In preparing for recording an album, I reflected a little on the many varieties of Christians I’ve worshiped God beside over the past few years since my theology degree. The Christian church splits into a multitude of denominations, larger categories and local congregations. But it’s the very variety that I love – and, like God’s natural world, just when I think I’ve gotten to creating a mental sub-species chart, I meet a group of Christians that blow me away (both current and past).
One such experience was had in Sicily. Our history professor and my boss, “Dr Hutcho” travelled around Italy on mission with my husband and I (actually, to say we traveled with him is probably more correct). The point is that his voice still runs as a commentary alongside the pictures in my mind. Priceless. In Agrigento, a spectacular ancient Greek city, we found a badly-signposted set of catacombs. Walking through the caves, we had to stoop as the roof lowered further into the darkness. Some of the graves were revealed, showing how ancient Christians first laid bodies in the ground, waiting for the Saviour’s return. On a wall was a little sign written in Italian, a candle illuminating the text; “The early church worshiped here under heavy persecution”. As Bible students we gasped and stopped to marvel. This was a church?! We were astonished … however, in my attached commentary, Dr Hutcho can be heard announcing this as a commonly-believed fallacy, and, seeing as he is a history professor, I trust him – but only reluctantly, as the picture of huddled Christians praying in a deep cave is very romantic …Which goes to show sometimes that what we want to believe about “other Christians” is sometimes more important to us than the truth…
Anyway, I’ve decided to write songs that allow us to learn from each other. And the song ‘Maranatha’ was a song I wrote with this purpose. One tradition we gathered from these early Christians makes me smile. The Greek term ‘Maranatha!’ found in 1 Cor 16:22 translates as “Come Lord, Come!” We also find it in Revelation 22:20 as a response “Amen – Come, Lord Jesus!”
And I imagine Roman citizens converting to Christianity in their tens and hundreds, the believers flooding into ornate rooms of local noble households in ancient stone cities. I imagine them transfixed during the preaching, and as they sit and talk, the conversation turning to the things that are still of importance to us now – marriage, children, jobs, grieving natural disasters. And then I imagine them moving their hands like the old Italian Nonnas and in exasperation saying “Come Lord Jesus!” and in return an equally speechless response, “Amen, Come Lord Jesus!” It is an interchange that speaks of solidarity or togetherness in the everyday of life. it speaks of the things we cannot control, the things we struggle to understand, the things we decide to leave as mysteries. We do not know the time or the place, but ultimately, the curtain will be pulled back and it will be revealed that this life is not all there is. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come!