Is regards to worldly horror, is Paris any different to drowned refugee toddlers? To the bombings in Beirut? No. Only a few short months ago, I struggled with the horned mother trucker after a small boy washed up on the beach. Paris, however, has delivered me a new clarity. That light will overcome.
What changed? Well, I had a decidedly trippy God encounter in church (good place to have it) on the Sunday morning after the news of Paris.
There I was, singing away to Hosanna. Dancing a little, which is my thing. My palms may even have been tempted up past my elbows thanks to some excellent drumming and vocals from the musicians at the front.
Recall my journey to G&J: UK-born, Church of England schooled, Christian hangover via new age agnosticism into Sydney Anglican.
It’s an odd mongrel path of faith, not least because I combine British stiff-upper lip with a willingness to pay attention to the songs, signs and symbols that God shoves at me.
As I sang the Hosanna lyrics it all got terribly ‘new age’ in my brain, but really was what the SAP would call holy spirit action. I describe it as God getting cellular because, with a type of bone marrow certainty, He suggested the following as I sang each line:
“I see a near revival, Stirring as we pray and seek….. “
God: Phil, the bombings in Paris, Beirut and beyond, the sight of persecuted refugees, of drowned toddlers, they are the pivotal moment. Stirring you and others as you pray and seek.
“Break my heart for what breaks yours..”
God: Phil, this can be the moment that every heart gets broken by what breaks Mine.
“Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause..”
God: The moment that every Christian begs to be filled with My spirit and turns themselves fully over to My Kingdom’s cause. Phil, what would that look like?
Me: Well, frankly God, as You can see, it literally looks a bit messy (as by this point, my stiff-upper lip has given way to a sort of smiling, sobbing, saline but still joyful singing). But I know what You mean.
It would look like Jesus had come. To all of us. Through all of us. Pretty powerful, don’t you think?
“I see the king of glory, Coming on the clouds with fire.”
Since Paris, you may have seen the phrase ‘Come Lord Jesus Come’ a lot on social media. For those not in the know, this is from Maranatha, an Aramaic word that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.”
Christians use it as a reminder of the hope of the coming of the Lord. In the days of the early church, “Maranatha!” became the common greeting of the oppressed believers. Now it reminds us to keep our eyes on the eternal things of the Spirit.
Early followers of Jesus knew there would be no peace because Jesus had told them so (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51). But they also knew the Lord would be returning to set up His kingdom, and from that truth they drew great comfort. They were constantly reminding and being reminded that the Lord is coming (Luke 21:28; Revelation 22:12). Jesus taught several parables on this same theme of watching and waiting and being prepared for His return (Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-40).
So my blogging and asking God for one more day after Paris had a few UHT Christians giving me gentle guidance. Who was I to ask God to delay the second coming?
Respectfully, I am on the same page as God on this one. It’s His will not mine, His timing not mine. Yet I figure he knew what he was doing when he called a feisty, questioning, direct-marketing, try to sell ice-to-Eskimos, PR personality to Christianity in her forties.
I’m fairly sure He knows I’m always going to push for a few response rate campaign extensions on the Great Commission. Every teenager daughter pushes her Father for just a little extra; I am open and honest with my Abba the same way.
Maranatha may remind me to keep my Christian heart and eyes on the eternal things of spirit and not be soul-swiped by the atrocities of drowned toddlers, bombs and cowardly terrorism. Do I long for him to come on clouds of fire to fulfil my heart ? Yes. But I am human. I have friends who are oh so close to getting to know G&J better than they ever have so I’ve got to be selfishly frank: I’d hate for them to miss out.
So I prayed for one more day after Paris. To keep treading the path and let Jesus spirit fill me so I can try, in my human stumbling way, to do what he would.
As I read vitriol on social media, of trending hate towards Muslims, I believe now more than ever it is Christians especially who need to shine a light in what could become a terrifying darkness. To look in the mirror and pray maranatha:
Come Lord Jesus, Come – fill me. Give me the strength to do what might be tough and hard. To stand up and defend others and not join in the call for eye for an eye. To gently challenge those who may confuse religion with Jesus, who say we shouldn’t even #prayforParis – pray for anything -because prayer is connected to religion and religion causes war.
To be the difference: between man’s twisted religion of rules and Jesus’ actions, teachings and love. To stick to the ultimate two: To love the Lord with all my heart and my neighbour as myself. To not keep quiet when people try to tar that with religious fervour.
To let me pray to You first, then act. To pray for wisdom for leaders, healing for the broken-hearted, and understanding for all. That the love and compassion of your son may be seen in the darkness, and that we remember that his light always overcomes.
I ask this in Your son, Jesus’ name.