Sometimes everything gets a little hazy.
When I was going through interviews and soul-searching and paperwork (oh, so much paperwork!) to see if the Anglican church would train me for ordination, the guy in charge of my selection process said at the end of one meeting: “If it all goes wrong, Jesus still rose from the dead.” Now that I’m nearing the end of training, that sentence sometimes still sticks in my head.
In my line of work, there are two things I’m often confronted with. One is the plethora of deep theological questions people have; insights, arguments and opinions about who God is or what the Church should be doing or what this certain section of scripture really means. These conversations are ‘up here’ (in, and often over, my head).
The other is the reality of things people struggle with in the nitty-gritty, here and now; the unglamorous category of conversation we like to call Life. Pain, suffering and struggling. Normality, mediocrity and the ‘something’s missing’ mundane. These conversations are ‘right down here’ (deep in the heart and gut).
Some people like to level criticism at theological types for trying to fit deep truths into nice, neat little boxes. The line usually goes that real life is just too messy to reconcile with that.
Actually, what I find is that both of the above are messy. Both of the above are inordinately shot through with unanswered questions, opaque problems and obtuse complications. Theology isn’t any easier to talk about than Life just because it’s ‘up here’. Life isn’t any easier to discuss than theology just because it’s ‘right down here’ and therefore somehow more real. But my point is this: I’ve learned (no, I’m learning) that when it all gets hazy, it helps to go back to basics; to go back to what you do know to be true.
For me, the overarching truth that I run and cling to when it all gets hazy is this: Jesus still rose from the dead.
The way I see it, we can hang an awful lot on whether Jesus rose from the dead. See, if he rose from the dead, then he is who he said he was.
Some people say robbers stole the body. If I was a burglar, I don’t think I’d go for the house that’s got a huge fence and double-guard-dog alarm system. If I was a grave robber, I think that upon seeing an enormous stone and two trained killing machines (Roman soldiers), I would head for any other grave! I don’t think I would take a body and leave behind the only thing of financial value (grave-clothes).
Some people say the authorities took the body. If I was the authorities, I think the point at which rumours of a resurrection got started would be the point at which I’d choose to produce the body. ‘Ta-daaa’- that would be the pinprick to burst this resurrection movement’s proverbial balloon… but that never happened.
Some people say (in fact, most people will say) they just made it all up. This, of course, is possible, but how do you explain the epic, unfailing courage of the first disciples in this case? Before the resurrection they are understandably timid and terrified. Afterwards, they divide up the known world between them and nearly all get tortured and killed for their faith in this event. Lions, fires, pitch-and-resin, boiling oil, beheading and crucifixion upside-down. Frankly, I just don’t see how that many people would go to such lengths for a lie. Frankly, I simply refuse to believe that, given the option, they’d suffer and die. Unless it’s true. And if he rose from the dead, then he is who he said he was. If he is who he said he was, a whole lot of other things fall back into place behind that.
So the next time it all gets a little hazy, go back to basics. Go back to what you do know. When the questions are confusing and the circumstances soul-sucking and you feel like heart and brain may both explode, ask yourself ‘what do I still know to be true?’ For me, when the whole world goes black, it all comes back to one stark fact: Jesus still rose from the dead.
If you want to spend a few minutes reflecting on this, here is a link to a spoken-word poem called Resurrection Day which I recently recorded.
Image by Leftfield1 via stock.xchng images.