Timehope?

We can’t believe the age of our children, the length of time we’ve been in our house or how long it has been since we got married. Amnesia has reached an epidemic level. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are full of old photos reminding us of the passing of time. I’m glad there were no smart phones in my pleated trouser days

TimehopEveryone’s resembling Victor Meldrew at the minute. We can’t believe the age of our children, the length of time we’ve been in our house or how long it has been since we got married. Amnesia has reached an epidemic level. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are full of old photos reminding us of the passing of time. I’m glad there were no smart phones in my pleated trouser days. The Timehop fascination creates a mix of reactions. Being reminded of the past is a sensitive subject. Apparently the app was inspired by the feature in Mario Kart where you could race Maya’s ghost (your previous race) and see how you were getting on. “How am I progressing with the passing of time?” is something we’ve always wanted to measure. A nagging question that plays on repeat. It causes some to get their picture taken for Weight Watchers in last year’s jeans and others to dread a school reunion. “Where was I checking in this time last year? Who was I with and am I better or worse off now?”

I used to be frustrated with people who lived in the past. Working in a church context means that you encounter them a lot! Sorry, I should say “us” a lot. Truth is, I want to go back. Grief makes me long for days that have gone. Days with Dad and great times as family that are a part of my past. I’m beginning to appreciate more the nostalgic desire to go backwards. I just don’t want my undercut, train-track braces, shell suit or tassled shoes to be unearthed!  I think about BBQs at Brown’s Bay and the smell of coins from the cash register on the bus Dad drove, the way he wrestled with our boys, laughed at them when they were misbehaving and added cream to dessert that definitely did not need more cream. Time has passed and I can’t believe it. I want to go back.

Where should I turn? Anti-ageing cream has limits. No matter how much is applied (apparently) it cannot reverse the tick, tick, tick of time. It has no power to restore the Timehop days. As a Christian, I believe that knowing Jesus takes me back (and forward) in hope. I believe He was there in the beginning when God looked at creation and saw that it was good. The perfection of those initial days are etched into every human life. A memory of how things should be that motivates our complaints and sensitises us to the brokenness of life. There’s an echo of Eden in everyone. We have a God-given memory of a world without pain. We long to ‘Timehop’ to those days before separation from God and all the other consequences of sin. Everyone complains. We’re all disgruntled. Loss has not discriminated and its impact is universal. The Good News we find in the pages of the Bible is that God provides a Redeemer. One who has power to undo the sadness, heal our hurts and restore to us the reality of perfection that we know is lost. The Bible reveals to us that Jesus’ biggest frustration was with the religious types who pretended life was ‘fine’. He reserved His harshest words for the people around church who gave off the impression that they had no needs. To be a Christian, all you need is need. Jesus made it clear that hunger for a right world was a blessed position to be in. He said

blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

The inner throwback in all of us is to a perfect day without pain, without tears, without sickness and death. We grieve now because we’re all too aware that this perfection is not our reality. It has passed.

At The Cross, Jesus assures me of His ability to undo the pain and sadness we encounter in this life. He experiences death and has victory over it. Jesus calls me forward in hope. God is not in the business of evading suffering or dodging death. He overcomes it. He recovers what has been lost. He redeems the former day. God’s way is not to erase and start again. He resurrects. Our hope is not for ‘all new things’ our hope is for ‘all things new.’ His victory over the grave shows how capable God is of renewal. Christian belief is that the best days are always ahead. The good old day will be restored!

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [Revelation 21:3-5]

… no matter how much the Victor Meldrew in me struggles to believe it.

Sing when you’re gutted?

One of the hardest chants to be on the receiving end of at a football match is “you’re not singing anymore” It’s horrible to hear this when you’re team has gone from a winning position to being in a losing one. It’s so hard to listen to. “You only sing when you’re winning” is a fair enough description of how our lives play out in the day to day. We’re often at the mercy of our circumstances, our motivation to sing can be snatched from us by a deflected goal. Peter instructs first century Christians to ‘rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials.’ This is a call to sing and worship God at all times. So should we just put on a brave face and sing when we’re clearly losing? Should we grin and bear it in order to appear more spiritual?

No. Peter calls our attention to a victory that is assured. He says that we have a ‘living hope’ because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He points out that the final outcome of the cross guarantees a result for those who trust in it. “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable…” There is no sell by date or manufacturer’s warranty on the victory that was accomplished at the cross. It’s lasting. Peter says God’s people always have reason to sing because the victory is not in doubt and cannot be snatched from us by a last minute screamer from Ronaldo (sorry City fans.)

Peter didn’t always see it this way. He wanted to stop the cross at all costs. He tried to persuade Jesus not to go there. He cut off the ear of one of the mob who came to arrest Jesus. He denied even knowing Jesus. The thing that Peter once tried hardest to prevent became the thing that he gave his life to proclaim. There was a point in his life when Peter could see no sense at all in Jesus being nailed to a Roman Cross or lying dead in a tomb, it seemed like such a waste of potential. The resurrection changed everything.

Every buried hope and shattered dream we have, needs to be viewed in light of the cross. We face trials and hardship all the time as God’s people. Our province has been plunged into real despair by the tragic deaths of Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence – as well as the recent death of Fermanagh GAA player, Brian Og Maguire. There are no easy answers or explanations to satisfy the huge questions that are raised by horrific circumstances such as these (or other personal disappointments we face that never make the headlines.) Our only hope is to look at the cross and pray that one day in God’s eternal plan we would see these situations differently than the way we see them now. That we would boast in God’s ability to overcome evil with good. That we would realise how we see things is flawed and limited in comparison to God’s perspective. The Bible gives airplay to a different version of events, and calls us to trust beyond what our eyes can see. Jesus death on the cross offers us an imperishable inheritance that will never fade. Victory is not in doubt. We can sing.