God’s grace in all contexts

matt juliusThis month Crosslight welcomes Matt Julius, a student at Pilgrim Theological College, a barista at a Uniting Church-run café, and a novice preacher.

Occasionally I sit back and reflect on just how patently ridiculous Easter is. The Christian claim is that a first century Jew wandered around preaching salvation, and enacted God’s love in bloody execution.

Perhaps more intriguingly, this bloodied execution is not understood as the end of the story. Somehow the story goes on. Somehow this Jesus who died on the cross confronts us with a word of greeting: chairete!

You can see the moment reflected on this month’s cover in an icon painted by Peter Blackwood, who also answers a few questions about the work and his commitment to the artistic form of icons on page 20.

How we interpret this greeting from a crucified Messiah is varied, as this month’s centre page feature of three Easter reflections shows us. It is as if we are presented with a set of questions, and rarely a set of clear answers.

As we seek to respond to the ongoing greeting of the crucified Messiah we seek ways to explore a new and renewed life. This new and renewed life embraces people beyond the narrow confines of cultures; it impacts how we relate to our peers, it engages families, and it leads us to pursue justice and care for everyone.

Crosslight’s new regular family section (pages 12-13) aims to show how this renewing life inspires ministries across generations and cultures. Old and new methods can be used to spread the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We explore church signage (page 22), as well as modern digital means of communication, in the new  round-up of social media on page 27.

However, for those of us too young to remember a church placed in the centre of social life, the ongoing outworking of the Easter message is strange. It no longer fits neatly into the cultural assumptions many have grown up with. What is often seen as a change, for those of us too young to remember, is simply the way things are.

Despite the very real difficulties the church faces, we are in some ways fortunate that the church no longer occupies a central place in society. The church and its message have become strange again.

As the church becomes strange, perhaps we can better appreciate how remarkable it is that the story of Easter continues to unfold. Those of us who occupy the younger demographic in the church have opted in to the life of the church (society has moved past church as a default from which we “opt-out”). We are challenged to take seriously how faith touches us personally, and so are driven to telling our own stories of faith, and hearing the stories of others.

Recalling the beginnings of the Uniting Church, we are brought into encounter with Christ’s strange way.

And the strangeness greets us.

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