Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Something stirring inside

I want to be an apprentice of Jesus. I want you to see Jesus working in and through my life in a way that screams transformation. I want, by this time next year, for you to come up to me and say, "You know what Craig? You are more like Jesus this year then you were last year! I want to live my life in such a way that you say… “I want what he’s got. Not because I’m personally great or skilled or talented or charming” (I’m none of those things! I’m as messed up, broken, lukewarm as all of you.) But I want to live in such a way that you say “Jesus has taken this man, with all of his mess, his brokenness is lukewarm-ness and the Lord’s grace has just completely outshone all of that. Craig is more like Jesus now than he’s ever been" I have a sense in which I’m finally realising that this is my primary vocation. If you'd asked me before I would have said ‘yep that’s what it’s about’, but to be honest, I would have said it say because I have read it in a book somewhere. But now. I’m finally opening myself up to Jesus, and listening and praying about how this can be a flesh and blood reality to live by. Walk with me as I hammer it out. Maybe we can journey with this together.

Monday, July 09, 2012

And we're back in the room...

3 months. Gone just like that. And with that I have a baby daughter - gorgeous, cute, rocks my world - all of that. Paternity leave gave me a lot of time to think (amongst changing dirty nappies, and the slow realisation that sleeping in will NEVER happen again) about discipleship. Not just think, but pray read, wrestle, discuss it. I realised this - I'm not being discipled. How on earth can I preach discipleship when I'm not practising it? I've also realised that it's only because I have been discipled in the past, that's why it's such a loss to me that it's not going on in my life right now. And I'm not talking about small groups/cell groups/Bible studies, things like that. I'm speaking of someone, who looks more like Jesus, pouring their life into mine, so that I can go on to do the same to others. It's taken me a whole year in a (lay) pastor's role to see that this is the reason why our corps is full of people who come to be entertained on a Sunday and yet leave it to the faithful few (strike a chord anyone) to do the stuff. And when I say 'few' I mean four of us.... Oh yes we're that close to imploding... And so gone are the days where I was secretly hoping to pastor a megachurch or megacorps or whatever... hoping to grow big ministries and the like. Now I choose the simple but difficult path of trying to be a disciple of Jesus in the real biblical sense of discipling others myself so that they will in turn do the same. Thank you Mike Breen. You've gone and done it now...

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Crucifixion - a short sermon for Good Friday 2012

Crucifixion isn’t special, it isn’t unique, it isn’t strange.
It was a heinous, evil, cruel, shameful form of torture,
inflicted by the Roman Empire on to all those who stood in their way –
the brigands, the terrorists, the revolutionaries,
the pretenders to the throne.
All those who stood up to the Empire and what it stood for,
all who dared to say there was a different way, a fairer way,
a better way than the Roman way was soon crushed under its power,
snuffed out from existence, thrown on to the scrap heap
as the Roman juggernaut marched on and on.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people who, both years before and years after Jesus, died this form of execution.
They were killed not as someone who had won the fight,
but as one who had well and truly failed.
All who were whipped, beaten
and effectively stapled onto those heavy beams of wood,
left to asphyxiate until they breathed their last breath,
rolling around their shattered dreams of a different, better, fairer way
than the Roman way
as they hung there…
That must have been when they well and truly knew…
The dream. Is. Over.

The men and women standing there, followers, disciples, dreamers,
Looking up as Jesus of Nazareth is stapled to the cross must have well and truly known…

The Kingdom dream,
the dream of Jesus as King of the Jews. Is. Over.


Crucifixion isn’t special, unique or strange,
it happens today.

How many dreams and desires,
Projects and proposals,
Wishes and wise words,
Councils and communities,
Families and Friends,
Children, Men and Women,
Are still being crushed, abused, walked over, abandoned, executed
By juggernauts, empires and people who bring death?

Does evil have the last word?
Do pain and suffering and death
and all that distorts God’s good world have the last word?
Is the Kingdom dream, really and truly over?

The bystanders cry out to Jesus,
“If you’re the King, come down from the cross!”
But Jesus knows that because he is the King he must not come down.
He’s taunted by the Priests and the scribes,
the soldiers, and the criminals.
Deserted by his followers,
Abandoned by his friends,
Denied by Peter
Betrayed by Judas,
Nothing and no one is there for him,
The dream looks like its over,

But because he is the King, Jesus must not come down.

He experiences the utter abandonment of God
and as he finally screams out:
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’
Maybe everything within, is screaming out to him,
“Get off that cross, do it now or the dream is over”,

But Jesus knows that he’s not to come down,
he can’t come down,
he won’t come down.

That cross,
That symbol of death,
That tool of the Empire,
Jesus knows,
IS the place where the dream becomes reality.
IS the place where the Kingdom comes,
Evil, sin and death are exhausted.
Temple curtains tear in two.
God is unleashed upon the world –
Forgiveness for all,
Peace for all,
Rescue, healing and salvation for all.

Life for all from the death of the King.

‘This is my body’, Jesus says
‘This is my blood of the covenant,
Poured out for many.’

And when you’re ever left wondering
If the Empire has the final say,
If your life is nothing but a sad, pathetic existence waiting to be
Snuffed out,
If evil has the last word,
Wonder again,
because this death, this execution, this CRUCIFIXION
Brings life to your doorstep.
Invites you to believe
Invites you to trust
Invites you to follow the King of Kings
Invites you to stop dreaming and hold out your hand
Because reality -
True, cross-bearing, world-shattering,
LIFE BRINGING REALITY
Has only just begun.

Monday, April 02, 2012

'I don't do Easter' ?


A man I know - a life-long Christian - said last week that he 'doesn't do easter' and is taking the day off as a holiday.

What is going on?

Resurrection Sunday is the greatest day in all of history, the day when God's new creation bursts into the old, the day that reminds us that the tomb IS empty, and Jesus was and is truly King not only of Israel but over the whole cosmos as the Father raises him up from death through the earth-shattering power of the Holy Spirit.

Its the day that truly started our movement, The Way, the Messiah-People, little-Christs. No resurrection - no Christianity.

Take out the resurrection narratives from the Gospels and you have no New Testament.
If the story ends on Friday. Jesus is a pretender to the throne, a false Messiah, a false prophet, a fake.

Take out the resurrection and we are the most pitiable, pathetic, deluded people who ever walked the planet (1 Corinthians 15).

Resurrection Sunday is the day when the whole Church, more than any other day, more than any other Sunday for that matter, lets off a raucous roar of praise and worship, raising the rafters of every church building, worship hall, tabernacle, beach, park, housing estate and meadow and springs into action freshly energised by the life-giving power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

And yet... there are Christians this week who are taking easter off...

Am I being legalistic? Am I withholding grace? Am I being judgmental?

Probably.

I'm sure there are many good reasons for not gathering this next Sunday: and yet, there will be people who are earning less than 80 pence a day, people who have lost everyone in guerilla attacks, people who have just been diagnosed with cancer, women who are abused by those who claim to love them, men who are reforming alcoholics and drug-dealers who will somehow, be able to bring themselves to be a part of that raucous praise party, celebrating the fact that Jesus is alive.

Maybe they won't all get into a 'church building', but wherever they are, they are going to worship Jesus and share his Good news with those around them.

And maybe that's what disturbs me most - It's not that some Christians won't be stepping foot into a church building... it WOULD be narrow-minded to think that its only inside the cathedral that God will be found...

Millions of people will be worshipping God this Sunday as they waterski, go for picnics, speak to prostitutes, cradle their sick child, and to all of those people I raise my glass of Shloer...

But that there are people, like that man who are purposively taking the day 'off'...

Christians who just don't 'do Easter'...

Tragic

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The 'H' word

One subject that keeps on coming back and back and back and back again to the forefront of my mind is the subject of Final Judgment.

The question of Hell.

I don't know why.

I wonder if I'm unhealthily obsessed with it and like an addiction I think I've got it mastered but it rears its head again and again.

Is it wrong to think of hell? Is it unhealthy to want to read lots about it and try and get a more 'biblical' understanding of it?

I've read lots and lots on this subject and I've come to a point where I simply have to say 'I just don't know'.

Will all be saved? I don't know. Are some damned for all eternity? I don't know.

I trust in the grace and love and healing power of God.
I believe in the power (although I don't claim to understand) of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
I believe that salvation is far more than simply saving individuals and contains the whole cosmic scope of God's creation being put back together.

But still, nagging away. The 'H' word.

As far as judgment goes I realise that it is absolutely necessary in order for evil to be rooted out of God's good world. I believe that judgment and wrath is the only action against evil that a loving God could and would perform. He judges because he loves.

I came across this short quote from a theologian called Richard Beck which really clarifies this well for me:

The more you love, the angrier you get. The more you love the more upsetting this world will be. The more outraged you'll be with injustice, senseless violence, exploitation, meanness, and cruelty. The more love, the more wrath.


This at least I am convinced of: God judges because he loves.

Whether that equals everlasting conscious torment is another question.

On that question I remain unconvinced...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sent

We are called to be a sent people.

I've been challenged recently to consider who I'm actually sent to... Am I sent to the world? To Liverpool? To my street? To my next door neighbour?

All of the above?

I think we have a problem in a lot of Church circles in that we don't realise that we actually are sent to real, broken, flesh and blood people, some of which live next door, some of which we pub, or gym or eat, or facebook with.

We've forgotten we're all missionaries.

Who is God sending you to?
How are you going to recapture what it means to be sent out in His Name?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

If you dare

The political novelty that God brings into the world is a community of those who serve instead of ruling, who suffer instead of inflicting suffering, whose fellowship crosses social lines instead of reinforcing them. The new Christian community in which the walls are broken down not by human idealism or democratic legalism but by the work of Christ is not only a vehicle of the gospel or only a fruit of the gospel; it is the good news. It is not merely the agent of mission or the constituency of a mission agency. This is mission. (Yoder, Royal Priesthood, 91)

What would it look like if this week we actually tried to practice this? To serve instead of rule, to suffer instead of inflicting suffering, to reach out to those who you wouldn't usually, to actually take mission seriously?

It would look like God really is in charge.
It would look like there really is Good News for the world.
It would look like forgiveness of sins and freedom and New Creation really was bursting out on this world.

May you and I dare to practice this. May we dare to actually get in line with the missionary God who calls his Church to actually join in with His Mission.

Grace and Peace