Tag Archives: Faith

Is it hard labour?

This morning Lesley and I listened to Pray as You Go; it was about the labourers in the vineyard.  Afterwards when we talked about it we both took issue with it!

Now, we know that parables only carry one message – and that traditionally this is interpreted as a message about acceptance into God’s Kingdom regardless of the time we have been committed; but the behaviour of those who are there early really struck us – why would they be complaining?  Surely living in the Kingdom now is about life in all its fulness?

I recall a bishop once saying if it isn’t fun why not give up and do something else?

Perhaps not fun, but if faith isn’t fulfilling why continue?  If you are miserable about your faith now, do you really want the reward of living that way for all eternity?

Do you live on the extremes?

Last night Lesley and I played bridge again.  These days (it is rather a long time since I last played) the results and lots of analysis are available online almost immediately.  One of the things that we noticed was that we had quite a lot of hands where we did very well, but also quite a lot where we did very badly.

This set me thinking, is it better to do that, or to do middlingly?

This of course translates into life.  I am fairly phlegmatic, and as a student one of my friends pitied me because unlike him I would not experience the highs and lows in the same way.

Then there is the question of how this converts into ones faith life.

Well, what else would you expect me to say other than we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made“, and we need to live our life the way God has made us.

As for the bridge…. the jury is out – but we are investigating more!

How do we know what God is calling us to?

Have you ever felt certain that God was calling you to do something, so you do it, even though you cannot see why you should do it, but it doesn’t lead to the outcome that you expected?

Looking back can you then see why God called you to do it?

There are plenty of people in the Bible who were called to do things for which they could see no reason, or which they didn’t want to do – particularly the latter – but who with hindsight we can see needed to do what they did.  Jonah, Jeremiah, Amos.

I suspect that the picture above is meant to be interpreted as joy at being picked, but I think it can also be interpreted as anger!

 

What is our reaction when we feel that God is calling us to something?  And if we don’t think it is the right thing to do, can we trust God enough to do it without concerning ourselves with what we think the consequences might be?

What is transferable?

Last night I was speaking with someone who has just changed their job, and they were talking about their new role, and the things that they were learning.  Much as with yesterdays post, where I learnt from a new experience, it struck me that when we do something new, in any sphere of life, it can at the very least illuminate something about our faith journey and service.

Looking back over my life I find it amazing how many of the things that I learnt in industry are applicable (perhaps with adaptation) in the church.

I was once told a story of how someone was introduced to the Bishop as “our head sidesman (sic)”, when in his day job he was CEO of a reasonable sized company.

God does not just work with us in church, but in the whole of our lives.  We can take things that we learn outside the church and use them to the benefit of the church and vice versa.  (We can also take the church into work – but that is a different post).

What skills have you developed outside the church that you can bring in?  And what have you learnt inside the church that you can take out?

Welcome – for who?

Lesley and I have decided to start playing bridge and have been to a couple of local clubs to see about joining.  You may wonder why I am writing about this, but it is because of our different experience of welcome in the two clubs – and the insights that that has given us about welcome in church.

To be fair to the two clubs I suspect that they have a different emphasis – one is focused on the playing of bridge, and the other is more social.  I am not saying that one is right and one is wrong – rather questioning who it is for.  If you know how to play bridge, what to do when you get there and your main concern is to turn up, play your bridge, focusing on the game, and go home then one club is better for you; if you want to chat a little as well as play bridge then perhaps the other.

That translates quite well to church – there are churches for the afficionados; places where those in the know can go and focus on what they want to focus on, but where newcomers can feel a bit lost.  Then there are churches where perhaps the service is a little more flexible, but where newcomers can feel more included.

There is a place for both, and indeed I believe that Willow Creek hold mid week services for the leadership, with Sunday services being focused on newcomers.

The challenge is what kind of church are we, and what kind of church are you?

All are welcome in this place

As has been written about elsewhere on this site we are looking at becoming members of Inclusive Church, and during August are preaching on this.  Yesterday I spoke on an inclusiveness which isn’t one of the six areas that IC is focusing on, but which is close to my heart, and that is the inclusiveness of different beliefs.

I said that I wanted a big tent Christianity, where all are welcome.  I was heckled with “what about devil worshippers”, and agreed that they might be an exception, but afterwards I was challenged on this.  I was also challenged on whether the church has a role in enforcing behaviour.  To take the last first; the parable of the weeds and the wheat says don’t tear up the weeds for fear of tearing up the wheat – let God judge (I paraphrase), and Jesus says:

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.

The Church has been wrong in the past, is no doubt wrong at times now, and will no doubt be wrong in the future.  How can we be sure that we are judging with God’s eyes?  And given the quotes above, why would we even try?

The first question leads on from this – if we do not judge, then why would we exclude others?  This does of course lead to the classic permissive dilemma, what do I do with people who wish to judge others?

It perhaps comes down to what you think church is – is it a place for the elect, the saved (a form of Calvinism), or is it a place for pilgrims on a journey?

If you believe the former, then what I am saying makes no sense; if the latter then it hangs together.

As for the problem of those who disagree with me, whilst I may invite them into my big tent, most will decide that it isn’t the place for them.  However, this is not to say that I want a (wider) church without them – but that is a different issue!

Where I was curate we often sang this hymn: All are Welcome in this place.  Amen.

A Non Anxious Presence

A while ago Lesley and I did a course and they encouraged us to be a non anxious presence.  You may wonder what that means – though it is self explanatory!

Do you recognise that some people seem to carry anxiety?  Just being in their presence makes you feel anxious?

Do you recognise the things that make you anxious?

  • Fear of what other people may think of you?
  • Fear of doing something wrong?
  • Fear that you aren’t good enough?
  • Add in your own favourite fear here!

One of the most frequent set of words in the Bible is “Do not be afraid” (67) or “Do not fear” (58).

If we can give up on our own desires and trust in God (and I’m not saying this is easy) then that anxiety fades away.  If instead of wanting a particular outcome we can desire that God’s will be done, then what is there to fear?

And if we can present a non anxious presence to others it can be catching, helping them to let go of their fears (well, sometimes).

How do we exercise our duty to warn?

This morning one of the readings at Morning Prayer was Ezekiel 33.1-20, which tells Ezekiel that he is to warn people of what God tells him to, and that if he doesn’t then on his head be it (I paraphrase).

This passage set me thinking as it can be used to justify telling all sorts of people that what they are doing is sinful – often done in an unhelpful way.  But, if we are called to tell people then don’t we have to do this?

My thinking led me to two places; not everyone is called to be a sentinel – God calls prophets and God gives them the message to be passed on.  Most prophets are unsure of their calling (eg Jeremiah) and are careful to pass on God’s word.

Secondly, the sentinel is called to give a warning; we can speak the truth and not communicate.  The words which communicated a long time ago do not necessarily communicate today.  Attacking people, insulting people, abusing people does not communicate.  If we are called to warn people then we are called to do so in ways in which they can understand.

An example, many years ago I worked in a team where we enjoyed winding each other up.  One day the main culprit was out at lunch when his wife phoned saying she had locked her key in the house, please would he come and let her in.  We gave him the message, but while we did so everyone else was smirking.  He refused to believe us and wouldn’t go home, even when we stopped messing around.

So the questions for people called to this ministry are:

  • Are you sure God has called you to this ministry?
  • Are you communicating God’s message in a way that it can be heard?

Broken Bread

Yesterday’s reading, of the feeding of the 5,000 includes:

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

Which is very reminiscent of the Eucharist, where we take bread, bless it, break it and give it.  It is also very reminiscent of the christian life where God takes our life, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to others.

The breaks sounds perhaps a bit worrying, but our lives, when we first encounter God, are often clenched tight, and need breaking open to allow God’s love in.

What is at the core?

I was talking with someone last night and we got onto the question of what is at the core of Christianity.  A few months ago I blogged on the principle behind the answer to this question, but looking back discover that I didn’t answer what is there for me (or at least not in that post).

For me the foundations of Christianity are:

He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’

and

Whoever serves me must follow me

and

God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.
New Patterns of Worship H6

If we do this then we won’t go far wrong.

You may notice that these involve how we behave, and not what we believe – although of course if you do not believe that these are the right things to do you won’t do them!  Of course there are doctrines of the church, but I think that the best way into them is through behaviour, not in the sense that you have to adhere to all the rules before you can belong, but in the sense that without some experience of God it is difficult to make sense of the doctrines or demands of the christian life.