the provocative resurrection /2/ this world matters

27 04 2011

In the first Provocative Resurrection post, I looked at how the resurrection happened, is real; the resurrection cannot just be a metaphor for ‘things working out’, but has to be an actual, real thing. And how Jesus’ first apprentices didn’t get it, and how we really can’t blame them. Who would get it?

So if we believe that Jesus knew he was going to be very much dead and then very much alive, what does that mean? Was it just a super-Lazarus-miracle-resuscitation trick, or something more?

Something more, something much more. Because Jesus wasn’t resuscitated, he was resurrected; he wasn’t just raised to life, but raised to new life. Because this Jesus who was very dead and then very alive wasn’t a normal human, but was God. So in a way, God was alive. Then God was dead. Then God was alive.

During Comic Relief this year there was an amazing telly programme called Comic Relief: Famous, Rich and in the Slums. Basically some people off the telly lived for a few days in the Kibera slum in Kenya, one of the worst places to live that humans have created and made their kind live in. This programme showed us what it is like to intentionally live somewhere you do not need to. For a few days. Jesus’ life shows us that it is in God’s character to do the same. Forever. The incarnation is what we call that, that God came to live among us. The resurrection takes the incarnation one step further.

Like the celebrities, God wanted to change the environment, to change the way people lived. Unlike Lenny Henry, who was able to make a huge difference to one family at little real personal cost, God took that filth and rubbish upon himself, at great personal cost; and yet it did not overcome him, he overcame it.  He made possible real change. The provocative resurrection shows us that God steps into the crap we make ourselves live in and is able to transform it.

But isn’t that just a metaphor, a spiritualisation? Does the resurrection mean anything real for people in suffering? Yes. Because it shows us that this world matters. That we do not seek to avoid this world and its pains in order to escape to the next. The resurrection happened here, the new life happened here. Here matters. Matter matters.

But. People suffer. We suffer. We think of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. And countless other things. Can anything real and meaningful be said of God in the midst of that sort of disaster. Nick Baines wrote this:

Christian hope is not derived from a fantasy of personal happiness or security, but rooted in the person of a God who doesn’t spare himself and drives the people who bear his name (and have been grasped by him) away from their own securities and into places of vulnerability. We are not called into the light, but to shed light in the dark places: the distinction matters.

The question of suffering is a big one. But as Nick later writes, we have no right to be spared cancer or hurricane. In our culture we do all we can to eradicate pain and suffering, desperate to control our lives and all influences on them; if we do not choose it, we think it is bad. If things go wrong, God must be absent.

God is not absent. Christians are not called to retreat from pain. God has not given up on this world. The cross is placed right in the middle of the pain of the world, geographically and spiritually. The resurrection challenges and provokes us not to spiritualise our faith, but to earth it; not to make it all about ‘up there’ and avoid the ‘down here’. God came here, chose here, lived here, died here and rose again here.

We must be a part of bringing that resurrection life to people here, both spiritually as people come to know the resurrected Jesus for themselves, and practically in an Isaiah 58 kind of way, as we serve those in the world who live in places desperate for light, any light.

The resurrection is true. The resurrection speaks hope into a world that often seems hopeless. And whilst there is no easy answer to the question of suffering, the question is a lot different when asked to the God of incarnation and resurrection.


mixed up / passion

22 04 2011

There is power in old stories being told over and over again. With the passion story, there is always something new, something fresh, something living; there is creativity in a story that could decay, there is resurrection in the tomb of death.

But we jump ahead. Today, we re-tell death. Today death has the last word.

Today death has been remixed by my friend Lee. 

scaling the monster

20 04 2011

Scaling the monster
Staring at his teeth
Pulling at his nose hairs
And swinging underneath

Climbing over God with a blindfold and a hammer
Because I don’t want him to see me and
I’m not much of a planner so
Maybe I’d be better with a notebook
Or some glasses
But a hammer seemed appropriate
In case God got nasty
or I need to crack his shell

or wake him
shake him
break him

Staring at the monster
Looking in his eyes
Fiddling with his tail
Jumping on his thighs

I’m seeing what he really is
This monster the world fears
Holding tightly to my hammer
I’m unsettled by his tears
So I swing nimbly through the air
And land upon his face
Where I’m perturbed
To see the likeness of our race
Embedded in the wrinkles
And the wisdom of his age
Reflected in the newborn skin
The freshness of a white blank page

The timeless
The ageless
The weakness
The braveness
The fearless
But not, it would appear, the tearless.

Scaling the monster
With a hammer in my hand
I can’t describe the feeling
But it wasn’t what I’d planned
I can poke him prod him ride him
And I won’t end up as food
Because although he certainly isn’t safe
I’ll take the risk that he is good*

(*and just in case I’m wrong
I’ve still got the hammer)

© 2011 Kevin Lewis

Some sort of explanation…

I haven’t written much poetry for ages, it tends to happen when I make time to sit and rest and think… anyway, I wrote this on the first night at Spring Harvest, thinking about approaching God and wanting him to meet with me deeply and profoundly as he did a few years ago in that place, whilst at the same time being scared to let him close enough. Because when he looks me in the eye, I tend to look away first. And he likes to play, especially when we get all serious… 

controlled by cookies

12 04 2011

They know. They are clever. And they never forget.
They remind you. They prompt you. They stalk you.

Do you fear them?

Or do we embrace them?

After all, there is nothing to fear. All they are doing is saying if you liked that, you may also like this. You bought this album, you may like this one. How very lovely, we think, I’ll give it a go. Have a cookie. Thanks for the thought.

boxed in

My recommendations from Amazon are sometimes very useful, sometimes way off the mark (80’s rom coms are not really my scene, it was Fran’s birthday…) (honest). But they are always based on my previous purchases, or things I have shown an interest in. Do they show me anything new? Or do they simply affirm my tastes and keep me in the same box? Does the shuffle on iTunes play things I have played more recently based on what I have played recently, so that gradually the net shrinks and it shuffles the same songs?

I was imagining a Bible app that would do the same. Maybe there is one. You know, one that says

  • ‘as you like *Isaiah 61*, you may also like *Luke 4*’,
  • ‘as you like *Acts 2* you may also like *Joel 2*’ or my favourite,
  • ‘as you like to *misinterpret metaphor in Genesis* you may also like to *misinterpret metaphor in Revelation*’.

Then I thought, don’t we already do that. Don’t we already self-select the books we read, the Bible passages we read, the podcasts we download. Don’t we already take recommendations from our friends who we agree with, and in so doing affirm our own rightness by listening/reading/watching stuff we know we will agree with? I was struck by Nick Baines (not literally) a few weeks ago when he said that he doesn’t read books by people he knows he will agree with, because what’s the point? I guess that’s great for an avid quick reading academic like him, but is it realistic for the rest of us? I am about to start a Tom Wright I bought in 2008. That’s how behind I am with my book pile, and that’s mostly books I know I will like. Though it does include a John MacArthur (I was lent that one).

Given the choice, I will read Rob Bell not John Piper. Given the choice and limited time I am unlikely to critically engage in a meaningful sense with someone I am likely to disagree with. Which is exactly what I criticized people for doing with Rob Bell’s new book, people who slandered it before it was even published.

A challenge for me as part of the affirmation generation, who buy/listen/read things based on computer-generated consumption assumptions and tweets from our global ministry heroes is to break out and break free from being controlled by cookies. To try something new. To read someone I don’t agree with and find something good in it.

As Spring Harvest looms, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunity…!

Meanwhile here are a few more ideas for my ‘affirming your own beliefs’ Bible app. Do add your own..!

  • as you like *sporadically applying Levitical laws when they suit you*, you may also like *The Pharisees*
  • as you like *Luke 10*, you may also like *Deuteronomy 6*
  • as you like *denying bodily resurrection and the new creation*, you may also like *The Sadducees*
  • as you like *sending non-believers to eternal physical torment in hell*, you may also like *Matthew 25.31-46*
  • as you like *to write long letters to church leaders* you may also like *Paul*

the hopes sessions /6/ cracks

8 04 2011


Hopes are rising.

So your life has many cracks.
If God is real, why doesn’t God fill in the cracks?

Because we are not meant to be made of concrete.
We are not meant to be brittle, hard, baked and unbreakable.
We flex. We bend. We bruise.
Sometimes we crack. Sometimes we grow flowers.

God doesn’t make the cracks to grow flowers in.
But God can fill the cracks with flowers.

the hopes sessions /5/ box

7 04 2011

park here

Hopes are rising.

Park in the box we are told.
Then you won’t get told off we are told.
Then you will be safe we are told.

A secret. Hopes are found outside the box.
God is not in the box.
There is no box.

We are not meant to be safe.

the hopes sessions /4/ stump

6 04 2011

when hopes are stumped

Hopes are rising.

Sometimes hopes can be stumped. Cut down. Dead.
There is no life. Only crumbling death.

From that dead stump, new life can grow.
Different life, unexpected life.
Resurrected life.

There is always hope.

the hopes sessions /3/ pillars

5 04 2011

hopes resting

Hopes are rising.

Sometimes hopes can be found in the familiar things.
The familiar sight of a red post box.
The familiar sight of an ordinary life.
The pillars on which our lives are based.

There may well be graffiti, mess and an untidiness to the everyday pillars.
They may sometimes be full of fear. Or shame. Or boredom.
The pillars always have hopes resting on them.

May those hopes be the strongest pillar of all.

the hopes sessions / 2 / doorstep

4 04 2011

hope on the doorstep

Hope is rising.

Sometimes hope can be found right on the doorstep.
Sometimes hope is trampled on.
Sometimes hope is a springboard for more hope.

This doorstep  is where the youth club meets.

the hopes sessions / 1 / fence

3 04 2011

hopes rising

Hope is rising.

This is not where hopes live, but they do flow from here.
We pray they don’t get stuck on the fence on the way out.
Or stuck on the fence on their way in.

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