“God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” 1 John 4:16
What became Christianity started off with a Jewish prophet called Jesus. He was born into a world controlled by an invading force – the Roman Empire. He challenged both the political and religious elites of his day, and called people into a new way of living.
Many people believed he was the “Messiah” (the “Christ” in Greek). That word Messiah was a powerful one to the Jews. For some, they thought the Messiah was someone chosen by God to lead the Jewish people into freedom from their Roman oppressors. But the freedom Jesus was calling them into was more than just political liberty.
Jesus taught and lived a life of loving God and loving our neighbour. He was deeply concerned with the inequity of wealth, where some starved and some lived in luxury. He challenged unjust systems in his own society, basing his ministry of healing and preaching on compassion for the poor and those who were shunned by society, such as lepers, prostitutes, people of other religions, criminals, the “unclean”.
As so often happens to those who speak truth to power, the Roman rulers and the Jewish religious leaders were determined to silence him and Jesus was crucified. But the will of God works in ways unknown to human knowledge, and Christians believe that his death on the cross, and the seeming failure of his ministry, was transformed by God into the means by which God saved humanity from it’s own folly. Even those who crucified Jesus can be saved by the transforming love of God.
The stories of the Resurrection, strange and mysterious accounts of the disciples’ encounters with Jesus after they discovered the empty tomb, show us that death was not the end of Jesus’ ministry among us. By showing that love is stronger than death, Jesus enabled his followers to know something of the fullness of life into which all people are called.
So Christians, originally called “followers of the Way” are devoted to worshipping God and his Son Jesus through prayer and praise. Being a Christian is far more than knowing the facts of Jesus’ life, or agreeing to what Christians hold as true. It is a way of living, based on the belief that God is love, and the more we make that love present, the more God is revealed in the world. This practice finds expression in a myriad of different ways: the deep spirituality of the monasteries and convents, the beauty of the orthodox liturgy and music, the simplicity of the spoken word, the mystery of traditional worship. A rich tapestry of styles, all devoted to the love and worship of God.
The gospel of John ends by saying “there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” We believe that is true, because Jesus is at work in us today – and his love will never cease.