Category Archives: Faith

‘Honour the emperor’

It is easy for me to write this as a middle class, white Brit for whom oppression is not something I’ve ever directly had to put up with. My response is therefore more theoretical than what faces people who are already reporting the sorts of post-Brexit hate we had here. I hope I would always seek solidarity, not safety.

Prayer

We spent last night at Central London Vineyard in solid prayer, bothering God about the state of the world.
 
It was challenging. Challenging to reflect on our own divided country as well as the one across the Atlantic. Challenging to think that most of the world’s desperate people don’t care who’s in the White House or what the EU looks like. And very challenging to hear first hand testimony of recent events in Calais and the treatment of those unaccompanied children who had found some small refuge in the Jungle.
 
And in all of that it was challenging to respond to the words of Jesus:
‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’
So much of what I’ve found difficult about 2016’s politics has come from the rejection and fear of ‘the other’. And yet I’ve probably responded to people with whom I have a fundamental difference of position by reflecting a similar level of antipathy (or worse) about them as people, as well as their ideology.

Challenge

On Tuesday evening our Croydon Vineyard small group were picking over the second half of 1 Peter 2. It talks about submitting to authority, even (and especially) if it oppresses you. It even includes the three words ‘honour the emperor’.
 
Reading that the other day wasn’t easy; returning to it last night after Donald Trumps’s victory was even harder. But there was something very powerful (and even hope filled) in wrestling with what it means for God to desire relationship with Donald the man, just as much as he does with me, and you.
 
When you get down to it, the ground is flat at the foot of the cross – there is no hierarchy of sin, no category of holier, no singling out as worst. Of course it offends us to think that there’s no difference between me and him but the message at the heart of what I believe is to love the person I’d not even consider worth acknowledgement, and to love them sacrificially.
 
Last night someone used a turn of phrase that stuck with me: ‘Love never changes. Love always wins. Love looks the same today as it did yesterday, and will do tomorrow’.
 
As individuals that’s an important attitude of the heart and it’s important that we live it out in our relationships with others. But in the midst of everything it’s pretty overwhelming to think about how broken the world is, how frightening particular politics are, and how little we can do by ourselves.
 
Which is why God invites us to be part of The Church so that with him, and each other, we can be a movement seeking God’s kingdom on earth – not to build a theocracy but to be united in pursuing justice and mercy with a loving humility that’s backed by our trust in God as Sovereign.

Response 

None of us know what the next few years will bring. There is plenty to fear. But fear is the currency of oppression. I’m choosing hope over fear, light over darkness, love over hate, action over apathy. But right now, I’m going back to the source and looking to God for this to be recognisable  for everyone, everywhere:
 
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Code for the Kingdom challenge: community

On the weekend of 2nd October Christians with a passion for digital technology are going to gather in 14 cities* on 5** continents for the first ever global Code for the Kingdom hackathon.

I’m part of the Kingdom Code team organising the London event, we’ve got a great venue (the Westminster Impact Hub) and we’re hoping for a good turn out of both professionals and enthusiasts. With just over 4 weeks to go the anticipation is rising (have you got your ticket yet?).

The team in the USA have already secured world-class virtual mentors and this week announced the six sponsored global challenges (#wearables, #purity, #minorityChristians, #games, #virtualreality, #generosity) for people to aim at.

We’ve also come up with some challenges of our own for London: #Christmas, #spiritualdisciplines and #community.

We’re eager to see what London makes of all nine challenges but personally I’m particularly excited about the #community challenge.

We all know that we’re living through an incredible period of technological advance. The digital revolution has completely transformed the way in which we not only stay in touch with our family and friends but also in how we forge, and maintain, connections with (former) strangers.

And of course that has implications for the way that we do community as Christians – whether that’s within our churches or not. A lot of these things might be well served by effective websites and existing tools but there could be some untapped potential out there and so we’re challenging the London teams to give some thought to serving the different communities we’re part of as individuals and churches.

  • Community in our churches
    Maybe your home groups get everything they need from WhatsApp, and maybe the social calendar is entirely deal with by Facebook. But maybe there are better ways of doing those things that haven’t been thought of yet. And how good are we at facilitating community for those who can’t get to church for whatever reason?
  • Community in our neighbourhoods…with other churches
    We know church can be quite tribal. In Croydon alone there are at least 129 on the Croydon Churches Forum website (and I’ve been to one that’s not even on that list). Can digital technology help the individual bits of the Body support, encourage and resource one another?
  • Community in our neighbourhoods…outside the Christian bubble
    If we do church in non-geographic ways then it’s possible to end up disconnected from the people we live next door to and ignorant to the needs of our local community. The Church Urban Fund’s Poverty look-up is a powerful way of understanding the needs of a particularly community but maybe you’ve got an idea for something to help churches and individuals avoid drive-by evangelism and instead respond more appropriately to the needs of the places we live.
  • Community in the buildings where we work
    Lots of us work in buildings shared by different companies. Unless you’re working for a Christian organisation there will be no formal element of faith in the workplace, over the weekend can someone build something that helps individual Christians connect with each other?
  • Community globally.
    The Code for the Kingdom weekend is a worldwide event and that means we could end up with teams that include people from several different countries. Maybe one of those teams will work on something that connects churches across geographic and cultural boundaries; or maybe another will think about how sending communities can stay in touch with their partners around the world. That’s just two ideas but how might your team explore what it means, as Christians, to belong to a worldwide community of billions?

If there’s anything in that (or the other challenges) that resonates with you then you know what to do: clear the weekend of 2nd October, buy a ticket, propose your idea on Indigitous and then come along to pitch it at the Westminster Impact Hub. See you there!

 

* Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Albuquerque, USA; Atlanta, USA; Bengaluru, India; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Houston, USA; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kansas City, USA; London, UK;  Los Angeles, USA; Nairobi, Kenya; Raleigh, USA; Seattle, USA; and Waterloo, Canada

** I’m not sure which continent Indonesia identifies with but I went with Asia.

Frothing at the mouth, this time it’s Creation

I’ve previously taken my fellow Christians to task for taking a story and then misrepresenting the substance (‘Christmastime, mistletoe and lies‘). Given how central Truth is to Christianity we should be renowned for our integrity without recourse to swearing to prove it (‘Swears‘).

We fall short of those standards, all the time, and it’s unreasonable to hold those on the outside to a higher bar than we set ourselves. Nevertheless, the rhetoric that says Christianity and Science are at odds and completely divergent is, bluntly, either casual ignorance or wilful misrepresentation.

This week it’s the free schools that will fill the minds of impressionable children with the not-worthy-of-the-word ‘science’ of Creationism. And when that word rears its head then most people instantly associate it with the Young Earth beliefs (that I don’t share) lampooned to good effect by Ronson, Theroux, Gorman et al.

I’m not going to rehash what The Church Mouse has written, suffice to say it’s a massive +1 from me over his concerns with the presentation of this story and the treatment of known fact (rather than future, paranoid conjecture).

What Mouse doesn’t get into but what strikes me about the ridicule levelled at Christian Creationists is how it undermines Christianity’s delight for you as who you are.

Continue reading Frothing at the mouth, this time it’s Creation

Nehemiah on Project Management

Different bits of the Bible get different profile within church, let alone in the public consciousness, so I reckon Nehemiah could be an unknown quantity to most people but its 13 chapters are really worth exploring. It provided the backdrop for a powerful and relevant series at Conversations last year.

This morning I saw Emma Langman tweeting the talk that was being given at from a Business Breakfast in Bristol about the example modelled by Nehemiah from a project management point of view. I really liked that angle so captured it using Storify.

Continue reading Nehemiah on Project Management

Reflections on #fabworld

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Solutions for a Broken World (#fabworld)

Last Saturday I went along to an event at St Michael Le Belfrey called ‘Solutions for a broken world’ held in response to the Occupy movement. I live blogged the introduction from the Bishop of Selby as well as the three sessions asking what’s broken?; what does the Bible say? and what would Jesus have US do?. We also heard from York CVS and Besom about how we could get involved through their organisations.

These are my reflections on the format and overall theme of the day. Continue reading Reflections on #fabworld

‘What would Jesus want US to do?’ – Mel Griggs

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Solutions for a Broken World (#fabworld)

Government?
‘Most governments try to make a difference to the course of history, but only a very few succeed. The fate of most is to make big claims…[but]…to leave office having tinkered piecemeal’ Anthony Seldon of Policy Exchange. Continue reading ‘What would Jesus want US to do?’ – Mel Griggs

‘What does the Bible say?’ – Al Rycroft

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Solutions for a Broken World (#fabworld)

Consumerism is the core issue. Both that and individualism in society so here’s a few things that the bible says.

The solution to these problems lie in a total transformation of attitudes and lives. Continue reading ‘What does the Bible say?’ – Al Rycroft

‘What’s broken?’ – Mel Griggs

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Solutions for a Broken World (#fabworld)

This is a live blogged summary of what Mel Griggs said during his talk. It therefore doesn’t really hang together particularly well but might provide useful thoughts for you to jump off with.

Themes and issues for Mel to tackle.

Power and influence
The largely Christian world has seen its foundations are built on sand. Not spending time on money but trust and other things. Our problems are vast.

Greek and Italian governments fell, not by the electorate but by bond traders who forced interest rates so high that they had to step aside. Continue reading ‘What’s broken?’ – Mel Griggs

Introduction: The Bishop of Selby

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Solutions for a Broken World (#fabworld)

He thinks the churches have been very silent
We’re in dangerous waters because money is very difficult but the easy strapline what would Jesus do is too simplistic.
In fact noone could predict Jesus himself and he got annoyed when he heard about people wrong.
Jesus usually replies when someone asks him about that issue over there, the woman in adultery, he asks for us to look at ourselves. Continue reading Introduction: The Bishop of Selby

My worlds collide

When I first wrote this it was relevant but I got overtaken by other events. Still, whilst it’s old news there’s no point it staying sat in my drafts.

There is no single theme for my blog. Most of the time there’s very little overlap so maybe I should be more focused and write in different places for different content. Irrespective of that, today is a bit different.

In the aftermath of this story I’ve read a lot and heard a lot of bluster in various media. As I’m a Christian who works in local government and have family connections to church in Bideford this particular story couldn’t be more relevant. Continue reading My worlds collide