Thursday, 12 August 2010

Outrageous behaviour
I have come to realise just what an outrageous book the bible actually is…. It’s full of outrageous stories of outrageous people doing outrageous things for an outrageous God and often getting into trouble as a result.

But it’s only when you read it with the context of the time the events happened or were written that you start to realise just how outrageous these people of God were in their time.
When you read in context you start to realise just how outrageous Jesus was in his time and place on earth. A quick example of Jesus being outrageous…

Slap of the cheek

Taking the well known saying of Jesus “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also”. Let’s understand this in context. In Jesus time on earth you would use your Right hand to slap someone. The left hand was used for toiletry purposes.
If you use your right hand to slap someone on their right cheek which part of your hand do you naturally use? Try it. (back hand). A back hand slap was an insult. It was meant for someone lower than you. So Jesus says if someone insults you in this way offer the other cheek. Try it again. What do you use? (front of hand). This was a slap of contemporaries, a dual if you like. Do you see how outrageous Jesus was being? If some one insults you with a back hander, offer them the other cheek as well, forcing them to treat you as an equal.

People often get the wrong idea of the bible because they read it literally as if it were written last week. It’s accussed then of being anti-women, judgemental, and exclusive and we as Christians haven’t always helped change that view.

I want to suggest that when we understand the context of the times of these event this is an outrageous account of a God who is constantly on the side of the oppressed, constantly involving others whose place in society was of little value. It’s an outrageous account of a God who values all people regardless of gender, age, race, sexuality, religion, disability, background, and learning ability. Far from being judgemental and exclusive (as it becomes when read literally as if it were written last week), read in the context of the day, this is outrageous stuff and a cracking equal opportunities statement.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Beyond the fairy tale nativity.

This Christmas I have been challenged by going beyond the "fairy tale" nativity and considering what was going on some 2000 years ago. The Victorians did a "good" job at giving us a Christmas card story, but as you dig deeper you realise that the real story is far from meek and mild.

Mary, a teenager is pregnant out of wedlock and risks being stoned to death as a result. She has to make a long journey throughout probably one of the most volatile areas of the world to a town which remains as volatile today as ever. "O Little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie" - Yeah right!
And then we get the somewhat romantic mills and boon picture of Jesus being born in a stable (resembling a flat pack shed from B & Q) with a nice wooden manger filled with golden hay, and "Little Lord Jesus, No crying he makes" - Whatever! The reality is Jesus was probably born in a cellar or cave below the house or hotel and others who couldn't afford to stay in the main rooms would likely be down there too. This means that Jesus would not have been born round the corner in a shed occupied only by his family and a few "lowing" cows, but amongst the everyday people (and their animals). Immanuel - God with us!

But then comes the bit that we don't see on Christmas cards. The mass slaughter of thousands of boy babies. Funny we also don't see on cards, Mary and Joseph fleeing for there lives and more significantly for the life of their son and seeking asylum in Egypt.

Then there are the visitors to consider - Shepherds, tough but low paid workers and Astrologers looking for the future in the stars! - This just doesn't fit too well with Western Christianity so how about we sanitise it by calling them Kings or Wise Men?

The Christmas story was I suggest very different to the nativity crib scene story we often get today, but at Christmas people don't want to hear of teenage mums at risk of being stoned, dangerous journeys through volatile lands, Jesus being born in a crowded cellar or cave, God revealing himself to minimum wage shepherds and those seeking the future in the stars. They don't want to hear about the mass slaughter of baby boys and the young holy family fleeing for their lives and becoming asylum seekers in foreign lands. Or do they? Maybe the real story would be more compelling, encouraging and understanding to our world but we may just need to ditch a few carols in the process!

Monday, 28 December 2009

A brilliant church?

While web surfing the other day I noticed a google ad on the right hand side of my screen which made me sigh. The ad was for a large (numerically speaking) church in Manchester who we'll refer to here as "Holly Church Manchester". So what narked me? The heading! "A Brilliant Church". Since when was church called to be "brilliant"? This stinks of show language. Churches surely should be diverse, fragile and journeying people who are community together. I don't think we are called to be brilliant but real!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

"You Got it!"

Last week I was speaking to someone in Levenshulme who is part of our community groups. She wouldn't say she was a person of faith but our conversation showed that faith is so much wider than the limited boundaries we Christians often place upon it.

I spoke of our desire to be an inclusive and non-judgemental church. The response came: "Well yes that's kinda the Jesus model". And I thought, "You got it!" - Shame so many of us self labelling "Christians" seem to miss that one!

May we learn more and more what it means to be inclusive church valuing all as people lovingly made in the image of God's self.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Stakes are high

BBC news says today: "The UK may have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 90% by 2050 so the aviation sector can continue to grow". Am I missing something, surely the idea is that the aviation sector shouldn't grow? The report continues, "The failure of aviation to play its full part could mean that the rest of the economy has to reduce its emissions by 90% instead of 80%". A higher target for household and industry carbon reduction can only be good, but the aviation industry can not be allowed to fail on their target - The stakes are too high and we know that air travel contributes highly to the issue of global warming. As someone blogging who likes flying and admittably does fly, I wonder whether the time has come to re-think our attitude to flying, particularly on short distance cheap flights? If the demand isn't there then maybe the airlines will need to rethink. Off now to turn a few lights and items on standby off!!!!!!

Saturday, 5 September 2009


"A new style of liberal Christianity is slowly emerging. Because it is not a coherent movement with a bullet-point agenda it gets ignored, but it could almost be seen as a new wing of the church. It is most simply summed up in a pejorative way: trendy-arty-liberal. To put it more positively, this new style of Christianity is defined by a confidence that contemporary culture is a resource rather than a threat". Theo Hobson, reporting in the Guardian newspaper, reflecting on Greenbelt Festival.

Some call it Post-Evangelical, some call it progressive theology, some don't like to box it. The Guardian refer to it as trendy-arty-liberal. A growing number of Christians it seems to me are uncomfortable with both the Evangelical and the Liberal classic theological viewpoints and seek a third way (or may be several ways). Sadly many still find little support or understanding from churches in their neighbourhood and rely on Greenbelt as an annual fix. I wonder what a network of Greenbelt value churches might look like and how they might be significant to so many disillusioned by the still growing judgemental beliefs held in the name of Christianity, or is that me just being judgemental too?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Godly Bishop

Greenbelt is already proving good this year. Interesting conversation, comedy and music. The festival has received a fair amount of criticism from the conservative wing of the church this year over the invite to Bishop Gene Robinson. Sometimes you can really just sense the presence of God in people. Having heard him speak at Greenbelt today, I can say that Gene is a very humble, thoughtful, Godly man. As a Christian I believe in a God whose love is inclusive and accepting of all. I thank Greenbelt for bringing this God ordained Bishop to Cheltenham.