Tag Archives: christianity

Church: Before It Went Viral.

To reimagine Church for today it is sometimes helpful for us to look back and learn from past mistakes or be inspired and challenged by what the Church used to look like.

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In The beginning
The Church began officially on the day of Pentecost over 2000 years ago. However, like most things it began unofficially before then from the roots of Judaism.

The Church was formed around the words of Jesus. Words that were both challenging, as well as liberating. There were words and actions that brought healing and hope, as well as a response from some of anger and indignation.

At the heart of Jesus’ narrative was an acknowledgement that the Kingdom of God was at hand; was near, tangible, visceral and could be experienced. The Kingdom of God we find is like a banquet where all are welcome, a wedding feast where some are prepared and some are not, a narrow gate, a city, a light, a mustard seed, the attitude of children, a place where you can experience forgiveness, grace, healing and acceptance.

Where is the Kingdom of God? Well, it is here in the Church and the life of the Christian. Not fully, but as much as God can be known this side of glory! Yet this is the beginning of the Church, the hallmarks of those early devotees to Jesus and ‘The Way’ (as Christians were formerly known).

Pre-Pentecost the Church was much more a gathered community of Jews and others, some of whom still attended the temple. Yet, because of their acknowledgment of the resurrection and the new life it offered them, a new community had begun. Over time came the slow dawning reality for these early Christians that Judaism didn’t fit anymore.

Post Pentecost

The Church’s function and form was to gather, to worship God and to remember the things Jesus said. Pockets of these communities sprung up all over the place and Apostles like Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Priscilla and Aquila, would visit these communities, offering new insight or oversight, and certainly for the church in Corinth, words of challenge about how they were treating each other.

Post Pentecost, there was a number of persecutions, resulting in the people of God dispersing from Jerusalem, setting up home in other places, and subsequently, the Church was established in those places as well.

Below is a letter showing what the early Christians and the gathered community were like.

“Christians are indistinguishable from others either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men… they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country.”

From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)

This glimpse into the early Church helps us see that, in its earliest form in New Testament times, it was a servant Church. The letter goes on to say how Christians are persecuted and have no possessions or power, yet are wealthy – but in a different way.

In our new beginnings post-Christendom, the period of our history that began with Constantine, let’s draw on those early memories and realities, which remind us of who we are and that we, like so many in our broken world at the moment, are refugees. Engaging with the community, we find ourselves, like salt and light, not having a prescribed notion of what Church should be, other than a gathering place where people can meet, learn and love Jesus.

Discovering Your Happy Place

If there was a place in the world where you can guarantee  that you would laugh more, feel more content, where happiness and positivity would be your companion more consistently than they are today.

Are you feeling, downcast, oppressed? Is it a struggle to remember the last time you smiled or laughed?

Would you want to discover where that place is and in discovering where that place is, would you move there? Or at least want to  learn from their way of life that would help us be more happy?

img39972-Iguazu-Falls-ParaguayBecause ‘they’ have found the most positive place on the planet, for real! This location is sunny, hot, its people are friendly, content and happy.  To live there does not cost a lot in terms of finances. It has history, ancient monuments beautiful vistas, incredible waterfalls, this place teams with life. It has earned itself the right to call itself the most positive place on the planet.

The most positive place on the planet is the small, beautiful landlocked nation of Paraguay scores and amazing 89/100 in terms of national feeling of positivity and well-being.

The Science Bit:

Let me explain how this has been defined. Questions were asked of people across the globe, simple and basic questions about their general state of well-being and happiness.

The Gallup poll asked such questions like, “did you feel well rested yesterday? Did you learn something it’s interesting or did you smile all laugh yesterday…”

The people of Paraguay are simply happy, their country is not wealthy by any standards, in fact is ranks 111 in global financial rankings a couple of points above Jamaica and next to the Ukraine. Paraguay finds itself 100 points behind the United States of America.

It’s economy is predominantly rural and focused around a mining, it is a fledgeling democracy having endured years of harsh dictatorships and 30-50% of its population are defined as poor.

Yet it’s people are predominantly happy, happier and more positive than its US neighbour in North America which is 10 points behind, the uk is 14 points less happy. Moreover the index tells us the next nine places after Paraguay that are the most positive, are filled with countries from south America.

These are countries that are predominantly Christian, (93%) and these are countries that remind us, that money does not bring happiness.

The Bible tells it to us over and over again, that material wealth does not, cannot, make us happy, earn us true love, or indeed eternal salvation. Lessons that these countries in South America seem to intrinsically understand, they have a wisdom about life that we do well to listen to.

What might we learn from these nations of positivity? I suggest you do that journey, dig deep into their culture and way of life, discover for yourself what it is that makes them tick. And then when you’ve found it, that nuggets of wisdom that offers you peace. Hold on to it, share it if you like, but hold on to it  and allow its light to change you.

 

Fruit Wonderful Fruit

If I did not know anything about christianity or different faiths that offer depths and riches money simply can’t buy, I am not sure I would sign up!

It seems to me sometimes, that to not have any faith is rather freeing, you’re free from dogma, guilt, and of course you are perhaps less likely to become a suicide bomber or take a gun and shoot people in the streets, or brutalised or bully people in the name of God or because you think God has told you too, which of course people of many faiths have done throughout the ages. I do wonder though if in these cases such people are perhaps using God, as a scapegoat, to hide their own issues and prejudices.

Here the bible comes to our aid in Galatians 5:22-23 which speaks about the fruit of the spirit, being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are not uniquely Christian attributes, for anybody can have these gifts to greater or lesser degree. But perhaps through them you the closer to God you are. Even if you don’t recognise it, or indeed recognise God working within you through the power of Holy Spirit.

So perhaps when we think about signing up to a faith we look for its fruit, we question what are the fruit of its disciples? Fruit of course is good for us, I am often struggling to choose fruits over chocolate! Even though I know obviously that fruit is better for me.

But the kind of fruit that St Paul is speaking about to the church in Galatia, is the kind of fruit I would look for above all else, both in myself, and the community I find myself in. Through my faith in Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit this fruit, can grow and I can see it develop in the life of others.

Where we do not find the fruit of the spirit, where we do not see anything but hatred, prejudice, and a pseudo spirituality, that veils a deeper narrative of political posturing, and so-called religious bias, that actually destroys what God is trying to accomplish in people. In those places, you won’t grow, you might not realise it at first.

However Just like you go to a doctor, and have a health check, and he sits across from you and tells you earnestly you need to eat more fruit! I Encourage you to check your spiritual diet, and just like eating healthy, bares in you the fruit of healthy living, a tighter waistline, and longevity. Becoming spiritually healthy means your bear these fruit not just in abundance, but you’ll see them in others, and be more connected with the living God, who doesn’t call you to hurt others but love them as yourself, and if you struggle with loving yourself of course, try loving them as much as God, for regardless of faith, gender, race, sexuality, or all manner of things, they, you and I have been made in Gods image and deserve to be treated as we would treat God.

Finally for those of us who have used God as a scapegoat for our own prejudices and issues, to pour condemnation on others or worse. There is hope, Jesus was hung on the cross as a scapegoat for all of our sin. Through this single act of sacrifice, we can learn the sentiment behind these nine fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, that through the power of the holy spirit can be born in us, and in turn we can be liberated from the venom that poisons our relationship with Jesus and those that don’t know him.

Why not join me in prayer?

Lord help me to see my prejudices for what they are. Help me not to mistake my words, thoughts and feelings with yours. Set me free, by the power of the Holy spirit, to live and work, as you call me too.

In Jesus name, Amen

Easter Day: Told You So…

entry two in a disciples diary might read:

Dear Diary,

Not really sure where to start, apparently i have been a bit short sighted, my self loathing of yesterday has been overturned, to mind bending joy. I cannot really totally believe it.

Apparently God you can walk away from crucifixion, who knew! And me and the guys are acting like we knew it was all part of the master plan. But diary, i didn’t know. Am wondering if  I should scrub out yesterdays entry, I should have listened more, maybe I would have released.

I suspect i am not the only one who didn’t know, I wonder if the 12 knew? The chosen Jesus team, I saw one of them yesterday, if they knew he was coming back, they weren’t showing it. Anyway not one of them has said i told you so yet!

So what now, everything was true about Jesus, what does it mean? I am not sure which is easier, believing he was dead and it was all over. Or dealing with the ramifications of Jesus rising from the dead…

Since then 2000 years ago  believers has been figuring out what Jesus resurrection might mean, for how we worship, and live for God. There have been colossal mistakes along the way, illustrated by damaged people who have left, and those who think Jesus is still dead. There has also been an awesome, global outpouring of charity motivated by the love Jesus showed, which has begun schools and hospitals, feed and clothed the hungry and poor, and has and continues to fight for the rights of the oppressed and not listened too.

Lets Pray

Lord forgive our imperfect attempts at building your kingdom. May the power of the cross that broke you, also break our pride, busyness, personal agendas and give way to renewal of self and your calling to the church. Show us lord what you see.Amen

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