Mechanised church

"The harvest is great 
But the workers are few"
But
We don't really need more workers
Do we?
What we need
Is a way
To mechanise 
The harvest
Make it more
Efficient
So
Let's build a machine
That reaps
What has been sown
Sifts
And sorts
The harvest
No need
For more workers
Just a driver
Harvesting is hard
So
Lets build a machine
So we don't have to toil
In the sun
Or the rain
No need 
To get hands dirty
So
Let's build 
A mechanised harvester 
And call it
Church

Was Jesus a fundamentalist?

This is a response to a friend’s blog found here:

I think this is a really interesting topic and one I’ve been thinking about a fair bit since hearing McLaren speak on his latest tour of the UK and reading his latest book, which addresses the issue of pluralism vs fundamentalism.

For a long time I have thought that one of the characteristics of the Christian faith *should* be to be non-judgemental, being aware of the plank in our own eye and all that. As you point out, as soon as you believe that you have exclusive ownership of the truth you elevate yourself above the “other” and becoming judgemental is practically unavoidable, in my opinion. Couple that with a tribal, imperial attitude that the “other” should be feared and our identity is strengthened by hostility to those different to us (McLaren’s observation) and there is little hope, perhaps.

What McLaren asks early on is whether a strong faith identity always has to be associated with hostility to the other and whether acceptance of others has to lead to a watering down of beliefs? He argues that these 2 sit on a spectrum that we move up and down. His hope is that there can be a paradigm shift towards something completely different:

A strong faith identity that is benevolent to the other.

A benevolence that is rooted in a strong faith identity in Jesus (not the church or denomination) because Jesus was benevolent to the “other”.

Was Jesus a fundamentalist?

This from an online dictionary:
1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
2.
a. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
b. Adherence to the theology of this movement.

What do you think?

Tonight I am helping with the Soup Run

Tonight I am helping out with the Birmingham Soup Run. Faith groups around the city are organised in a rota to provide meals and hot drinks to the homeless in the city centre at 8pm every night of the week.

Our group does the 4th Friday of every month. We meet up to make crates of sandwiches, flasks of soup and tea and catch up with one another before piling into a couple of cars and giving out free food on the pavement, opposite a multi-story car park.

In some way, I feel it gives me a bit more authenticity or integrity to talk and write about community and social justice. Perhaps I am doing “my bit” for the poor and downtrodden, but I don’t feel a sense of triumph at the end of the night, or feel like patting myself on the back…

I just feel sad. Really sad. The brief exchanges I have with our friends who receive the food make me realise how human, how broken, how real these people are. For a short time, I get a glimpse and a whiff of their lives and it makes me feel that a few hours once a month is not what a first Century rabbi had in mind when he spoke about separating the sheep from the goats and giving away my shirt and coat to those who need them.

Far from feeling happy that I might have done a good thing by taking part in the soup run, I feel frustrated that I am constrained by the norms of society and my own fear from getting involved in the lives of these broken people. I don’t want to pay of my conscience with a couple of hours of good deeds, but desire a heart that is big enough to care for them all dearly.

They are all someone’s brother, father, grandfather, daughter. All I can do is silently pray for them, knowing and secretly hoping that I won’t be called to be the answer to my own prayers.

Encouragement

I was thinking about encouragement this week. I was struck by two things, firstly I wondered whether I was encouraging enough to my children and family. Secondly I wondered if I sought after encouragement too much from those around me for things that I do?

As a community, I know that we should be encouraging one another, that is one of the reasons to belong to any community, religious or otherwise, but when British reserve, lack of time and my brave face combine, I am left feeling that practically no-one really cares enough about the things that I think, say, write and do to encourage me, beyond clicking a “Like” button.
If there is a God, and all that I try to believe about Him/Her is true then I shouldn’t be worrying about what others think, because surely their opinions don’t matter. I should be secure in the knowledge of an eternal, unending love. But I’m not…
I don’t hear God as an audible voice, he doesn’t send me encouraging texts or give me hugs. He doesn’t respond to my blogs, tweets and Facebook updates and certainly doesn’t need to buy my book. That responsibility lies with the people who are known as His hands and feet, His son’s body. But they’re only human.
So perhaps, I need more faith and belief in a God who calls me beloved, and less expectation of people and myself. Perhaps I need to ask myself:
Would I still write, sing, blog, tweet, if no person cared about what I thought? Or is everything I do an expression of reflected, eternal love, that’s between me and God and everyone in between?

Our second go at "house church"

So I asked God
“What should I do?”
He said, “You already know”
“Love the Lord Your God,”
I replied
“And your neighbour as yourself”
Knowing I don’t do either
Very well
“Do the latter then”
“But who is my neighbour?”
I asked, tongue in cheekily
“Look it up in the dictionary”
came the divine response
Then silence

neighbour n.
1. a person who lives near or next to another


Not rocket science
Not mind-blowing
Not even an answer whispered on the wind
Or prayed over
Fervently by wagging tongues
Speaking tongues

Recipe for mild chaos ensues:
Take two families
Sprinkle a couple of extra
Lovely, loving Christians
Mix in praise
A bible treasure hunt
Prayer
Fold in a pizza or two
Top with cheesecake
From heaven
And bring to the boil
With endless
Cups of tea

Always believe you’ll be blessed


Metaphorical ashes dressed in sacks, 
Knees bent, cursing illness that will not budge, 
Lean on haunting songs as we pray for backs,
Easy tears as makeup starts to smudge. 
Men fall to the floor. Like trees cut above roots,
But some limped on, still lame, still blind; 
Worn with life; searching mustard plant shoots,
Of hope and peace and not being left behind.
Ministry, ministry an ecstasy of tumbling, 
Catching clumsy fallers only just in time; 
But I was crying inside and stumbling, 
And struggling as a fish on a line . . . 
Dragged through darkness, searching for light, 
Under a sea of culture, I was drowning. 
Gasping the atmosphere, losing all my fight, 
Only smiles are welcomed here, not frowning. 
Smothered by the noise of that place, 
The still, quiet voice hidden in the din, 
And a formula sold and found for grace, 
A cure for all sickness and for sin; 
I would hear and believe it, if I only could,
And sing with my corrupted lungs,
Obscene within, bitter as I stood.

While they babble in nonsense tongues, 
I would rather God used my weaknesses, if pressed,
 
Than believe some unreachable, desperate glory,
 
The old lie; always believe you’ll be blessed
 
The charismatic story.