We are certainly living within a strange time of uncertainty, and this extends from the future of Scotland to that of the UK, Europe and indeed the whole concept of Western culture. It is there in our politics as new movements arise and generate much interest – possibly, more heat than light – and which of course have the best images and soundbites. Then there is massive uncertainly in our economics: how is global income to be distributed and regulated, and what investments should be preferred? How much to go into public goods (infrastructure) and how much to support the poor and needy and hungry? How are we to secure the public space and peace within our streets and on our borders? And then there are the social relations which come out of all this and which underlie it – and how do these relations reflect moral, cultural and spiritual values?
Yet within all this uncertainty there is also the theme of the love of God, for “God so loved the world” – not in order to generate biblical texts but as a central aspect of His total commitment and dedication to the world as a whole, and in all its parts and aspects – that He gave the best and the most treasured of all that He had and was. And He gave it with a total extravagance, trusting that despite all the pressures and temptations to avoid the central issue, Jesus would follow His earthly life with utter obedience and devotion to God’s will and plan. And there were plenty of temptations to deviate from that will and plan, right up to the moment of His death: “Come down from the cross and we will believe you!” God risked all, but was guaranteed nothing and it all lay with Jesus and His personal obedience.
But more than that, Jesus did not come for the sake of Israel or the church. He came for the world as a whole, in all its current religions and languages, all its states of law and culture, all its social and political and military divisions. Israel was the vehicle and the people through whom Jesus came and the church was and is the result of His coming, but His mission was global.
More than that, Jesus came to meet us within the depths of our hearts and souls. He came to find us in the deepest motivations and desires of our hearts, those aspects which prefer self to the other, which prefer personal power to serving others, which may delight in the harm that it can cause to others, on the basis that it is said to be better to be feared than to be loved. And so Jesus came to redeem and to renew the whole of humanity, one soul at a time. With souls renewed in His salvation, then just laws can be made and applied and just social and political structures and policies can be built. And it starts from the bottom up, for that is the way of salvation and not from the top down which is the way of power and domination.
And yet in the economy of God, Israel was the people through whom God as going to show Himself, first through the patriarchs and then the kings and prophets, and finally in His Son Jesus Christ. Without that revelation in Israel, then there would be no spiritual context or understanding in which to minister. Yet the result of His coming and dying and rising was the church. Not an institution or a special or secret society but the people of God, made new and finding themselves drawn together in Jesus Christ. It comes from all races and languages and is present in all lands and territories – even if in our day they are suffering from pogroms and a form of social and cultural and spiritual cleansing.
The church is part of the plan of God – in its worship and study, in its obedience and outreach, in is relations with its own members. It is defined by God and moved by God, rather than external social or political or economic agendas. The church is part of God’s plan for the world, and it is His plan and His world.
Its duty, and our duty within it, is to continue faithfully in seeking the Lord in all aspects of our lives and to serve one another as we do so. This is what the Feast of the Resurrection is about – and yes, to be an Easter People we must also be ready to be a Good Friday people.