Hope in the Present Tense: Learning Not to Rush to Easter

By Oli Smith on March 22, 2016

As we move from the orbit of Lent into the raw atmosphere of Holy Week, I have been contemplating the ways in which I continue to live as if I were still enslaved to sin. One of the great temptations in church planting is that those involved in it live too much in the future and too little in the present.

The call to plant churches attracts those with the vision and dreams to see something happen that is not currently happening in a particular time and place. The problem is that without regular submission to Christ and a bringing to the forefront of the mind the fact that the King has come to Jerusalem and pronounced “it is finished” on our behalf, it is easy for our visions, dreams and hopes for the future to become tyrannical judges over us.

I can often feel that, because I can’t see the completed work manifested in front of me today, I am somehow a failure, inadequate, less than I should be. Combined with a surrounding culture that demands that we never be satisfied, contended, full or at rest this can lead me, unless I regularly repent, to despair.

So I am taking a Holy Week opportunity to repent. Repenting of wanting to rush the story that God is telling. Repenting of wanting to be somewhere else in the story than where Christ has put me. Repenting of not seeing God in the present, thinking that he is not close but rather somewhere far off in the future. Repenting of a triumphalist Christianity that does not know how to stick it out, cope with adversity or have anything real to say to the person (disciple or not) who is genuinely suffering.

We are told in the gospels that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him when He entered Jerusalem. He knew that the Son of Man would have to suffer and die but He also knew that He would be raised.

How hard it must have been to ride that colt into the city. Even with the crowds chanting Hosanna and singing Psalms there must have been a heaviness in Jesus’ heart, knowing that it was a question of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Was Jesus tempted to turn around? Was He tempted to make a scene there and then and get it all over and done with? Call His legion of angels and inaugurate His Kingdom through force rather than through the giving of himself?  Perhaps.

Yet Jesus chooses none of these temptations. Jesus lives in the present, not withdrawing from the situation before Him and not trying to speed up or control events. Jesus is faithful from Sunday to Sunday when the crowds are with Him, when the leaders are against Him, when the disciples betray and abandon Him, when the thief mocks Him, when darkness covers the land.

We tend to rush to Easter Sunday, wanting it to all be over, wanting to get to the “really good bit”. We tend to not want to reflect on our betrayals of Jesus, our abandonment of His way in exchange for the shiny bauble of our own imagined “better” futures.

As we remember our King coming into Jerusalem all those centuries ago, may we remember to invite Him afresh into our lives and hearts today. May we be people who remember to look and turn to Christ in the present. May we be people who refuse to rush the story or live too much in the future. May we be people who can trust the story and trust our place in it because we know the author intimately. Blessings to you all this Holy Week.

 

About Oli Smith