God In a Secular Age

IS God still relevant in a secular age? What does “secular” really mean? What does “relevant” mean? Such were the challenges put to us in our family/outreach service last Sunday by Maurice Green of Barnet Ecclesia.

We thought about reasons why so many people today reject God and feel disillusioned about religion. UK society has remarkable freedom. But, in the absence of a belief in God, many fail to show responsibility in their use of that freedom. Core values are increasingly lost; everyone does their own thing; values are ever more self-centred; materialism and hedonism abound. It all sounds so much like the days of Noah before the flood.

Very few people in modern society seem to feel the need to take on the responsibilities that go with the great freedoms they enjoy.

That is despite a current of spirituality lurking beneath the surface – a latent interest in the spiritual, a desire for something greater. But it is confounded by an inability to fathom just what it is all about, as described so clearly in Ecclesiastes.

People often point to the hurdles that deter them. Dogma, science, the misbehaviour of believers, the plethora of religions and religion expression – all hindering understanding, keeping them from God’s straight paths. So, faith is cast aside. A tragedy.

Bible teachings could mend our sick society. Jesus described how that could happen in his Sermon on the Mount. “Love your neighbour and love your enemy”. How relevant could that be to modern society! John 1 goes further – Christ shows God’s character to man, and in John 15 Jesus instructs us to abide in him and show him to the people.

The core values of the Gospel mean God IS still relevant. Those values still apply. They still offer benefits. And we hold the key to them!

Even if many in society consider God irrelevant, we, and they, are relevant to God. If we seek a relationship with God, and follow His ways, we can promote His values to those around us through our daily lives.

Maybe we can then make God more relevant to society. We clearly have great work to do!

Carrying Jars of Water

When Jesus wanted to share the last Passover meal with his disciples, he asked them to go to the city of Jerusalem and look out for a man carrying a jar of water, who would meet them, and take them to a safe place (Luke 22:7-13).

As they approached the city, maybe on a hot, dry, dusty day, the man carrying a jar of water must have really stood out from the crowd. He was a man, carrying water. Not what you might expect. He could just as easily have been a man wearing a red tunic, or riding on a white donkey – or a woman selling dates. But he wasn’t, he was a man carrying a jar of water.

A man carrying water, in a jar of clay, probably. A man that was going to show them the way to a room where the Passover could be celebrated, an act of remembrance of a time when God’s chosen people were saved, by daubing the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts of their homes.

The imagery seems very powerful. Here are the disciples, Peter and John, wanting to make the right preparations, as their Lord asked. Here they are in a hot and dusty world, surrounded by people rushing about doing their own business. And out of the crowd comes a man carrying water – in a jar of clay. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes – surely we can see ourselves as that jar of clay. Into which Jesus has poured living water, by which we are saved!

Surely, Jesus is that water carrier – carrying the life giving water, but carrying it in jars of clay – in us. Carrying us towards a meal with him, in a place of safety, a place that has been prepared beforehand, his Kingdom.

So, do we let Jesus carry us? Do we let him carry us towards a new Passover meal, when he will eat bread and drink wine with us anew?

Do we try to emulate him , as he asked us to do, by being like the water carrier, showing forth to others that the water of life is available to all? Do we share that water with each other, strengthening and uplifting each other on the journey towards that wonderful future?

If the water carrier had been carrying his jar of water covertly, hidden under a cloak, would the disciples have recognised him? Do we think the water carrier was smiling, as he met the disciples, welcoming them to follow him? Do we do the same as we meet each other?

We have the opportunity – each and every day. We can hide the water, inside us, or we can show it forth. We can let the water carrier support us, as he carries us towards his feast of the future. And all this is made possible by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – a new Passover, in which the blood of a new sacrificial lamb is shed on wood, the wood of the cross. This little passage in Luke seems to make it very clear what we can do.