Thursday, 23 April 2009
Many images are used to describe the church - and they have helpfully different things to say. We can certainly see the church as being like a dance and, given that it is the people who are the church (not the building!) it is for us to join in that dance. As Robin Greenwood puts it: "To become skilled performers of the faith is to learn to dance Christ’s dance. Dancing may not be a frequent activity for us. Imagine being gently and laughingly cajoled into standing up and taking part in the ceilidh of the kingdom" ("Local Ministry" ed. Robin Greenwood and Caroline Pascoe, SPCK, 2006, p. 14). Let's join that dance!
Sunday, 12 April 2009
John Bell points out: "If we believe in the resurrection ... we have to allow some things to die. God doesn't deal with corpses, with moribund institutions and lifeless people who linger or malinger, trying to avoid the end. God deals with bodies which die and are raised to new life" ("Wrestle and Fight and Pray", Saint Andrew Press, 1993, p. 43/4). That is an important lesson for the church. I suspect we spend too much time on resuscitation. Sometimes it is the moment to let things go. Things do come to an end - and we need to allow that to happen to make way for the new. There can be a church mentality that wants to keep things going. New things have to be added on, rather than replacing things that are finished. That leads to overload. We need to learn the lesson of the grain of wheat.
Friday, 10 April 2009
Using images is frequently a helpful way to explain things. It is a technique often used by Jesus. The parables tell us huge amounts and the images they contain often help us to understand how we should live and what God's Kingdom, or reign, is like. Quite a few of the images mentioned in the Gospels can applied to the church. For example, the vine, light and salt all offer an indication of what the church should be like. In "Wrestle and Fight and Pray" (Saint Andrew Press, 1993) John Bell poses the question as "to which sport Christianity might be most favourably compared." Bell offers a number of suggestions: "Is it like cricket which, from the outside looks absurdly dull, but which the enthusiasts are keen to assure us is really exciting? Or is it like tennis, fairly predictable, but with the word 'love' used in public from time to time? Is it like golf, something essentially easy - putting a ball into a hole - until you see the size of the hole, the size of the ball and how far they are from each other? Is it a team game, like rugby, which needs people who are light on their feet up front and people who are very solid to prop up the rear? Or is it like snooker, something which only a few folk can play very well, but which has a vast army of armchair critics?" In the end, John Bell rejects all these suggestions and, instead, identifies wrestling as the one. The story of Jacob immediately leaps to mind, but there are many other parts of the Bible that would support this notion. Wrestling is about struggling - our faith helps us to struggle as we should. Bell is looking for a sport to describe Christianity. I would want, of course, to be clear that we should not make an exact identification between the church and Christianity - though I would hope that there are more than a few links. And this image helps me to be positive when, as is often the case, I see the church struggling.