Saturday, March 26, 2005

Disorientation and Reorientation

Easter Sunday is generally the high attendance mark for the year at most churches. The week after Easter is also often the lowest attendance Sunday of the year. As a result some churches go to extreme lengths to do something "exciting" on the Sunday following Easter. Church growth analysts work tirelessly to discover the reason for this post-Easter slump.
Fred Craddock suggests that the answer has to do with the sense of "disorientation" that follows Easter. His idea is that the disciples were oriented by their faith in Jesus and they were secure in their role as followers. Then the cross caught them by surprise (although Jesus warned them), and they slipped into a state of disorientation. Then when Jesus rose from the dead the disciples were reoriented in the security of the risen Jesus. But then before they could get too comfortable, Jesus ascended and they were thrown into another state of disorientation. This tension between the presence and absence of Jesus is something all disciples must learn to navigate in their life of faith.
God does not overpower us with his presence, rather he wants us to trust him without the overwhelming sense of his presence. C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, has Uncle Screwtape share some powerful insights about God's presence and absence. "You must have often wondered why the enemy [God] does not make more use of his power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree he chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistible and the indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbid him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as his felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For his ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve...Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs - to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish...He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand..Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."
What a powerful description of Jesus - and of all who follow him closely. That is the life that has been disoriented by the gospel and then successfully reoriented by that same gospel!

1 comment:

Adam said...

Now, be honest. Did you read that quote out of the Screwtape Letters, or off of the first page of Divine Conspiracy