I was at school 40 years ago when the USA Apollo 11 programme managed to put the first man on the moon with less processing power than my mobile phone. I was entranced by the whole adventure and have been fascinated by the space race ever since. I read today in The Church of England Newspaper that astronaut Buzz Aldrin shared Holy Communion in thanks for a safe flight and was inspired to write our verses from Psalm 8 as he stared into the blackness of space from the lunar surface. The following are the only bible verses to be written and left on the moon:
A psalm of David.
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise [b]
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
Filed under bible, God, space
Jewish Christian Steve Maltz the author of ‘How the church lost the way’– is passionate about how the roots of our faith have been damaged by the influence of Greek philosophy and culture. He suggests that the church needs to recover its roots if it is ever to fulfil its destiny, and see true and sustained revival. He makes some interesting arguments, but one thing I certainly agree with him on is his passion for the church to break out more and have a real impact on our culture, right here and now. Steve makes the point well in this passage from the chapter Redoing Religion:
” The question I now ask is, if we follow such a big God why do we cram Him into such a small box? We should let Him loose, let Him roam freely, let Him act according to His awesome nature. Of course He already does, but we act as if He lived just in ancient buildings, sports halls on a Sunday hire, or in front rooms swept clean of profane literature and embarrassing relatives…God doesn’t just live in church buildings for a couple of hours every Sunday. For a start nowhere in the bible is Church ever meant to be a building. It was the Greek Church fathers who changed things, leading to an idea that any expression of Christianity is best confined to a meeting place rather than the people who meet there. Whereas Jesus tells us to go out into the world to preach His Gospel, we have ending up telling the world to come into Church, to find Jesus there. And what does the world really find when it goes there?”
This morning I am off to talk to a group of Christians meeting in a hired-community centre who want to have their own Church building..interesting.
My earlier blog about Steve’s work can be found at https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/losing-our-way/
In the opening chapter of Acts the resurrected Jesus tells his followers not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promises of the father- The Holy Spirit. The disciples are excited at the prospect of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel- they still don’t get it! Only a few verses later Christ tells them to be his witnesses on Jerusalem, all Judea, and Samaria and the ends of the earth and then he disappears! As my friend George Lings would say, the message may have reached the ends of the earth but the church has set up a number of mini-Jerusalems. How many Christians effectively reach out beyond church walls other than through blitz events like Hope and Soul in the City and specific ministries like Street Pastors?
Some would say that the church is obsessed with Jerusalem and making it look better, bigger, slicker and brighter- when the real need is to set up camp in Samaria or even venture to the ends of the earth. As a church we tend to focus on people who are like us- Churched- those comfortable to be our people. What about the de-churched on the fringes of Samaria who are at least 3 times bigger than we are and many of whom don’t like who we are? What about the non-churched where we could come into contact we a group amongst the under 45s who are 6 times greater than that age profile in our churches? There is some excellent news and stories around the Back to Church Sunday initiative for which we should praise God, but we can’t ignore the facts that around 40% of the populations have had some experience of church yet have not returned- was it really their fault. My friend George suggests that the complex DNA have the church has dominant Anglican genes called worship and pastoral care and that evangelism and mission genes are recessive. For a national church, the Church of England, the number of people who appear to be deeply alienated from us is disturbing. It’s time to leave Jerusalem.
One of the risks in blogging about a whole range of things (and not censoring comments) is that from time to time some correspondents will get fixated on single issues. The purpose of this blog is to share with you my continued journey as an unfinished Christian and invite you to play your part in helping me along the way. I guess I’d hoped that my musings would appeal to others who consider themselves unfinished Christians or work-in-progress followers of Jesus. Well, I know of few of you reading this fit this description, but since I blogged about the BNP I have had a handful of persistent correspondents who make it their business to justify particular theological positions and excercise their freedom of speech -that well-known catch all for the right to say anything however offensive or unlated to the purpose of this blog. So, should I continue to keep comments on this blog unedited and put up with anything and everything that comes my way or do I block the people running obvious agendas? I honestly don’t know, but in the meantime I want to pray that we all need to look beyond, colour, culture and creed to the person underneath- the person that Christ died for. In Acts we read that, “God has shown me I should not call anyone impure or unclean. I recognise how true it is that God does not show partiality, but accpets people from every nation who fear him and do his will.” As ever, Nick Fawcett gets it right in Daily Prayer-
Living God, teach me that you did not just make some but all people in your likeness, and so teach me to value and respect everyone in the family of humankind. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
A few weeks ago a met a Jewish Christian called Steve Maltz and he gave me a copy of his book ‘How the church lost the way’– a fascinating argument about how the Way of the early church has been obscured by the influence of Greek philosophy which has worked its way through every facet of our Christian life, from doctrine to rituals and from practices to attitudes. Steve does a great job in taking the reader on a journey back to the roots of the Christian faith with a compelling simplicity and invites us to consider the implications of boxing in our faith to ritualistic church attendance and hymn singing. To get the full flavour of Steve’s argument you’d have to read the whole book for yourself but here’s a brief taster to wet your appetite:
” To a religious Jew everything is spiritual, everything is theological, everything is sacred. Life is not compartmentalised…the key distinction between Greek thinking that has insinuated itself into all parts of the Church thinking and practice…Jesus once had a spat with a Samaritan woman about acceptable ways to worship God. He spoke to here of future time when true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and in truth, so worship is going to have to be infused in spirit and in truth. It needs to be of a spiritual nature because God is spirit, but it needs to be based on truth..The Western Church has evolved into a rigid pattern whereby the phrase we will move to a time of worship is a cue for throats to be cleared, brains emptied of the mundane and legs and arms placed on standby and praise and worship is understood as a musical genre. It puts God in a box and misrepresents him as someone who can only be worshipped in recognised spiritual ways, such a sprayer, singing and proclamation. Hebrew worship frees us up totally to worship him using every part of our created being, body and soul with our arms, legs, voice, mind and spirit.”
All I know is that these arguments will run and run as people strive for the authentic model for Christian community and worship. While we do , just let’s remember He is the God of Jew and Greek and Brit and African and American and Indian and Chinese and Australian and so on and so on until the ends of the earth and for all time. I am sure we are getting parts of our worship and understanding wrong and we have missed out on much, but thank God for the Good Shepherd who never gives up on the strays who have lost their way and thank God that we can keep asking questions and discovering more of Him each day. Steve’s idea about everything being spiritual and there being nothing out of bounds for God is also echoed by teaching minister Rob Bell. See this brief excerpt from his film Everything is spiritual and judge for yourself:
I have been listening again to Psalm– a collection of 12 Revised Standard Version Psalms by Evangelist, Actor and musician Frank McGregor. I find this collection uplifting, reflective, inspiring and reassuring – thank you Frank.
Col 3:16 says:“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Frank says in the sleeve notes to the CD; ” It’s not surprising that many of our hymns are based on them (psalms) because we can all relate in some way to them- they reflect both the joy and sorrow of human experience in relation to God…thanks to God who as used all of these Psalms to speak to me in different ways, times and places. My hope is that everyone who hears these songs also hears God speak to them too.”
To listen to sample tracks and to buy Psalms see http://www.gospelrocky.co.uk/supporters.html
Filed under bible, music, Psalms
Today is Trinity Sunday when the Christian Church has a focus on how God has reveled himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a sticking point of Christian doctrine that prevents many engaging fully with the faith- they simply can’t get their head around this glorious mystery. How can one person become three and why and where and when? I am not a learned theologian and have not answers to this mystery that will give doubters the answer that they seek- it simply doesn’t make logical sense- but that doesn’t make it any less real does it? As Nick Fawcett writes in his prayer for Trinity Sunday in Daily Prayer:
“It reminds us of a truth we cannot afford to forget: that God is beyond the human intellect, defying expression, greater than we can ever conceive. We cannot explain how the pieces fit together but we know that they do, for we have experienced the truth ourselves. If we imagine that we have solved the mystery and that the full wonder of God is firmly in our sights, then it is time to think again, for if we ever think that, then the truth is that we have lost sight of him altogether. Sovereign God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. teach me to live with mystery, and simply to celebrate each day my many experiences of your love. Amen.”
So God not one person but a community of persons made one through their mutual love. The mystics and theologians have speculated long and abstractly on these matters, and we continue to do so until God settles the issue. In the meantime lets draw meaning and inspiration and give thanks by using the words of the peace for Trinity Sunday:
Peace be to you from God our heavenly Father. Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace. Peace from the Holy Spirit, the life-giver. The peace of the triune God be always with you. And we continue to give you thanks because you have revealed the glory of your eternal fellowship of love with your Son and with the Holy Spirit three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour, yet one God ever to be worshipped and adored.
May you discover peace, comfort and inspiration this Trinity Sunday and see more of the glorious oneness of love, mystery and hope.