Monday, April 30, 2018

Russell Brand and the kingdom of heaven

I read with increasing interest and fascination a recent article (Oct 17) about Russell Brand's encounter with faith and spirituality, born out of journey form addiction to sobriety. As many evangelicals might rush to try and work out if they can now call him a Christian or not, I was much more interested in his journey and the reflections and observations he was making about the teaching of Jesus the role spirituality can have in the rehabilitation process through which every recovering addict must go if they are to get free of their addiction.

Brand is on a spiritual journey, that much is pretty obvious, but it's some of his observations that caught my eye. Asking questions about what the realised kingdom looks like for a world crippled by addiction to superficial fulfilment; that the purpose of religion is "love and connection"; the relationship between forgiveness and being forgiven and the impossibility of redemption until you are willing to forgive and let go. So many fascinating things.

Then I got to thinking about the church and it's preoccupation at times with sound doctrine rather than practical outworking of the gospel. How many times did I hear the cry, "What we want/need in this church is good, sound Biblical teaching." When what was actually needed was a simple attempt to try and live out the values and expectation of the kingdom. Russell Brand picks this up when he comments about Jesus telling the rich young ruler to give up all he has and follow him. 

He references Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 who asks, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Brand says, referencing Christ’s response, “Give away all your possessions and follow me—that’s a pretty radical thing.”
Brand says the reason why this idea is so radical is because it strikes at the core of the values so many people secretly hold: that money and materialism can cure our unhappiness. “I think the reason that the economic arguments Christ offered are not promoted is because they are deeply at odds with the way we live,” he explains.
Instead of focusing on unhealthy patterns centered on self-fulfillment, the message of the Gospel offers an alternative: caring for others and helping those in need.
A difficult passage for many a middle-class, house-owning, financial security seeking, wise-stewardship leaning congregation. It's not that we don't want to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, we just can't afford to go that far! And yes, I understand that there is a specific application in this passage, but let's not allow ourselves to excuse ourselves from the possibility that our discipleship might be more costly that we'd like to think.

There's something wonderfully simple about the kingdom when you boil it down to love and connection. It's not perfect, it's not polished, it's not about excellence. It's not about providing the best, loudest, most technologically clever experience of worship. It's about being something so much more than such superficial thinking. And yes, it is superficial. Going to a worship event doesn't have to be better than a rock concert. 

My relationship with the institution and practice of church is, to be honest, non-existent these days. I don't go, I don't want to go! I'm busy coaching on a Sunday and even if I could move it all to Saturday I'm not I would suddenly feel a deep desire to wander back into the pattern I left behind 6 years ago.

But the kingdom still bothers me. The implications of what Jesus taught still cut through the busyness that surrounds me. I might not be concerned about filling the church, but populating the kingdom still sits on my agenda.

As yet another mega-church leader faces allegations about their behaviour I wonder if the drive to succeed, to be excellent in all we do, is a route to power that ultimately demands a high price from us.  Is the church too corporate, to reflective of the world's values and less expressive of the values of the kingdom?

I'm not sure where the answer lies. Maybe we need to stop, sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

It's midday and my alarm reminding of that fact has just gone off. It's time to say the Lord's Prayer. That's why the alarm is set, to remind me stop each day. Some days I simply say the prayer, somedays I'm in the middle of trying to drill a forehand winner down the line, some days I take a little more time to reflect on the words. Maybe today is a more reflective day.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen

Friday, April 13, 2018

Changing Cars: Going Hybrid

It has to be said that driving a brand new car is an expensive indulgence, but I have to own up to rather liking it! It just so happens that every car I've owned, I've had from new. It's a guilty pleasure.

Anyway, the time has come to change my current car, a Mazda 5, for something new and shiny. Although I like driving new cars I find the process of buying one tedious and stressful. But this time I had a different plan in mind because I wanted to go a little greener and began looking at hybrids. The kind of car I like to drive hasn't been readily available as a hybrid, but with the arrival of the Prius+ a number of years ago, an alternative to the typical MPV became available.
It's not everyone's first choice but it's what we have chosen as our next new car.

Hopefully we'll adapt to the automatic gearbox quickly. It's a bit unnerving to start with when you don't quite know where to put your left foot or what to do with it! But once you get out one the road it's a nice, rather relaxed smooth drive. I actually collected the car just before Easter and immediately drove it to Bedford, Eastbourne and Saffron Walden over the weekend! I think I can safely say I've got used to it now!

The ever increasing complexity of the technology that goes into a modern car continues to dazzle. Even more so with the transition to a hybrid and all the data that is available about when you're running in EV mode, how the power is being generated and distributed, and all sorts of other things. I remember when most new cars came without a radio let alone a satellite navigation system and proximity sensors.

If you're a so-called petrol head then you'll probably find the Prius+ a boring, uninspiring drive. That's fine. I didn't buy it as a performance car, I bought it because it suits our needs, it's a hybrid, and it's comfortable. My first refuel suggested I got around 50mpg, and apparently that's likely to improve over time.

So there we have it. The money is spent, the car is bought and the next 4 or 5 years of driving are sorted out. The Prius is the first step in moving away from simple combustion engines towards something greener. The next change will be Anne's Kia, but quite when and what to, I'm not sure. Perhaps another Toyota in the form of a Yaris hybrid.

In 4 or 5 years time I will probably look at at a PHEV version of something. Technology will have moved on and there may be a much wider choice of such vehicles than there are currently. Maybe we will even go fully electric. I can imagine a day when you pull into a service station and simply swap out the batteries rather than recharge before going on your way. I'm guessing too that battery technology will change and maybe we'll have 1000 mile ranges available by the time ICE's go out of production completely.

In my ideal world we will have a house that has all electricity from renewable energy so that charging our electric vehicles is carbon neutral. Is that so far fetched?