Friday, 29 October 2010

Mostley Harmless

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Growing up I had clear view of what it meant to be a Christian – it meant to be a good person, a nice person, a good citizen. I have discovered that this idea of what a Christian should be like is a fairly common view both within regular committed Church attendees and people who want to express their view about what Christians should be.

To suggest that being a Christian is about being a nice person or good citizen means in my mind that Christians are meant to be people who conform.

This assumption means that Christianity is a lifestyle choice in which we all take an attitude of “don’t rock the boat”.

For me this sort of Christianity and people who act like such Christians reminds me of the indifferent words describing the planet earth in “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” – it is “Mostly harmless”!

Is this what it is to do the will of God —what is good and acceptable and perfect? To be ‘mostly harmless’?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Minister’s Desk: Living with Hope
By Rev Peter

I am currently reading one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is called “Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus continuing in us” by the Czech theologian Tomas Halik. Halik presents an interesting thesis that the issue of atheism is an issue of impatience: impatience with a seemingly silent God. He asks:

“Are we to dread the age of secularism, atheism, and the ‘cooling of many people’s faith,’ or can we perceive it as a mysterious contribution of historical time to the Easter drama, to the silence of Holy Saturday, when on the surface nothing happens?”

Going on to describe his own spiritual journey Halik describes his experiences in Czechoslovakia:

I live through a period in my country’s fairly recent history when religion and the church were virtually eradicated from public life. State atheism, civitas terrena, the ‘secular city’ seemed to have triumphed. I first encountered a living church when I was at the threshold of adulthood. I sensed that ‘something was happening’ in some of the churches still, that they were not all simply museums, and that somewhere something still survived of the world of believers.

It was in this context that Halik encountered the God of Jesus and found faith and so from his experience he is able to speak with hope for us all who face difficult times as the church. He is not so concerned for the future of the church saying

Whenever I see a church in decline somewhere – in whatever sense – I do not despair. After all, I personally have lives through a great deal, and Christians in the course of the twentieth century saw and lived through much more than I have. I don’t shrink from the holes left in the church roof by some tempest or other. I recall that it was through those gaping holes that I first glimpsed God’s face.

These come as words of comfort to me as I consider some of the issues we face at Kairos. Issues that are far bigger than what is going on just our little congregation and the possibilities we may face a limited future in our current arrangement.

Halik’s book reminds us all we need to draw back and get a different perspective, to cease worrying about “our” church and find faith in God’s work in us, among us and around us. We still have so many resources available to us to engage in Christ’s ministry! We believe in God’s faithfulness that even from death new life can emerge! We can trust that whatever happens to our properties God’s plans are bigger than our personal desires. We can find hope that people can catch a glimpse of God even in ramshackle churches devoid of images and in people who still have something present in their memories or subconscious of the God who loves us and in of Jesus who call us by name.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Unity in God and in each other

"May they be one as we are one"

These 8 simple sounding words, of Jesus' prayer found in John 17, lead us into the depth and mystery of the Christian faith. They express that God's life is a communal life. Jesus indicates that he is in the Father and vice-versa. A relationship of indwelling that also incorporates the Holy Spirit. So in the prayer we get a glimpse of the one God who exist in an eternal communal relationship.

These bonds within the life of God are the bonds which prays believers will have - existing in one another. This complex relationship of existence is then further extended in the prayer when Jesus prayers that they (the believers) may be in us. Not only are our lives related to one another in an intimacy which reflects God's life but our lives are linked into God's own life.

These concepts are all a bit difficult and theoretical but have big implications for Christian people in our unity with God and one another.

As people living witnessing to God's love and existing in God and one another Jesus prayer is that through this oneness the world will believe.

Of course for most of us our experience of our Christan relationships does not coalesce with this prayer. There are many disruptions to our relationships with other Christians both personally and communally - our experience is that we are not one as God is one.

This has led many people to reject God and the message of grace carried within the church. So what can we do?

In a sense we can only do what we have always done. Turn to God week by week - coming to confess that we are sinners who are out of kilter with God and with each other and so acknowledging the brokenness of our lives. And as we come to pray that as we are sent into the world week by week we might find signs of that oneness to celebrate and name as hopeful signs to God's love and life within us.

Our unity in God's life and in one another's lives comes to us as a gift , yet it is a unity that we are called to live out and witness to. Living together is hard work, we are diverse people and sometimes difficult people, yet to be Christ's body in the world means constantly struggling with disruption between our experience of life and this gift of unity we have received in Jesus prayer:

"May they be one as we are one"

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Houses in exile

In the 29th chapter of Jeremiah the prophet encourages the Israelites who have been dragged off to Babylon to settle in for the long haul. To build houses in exile. And, more than this, to seek the welfare of city where they find themselves. This means to seek the welfare of the Babylonians who have dragged them off into exile.

It is in the context of this hardship that the Israelites are directed to recover their faith - to seek God with all their heart, in order that God will allow them to find him again.

As Christians in the West our prosperity can easily divorce us from the reality of such harsh suffering as exiles and from the concept that we too are strangers in a strange land. Does our ease of living mean that we are less like to seek God with all our heart? The decline in numbers in many of churches would seem to indicate that this is the case.

Maybe we need to go and meet Jesus again in the face of those who suffer as refugees. Jesus once declared, "I was hungry and you fed me... I was a prisoner and you visited me", maybe these days he would say "I was in mandatory detention and you visited me".

In meeting people such as these we might rediscover what it means to be people who live as strangers in this world awaiting a coming kingdom. To walk alongside them as the build houses in their experience of exile might also cause us to pause and think again about what sort of houses we are building in exile as Christians - exculsive holy clubs or the body of Christ?