Friday, 27 January 2012

Church isn't working - Part 1

A friend doing research pointed out that evidence suggests that people who have non-controlling & supportive input, recovered faster physical and mental illness. Now, some research by the BBC has shown that people who have ‘social support’ are more likely to experience ‘well-being’ and reduced stress than those without it. (see the diagram)

Given that The Beatles knew “Can’t buy me love”,  is it really a surprise that low income has less of an impact than lack of friends?

Of course those who encourage and value each other feel better - irrespective of their circumstances.  It's what we used to call family and friendships!

The community that could have provided the support so many people desperately need has largely gone along with the funding that was suposed to support it. Yet the response is so often to invent new sytems or programmes to provide the necessary support...

....whereas it is exactly the territory that church should inhabit:

Low Income: ‘Consider the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor sow, yet Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like these.... seek first the Kingdom of God... and all this will be yours as well’

Life events: ‘Shall anything in all creation seperate us from the love of God?’

Family History: ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Self Blame: ‘There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ’

Rumination: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.’

We have answers to the underlying stressors and the love to be the friends that can make such a profound difference.

So my question is simply this. Where is the church?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Faith, Hope & Love

"Now I see through a mirror, dimly"

We know it breaks God's heart when we make ungodly choices.  It makes him rightly angry that in the light of his extraordinary love, we persist in squandering those choices. Nonetheless, a God who is love gives choice; Love and therefore the God who is love, does not insist on his own way.

The problem with a God who gives such choices is that his character and nature gets obscured:

He is generous, but our selfish choices leave most of the world hungry and understandably doubting his generosity.  He is holy, but our sinful choices pervert the very nature of purity; 'wicked' has become good.  He is just, but our corrupt choices mean that bad people prosper. The sun shines on those who make right choices and those who do not.

Love means that we live in a confused world!

Which means that there is no unambiguous evidence that God is like he says he is. We have to exercise faith, we must hope, without seeing it, that God is as he says he is. We have to hope that there is a God who is for us, who ultimately protects, who will in the end bring justice. In a world of pain, we have to hope that there is a God of love.

Not hope in the common usage of 'hope'. Not hope as opposed to certainty. Not hope as in there isn't really much chance. Not hope as in all we have left is some 'vain hope'

But hope as in, 'this is what we have chosen to have confidence in, even though we haven't seen it yet'. Hope as in, 'this is my hope in whom I put my trust.'

We might not see it yet, but we hope it. The evidence of our senses, the pattern from history, our current circumstances, the way we feel all -  might deny it. But inspite of all that, we cling to this hope. That God is as he says he is.

But what use is that hope? It might change our attitude, stop us from despair, but it doesn't put food on the table of the hungry, doesn't bring freedom to the oppressed, healing to the sick, sight to the blind...

That's where faith comes in.

Faith, is the way we turn the theory of hope into practical, tangible reality. Faith wrestles the substance of what is hoped for into the reality of this world. It takes the high ideals of the kingdom and writes them as laws on our hearts. It takes the lofty principles and earths them in everyday reality.

Faith says I hope in a God of justice and as a result of that hope, pleads, intercedes, advocates and acts until justice is done.

Faith says I hope there is a God who loves my colleagues and as a result prays and serves and speaks until that love is made visible to them.

Faith sees the mountainous obstacle and placing hope in a God of the miraculous, begins to shovel away the stones one at a time.

Hope is abstract, it paints a picture of what we believe is real, often despite the evidence. Faith, by relying on the abstract as if it were true, makes it real.

Hope says I believe in resurrection, faith allows itself to be nailed to a cross.

When we die, when the world ends, when this age is over, that which is built on these three remain.

Faith, hope and love.