Friday, 29 August 2008

When Jesus met Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus was a crook - who ripped off his fellow Jews by overcharging them when they had to pay their taxes. He made his money by loading their bills. And Jesus looked up into the sycamore tree and said, "Zacchaeus, come down because I am coming to your house today. I'm coming to have dinner with you." Jesus could have said, 'Now come on, Zacchaeus, I want to talk to you about what you have been doing. We need a chat. I want to tell you how you have been stealing from these people by overcharging them. You're a crook, a thief - even if the law lets you do what you're doing.' That's what Jesus could have done Jesus could have called a spade a spade - and remonstrated with Zacchaeus on the spot. But not Jesus. Jesus doesn't condemn Zacchaeus. He engages with him. In short, he loves him. That's what we are called to do, to love other people, even when they are messing things up.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Fuzzy Faith?

In his final report as Leader of the Corrymeela Community in April 2003, Trevor Williams wrote: "We must not settle for a fuzzy faith that produces warm feelings, but refuses to embrace the hard realities of life. So, with faith comes doubt, exploration and movement, living in a dialogue ...." Williams is right that we need to get on with the nitty gritty of life - and so be effective. Fuzziness that makes us complacent is unhelpful. However, I do wonder if we sometimes need to be a little blurred round the edges, not so blurred that we don't know what or who we are, but sufficiently blurred that we are open and welcoming to all the searchers who wander our way. How many of today's churches would be openly welcoming to Zacchaeus or Mary Magdalene? I firmly agree with the comment that doubt, exploration and movement are all part of faith and I find each of those ways of approaching faith quite challenging - but it's a challenge we need.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Changing Treasure

That the church is special is fundamental to God's understanding of it. We may not be perfect, but we are loved by God. We ought to take that into account ourselves. We also ought to see ourselves as part of a changing scene. Writing about the Corrymeela story in his book "In War and Peace" Alf McCreary quotes Ray Davey, the founder of the Corrymeela Community, as saying: "We must always recognise that there is nothing sacred about the particular form of the Church at any particular time. It varies from age to age and from place to place. Indeed 'we have this treasure in earthen vessels' - one remaining constant, while the other changes from one generation to another. We need to always be looking to what God would have us do and where God would have us be, recognising that there is a special place just for us.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Nobodies to Somebodies

Critical to our Christian understanding is that everybody matters - and church life ought to reflect that we value everyone. I have been reading Walter Brueggemann's "David's Truth" (Fortress Press, 1985) in which he makes the point about how David emerged from nowhere to greatness, talking about "David's move from a nobody to a royal somebody". (p. 20). "David the outsider without any claim moves quickly and relntlessly to the throne and to the social legitimacy that of course goes with it. .... The erstwhile bandit is now the ruler of the day." It is also relevant, as Brueggemann points out, that the 'nobody', more than likely, will attract other nobodies - "David is indeed the renegade who attracts other renegades and "nonpersons" to himself. His movement thus is politically doubtful and surely subversive." (p. 22). How willing are our churches to welcome renegades? How subversive are we? How clearly do we express that God values everyone? Interesting - and challenging - questions!

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Good Old Days

I was in church yesterday - in the congregation - and we were reflecting on standards and values - and how we always think things were better 'in the good old days'. Things aren't what they used to be. Well, of course, it is true that things aren't what they used to be, and that can be good or bad. The trick is to ensure that we turn things to the good. In today's church it is often tempting to look back - and to think that things have gone downhill a long way. Things are certainly different, but we shouldn't see that as worse or, for that matter, better. What we need to do is to get on with being today's church. It's like that thing of saying that children are tomorrow's church, which moved to saying that children are today's church. Actually, neither are true and both are true. Children are PART of today's church, as we all are - so let's get on with the tasks in which that involves us!