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By Gordon Abernethy in All Sorts

how do we see ourselves as followers of Christ, the man who had more influence on culture, on the way we live, than any other person, before and since?

Easter for this year is behind us, although many say Easter should last all year. How did we celebrate this most important Christian Festival? Cultural pressures and local events might have influenced the way we spent our time over this extended weekend. Maybe the entertainment and the commercial life has been attractive to us, or it was a chance for a few days away, or a must-see sporting event? The way we fill in our time is our choice.
There is ever more pressure coming from the commercial world to extend the shopping hours over Easter! Who really wants that? We are not shopaholics.
The name of our Christian festival, ‘Easter,’ came from a bygone culture when the early Christians decided to take over the pagan festival of ‘Eoster’, the celebration of coming of Spring. (Northern Hemisphere remember)
Now, as modern-day Christians, how do we see ourselves as followers of Christ, the man who had more influence on culture, on the way we live, than any other person, before and since? As Christians, Jesus Christ is central to our understanding of God and hence ourselves and the world we live in. Jesus Christ was and is the exemplar of spirituality.
Before the coming of Jesus there was no clear expression of the Spirit. In the Hebrew Books the name “Ruark”, conjured up for the people a picture of the powerful energy of God in the world. God’s breath created, inspired, gave leadership, empowered, revealed. To the prophets, Jesus coming as the Messiah, was anointed with God’s Spirit. We, today are also anointed with God’s Spirit.
Many early cultures believed there was a ‘great spirit’ or a number of spirits that led them and the people did not want to offend the spirits. They would often, through their wise man or witch doctor seek permission to cut down a tree or cultivate the land, fearing they would be encroaching on the spirit/s habitat, in a special tree or on a hill, on a mountain top or a cave. Some ‘primitive’ peoples still believe and worship the spirits. We have moved a long way, our worship/religion has, like most of life, evolved to what most, believe its peak. I think it is, like us, still evolving.
Thomas Keating, theologian and writer, realized that in order to contribute positively to the way of the world we each need to be on a personal spiritual journey. He wrote, “We live lives in relation to a false self, the self that is created and conferred on us by culture.”
Theologian Frederick Buechner put it another way,” We live our lives from outside in, rather than from inside out.”
There is much in that idea, but realistically aren’t our lives shaped, primarily by outside influences? ‘We are creatures of our culture,’ is often said. Culture changes over time and we change along with it, adding our piece in our own small way but not often giving much thought to the direction we are heading. If there is something in our culture, we don’t like we can attempt to change it, but before we can do that, we need a radical change within ourselves, a spiritual change perhaps. Another way of putting it is, ‘clean out the garbage that culture has pumped into us in order that we can give back better.’
The Easter Jesus challenges us to a change of heart – to move on living our lives from the inside out.
Our big challenge today is to be exemplars of Christian values, to live out that which we have been taught and that which we preach – the teachings of Jesus Christ - to live in the spirit. Can we be spiritual people? Spirituality transcends normal experiences
“Be Kind.” Those words from our Prime Minister, during the deeper times of the pandemic, is how we should always live.
A spiritual person is a kind person, as a follower of Jesus we cannot be anything else but kind, towards ourselves, towards others, towards all creatures, towards our planet and the whole of the universe.
As Christian and/or spiritually religious people, let kindness be your guiding light. Recognize that we all have the spark of love that is God within us, and learn to honour that love so that we live our lives from the inside out.
Gordon Abernethy 11.4.21