I know a few Christians who keep Sunday special- so much so they don’t even bother going to church – so I was amazed to read about Dan Walker one of the new faces of the BBC’s football coverage. Dan will not work on a Sunday because he is a devout Christian. This took me back to the story of Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire (who ended up playing or was it refereeing football on Sunday as a POW ) and of the early days of triple jumper Jonathan Edwards (who now is not even sure he believes in God). In today’s edition of The Sun newspaper
Dan is reported as saying “When first told the producers on a major radio station I wouldn’t work on a Sunday they told me I’d never get anywhere in broadcasting. They thought the fact that I said on my CV that I wouldn’t work on a Sunday was some kind of joke. When I explained I was a Christian, and why I felt the way I did, one of them just sat with his mouth open for about ten seconds. Hand of God … Sunday ban It was a great job and they fully expected me to give up everything to work for them, but I wouldn’t – I didn’t get the job. I take my faith quite seriously and not working on a Sunday is part of that. I don’t even watch football on a Sunday.”
Dan firmly believes that Sunday is time for spending at church with his family and gives some background to his decision; “When I was 12, and about 2ft taller than all the other kids, I was asked to play for quite a few teams. The problem was all their games were on a Sunday. I had only recently become a Christian and this was the first time I was confronted with the issue of how I should be spending my Sundays. I firmly believe God was using that experience, even at an early age, to prepare me for situations in the future when I would need much stronger convictions. People often say it must be really hard to be a Christian and to do the work I do – I disagree. Special I think my job puts me in the same situations everyone else faces. The only difference is that people who work in the media are usually paid to have opinions so you can get involved in some heated debates.”
He accepts his stand is not a position all Christians would take; “Many people – even Christians – have asked me why I feel so strongly about the Lord’s Day. For me it seems quite obvious. God, our creator, has given it to us for our own good. Some will argue that Jesus Christ’s coming means we are no longer obligated to keep it special but I fundamentally disagree. There are still ten commandments and it is more important than ever to guard the fourth one – remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”
In the film Chariots of Fire Eric Liddell (who switched from the 100 metres because he refused to run on a Sunday) is handed a piece of paper by the American Sprinter Jackson Schultz as Liddell is settling down to run the final of the 400 metres written on it were the words “The Lord says he that honours me I will honour.” Liddell went on to win the race and the gold medal against the odds. There is no doubt that in the world of sports broadcasting Dan Walker is winning against the prevailing tide- let’s hope he makes it to the better ground he has staked out for himself and that his stand doesn’t become a millstone like so many others have found.
Yesterday I got my highest number of hits on the blog all week- yet I didn’t post a thing! This may have something to do with the fact that extra traffic seemed to come my way thanks to it being listed in numerous press releases and websites for being highly commended in the Surefish/Christian Aid web awards. If you are one of these people I hope you find something of interest amidst my unfinished musings and come back or sign up to the twitter feed @ https://twitter.com/unfinishedchris .It got me thinking about the concept of serendipity or happenstance- where we just come across things by accident and then take to them. Down the years this has happened to me with authors, artists, musicians, plays and even sport. Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes restrict ourselves to the familiar, uncertain of the risks or hassle we may be given by just pushing things out a little further. Just recently I was talking to a couple of parishes about mission in relation to a new build housing estate a couple of miles from some long established village churches and I read this from Acts 1:6-8:
“So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them: It is not for you to know the times or dates the father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I pointed out that the disciples were looking for the restoration of their Kingdom of Israel, something that was past but they felt needed to be restored before anything else. Instead Jesus gave them a new vision- to share the good news and be his witnesses, not just in their immediate locality- the familiar capital city of Jerusalem but to Samaria and the ends of the earth. I asked them to think about how the ends of the earth to them could be this new estate only a couple of miles down the road and how they could engage with the challenge and opportunity for mission this throws up. My prayer for you today is that you would allow God’s Holy Spirit to lead you with spiritual serendipity into the unfamiliar and equip you to be able to respond to extending something of God’s love and grace to those you find there. You may be pleasantly surprised what you discover about yourself and the gifts God has given you on this journey by being open to take on the unfamiliar.
Today I joined a very small number of people for morning prayer as part of a couple of days I am spending at a lovely retreat/conference centre in the heart of Limehouse in London. I was struck by the words from Common Worship’s Morning Prayer on Thursday and wanted to share something of them with you:
The night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and forever. Amen. I have given you as a light to the nations, and I have called you in righteousness. Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
Let’s take some time this day to consider how we may be called by God; know that we belong to him and that through his grace, mercy and inspiration have the ability to touch the lives of others and reflect something of the presence and light of God. May you be uplifted, inspired and expectant this day.
Today I heard the news that the oldest Bible will go live on the internet later this week. The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book. This has been made possible by The Codex Sinaiticus Project -an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, conservators and curators, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript. To read more on this see http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/en/
So will we discover that some of the passages we have grown to know and love so well are not quite what they should be? No doubt this will re-ignite arguments and discussions amongst scholars, and I guess soon we’ll have the Blokes Codex S or the 100 minute Codex Sinaiticus appearing in Christian bookshops? What I’d rather see is that all thinking Christians think about how they reflect Jesus to their friends, family and neighbours. After all, you could be the only bible they ever read.
Today sees the launch of a community audit I am leading – A Church4U? at an event based in a local school, followed by a church service focused on the story of the road to Emmaus. The focus of the audit is to use surveys, focus group and films to discover the heart and soul of the area- a place with two distinctive christian communities yet no dedicated church building. We hope to discover what residents, and those working in the community, understand church to be, and also if they want to be part of a vision that will establish a multi-use church building as much about community service and a place to be as a venue for Sunday worship.
After the death of Jesus the disciples lost heart and hope. Their Rabbi and leader had died and they were devastated and had little idea of what to do next other than to return to their former lives. It was as if that previous three years had counted for nothing. On the Road to Emmaus Jesus revealed the truth of his mission to them and they learned that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit. They would gain hope and a new mission and would have some story to share- a story destined to turn the world on its head. Today two churches will meet in a community centre without any outward visible sign that they are church. I will be asking them about how many people they are walking with every day on their own road to Emmaus and how these strangers or friends will be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus?
For a previous post on a related topic see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/now-you-see-me-now-you-dont/
Yesterday I finished a very direct and emotive book Emerging by Nigel Capon who spent some months as a part of Pilson a Christian Community based in Dorset which provides care and support for those who seek respite from the stresses of everyday life. In the diary of his time there, former mental-health therapist, Nigel writes about his emergence from an abyss, rebirth and his experience of Pilson’s healing touch. He explores the effects of the illness from which he suffered, the difficulties and fun of community life, and his ability to help develop music there. It is a raw, unexpigated and very distressing book that gives a direct glimpse into the stresses and strains of someone struggling with self-esteem and mental health issues. It is not a story with a neat or happy ending- Nigel continues to struggle with his demons, but this entry from the diary gives some insight into the journey he is on:
” Writing all this down, is helping me to see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel- it is also, I believe. something to do with the fact that I am having the courage to open myself up…and in doing so, finding the real me- a rebirth. What i am finding so helpful..is the fact that I am accepted totally, without judgements, without criticism, for who I am- accepted with warts and all. Also, another statement which brought me to tears nearly, and which made me feel so good, was Mary saying to me that she was glad that I was here at Pilsdon-if that isn’t a healing statement, then I don’t know what is.”
Thank God for people like Peter and Mary and all the Wardens and teams based in other Christian communities who reach out in Christian love to the broken, the distressed, the needy and the damaged. To the people who seek to be Christ to them.
To order your copy of Emerging see http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/CP_cat.asp
Teenagers say family, friends, money, music and even reality television are more important than religion according to a recent survey of a 1,000 13-18 year-olds by Penguin books undertaken to mark the publication of Kevin Brooks’ novel Killing God. What have we done when six out of ten 10 children (59 per cent) believe that religion “has a negative influence on the world”?
The survey also shows that half of teenagers have never prayed and 16 per cent have never been to church. The controversial new book is about a 15-year-old girl who questions the existence of God. Kevin Brooks, the author, said: “I can’t say I am surprised by the teenagers’ responses. “Part of the reason that I wrote Killing God was that I wanted to explore the personal attitudes of young people today, especially those with troubled lives, towards organised religion and the traditional concept of God. “How can the moralities of an ancient religion relate to the tragedies and disorders of today’s broken world? And why do some people turn to God for help while others take comfort in drugs and alcohol? “These are just some of the questions I wanted to consider… And I wasn’t looking for answers.” The research also found 55 per cent of young people are not bothered about religion and 60 per cent only go to church for a wedding or christening. Only three out of 10 teenagers believe in an afterlife and 41 per cent believe that nothing happens to your body when you die, but one in 10 reckon they come back as an animal or another human being.
A the Church of England is looking to cut its budget for youth mission work a spokesman said: “Many teenagers aren’t sure what they believe at that stage of their lives, as is clear from the number who said they don’t know whether they believe in God. “On the other hand many of these results point to the great spirituality of young people today that the Church is seeking to respond to through new forms of worship alongside tradition ones.”
Today a new site Make Jesus Famous is launched- http://www.makejesusfamous.org.uk/. Let’s help it generate the ideas, commitment and inspiration to reach out to to those who really don’t know or care about Christ. Let’s give them a message of hope, new life, love and transformation. Let’s be the miracle to them.
For the full article on this story see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5603096/Two-thirds-of-teenagers-dont-believe-in-God.html