I hope everyone is ready for it and is eagerly anticipating the special day. Around the world, huge numbers of people, probably millions, are getting ready and as I type this with the countdown clock in front of me it reads: 28 days, 14 hours, 16 minutes and the seconds are ticking away. What is this great event that millions are preparing for? World Maths day 2022! March 23rd. If you don’t believe me type that phrase into your web browser and see for yourself.
I’m frequently surprised by the things that other people get excited about. I have learned to hide my surprise because people can get very shirty when they think you think they are a bit odd!
When I was a chaplain I was taught, at a very prestigious military establishment in Camberley, how to iron clothing correctly. Do you know about EI? No. You don’t know what you are missing. EI is extreme ironing. Ironing in extreme conditions. Look on the internet and you will find; ironing on the side of a mountain, ironing whilst free-fall parachuting, ironing while water skiing, whilst skating on ice and even whilst flying a powered hang glider. There are many more to look at online. There are even a few strange ones!
What has this to do with a church newsletter as we are about to enter the season of Lent? Everything. When we talk to people about our faith the seasons of Advent, Lent, Easter etc they probably think we are a bit odd. They may be generous and accept our oddities as long as we don’t try to push our interests on to them, or they may dismiss us as eccentrics.
What we have to accept, and acknowledge, is that for the average non-church goer religion is all a bit strange. Many of our church habits; sitting in lines, standing to sing, listening to someone talk from the front, putting hands together and bowing our head when told to pray and then looking up again when given that mysterious signal, “Amen.”
We shouldn’t worry about this. Religious believers always stick out from the crowd for a variety of reasons. Christian believers stick out even more, because of the man we follow. Being seen as different or even odd isn’t necessarily a bad thing. IF, big IF, the difference or oddness is because we are doing something good or positive; especially when it is for the benefit of others.
Imagine the Jew being told by a Roman soldier to carry his kit for one mile; which was permitted by Roman law. At the end of one mile, he volunteered to go a second mile. What would the soldier think when he found out the Jew had become a follower of Jesus? Or if someone saw Christians caring for the injured or poorly in their church but then noticed they were caring for people who hated them and had tried to harm them?
Or the strange behaviour of Gordon Wilson, who lay buried under rubble with his dying daughter after an IRA bomb exploded at the remembrance day service in Enniskillen. Hours after when interviewed by the media said: “I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge.” So astonished were people at his reaction, it was reported around the world; along with the comment that Gordon was a Christian!
Trying to communicate faith is difficult; it is much easier and more effective when word, life and behaviour are consistent with the example set by the man we follow.