As the world begins to think about getting back to work I wonder how many of us who dare to assume we are 'saved' will be thinking about the work of the Church over the coming year. After all, it seems to me that we are more about keeping the customers happy and providing thing that tickle their ears. So many appear to put on the Sunday shows in the hope that the BOPs (Bums on Pews) will be happy with it - and that is surely part of the malaise that is stifling the Church and influencing the way that we are perceived by those 'in the world'!
The other part of the path to decline is surely the fact that we are so desirous of being 'liked' that we are willing to change what has always been and to declare that which was white to now be black, and vice versa, whilst declining to mention the grey areas.
The ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury) has called the Church to engage and to be engaging and in applauding the generosity of the British nation (something that defies the xenophobic Jingoism of some political types) lays down a gauntlet for the church he leads (and all Christians) to be outward looking. Having had the privilege of being present when the New Year message was filmed the most exciting and inspirational thing for me, the pinnacle of it all, was this:
'When we are at our best, living out the generosity of Jesus Christ, as that has formed itself in our national character; when we turn outwards and use our best resources to change this world in which we live; we see what a wonderful heritage we have - and the hope we can bring to the poorest, and those with the greatest suffering on the face of our planet.
So what do we hope for in 2015?
My hope and prayer is that we are the kind of country that goes on looking outwards; that is full of a generous spirit. Because when we’re generous we find joy and others find comfort and hope.'
|Don't forget to Pray for Justin and Caroline|
and the life and ministry together in 2015
What can we say about this world of ours other than it is such a beautiful place and yet, like many parties, it's people that spoil it. From the religious bigots who just love to say 'No' and past the Atheists who claim logic, rational thinking and science and yet trot out the same old trite stuff repackaged (Religion starts all/most war, etc.) and along to the 'free to be' (meaning free be what they want and no one else's views matter and ending with the animals have spirits folk who seem to think this give some inalienable right to act as they do.
Yep, there's a whole bunch out there who don't dialogue and use the mask of 'righteousness' (self or God's) or 'science' or 'rights' and 'liberty' to hide the fact that at the end of the day it is all about them and what they want!
Look at Eastern Europe and see beyond Ukraine and other issues - things that could cause real problems - and ask yourself what's really going on?
Do the same with Israel and Palestine: two naughty children who use allies and media to garner support and make their wrongs right!
Look at Islamic State and the radicalised and passion-filled people who come from the West to fight with or against them. The attempts of some to create an East/West, Christ and Jew/Islamic conflict with the potential to cause the world to suffer (and yet even then the superficial claim that religion starts war will be hollow because this is about greed, power and wickedness - and that brings it back to humanity at the end of the day.
This year why not get into reading a newspaper (online will do) and finding out about the situations that appear on our screens and radios and try to look past the spin and manipulation.
You might be surprised to see whose fingers are on that smoking gun ;-)
Today I want to make you an offer that will enrich your live and bring the joy of learning and dialoguing with others around the issues that arise from whatever it is that you choose to study.
A few months back I stumbled across a mention of futurelearn and upon searching on that found www.futurelearn.com where I found some excellent courses on WWI and writing fiction and (shortly) I will be embarking upon a passion of mine, the M42, not the motorway but the Orion Nebula which is located in, the constellation Orion.
There as a number of great courses from a number of great places of learning (and administered by the Open University) and the best thing is that these are free.
This is one of the greatest opportunities to experience education in a comfortable and accessible way - why not have a look?
Something to look at and listen to too!
A wonderful ten minutes of a great bloke - well worth a listen:
And of course something good to listen to too (as promised):
Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.