Day 41’s post from the BigRead13 can be found here.
1 Corinthians 15:12-34 was today’s reading – I’m not pasting it here as it’s a little long but go read it here if you like. From The Silver Chair we have someone wondering what if Aslan and Narnia weren’t real, but deciding they’d be on Narnia’s side, for Aslan, whatever. And so we’re asked to think how we might respond to those who say that we’re living in an ‘imaginary world’ – presumably a response to those who think God and religion are just a construct to those of us who need something comforting, well, comforted.
I think I blogged about this back in Advent. Just who could make up a story as intricate and unlikely as the Bible? Who would invent a God who gives himself up to die for the people he has created? Who would choose a God who refuses to save himself? A God with a very short list of demands – to love him, and love each other? A story so compelling that millions have heard it and believed, even Perhaps there might be something in this…
Which brings me on to tonight’s Lent address. This week we’re lucky to have Canon Mark Oakley with us to preach all week. Why bring this up now? Firstly because it both challenged and encouraged me. And secondly he brought up C S Lewis as he spoke of how God is revealed to us in Holy Week and through the Passion and Easter. Lewis said that we have an incomplete knowledge of God – and that when we come to Heaven, we might well be glad with the knowledge we then have of the prayers God didn’t answer.
Mark likened God’s for us to sitting in the sunlight. If we are willing to just sit and let the sun do its work, we will be changed and be warmed. He gives us the gift of our being; and asks only for our gift of becoming more like him. And what, then, of Holy Week? We don’t necessarily get a new revelation. Rather, all we think we know about God is laid bare, starkly before us.
I pondered on this afterwards and realised how true it is. We know the stories very well. They are some of the most read bits of the Bible. But if we truly think about what they tell us, oh boy. We are reminded of human frailty (Peter’s denial), of human fickleness (the crowds welcoming Jesus – “hosanna” – before turning on him – “crucify!”), of human grief (Mary at the foot of the cross). Mark reminded us of the contrast between two bowls of water – one of love (the washing of the feet), one of indifference (Pilate’s washing of his hands).
Finally, I’d not heard before of the seven gifts of the Passion. But now I have – the unbidden donkey, the scented ointment, the upper room, and then the four we will come back to on Good Friday – Simon of Cyrene’s shoulder, the words of encouragement from the second thief, the drink of vinegar from the soldier, and finally the gift of the tomb – Joseph of Arimathea giving up his own resting place to offer Jesus a loyalty he could not admit when he was alive.
Lord, help us to be loyal to you. Help us to be loyal to the future, to justice and equality and love, rather than just the past. Let the story of that last, dreadful week not just inform us but form us. Amen.