Honest Christianity – when lives don’t conveniently follow the church calendar

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Many years ago at Spring Harvest, the preacher, Tony Campolo, taught on the phrase that has become almost
Easter folk law, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. The sermon was full of hope in the light of current difficulties or circumstances. What do we do when we don’t experience resurrection?

Most of us are personally and or personally know people that are still living in crucifixion Friday rather than resurrection Sunday. Life for them is full of sadness and loss; grief in relationships, careers, health, church etc.
the promises of new life, is still that, a hopeful promise, even still a far off one. Even today as I was dressing to get ready to go and lead an Easter Sunday Morning service at the Children’s Hospital, I was called in before I had even got there to support a family with a very poorly child. It might be Sunday but it feels like Friday. Their hope of resurrection is a literal immediate one. “He is risen, indeed, hallelujah” is a muted chant alongside the cry of lament. It is a needed truth and promise but not our only song in a strange land.

Hope is still needed today as much as it was Friday or any other day. We need compassion and patience for those whose lives don’t follow the seasons of the church. It is many times multi reasoned and complex why life is so full of desolation. We live in the hope of resurrection for ours and others circumstances but in today’s celebrations, let’s be mindful, it may not be today.

Honest Christianity – we need an advocate – mine was Mum

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One of my teenage memories of my mum is a strong one. This is some of the history, the back story that you need to know. Because my birthday is bang on the first of September, when I was at junior school it was realised I had started school a year early. The education systems solution to this was to insist I did an extra year at junior school or secondary school. I chose to do the extra year at the end of secondary school, my reasons I vaguely recall was that I did not want all my friends to leave me behind and more powerfully, they might forget or change their minds in 5 years time. They did not!

So after I was half way through year 5 (11 in today’s money) again, I applied to catering College. Even though I knew this is what I wanted to do the year before, I was told I could not apply until the year I would start. So when I applied the next year I was told the course was full and there was no room for me! I was very upset as cooking was the only thing I enjoyed and had done poorly academically at everything else (my dyslexia had not even been considered and I was just perceived as being not that bright naturally or the consequences of a council estate one parent family) . My mum had a different response, she went loopy, hit the ceiling, came down and then went up again. She went straight on the phone to the college and demanded that I had an interview . I think she must have frightened the course director and I was offered an interview, to which my mum came. The outcome was that I was exactly the type of student the course wanted and they offered me a place!

Two years later I was awarded top student of my course, runner up top student for the whole college and had been offered a job as a chef at the Savoy Hotel in London. Where and how might I have ended up had my mum not done that for me? To have intervened, advocated in the light of unfortunate circumstances or unfairness? Who knows? So let’s be thankful to all those people in our lives who have offered this type of support and intervention. Maybe it has been a parent , youth worker, pastor, partner, friend, professional… And let’s continue to model and imitate this advocacy for those who need a voice, an intervention, it’s what my mum would do!

Honest Christianity – learning from children

blog4This morning one of our newer hospital chaplaincy team members, Ruth, led our early morning Psalm Communion breakfast discussion. She read and shared from Psalm 8:
from the lips of children you have ordained praise
you have taught children and infants to tell of your strength.

This verse has been an encouragement for me in my chaplaincy work and while I was watching a recommended video on you tube, I came across this. Enjoy and be nourished from the lips of a child

Honest Christianity – how would we define healthy spirituality?

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Healthy spirituality is life-giving – I read this short definition in a book called Transforming Spirituality.

This is helpful I think. It should lift our spirits, soothe our heart pain. It should be good for our physical, mental and emotional health. It would seem many of us find similar activities life giving , being in and around nature , the presence of friends. This suggests that there are common spiritual needs such as being connected, meaning making, finding purpose.

But I wonder if this is sharp enough. Can something be life giving to me but oppressive to someone else? Is this ok? Agreed we do not need to find life in the same things, but my individual rights must be held in tension. My life giving spirituality cannot be 1ife sapping to others and be fully valid.

The authors were quoting a colleague in the short defintion but then went on to suggest that health conducive forms of spirituality are:
intentionally embodied
developmentally generative
relationally connected
justice enhancing
narratively coherent (Shults and Sandage 2006 p210).
This is something to think about further for my work and life.

Honest Christianity – what would we wait to go to heaven for?

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It depends how Godly I am feeling, I am in no rush, I enjoy my life especially my wife and opportunities of service. I am willing to hang around for a few more achievements and enjoyments, especially if one or two of them were a trike and small boat!

As regular readers will know we use a different annual daily reading notes book. This year we are using “Life with Lucas”. Jeff is a much known and loved writer and speaker whose ministry we have appreciated for many years since meeting him when working for YFC. This book is in six 2 monthly sections and the first 2 months ofthe year has been around relationships . Jeff’s reflection this weekend has been around the apostle Paul being ready for Heaven but being willing to stay for the sake of his committed relationships to people like Timothy.

I wonder outside of our families, if this would be true for the majority of us? I love being around people, relating, serving, supporting but Jeff is proposing Paul has a different perspective. Time to reassess the purpose of life, yet again!

Honest Christianity – what is our greatest hazard?

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Our local communities and our world are wonderful places but they are also full of dangers.

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all”  Soren Kierkegaard The sickness unto death

I am still reflecting on how and where this hazard might be for me. One place I am very aware of is just being too busy without thinking too much of what I am doing. And if I am thinking about it, it is more concerned about how it looks to others rather than God. The underlying value within this quote is that the human life is valued. I do not think it is contradicting Jesus’ encouragement to lose our lives to gain them (Mark 8.34-5). Jesus’ challenge and clarification comes with the ending “for me and the gospel”.

Drifting is rarely helpful, useful or purposeful. Being distracted and sidetracked can be such a waste of our unique gift, the life we have each been given. Losing it purposefully for the sake of Jesus and the coming of the kingdom seems a helpful way to look at it to me.

Honest Christianity – what is it worth having scars for?

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This morning in church someone read out an Eddie Askew reflection as part of our service. This was the story at the heart of the reflection:
A man died and went to heaven, after signing in and completing all the formalities he went for a walk. He expected heavenly choirs and halos but at least the weather was good, not too hot not too cold just right.
Going a little way down the hill he met an angel. The Angel greeted him cheerfully, well you’d expect that in heaven wouldn’t you, then began to look him up and down with great interest. The Angel walked all around the man taking his time and inspecting him from every angle and looking more and more puzzled. “What are you doing?” asked the man as near to irritation as anyone in heaven could be. “Sorry” replied the Angel “I should have explained I was looking for your wounds”. “My wounds” said the man “but I haven’t got any wounds”. There was a long pause and the Angel asked quietly “But was there nothing in your world worth fighting for?”

I guess what we are willing to be hurt for is different for each one of us. But surely there must be at least one thing, one oppression, one part of the world, one people group? The life and especially the death of Jesus would suggest He thought so, and it was us, humanity that was worth being wounded for.
What will your wounds be from?