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On trial

Those who espouse, enact and live a generous vision will be opposed.

Sometimes, they will be put on trial, and those who conduct the trial will often be people once counted as allies.

From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his vision was opposed by influential people, leading citizens. Around 30 AD, during Passover, Jesus was put on trial by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, fellow Jews.

(Not an insignificant number of Christians discover that it is people within the church who oppose their vision.)

The season of Lent reminds us forcefully of these unwelcome insights.

I encountered them recently watching the TV series, Rev. (Rev is GUC’s guide for the journey through Lent this year.)

Rev Adam Smallbone (the Rev in Rev) envisioned St Saviour’s, his church in inner city London, being a welcoming place for outsiders, and people of different faiths.

While Adam was a little inept, he had a big heart.

Opposition to this vision came from within the church. Some opponents were well-meaning but caught up within the constraints of church bureaucracy; others were merely jealous.

It is not hard to generate good ideas.

It is harder to embody them in action, behaviour, and planning for a different set of goals.

But when they are opposed, the cost is great.

Protagonists of visions, therefore, need inner resources of fortitude, courage, steadfastness, and imagination; and they need to be resilient as they deal with disappointment and betrayal

The reality of living out a vision is portrayed well in Rev.

Adam is plagued with financial concerns about the viability of his church, a lack of support from his superiors, and an offsider, Nigel, who frequently criticises him.

Adam’s energy is spent trying to keep the vision alive while battling his own personal demons. (Those two often go in tandem.)

Adam was betrayed by Nigel, and put on trial for a small misdemeanour; judgement was pronounced by the Bishop of London.

While the gospel accounts do not give us access to the inner workings of Jesus’ mind, we can intuit similar struggles in his ministry. (The temptation scenes and his agonising in the Garden of Gethsemane point to this.)

It’s a sobering picture…

So, ‘why not eat, drink and be merry?’ (a quote from Ecclesiastes 8:15)

Deciding to live out a vision is ultimately not a matter of reasoned thought. It’s not about weighing up the pros and cons.

It’s to do with the heart, with inner conviction.

While it is sensible to weigh up the cost, it is an inner force that drives vision.

The season of Lent reminds us that it is worth listening to that inner voice; worth risking what it foreshadows.

And somewhere in there is a promise about new life.

What visions stirs inside you?