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Choices, choices!

February 9, 2013

Too often when I talk about the faith, people do not hear. People young and old, seem to have already made up their mind that Christianity is boring and irrelevant. Perhaps they have been to one or two services and were bored rigid. Perhaps, they just can’t see the point of wasting their time.

This Sunday has a boring, forgettable name. It is the ‘Last Sunday before Lent‘. It is the last before something else, not even something in its own right. But I mustn’t be fooled, the Church is great at hiding great things behind boring words. Sometimes, I suspect that if the Church’s job was actually to hide Jesus from people then it may be far more successful than it is now. But that is a digression for another day.

Back to now. This point in the Christian year is a turning point, the pivot in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus goes up on the mountain and he has a choice (Luke 9.28-36). I often forget that fact, but Jesus always had a choice. On that mountain he knew he was being drawn to Jerusalem for one last time, a time of pain and death. But he had a choice, Jesus could have gone down the way he came and just continued with his ministry. Jesus could have told himself that, “Jerusalem can wait for another year, the 12 are still squabbling and the people don’t really understand yet, perhaps next year, or the year after.”

On that mountain Jesus had a choice. He could have taken up Peter’s offer and settled down on the mountain and let people come to him. He could have stayed at a safe distance from his enemies in Jerusalem.

Jesus had a choice. So do I. I can ignore the hope I have been given, or perhaps just hide myself in the nice bits of the Gospel. I can remain childish and, instead of stepping away from Christmas into painful stories of Lent, I can turn back. I can turn back to a Sunday School faith and think of baby Jesus, and shepherds; happy children and songs.

Like Jesus, I too have a choice. There is a poem by Steve Turner that I think expresses this so well:

Christmas is Really for the Children – Steve Turner

Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
of spring.

Or they’d do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there’s any connection.

Jesus chose the hard road and so must we. Jesus grew up, and so must I, at least in this respect.

My task is now to embrace the hard messages and preparation of Lent. Lent is not an optional extra, and Lent is far more than giving up chocolate so that I can look good on an Easter holiday.

Lent is as important as Christmas or Easter. Without Lent there is the danger that I will never really know anything about the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, death and resurrection. Without Lent I focus on the happy ending while missing all that went before. Indeed, without Lent I miss the whole point of the story; I grasp for the Good News, only for it to slip through my fingers.

Without Lent may faith takes on the character of a fairytale: It becomes a faith where only good things are allowed.

Without Lent my faith becomes more and more irrelevant to the real world of joy and pain, good and evil.

Without Lent I am not ready for Easter.

So I really have only one sensible choice. I have to accept the painful and difficult things. I need to find the foundation that will give a foundation to the Easter hope.

Then perhaps when God says to me, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” I will listen. Then, perhaps, just perhaps, the truth of the Gospel will shine out of me, a bit like the light shone out of Jesus on the mountain top. It hasn’t happened yet, but I live in hope!

  1. Dianna permalink

    You know Nigel I reckon your a bit of a cracked pot so it is impossible that the light of Jesus Christ could ever not shine out of you. It’s just that your not aware of it, lest you should boast. I beg to differ on your comment that Jesus had a choice. Jesus knew before He came what His walk was going to be. He had one purpose and that was to do His Fathers will. I always felt so sorry for Peter when Jesus called him Satan, because i didn’t at that time realise that Satan was using Peter to distract Jesus from His God given purpose. I thank God everyday for my salvation given to me because of the sacrifice of a precious Saviour. God Bless you.

    • Hi Dianna,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you about Peter, I too often feel sorry for him. I also agree that Jesus came to do the will of his Father. However, I do still believe that he had a choice (i.e. was tempted), based on Hebrews 4.15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” (NIV)

      Thank you again.

      God bless,


  2. Thank you for this. I seem to have been assailed by those of all ilks,from Dawkins to tweeters who say we’ve got beyond God & that those of us who think we are weak/closed minded,deluded idiots. I know we should expect this but it does seem to be becoming more overt & hostile. So, thank you again for intelligent exposition.

    • I agree that Dawkins and co. do seem to be getting more and more aggressive, fundamentalist even. However, as someone with a science background (not a professional scientist) I have never found science and faith to be in contradiction to one another. Rather, I have found them to be complementary. Philosophically, militant/fundamentalist atheism is on very shaky ground, at least as shaky as the fantasy that they claim Christianity to be. Perhaps, this is something for a future blog. But given the level of hysteria about on this subject this will have to wait until I have the time to sit down and carefully measure every word!

      God bless,


  3. Great post – I think I see a light shining from the kungfupreacherman.

  4. Just re-read my comment – It obviously still made some sense despite my leaving out the word ‘believe’ in the second line. Thank you again.

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