Christ and the World

This is stunning…..

Subversive Preaching in a Postmodern World – A Targum based on Colossians 1:15-20 by Brian J Walsh

In an image-saturated world,

a world of ubiquitous corporate logos

permeating your consciousness,

a world of dehydrated and captive imaginations

in which we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted,

to be able to dream of life otherwise.

A world in which the empire of global economic affluence

has achieved the monopoloy of our imaginations;

in this world,

Christ is the image of the invisible God.

In this world,

driven by images with a vengeance,

Christ is the image par excellence;

the image above all other images,

the image that is not a facade,

the image that is not trying to sell you anything,

the image that refuses to co-opt you.

Continue reading

Justice in the Middle East

DSC_0600

For too long Christians from the West that have taken the time to visit what is romantically called “The Holy Land” have contributed to a terrible injustice.

They dream of walking where Jesus walked, but all the while, the clock ticks and the coach waits, whilst they, rather ironically, run where Jesus walked.  The Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem.  They go, they rush, they take plenty of pictures, they scurry back onto the bus, and head off to the next place of biblical significance!

When will the madness end?

Continue reading

Jeremiah the Clay Pot

ClayPot

The mercy of God is exquisite.  The judgement of God is a wonder to behold.

Have you ever read Jeremiah 18 of the time when God tells him to go down to the potter’s yard and wait to see what God will say?  Whilst there, the potter shapes the clay but it goes wrong, so the potter collapses it all down into a big formless lump and starts again.  This is a picture of divine judgement on God’s hard-heartedly wayward people just before the Babylonian invasion of 587 BC.

But here’s the sweetness of it: Even when God collapses a person or a people down because they are ‘marred’ with sin, remember, His hands are still all over you, shaping and forming, never giving up, working his purposes out, creating for Himself a people as His own treasured possession.  I find it helpful to remember that judgement serves salvation, and whatever stage I am at in my life, God’s hands are all over me, shaping and forming.

Doesn’t it make you want to sing?

Click below for the full sermon.

Jeremiah 18

Practical Joke

cartoon_moses_sinai_Jew_jokes_xD-s700x585-381515-580

I am perturbed.  I don’t know about you, but it does seem to me that one of the highest forms of praise we give people in our our day is that of being practical.  And most practical people are busy people since practical people loathe the thought of anyone thinking of them as lazy!  To be named as practical is high praise indeed!

Conversely, the impractical (by whatever criteria one is using – no doubt a practically minded one), are dismissed as worthless on the one hand, and irrelevant on the other.  Consider how you have often (every time?) felt the need to activate some form of personal-activism when someone catches you unawares reading a book and relaxing!  Well, Gralefrit says, “What a pile of tosh!”

The onslaught of our Corporation and media driven global village world relentlessly favours what it terms ‘practical’.  Get up and go; look busy, be busy; don’t be idle; an over-full diary; a work hard, play hard attitude; and so on.

This is not to say Christian spirituality is not intensely focused on a physical, practical world.  We do work, we do practical things as spiritual people, and no true spiritual life can be separated from these things, I mean, even Jesus was a practical carpenter for heaven’s sake!  But.  And what a big but it is….

Under this pile of activity, there is still a mass of confusion.  Millions of people who think they are being practical are not.  They are living frantically busy lives with no thought for thought and no time for time nor for prayer as centering on the inner life of the Holy Spirit’s activity.  In this sense, most people then are living totally impractical lives, while all the while convinced they are no nonsense, straight forward, take-it-or-leave-it, I am what I am, what you see is what you get – people!

Have you ever heard the phrase:  “He’s so heavenly minded he’s of no earthly use.”?  This is the golden rule and governing document of the practical brigade.  It is a dismissive put-down designed to trump anything but a practical person’s version of what practical actually is.  This is what I mean by the practical joke.  Well, it makes me laugh!

I’ve argued through preaching (and down the pub), that the church is drowning in such a sea of practical activism that the heavenly minded person is sidelined, marginalised to such a degree that they resemble the marginalised Old Testament prophet or the absurdly irrelevant vicar of many a period drama on TV.

And because I’ve argued this, I’ve tried to turn this ugly practical coin over, by insisting we as a spiritual body of God’s own people, start remembering that activism can be spiritual, but most often the way we go about it, isn’t.  That practicality is necessary and useful, but should never be the default for a faulty spirituality.

Therefore, if most people who think they are being practical are in fact being impractical, it goes without saying that people (and of course I do often put my sorry self in this category), are living badly.  It always saddens me when people are heard to say at the door of a church, “Ah well, back to the real world!”  I want to scream in their face, with all the fire and righteous indignation I can muster, along with as much spittle as possible, “NOOOOOO!  The worship of God, under the Word of God, with the people of God, united by the Spirit of God IS the most practical, real thing this world has!”  What causes a Christian to actually believe the lie that the Church is not the real world?  This kind of practical-ism is profound evidence of a terrible unbelief.

If we fully and finally succumb to the practical, then we effectively abandon what it means to live in biblical hope.  If the impractical are ridiculed because they don’t conform to a self-appointed practical world, then hope, that impractical stuff of biblical promise, is surely likewise to be dismissed as wildly impractical, hopelessly inefficient and so heavenly minded it is of no earthly use!  But to live in hope when things are hope-less, is to believe God.  It is to see the future of what God has promised when all about you are losing their practical heads.  To have the impractical hope that God gives, is to commit to actions that connect with God’s promises.

Thus hope isn’t pious escapism for the religiously retarded, it is ultimate practicality that subverts the chaotic pseudo-practicality that most people live with.  Hope is living with God’s word, and God’s word will always subvert what we thought was practical.  That’s why Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-2,  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Among many other things, this surely means we need people who are so heavenly minded they are by definition, of supreme earthly use.  The Bible subverts our thinking and cultural assumptions.  To be biblically practical, we must first and foremost be worldly impractical.  We must be heavenly minded.

And being heavenly minded is to live in hope.  It is easier to live in despair.  That’s why so much of the world does.  To live in despair is to take no risks.  It is to live unthinkingly, lazily, with reputation in tact, going with the flow, being cynical and living cynically, hanging out only with those you like and agree with.  To live in hope, to set your mind on Christ, is to go against the stream – and it is extremely practical and gloriously impractical too.

So we have to get practical.  Really practical.  And what is this most practical thing we can do?  To hear what God says and to respond to it in hopeful and faithful ways.  You will often look like a fool.  You will often be viewed as irrelevant, outlandish, other-worldly, useless (Onesimus), but what these things seem in the world, God is seen by those with eyes to see, at work, in people and the world.   What seems useless is really very useful indeed.

Faith, hope and love.  The most practical things in this world, and God’s hilarious practical joke on the practical jokers!