Thursday, 15 January 2015

Faster Or Further?

Which is better, faster of further? Of course the astute among you will say "it depends what's needed!" And you'd be right. In our fast culture of instant access and instant service, we can be tempted to think faster is always the answer, especially in matters of faith. There's a great proverb that I like and I think fits for this time of year: if you want to go faster travel alone, but if you want to go further travel together.

 The longer and more difficult a journey the more you need people around you to pick you up and keep you motivated, or look after you when you're sick and down. Of course, you'll need to take your turn at caring for the people that care for you too. That's team work isn't it? It's also a great picture of community. Jesus loves community. The Bible's full of family language. It also describes the early church and how big it was on community. If we follow Jesus we're called to love brothers and sisters in the faith in such a way that our love is a witness to the world of the love of God. Christians often want that and try to create that in meetings on Sundays, with some success, but the acid test is outside of the Sunday service.

Building and being in community is actually hard work. Don't know how hard you've tried it but it is. Another everyday proverb, or observation of life anyway, is that we often take the path of least resistance. So we try community, find that it's hard and back off a bit, falling back into our safe, cultural default of individualism and independence. Sometimes scarred and hurt by the process too. If you have been hurt or are trying and finding it hard, take courage, you're on the right lines. There's no other type of community. It's tough and great. It's rough and smooth. Just like life. But we are built for community. For relationships. We are relational beings. And our faith is a relational, communal faith. The greatest satisfaction is what you achieve with and in other people. Look at the two guys who free climbed up the 3000ft El Capitan in Yosemite Park today: they needed each other and did it together.  They will have become incredibly close and forged a bond that will last their lifetime. I often say if you want to grow in your faith get in community, invest in people and you'll grow; not because its' easy but because its hard.

Kevin Jorgeson & Tommy Caldwell: 1st to free climb
El Capitan 15 Jan 2015 
The Bible says in Romans 8:17 that we share in Christ's sufferings in order to share in his glory. We can't have one without the other. the glory is in the ups and downs of community. Depending on your experience, keep going, reboot, or get started. I've cycled a few laps of Richmond Park pretty fast on my own (for a 44 year old anyway), but my greatest achievement has been cycling across Europe in a team of 8 with tonnes of support from other people. It's true, you may go faster on your own, for a short while, but gradually, those who've struck out with other people will go further ... and have more fun. Take the risk and invest in community. You'll grow stronger and go longer.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

New Year Old Problems New Rhythms

Happy New Year for 2015!
O how quickly it arrives. It's been great this week kick starting the year and the term with these days of prayer. No matter how may people have gathered at any one time we have met with God. What an incredible privilege? It's been ... inspiring and challenging at the same time to spend time in the prayer space at the MBC Centre. My personal highlight has been the simple text from Matt 11:28 but in the Message version: 'Learn the unforced rhythms of grace".

That's what I'm doing and encouraging everyone else to do too. Discovering and setting good, better, and healthier rhythms of grace in my life: praying and reading the Bible that nourishes and strengthens me. I love that text though because it's a reminder that we're not slaves to some regime that is pushed upon us and that we carry out duty-bound in fear of being told off for slacking! It's an age old problem of coming up short and not doing what we intend to or want to. Our God is so different to that image. It's been about taking the opportunity that we have to engage with the living and loving God - wow that is some privilege.

Being in that prayer space today we've been praying for the people of Paris, and France in general. The shock and grief must be horrendous for the families concerned. I know there are many angles and details in such a subject, but the bottom line is, disagreeing about something, however important to you, is absolutely no excuse to kill them and it bears no resemblance to God either. When I got up this morning I read Ephesians 5:1-2 "be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Jesus was absolutely clear about non-violence and his radical approach of blessing and praying for your enemies and turning the other cheek is unrivalled in the world, inspiring heroes like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr.

Of course, loving is not easy. It would be easy to hate the perpetrators of yesterday's crimes, and want the same to happen to them. I struggle just as anyone does about that. But it would not build a better world. Only love can do that. We can pray for justice and see that justice is done, through the legal system and not at our own hands. Nothing wrong with that - God is a God of justice too, and it is his final say at the end of time that brings justice to all of creation. Let's leave that job of deciding who gets what to him and in the mean time dedicate our lives to loving like Jesus did. That's what this world needs.

So join with me as we learn the unforced rhythms of grace, and learn to live a life of love. Not easy, but worth it! "God comfort the people of Paris and may freedom and love win over violence and fear".