Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Easter (The Challenge of Nominal Christianity)

 We received this beautiful picture in the mail last week. Those beautifully decorated Ukrainian eggs surround a very simple yet profound message in ornate Slavic script: "Christ Has Risen!"  If you didn't know better, you might think it was a Gospel pamphlet or an invitation to attend an Easter concert. But this picture was not sent from our church, or even one of the local Orthodox Churches here in Kiev. It is a circular advertisement from a Ukrainian version of a Mini-Mart or a 7-11, unashamedly reminding us of the most important truth in Christianity! Need I mention that the day, "Sunday" (Vaskrisyenye) literally means Resurrection Day?!

Think of the irony of being in a post-Soviet country where there seems to be more freedom to use explicit Christian words in public discourse than in my own home country. No debates here about the dumbing down of politically incorrect words into offenseless (and insipid) expressions. So why are we here in Ukraine instead of back in our increasingly secularized homeland? It might help to open up our little circular. Inside it has several tempting pictures of various foods and beverages (on sale of course) that are guaranteed to make your family Easter celebration an unforgettable (if not praiseworthy) experience.

Nothing wrong with a nice family meal. But a closer look at this and other religious celebrations reveals at best a form of godliness that has little if any connection to the reason why Christ lived, died and arose. In a country with the highest incidence of AIDS in Europe, "Christ has risen" may seem like a feel-good slogan, but hardly a personal reality.

The challenge, as always, lies with those of us who have the Gospel. God always mediates His Gospel through His people. But before we can be compelling messengers of the Good News, we must first be experiencing its transformative power.

Which brings me back to why we are are here. We are here to help pastors make Jesus their treasure and the feeding and training of His flock their passion. We are here to help Ukrainian churches to more deeply understand the message of the Gospel and to live out their union with the Crucified and Risen Christ who transforms selfish people into self-giving servants (Romans 6; Mark 10:45).

Our language preparation is coming to an end next month--but our ministry here is just getting started. And it is possible because we serve a Savior who is not only risen, but is finishing the work He began at Calvary through His Church (Phil. 1:6).

He is risen, indeed!

Jerry and Kellie

P.S. I (Jerry) have been out of commission for a couple of weeks with a nasty respiratory virus. Praise the Lord I am on the mend and getting caught up with responsibilities such as this blog! We will be sending out a Benge Bulletin soon with pictures and updates of recent events. Also, please keep Luda in your prayers. We had a good visit with her in March, but have not recently been able to contact her. And one final note. This is one of the few times when Easter here falls on the same Sunday as it does in the West. So we will be enjoying this one with you (if not a few hours ahead of you!)