Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Do something radical

Reading Shane Clairborne's book Irresistible Revolution reminds me that we are called to live radical lives for Jesus. The question, for me, has always been: What does a radical life look like in my world. Now, I don't mean my world in the sense of the world I make, simply in the sense of the world I currently inhabit. What does it mean to be a radical follower of Jesus Christ in 21st century rural England?

In the end it might mean pretty much the same as it does in metropolitan London, or suburban Wimbledon (I've experienced both). Perhaps we look for radical in the wrong place. Perhaps, for some at least, radical means rethinking one's perspective on the job and career you choose. For some a change is in order, for others the job remains but the ethos changes.

Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is to love each other, and to keep on loving each other despite our best efforts to be unlovely. When I seen pain and heartache in the church, I remind myself that Jesus said that our love for one another would be a symbol of our having been with him, of being his followers.

Perhaps today is your day for doing something radical and loving the person who has hurt you most deeply. It won't be easy, but I guess radical never is.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where's the fruit?

Came across this quote from Mark Twain on the Ordinary Attempts blog.

Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Finding Jesus in the real world

A recent comment on this blog got me thinking. How do we find Jesus in the real world? More to the point, what makes this the real world in the first place? I guess we mostly use “real world” to define what we experience day-by-day. But just because it’s our daily routine, it doesn’t necessarily define what’s truly the “real world”.

As a Christian the kingdom of God, not my usual daily experience, defines my normality. As Jon Ortberg might say, what I experience as normal is actually usual, normality is the kingdom.

So, with that in mind, finding Jesus in the real world becomes an expedition to discover examples of the kingdom of God breaking in to our current “usualness” and transforming it into God’s normality. I don’t believe in a fully realised kingdom, I believe in a now-and-not-yet kingdom. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t expect God to break in and change my reality into his reality.

Perhaps then, finding Jesus in the real world isn’t as hard as it might look. I can see Jesus in the work and ministry of the church as it seeks to serve and care for the community, as it seeks to share the good news of Jesus in both practical and verbal ways. I see Jesus in the real world when the church gathers to pray for someone recently diagnosed with cancer. I see Jesus in the miracle of their healing and I see him too in the gentle ministry of the church as it offers comfort when healing doesn’t come.

As a minister of a local church, I’m privileged to see Jesus at work through his people almost everyday of my life. The truth is I’m not very observant so I don’t readily recognise it. Oftentimes I'm so preoccupied with the state of my own soul that I just don’t see the hand of God in anything. But then I remember a man called Jacob, whole stole his brother’s birthright and as he ran away encountered God in the most unexpected place. His comment was simply this: Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The men of Issachar of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do... (1CH 12:32)

I wonder where the "men of Issachar" are for our times?

David was about to crowned king. This was God's plan and purpose, but it hadn't been an easy journey. Saul had tried to kill him, and David had spent a long time as king-in-waiting. But it's these men of Issachar that intrigue me. How did they read the times? How did they know what was the right thing for Israel to do?

As a church leader I look for my own men of Issachar, who can help me as I search for God's pathway for the local congregation I'm privileged to lead.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Has God ruined my life?

When was the last time you heard someone share their story of a relationship with God and say, "God ruined my life." We're so used to the language of blessing that I suspect we've forgotten what being blessed is actually about. It's not about having all the stuff we want, or all the security we want. I'm not too sure exactly how to quantify it because quite honestly I'm very comfortable thank you very much. I am blessed in so many ways.

Perhaps that's why I get concerned some days. Perhaps it's because I wonder if being a Christian ought not to be a little less comfortable and a little more challenging. I've bought into the spiritualising mythology that makes this dangerous, exciting and mystical journey with the awesome living God something more docile and less demanding.

I believe that we're facing the opportunity of a life-time. An opportunity to do church differently, to become the ordinary radicals (to quote Shane Clairborne) that can, in God's hands, become world changers. I dream of being part of a local community of faith that lives a radical Christianity. A place where wholehearted following of Jesus is normal. The problem is I'm not sure what it looks like in rural Bedfordshire.

But this I do know. There are opportunities coming, opportunities that God is going to put before me--is putting before me--to live a different life. I'm guessing I'll still have stuff, I'll probably accumulate more, but I want to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I want his purposes to be my highest priority, and I'm so grateful for his grace and forgivenness when they are not.

Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.

Soren Kierkergaard, quoted by Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution p71

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Love, courage and wisdom

In responding to the comments on the Quiet Revolution post (thanks guys), I thought there was something I'd read in Shane Claiborne's book that was relevant. Having found it (it was right at the front!), I'm not sure it quite touches the spot I thought it did, but for the record here's the quote:

Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. But the one who has love, courage and wisdom moves the world.

Ammon Hennacy (Catholic activist 1893-1970)

I'm not sure where it touches on the idea of optimist and pessimist, but I do see a line to follow when it comes to loving and criticising the church. I need love, courage and wisdom if I'm going to help the church become what God wants it to be, if I'm going to help it move. I guess I need a dose of humility too, so that I remember that I'm not all I'm cracked up to be, and might not always be right!

Friday, July 07, 2006

July 7th remembered

I can't begin to imagine what it must have felt like in those moments directly before and after the detonation of the bombs on buses and trains a year ago. I can't imagine what it feels like now a year later for those injured or bereaved or both. I don't want to insult or upset them. I want to remember.

I want to remember that violence is not the answer.

I want to remember that there is a better way, that the world can be different if we will only follow the One who truly makes a difference.

War is not the answer.

I believe it is time that someone took the brave step and declared peace rather than war in the world.

The battle of the Somme, the London bombs, the devastation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the weapons of war being built in North Korea and Iran, in the UK and USA. Have we learnt so little from a century of wars?

A Quiet Revolution

I've just finished reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and started on The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Both these books were recommended to me by my friend Andy White, to whom I'm very grateful for two good reads.

In the early pages of Irresistible Revolution I read this:

There are those of us who, rather than simply reject pop evangelicalism, want to spread another kind of Christianity, a faith that has as much to say about this world as it does the next. New prophets are rising up who try to change the future not just predict it. There is a movement bubbling up that goes beyond cynicism and celebrates a new way of living, a generation that stops complaining about the church it sees and becomes the church it dreams of.

Irresistible Revolution p24

I love the idea of becoming the church we dream of rather than complaining about the church we are. If it's time for a change, then it's time we changed, it's time we made the changes.

Over the last few years I've been deeply moved by the sense of vision and commitment our predecessors had when they built the church in which we currently worship. Without their commitment and courage, we wouldn't have a church over which to get frustrated. We owe them a lot. We owe them the drive, committment and passion to leave a legacy for future generations. They left us a building and a history. It may be time that leaving a building is less important, but a history will always be significant.

I've listened to the cynics who reject the church (not just here but all over the country) and I remember the words of the song Jesus loves the church. Imperfect as it might be I want to be someone who makes a difference. I want to part of a generation that stops complaining and start becoming the church of God's dreams.