Finding Our Way Back From Dualism

I have excluded the word secular from my language for many years now. I have found it to be a wholly unhelpful term, which separates church from society. Remembering that if we have the language of separation it is quite likely that we have the practices of separation too.

I have swapped out the word secular for the work ‘mainstream’ as an attempt to try and normalise it in some way, since regardless of the core meaning of secular, it has come to mean somewhere God is not or perhaps worse somewhere that God has removed himself from and should therefore be considered unsafe.

I wanted to illustrate how dualism works in a real life setting and story rather than theoretically, i guess this is my version of drawing in the sand to explain something.

Before I start that – let me tell you about my day… do you think Jesus drew in the sand at times to be sarcastic? Like, ‘you guys are never going to get this, so here is a picture of a cloud? I only ask this because today in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests i posted a map of Africa on my facebook timeline showing how it has been carved up into all of its colonial areas called ‘The Original Looting’ . One of my racist friends (i have a few as it keeps me on my toes) just put the laughing emoji on the post.

Later i found a you tube clip of the Berlin conference where interested European empires fought out their rights to different land areas and implemented ‘make believe’ but long lasting borders – a gathering which did not include a single African.

So i posted this video and wrote, ‘for the uneducated – here is a video with a child explaining the impact of the Berlin conference and drawing it all on a map with crayons’… which was true ! Ok so maybe that’s not what Jesus did but it felt like a small victory.

So – Back to my attempt to illustrate the life and outcomes limitations of Christianity, having inherited dualism.

For 6 years i worked with an international counter child trafficking ngo based out of the US as their European Operations Director (a title I was asked to invent for my business card). On visiting one of the nations in Asia where we were funding projects and contributing a few initiatives, a lovely co worker with took me to meet a guy who was working in the night clubs there. These were essentially gatherings 40% people selling sex and 60% johns going there to buy against a backdrop of a syncopated beat and lights.

My friend thought we would get on as the guy in the clubs was working where Christians refused to go, and as a result he was given the ‘black spot’ of suspicion and exclusion by them.

He would raise funds for a specific girl to exit prostitution, one at a time and gain livelihood skills as a means of sustainability. In the club we talked to a girl, she was so beautiful and seemed like a lost bird, clearly not her normal source of income. She must have been 15 at the most and as we talked she explained that she was responsible for her mother and her own education. She had come to the city for a week of selling her body to expats in the hope of funding another term at school. When we left the club i went back alone, id taken what I could from my bank account, went back in the club and put it in her hands. She looked confused, I bowed to her with clasped in full Namaste humility, and as best i could expressing ‘go home’. As the stranger in a strange land and as naive as anyone could be, it seemed the best i could do. On top of this, I wasn’t meant to be there in the place God wasnt!

The following night we went to a gathering of Christians from different groups. They were going to go an do outreach (another word for us to review) to the white males who were spending their pensions on trying to resolve loneliness and feed a predator spirit. I should have been suspicious as soon as the word outreach was used.

We walked off the busy main street where all the action was and into a small side building. We sat in a circle, we sang western worship songs with the aid of a tape player and then we broke into confession groups, males and females to talk about our ‘thought life’ and any brushes with porn so we could be cleansed and worthy for the work ahead of us.

I was feeling increasingly angry, there is no other word for it, in fact i would say, i felt offended by much of what was taking place. I am mindful of this because a fellow once told me with a voice of authority that having offence is a sin. However i tend to feel at times, it is simply being tuned in and feeling exactly what the holy spirit is feeling.

The best was yet to come… strap yourselves in.

It was time to put on the full armour of God. I mean like in full Marcel Marceau mime mode, one item at a time, the belt of truth, the breastplace of righteousness etc

Now this is where i need Jesus to explain to me, why, i am having to do all of this seeming nonsense to go back onto the street i had just walked off?

I bit my tongue and tried not to make eye contact with my team mates. i would hate for them to know i needed rescuing. Finally we split into mix gender groups and off into the world, the real one. I was with two of my co workers from the US and a lady from central America full of learned charismatic behaviour oozing everywhere. We were going to go and pray into the darkest areas of the city. My heart hit the floor when we pulled up outside the same nightclub i had been in the night before. We needed to hide in the van and pray as the lord led. After 10 minutes i thought i would explode, seemingly stretched on the torture rack in between two realities, i just couldn’t cope. A therapist would say i was ‘in feeling’ but i would just say i was just thoroughly pissed off.

However the comedy of errors was not over yet. I found myself explaining to my co prayers that i found it very difficult to be praying outside a club at a distance when i had been in the club the precious night, praying over actual people, responding to what I saw, and engaged meaningfully with at least one beautiful human being.

You get me? right readers? The Central American lady didnt. She assumed

that i was full of shame for what i had seen and had been exposed to and began to pray in tongues over me and cast out the heeby jeebies of lust.

I was just about to break religious protocol and cultural taboos by asking her ‘good lady – please stop what you are doing, there is a misunderstanding ‘ (translated in google from gaz actual speak) when suddenly i was saved by an angel, it was definitely an angel in the form of the biggest mother loving flying bug we had ever seen. The intercession turned immediately into screams of panic and wails of travail… and i was saved.

This was probably one of the most internally vomiting experiences of my Christian life, i could not pull the robes of religious constraint off of me quick enough. I really did and do love my co worker who was supporting and initiating these projects but i just had to say ‘dude wtf’.

Is dualism really that hidden, that subtle and that invasive that once we have become part of separated off from life church culture that we can no longer see the absurdity of it in our practices? Dualism more than informs us that the church as a building is a refuge, a petrol station, an anchor point to where God resides most, to save us from the world, where God is less, or even not at all.

Was it wrong for me to be as offended of the dysfunctional Christian practices as I was the sex abuse that was all around me?

Perhaps I felt it more deeply because we were meant to be their hope and here we were struggling to walk out of the door of the created world back into the creation we lived in where God resides as fully as anywhere.

After years of working with young people who still hemorrhage out of the church construct on mass each year, perhaps this is the subtle indoctrination, which leaves them to feel that they have left God in the building. As my dad might say, ‘if I had a penny for every time I have heard that’… I would have, well, quit a lot.

How far reaching, life limiting and dangerous is this dualistic thinking?

This was not an accident, this separate worlds mentality is rooted in Platonic thinking, sown at the inception of the western church as it came to us through Greece, the creation of the sacred and the secular world. If we can eradicate this idea in our thinking and from our being, I feel our ‘practicing the presence of God’ as ever present, instead of near or far, here or there, will enrich us deeply and help us stand fully as his image bearer, wherever we are. I believe that as an outflow of this will also come much deeper questions for us as individuals about the church as a centralised, high dependency human construct.

Destroying or making history?

The seven last words of the Unarmed

If you don’t get time to watch it right through try 16:00 to the end.

A statue that honoured a slave trader being pulled down in Bristol was commented on very astutely in the Guardian that this was not an act of destroying history but of making history. I note that tonight there is a possibility of action targeted on the statue of Cecil Rhodes – an interesting one as Gayle was born in Zimbabwe and we have inevitably focused prayer into the effects of his life into the ‘soul’ of Africa.

Some days I pinch myself. What era are we living through? Is this simply a pause and all goes back to where it was? Or are we really living in one of the of the greatest resets in all of history? There are some incredible momentous epochs, and for believers in the resurrection of Jesus, we should anticipate that. Time moves forward a day at a time, a tick of the clock, and when that happens little seems to change, but the resurrection distorted the time line (Matt. 27: 51-54).

‘All lives matter’ is a retort at this time. Yes but only once ‘black lives matter’.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…’

(I quote from the USA declaration for two reasons, it is easier to find a good quote there and the USA is the child of Europe, if any schisms become visible there be assured they are present in our soil. I am not quoting it as a criticism of ‘there’. My critiques are of here and of ‘me’.) In the era when that was written ‘all men’ were all ‘men’ of the male variety, and of the white European descent. We can look back to criticise, but the gift of looking back is to slowly help give us present (time and place) sight. There are truths that are so self-evident, but are totally obscured to our sight because of where we stand. The gift of the moment is not simply that voices are being heard that have been silenced but we could possibly have our ears unblocked and our sight unveiled.

I have written that many might never come closer to seeing God than to see someone… really see them. To see humanity. That for me primarily is why this could be one of the greatest moments in history. To see Jesus was (is) to see the Father. To ‘see’ and really see humanity… that is the path for many to see Jesus.

Church of Elsewhere

Much of what I pick up on the soles of my feet is something to be washed off, but at times the dust, the residue of history and kingdom moments I pass through I want to accumulate, I want to bring this with me so that it colours where I go, who I meet and what I do. This is not something you can do with the stuff you need to wash off, it wont be appreciated.

Sometimes we feel a need to visit places, touch the land, meet the people in the hope that pollination takes place. That we become infected with what has infected them and in so doing become transformed, progressed, better enabled to be what we are meant to be, in the service of others.

I had a lovely friend called Zoe who signed up for a discipleship and missions programme where you could make suggestions of where you would want to be for a period of active mission. She wanted to join a dynamic bunch doing education in schools on England’s south coast, instead she woke up to see a cow outside her window in Wales. Amazingly, a place she would stay for more than a decade.

The Jesus followers there were a prayerful prophetically, sensitive bunch called Antioch in Llanelli. At times their prophetic insights were put into video format to be passed around the country like yeast. I liked their symbolism a lot, one of these was the sole of a boot saying ‘dreams with tread on for new terrain.

I think this notion resonated with people, rejected any idea that they had arrived. It suggested that the journey was ongoing and that we needed to prepare for new things.

Perhaps the boots with fresh tread indicated that it was going to be a long walk out, in and through the creation.

I felt I needed to connect with and touch what they were about. I loved it when we got to pray together, I also loved walking down the steps of a local river where hundreds would have queued during the historical revival, to be immersed in the makeshift baptismal. I wanted some of the history to be carried on my feet.

However it was one of the prophetic, poetic videos which would impact me the most and adhere itself to my journey.

The premise was that God had placed Jesus as head of his church, his body, which was the fullness of him in and through the creation. (“And God put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

It was a visit to that verse which brought out the sense that the body was the mobile, integrated aspect of himself through all things, through the creation and through the life and work spheres. This imagery seemed to be the opposite of the church I knew and the one that dominates the landscape. What I saw all around me, I had for a long time referred to as the church of elsewhere.

Perhaps, I can qualify that statement a little more by saying I had experienced several group settings where I would ask those gathered what they considered to be the spheres of society and each time it would be the same, education, healthcare, business, family and church.

The problem for me here is that it was my firm belief that “church” was never to occupy a sphere of its own, but instead have fully embedded itself in all of the actual spheres of life and society. The challenge or should I say challenging question in the video was ‘what does it mean to be the fullness of him in and through education? (cue teachers voice), healthcare? (cue doctors voice), gypsy sites (cue roma) etc

To be honest, because of our occupation and strong orbit around church as a sphere, as church of elsewhere, this is actually a question that still, 2000 years on, we are unable to fully respond to.

I used to be involved in church networks and pastors networks, which I foolishly felt was a gathering of those charged with reaching and transforming our locality.

After the ritual of the male voice choir worship session at one of these, I was allowed to ask a question:

  • Do we believe that our missiology informs our ecclesiology…
  • That those we wish to reach and serve in ‘the mission’, shapes and informs how we ‘do church’?

Almost everyone nodded, in that ‘but of course’ kind of affirming manner.

I asked ‘Who of us has inherited an established ecclesiology which greatly limits or inhibits our missiology’ … cue less enthusiastic nodding.

It is problematic that we are operating out of something, which even to our own thinking I so foundationally conflicted.

The leader of the pastors network, a much respected man once gave me a sound-bite which I have quoted in a multiplicity of settings, ‘If we do what we always did – we get what we always got’ – which isn’t enough. His softly spoken Scottish accent still survives as a formative voice in my head. As someone who was working hard on the impossible task of bringing our institutions closer together, I am not sure he realizes what a critical role he played in my moving away from said restraints.

Once over a cup of tea and some shortbread, we had a philosophical conversation where I was saying that I don’t have any more energy to invest in changing a seemingly immovable object.

My heart had always been to see the church change, but I had seen little of this. Mostly, the church as a whole was pinning its hopes on the next acceptable book to read , which would help them see the changes the previous book had promised but failed to deliver.

I remember saying that I was guessing he had seen the church go through 40 years of incremental, manageable adjustments, instead of significant change to itself, so that it could finally become an agent of change in society.

I said that if this was the case, I’m not going to be sticking around. His answer I felt was deeply honest ‘ yes, I am afraid that I agree with you, the church is likely to opt for another 40 years of minor adjustments’.

Do we have an inherited system that is capable of the kind of change, which can sees its primary function as supporting the saints to come to fullness in all the spheres of society? Has it managed this so far?

When church occupies its own sphere, a physicality and a geography we visit, it can only truly focus energy on perpetuating its own existence, equipping a small percentage of the saints for works ‘in’ the service instead of serving the majority who are unsupported as they stand in and through the creation (perhaps still waiting for a call to the seemingly sacred roles of pastor, youth worker, community worker, house group leader).

The thing that excites me most about a different paradigm is that, if there is no separated off from life ‘church of elsewhere’, then there is no leadership and no ministry gifts of elsewhere.

Instead, we find those abilities helping people come to fullness in all the glorious diversity of where God has placed them to be lovers, servants and agents of change. Suddenly, I feel hope that we can actually find ourselves engaged in systemic change in the world around us, more than topically treating the suffering those broken systems create.

What makes me nervous, is it takes that misplaced sphere of church to take on a John the Baptist mantle and become willing to decrease so that, what is coming can increase. I don’t mean more manageable, incremental, minor adjustments.

It has to be significant mind-blowing paradigm exploding change.

Privilege

The privileged world-view

If you have time this is more than worth a view. Greg Boyd at his best addressing the George Floyd situation. Very powerfully exposing the dominant white-supremacist perspective. And of course that is not a comment on the situation in north America… so many of us (OK so many of me) are part of the elite who see the world so distorted yet think we see it clearly.

What a era in history… I suggest maybe on some of these big issues, a watershed.

I am not looking to add to Greg’s material, but if you did not have time to watch, consider the following:

  • The word of the Lord comes to address the privileged. The word is ‘repent’. His word comes first to us.
  • Then the word of the Lord, ‘I am with you, and found among you’, comes to those who have been oppressed.
  • Jesus in the Incarnation has privilege and lays them all down. As a Jew, he refuses to allow Jewish privilege to position him nor others; as a male he treats and responds to women establishing equal status, indeed the Gospels seem to indicate that some key redemptive doors were opened to him through his submission to women; perhaps having some financial resources he chose a path of ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’.
  • Because of the above I now consider that Jesus is no longer a Jew nor a male. Those were the two key elements that were nailed to the cross, and if we include dying as a insurrectionist lawbreaker, dying among thieves and in the place of a thief (Barrabus), we have the three elements of race / religion, class and gender all nailed to the cross. Life post-resurrection is therefore ‘neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor male and female’.

The USA is a mirror for us in Europe and the West. There are some key issues rising to the surface in the West. I need sight, sight related to history, so that genuine fresh sight can come for the future.

Have I lost God?

Too easily done

I’ve never (as far as my memory stretches) lost god. Now the former sentence is not a typo with the small ‘g’. I understand what is meant by the question ‘Is Jesus God?’, but at a very real level because of Jesus we can’t ask that question. The problem with the question it presupposes we know who God is then can decide if Jesus matches up. There is God… then there is ‘god’. My god looks a little like God but on the days I lose perspective looks a little less like God than I would like to believe.

Two days ago Gayle and I had a very refreshing zoom call to a couple of guys who have made, and are continuing to make, an incredible transition in an institution that could have so easily become irrelevant to today’s world. During the conversation I realised how far away from God I had travelled and how focused I was on god.

There was no financial crisis in 2008. The market soared back and the gap between the incredibly wealthy and the ‘others’ increased dramatically. There was no financial crisis – at least not for a great number of those who were very well off prior to the ‘crisis’. Of course there was a huge crisis for many.

Here we are now at the early stages of the signs that are pointing to a global reality yet to come, and this is the context where I lost God. I was particularly pee’d off by the huge increase of money into the personal and corporate account of Amazon. (Not saying he and they are the most guilty – I just happen to know some of the figures as they are public.) I realised I went through days of internal groaning with little else on my mind, swinging between, ‘how do we pray judgement?’ and ‘if I am responsible what do I need to do?’

However… I now realise that quoting Scripture is great. Luke 3, a kind of pattern in these last 20 years, ‘In the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius… the word of the Lord came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.’

How many times have I said – God does not replace Tiberius with a born again, nor even a ‘Christian friendly’ Caesar, if we look for a ‘Christian friendly person in the White House, Number 10, Moncloa, or wherever we will not be deceived we will simply reveal we have already been deceived…’ A lot of blah, blah, blah there.

So? Well I realised I have been focused on god doing something with Amazon, the big corporations that can hold nations at bay, that can decide how much (much = how little) tax they will pay. So working hard on a current translation of Luke 3 I came up with:

In the years of global crisis that began to be noted in 2020, when the big corporations who had grown to immense levels, many more powerful than nations, when they had developed without shame into huge people-eating machines, Martin looked to god to sort it all out, as he knew that it had gone too far. Meanwhile in those years God was looking to a whole bunch of unimportant people to live differently. In those years it left Martin with a choice. Would he try to align with God or would his own personal god become ever so much bigger? The years that followed would tell a tale.

Systemic sin

personal or systemic

I do read a number of posts each morning, one of which is by Scot McKnight or a contributor on his site. This morning, Patrick Mitchel, from Ireland wrote a very powerful piece, writing humbly from Ireland looking in on the current street scenes in the USA. Here is the article link:
https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/june/americas-original-sin-irish-perspective.html

There are so many great points in it but I simply want to pull out two here. Writing that sin is a virus that God will eradicate (our eschatological hope) he says that sin is deep in the structures, and then this very astute observation:

And those who don’t have this everyday experience (generally those with White privilege) tend to resist systemic analysis of sin – they tend to limit sin to the individual sphere.

And in particular responding from his own experience and observation from Ireland he writes:

The primary calling for brothers and sisters in America is to embody a different story to the story of racial division, hatred, violence, suspicion and fear that is tearing the country apart. The church is to be a ‘window’ into God’s new creation, not a mirror reflecting back the sins of the world.


Worth a read!! And the good news I too will have a guest author this month. I have read the first contribution, and hopefully tomorrow you can read it.


And finally, being clear. I am very cautious about writing about what is very visible globally regarding the streets of the USA. I used to travel fairly extensively there and have many good friends who are pioneering in so many healthy ways. There came a point though where the Lord said clearly that ‘you are not responsible for what takes place there… find and focus on your places of responsibility.’ We have our work cut out here, and some days it is pretty painful to see how little impact we are making. Currently there is what looks like a huge movement inside the Guardia Civil (militarised police) to get the current government out. By huge movement I am not talking numbers, but drawing on the sources deep in its roots. So we have our focus. It is not a ‘I don’t have time for something else’, but there is a task to be accomplished.

The demonic elite

Probably in us all?

Ah yes a gentle little title there! How else can I get your attention?

And just to soften it a little, and only a little, how often am I a servant of the wrong ‘side’? In my infallible writings that I have started to go through with a few who hopefully will help me with feedback I have tracked how Peter withstood Jesus on the basis of revelation, only to be told to ‘get behind me Satan!’

I have been pushing a high view of humanity, because that is where God is invested. The spirit of antiChrist denies the humanity of Jesus, to sin is to fall short of the glory of God (as a human)… so I have been pushing to dehumanise is to act on behalf of the demonic world. Sadly I can do that in the name of Jesus, in attitude or action.

It is this high view of humanity that is restored in Christ so that ‘there is , neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female’. A new humanity, where the bar is raised but the field is level. [Little side-note the text is actually ‘male and female’ not as is often translated ‘male nor female’. I think this is a deliberate quote from Genesis – thus creation is not the model…]

Now given that the human partnership with the demonic is on a sliding scale with none of us absolutely free, in reality or potentially, I have been thinking about the ‘elitist’ attitudes and behaviour that ‘rules apply to…, but not to me’. The effect is to set up a slave / free division and if I am one of the elite then I am above you. I am more human (???) and thus you are less so.

In my deep ponderings I decided ‘Not good.’ So good to have one conclusion a day I think.

This elitism is something becoming ever so more visible in society. If the body of Christ shapes society, I wonder what seeds have we been sowing so that there is a visible harvest like this now appearing.

Zoom – a new world opens

I have just come off a Zoom call to Singapore… (have you noticed how ‘zoom’ is now a word in our language to sit alongside others like ‘google’?). It was very enriching and I was paid one of the highest compliments, that being that I was apparently ‘so futuristic’. If only!! But it is something to live up to for sure. Coming off the zoom I thought again about Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians. I will quote first in a new translation (ESV, a new but ‘old’ translation, with a tendency to overdo the (overdone) masculine pronouns when not necessary, nor accurate in today’s context, and ‘old’ because of the tendency to lean on comfortable concepts):

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 16-19 ESV, emphasis added).

‘He (sic) is a new creation’.

The NIV reads:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 16-19 NIV, emphasis added).

‘The new creation has come’.

Or to really impress the SBL Greek text:

ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις. τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά.

So that if anyone is in Christ, (a) new creation. The old (things) have passed away, behold the new (things) have come.

The passage is about sight and how we view people, starting with Christ himself. If we see him from a worldly point of view (for Paul the Jewish world view and ‘messiahship’, for us maybe the ‘king of our empire’) we can only go wrong from there. We can never see the world and certainly not others rightly. Hence seeing Jesus rightly means we can never see anyone (and anyone cannot be reduced to ‘believers’) through the fallen-human lens that categorises them. If however, we are seeing Jesus differently, and that is an evolving experience, then everything has changed. Crazily Paul suggests for such people the world as we think of it as existing has passed away. At the cross, God is not reconciled to the world, but vice versa. There was an alignment of the world back to God, to his way of doing things. This is so far out there that it is not surprising that translations make the verse personal, implying the extent of the conversion is that of becoming a new ‘creature’. If the whole world was being reconciled I am reconciled; if the whole world was being made new then I am made new. My personal experience is within the global.

What do we see at this time? In the days of a total antiChrist one-world government system Paul had crazy sight. Maybe we have thought of the great new things that God was doing when we fell to the floor, and the glory was being manifest… but the biblical assessment on that would be ‘ouch that is such small sight’. The Covid-19 virus might just help be a provocation to us to come to an awareness of what we see.

The universal work of God must have a global outworking. These next two years are enormous years for the alignments God is bringing about. There has to be reconciliations because that was the reconciling work of God on the cross that birthed (then) a whole new world. This morning in the zoom call there were some great resonances (though I am sure that they would not endorse all my perspectives… I hope they don’t as I am convinced that God doesn’t endorse all of them!); they reflected back to me in their words something so strong. ‘There are kingdom friendly people who are not believers; and there are Christians who are not kingdom friendly.’

It is time to see, and to see anew. If anyone is in Christ, not simply ‘in Christ’ through ticking the box, but in Christ experientially.

Oh yes… the gospel offends not because of who it excludes, but because of who it includes.

Easter comes

I love Easter time as it is such a good time to reflect. What a wonderfully ‘crazy’ message we have. The glory of God revealed in death… the end of an era, the answering to the confusions (that are present) within Scripture about violence, war and the like; the beginning of a new era and a whole new paradigm. No longer can life be defined by ‘being alive’ but by becoming a ‘life-giver’.

The current shut-downs offer such an opportunity. The sin of Israel of losing sight of the reason for her existence can so easily creep up on us. Easter puts down a marker that the way of life is to lay down one’s life for the sake of others. It is the denial of ‘me / church / *** first’.

I understand the shift of services to online, but Easter means we cannot make personal survival as the personal goal. It is very hard to make a ‘*** first’ and genuinely let let flow out to others. Once we declare ‘first’, words such as ‘second’, ‘third’ become all-but meaningless. Thanks be to heaven that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem with a ‘Jesus first’ approach, other than a ‘Jesus first to the cross on behalf of others’.

In the forced shifts I suggest so many aspects can be re-assessed. A reconnection with body of Christ (and in the light of Easter what an incredible analogy) as royal priesthood. If we are going to see the dehumanising (and therefore the work of demons) nationalistic ethno-centric voice of ‘*** first’, this reset gives us all a major opportunity to partner with the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Footnote: I use ‘*** first’ simply because we can miss it if we narrow down and name it with replacing the name of a country. Always easy to narrow things down so as we are excluded – life is never (thankfully) that easy.

Small and diverse

Let me start with a quote (as far as I am aware it is one of the few original ones I came up, but I am sure I have been inlfuenced from somewhere else / borrowed it or simply knicked it…)

The future is the multiplicity of the small and the richness of diversity.

The next big thing that God is doing… this year is the year of the breakthrough… or such pronouncements might just take place, but I suggest if it does we will either be disappointed or we will be very much settling for second-(or third-…) best. I do not think we should be looking for the next big thing, and indeed I do not think God wants to give us anything that might be labelled the new big thing.

The early church grew at a rate of 10% per decade. Not exactly too dramatic. Numbers never were the focus. Paul writing to the church in Corinth some 8 or so years after it had started never prayed that their numbers would increase, simply that their faith would, and if that happened they would no longer need his input. It seemed he thought that a church that could meet in one home in the city (want to estimate the numbers?) was enough to change city of some 250,000 people that was anything but a well-behaved city. (To act as a Corinthian was an insult that could be used to chastise someone for their behaviour.)

We want numbers for after all numbers have a voice all of their own. True but what kind of voice?

I have had the privilege these past few days of connecting cyber space wise with people who have a vision to see a billion people impacted in the next 10 years, to change culture through the presence of Jesus… from the bottom up. So encouraging cos like everyone else I am in touch with so few people. Maybe there is something going on that is at a deep bottom up, hidden level that could change the world we live in. So in spite of my annoyance at certain things that seem to shift in the wrong direction I need to make sure I invest more into what can rise than what needs to be restricted – and both are essential consequences of salt being salt.

Maybe though the biggest hindrance to what now needs to arise is that incessant desire for the big and powerful that can bring everything in its path to submission.

The multiplicity of the small – and so much of it will be ever so small. And the richness of diversity for surely there should be some kind of Scripture that suggests that the body is anything but uniform, that the eye cannot say…

I have been privileged to make some of the connections I have, but more importantly I need to have a peek at what little I have to contribute and get on with that. Maybe that is what God is asking of me. Could just be that old question of ‘what do you have in your hand’, ‘what do you have in your house’.

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