That Niggling Feeling

Church newsletter article for 17.07.11

I’ve spent a lot of time this year reading about Jesus – no surprises there I guess you’d say in my line of work! But actually, it’s not as obvious as you may think. Church life is a busy life. There is so much to do (the illustration of plate juggling comes immediately to mind) with services to run, housegroup to prepare, assemblies to create, strategy to be decided, building maintenance to follow up on, pastoral visits to be made, toddlers to play with (I like that part of my work!) and that just scratches the surface. These are all good, but it is stunningly easy as a minister, as it is for any of us (swap my list for your daily list of activity), to lose sight of him it is that we’ve said we want to put first in our life.

Looking back over my reading over the last year, many of the books I’ve read have been about who Jesus really was and what he really said. This wasn’t a deliberate ploy, but I’ve had this increasing suspicion that I’ve lost sight of him. Maybe that’s too strong, maybe he’s moved from being at the centre of my vision to somewhere in the periphery.

Mark Twain is supposed to have said, ‘It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.’ All year there’s been a nagging feeling growing in me that what he’s said here is absolutely right. Not just that, but because what he said and did unsettles us, that we contextualise it away – reinterpret it for our time and culture (this is a good thing) but take the opportunity in doing so to smooth out the jagged edges in it and make them more palatable (this is not so good).

Want to know what bits I’m talking about, try reading Matthew 5-7 (waiting for church to start? why not do it now, it doesn’t take long) and ask yourself if you actually seek to live that way, to take Jesus on his word (take The Word on his word, I like that…) If you’re tempted to lessen the impact of that trusting, freely giving, open, serving community that he’s calling for and to say that he’s just exaggerating to make a point and didn’t really want his followers to literally do that, follow up your reading with Acts 4:32-37. It would seem that his first followers did just that. There’s something so exhilaratingly reckless about the way they abandoned living like everyone else, a joyful rebellion that I can’t help but look at and say that’s how I’d love to live …and yet I don’t.

I’m convinced that Jesus doesn’t want us as Christians to simply stamp the word Christian on everything we were doing before we became Christians. He calls us to transform our lives and embrace a new way of living not a rebranded one. I think its time to stop reading, and time to start living.

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