So we’re coming to the end of 40 Acts for this year – though of course, the generosity and love has to continue. It is vital that it continues as we look at the world around us with xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, inequality, oppression, hate, terrorism…Shit, this world seems like a terrible place.
But we have to remember that Easter brings the message that Christ has vanquished all of the hate and sin and death in the world. We are, I feel, experiencing the “death throes” of the reign of Evil, and it is something that has to be lived through, but we must live through it with heads held high, and arms open to all, in the steps of our Master. We mustn’t curl up into a foetal ball screaming at the world to go away (however much we might want to), but we must say “I am here, for all the hurting, broken, scared and hating people, just as God is here”
I have seen this quotation attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and Confucius. It doesn’t really matter who said it, as long as we all light our candle, and hold it high to draw others to the safety and refuge that is Christ.
So. The final two Acts.
ACT N° 39 :: TESTIMONY
People keep their stories to themselves. But sharing stories can be a powerful way to connect with people, motivate them, and rouse them to action in their own lives. You’re full of stories: many of them untold. Don’t keep them – your stories, your ‘testimonies’ – to yourself.
If you have a testimony in mind, pray for an opportunity to tell it.
Keeping your stories to yourself? Take a leap. Talk to your church leadership about ways you can share them with others. Get in touch with groups who could use someone with the experiences you have. Experienced and lived through injustice? Charities could find your story invaluable.
I don’t really talk about my faith, unless asked. And that’s often in very vague terms, probably because I’m afraid of offending people. I certainly don’t think it’s my place to try to convert people to Christianity (sorry if you disagree.) If someone from another faith tried to convert me to their religion I would be slightly (or more than slightly) annoyed. Thus, I reason, if the boot was on the other foot, they might well feel the same. If asked I can explain what my beliefs are, and how they impact on my life, but that’s it. I certainly wouldn’t tell others that they are wrong in their beliefs, and I am right (which is, essentioally, what trying to convert someone is).
I also don’t believe that everyone who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to hell. So there goes the “urgency” to convert people. Sorry (again!) if you believe otherwise, but there you go.
But, if God gives me the occasion to talk about my faith in future, I will try to be braver and more dynamic.
ACT N° 40: DELIVERY
Prepare to celebrate. You’ve done it, but He did it first.
Spend five minutes reading Romans 12 today and be refreshed and re-inspired by the words.
Think back over the last seven weeks. What sacrifices have you made that could be repeated during this last day of 40acts in order to be generous to your neighbours?
What has your 40acts journey highlighted? Can you see patterns in the way you’ve used your time, talents and finances? What more could you do with them? Have you made temporary sacrifices in the last seven weeks that should become permanent?
Oh, great, I thought. Paul. With his convoluted sentences and tricksy theology. I really can’t face reading a chapter (a whole chapter?!) of Paul.
And I clicked reluctantly on Bible Gateway…and something led me to choose the translation from “The Message“…which made it clearer and actually, at one point, made me chuckle. I urge you to read it yourself.
The question Have you made temporary sacrifices in the last seven weeks that should become permanent? links with the line that made me chuckle:
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath…. don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Now, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, saying that Mr FD is one of my enemies, but the challenge that I have faced is that of forgiving him when he hasn’t done stuff I think he should have done, or doesn’t do it how I think it should be done, or does stuff that I think he shouldn’t have done…You get the picture. But when I do forgive him, I often do it with a mardy face, or a muttered something to myself… I think you see where I’m going with this one!
Finally, I leave you with the words that sum up what 40 Acts has been about:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
This world is full of hate and despair; we could, so easily, be dragged down to its level. We could, so easily, “fit in without even thinking”. But – if we let him – God can bring the best out of us, he can make us what we were born to be: fully rounded human beings.
A line from a Jim Cotter prayer:
God’s glory is a human being fully alive
Let’s get out there and live for him.