And I've been learning about existentialism - 2 planes of existence, objective and subjective, and on the subjective level we create our own meaning. We create reality. Sire makes the interesting point that the assertions of existentialism read, to most people in our culture, like statements of fact that are so blatantly obvious that they don't even need saying.
Then this morning I was looking over some talks from Jonah to give at Leeds CU houseparty in a few weeks time. And I thought - the first couple of verses of Jonah are all about existentialism not being true.
Now, of course, one could speculate all day about why Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh, I personally think, from chapter 4, that it was largely because he didn't want the Ninevites to get converted. But I think at least part of it must have been that Jonah wondered what on earth God was doing wanting the Assyrians to repent. What business was it of theirs what the God of Israel thought? Yet God says that their wickedness (this totally pagan people group who had their own "reality") comes up as a stench before him.
You see God is the God of the whole world. Reality. We can't imagine him out of existence. What's more, he thinks something, feels something about the behaviour of people, even people who have created a reality wherein he doesn't feature. God doesn't buy our existentialism: he is the ultimate reality, no matter what existence I try to create without him.
It's when we buy into the existentialist assumptions of our culture, rather than making God's being and feeling about our sin the real reality , that's when we do a Jonah.
This is my culture slot from this morning along with accompanying video.
I like this song a lot. And, like Paulo Nutini, I too have new shoes on today that I’m very pleased about.
So, this is not going to be a rant about how new shoes are evil. However, one of the things I like about the song is the way it really is the way that people live. I mean, it starts off like Paulo Nutini is going to be someone keen to hear about Jesus: I thought there was something missing in my day to day life – the solution: Jesus. No – new shoes.
Way our culture, especially twenty-something culture works. We know there is something wrong with the world, something wrong with me, feel the emptiness of life, but I can mask it, with new shoes, with a night out, with seeing friends, with getting drunk, with relationships. I’ve got some new shoes on and suddenly everything is all right. I love the song, but the sentiment it encapsulates is actually a sad one because it is so common: live with the knowledge everything isn’t all right, but I can cover it up, with new shoes, and then more new shoes, still something missing.
Christians know what is missing, is actually something a bit more serious than new shoes: it’s a relationship with the God who made us through Jesus: so there we go: easy. Addressing culture done. Or not.
Actually, what we often find for us as Christians is that we live the same way. Smug, relationship with God, but actually I’m living for the next pair of new shoes, and after that, the next relationship, and after that the next holiday, after the next house extension, using.=, kid myself, even more foolishly, acquiring those things will make me happy. So how can we tell Paulo Nutini and the culture he speaks for that there is more to life than new shoes, when we tend to feel all right when we have our new shoes on, and only then.
Real fact is this: that Jesus is what God offers us to know him in the relationship we were made for. Not happiness so much, as joy. Hear amazing image of it in the passage that we will read today: Jesus offers a spring of water that will mean we will never thirst, a spring of water welling up to eternal life So why are we still seeking satisfaction in other things, satisfaction that doesn’t last.
Good question – maybe it is because we just don’t actually believe what Jesus promises. We don’t believe satisfaction will be found by giving up pursuing our fixes, and trusting him, giving everything to him, and living in every area of life for him. It will not be easy, but the New Testament uses all sorts if ways of describing that life: joy, peace, rest, eternal life.
Cannot doubt:In terms of the New Shoes culture, knowing God seems like an obvious answer to the emptiness inside, one of the reasons that our culture doesn’t want to hear the message that that is the answer is that we don’t live that there is more. Jesus is not made to look like the answer to our culture’s question, is not made to look great, when we, his people, try and find satisfaction in other things.
Chivvy yourselves up – try to show Jesus is a bit better by sacrificing stuff like new shoes. Not the way it works – cart before the horse: love the shoes we will do what we can to get hold of them, if we really see Jesus in all his soul satisfying, amazing grace and love we just will stop living as if that can be found elsewhere. So we have got to pray, to seek to ask God that we will really see Jesus as he is, then living for the next pair of new shoes, the next promotion, more money or the next relationship will just stop. Undoubtedly if we really know and experience his goodness, attraction of other things will fade – cheating ourselves out of something great – knowing God. Unapologetic at Ch Ch that teaching to show greatness of Jesus, not 18 things to do tomorrow: point to him.
Is enjoying things wrong – possible to enjoy all good things God gives in a way that gives credit to Jesus, rather than trying to use them to fill the place Jesus would be, real enjoyment. One of the things church is for: you help me and I help you: buzzword accountability does your life show that satisfaction comes from Jesus or somewhere else?
Jesus would tell Paulo Nutini that real satisfaction is only found in him. But I think Jesus would know that Paulo might want to see it in action, and so he’d say, here’s a group of people whose job it is to model that real satisfaction isn’t found in the things God has created but in God himself. We are God’s plan for doing that. Essential part of the plan for reaching a culture living from one pair of new shoes to the next.