Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Easter what's in a word?

It fascinates me how Christians get themselves worked up about whether Cadbury or some other chocolate making factory are dropping the word Easter from Easter Eggs or if the name Christmas is being dropped to just being called holidays. An issue that could be raised about these organisations is how ethically do they source the cocoa used in these eggs. That said, each time these days come around there's a social media storm about how society is becoming less 'Christian'. We then see a group of people who moan and complain about how the world has changed because these words are being dropped in an attempt to defend Jesus, like He needs defending. Another group spend time reassuring the other group about how its all fake news and nothing is really changing whilst sharing their wisdom about the history of each celebration. There's a large audience who really don't care, watching 'Christians' working themselves up into a frenzy.

Do you think we miss the point sometimes (and I'm talking to myself here)? The Jesus I know shows compassion to people who society have ignored and kindness to people who are hated and unloved. He has a heart for social justice, seeing the most vulnerable people in our society thriving and communities growing in love. Surely all of that energy we use to argue or reassure that Christmas is Christmas and Easter won't be just an egg could be used in areas that are on Jesus' heart, doing this one step at a time?

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Up, in and out - modelling Jesus in our communities

I came across this video from Hope Whitby website (hopewhitby.co.uk), who describe themselves as a missional community. Leigh Coates Senior Leader of this community was a speaker at the Missional Leaders Seminar recently and explained one of the principles he encourages within the community is the principle of Up, In and Out. This video reinforces what he spoke about. The three things that stand out for me are:

Jesus was intentional with His time and where He spent it.

He understood the importance of spending time with His disciples and developing them for their mission.

He knew that the only way to reach the people was by being out where they were. He knew that the things that people did wrong affected their relationship with God, themselves and their community. Today we live in a world of injustice, just look at what is happening in our local communities. There is hope in learning more about Jesus and His heart for people and the impact that can have on the lives of people around us.

Here is the video

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Leftovers after Christmas

How was your Christmas? Was it a time filled with joy which advertisers want us to believe is the way to do it or was it a time of stress during the preparation or on the day in an attempt to get that ultimate Christmas this year? Okay you can hear the cynic in me. My personal experience when younger is that Christmas was largely a pressure cooker of relationships where people were forced together to enjoy a day that I never really understood and understand even less now as a follower of Jesus. Tonya is still working on changing my experience which I'm pleased to report is slowly happening and learning its more about people getting together enjoying a meal than anything.

I still don't really get the bells and whistles of Christmas as a religious event including carols where I feel like I'm singing happy birthday to Jesus even though really it's not His birthday. The short story around Christmas is that it originally was a time when Romans worshiped the sun god (obviously not called Christmas), after Constantine 'converted' to Christianity. He wanted to combine the worship of the pagan god and Christ which the church accepted. Christians prior to Constantine had always been stripping pagan festivals to find elements that point to Jesus, which we are still doing today. So Christmas as we see it now is a mixture of secular and Christians attempt to take or create elements that point to Jesus.

Recently I was in my local supermarket listening to the Salvation Army. It reminds me of Christmas Eve when I lived near Durham as a child. They played Christmas carols outside to our next door neighbour which was very loud. Yet the noise wasn't important because I thought how lovely of them to play to the neighbour as he was unwell and his family had requested for them to go around to spread joy. William and Catherine Booth the founders of The Salvation Army in 1865 spent a lot of time telling people about Jesus and ministering to the homeless outside of the church building. 

During one particular Salvation meeting William Booth heard Charles Fry and his three sons play at a meeting. Instantly William looking for ways to engage local people with the Gospel message, could see this as a tool to evangelise. The first ever Salvation Army Corp Band was formed in County Durham in December 1879. So even in the 19th century they were looking at innovative ways to meet with people, yet some 140 years later we are still met with these bands at our local supermarket.
On the news yesterday I watched a story about Euston Station, opening up for Christmas Day to serve homeless people with a Christmas meal supported by local businesses. The manager from the station talked about homeless people being very much apart of the local community on a daily basis and they just wanted to ensure they were safe on Christmas day. Practically the people who came were handed out walm clothing and sleeping bags. A community church in Middlesbrough, put on meals for people who were lonely or in need on Christmas day, as a way for people to spend time with others. We hear about foodbanks and other local churches providing support to people who need it. These are brilliant stories of our local community serving each other and without necessarily the bells and whistles of Christmas being central to the day.

Christmas day morning I received a message from Ned Lunn, a Vicar  (@NedLunn), which read, "We often think of darkness as a scary absence but darkness is also a creative place where new life is born. Creation was carefully crafted in the dark and, for Christians, so too the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. The mystery manifested in Mary’s womb, the tender secret of Christ’s tomb went without witness, shrouded in a holy darkness. Whatever darkness you are walking through, to you a great light is given, on you a light has shined and he is called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. The enduring comfort of God be yours this Christmas. Ned"

Are you in the darkness of Christmas sorting through the leftovers, thinking there has to be more than this? Maybe following Jesus, 'Christmas' is not that important, but knowing that God is with us everyday is important. Christmas can just be another day where we can show and experience God's love and His light in our families and local community.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

First term over - Cranmer Hall

So the first term is over at Cranmer Hall and I survived with my faith intact.There have been various challenges faced but God has resolved them at each stage.
It's been an interesting term understanding the various denominations within the Christian church and where they stand in their beliefs dependent on their tradition from Anglican high church with bells and smells to low church with their freer view on worship. Throw into that pot people from the free church including Baptist, Kings, Community, Vineyard and others there is an interesting dynamic in beliefs, opinions, experiences and backgrounds. I suppose if it wasn't for Jesus we certainly wouldn't be at a theology college in Durham together. That's the great thing that Jesus has put us together. Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." It's going to be interesting to see what God does over the next couple of years.

😀