Maranatha in the mirror. Hosanna

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. images-1

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.

Amen.

 

After Paris, Lord, please give me one more day.

There is a lyric sung by City Harmonic: “Praise the Lord, when you’re on top of the world.” Then the next verse: “Praise the Lord, with the world on your shoulders…when it seems too hard.”

Photo: Mike Baird / Twitter
Photo: Mike Baird / Twitter

It’s easy to be joyful and gracious and filled with gratitude towards God when life is going well. But in the middle of long, dark tracts of hardship, it’s easy to forget to praise Him.

Today, as I stood in church, my head filled with images of terrorist attacks in Paris, we sang another song of worship. It reminded me that despite my being world wearied, light has overcome the darkness already. Jesus, with his love of sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, the weary, the down-trodden and the broken, is restored. He sits at the Father’s right hand. He overcame death – and this world I live in, the one that tears at me and bewilders me one day, whilst making me smile and exclaim the next, is but a veil.

When Jesus overcame death for me and asked if I would know who he was, he didn’t promise me an easy this life. But he does promise a joy-filled next one. While the war of light over darkness has been won in the heavens, there’s a mopping up process here below. Where darkness still creeps in.

Paris mourned in darkness. And the rest of the world lit up in solidarity. Jesus is on the throne, and while Paris, and Lebanon, and Kenya and more in this world breaks his heart and mine, I’m thankful he’s not swooping down treading ‘the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty’ yet.

Because it gives me another day. To praise him and ‘walk the talk’ that Jesus is more than religion. That I can try each new day to be more like him. To invite someone to church who is feeling challenged by life and have them accept because, “well, Phil, you’re not one of those shiny, stereotypical Christians so maybe I will.” And when they come they learn love, support, hope and redemption and everything that is a million miles from the scary Christian stereotypes they hold.

So, after Paris, even as my heart breaks and I want to whisper, “Come Lord Jesus, come” for Revelation’s warrior Prince, instead I pray for one more day. And another. And another. Because there is still work to be done. People who I want to see in eternity with me. Who carry heavy burdens. How do I get to share the news of Jesus’ lighter yoke if he swoops in tomorrow as my warrior Lord?