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.