The Times They Are A Changin’

So famously sung Bob Dylan back in 1964, those words seem very relevant to today. For starters the mornings are starting to get darker and the evenings are drawing in. An autumnal chill is beginning to bite and soon, if not already, the heating will be back on. Talking about this on Sunday morning after the service, I admitted that I love summer, but I also enjoy the moment when the winter jumpers come out for the first time, and the pleasure of drawing the curtains on a winters evening and shutting out the darkness and enjoying the cosiness of home.

This is not the only change, however, there is another deeper, more significant change, that of culture all around us. The ways in which we relate to each other are shifting with the rise of social media and portable technology. The internet is replacing the TV for younger generations, playground discussion is no longer about the programme everyone saw the night before, but the Youtube clip that was shared. Facetime is replacing face to face time. No doubt there will be disagreement over whether these changes are good or not (I’m happy to confess that I’m a lover of technology), but it is clear that things have shifted.

The way we relate to each other is also changing in our politics. It would seem that there is a move away from the middle ground to the left and to the right. Whatever our views on the Brexit vote, we are now faced with the very real question of how we want to be seen by the rest of Europe and the world, and how we are going to relate to those of other nationalities as we redefine our country in light of this decision.

Why should the church be bothered with these things? There was a time when perhaps we wouldn’t be. The Biblical picture of a new heaven and earth was taken to mean that this world was doomed and all that mattered was getting into heaven and saving as many as possible on the way. Recently, however, there has been a waking up to the importance of the life of Jesus as well as his death, and Paul’s teaching on lifestyle as well as the Cross. We’ve rediscovered Jesus’ message that he wants us as members of the future Kingdom to start living that life now, to begin to relate to each other in the present as we will in the future. In other words, his salvation is not just about life after death but life before death too. Key to this are our relationships with each other. Jesus calls us to model what it means to be people of love, of forgiveness, of encouragement and of grace, because this is the basis of our citizenship of God’s Kingdom both in the future and today – it is how we’re made to be and is the best thing for us, so why wait until another age to enjoy this, why not enjoy and share this life today!

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Anyone Fancy a Game?

On Sunday night Paul thrust a newspaper cutting into my hand saying he thought it might interest me. In the centre was a photo of a set of bookshelves filled with boardgames, staked from floor to ceiling. Yes, this did interest me! The article was about Draughts Café, one of a number of new cafés recently opened in the country that offer alongside coffee and cake, the opportunity to try out a huge range of games (they for example have over 600). There has been, according to the industry, an increase in the sales of boardgames over the last year, with the suggestion that 20 somethings are turning to them alongside computer games. Apparently, according to the article, these boardgame cafés are not only a great place to try out a new game, but also a great place to go on a date – if you enjoy the same games and can get on even if you lose, then chances are you’re well matched…

As a child I was brought up playing boardgames, it was a regular weekend family activity. At Christmas most years, we got a new game, The London Game, Articulate, Trivial Pursuit and so on. Over University years I didn’t play so often, other than the occasional game of RISK which usually ended for me very quickly in a blaze of glory that was rapidly quelled by those around me. In recent years, however, I have rediscovered the bug, finding that in the meantime a great range of games have been developed on the Continent, offering much more fun and tactical challenge than Ludo and Monopoly. My shelves might not look quite as full as Draughts Café, but they’re getting there!

So what’s behind their recent resurge in popularity? Simple. It’s not just that they fun to play and it’s satisfying to win (not that I do so very often), but boardgaming is a very sociable hobby. In an age when so much of our time is spent in front of screens, or in our cars, or in our homes, boardgames bring us together around a table for an hour or so of face to face time. Priceless. In a fractured world, these are deliberate ways of building community and friendship.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my plan is not to convert the church to boardgaming, as much as I’d love that, but to get us thinking about what we can do to proactively build up our relationships and sense of community. This doesn’t happen on its own, we have to work at it. Only as we grow in our friendships will we learn to trust each other, open our lives to each other, be open to learn from each other and to challenge each other.

Anyone fancy a game?…

Church Newsletter article 22.06.16

God has a Cunning Plan

Church newsletter article for 23.10.11

Found this picture on Facebook this week. Made me smile and I thought it was worth sharing… (would love to attribute it to its creator, but I’m not sure where it came from)

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships of all sorts this week in connection with the mini-course on Wednesday nights looking at Ephesians. Preparing this two-week overview has made me appreciate this letter in a new way. I’ve always been fond of it as a book, it has a number of cracking verses in it, but I’ve never really looked at it as a single piece of work and tried to grasp why Paul wrote it – what was it he was trying to get across through it.

At its heart is a simple message. God has a plan for this world, always has had, and this plan is reconciliation. On one level as Christians we know this. We know that through Jesus, God is reaching out in grace to us, inviting us back into relationship with him. It’s so much more than this though. He’s not just seeking to fix the relationship between us and him, but all relationships; Jew and Gentile, husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave. These are just the examples Paul uses in his letter. I have no doubt the list could go on to include black and white, rich and poor, East and West, employer and employee, working class, middle class and upper class, educated and uneducated, town and country and so on.

Why is it that relationships are so hard? Why are there so many divisions in our families, in our country and in our world? Many of our relationships are built on power and hierarchy – the dominant controls the other. Employers control employees. The rich control the poor. Historically whites were seen as superior to black, husbands superior to wives, parents superior to their children. The problem is that this so easily turns into abuse. In ‘more equal’ relationships, there is still tension as we seek to ‘look after number one’ and to save face, protecting ourselves from what others might say about us if they really knew us. We are pulled apart rather than together.

Into this world of broken relationships came Jesus; the one with true power and authority. Yet, unlike us, he didn’t use it to abuse or to look good, but to serve. The story of his wrapping a towel around his waist and washing the disciples’ feet is not just a nice tale, but is at the core of this gospel of reconciliation. Through this act he made himself vulnerable, a risky act of grace. Through this he turned upside-down the usual hierarchy of power, abuse and self seeking, flattening it, declaring all equal, all important and to be cared for. This is our calling of the church. Where we are in power, we are to use it to serve the other as Christ did the church. Where the other has the power, we are to serve them as we serve Christ. This is the Gospel and it can only be understood through demonstration. Are we ready to make ourselves vulnerable in this way and follow Jesus?

Review: The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book on my shelves for a while now – picked it up at the Greenbelt festival a few years back but it got put away with the rest of the stuff I’d picked up whilst there and then forgotten about. Really wish I’d read it earlier.

This is a book for all who’ve dared to think that there might be more to life than the daily grind, or have felt that somehow the church has lost sight of the radical life of Jesus. In it Shane pours out his beliefs about what Christian life should look like, that it is possible to live in a different way, and dares us to give it a go. Alongside this he describes examples from his own life and that of the various communities he’s belonged to. On the way he addresses our attitudes to relationships, peace and possessions. At its heart is the simple message of relating to those around us as people and being brave enough to step out of systems that don’t do this.

The next thing I’m going to do with this book? Give it away. Don’t normally do that, but I think it would be good to let it challenge others the way it has challenged me.

*****

I wrote about this book in our church newsletter. Here is what I said in case anyone is interested:

Living As We See It
I’ve been reading ‘The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical’ by Shane Claiborne recently; you may have heard me mention him a few times recently in our services. I’ve found it an inspiring read. There are times when his enthusiasm for his point of view about how we should live out the Christian life leads him to sound judgmental when talking about those who see it a different way, and there are times when maybe his use of Scripture is a little fast and loose, but when I finished his book on Thursday night and put it down, I knew that it had changed me in some small way. At its heart is the challenge not just to believe in Jesus, but to actually live out a life like him – to not see the Sermon on the Mount especially as just idealistic writing, but a call to live differently; something to be done.

Here’s a quote of his from near the end of the book,

“Maybe we are a little crazy. After all, we believe in things we don’t see. The Scriptures say that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). We believe poverty can end even though it is all around us. We believe in peace even though we hear only rumours of wars. And since we are people of expectation, we are so convinced that another world is coming that we start living as if it were already here.”

This is a totally Scriptural point of view. This is at the heart of Paul’s writing in the New Testament and at the core of Romans. As we see what the world will be, as we know God’s judgement over us already as we are in Christ, then why continue living out the old life, instead lets live out the new. Revelation paints the picture of Heaven coming to Earth, of God living in the midst of humanity as in Eden at the start. A life where pain has gone, tears have ceased, peace reigns and we are reconciled to God, each other and the world we live in. If this is how it’s meant to be, then surely we should be striving to live that way today.

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