I got a short article from the Bible Society yesterday. It says nothing that is radically new, but it was so well put in a few words (with just a tinge of jargon) that I wanted to share it here:-
Should we stop using the word Christian?
I’m not sure I want to be a Christian anymore? In the New Testament, the word ‘disciple’ is used 269 times – Christian is only used 3 times. To be a Christian is easy – I just say yes to Jesus and I get to go to heaven on the basis of his death for me on the cross. To be a disciple – or better – an ‘apprentice’ means that I learn to live with Jesus today, eternal life starts now and affects every part of my life.
Heaven becomes a by-product of my life with Jesus now. Christian sounds like I’ve crossed the line, I’ve arrived. Apprentice implies openness to learning, to changing, to growing. Jesus is no longer just my Saviour and Lord – he is also my teacher – one who shows me the best way to live in the power and presence of God. Should we see ourselves as apprentices?
Increasingly, I feel reluctant to use the word ‘Christian’ due to perception. Like any label, it closes the conversation and defines. It becomes a full stop. Full stops are tempting; A kind of lovely comfy chair and thick luxuriant carpet- I need to do nothing else; here is home. I need lovely comfy chairs sometime (and I will need them more by mid July!) but not to define something that could be the centre of being and doing.
Samir Dawlatly: It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest ...
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Laul: I have recently been to an unnamed conference where an unnamed very high profile main speaker themed it all on comparing physical fitness to spiritual...
Graham: I think, for at least the strand of British Evangelicalism which yearns for 'The Christian Nation' and spins a web of 'we are being persecuted', that ...
Chris: Good post and good graphic Graham. For my part, I would say that Christendom ended some time ago in the UK- possibly 50 years ago, and good riddanc...
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Chris: Well said brother! I would say more but need to get off to Ikea......
graham: Thanks very much Andy. I feel it needs more to say 'the King has no clothes on' yet. Much as I would love the USA, there is no cricket, misery or b...
A couple of weeks back I was at a crematorium that I don’t usually go to. That is the kind of comment that makes a room suddenly go extremely quiet. This crematorium was like most, surrounded by lots and lots of greenery. Of course, there were graves; masses and masses of graves as well. But the greenery was unusually well tended; I got the feeling that there was a frustrated Chelsea Flower Show exhibitor on the staff (and this comment comes from someone who never notices flowers in a church).
The funeral finished and we all filed out, to share that awkward stilted conversation that typifies most of us outside a crematorium after a funeral. I was walking alongside someone who was very elderly and frail and suddenly she let out a loud ‘ooh- look at those flowers: they are beautiful’. Her carer tried to tone her down andsaid something about the type of flowers in the flowerbed; O how we patronise the elderly and infirm. To this, the lady said ‘I don’t mean them, I mean those’ and pointed with difficulty at a lawn that had not been recently mowed; ‘Those daisies- aren’t they lovely!’
And I stopped and looked as well; and they were-especially as you looked through her eyes and with her enthusiasm. Suddenly the carefully cultivated flowers with Latin names didn’t seem so important and what was commonplace and easily missed seemed so much more beautiful.
Never dismiss the very young or the very old: sometimes you just need different eyes to see what you so easily miss whilst looking for the big things.
Here is my attempt to engage the village where I live in the monthly newsletter delivered to all houses. It is always difficult to know how to do this: do you do a Conservative Party Conference thing- preach vociferously to your ‘home’ crowd in insider language (so you have ‘given ‘them’ the Gospel….even if none of ‘them’ understand it or are put off by your tone) or attempt, tentatively, to engage people where you might just be dismissed as a bumbling old fool? I usually try the latter approach.
Some of you will know the old W.H.Davies poem that begins with:-
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
There is more ‘space’ in summer: holidays, long days and light nights. Plenty of time to get the garden sorted or get round to all those jobs that you have not done during the rest of the year. There is also plenty of time to;
sit down and let the grass grow.
take your foot off the accelerator and watch the world go by.
In other words, time to realise that what we are and what we do is not the centre of the world.
We can all do this, but Christians talk about ‘Letting go and letting God’ and one of my favourite Psalms says:
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
I hope you manage to find and make that space this summer, for as the poem finishes:
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Five years ago today I started this blog: initially on BlogSpot and now on wordpress.
5 years: if I was a human of that age, I would be barely able to read and write, lacking concentration and unable to mount a logical argument: ’nuff said.
5 years: is an age in blogging terms- all the trendy kids have left blogging for twitter etc (I do that- you can follow me on @revgpp), leaving the blogosphere full of the terminally maladjusted, narcissistic and middle aged: ’nuff said.
I blog for the reason I always did- putting up stuff that I find interesting and that I would otherwise file and forget. Thanks for reading and persuading me that I am not the Jonny no mates of cyberspace.
I have heard it said that you would invite your minister to your Christmas parties but never your New Year parties. That’s because they are not like normal people; if they are feeling particularly racy they may have the occasional chuckle once a year, but never accompanied by more than a single glass of weak sherry. But staying up after 10pm; never, unless it is to write a sermon or an important committee paper.
Last night was a first: a kind of stag night for someone whom I am doing a wedding for a week today. He is part of a group of us who meet every Friday teatime at the pub- teatime never ends until we leave. I occasionally join them for orange juice and a half of weak shandy (let the reader understand).
When I was 10 or 11, I remember a minister who used to come into the Boys Brigade company I was part of and tell us stories. A lot of those stories have stuck with me. I remember one story about a man who was trying to reach people in American gang culture. He lived with them, went around with them and did what they did (the details are hazy- I struggle to remember what I did yesterday let alone nearly 40 years ago). I found some of the details shocking- I was an over moral 10/11 year old- but I do remember the idea that Jesus became one of us so we could become one with those around us…… no one stands a chance of that if you become something totally removed from them. In hindsight, I spent too much of my 20s just socialising with other Christians. My 40s, consciously and unconsciously, have been different. And no, I am not perfect, I have made lots of mistakes…
Well, that’s my excuse- not that I need any- for being out last night. And I will be up the same time this morning, running round a football pitch from 9.30-11, fresh as a daisy….
I blame the comprehensive education system. I had heard of the Velvet Underground but never really played them: I am sure Michael Gove- that clear thinking and sensitive Education Secretary- will remedy this for future generations (oh dear, my IronyGenerator TM is stuck on ‘full’ again).
And then, miracle of miracles, a well stocked charity shop with a stack of cds at 99p that were not all ‘Blue’s Greatest Hits’ or that one by Toploader that includes that well known one that the TV plays every summer. And in that stack that I found 5 good cds, I found one by The Velvet Underground. There is nothing like playing music composed under heavy drug taking and extolling heavy drug taking that gets one in the mood for church meetings in rural North Yorkshire I find.
Mind you, I almost couldn’t get past this song: wow!