Life on Mars? Living on Earth?
Today, during this week of lent our reading encourages us to reflect on the lead up to the sacrifice of Jesus and what a fruitful resurrection looks like.
Two thousand and twenty years ago some non-Christians sought Jesus, Andrew was alert to it and made the introduction, along with the established disciples and everyone else in earshot, they heard that it is essential that Jesus will die, that his sacrifice will enable others to see God, and that one life can multiply in fruitfulness, by sharing the Good News, of how much better life can be for more people, when heaven is on earth.
Fifty years ago, in song, David Bowie asked “Is there life on Mars?”.
Around the same time, on TV in Star Trek, Dr McCoy answered “It’s life Jim but not as we know it”.
Today the same question about life on Mars is being asked by the Perseverance Rover which is currently on a mission to seek the answer on the red planet.
Today the same question is being asked as people try to find out about Jesus.
If today some Martians, or more likely, humans were to ask you or me , “What is the Christian Life on earth?” How would you answer? How would I answer? If they visited our church and saw us living our lives what answer would they discover?
To someone who does not yet know God. Our answers could indeed be “It’s Life Jim, but not as you know it”.
Searching into the bible first Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the old testament lectionary reading for today. It tells of God’s new promise of hope, stronger than that, God’s new covenant with his people. Which was “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God achieved this by giving a gift to humankind. Stronger than that, God’s sacrifice was that Jesus lived his life on earth as a human.
So, Jesus demonstrated the Christian life by living it on earth. What was the purpose? “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10, The Message). Everyone and everything living abundantly, all achieving their full potential. How did he show and tell how to do it? “Love God, Love your Neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). “Love each other, this will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35, NLT)
What does the Christian life look like? Stronger than that, exhibit the evidence. God’s new covenant is to create a new person, to create a new community, to create heaven on earth, today. But remember not everyone will read the bible. They will seek their answer by watching what you say and do. “Remember, you might be the only bible some people ever read”. So, living the life of Jesus and demonstrating what Christian life is, is very important indeed. How we live as a Christian community, and how we live as individuals in our community, workplace and home.
So, Jesus says to everyone. I’ll show you the Christian life. “Follow Me” (John 12:26, NIV). Jesus demonstrated Christian living by his actions on earth and explained it in ways that often began “the Kingdom of Heaven is like”…….giving examples in parables that are like cross bearings, jigsaw pieces, components, each showing a small part of the whole picture and giving a taste of Christian life in the round. He gave some specific guidance including The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and The Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and described Love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. He showed and told in different ways for everyone to explore and discover for themselves. This is what Heaven on Earth looks like . You’ll see some astonishing results. Plus, I’ll show you how to deal with difficult times too. Trust. God is there for you. He is your God. You are his people. Always. Listening. Forgiving. Supporting. Just Trust. Just Ask.
So, Jesus says to everyone this is how, “Follow Me”.
But. He emphasises, you must realise that to live God’s way on earth means that there will be occasions when you must swim against the tide, cut across the grain, make a stand against the views of your employers, work mates, friends, family. When you do this it will be uncomfortable, painful, even costly as you may well lose standing based on the values of this world. Even Jesus felt the anxiety of the suffering he had to endure. He was human after all. Maybe he felt the fear, but he did it anyway. (John 12: 27)
But. He emphasises, the Good News is that when you do this it is like a grain of wheat dying. Then seeding. Then growing again to give a plentiful harvest. It’s Heaven on Earth. It’s sometimes counter-intuitive. It’ll transform your life. It’ll transform the lives of those who meet you. It’s resurrection. It will make the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth even more evident to more people. It will help more people to live better lives than they ever dreamed of.
During lockdown a lot of people, like the Greeks in the reading, have been enquiring about faith.
As we emerge to the new reality, as Christians we have the same Mission “to know Jesus better and make him better known”.
How do we demonstrate what it means to be a Christian today by the things we say and do in our home, workplace, church and community? To do it what challenges might we face individually and together as a Christian family?