Fake news is a hazard that has put us all on the alert. Just because we see something reported does not mean it is necessarily true or trustworthy. The apostle John was alert to this already in the first century when he urged the early Christians to “test the spirits”. In a world of many spirits you need to know what is of the Spirit of God and what runs counter to God’s purposes. Always a good question to ask: is this true to what we know of Jesus?
In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gecko, states that : “Greed… is good.” On his own terms he was right – for greed drives the economic activity that brings prosperity to the elite to which he belonged. A high price is paid, however, by the large numbers who lose out in an economy driven by greed; and by the earth itself which is ruthlessly exploited with little thought of future sustainability. Paul the apostle might be a better guide: “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (I Tim. 6:6)
The hilarious BBC sitcom “The Good Life” poked fun at a suburban couple trying to escape from the rat-race by becoming self-sufficient – growing their own food, keeping animals, making their own clothes etc. Behind the fun though, is there a deeper question? What makes for a good life? Might be worth looking again at the Ten Commandments and especially the big two that Jesus singled out – love God and love your neighbour.
What a mind-blowing occasion was the Day of Pentecost! The disciples discovered that what they had seen in Jesus and found so gripping and inspiring was now made available to them in a new way. They were now able to receive the Holy Spirit who had sustained and empowered Jesus in his ministry. So that the newness and transformation and hope that they had seen in Jesus would not be a matter of a brief interlude fondly remembered but a present reality with limitless possibilities.
“Our technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy…. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”
To be human is to live with questions. Unanswered questions lead some to cynicism about life’s purpose. Others think they have all the answers but cannot handle anything outside their box. The Easter message of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, does not pretend to give all the answers in some neat formula – there is much that remains mysterious. But nor does it leave us floundering with no clue as to what life is meant to be about. It invites us to come with our questions and to embark on an adventure – an adventure of trusting in the risen Lord, in Jesus Christ who comes among us still in the power of his Spirit.
When Jesus called himself the good shepherd he drew a pointed contrast with religious leaders who were just in it for themselves. This might be very pertinent at a time when leadership is at stake both globally and nationally. On the world stage we see leadership that is petulant and crudely self-interested, monopolising resources for a small elite while the flock is starved and scattered. This is not the way of the good shepherd. For him, leadership is about giving of yourself for the sake of others.
“There can be no salvation from sin unless there is a living Saviour: this explains the emphasis laid by Paul on the resurrection. But the living one can be a Saviour only because he died: this explains the emphasis laid on the cross. Christians believe in a living Lord, or they could not believe at all; but they believe in a living Lord who died an atoning death, for no other can hold the faith of a soul under the doom of sin.”
James Denney 1856-1917
We call him “doubting” Thomas as if he had done something wrong. But maybe it is healthier for faith if we do maintain a questioning-ness? Might doubt be the flip side of faith? The best faith always carries doubt within it. And there are moments when doubt is strong and you have to find your way back to faith once again. This keeps faith fresh and new minted. Without the challenge of doubt, faith can all too easily become stale and dull.