Ways of getting across the message

29 08 2006

I went to Greenbelt for the day yesterday (28 Aug). Really good to hear Jim Wallis on a moral response to terrorism. Moved me to write to Mr Blair (again) with a heart broken for those who are treated as “collateral damage” in the war games of the powerful. Blessed are the peacemakers (what did he say? I think he said blessed are the cheesemakers – monty python).

Any way I went to listen to Jonny Baker talking about deconstructing the sermon too! I really like the way that Jonny deals with these sensitive issues sensitively and with humour. I have blogged my response to him ( http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/2006/08/summer_is_over.html#comment-21676282 ) as there wasn’t time for a q and a. Have a look and see what you think. I think that the communication of the gospel by the spoken word among other art forms is essential to the fullest understanding of the message. As someone who preaches (whether he wants to or not) as a congregational minister I have a desire to see the “body” minister in all its creativity and diversity through the Spirit of God. Good theology throughout is the highest requirement.

by Martin Hill

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dead to this world… serious consequences?

17 08 2006

In a recent email dialogue on Romans 12:1-5 I was asked to clarify what I mean’t when I wrote that to claim ‘yourself as dead to this world and alive to Christ seems to me to have some serious consequences for proving the will of God in all things’. The following email is my reply-

Dear Gary,

I feel these verses are most pertinent to the issue of baptism- in baptism we are making are effectively dying to the principalities and powers of the world to rise set free from the powers of this world secure in our salvation in Jesus Christ. It was this conviction that gave the martyrs in church history the courage to follow Jesus even to death on the cross at the hands of the domination system (for them the Roman Empire). I believe that the act of baptism is an act of civil disobedience in it we are transferring our loyalty from temporal rulers to the Jesus Christ and his coming kingdom.

If this is a true and accurate interpretation of Scripture then we are required to witness to the ‘now and the not yet’ of the kingdom through opposing even rebelling against unjust asylum laws, tariffs imposed on imports, war-mongering (and the whole myth of redemptive violence), the list goes on. However, such a subversive agenda may have serious consequences for Christians around the globe. I cannot give my loyalty to any so called ‘Christendom’ because it remains out of sync with the upside-down Kingdom of God described in the beatitudes.

So far, I have globalised and pushed my interpretation of scripture to the extreme to make clear my meaning. I still believe that there is much work to do through living counter-cultural lives. I believe that any rebellion starts in someone’s home through standing up for the sanctity of marriage, buying fairly traded goods, campaigning against war as a legitimate means to an end, and all manner of personal holiness issues such as not spending money frivolously, watching pornography, bullying the slightly odd dude in the workplace, getting drunk etc.

Moreover, there are serious charismatic issues- for example, taking serious the fight against spiritual principalities and powers manifest in systems which dehumanise us like the workplace, legal system, tax system, political system. But not only manifest in these systems, also in peoples homes where they have flirted with the occult, had an incestuous relationship, allowed the seeds of marital discord to take root, or sibling rivalries to develop. We also need to recognise that even some Christians find themselves in spiritual bondage to consumerism (greed), pornography, domestic violence, certain forms of feminism and masculine, let alone non-Christians who may have to overcome these challenges on the road to faith.

At baptism, I was given a glimpse of the new kingdom God was calling me to become a part of but the rabbit hole goes deeper than I realise and I daily discover new challenges for the church to overcome. In truth if I knew how hard some of this Christian living would be I may not have started down this road but I know now that to live with the reality of God in my life is to see the world as it really is and that is far better than to live with scales over my eyes.

Anyway, I guess I understand that the church is called to live on fundamentally different principles to the rest of the world afterall for Christians ‘to live is Christ to die is gain’ and because of this we are always going to be resident aliens. I hope that you will still happy to call me brother after reading this and I pray every blessing for you and your family.

Yours in Christ,
James

I’m sure I have missed much out that you could add- please do!





suggestions box

15 08 2006

As you can see I’ve added some links to bible gateway, moravian daily texts, hauerwas online, and to blogs mostly harmless, the ashram, and normal life adventure. I’m interested in any links you feel we should establish or remove? So suggestions in the comments box.





living, breathing, feeling theology

14 08 2006

I was talking to one of my colleagues at Methodist Church House today about the future of church. She mentioned new projects such as the church of saint pixels and the infamous ship of fools website. We were both alarmed at the consumerist nature and the lack of discipleship in such so-called ‘expressions’ of the Christian faith. It was her observation that when disagreements develop within ‘real’ rather than ‘virtual’ communities people are challenged to reconcile with one another as they will have to pray side by side with each other the following week.Our discussion then turned to inherited models of church and ministry. She observed the feudal nature of the Anglican Church and the modernist nature of Methodist church. Begging the question what will church look like in the twentieth century? I expressed my belief that in a world which is characterised by disposability rather than sustainability the church must be counter-cultural and draw closer together. I observed that within earliest Methodism class meetings provided this sort of togetherness (and discipleship for holiness).

My colleague picked up on my mention of the Methodist class system and commented on the tradition of itinerancy (both inherent within the local preaching system and the Methodist understanding of ministerial appointments). I expressed dismay at these systems, which I feel very often separate ministers and preachers from the local church. She did not contradict my position but made it clear that she felt much more comfortable with itinerancy than with the class system.

I was reading Stanley Hauerwas’ Sanctify Them In Truth yesterday and I realise this tied in with our conversation. In the introduction to the book, Hauerwas’ observes that sanctification and truth are very rarely linked in contemporary theology or philosophy. He then goes on to express his understanding of why sanctification and truth should be integral to one another.

Hauerwas is dismayed that theology too often seems to speak to theologians and it does not seem to be in the service of the church. He wants theologians to give up on producing the comprehensive book of abstract theology and instead produce theology that is in service of Church’s life and politics. This sort of theology is the reason for the odd shape of Hauerwas’ own writing, which appears to be part theology, part essay, part homiletics, and part ethics.

I guess that I want ministers to be steeped in the fellowship of the church. I want preachers to be held accountable for what they say by the community they are addressing. I want the community they are addressing to be held responsible for implementing the theological convictions they agree to. I want a living, breathing, feeling truth (not some cheap imitation).





A personal Jesus?

14 08 2006

I found this an interesting article by professor John Suk (I am unconvinced by his reasoning but I can see what he wants to correct). I would not go as far as the professor but it does provide a corrective to some self-centred approaches to Christian faith.

However, I wonder if the thing which upsets him most is not that someone might have ‘a personal relationship’ but rather that ‘a personal relationship’ can to easily become ‘a personal Jesus’ i.e. a Jesus like me or even a Jesus who likes me. If that is true then we need not to oppose the view that Jesus might relate either personally or communally (He does both to some extent) but rather we should oppose the view that Jesus is anyone other than the person revealed to us by scripture, present with us in the breaking of bread, and made known in the power of the Holy Spirit which he pours out upon us, His Church, to lead us into all Truth.

Truth that can sometimes be uncomfortable!





a kingdom without frontiers

14 08 2006

With all the conflict and war in the middle east it makes me think of the frontiers of the kingdom. Israel is a religious state. One that has been re-established since 1948 under the decree of the 1917 Balfor declaration. Ironically the Balfor declaration was in recognition for the part played indeveloping munitions for the first world war and promised the re-establishment of a Zionist homeland. Now massive amounts of munitions are being poured out on Lebanon in order to keep the integrity of the borders of Israel under Hezbollah attack.
The kingdom that Christ proclaims is a kingdom without frontiers that does not need defending in order to maintain its integrity. It is not a Christendom nor is it a religious state that requires an army. It is a kingdom that occupies the hearts of believers and drives them toward community in faith to express worship and witness. It is a kingdom ruled by a the creator and saviour of the universe and brought into being through a cross which held the king to ransom. It is a kingdom epitomised by the cross on which the ruler suffered and died for his subjects. It is a kingdom whose integrity is held by a message of peace, hope, joy and reconciliation between peoples. The hope of the world is not in kingdoms with frontiers but in the kingdom without frontiers.

By Martin Hill





the ashram

12 08 2006

“a response to terrorism

O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord,
in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life,
whose service is perfect freedom:
Defend us, thy humble servants,
in all assaults of our enemies;
that we, surely trusting in thy defense,
may not fear the power of any adversaries;
through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
-from the Book of Common Prayer

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ – Mark 4:40

there’s so much fear in the air. i refuse to live my life this way.”

I am grateful to the Ashram for this reminder- It is our duty as people of faith to stand firm in the peace of Jesus Christ. It would do us good to remember at this time that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

‘Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.’
– Philippians 2:5-11