Tag Archive | christianity

Faith the size of a mustard seed

“if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.Nothing will be impossible for you.”

On days like today I am glad that God thinks so highly of such little faith. When, like a mustard seed, it is small and hard to keep hold of. Feeling like it may be dropped and lost at any moment.

Somedays prayer is hard. Having someone to believe on our behalf stops being a criticism of church and starts to seem like a necessity. Only creeds, liturgy and the Lord’s prayer are there to hold onto. The words of others, when our own seem so hard to find. On days when it feels like faith is unable to move our own heart never mind a mountain. When we start to question the narratives we build in order to believe.

The journey of faith isn’t easy, there is drought and plenty, up and down hill.

Some will feel I shouldn’t share this. But doubt is integral to faith. Many will have days like this. This is honest, perhaps there isn’t enough honesty? Maybe someone who feels similarly one day will find this and know that they are not alone. We need to be as honest about our doubt as we are about our belief, to build it in as an expression of our faith and of our ritual.

spotify:track:2JzVN7ULrcnixSXQRhVlGV

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The God Particle

As we hear the news today that scientists working in the LHC at CERN seem to have found the Higgs Boson (“God”) Particle, I thought I would reflect briefly on science and faith. I used the nick-name “God Particle” deliberately in the title of this post to set up a chance to talk about faith and science but I actually think that it is a terrible name for it, although I understand why it was given the name it has been misrepresented and is has come to suggest that the particle replaces any possibility of  God existing, which it doesn’t really do. It, however, is expected to explain why matter has mass.

When I became a Christian at the age of 16 this was one of the things that I had to work out, how does all I have been told and taught fit in with belief in God? I get the God bit but what does that mean for everything else? What started to become apparent for me is that is seems ridiculous that science and faith are so often seen as separate spheres, never to meet. To me this is a false dichotomy . Create fists with each of your hands and hold them apart, one is science and the other is faith. For many this is how they remain. Separate. If they do connect it is much more like being at loggerheads – they don’t fit well together. Now open your hands and interlock your fingers. This is a lot more how I see science and faith. Intermingled, working together – occupying the same space. Each bringing beauty to the other. Science, for me, very much reveals the awesome beauty of God’s creation. Take the human genome project, for instance. Francis Collins, who happens to be a Christian, stood next to the American President to announce the sequencing of the human genome – 3.2 Billion base pairs. How amazing, awesome and beautiful is that? And Science allows us to access this information

I don’t believe that the Bible is incompatible with Science, in fact, I think it sometimes surprises us with it’s compatibility with it.
But the Bible isn’t, wasn’t intended to be and it is a mistake to try and make it a science textbook – it just isn’t. It is a story of the understanding and relationship between God and man, up until the first century. The writing styles vary – poetry and metaphor are used. The creation story in genesis may not have literally happened, but, it still contains the truth of the message. Take a fable, we understand that what we are being told didn’t actually happen but that we are menat to take the meaning from within it.
For me God may be behind the big bang – his great creation plan to “let the Earth bring forth”. And finding the Higgs Boson doesn’t change that. But it does, once again, reveal the beauty of the creation initiated by God, however he decided to do that.

This post “Genesis supports evolution“, from the Messianic Progressive blog, is worth a read – really interesting to see how the narrative within Genesis may fit with the chronology of evolution.

Darkness Within – Machine Head

Whilst listening to Machine Head’s latest album this one caught my attention. I find something spiritual within it. It speaks of wrestling with pain and suffering, and doubt; trying to make sense of it. Knowing what I’ve been interested by, reading and thinking about over the last year or so I suppose it’s no great surprise that this song interests me.

Here in this darkess that I lay,
Depression heavy in it’s weigh,
And how my body aches to leave,
To sing it’s final eulogy.
My sons I love you evermore,
And though the road beckons once more,
I see the damage that I’ve done,
And search for redemption.
But I am just a broken man,
Whose soul cries out to understand,
How the madness shatters me,
Upon the stage on bended knee,
I scream aloud at skies above,
That answer mute bereft in love,
I struggle not to fall from grace,
I sing the hyms of my disgrace.We build Cathedrals to our pain,
Establish monuments to attain,
Freedom from all of the scars and the sins,
Lest we drown in the darkness within.Mysteries forgotten chords,
I strum in vain to please the lord,
But he has never answered me,
And faith has waned eternaly.
In empty men who pass along,
The woes of all religions wrong,
Now the shadowed veil it falls,
Heed the Clarion call.
So pray to music,
Build a shrine,
Worship in these desperate times
Fill your heart with every note,
Cherish it and cast afloat.
Cause God is in these clef and tone,
Salvation is found alone,
Haunted by it’s melody,
Music, it will set you free.(Let it set you free)We build Cathedrals to our pain,
Establish monuments to attain,
Freedom from all of the scars and the sins,
Lest we drown in the darkness within.

MUSIC MY SAVIOR,
SAVE ME,
MUSIC MY SAVIOR,
SAVE ME,
MUSIC MY SAVIOR,
SAVE ME,
MUSIC MY SAVIOR,
SAVE ME

We build Cathedrals to our pain,
Establish monuments to attain,
Freedom from all of the scars and the sins,
Lest we drown in the darkness within.We build Cathedrals to our pain,
Establish monuments to attain,
Freedom from all of the scars and the sins,
Lest we drown in the darkness within.
[ Lyrics from:
http://www.lyricsfreak.com/m/machine+head/darkness+within_20978641.html ]

By Their Fruit You Will Know Them.

In his anual presidential address to Synod John McIntyre, Bishop of Gippsland, Australia spoke about those with sam sex attraction within the church. I thought I’d share a few exerpts that I find particularly helpful. A full article can be found on Changing Attitude’s website.

It is a simple Biblical truth that has caused me to move to a new place in my understanding of the place of same-sex attracted people in the life of the church. That truth is revealed in the words of Jesus, who says in the Sermon on the Mount, “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” and “by their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7.18,20). I have come to know and acknowledge that the fruit of their works makes clear that God has been and is at work in and through gay and lesbian people, who for years have been a part of our church, in both lay and ordained ministries.

You might well ask why it took me so long to acknowledge this simple truth. I think it was the correctness of religious law that blinded me to this truth, a truth that is known only in the experience of grace.[…]

It is a salutary experience to be reminded that at one and the same time no-one is worthy and all are worthy for ministry[…]

Only in light of reflection on God’s Word did I finally come to understand. Despite what I or others may believe is their worthiness, the fruit of the works of many gay and lesbian people has brought God’s blessing to me and to many other people, both in and beyond the church. That is the measure of their worthiness to minister in the name of Jesus Christ in the life of the church, and in the community in the name of the church. That indicates their place in the life of God’s people.[…]

For too long we have asked same-sex attracted people to wait outside the church, or at most in its wings, while we decide the basis on which they can be a part of the church’s life. The thought seems to have been that when we have decided (and we certainly don’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to do this) we will invite gay and lesbian people into the church on our terms; that is, if they still want to be a part of us. I do not believe this is a particularly godly way in which to go.[…]

Whatever we believe about same sex attraction and active relationships we can surely see that the fruit of many LGBT Christians is good. That they show something of God to those around them and to the world. “By their fruit you will know them”. The Church should not stand in the way of LGBT people being able to be ministers, to ignore their fruit and take away the possibility of them fulfilling God’s calling on their lives. I remember reading an article by someone taking about Jeffery John, after the allegations that he was blocked from becoming Bishop because of his sexuality. The person writing who knew Jeffery, whilst struggling to reconcile Jeffery’s sexuality with Christian ministry, came to this conclusion and that the fruit of Jeffery John was nothing but Godly, whatever his sexuality. And surely this is what matters.

Related posts: Orientation and Ministry, St Paul on Equality

Finding the people of peace & wiping the dust from our feet.

 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.  Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town”

Last Saturday I, along with others, went to Sheffield Pride under the name “I’m Sorry: A Different Kind of Christian Presence” with the aim of showing love to a community, perhaps, more used to a presence of condemnation and even hate from Christians. You can find out more about us and what we did at our website here. I, obviously, knew that it would be considered controversial by some and that we may face issues somewhere along the line. I didn’t, however, particularly expect it to happen so quickly or to come from people that we knew – I was naive. To cut a long story short I have been able to read this week that I am a cancer spreading through the church and lost a friend – all because I wanted to go show love to people. It has been a week that has taught me a lot about finding people of peace and removing the dust from my feet.

The people of peace have definitely been the LGBT community at Sheffield Pride, we took our message of peace and it was returned to us. We had a great day, some great conversations and we were accepted and thanked for being there & our message. We were not welcomed by some Christians. To the point of the loss of long held friendships. It came as a complete surprise to me having hardly engaged in any of the debate that had broken out. My only real crime* was to state how saddened I was by the things that I was able to read about myself and later point out my anger over some more things that were being said about us; untrue accusations being made about close friends and the term “unchristian” being branded about – just the kind of thing likely to upset me. There was no return of peace there. There is no point dwelling on these things. We did what we did, we believe we did the right thing and what has happened as a result is unfortunate. It wasn’t done in order to cause trouble but to show love.  What I realised was that it was time to wipe the dust from my feet. I think that Jesus told the disciples to do this in order for them to be able to move on to the next town in search of their people of peace. Not everyone is going to welcome us but this isn’t something to take personally and in, literally or metaphorically, wiping the dust from our feet we are able to put this behind us and get on with the task in hand. To show peace and love to those who do welcome us and to build the Kingdom of God on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

Disclaimer:
This isn’t meant as an attack on anyone or to fan the flames of disagreement (this is unlikely now that certain people have removed me from social networking). It is just meant to be a lesson and an example of finding our people of peace & dusting ourselves down when we don’t. Just because we do not find someone to be a person of peace to us personally does not mean that they are not person of peace to someone else.

*For the purpose of complete transparency I did point out to someone else that they seemed unable to take what they gave out on Facebook having complained about negative comments that they had received on their own postings. I had no further engagement in any debate other then as laid out in this post.

St Paul on Equality

A friend shared this on Facebook. As I looked from left to right and came to rest on human and I couldn’t help but think “yeah that’s it”. The only identity that matters is that of being a human being and we should treat one another as so. We should be blind to these other identities that allow us to treat one another differently and purely see the human, the person, in front of us to treat all as equals. As I thought about our identity being reduced to same thing for everyone, I thought of  Paul writing in Galatians:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For Paul the Kingdom of God is about loosing these differences that divide us, that separate us from one another. As we bring and become the kingdom these identities are no longer important, we are able to be one in Christ. As we become a person of the kingdom of God we no longer see these worldly identities when dealing with people we see a brother, a sister, someone who matters and whom God loves.

If there is neither male nor female then how can there be a male or a female minister/priest/bishop there can only be a minister/priest/bishop whom God has called, their gender is immaterial. When we no longer see male or female but purely people to be loved how can there be right and wrong relationships, surely there are just relationships between human beings that love one another.

I am not saying that our identities as people are not important and shouldn’t be respected – because they are and should be. But I am saying that as we meet and interact with people if we are being Godly we only see a person whom God loves standing in front of us and not their worldly identities.

Film Night: Thoughts from “The Help”

The church does a monthly film night and last night we watched The Help, set in the civil rights era in America, focuses on the relationships between maids and the white families that they work for.

One scene in particular got me thinking. Skeeter, uncomfortable with the racism shown towards the maids and who holds a lot of respect and fondness for the maid who brought her up, asks her mum about the circumstances surrounding her leaving whilst Skeeter is away. (Just a quick warning this is a bit of a spoiler but not one that I think would ruin the watching of the film, so it’s up to you whether you read on or not). Her mother is forced to admit that the maid didn’t quit after all and a cut scene shows the exact circumstances. Without going into detail Skeeter’s mother has influential people around and feels embarrassed when one of them criticises her for standing for certain behaviour in her maid – who had done nothing wrong. Instead of doing what is right, to save face, Skeeter’s mother asks the maid to leave and effectively sacks her. You can see how upset the woman is by “having” to do so and, in fact, sends her son to try to find the maid and bring her back. This is, perhaps, a choice that we often have to make in life; to do what is right or to do what those who influence us want us to do. We may be influenced by friends, colleagues, our boss, people from church or people that we perceive to have power. It perhaps isn’t easy at times, for fear of what may happen to us as a result but surely it is better to act with integrity, to our own conscience then to bow down to others for fear of what may happen.

“And Moses said to God, Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

The fact that Moses didn’t think he was good enough is pointed out in the film and yet he was able to lead the Israelites in their liberation from Egypt. As could people who felt they weren’t good enough fight against their oppression through the civil rights movement for their liberation. So too can we make a stand for what is right, despite the fact that we may not feel that we are good enough. To do the right and loving thing, despite the possible consequences for ourselves. To make sacrifice for love, our reference point for life as Christians.