reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Friday, July 22, 2005

Being: Sam's friend

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 1 comments

I went to see my friend Sam in London this week. (missing, as it happens, all of Thursday's drama at Warren Street Tube by about an hour, thank you Lord)

Anyway, Sam and his new wife Martha, pictured here at their wedding, have the most wonderfully random life - he is, by far the poshest person I know, and says wonderful things like "It's all rather rum" all the time.

Anyway, to add to the randomness of his life so far Sam is off to work as a missionary in the Gambia from September, and Martha is going to do something like train the President of Gambia's soldiers how to ride their horses, and write articles about Africa for Country Life.

Anyway, I went to see Sam, and he was prearing some stuff to study with students on the book of malachi. We were discussing Malachi 2, which is ostensibly all about divorce and marrying outside the people of God. But look closely, and there is a deeper principle at work - the principle that because God has made a covenant with us, he expects us to reflect that in the way we relate to each other. Now I suppose that's especially true in God's best illustration of covenants, marriage, but it is also true because we are, all Christians, in a covenant relationship with one another.

And discussing this with Sam is great, because as I was reflecting, I realised that it is the very type of friendship that he was modelling with me. Listening to me burble on about things which he knows much more than me, listening to me chatting away like the world's authority on Malachi when he's studied it recently too, putting up with my general silliness about his Brideshead Revisited type existence, and still loving me, laughing with me, and feeling rather rum about the whole thing - he's a friend who has really modelled God's commitment to me in his commitment to me.

So thank you Lord, for friends - not just because they are great and brighten life (although they do) but because of what they teach us about you and your commitment to us. And thanks Sam. Respect.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Listening: Gavin Degraw

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 6 comments

This is an AWESOME album - Gavin Degraw's Chariot. Loads of tuneful piano, jangly guitar, heartfelt lyrics you can nearly make sense of but not quite, and the bonus CD with acoustic versions of all the songs. I am LOVING IT.

That was just to draw you in though - this is really a Bible post.

Matthew 8 was house groups' treat on Thursday - Matthew 8. Go read.

Done? ok.

Healing of the leper and the centurion's servant. Just another couple of miracles to show Jesus was God right?


Dealings with these type of passages generally fall into three camps.
1) Jesus was compassionate to people. They were particular outsiders that he was nice to. You should be too.

While you can't argue with the principle, words can hardly say what I think about this line of interpretation - it is utter rubbish. the What would jesus Do approach to the Gospels is just so unhelpful, as it bypasses the wonder of grace in these verses completely, and turns Jesus into just another moral teacher.
As one Christian preacher once put it, any person with an ounce of decency should know to be kind to those less fortunate, we hardly need the son of God to come to earth to tell us that.

2) We are outsiders, but if we have faith in Christ's mercy and trust in his authority he will get rid of our unclean-ness.

This is more like it. The grace to those who had no right to expect his help in the society in which He lived; that is striking thing about Jesus here. He is SO willing to deal with our unclean-ness, he is so kind to the man who was oppressing his people. We love to put ourselves as Jesus in this passage, being kind to the outsider, the happy truth is we ARE the outsiders and have that greatest of privilege of the loving Lord Jesus healing us by his grace, and using his mighty authority to meet our needs.

This is, until Thursday what I would have plumped for is dealing with God through this passage. But, in the words of Jimmy Cricket, there's more.

Scan your peepers over these verses:
I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

What's this saying?

3) Faith is about YOUresponding to Jesus' authority, not belonging to the club.

Now, of course, this is evangelical staples. And yet, look at how these people respond to Jesus as models of faith - humble asking for his mercy, submitting themselves to his great authority. And so I asked myself, am I personally responding to jesus personally like that NOW, or am I, actually thinking that I am in the club, a subject of the kindgom, so doing ok? If so, and this is the chilling truth, I will end up in the outer darkness.

Incidentally, this is another reason why interpretation 1 is SO wrong, as it is entirely predicated on the very dangerous assumption that we are the insiders.

I'll be honest - my "quiet times" or whatever you call them where you are, have been pretty hard going and erratic over the last little while. And while we want to avoid legalism about that, the fact is I've been using not doing them as a way of avoiding responding to Jesus' authority. Why do I think I can get away with that - well my underlying assumption that I am in the club.

Silly, very silly. And playing with fire.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Watching: saved

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 5 comments

So - this was an interesting film.

First off - well, this film is pretty clearly a big dig at evangelical Christians, of the t(r)ype we should expect - especially with a born again Christian as American President at the mo. The film's producer is Michael Stipe, gay activist, true blue Democrat and all round anti-Christian, and that is more or less the sum total of the message of this film - evangelicals are bad. Everyone is good, as long as they have decided how to live their own lives. No evangelicals have decided this, because you'd only be one if it was a way for you to prove you are better than anyone else and if you had been indoctrinated from birth.
From the closeted gay teenager, to the Pastor so much happier when he could break his wedding vows the film is an attack on evangelicalism. The protestations of the production team that it "could have been set anywhere" are clearly rubish, and in some ways it is a very cruel film. I winced a lot. Be prepared for that if you watch it.

However, this film is an interesting insight into how evangelicals are perceived. I think it says a number of things:
1) We are often people who preach grace and don't model it. It is interesting in the film that the popular Christian, even with the adults in the film is the pretty leader girl who forces everyone into submission. The film has it right that often we are people who preach grace for salvation, but don't foster an attitude of grace in dealing with our own weakness and the faults of others. Moreover, often we admire and raise up as leaders people who would be leaders in wordly terms; strong definite popular, achievers, and this doesn't model grace - we ought to help people who know their sin and trust Jesus be those who are seen as triumphs of grace. It's very much a teen drama about who's cool and friends with who at school set amongst Christians. But it should be different with Christian young people. Shouldn't it?

It's interesting, that while the characters in the film use loads of evangelical jargon "accept Christ", "ask Jesus into your heart", "backsliding" etc, there is no clear mark of them as a distinctive religious group because of a strong belief in grace. This may be on purpose; as I have said it was definitely not on the film makers' agenda to make us look good, but it may also be because it's not something that is obvious to the casual observer. Which is wrong.

2) It really made me think twice about the value of Christian institutions - schools, universities etc. How can it be avoided, as the film graphically shows, that people are peer pressured into following Christ in that environment, and creating even more of a place where NOT being a Christian is hyper rebellious.
What does one do with a teenager who thinke he is gay in such an establishment - I just don't know!
One of the most amusing aspects of the film is the Mary character reaching 8 months pregnant without anyone at her school noticing because none of them had ever encountered a teen pregnancy before. Ridiculous, but not totally unbelievable - are we at risk of preventing our kids engaging their faith with the real world from a very young age? I think we might be.
The film certainly warns, I think realistically, that kids being peer and family pressured into a faith system can be just as damaging as them being peer pressured out of one. Although, I am, as I will readily admit, ignorant on things to do with parenting.

So - if you can cope with a small bit of sex and a large helping of sarcasm, I would recommend you take a look - made me think.