be the same. I want my heart to be so inclined to Jesus that people ask me what’s different about me.
But it all starts with the Cross.