March 23, 2016

Is Your Hope Cross-Fingered Or Cross-Shaped?

Is your hope cross-fingered or cross-shaped?  Because right now, after the latest atrocities in Brussels, it matters.

Right now in hundreds of newspapers, blogs, Instagram accounts and Twitter feeds across the world  there is a lot of cross-fingered hope going on. And I’m sorry, but it’s simply not enough.

You see it in the slogans and Twitter feeds.

“Don’t give in to fear”

“Love will defeat hate”

Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, et…(Ok, we get it)

It’s strange how such a modern, evidentialist culture exhibits such blind faith. In the face of the obvious fact that this thing ain’t going away any time soon I find such almost mystical belief a mystery.


Where is the proof? After all, it’s only 70 years since Europe last tore itself apart, such a thing couldn’t possibly happen again on that continent, could it? Course it could.  It’s the modernist’s ironic curse to have faith in the powerful myth of progress, despite the hard evidence of enervating, regressive evil.

Modernists all over the West, who scoff at the idea of a God, are crossing fingers tightly and hoping against experience that this will be the last city, the last crowded platform, the last rush of images across our screens within minutes, that somehow it will be enough.

We are constantly being told not to be afraid.  Not to be afraid of bombers and shooters and executioners who turn up at random train stations and airports and concert venues and take hundreds of lives. To get on with our lives.

Yet, no one says why we should not be afraid, other than the fact that the odds are heavily stacked in our favour. That, given the size of the population, we won’t be the ones affected by the bomb half way across the world. Or affected by the car accident across town for that matter. Or affected by the drowning in the cold, dark dam across the field.

Our shallow Western culture is handy with all of the excuses not to be afraid, but with no evidence to back that up. When will we admit we are kidding ourselves? Kidding ourselves that if we simply say it often enough across enough social media platforms, it will somehow, magically, be true.

Here we are in this most scientific, rational of ages and what are we doing? Crossing our fingers and hoping the bad will somehow all go away via Twitter.  That somehow thinking love will beat hate will actually make it so.

Folks, the reality is that hate appears to be beating the lining out of love at the moment – it’s not even a contest!  If your hope is of the cross-fingered type you have no certain hope at all.

It’s Easter week. Easter week is a cross-shaped hope. And a certain hope.   And not just a cross-shaped hope: a cross-shaped and empty-tombed hope.  You can’t have the one without the other in Easter week.

The word to the women at the empty tomb in Mark 16 is “Do not be afraid.”.  There was much to be afraid of up to that point.  The man they loved, the man who spoke like no other man, did what no other man did, lived like no other man lived, had just died like all too many men have died; at the hands of unjust and brutal rulers.

Yet they are told not to be afraid.  Not because in his meaningless death we can somehow create meaning. Not because he lives on in our ideas and actions.  Not because he somehow even was raised in some spiritual, ghostly sense, to continue his work merely through our embodied existence.

Yet that is what we will read in countless newspapers this weekend. Resurrectionless guff written by church leaders who are paid to not believe in the resurrection – the central event upon which history hinges.  It’s vacuous stuff, and has little to say into atrocities such as Brussels. By the time you’ve lived for half a century of Easters you get sick of reading this cross-fingered hope masquerading as gospel.

The women at the tomb were told not to be afraid not because Jesus would live on in them, but because they would live on in him! That’s the good news right there!

He had risen from the dead, and in the process had undone what we are all, ultimately afraid of; death. Death, whether it be timely in an old folks’ home, or untimely on a crowded Brussels platform, has been dealt a mortal blow.

Death has a use by date.  The clock is ticking for death.  The funeral arrangements are being prepared even as we speak. And if you’re looking for a tomb for death, I hear there’s an empty one to spare.

Jesus’ resurrection proves that flesh and blood humanity does not, in the end, have a use by date. It proves that God loves humans enough to keep them human, even to restore them to human long after death has rotted them away.  He loves seeing real live humans. He hates seeing dead ones.

That’s why he hates seeing human flesh and blood splattered and spilled viciously and carelessly across train stations, airports and refugee camps. Or drained and packaged carefully and clinically in abortion clinics for that matter.

Our hope need not be cross-fingered this Easter, but cross shaped. But if it’s not cross-shaped, let me assure you it can only be cross-fingered.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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