Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2017

Three Characteristics of Genuine Mission

Luke 2.1-20 The story of God’s mission in Jesus straight away introduces us to three of the essential characteristics of any true missionary enterprise. If our mission doesn’t look like this then we’re deluding ourselves that we’re really engaging in Christian mission at all. First, real mission involves a journey. At the most basic level it means travelling outside our comfort zone. More than that, it involves going out into the world rather than staying inside the stockade. More even than that, it means going to new places - not necessarily new places on the map of the world but also places where we don’t normally go in our own communities. That might be the pub, or the school gates, or the elderly people’s lunch club. When he moved to live near us, my Dad said he was more than happy to join the local Methodist Church but he drew the line at going to the elderly persons’ lunch club, because he said he was sure that he wouldn’t have anything in common with the other people there. It wa…

When God is Pierced by Grief

Luke 2.27-35 Simeon is the sort of purveyor of doom and gloom whom we can well do without when we’re celebrating something good, like a new birth or a christening, because he’s likely to spoil our mood. Mary and Joseph were feeling happy and optimistic because they were dedicating their firstborn son to God in the Temple, and at first Simeon made them feel even better when he told them that their son was destined to be a guiding light, pointing all the nations of the world to God’s way for them. It’s amazing stuff. But then he spoilt it all by revealing that, from his perspective, the glass was only half full and a lot of emptiness remained. And it was an emptiness filled not just with uncertainty, but with rejection, denial, pain and suffering. The definition of a parent is someone who worries about their children. The columnist Gaby Hinsliffe said that after the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena 'all parents were reminded of the never-ending dread of losing a child.' And…

Building the New Jerusalem

Isaiah 26.1-9 Revelation 21.1-4
This is a picture of what God’s perfect world order would be like. Of course, for the Prophet, it would be centered on Jerusalem. For Christians it would be centered on the New Jerusalem, which could be anywhere. When I was at college in Manchester there was a giant tapestry on the wall. It depicted the New Jerusalem, but if you looked closely many of its buildings were actually famous local landmarks. The artist was saying that Manchester could be the New Jerusalem if its people obeyed God’s will. And that message comes straight out of Isaiah’s prophecy. The gates of the New Jerusalem will be opened to welcome in those who keep faith with God, who are unwaivering in their pursuit of peace. The Prophet sets up a stark contrast with another mountain city, which thought it was better than Jerusalem, which has been brought low because of its disobedience. ‘The poor and the needy, or the abused, stomp all over that city!’ he says. But although Jerusalem is on a …

False News

Isaiah 28.9-19, Matthew  13.13-16 In verse 9, the Prophet ponders how God is going to get across his message to the heedless people of Israel, North and South. Without Sir Lynton Crosby to help him distill his message into a few telling one liners, it will be like trying to explain the subtleties of Brexit to toddlers newly weaned from the breast who are just starting to speak a few words. Imagine me reading a book to my two grandsons, both aged two. If it has plenty of pictures, and I set about it at a brisk pace and with plenty of animation, there’s a good chance we’ll get to the end of the story before they lose interest - but only if it’s well written, punchy and absolutely engages them. The problem for God is that his message may be gripping and punchy, but it’s not a message that people really want to hear. When the Prophet Amos called for justice and fairness to roll down like a river in spate, that never runs dry, there was something delightfully vague about it. He was appealing…