Martian Mission


Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, if true, of infinite importance. There is no room for moderately important.

-C.S. Lewis

Andy Dandy beheld the chapel. The Religion had placed it there for the use of all persons, regardless of race, religion, or creed. A representative of said Religion stood at the back smiling the way people on commercials did, staring intently at Andy Dandy. Its roof was a plain red dome. A circular window in the centre showed the stars above, lights of various hues around it illuminated the room. The walls were plain and green, complementing the red. Backless benches filled the centre of the circular room. Running down the middle was an aisle, a picture of Mars emblazoned in the middle. At the front was a raised dais. Apparently, a Holy Table could raise up out of it if one wished. The clear, red, glasslike pulpit had done likewise. A projector at the front, behind Andy, projected a holographic crucifix over his head, showing the Christ in gory detail. It was the best they had. The lady at the back had shown the tolerance of its manufacturers by projecting up a Star of David, Vishnu, the Buddha, and a variety of other images. Andy had smiled in true tolerance and requested his Jesus. The dying Jesus was enough to make someone weep in sorrow for the sins of life and our injustice. Despite its origin, it was a reminder that Christianity was more than headgames, that it was Jesus, Jesus was real, and that his sacrifice was very real.

The little chapel was full of an odd assortment of people. The MMT was there, in the second bench. The front was empty, of course. After years of preaching, Andy never expected the front pew to have a soul in it. An engineering technician sat in another bench. The other benches had a couple of astronauts in them, including Zebedee Thunder. Captain Chan stood at the back, straight as a ramrod. Andy Dandy wasn’t exactly sure who all the other people were, but there they were. They were dressed in an amazing variety of colours and bizarre styles. The four peoples of Earth were represented: black, red, yellow, and white.* They had just recited the Nicene Creed and were staring at him.

"You may be seated," he told them. They sat. "Lord, lift me up that I might lift up you. And may the words my mouth and meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in your sight, for you, oh Lord, are our strength and our redeemer, for ever and ever. Amen.

"As you know, I am the so-called leader of the Martian Missionary Team. God seems to lead us more, and we each other equally. After having a delightful and brief stay at your station, we will be leaving for Mars tomorrow. So here I am. In a chapel on a space station orbiting a planet millions of kilometres from home. Wow. Incroyable.. When the missionaries of the past went out to preach the Gospel to all nations, I don’t think they imagined Mars as an ultimate destination point. But here we are, orbiting that selfsame globe. Wow. Did the first Greeks in Southern Italy feel like this? Or the French in Canada? Did the Chinese in Africa feel this feeling of farness from home, of amazing adventure? Or is Mars this great new venture unlike anything ever tried before? We will never know. Yet I am not here before you today to expostulate about the mysteries of Mars, exploration, and adventure. That may be fun and interesting, owning even a certain nobility. But if I leave you here thinking only about the virtues of new places and taking a step into the unknown, I will have failed. Indeed, I have not come to tell you all about what we will be doing on Mars. We’ll do many things on Mars. We will build a church. We will help out those who need help in whatever ways we are able. Some of us will teach in schools; some of us will help the poor-we will do many things. The real question is not what we will do on Mars. The real question is why I am here before you now, why I am going to Mars. I am here to tell you why Francis of Assisi danced for joy and wept in sorrow, why John the Baptist was beheaded, why John the Evangelist left a flogging with Peter and preached with even greater boldness, why Alban lost his head after mere days of being a Christian, why John of the Cross wrote poetry, why John Wesley forsook himself and gave unto others, why Paul faced possible death before the Jewish rulers and the Roman government. That is why I am here.

"I am here to preach Christ crucified. If I do not do that, then I speak emptiness-it’s all mumbo jumbo.** Indeed, friends, if Jesus did not die on that cross and rise again three days later, then all of my efforts, my faith, my life-all have been in vain. But let me assure you that he did, and for that I’m forever grateful.

"Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Some," Religionists, he thought, "will tell you that he was a Buddha or maybe even an Ubermensch. Or that faith in Jesus is the same as any other belief. It is not so. He was not, is not, and will not be a Buddha or on a level with the things of this world. He was, and is, and is to come who he was 2300 years ago, and this very moment. Jesus is here, friends. There is one thing he wants to tell you: You have done wrong against God and your fellow man, and he is ready, willing, and able to save you from what that entails because of the enormity of his love.

"Humanity has a fundamental problem: we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You may say to yourself, ‘I am a good person,’ or, ‘I am righteous.’ Yet that is what the proud fool says to himself. I am not a good person. It is only by the grace of God that I stand here. It is only by his grace that Mars has been colonised. In fact, it is by his grace alone that each of you, of us, will take the next breath. Anyway, God is eternal, holy, and just. He has set up ways for us to live so that we do not harm ourselves, others, or our relationship with him. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Hear, O Israel, the first and greatest commandment is this: love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is like it: love your neighbour as yourself.’ Who of us claims to have upheld these? Who here has not felt cold or angry towards God at some point? Who has disregarded him as inconsequential? Who has shown him lack of love through simple unthoughtfulness? We claim to love God, yet if a day or a week or a month or a year goes by without thinking of the one we love, we have not truly loved him. If we dare not sacrifice for God, then we haven’t loved him much at all, let alone with all our heart, soul, and mind. Indeed, part of loving God is his law, seen in the Ten Commandments. There we are told to not idolise-to love anything more than him. Who here has not, at some point, put the love of success, money, personal glory or vanity before God? That is idolisation. Now, loving your neighbour as yourself is where people often come up with more specific examples. I thought a rude thought against someone just this morning. Have you ever lied? Even a white lie is a lack of love toward God and your neighbour-it breaks God’s law. Or lust-Jesus says that a man who lusts is an adulterer at heart. If you steal, even just a penny, you’re a thief. I know I am-and probably most of you as well-a liar, a thief, and an adulterer at heart. And the Bible tells us that if we break one law, we break them all.

"God is just-therefore, our trespasses against him, sins, must be punished. God is eternal. Therefore, the punishment for our sins must also be eternal. The wages of sin is death. We’re all eternally doomed to hell of our own accord. Part of the fundamental human problem, of sin, is that we are all unable to attain salvation from our own efforts.

"But wait!" Andy saw the disturbed faces. "There’s good news! Do not despair! There is hope. Religion is man reaching up to God. In religion, we try to make good for our sins on our own. It’s like a step-ladder to heaven. God’s law tells us that there must be blood to make up for our sins. Yet not even the blood of every sheep could atone for every sin for eternity. Therefore, Christianity is God reaching down to man.*** Since God loves us, he made a way out. This way out is not found in the elusive dreams of . . . humanity, but in Jesus Christ, the one who saves us from hell. God reached down from heaven and created a way out for us. By this grace, we are set free from the penalty of sin at no cost through Jesus’ death and resurrection." Andy paused, looking around the room, preparing the oft-quoted verse. "God so loved the world, my friends, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. He is God, and he died upon a cross, taking all of our sins upon himself. He who was without sin became sin for us. Hallelujah! This is how we are saved-through putting our faith, our trust, our lives in Jesus’ death and resurrection. And when we have done that, we will follow him wherever he may go. For we, the faithful, love him. And where he goes we’ll follow.**** Jesus stands as the mediator between us and God, and when God judges us on the last day, he will see the perfection of Jesus instead our own sinfulness. If we follow Jesus.

"Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand. This Kingdom is all of the faithful, all the Jesus followers. Turn from your lives of sin, each of you, and commit your life to Jesus today. Turn your back to rebellion against God and walk towards friendship with God through Jesus. If you are a Jesus follower, refocus your sights. Jesus is bigger than the pretty girl beside you." A glance at Joe. "Jesus is bigger than when you’ll have your next pint. Jesus is bigger than the next paycheck or the next day at work. He’s bigger than the air we breathe. What good is it for you if you gain the whole universe yet lose your own soul? What can be said of you?

"This is why I am here. Just as I would toss a life ring to a drowning victim, so I will preach the good news of Jesus to those who need him. I will go and pull dying people out of a burning building headed straight for hell. I do not judge you. I love you. I am here to help save you. I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone!

"In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. Amen."

*Look at an Ojibwa wigwam. On top of it, you may very likely see four ribbons of these colours. Do not fear race. We must not hide from diversity but "celebrate unity in diversity." (Deholo Nali)

**Ah, thank you Billy Meakin

***Fritz Ridenour, How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious

****I don’t know the name of the song, but they do it in Sister Act

Copyright 2004, Matthew Hoskin