Chocolate Crosses

The air itself feels lethal. So many things… so many pressures leaking into your life, pressing in. Every day mounting as more and more people demand more and more of you, financially, emotionally, physically. You wonder how long it will last… how long before this house of cards you’ve taken all this time to build comes crashing down into ruin. Will you lose your place? Your friends? Yourself?

You’re crying out for hope. Reaching into the unknown darkness for something… anything. You cannot take another moment of it. It will crush you, drive you insane. You’ve been told… heard mention that the churches hold salvation for you. All you need to do, according to the little pamphlet you read and mocked years ago is to submit yourself to Christ. The ABC’s of faith or somesuch.

It’s frightening. You’re there, on the precipice. Do you step off? What if you fall and Jesus is not there? What if you crash and splatter all over the rocks below? Mustering every ounce of courage you have, your reach out… your soul reaches out into the dark nether and you step away…

And you feel it! There! The unmistakable call to the spirit! For a brief moment you are united with eternity and the trust and pain is rewarded! You feel as if floating, magnificent. A calm descends and suddenly you know no matter what happens he is there for you, with you, loves you. The ecstacy of it stays with you, and for the first time in a long time you sleep, like a baby, in the arms of God.

But the next day, you wake up. The house is the same, in need of cleaning. Bills remain unpaid where you left them on the table. The alarm insists despite your feelings to the contrary that you must go to work. And you will be fired if you do not. Another day working, scraping by, paying bills and barely living. Where did God go? Where is Jesus today?

Once again, it feels once again like the Jesus bunny has come and gone. You’ve had a chocolate cross and wonder why you still feel like crap. Isn’t that what faith is supposed to bring? An end to pain? A feeling of peace amidst chaos? The modern church certainly says so. “Come in.” they say, “Feel the spirit of the Lord descend, and have your troubles cease! Live a life full of health and wealth and potlucks!”

All the while you work, you weep, you wonder why God only seems to be hanging around the white, middle class, model American.

I’m here to tell you, that’s not the case. That’s the chocolate cross. The sweet crucifixion.

The crucifixion today is more a crucifiction in most churches. It is clean, sanitized, sterilized. We are removed from it to the point where our pathos is a movie like “The Passion of the Christ”. Certainly the movie has it’s place and is a quality film, but in the end, we leave the theater, hop into our cars and go have lattes while discussing just how awful it must have been for Jesus to endure that. In the end, the message, while powerful, fades into the background noise of our daily life and becomes another sign on the highway.

So are we to become the anguished Christian? To flagellate ourselves and weep daily? Of course not.

However, we do need to recognize that Christianity is not about the chocolate cross. We need to recognize that happiness is a few beers around a barbecue, while Christianity is true faith and work and knowledge of things unseen. As CS Lewis once said “If I want happiness, I’ll go drink a bottle of sherry. If I want faith, I’ll turn to God.”

The Xtian way knows that God doesn’t pay bills, God doesn’t wash away the pain, God doesn’t make your job suck any less. Then what good is God?

That’s the hardest question for the Christian to answer. There is no, one answer.

For some, the answer is simply “God is.” and faith follows. For some it’s knowing someone is there who *did* endure the cross and the pain for us. For some there is the wisdom. For some, they can’t define it but it’s all they have.

I have been amongst all types. I’ve been to the glistening, modern churches full of happy, spiritual, well dressed people. I have been to the converted 1970’s club room churches on folded chairs with recorded Salvation Army band music amongst the castoffs of society. I’ve been among the “best” and “worst” and found that there’s really no difference between the two a few bucks wouldn’t resolve.

What I have found, however, is the desire for the chocolate cross amongst all of them. The cross that tastes good, satisfies the cravings, feels good…

Revelations 10:9

9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” 10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”

Much like the prophecy John spoke of… The scroll tasted sweet, but turned sour in the gut. The chocolate cross is delicious and satisfying, but the underlying import and truth will not make you feel any better. Sometimes, it’ll even ruin your dinner.

The point is, like John with the scroll… Christianity sounds good, sounds fun, sounds…easy. The truth, however… what hits your gut, is not easy at all. It’s not a panacea, nor even pepto bismol. What it is, is truth. If you seek truth, you will find it, for better or worse. It may not sit well in your gut, but it will be there.

If you’re looking for a chocolate cross, you’ll find that as well. Though it’s only a momentary pleasure. The chocolate cross isn’t true, it’s just candy.

So where is the good of Christianity? The good is in the truth, as hard and painful as it might be. We just have to accept we may not know all the answers and why’s and what’s of everything. We may not even know why we have our particular pain. We can take a wild stab, find a bit of a chocolate cross to make wrapping our human minds around it, but the truth is our real comfort. That even though it hurts… even though it seems unbearable… that there is a truth stronger than all of the pain and chaos and confusion… that one thing will stand firm, and even though it may not taste good, it’s there and solid.

It may not be chocolate, but unlike chocolate, tomorrow it won’t be gone. That is the true power of Christianity. The true faith. Not a movie or a remedy, but a truth when everything in life seems a lie. There is the comfort, in the end. Perhaps a hard comfort, but it’s there and it’s good, and it will last beyond our lives.

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