It is the season of renewal. Flowers are smiling at us. Farmers are busy preparing to plant. Winter wheat is a pretty green and seemingly growing an inch a day. Baby calves with their mothers populate our pastures. It is a time of hope and a time for renewal in our corner of paradise. It is also Holy Week the time of renewal for our Christian faith.
Christ came to give us hope, to grant us forgiveness and a promise of a do-over. Holy Week, a time to refocus on work, family, friends, holidays and travel. There are bigger things at work around us and one bigger than all of us at work for us.
A small group of our friends have been meeting regularly to study the Bible and refocus on the guidance given therein. At the moment we are studying the point in time shortly after Christ's death and resurrection. It is the time when his followers went out into the known world to spread His message of hope and renewal. The spreading of the Word and how it changed how we relate to one another in our daily lives is a rich heritage. It is good to study and reflect so we can make each of our lives better.
The message of Christian renewal wasn't accepted throughout the world in the day of the apostles. The Jews of that day listened but didn't accept the belief that Christ was God on earth and that he was resurrected body and soul. Eventually, though, they evolved over time into the dynamic Judaism that we see today.
The Romans rejected the new Christianity but in time they accepted the faith wholeheartedly and spread it throughout the then known world. Great numbers of gentiles were accepted into the Christian communities and their worship of idols and (to Christians) worship through really revolting sexual practices has largely died out today.
Christianity, though, did not fit too well with the natural inclinations of many in the ancient world. Some 400 years later the Prophet Mohamed appeared and created what eventually evolved to become the Muslim religion that we know today. Conflict between the Muslim and the Christian faith, also the Jews, has ebbed and flowed in intensity over the centuries and may be on the increase today.
In order to gain some insight into the persecution of Christians world wide, I tapped into the website of an organization that calls itself "Christian Persecution Magazine". They claim that in Syria, Islamic militants have launched the "ethnic cleansing of minority Christians" forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the embattled city of Homs and other areas. The Burma Army ransacked a Baptist church and broke up a Christian conference of the predominately Christian Chin community. Thousands of Christians stripped of their citizenship are now being forced out of Sudan. Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia recently declared that it is "necessary to destroy all churches of the region." A court in Edfu, Egypt sentenced the pastor of St. George's Church to six months in prison and a fine of 300 pounds for violations pertaining to the height of his church.
The list goes on. Even in our beloved United States we active professing Christians find ourselves in an interesting position.
Unlike our cousins in Europe, we remain a church-going nation with a majority who believe in God, or at least claim to. At the same time is has become trendy to demagogue the Church. Even our president declares war on faith by trying to force secular beliefs into sectarian Christian faith.
We are still a mostly religious nation but it has become cool to reject Christ or even to come out as an atheist. Atheists are regularly feted by our celebrity culture, appear on television news shows mouthing off on the topics of the day and are heralded as courageous for rejecting several thousand years of considered thought while mocking that considered thought as mythology. I can not pass up the chance to comment that we just celebrated the atheist holiday on April 1st, appropriately known as All Fools Day.
Sadly it seems to me there is a movement afoot to relegate our Judeo/Christian God to a footnote of history.
I sense that every man, woman and child in this world has a god. Even atheists have gods. It may not be the actual risen Lord but everyone has a god.
People need gods. It may be a job. It may be a drug. It may be family. It may be a hobby. (Flying and politics don't count!) Each person's god may be different and it may even be yourself. Everyone puts their faith in something and it becomes their god whether they believe it or not.
Yes, in our country today, many secularists have converted creation itself into their god and they worship God's creation in place of God himself. Rush Limbaugh calls them "environmental wackos." So where do you give your time, your talent and your treasure? Where is your focus? Wherever that might be, it most likely is your god.
This week, then let us fix our focus, our time, our talent and our treasure on Christ's march to Calvary. There the real God was nailed to a cross against his will, was crucified, died and was buried.
Then three days later the most significant event in all of human history took place -- the one that shaped the world in a way no other before or after could.
So today and through the rest of this Holy Week when we focus on work, family, friends, holidays and travel let us keep some perspective about our activities. There are bigger things at work around us and one bigger than all of us at work for us.
That is the way I saw it (with a little help from Erick Erickson.)