After Easter, what next?

GM: FROM EASTER BACK TO GOOD FRIDAY

It was a challenge for me the first time I heard it. Couldn’t imagine repeating the ‘ discipline’ of Lent again so quickly after celebrating The Resurrection. But on reflection it made sense!

Here’s why. Have a look at yesterday’s headlines in the Jamaica Observer, one of two daily newspapers published in Jamaica.( In fact have a look at most headlines across the globe)

“BAD GOOD FRIDAY”

With a subtitle:

‘Commish vows new attack on blood-drenched St. James Division.’

Now I know the Commissioner of Police.  I speak to him often because of my Road Safety responsibilities. He is a good and decent man guided by Christian principles. And he is outraged at the senseless killings, two separate double murders on Good Friday, which have resumed in the western Parish of St. James.
And so he should be! And all of  us who love this country dearly.

But I have news for the Commissioner, for ‘ leading from the front’,  new PM Andrew Holness and his team, and for  the Opposition. Outrage alone will not work. Neither will outrage along with Community policing and better intelligence in and by themselves. Nor will partnerships, with the Church and other agencies in and by itself!

Whether in Jamaica, in Pakistan, where 72 Christians including many children were brutally murdered by Muslim extremists, or in Brussels, Paris, Nigeria, Chad or countless other places where evil men have done dastardly things in recent times

Why? Unlike in former years, I’ve decided to continue reading John Stott’s classic The Cross of Christ.
And beginning over the weekend, and continuing today, a chapter on The Conquest of Evil held my interest.

So literally I went back to Good Friday. And here’s how the issue that confronts our Commissioner, and others worldwide, begins in respect of Jesus’ Conquest of Evil on The Cross on Good Friday.

” It’s impossible to read the New Testament without being impressed by the atmosphere of joyful confidence which pervades it, and which stands in relief against the rather jejune ( dull and simplistic) religion that often passes for Christianity today.
There was no defeatism about the early Christians: they spoke rather of victory. For example, ‘ thanks be to God! He gives us the victory….. Again, ‘ in all these things ( adversities and dangers) we are more than conquerors….. ”

Then Stott goes into a long discussion on the three major explanations of  the death of Christ; victory over sin, death and the devil – evil.
The Conquest of Evil, about which The Commissioner is concerned, given the present day manifestations,  is said to have taken place in six stages, ‘although the decisive defeat of Satan took place on the Cross.’

1. The conquest predicted – in the Garden of Eden. ” I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he ( Jesus) will crush your ( Satan) head, and you will strike his heel.

2. The Conquest began – with the Ministry of Jesus. Being aware of his imminent defeat, Satan made many attempts to get rid of Jesus….Herod’s murder of the Bethlehem children …. the wilderness temptations to avoid the way of the Cross… Peter’s contradiction of the way of the Cross ( Get behind me Satan)… the Scriptures about overpowering and binding the strongman.

3.The Conquest achieved on the Cross…
‘ He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code….he took it away , nailing it to the Cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. Colossians 2:13-15

4. The Conquest confirmed and announced -by the Resurrection. Although I am editing heavily, Stott did caution against giving greater importance to the Crucifixion than to the Resurrection,  as both are to be bracketed together as one. Plus the powerful and indispensable work of The Holy Spirit became manifest after the Resurrection

5. The Conquest extended as the Church goes out its mission, ‘ calling people to repent and to  turn from darkness to light’, and ‘ from the power of Satan to God’. So every Christian conversion involves a power encounter in which the devil is obliged to relax his hold on somebody’s life and the superior power of Christ is demonstrated.

6. The Conquest will be consummated at the Parousia – when Christ returns.
So until then we live between the ‘ already’ and the ‘ not yet’.

For though the devil had been defeated be has not yet conceded defeat. Although he has been overthrown he had not been eliminated. In fact he continues to wield great power. In this context Stott identifies a great challenge.
” Some Christians are triumphalists,  who see only the decisive victory of Jesus Christ and overlook the apostolic warnings against the powers if darkness. Others are defeatists, who see only the fearsome malice of the devil and overlook the victory over him which Christ has already won. The tension is part of the Christian dilemma between the ‘ already’ and the ‘ not yet’

So here’s is thing. What Good Friday reveals to us, if we listen carefully in the context of the struggle to rescue our nation decisively from murder and rape and shootings and stabbings, and the many other evils which abound, we need to do the following. Urgently!

1.  Understand that the Church is not just another member of Civil Society. And therefore part of the broad coalition of  good citizens determined and empowered to fight against evil. That is is indeed.  But more, much more than that narrow location of the Body of The Risen Christ.
Because the events on Good Friday teach us, that only when our people are covered by ‘ the full armour of God in Christ Jesus’, can we resist the evil forces that lead us to do all kinds of wickedness. Repeatedly! Even on Good Friday.
2. Without apology, and against the expected resistance of ‘ let all ideas contend’, the Church needs to aggressively and creatively seek to spread the Good News of Salvation to our nation’s children. And so provide a different ‘ narrative’ to what they are being fed daily on the mini-buses, through their cell phones, in the bus parks where they gather, and in the dancehall.

3. With the same evangelical passion, and sense of victory that characterized  the early church, and my Anglican Church is having Synod/ Convention this week, the Church needs to  ‘ be awakened’, and to fight for soul of this nation, yard by yard, ‘ corner by corner’, and community by community. In the same way that the politicians mobilize their troops at election time!
” Lord renew thy Church beginning with me; Lord renew thy Church that the Church may renew the nation (s)

4. The #Prosperitygospel and all that it entails, but primarily it’s attempt to bypass the suffering of the Cross, needs to be cast back into the pit of hell from which it came.

But that kind of understanding, and determination comes only when we are prepared to keep our spiritual and moral gaze fixed on the Cross of Christ. And not on this world’s pleasures. Which is the  message from an old hymn which ‘ apprehended me’,  yesterday during my devotions.
Especially the last verse and the line that reminds us that :

‘ fading are this world’s best pleasures’.

For the reality is that on account of what this world has to offer, and the tyranny of Sin, and the flesh, and the fear of death,  all under the control of the evil one,   who encourages young women to carry cocaine across borders, comes wickedness and evil about which the entire nation is concerned.

The challenge then is for the society to turn to the Crucified One, about whom the authentic Church preaches.
And away from the power of Satan.
But that requires obedience, endurance, sacrifice, suffering and self-denial and a deep longing for the Holy Spirit to enable us bring the Good News of the forgiveness of Sin, Redemption,  to those ‘ held  captive by the power of Satan. Whether in St. James Jamaica, in Pakistan, or in Brussels.

THE HYMN

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

2 See, the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.

3 Round each habitation hovering,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near.
Thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which God gives them when on their way.

4 Savior, since of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in your name.
Fading are the world’s best pleasures,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion’s children know

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