Tuesday, October 30, 2007

William Booth on Mission's False Dichotomy...

I stumbled across an interesting article from 1889 written by William Booth; called 'Salvation for Both Worlds', William Booth charts an interesting journey.
Booth's desire was simple from the outset, 'to advance [God's] honour and carry out [God's] wishes on the earth'. The year before 'Darkest England and the Way Out' was published Booth's theology of mission takes an interesting turn.


Booth acknowledges an initial, seemingly straight forward and unsurprising theology that reflects a familiar understanding of salvation, from which there should be no distraction. 'Temporal modification' was in his mind 'trivial, almost contemptible.'

"What were the sorrows of earth when compared with everlasting damnation? Their temporary comfort or discomfort was as to nothing compared with the business of their rescue."

Booth goes on to outline how he became increasing impacted by the brokenness of society and the 'earthly miseries' he saw around him - but seeing no remedy, Booths' concept of mission remained concise and to the point "if we cannot save them for time, we will save them for eternity".

Booth's desire was simple from the outset, 'to advance [God's] honour and carry out [God's] wishes on the earth'. The year before 'Darkest England and the Way Out' was published Booth's theology of mission takes an interesting turn. The article reads almost like a testimony of how Booth recognised the shaping and morphing of his theology. It is interesting to hear Booth as he says:
"... as I came to look more closely into things and gathered more experience of the ways of God to man, I discovered that the miseries from which I ought to save man in the next world were substantially the same as those from which I everywhere found him suffering in this..."
Booth's conclusion reflects an interesting breadth in his understanding of mission:

"I saw that when the bible said “He that believeth shall be saved”, it meant not only saved from the miseries of the future world, but from the miseries of this also. That it came with the promise of salvation here and now; from hell and sin and vice and idleness and extravagance and consequently very largely from poverty and disease, and the majority of kindred woes."
I wonder what Booth would say to us still struggling with this one 118 years later?


I want to discover how and when this blind spot, false dichotomy, dualistic sense of mission - that William Booth had moved on from - crept back in. I might then be able to understand why such dualism is currently so well maintained and even nourished, and why the breadth of mission that Booth discovered is so vehemently derided.

So here's Booth on Mission's False Dichotomy:

"Christ is the deliverer for time as truly as for eternity..."

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Swanwick Highlight...

And I've heard religion say you're to be feared

But I don't buy into everything I hear

And it seems to me you're hostage to those rules

That were made by religion and not by you
Driving to and from Swanwick was a highlight for being able to have some quality time not only with Kate, but also Sinead O'Connor's latest album Theology.

Track 3 'Out Of The Depths' got repeated quite a few times with the melody and lyrics haunting within their insight.

Out of the depths I cry to you oh lord
don't let my cries for mercy be ignored
If you keep account of sins oh who would stand?
But you have forgiveness in your hands

And I've heard religion say you're to be feared
But I don't buy into everything I hear
And it seems to me you're hostage to those rules
That were made by religion and not by you

And I'm wondering will u ever get yourself free
Is it bad to think you might like help from me?
Is there anything my little heart can do
To help religion share us with you?

For oh you're like a ghost in your own home
Nobody hears you crying all alone
Oh you are the one true really voiceless one
They have their backs turned to you for worship of gold and stone

And to see you prisoner oh makes me weep
Nobody hears you screaming in the streets
And it's sad but true how the old saying goes
If God lived on earth people would break his windows

I long for you as watchmen long for the end of night

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Swanwick 2007

Off here for a couple of days to be inspired and refreshed at what is affectionally known as Officers Councils! What's great this year is that our old division will be there and it'll be great to meet up with a few old friends.

I'm going with realistic expectations and the agenda of wanting to be surprised.

See you there!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Being a Blessing...

"Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier." Mother Teresa

Charles Ringma points out that "A central impulse to living the Christian life is that we seek to do good to others. We want to help not hinder, bless not curse, build up not tear down, encourage not alienate."

He goes on to warn that this desire must come from a 'good place'. Guilt or 'self-aggrandizement' is not a good place. The need to be needed or from the desire to please others is not a good place. Helping and serving people with these motivations and intentions is inuthentic and ceases to be the blessing that it wass intended to be. Ringma challenges us "being a blessing must come from a very different place."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lessons in Worship...

I make a mental note to explore the possibility with God whether, next time he wants to get creative and teach the congregation a lesson, if he could humiliate someone else!

There is not an easy way of saying this: I broke my G string in public worship this week. As the guitar started to lose its tuning I looked at the running order of worship with relief - next up, the singing group, enough time to restring my G string. My heart sank as our officer leading worship mentioned that the group would not be singing and that we would continue in singing Holy Holy (incidentally how many songs are there in your part of the world with holy, holy ad infinitum in the title? In the UK we have one with at least five holy’s!!). Before I played the necessary D chord I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, and it wasn’t.

Not wanting to let the side down I start to bellow out the Holy, Holy song acapella, the congregation join gamefully in. Two lines in and the mix of my holy with their holy wasn’t happening. You see I was singing Holy, Holy, but they were singing Holy, Holy, Holy - I’m not sure but there might even have been a strain of Holy, Holy, Holy (Holy, Holy). Whatever, the creativity of the moment was lost on everyone and it all collapsed and I slink off in a way that makes sure everyone knows I have a broken string!

The sermon - basically a challenge to our congregation to move beyond a consumerism of worship and to discover the heart of worship. I smile as our officer speaks about worship as more than a song, and wonder if anyone else has caught the creativity of the out-of-tune worship.

I make a mental note to explore the possibility with God whether, next time he wants to get creative and teach the congregation a lesson, if he could humiliate someone else!

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I used this on theRubicon this week with a different ending (here)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Miller, D (2003) Blue like Jazz - Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality ... 3/4

Miller on Institution...
the starting point perhaps is the discovery of God's agenda for his creation as expressed through Jesus' life, death and resurrection, rather than the church's agenda as formed within Christendom.

IT SHOULD BE SAID I AM AN INDEPENDENT PERSON. I don't like institutionalized anything. I don't like corporations. I am not saying institutions and corporations are wrong, or bad I am only saying I don't like them. Some people don't like classical music, some people don't like pizza, I don't like institutions. My dislike might stem from a number of things, from the nonpersonal feel I get when I walk into a corporate office or the voicemail system I encounter when I call my bank. It might be the nonengaged look on every fast-food worker's face or the phone calls I receive in the 'middle of dinner asking me what longdistance carrier I use. Those people never want to just talk; they always have an agenda. pp129

Miller, D (2003) Blue like Jazz - Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

Not much else to add to an insight of contemporary society on the phenomenon of institution. However well meaning and noble the church's agenda - it still is very much that ... an agenda. To communicate the rule of God, His kingdom beyond that of an agenda is a challenge - the starting point perhaps is the discovery of God's agenda for his creation as expressed through Jesus' life, death and resurrection, rather than the church's agenda as formed within Christendom.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Brother Gordon on faith...

I came over all Desert Fatherish yesterday during what the Training College call 'spiritual days' (we have a riot on the 358 non-spiritual days!). The theme of the day had been on faith and we had all been given the choice to discuss a variety of texts. My choice - God outlining his purposes for Abram:
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

"I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."

Genesis 12:1-3

What hit me was the 'I Will' motif and the striking resemblance with God as 'I am'. Thinking of definitions of faith, that is when I went all Desert Fatherish and came up with

"Faith is comfort in the knowledge that the great 'I am' will" (Gordon Cotterill!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lost Themes of Mission - Gospel...

"It is important to stress, as Paul would do himself were he not so muzzled by his interpreters, that when he referred to "the gospel" he was not talking about a scheme of soteriology."

OK this is intriguing. We've heard the 'gospel' rhetoric, we've preached the 'gospel' in the understanding that 'gospel' = good news and that good news is that Jesus lived, died and rose again accommodating whatever theory of atonement is in vogue or catches our whim. Paul's use of the word gospel however, could be and might represent ever so much more.

NT Wright explores the concept to some depth and asks that to get to grips with the concept of 'gospel' there is a need to not only understand where the word came from, but also to get an insight as to what such a term would mean to Paul and to his readers. NT would argue that the term infers an announcement of kingship, of a new reign. The euaggelion, gospel, was announced when a new emperor was declared - 'Augustus is dead...Tiberius is Lord... on your knees and pay your taxes' - this was gospel, the announcement of a new reign. Gospel would have been used by Paul and understood by his readers in this context.

NT reiterates this by underlining this double resonance of the word "gospel" for Paul.

"On the one hand, the gospel Paul preached was the fulfilment of the message of Isaiah 40 and 52, the message of comfort for Israel and of hope for the whole world, because YHWH, the god of Israel, was returning to Zion to judge and redeem. On the other hand, in the context into which Paul was speaking, "gospel" would mean the celebration of the accession, or birth, of a king or emperor. Though no doubt petty kingdoms might use the word for themselves, in Paul's world the main "gospel" was the news of, or the celebration of, Caesar." (NT Wright)
In other words the Gospel, announced in this context, identifies Jesus Christ as the true kyrios (Lord) of the world, and subverts the prevalent cult and supposed divinity of Caesar. Jesus is announced as the risen Lord of the world within the context of a new reign, a new way of living and of being through subjection and submission not to a new Caesar, but to Jesus as Lord. Therefore nothing to do with how to be saved:
"It is important to stress, as Paul would do himself were he not so muzzled by his interpreters, that when he referred to "the gospel" he was not talking about a scheme of soteriology." (NT Wright)

My understanding of 'gospel' has lacked this context and I am left wondering whether I have been guilty of muzzling Paul, guilty of missing something obvious that is central to mission, the announcement of an alternative way of living, the announcement of the 'reign of God' shaped by the values of the Kingdom as seen in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. As long as gospel is is 'muzzled' and kept partial 'gospel' remains, ironically a lost theme of mission.

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Lost Themes of Mission - Judgement...
Lost Themes of Mission - Worship...
Lost Themes of Mission - Holiness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Righteousness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Agape...
Lost Themes of Mission - Jubilee...
Lost Themes of Mission - Salvation...
Lost Themes of Mission - Shalom...
Lost Themes of Mission - Compassion...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Aussies Wilko'ed again!

Looking likely that England will play NZ in the semi's - nevermind! It was good spoiling Australia's World Cup party!


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Did I say NZ?

C'est la vie! France it is!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Warning...

Animal lovers and anyone remotely squeamish - beware - do not look at the picture to the left!!

If your 11 year old is doing a homework project and needs a picture of a guinea pig - BEWARE GOOGLE IMAGE!!!

Bethan is still in shock and never wants to visit Peru!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Conversations I have missed...

Conversations of extreme recycling of bodily functions - ever wondered why the flower beds of the London parks look so good?

I look forward to Mondays. I remember using a quote by John le Carre who said "The desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world", I have been living dangerous life. I look forward to Monday's because that is the evening I get to go along to Faith House.

This is only my second week and I realise that I have missed this kind of ministry more that I had realised. I'm just feeling my way with the group who come along for something to eat and a chat but already I am enjoying conversations that are reminiscent to life before college. Conversations of extreme recycling of bodily functions - ever wondered why the flower beds of the London parks look so good? Conversations of time travel and the shock of slipping back seven months and actually discovering it was April. Conversations of being sectioned, violence and arrest all over a fishfinger sandwich and a cup of tea. I've missed these conversations.

As these conversations and others buzz around the room - I am struck by the beauty of something that is going. Here are a group of people whose opinions usually count for nothing, in an environment where their opinion can count for everything. Inclusion is a powerful image and value of the Kingdom.

For tomorrow it is back to my life of danger!