That’s what I want, to encourage curiosity

By Riverine Herald

New Life Baptist

Pastor Jonathon Schroder

Easter service times:

Good Friday — 6pm

Easter Sunday — 10.30am

■ How/when did you personally become a Christian and when did the Easter story first become real for you?

Although being raised around faith, at around 18-years-old I was struck with the idea that if Christ truly had given up so much for me, I’d better decide what I thought about him. Either I should discard faith altogether, or take it seriously. I decided upon option B and I’ve never regretted it for a minute. Jesus Christ gives my life meaning, joy and purpose.

I’m uncertain when the Easter story first became real, I only know that it gets more and more special each year as I increase in awareness of how amazing grace is. The idea that God came down to repair the disconnect with His creation leaves me in awe. I am the most unlikely person to wind up a minister of religion, and if God can use me, no one is too far gone!

■ What would you say to people who are sceptical of the Easter story – those who say it sounds unbelievable?

I’d be the first person to encourage some wariness; it’s not a good time to be naive! It is reported that Australians have lost over $15 million with online scams so far in 2019. We’re in an age where a degree of suspicion is wise. I’d never look down on anyone for applying rigorous testing to new concepts or ideas. That’s being smart.

However, just being sceptical for the sake of it doesn’t achieve much. Dallas Williard suggests, “we live in a culture [where] the sceptical person is always smarter than one who believes”. My perspective is this: scepticism can be a useful vehicle, but it’s not usually a great destination. While it would be foolish to just take my word for it, it might also be bizarre to declare oneself a sceptic before doing any real investigation. I’d strongly encourage people to check out the claims of Christ, and find out for themselves whether there’s any legitimacy to them.

■ How does your church observe Easter? Has this changed much over the years you have been involved as a minister of your church?

Easter has become a very special time at New Life. We have introduced a Good Friday service in the past couple of years, a new thing for us. It is a reflective service, as we consider the death of Christ. It happens in the evening, and afterwards we all go out for a meal together. This becomes a wonderful atmosphere for families, and just building friendships. Then on Easter Sunday, it’s all about celebrating the resurrection!

Additionally, for a number of years, the baptist church ran a family fun event on Good Friday that raised money for the Royal Children’s Hospital appeal. This was a great success in that it raised substantial funds for RCH, but it hasn’t happened in recent years. It would be wonderful to see it re-instated in some form or another.

■ Is the message being diluted, even lost, in the commercial white noise around record chocolate sales?

Probably, but I don’t think that trend is likely to change, so I’m not preoccupied with it. My focus with surrounding culture is to avoid obsessions with how dark things are becoming, and instead focus on being light (the positive gospel difference that I believe in). Personally then, I have very little interest in preaching against what’s happening in the cultural areas that are outside my control, and far more interest in living out an example. In principle, I want to be far louder about what I am for, rather than what

I am against. So, the chocolate aspect for me is not a big emphasis.

■ If you could talk to everyone in town, what would be the single most important message you would share with them?

I have no expectations of people talking about me come (the year) 4038. So it’s worth asking why we’re still talking about Jesus Christ 2019 years on from His birth. Why are calendars fashioned around Him; why the enduring influence; why are two billion people today still convinced He was something more than ordinary? It’s possible that a lot of folks who identify as believers are deceived, but two billion is an awful lot!

If I were an outsider looking in, I’d have to at least be curious. That’s what I’d want to encourage, curiosity. Just be curious. Just look into it. Don’t write something off before checking it out. Whatever call people make of Jesus Christ is their prerogative. Before discarding Him however, I’d urge people to do due diligence to ensure they’re not missing out on something that truly matters.

From previous page

■ Is the message being diluted, even lost, in the commercial white noise around record chocolate sales?

‘‘No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, nor stain the joy of the cosmic dance, which is always there”. (Thomas Merton OCSO) I am ambivalent re the “commercial white noise around record chocolate sales”. An example was the reaction of people when parishioners had the courage to continue daily life with the Lenten ashes still obvious on their forehead. The comments and questions at least helped educate. Perhaps chocolate sales can have a similar affect. The ‘message’ as far as I can ascertain is diluted in the immature quality of reading matter available, shallow presentations offered on TV and our Australian fear of pondering any topic outside sport and the weather.

■ If you could talk to everyone in town, what would be the single most important message you would share with them?

Unfortunately for many generations Christians saw their time here as a test for entering heaven. My Easter message is that we are all invited to take place as co-creators in God’s evolutionary plan for creation. For Teilhard, the Christ project is why God created the evolving universe in the first place. And for theologians today it’s not just that individuals would be “saved’, but as a human family we work together in the creative work of the Universal Being. The Eternal Christ came to us in human form as Jesus, inviting us in the way he lived and died to acknowledge our oneness with the Creator. “The Risen Jesus is the divine presence beyond any confines of space and time. The Eternal Christ appeared in a personal form that humans came to know and love as ‘Jesus’. The Resurrection is not so much a miracle as it is an apparition of what has always been true and will always be true” (Richard Rohr, OFM).