Extreme Metaphor: Salt and Dung

Extreme Metaphor: Salt and Dung

Luke 14:34-35

 

Salt and Vinegar;             Sea salt;                     Salted peanuts;

Salt and pepper;              Bath salt;                   Salted babies;

Ready salted;                    Table salt;                 Salted Pringles;

Salt tablets;                        Salted slugs;             Salted dung;

Saltless salt.                       Salted speech;         Road salt;

 

Salt is an amazing thing.  Very important to the human body.

We live in a high-salt culture which is not so good for us.

 

Matthew 5 –  “You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world.”

This is about shining out and spreading out.

The rest of the Sermon on the Mount explains what that looks like.

 

We know that salt serves different functions:  It preserves and flavours.

(Personally, I think my Cambodian pepper is better than salt):

(“You are the pepper of the earth!”)

So we know Jesus is calling us to flavour and light up a decaying and dark world.

Note that Jesus never challenges us to be these things, he just says we are.

  Continue reading

The necessity of the ‘upon-ness’ of the Spirit

The necessity of the ‘upon-ness’ of the Spirit

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,

And recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed,

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Luke 4:19-19

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me:

As it had to be for Jesus, so it has to be for us.

That the Spirit of God must be ‘upon’ us before anything is said or done.

The Spirit being ‘upon’ us speaks of God’s own desire to be present with us.

The Spirit being ‘upon me’ or ‘upon us’ is our recognition that God is near and not far.

 

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor:

The Holy Spirit of God is ‘upon me’ for a reason.

There is a job to do.  That job is primarily an announcement.

“And here is the evening news…death, destruction, lies, greed and war…”

This is what happens when the Spirit of God isn’t ‘upon’.

‘To proclaim Good News…’ is to announce the end of death, destruction, lies, greed and war.

To proclaim anything of God is always proceeds the anointing of the Spirit.

‘To the poor….’ isn’t merely an economic phrase. It’s a human quality-of-life-phrase.

The poor are those who do not have the Spirit of God ‘upon’ them;

Because they are being robbed by the evening news.

  Continue reading

The Smell of Christmas

The Smell of Christmas

 

Luke 2:7-8  ‘The Smell of Christmas’

What is the smell of Christmas to you?

For the smell of Christmas, we can only go to certain places in the Bible.

We would think the obvious place is the Gospels.

Well, Bingo! in Matthew and Luke;

But not a wiff in Mark and John.

 

Maybe Paul will write something about Jesus coming as a baby…..er, no. Nothing!

Even Revelation starts with the Cosmic Christ walking among the stars;

but nothing of the earthling Jesus lying among the animals.

 

Oh wait….I hear Christmas carol…..

Maybe ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ can help us…

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

 

Oh this one irks me!  It really ruffles my feathers!

The writer Cecil Alexander must have been having a brain freeze.

There is something quite wiffy about this part of his song….

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,

Where on this tiny rice crisp of a planet did he get that from?

There is only one recorded instance of Jesus as a child, after the flight to and from Egypt.  In fact he was 12, and in the first century, on the cusp of manhood.

Luke 2:41-50 tells us Joseph and Mary journeyed home for a whole day before they realized the 12 year old Jesus was not with them.

When they find him back in Jerusalem (that’s two  days on the road not knowing where he is), in the Temple discussing theology with the professors and doctors, they chide him for “treating them [badly v.48]”.  I mean, where did he sleep; what did he eat; who was he with?  Who provided these things?

Jesus tells them v.49:  “Why were you looking for me?  Didn’t you know I would be about my Father’s business?”  But they did not understand

Thus the line in the Carol that goes:

Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

Really gets my goat!

What manipulative Victorian manure….

Which brings me back to the question:  What is the smell of Christmas?

Maybe ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ will help us!

Silent night, holy night…… 50% right!

How can screaming birthing mothers, animals in a barn, noisy neighbours and choirs of angels singing to shepherds possibly be silent!

Everything about this would freak us out if it happened to us.

But it’s been softened, smoothed, glossed, abstracted and sentimentalized.

Birthing mothers are not silent.

I’ve attended 4 births……..my own three……and of course, my own!

My first words were:  “What’s wrong mum?  Why are you screaming and why has dad fainted?”  Not bad for a 10 second old baby!

Animals don’t respect human social conventions.

They can’t read; They weren’t there when the angel told Mary she would have a son.

They might have thought it was ‘a bit odd’ that big humans were releasing little humans into the barn, but other than that, their toilet habits (for example), would have remained the same.

But we really must avoid this blandness that doesn’t reflect human reality, and therefore, biblical reality.

We need to defy the fantasy makers.

Not just out there in a culture that would see you spend so much in December it wouldn’t even care if your home got re-possessed in January.9780802841285

That’s why credit cards really should be called debt cards.  It’s words; words; words.

And defying the fantasy makers is why one theologian (Don Cupitt) has famously  called Christmas:  “The Disneyfication of Christianity.” (NB. At least he got that right amidst a whole career of re-imagining Christianity in the extreme.  Anthony Thiselton has a masterful couple of chapters in response to Cupitt’s theological vision in Interpreting God and the Postmodern self….but I digress…).

 

Maybe Cupitt’s phrase inspired the song ‘One God’ by the pop group The Beautiful South in the late 1990’s (or maybe vice-versa), with their prophetically provocative lyrics:

d658e184c2e606511c1a788a89427ade-800x800x1The world is turning Disney and there’s nothing you can do
You’re trying to walk like giants
But you’re wearing Pluto’s shoes

[Chorus]
And the answers fall easier from the barrel of a gun
Than it does from the lips of the beautiful and the dumb
The world won’t end in darkness, it’ll end in family fun
With Coca Cola clouds behind a Big Mac sun

  Continue reading

A couple of John Wesley gems

Sermon 32 – ( between 1737-1746)

The Nature of Enthusiasm – Acts 26:24

And Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself.” 

“And so say all the world, the men who know not God, of all that are of Paul’s religion: of every one who is so a follower of him, as he was of Christ.  It is true there is a sort of religion, nay, and it is called Christianity too, which may be practised without any such imputation, which is generally allowed to be consistent with common sense, that is, a religion of form, a round of outward duties, performed in a decent, regular manner.  You may add orthodoxy thereto, a system of right opinions, yea, and some quantity of heathen morality: and yet not many will pronounce, that ‘much religion hath made you mad.’  But if you aim at the religion of the heart, if you talk of ‘righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,’ then it will not be long before your sentence is passed, ‘You are beside yourself.'”

Sermon 43 – ( between 1737-1746)

The Cure of Evil Speaking – Matthew 18:15-17

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

“Speak evil of no man, says the great Apostle:  as plain a command as, Do not murder.  But who, even among Christians, regards this command?  Yea, how few are there that so much as understand it!  What is evil speaking?  Is it not, as some suppose, the same with lying or slandering?  All a man says may be as true as the Bible; and yet the saying of it is evil speaking.  For evil speaking is neither more nor less than speaking evil of an absent person; relating something evil, which was really done or said by one that is not present when it is related.  Suppose, having seen a man drunk, or heard him curse or swear, I tell this when he is absent; it is evil speaking.  In our language, this is also, by an extremely proper name, termed ‘backbiting.’  Nor is there any material difference between this and what we usually style ‘tale-bearing.’  If the tale be delivered in a soft and quiet manner (perhaps with expressions of goodwill to the person, and the hope that things may not be quite so bad), then we call it ‘whispering.’  But in whatever manner it be done, the thing is the same; the same in substance, if not in circumstance.  Still it is evil-speaking; still this command, ‘Speak evil of no man,’ is trampled under foot; if we relate to another the fault of a third person, when he is not present to answer for himself.”

Forty Four Sermons by John Wesley, Epworth Press, 1944

IMG_6607

A night-time shot in Cambodia’s capital: Phnom Penh ©

Aliens Are People Too

ET-Extra-Terrestrial-PSDo you remember when E.T. first came out?
It was literally a block-buster! And rightly so, what a great film that finally proved, once and for all, that aliens existed in our universe!
I never really doubted – did you?

To be terrestrial is to be related in some way to earth – as distinct from “other planets”!
So “Extra” terrestrial is something from “out there” or not from earth, coming to earth – it is “extra” – thus, E. T. stands for: Extra-Terrestrial a “thing” originating from outside or beyond earth!

So that makes all of us “Terrestrials”. We belong on earth, we are from this earth, and it is all a gift from God who made it.

Another word we have to describe E. T.’s is Alien. Many of us have seen various science fiction films with both friendly and non-friendly aliens and so on.

Some of us may even believe that aliens “out there” exist, and there are some weird and wonderful theories out there, by some very weird and wonderful people – but that’s irrelevant for my purposes here.

When Adam and Eve did the only thing they were not to do (Gen 3), they who had been created by God for the earth and the earth for them, were now banished by God within the earth – they became “alien” to the loving, saving, tender mercy of God.

Continue reading

‘Thin Soup’ Church

Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!”  But because we live in a global business age of organisation, efficiency and profit, there are thousands of books on growth.  If you are more organised, more efficient and more profitable, you will grow….if you stick to our new-fangled formula!

The Western church has been swallowing this bitter pill for decades.  We’ve put down our Bibles, and picked up secular ideas and initiatives – why?  church numbers are declining, people are leaving the church, pews and seats are becoming empty, coffers are down, bills are up, and then someone said, “Hang on a minute, if we just branded ourselves like Nike, or glamorised ourselves like L’Oreal, or popularised ourselves like celebrities, we too can achieve what they achieve!  And should the gates of hell get too close, we’ll just sloganeer them out of town with a TV ad campaign!

What does it mean to be a growing church in this context?  In fact, what does it mean to be a growing church and be faithful?  Can the Church ever be faithful and successful?  Can we do sexy marketing, or shall we just stick with cheesy slogans to do with baby’s and mangers, bunnies and daffodils?  How can we claim to proclaim something better, something the world needs, something unknown and un-buyable?  Can the church compete with a world that clamours for everything but Christ and him crucified?

Can we ever be faithful and successful?  What does it mean to be a Growing Church?

Continue reading

Resurrection Changes Everything

“Resurrection Changes Everything”

A Sermon: First Sunday after Easter

Luke 23:50-56 & 24:1-12

Resurrection changes everything!
Resurrection grabs the attention like nothing else.
Resuscitation is possibly good news for a brief time;
Resurrection is Good News for eternity.
Resuscitation may bring us back to humanity temporarily;
Resurrection brings us to God for ever.
Resurrection is not resuscitation.
Resurrection is not renovation, regeneration or regurgitation.

Christians are recipients of resurrection:
We know the actual word, probably too well;
We read the Scriptures, probably too quicky;
And we benefit from resurrection, probably (mostly), too carelessly.

Resurrection changes everything!

Continue reading