Monday, 30 March 2009
We often describe following God as being like a journey. Indeed, one of the key ways in which we might describe the life of faith is as pilgrimage. However, we do need to think about where there journey may take us, and how quickly. Too often we are in too much of a hurry, and forget that we need to recognise that God's timing might not be quite what we expect. The aim, of course, is always that of transformation. We believe that God can transform things. In "Recovering the Sacred Center" (Judson Press, 1998) Howard Friend reminds us of the need to allow our perspective to slow down - “In Scripture, stories of transformation are journey stories. Typically, these narratives consume more time than their characters expect, and they demand more of them than they ever anticipated. Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees with no idea that before God’s promise would be fulfilled, twenty-five years would pass. Jacob dreamed, as he rested his head on a stone pillow at Bethel, with no idea that his sojourn would wend through a decade and more. If they had known they would wander for forty years in the wilderness, the children of Israel might have remained forever in the grip of Egyptian slavery. As his personal reflections reveal in Galatians and as Luke reports in Acts, Paul spent three years in Arabia “recovering” from his conversion experience and as many as nine years in a ministry of minimal success before his missionary work bore fruit. Those who dare to lead at the cutting edge, who dare to blaze fresh trails towards the reinvented future church, need to muster this kind of determination and stamina.”
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
"The book of Acts is a record of the struggle of the church to be the church" (Allan Boesak). Sometimes we think it was all great at the beginning, but then we ought to just read the New Testament. There are many stories of struggles and conflicts. Paul and Peter had very different views - and they both had to do lots of new learning. There are many dramatic scenes indicating God's presence and intervention. But, just as God helped the church in the then struggle to be the church, so he will help us in the struggle to be the church in our day.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
"To this day we are treated as the scum of the earth, as the dregs of humanity" - 1 Corinthians 4:13. These are not exactly the most exciting and encouraging words about being church. None of us want to feel like rubbish. But to be authentic church, that is just what we need to be ready for. We are called to turn expectation upside down. Using another metaphor, we are to be "fools" for Christ. I wonder if we are ready for this underside of being church. Of course, it is not that we are to be rubbish or dregs, just that it may be that that is how we are treated.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Allan Boesak has a sermon by that name in his book "The Fire Within" (Wild Goose Publications, 2007). The sermon is based on the Parable of the Sower and the reckless generosity of God portrayed by the parable's central character. Boesak challenges our conventional explanations about the different types of ground. He says: "And God sows, with exuberant generosity, with unalloyed, wasteful joy, with undisciplined abundance, in the hope that some seed will fall on fertile ground, yield something, so that God's Word will not return empty." I think we need to learn to be more random in being the church. We tend to focus on being targeted. We want everything to count and to produce results. There is probably nothing wrong with wanting that - it is just not likely to happen. We need to learn, instead, to throw the Gospel around, realising that some won't hit the target - but lots will.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
William Paul Young's "The Shack" (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008) is a fascinating read that, to me, says a lot about life, church, and all sorts of things. It has the sub-title "where tragedy confronts eternity". Confronting eternity may not be the way we would most often put it - but is that not precisely what the church ought to be about? The book is a novel, but it is a novel that deals with truth. It is concerned with relationship, forgiveness and God - and, through the medium of a fascinating story, explores these critical themes. I found it intensely moving and significantly challenging. Again these are descriptions that I would want to use of the church. The church ought to be intensely moving and significantly challenging. The book wrestles with the timeless question of how we deal with unspeakable pain - and, yes, I do think the church ought to be wrestling with timeless questions. I guess we all need our own 'shack' where we can go to find God in a new way.
Monday, 9 March 2009
Commenting on the Acts 11 vision in which Peter is challenged to take a different view as to what is OK and what is not, particularly in respect to food consumption, Walter Brueggemann suggests that it as though Peter hears God saying, "Have a snake sandwich and a bird salad" (Walter Brueggemann, 'Inscibing the Text', Fortress, 2004, p. 88). The point is that the ritual law said that these things were unclean and should not be consumed. Peter, however, has had a vision which suggests he might eat anything. There are times when God takes us in different and unexpected directions. We, too, can be the subject of a vision which shakes us to the very core. We tend to think we know where we should be heading. This story is a reminder not to take that for granted. Does God have different ideas for how we should do and be church? If so, are we ready to see the vision?