Sunday, 16 April 2017

Making everything new

I’ve said before that Good Friday is the day when my faith makes more sense, I think it is because of the authenticity of the Crucifixion. Suffering, pain, failure, death and the abandonment by God seen in Jesus’s cry from the cross speak to our human condition. Easter Sunday and the Resurrection have always seemed more problematic to me. Of course, death and resurrection does reflect a universal human experience in the cycle of birth and death, setbacks and renewals that we all face, but human “resurrections” are often painful, partial and frequently non-existent.
We live in a world which can be beautiful and joyful but which can also be incredibly cruel and where the keynote is pain and futility. It is a world where the bodies of refugee children are washed up on a beach, and people join in civilised horror yet ultimately do nothing. It is a world not only in which we inflict atrocity on each other but where we are at the mercy of disease, tragedy and natural disaster. Many people’s lives are blighted by poverty and gruelling labour or those more first world problems of unhappiness, loneliness and mental illness.
So after the authenticity of a God who suffers with us, what are we to make of a God who says “I make all things new?” What are we to make of texts such as the one published on this page? Well if you have never held a text like that in your hands and honestly asked yourself if it is not really a fairy tale which we ourselves have invented as a consolation for the horror of this world, then possibly you have not thought deeply enough about your faith.
I don’t have a lot of time for Christian apologetics. I’ve never personally met anyone who has serious doubts that religious belief can offer an answer to the conundrum of this world who has been convinced by arguments or theologies. I also think apologetics often lead down a road beset with tortuous reasoning and circular arguments. I suspect people are largely won to faith through emotion- their emotional need for God.
Plenty of apologetics exist for the veracity of the Resurrection story. I remember as a child being told in church that nobody would be prepared to die for a fabricated story and so the disciples must have been telling the truth.
It is absolute nonsense.
Many people have died for fabricated and utterly implausible stories if they believed in them, as religious mass suicides show.  I once watched a documentary about a group of people who believed they had known each other in a previous life. They had recreated the 16th century village they believed they had lived in and were seeking out other reincarnated relatives. They all seemed on the surface perfectly sane. There are implausible beliefs we sanction and those we call insanity.
I’m not sure whether I am sane but I know that I don’t believe in the hope and promise of a world redeemed from pain and suffering because of intellectually convincing arguments. I think all the evidence of the world points away from it. The only thing I have to hold on to is, as I have said before, that glimpse I have had of God’s love and a half grasped understanding of its beauty, wisdom, magnitude and sheer grace. It is that that gives me hope that all things might be possible.
I will hold my hands up before any skeptic or atheist and say that, yes, this is completely and entirely subjective. It may be a kind of lunacy. But I believe it is revelation, just as I believe that the empty tomb on Easter Sunday is revelation.

That fragile and subjective hope, in the face of overwhelming evidence against it may not seem much to hold on to but it is all I have.
 On this Easter Sunday 2017, for me, it is enough.

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