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.
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.
Andy Warhol said we could all be famous for 15 minutes, but what could you do to help make Jesus better known? A new website Make Jesus Famous launches tomorrow Tuesday – 30th June. It would be brilliant if everyone who read this blogchecked it out and registered their ‘idea’ for sharing faith in their neighbourhood. All you need to do is briefly describe your everyday work … easy! You can then upload your photo or a suitable image, and make it part of the homepage ‘image wall’.
You can pre-register at www.makejesusfamous.org.uk right now, and you will be sent a reminder email on the launch day.
Hopefully, Christians who will inspire each other withtheir ideas, achievements and comments to spread the Good News . This in turn will build an ever-growing evangelism resource, harnessing the Christian creativity at work throughout the nation. If you ask why does Jesus need making famous?- the answer was given in a piece of research published only a couple of days ago when it was reported that a fifth of the population have no idea about the death and resurrection stories of Jesus.
Give it a try! Please help us Make Jesus Famous by pre-registering today. Many thanks – you will make a huge difference if you take part.
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.
Over the past few months I have listened to scores of people about the nature of how God calls us into ministry and service. I have personally found it really unsettling experiencing God guiding me into situations in which I am personally uncomfortable; yet once there -channeling something of God’s purpose and love to others. It has been a process of breaking me down and rebuilding me, slowly and gradually to appreciate that when I do things in God’s strength rather than mine amazing things can happen out of simple conversations. It has made me realise just how unfinished I am as a Christian, and also how complacent I have been for decades. I know that I still don’t take enough risks for the gospel. I now appreciate that feeling challenged and unsettled is something I have to get used to as I work out, if I can, the nature of God’s inescapable call.
Nick Fawcett puts this well in his Daily Prayer book- a constant companion of mine:
“Gracious God, I thanks you for your call: the invitation to be part of the work of your kingdom. I thank you that you welcome me as I am- with all my faults and doubts- and that though I fail you repeatedly, still you want to use me in your service. Gracious God, I praise you for that inescapable sense of call that you give; help me to respond. In the name of Christ. Amen.”
I hope this is a prayer we can all say.
In the UK just 18 of the more than 300 commercial radio stations broadcast a regular religious show, an all-time low for on-air spiritual content, according to Whistling Frog Productions. This past week I was at a conference which was focusing on the impact church and faith issues can have within a media culture obsessed by celebrity. Maybe God goss.com provides part of the answer. God Goss.comis a new and developing brand based around a weekly, one-minute “showbiz”-style bulletin of fun and serious religious and Christian news. It aims to amuse, inform and give faith a bit of a fairer press than it sometimes gets. At the moment the bulletin is broadcast on Heart 103 and Heart 96.3 Cambridge and Bristol- you can check out the sound files yourself at http://www.godgoss.com/
If you can see a use for GodGoss.com in helping to gossip the gospel on your local radio station then get in touch and I’ll pass on your comments to the team. If it’s not the sort of thing that appeals to you, but you can see the impact it can achieve then please add the GodGoss.com team to your prayer list.