John 20:31 - But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
“It’s all gone a bit pear-shaped” is a phrase I grew up hearing my Dad say occasionally. It’s a remark that would suggest something had gone unexpectedly wrong. It became his go-to saying, a polite way of saying “That was a complete train wreck”.
When I look back at the last twelve months of our lives that's the phrase that comes to my mind. 2020 was a bit “pear-shaped”, to say the least. It went unexpectedly wrong. The temptation, I think, is to write it off completely. While there is definitely a need to move on, I don’t want to do so without learning the valuable lessons the turmoil of this past year has taught us.
We saw just how fragile society is. We saw how much fear, anxiety and insecurity has a death grip on so many. And we suddenly saw past the “I’ve got it all together”-type masks we’ve all worn for so long. For many people they realized just how shallow their lives really were (which is a recipe for depression and hopelessness). Like the rest of society, many of us in the Church have come out of the last year feeling quite shaken—carrying doubts, fears, discouragement, disappointment, confusion, grief, etc…
We will be running the autopsy of 2020 for a while yet, but one thing is very clear—the world needs Hope.
That brings us to Easter. It is the biggest event in the Christian calendar, an opportunity we get every year to re-set and re-center ourselves on the cross, the resurrection and the victory of Jesus. Easter 2021 felt extremely significant.
Though over three weeks have passed since then, I think it’s important that we continue to reflect on it. Maybe you honestly felt like Easter passed by without time for you to really acknowledge it. Or maybe you reflected on the meaning of Easter for one day and then forgot about it the next, carrying on with life as usual. Either way, if we don’t continue to let it change us we have missed a beautiful opportunity because, in Christ, we find what the last twelve months have proved our world is missing—a LIVING HOPE.
John 20:31 hit me in a fresh way recently. In particular, I was moved by the end of the verse which says “that by believing you may have life in His name”. To me that speaks both of the present and the future. Jesus also said it in John 10: ”I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” In Jesus we find a life of abundant joy and hope. It’s definitely not a life absent of trials and difficulties (as we all know), but it is a life that is rooted in firmer ground than the shifting sands of our present circumstances.
Why is this?
Is it because we know that by the saving work of Jesus we are set for eternity in His presence? Yes, absolutely! But is it purely about the future? Isn’t abundant life in Jesus speaking of the present too—of living resurrection life in the here and now? I believe it is.
You want to know God’s will for your life? Well, here it is….
Karl Barth says, "We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.”
Jesus also says in Matthew 10, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Thus, everyday obedience means dying to your own will, surrendering it to the greater will of Jesus, and allowing His will to infiltrate your heart and mind so that over time it becomes your own.
And everyday obedience is the key to living resurrection life here and now.
It’s a life of dying to self, surrendering to the Holy Spirit, and practicing the Way of Jesus. It’s a life with a widened view of our family, friends, vocation, gifts, talents, ministries, and other people (in other words, life itself) because we see all these things from the perspective of Jesus.
Truly, the hope of Easter is that as broken people we find, through Jesus, the invitation to live abundant, resurrection life today. It’s a life that is found in everyday communion with and surrender to Jesus. It’s a life with roots, depth, and substance. In Him, we find a purpose greater than ourselves and a calling to work in partnership with both God and His people to introduce broken people to the God of Hope. Yes, the hope of Easter is that Jesus was crucified, raised to life, and as N.T Wright said: "is coming back to heal, transform and to reign with a kingdom flooded with justice, peace and love.”
2020 was very much a ‘pear-shaped’ year, but I do believe the Lord allowed it in order that people might come to the end of themselves and go on a quest for substance, purpose and Hope.
We’ve been given an opportunity as the Church to make public the message of Hope. We’ve been given an opportunity to step into the abundant life Jesus offers while keeping our eyes forward to the future, hopeful in the knowledge that Jesus is renewing and will renew all things.
What are we moving towards? The reign of Jesus. A kingdom flooded with justice, peace, love and joy.
What a thing to Hope in.
What a King to surrender to.
What a Savior to find abundant life in.
Written by Sam Miles, SOW Faculty Member and Director of the Next Nine Program.