Go to an American diner for breakfast and chances are that you will be asked how you would like your eggs. The most popular option is Sunny Side Up (I know we Brits prefer more explicitly culinary terms like fried or poached).
In asking for our eggs Sunny Side Up we are in some ways suggesting that breakfast is an optimistic meal, it sets us up for the day. The Brits have also been encouraged to regard breakfast with, as psychologists may put it, unconditional positive regard. We may not ask for our eggs Sunny Side Up, but, we have been encouraged to ‘go to work on an egg.’ (If your are less than 45 you may not remember this strap line!)
Sunny Side Up provides an interesting parallel to a particular Christian narrative, one that goes something like this: Become a Christian, enter ever deeper into a relationship with the Divine, grow in faith, be blessed with an increase in the Fruits of the Spirit, become (alongside you worshiping community) a visible witness to the transformed life, encourage existing fellow believers and, in time, attract others (non believers) to the Christian faith.
There is nothing wrong with this narrative, in fact there is a lot right with it, for in short it is called hope, and, hope, fed by faith, and revealed through love, is a distinctively Christian virtue. So please do not for one minute think that I am dismissing this narrative for, like many, it is part of my own story. Every single Christian, after all, has at some stage been evangelized.
But, unfortunately it is an incomplete account of what real Christian life may be like, for living as Christians, also means living in the midst of darkness and, let’s not be too prissy about this, downright evil. Unfortunately, evil is not an abstract concept, something out there which fails to relate to us. Evil, like love (which always wins in the end) is perhaps better viewed as a relational verb, as opposed to an abstract noun. Holy Week surely teaches us this, for Jesus in Holy Week, becomes the very human focus for all that is evil.
But, we must not fall into the romantic trap of thinking ‘job done’ we are free from all that is dark, or evil, Jesus has done it all for us. We must continue to live in hope, whilst recognizing that hope itself is only meaningful as an antidote to darkness (just like faith is the antidote to unbelief and, love to hate). If everything was perpetually rosy, we wouldn’t need to live in hope.
In Holy Week Jesus was brutalized by both the faith community (surely this couldn’t happen today?!) and, their political masters. Whilst Christians rightly live in hope both for themselves and others, we must also understand that the transformed life will also attract ridicule, rejection and downright evil. Pointing towards Christ is a risky business. Just ask Lazarus, for in Monday’s gospel reading we are given the following deeply disturbing detail:
‘When the crowd of Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many Jews were deserting and believing in Jesus,’ (John 12, 11).
History does not tell us what happened next; did Lazarus survive or, was he (not Steven) the first Christian martyr?
Can you live Sunny Side Up, in the midst of darkness?