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Back to the future (and the cross).

“This is what the Lord says – he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”. Isaiah 43:16, 18-19.”

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” Phil. 3:12-14

Some of us are a little prone to dwell in the past, particularly when it has hurt or bruised us, moving on is often easy said but difficult to do.

When I was at college on the first full service of the whole College the Principal, Christina Baxter, got each student up in turn, another vicary/lecturer person held a great big cross behind us, and prayed that we would know the freedom of Christ from the past and all that has hurt, damaged or inhibited us from being all we were meant to be and have the potential to be.

After having the cross held behind us, a very powerful symbol, we were anointed with oil, as being commissioned to live for Christ, follow him obediently.

One of those services I have never forgotten, but it felt a good message for new years eve…

Whatever is painful, disappointing or regrets we  have lets leave them at the foot of the cross of Christ…

Asking God for his healing, redemptive and restorative power to free us from the past.

But also, to look to the future, knowing that we do not go alone, we go following in Christ’s footsteps, listening to his voice as he leads us forward.

Knowing that God is a God who changes people, transforms individuals and communities, as we encounter him afresh and anew, let him enable us to keep going where Christ has called us with faithfulness and perseverance.

Remembering the Kingswood Street Pastors key verse “Do not become weary in doing good, for at the right time we will reap a great harvest if we do not give up.” Gal.6.9.

And so with this in mind, let’s see this new year with a heart full of expectancy, looking for signs of the Kingdom of God breaking in.

Andy

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When you say nothing at all…

 

Bishop, you spoke for 25 minutes and yet you didn’t actually say anything” an angry parishioner ranted…

“Thank you so much, you’re too kind” the Bishop replied (taken from a PG Wodehouse thing I saw years ago).
Sometimes when I have been at Christian events and have heard people use words like “Church”, “Mission”, “Gospel” or “Worship” which are common Churchy words, but are words where what one person means by them is vastly different from someone else means…
Sometimes having broad definitions is helpful as it keeps people with very different opinions talking together, but more recently I have wondered if sometimes we as Christians are really scared about simply talking to each other, and avoid talking about our differences in the fear we may damage unity, yet I believe it is precisely in these conversations where the Holy Spirit often turns up and shapes us.
When I was at college I became friends with an America Professor called Russell who was (very) AngloCatholic and thought we would be on a very different page theologically, and to be honest we were, but as we built relationships and became friends and both chatted and talked together not only did understand him better, but I learned and was stretched a by the Holy Spirit as I went deeper in my beliefs and thoughts.
Yet too often we are like Basil Fawelty in Fawelty Towers  in the don’t mention the war sketch, we are often lack confidence in our own beliefs or are too worried about upsetting the other person that we never actually talk about what we believe, why we believe it and how we live it out.
I remember when I was exploring ordination coming from a fairly reformed background going to meet this wonderful lady vicar Janice as she talked about her take on some difficult verses about gender, and helped me wrestle through some of my thinking, now 13 years later I am passionately in favour of women’s ordination, I guess in that meeting I had the choice was I polite and inoffensive or was I real and willing to be changed.
Yet, also sometimes God is wanting to use you to bless, transform and open up someone elses faith to the wonderfulness he has in store for them, sometimes we are so respectful of tradition and difference that we don’t allow the revelation of God in us to bless those around us.
A challenge, if we are called (as we are) to be ‘iron shapening Iron’ maybe we need to be more real with each other about what it means for us to follow Christ.
A great question to ask in Church on a Sunday is, so what is the Gospel and does it sound like good news to this neighbourhood? And if it is good news how are they going to hear it?
In fact what is Church, and is this Church, or could this be Church, or even (which is a funny one but go with it) how could this be (in the right sense) more Church?
What is mission?
(With much of what we do) a good question is, is this mission? -Could it be mission?
(An interesting question to throw in there, Bishop Lee once said, “Evangelism is Mission, but mission is bigger than just evangelism…”)
Which leaves me on to my last point, we have so much we can learn from each other, so much to bless one another with, and yet at times disagreeing is inevitable, how do we disagree in a way that is honest and authentic, but is also loving and with integrity.
How can we disagree in a Christ like manner?
If we can work out how to do this, then we can surely grow together and become more and more Christ like…
So in 2016 lets have exciting conversations with one another in love, see friendships blossom and all of us in our vulnerability and enquiry grow in our faith and Christ-like Character.
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All Change…

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”

Change happens all the time and nearly everything changes…
Everything changes, although things do change at different rates and speeds.
Change is unavoidable.
I’m away at the moment and have gone back to Eastbourne where I used to live from 10-19…
Yet, going back now it doesn’t feel like home, many the familiar places have changed -my local pub -the Waverly- has become a nursery-, the Arndale centre is bring converted into an arty glass funky arcade.
It’s just not how I remember it, and that is a little bit sad and a little bit unsettling.
People have changed too, saw both my Godsons, 13 and 17 now, both look different having grown and changed, I feel sad that I’m not around more and see them grow up, the sadness comes from the missed experience.
There is something nice about finding places and people just as you remember them, like the conversations carry on just as though you’d not been away.
In many ways this verse, echoes something about Gods unchangeableness, the anchor image of faithful, dependable, trustworthiness, stability in the chaos of life.
Yet change although feels different can be a good thing, the little struggling church, All Souls’ Eastbourne, now crams in 200ish people mainly young families, on a Sunday morning, which is a good change. I’m glad it’s grown.
 Change can be good.
I get bored too easily sometimes so things staying fresh is importing to me…
I am (often unaware) changing all the time, new things shape, challenge, mold us… And my relationship with God develops, not because he changes but because I do and I discover new things, I see things in new ways, I experience more of him… And that’s great.
So let’s praise God that he doesn’t change, and cling onto his goodness, grace and love for those changes we struggle with.
And let us praise God that we do, and are able to learn more, grow and go deeper, keeping our relationship with him fresh, dynamic and exciting.
There is something wonderful about the paradox of a God who never changes but we and the world we are in are ever changing and our revelation of him grows…
Andy
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(Christmas Story) Play the tape…

Does anyone remember video tapes?

Showing my age, eh!

Do you remember recording films on these things, but sometimes, if you hadn’t rewound the tape, you would watch a film and then at the critical moment, IT WOULD STOP AND REWIND.

Often at the worst possible moment, with you desperately wanting to know how the story ends.

I think this is often what we do with the Christmas story too, we stop the tape and re-wind it, just after the wise men get to visit Jesus.

We don’t want the tape to continue playing as we have to confront genocide, refugees, flawed humanity capable of great evil, the wisdom and words of Christ, the claims he made about himself, bread that truly satisfied, the resurrection and the life, the good Sheppard who gives his life for his sheep, the light of the world that shines in the darkness and the gate or doorway that is the way, the truth and the life, the only way to the Father… but more than the claims he made were his actions, touching the untouchable, eating with sinners, outcasts the marginalised and disenfranchised, calming storms and feeding the hungry culminating with his death on a cross and rising in glory.

It’s a story worth hearing.

Yet it is not one we just spectate as a bystander.

We can be involved.

You see this is God’s story… A love story, which invites us to join our story with his story.

You see, God step down into his world as Christ Jesus, to live as one of us, not a God remote and distant on some cloud, but God who knows and understand, whose eyes have cried, whose hands have clasped, and his cheeked kissed by a betrayer.

He knows all about us, even the ‘us’ we try to hide, and yet knowing us at our worst, he still loves us and holds out his hand in relationship too us.

Yet in dying and rising from the dead, he took our sin that caused that barrier between us and God, and wiped the slate clean so now we can approach God with a clear conscience knowing that through Christ we have been forgiven and cleansed, and through him we can enter into the great party of eternity with God, where we will literally party as though there is no tomorrow.

So a challenge, play the tape, and hear who Christ claims to be.

Play the tape, and see that we have messed up and need cleansing and forgiveness.

Play the tape and see our rescue and redemption paid in full upon the cross of Christ.

Play the tape and see our sure and certain hope of resurrection to new and eternal life with Christ.

Play the tape and see our story and the story of God become one story joined together that will never end.

 

 

 

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Jesus and Star Wars 3

Star Wars seems to have a whole Messiah-Saviour thing going on in the films…

As the people are living under tyranny of the empire, powerless to take on this seemingly undefeatable foe, they wait hopefully and expectantly for the one who is to come.

They can’t, despite their best efforts, save themselves.

Hope looks futile, unless seen through the eyes of faith.

After all the Empire is huge. Darth Vader is too bigger an enemy.

The eventual Messiah, looks too young and fresh faced and vulnerable to take on the might of this giant.

A ‘David and Goliath’ type picture… The triumph of the one who is seemingly the underdog.

In many ways, this echoes with our world today, if ever we need Hope is now; both nationally and internationally it is easy to despair “we are doomed Captain Mannering”-oops wrong film!

Yet Isaiah talks about the darkness not putting out the light of hope, in fact however dark the darkness gets, darkness cannot put out the light of hope.

Hope is something more than a vague optimism that everything will be okay.

For the Christian our hope is not simply based on feelings, no our hope ‘which does not disappoint us’  is a living hope, in is based not on an emotion of a vague sense of I’m sure it’ll be okay, but as it says in the first chapter of the second Epistle of Peter our  hope is a LIVING HOPE, it’s a person, it’s Jesus Christ, God himself, the overcomer of hell, sin and death, the one who is always faithful and we can trust, the one who died and rose again and will return and will restore his rule and reign and bring in his Kingdom on earth as in heaven

It’s a living hope, because the grave could not, and could never hold him.

For the Christian we know that evil will not get the last word.

Any victory the enemy gets is temporary and partial.

For the Christian it is knowing that this is not the end of the story, and that the end of the story will be glorious.

Someone once said, “it will be all alright in the end, if its not alright it is not the end”.

Christimas is saying the light of the world literally stepped down into  darkness,

The Holy one was surrounded by depravity.

The King born into poverty as a refugee.

Yet when our Saviour arrived he was born as a weak and vulnerable baby, not what anyone expected, living in a place where nothing good could come.

Christmas is saying that God intervenes in humanities darkest moment.

In fact from birth until his dying breath, Christ took on the worst that humanity could throw at him, and yet he rose from the grave untainted and uncontaminated by all that has been thrown at him.

Our hope may look to the rest of the world like a bizzare hope, but one that is utterly faithful and true, a Messiah who may not look like a Hollywood hero, but did rescue us from far more than just a few storm troopers and a very grumpy dad in funny costumes, Christ rescues us from hell, sin and death. He rescued us by laying down his life for us. He rescued us by his death and resurrection.

Hope not just for us here and now, but an eternal hope, that cannot spoil, fade or be stolen but embodied in our Saviour, who is within us, and we in him, secure in his unchanging love that we cannot be snatched from his hand.

In the midst of darkness and uncertainty, the Christian has the light of hope which goes beyond the grave.

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Jesus and Star Wars 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlKoiJu9TsQ

Okay another piece on Star Wars…
Having recently watched the new Star Wars film and remembering the old ones, I remember that the power people had at their finger tips from the force was something they discovered as the journeyed on. In the process we see Luke discovering the force can be used both in times of Crisis as well as ordinarily.
It made me think a bit about us as Christians and the power of the Holy Spirit.
But before someone starts getting stroppy, I realize that the Holy Spirit is personal rather than the force in Star Wars which is impersonal, also the Holy Spirit is only ever Holy and Good, what’s the only thing God can’t do? The answer is ‘Sin’… There is no dark-side  of the Holy Spirit, he is purely good and loves to empower his people.
Yet when we see in Star Wars characters discovering a power greater than themselves that is able to change themselves and change those around them, Christians have the promise of the Holy Spirit not just with them or as an ally, but dwelling WITHIN them, equipping and empowering us both in those dramatic high tension moments of our lives as well as in the normal ordinary monotony of our every day existence.
We see the Holy Spirit hoovering over creation, actively involved in creating the cosmos.  The Apostle Paul describes this power working within us as ‘the same power  which raised Jesus from the dead’, describing God’s power working in and through his Saints (holy people, you and me, made holy by Christ’s death on the cross) as “more than we can ask or imagine”, in speaking of the Holy Spirit we are told that “he that is within us is greater than he that is within the world” and yet we as Christians live as those we are powerless, left high and dry by Christ, which simply isn’t true. Jesus said; “You will do greater things than me”, Luke’s double volume (Luke and Acts) has a very clever theme, we see Jesus doing the miracles of the patriarchs (healing the sick, raising the dead and even having authority over nature) and going beyond them, and then we see the first generation of disciples doing what Jesus did, and then as the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles moves on we see 2nd and 3rd generation Christians doing what Jesus did, the idea shows that this is meant to be normative Christianity, working and living in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was powerfully at work in communities that those practicing the occult wanted to buy the Holy Spirits power as it was so much greater than anything they had to offer.
And yet we as Christian don’t fully realize either who we are ‘heirs equipped with the God of heaven living within us who longs to work in us and through us to see his Kingdom established on earth as in heaven”.
Lets be people like Luke Skywalker, not unaware of God’s power, love and desire to work through his dearly loved people.
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Jesus and Star Wars 1

I watched the new Star Wars film last night (don’t worry there will be no spoilers!)…

But I was thinking about some of the big themes of the original. Most notably in the (dreadful) prequels show someone turning from being a goodie to a baddie,  yet the classic Star Wars movies show the conflict between good and evil within us all, Darth Vader ‘more machine than man now’ still has the spark of goodness visible at the end of the return of the Jedi, in many ways echoes of the thief of the cross next to Jesus, a last minute repentance, which sees him appear to Luke alongside Obi Wan Kenobi at the end of the film “Return of the Jedi”.
Yet we also see the seduction of evil, Luke looks like he will ‘give into the  dark side’, during that battle sequence… Their fight is not just against each other and what each other stands for, but a fight WITHIN themselves.
Interestingly Star Wars aactualy understands that people can’t simply be placed into a category of ‘Goodie or Baddie’ but it is a bit more complex than that.
A quote I once read said “every saint has a past and every sinner a future”.
There is a story I once heard of  a wise man talking to his son, he said “us all having two dogs within us, one which is full of spite, violence, bitterness, envy send malice, the other dog is full of compassion, kindness, Grace, love, holiness etc” the child asked, “which one wins?” The dad replied “the one you feed”.
The apostle Paul gets this conflict in his nature, when he writes in Romans 7, about “the good he wants to do he doesn’t do and the wrong things he doesn’t want to do he does”.
Yet he ends by praising Christ who rescues us, when we know we need supernatural help beyond us and own abilities to behave we discover something of what Christ meant when he talked about being blessed about being poor in spirit, and in weakness Christ is strong.
The Jedi are dependent on and empowered by the fictional “the force” yet for the Christian the God of the universe fights for us, “God of Heaven living in me”.
We are called to fight the darkness we all find within us, but we don’t fight up with our own strength, we fight it with the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the grave who is active within us, proving the truth of “he that is within us is greater than he that is in the world”.
The light shines, we are people of the light, in Christ -the light of the world- the darkness has to flee…
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