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.