Living Questionable lives.
I’ve been really caught recently by the idea of as Christians - “Living Questionable Lives”. It’s a deliberate play on words – it sounds like living a dodgy life, but it actually means living an unusual life that causes people to ask,’ Why does he do that It simultaneously sounds like something exciting – how can my faith make my life more interesting; and also sounds like it could be a bit showy and false. I think we can get beyond the danger of false and showy by really thinking about how does my relationship with Jesus change the way I live? Another way of saying that would be to say, “How do the values of God’s Kingdom cause me to live differently?”
Ok so differently from what? Different from what is mainstream for you. How do the values of God’s Kingdom cause me to live differently from the cultural sea I live in?
For example, – How do I treat homeless people on the street? What do I do with my rubbish? What do I wear? Maree was telling me that she gets into lots of conversations just because she wears a cross – it might be as simple as that.
In lent we are going to have a discipleship series looking at ways to live questionable lives. Michael frost has written a great little book called “Surprise the world”, that we are going to use as a basis of the course. Michael suggests that for most of us the best way to share our faith, is to be prepared to answer our friends when they ask us a genuine question? Peter says – always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3.15. Paul says we should know how to answer those who ask us questions Colossian 4.6.
Sometimes people ask questions that deserve an honest answer about our faith – and we are too embarrassed to answer. But question and answer is often the best way to learn faith. In question and answer you don’t have to say, “you should”, you can simply say, ‘this is what I do’. People used to ask me why I came to Tauranga, it was easy to say, ‘for the beaches.’ But actually the truth is that I felt God leading me here, calling me here.
Lent can be a great time to do something different, to focus on God, but also to prompt questions. There is a balance between edgy lent and weird. Like the difference between togs and undies. I’m going to give up bread for Lent, to remind me that man does not live on bread alone. I’ve always wondered about going shoeless, but eating with just my fingers that would probably be weird for me!
Mario the Minister from Te Puke was telling me the story of a South African Pastor who went around Europe cleaning up and repairing Jewish cemeteries. When he was asked why he did it, he would talk of his desire for reconciliation between Jews and Christians.
So over the next few weeks we are going to look at some questions that were asked around the last days of Jesus’ life.
1. Why this waste? – Matt 26.8 When an unnamed woman at Bethany, anointed Jesus with a whole vial of beautiful perfume it caused questions. The disciples asked “Why this Waste?” - I suggest this as a focus for the start of Lent. What do we waste time and money on, for God? What would our neighbour see as waste, but we don’t see as waste? Next week we are going to hear about some people’s mission trips that some people would ask – why would you waste your time doing that?
In our country, many people see religion as a kind of social service club, and they value that. But spending money on worship? – that’s questionable at a whole other level? Giving money to God, or your church, for worship; why would you give time and money to worship? But I think it honours God when we build beautiful churches. Westminster Abbey makes a powerful statement. I think it honours God when we write and sing beautiful songs. Handel’s’ Messiah makes a powerful statement. And it honours God when we serve the poor and needy of his world. Jesus didn’t see worship was wasteful, even though it produces no economic value.
2. Surely not I, Lord? Matt 26. 22 At the last supper, the disciples “Asked, surely not I?” Jesus had said that, one of those who were with him, would betray him. Maybe this is a question that our community asks? In what ways do we betray the memory of Jesus. Do we exploit Jesus to our own benefit? Does our community ask whether we are not using Jesus a bit like Judas did. In 2005 Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton coined the phrase Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, as a summary of the way that many American teenagers saw there faith. These teenagers seemed to believe in a God, whomade the world and gave us some rules, and basically he wants us to be nice to each other. But they saw life as being primarily aboutbeing happy and God is really here to help us be happy. They see God as primarily someone who can becalled upon in our times of need. In their thinking the ideas of union with Christ, holiness, justice and God’s Kingdom were replaced by the idea of a therapeutic god. When we create a God who only serves our needs, maybe we are doing what Judas did. Using Jesus for our agenda, rather than letting him set our agenda. In what ways do we betray Jesus? – Jesus the living God, who wants to set the agenda in our lives, not just be a tool for our agenda.
I believe that the most important question we can ever ask in life is “Do I believe in God?” Most people avoid that Question. I pray that my life and actions encourage people to ask themselves that question. “Do you believe there is a God?”
Because once you have asked that question – there are 3 inevitable questions that follow.
If I believe in God, what sort of God do I believe in?
Directly or indirectly do I believe that Jesus personifies God.
Second subsequent question, If Jesus is what God is like, then what does he require of me?
Third subsequent question, Now, what am I going to do about that?
I believe our world is full of people who avoid the first question – who let pseudo-science answer it for them.
May our lives beg the question.
Let’s return to the start of the scripture. It’s a fascinating description of two levels of the world at work. Verse 1 – Jesus has finished his teaching ministry. And then he describes what is about to happen.
Firstly, I’m utterly convinced that Jesus knew he was going to die and believed that God had a point to it, through his scripture study I believe he had absorbed Isaiah and saw that the Messiah had to die. I also believe that he had the closest relationship in prayer with God, and that his father had spoken many times to him about his impending death.
Secondly we hear the forces of evil plotting. As if they were in control. We need to arrest him in some sly way. But not at the festival. Strange because they do arrest him in some sly way. But they muck the timing and they do it during the biggest festival of the year. The scripture contrasts the scheming of little men with the planning of a big God.
Here’s the crunch. Jesus got pushback because the forces of darkness didn’t like what he was doing. He threatened them and so they plotted against him – the earthly and spiritual forces of darkness. We might ask, is there anything in my life that the forces of darkness are offended by. Is my life a threat to the forces of darkness, or do I have my head down so far that no demon would bother ailing me?
Sometimes when things go wrong for us as Christians it’s just life, or it’s something dumb we’re doing. But, sometimes it is because we are under attack for doing something right; it’s because our lives are making a difference for Jesus. I’m so proud of my friend Lydia Hollister- Jones she’s heading to Cambodia next month to work with an agency called Haggar to help people who have been rescued from modern day slavery. She’s putting her head above the parapet, and she will expect opposition and I’m going to pray for her. Next week you’ll hear some more stories of people putting their heads above the parapet.
But let me finish by rephrasing my first question. Does the way I live my life cause the forces of darkness any concern. Am I living a questionable life?