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Presence…

I was at a chapter meeting – these are meetings where the local clergy meet together- we had to go into small groups and talk about what was our goal, our aim, our “big yes”. I started with my big yes which was very ‘John Wimber-esk’ something to the effect of “to follow Jesus taking as many people with me as I could”. My friend Jimmy Rocks said just two words “his presence”. In that moment I realised that Jimmy was right, too often I’m like Martha the stressed out host that rushes around rather than her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

Too often we can prioritise “doing” over “being”. The Father urged us to “be still and know that I am God” a call away from the busyness and noise of a manic world with its warped priorities and to find our hearts and minds becoming re-aligned and re-calibrated from this Kingdom to God’s eternal Kingdom. God urged us to “seek his face” – coming to know him, experience him and his presence- rather than just seeking his hands, seeking the gifts but ignoring the giver.

God whose greatest gift he bestowed on his creation was himself, his presence with his creation. The God of the universe walking with his creation “in the cool of the evening” but the greatest tragedy of the fall was not the consequences they had to face but God’s presence with drawing from them and the relationship between God and humanity was fractured. In history times of trouble we have wanted God’s help, we have called on his hands but not interested in his heart or himself. We seek the work of God’s hands rather than seeking his face.

Yet God is wanting to be known, walking and talking with Moses “as a person talks with a friend”, David was described as “a man after God’s own heart” and wrote in the psalms that it is better “one day in the courts of the Lord than a thousand elsewhere” and the Father urges us to “be still and know that I am God”. God’s presence was spasmodically experienced throughout the Old Testament, brief and momentary visitations of God’s presence. The name Jesus was given by the Angel Gabriel was “Immanuel – God with us”. Jesus lived amongst us in the presence and pleasure of God. The temple modelled the absence and separateness of humanity with large thick dividing curtains keeping the presence of God away from ordinary people. Jesus taking the sin of the world on his shoulders cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the first time in his life he experienced not residing in the presence and pleasure of God.

As Jesus died the temple curtain ripped in two, symbolising that anyone can have a relationship with God and experience his presence, the fall of Eden was restored and reconciled by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As Pentecost followed quickly on the heels of the resurrection and ascension we see God dwelling with us, and in us, no longer infrequent visitation but continual habitatio, God with us immanuel. We can come into God’s presence with boldness because of Christ’s sacrifice.

When we seek Christ we discover he himself is the bread of life that truly satisfies, the living water that quenches our deepest thirst. His presence with us is our food and our fuel for the journey. He himself is our all sufficient one. Gods presence is the place of our hearts deepest longing, where we belong, our home, where we understand our true identity and find our restless souls find the resting peace and peace.

As we invest in the relationship beyond all others that will last for all eternity. A God who bids us welcome to come and be with him and chooses to presence himself with us.

So, if I was ever asked that question again I would say the same as Jimmy, “to seek the presence of God” won for us on the cross and restored the plan of Eden where we were created, redeemed and filled with the Holy spirit so we can be in relationship with him and experience his presence.

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Presence

I was at a chapter meeting – these are meetings where the local clergy meet together- we had to go into small groups and talk about what was our goal, our aim, our “big yes”. I started with my big yes which was very ‘John Wimber-esk’ something to the effect of “to follow Jesus taking as many people with me as I could”. My friend Jimmy Rocks said just two words “his presence”. In that moment I realised that Jimmy was right, too often I’m like Martha the stressed out host that rushes around rather than her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

Too often we can prioritise “doing” over “being”. The Father urged us to “be still and know that I am God” a call away from the busyness and noise of a manic world with its warped priorities and to find our hearts and minds becoming re-aligned and re-calibrated from this Kingdom to God’s eternal Kingdom. God urged us to “seek his face” – coming to know him, experience him and his presence- rather than just seeking his hands, seeking the gifts but ignoring the giver.

God whose greatest gift he bestowed on his creation was himself, his presence with his creation. The God of the universe walking with his creation “in the cool of the evening” but the greatest tragedy of the fall was not the consequences they had to face but God’s presence with drawing from them and the relationship between God and humanity was fractured. In history times of trouble we have wanted God’s help, we have called on his hands but not interested in his heart or himself. We seek the work of God’s hands rather than seeking his face.

Yet God is wanting to be known, walking and talking with Moses “as a person talks with a friend”, David was described as “a man after God’s own heart” and wrote in the psalms that it is better “one day in the courts of the Lord than a thousand elsewhere” and the Father urges us to “be still and know that I am God”. God’s presence was spasmodically experienced throughout the Old Testament, brief and momentary visitations of God’s presence. The name Jesus was given by the Angel Gabriel was “Immanuel – God with us”. Jesus lived amongst us in the presence and pleasure of God. The temple modelled the absence and separateness of humanity with large thick dividing curtains keeping the presence of God away from ordinary people. Jesus taking the sin of the world on his shoulders cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the first time in his life he experienced not residing in the presence and pleasure of God.

As Jesus died the temple curtain ripped in two, symbolising that anyone can have a relationship with God and experience his presence, the fall of Eden was restored and reconciled by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As Pentecost followed quickly on the heels of the resurrection and ascension we see God dwelling with us, and in us, no longer infrequent visitation but continual habitatio, God with us immanuel. We can come into God’s presence with boldness because of Christ’s sacrifice.

When we seek Christ we discover he himself is the bread of life that truly satisfies, the living water that quenches our deepest thirst. His presence with us is our food and our fuel for the journey. He himself is our all sufficient one. Gods presence is the place of our hearts deepest longing, where we belong, our home, where we understand our true identity and find our restless souls find the resting peace and peace.

As we invest in the relationship beyond all others that will last for all eternity. A God who bids us welcome to come and be with him and chooses to presence himself with us.

So, if I was ever asked that question again I would say the same as Jimmy, “to seek the presence of God” won for us on the cross and restored the plan of Eden where we were created, redeemed and filled with the Holy spirit so we can be in relationship with him and experience his presence.

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Loyalty?

As I reflecting on the fall of humanity and how they turned on each other apportioning blame, I was struck by the lack of loyalty that they had both to God’s decree but also to each other, ‘throwing them under the bus’.

I wondered what are we loyal to? Are we people who keep our word and act with integrity?

Are we loyal to the right things, the things of God and his Kingdom, or are we just stubbornly committed to our unredeemed mindsets?

Are we loyal to live the life God wants us to live, or do we do our own thing in our own way?

Are we prepared to sacrifice people and principles on the altar of our own ego, ambition or personal advantage?

Watching the TV show the apprentice one of the saddest things is seeing how people will ‘stab one another in the back’ to advance their own cause, just as Adam and Eve who when it really counted turned on each other rather than pulling together?

Loyalty I believe is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian as we seek to be loyal in our serving and following of Christ. A call to loyalty in all things great and small and every relationship, circumstance and opportunity.

In order to have unity needs to be based on the foundation of loyalty, which engenders trust and security, and breading healthy and harmonious relationships. Loyalty stems from having the right heart attitude. God sees our hidden inward life, he knows our thoughts and sees our hearts. God can weigh the purity of our motivation. God knows what we are really like in reality rather the persona we want to project, as the scriptures remind us “people look at the outside but God looks at the heart”.

Charles Dickens in his novel “David Copperfield” created an odious character Uriah Heep, who would tell everyone about how humble and honourable he was, when in reality he was a total wolf! God is not fooled by our own self publicity, masks or spin. He know our hearts and the loyalty we have to our ongoing pledge to follow him “with pure hands and a clean heart”.

A loyal character reveals itself in how we treat those around us. How do we treat those who lead us? Do they get our support or are we running them down and criticising them? What of new members of our community, or those on the fringe are we loyal to the people who maybe we don’t think can benefit us? Or what of our peers, are we loyal even when it might be costly? Do we show loyalty even when we disagree with others do we do so in a Godly, honourable, loving and righteous way?

What about loyalty to our principles? Often it might feel easier to sell out our integrity and to do what other people want us to. Sometimes being loyal to a principle is hard and tough, “who’s going to know” the voice in our ear says but we would know, and God knows.

As I pondered afresh the idea of loyalty I recall the sermon I do for weddings, talking about Jesus showing the world what real love looks like – 100% committed to us and sacrificed 100% with his death for us upon the cross, revealing a loyalty to us that refused to quit on us.

Or the loyalty we see from the Holy Spirit who is ignored, overlooked and misunderstood but yet still keeps on walking alongside us refusing to quit on us.

So, as we think about the fall, let us be challenged to grow in loyalty as we seek to live out our faith authentically with integrity.

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Gift.

In Anglican liturgical services when the collection is taken there is a response: “All things come from you O Lord, and if your own do we give you”. I like this simple prayer as it reminds us that everything we have is a gift from God, we are living in the midst of God’s extravagant generosity where he has given everything to us, but we gift it back to God, consecrating everything to him to be used for his glory and pleasure.

As I thought about a theology of gift displayed through scripture – often using the word grace which means gjtt. Gift is something unearned, there are no strings attached, when you give someone something you give up the right of ownership of it, allowing the recipient to use the gift as they want, it is no longer ours but theirs.

We live in a world that tells us that we “don’t get nothing for nothing in this world” and there is “no such thing as a free lunch!” yet God makes “the sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous alike” – his gifts are poured out extravengtly irrespective of whether or not we acknowledge him or not, generously blesses even when we turn from him.

As we think about gifts in our human world there is often elements of mixed motives, control, power and indebtedness.

Gifts often show us a lot about the giver and about the recipient.

Recently a friend who is in recovery told how a Vicar in a previous Church unthinkingly gave her a bottle of wine. Showing that this Vicar did not really know or understand her and what mattered to her (it was a present that could have destroyed her!). Jesus says of the Father “the God knows how to give good gifts to his children”. God is a good Father, and his gifts to us are good and for our best and flourishing.

God does not give us generic gifts, but rather bespoke gifts, in creation he made a garden that was good for humanity to dwell, made with love and made from the overflow of love, the gift of life to humanity and a gift of love from and to the other persons of the trinity.

Love that overflows creates in love, for love and to love and in sharing that love gift together draws together in greater unity as love births gift and love increases.

When we give and love we are at our most Christlike. Giving not to receive, indeed many have no means of repayment, but to give because we love, and we love because he first loved us.

Christ from whom all blessing flow but whom gave his life as a love gift for the redemption of the world. God in Christ in the broken beauty of the trinities redemptive outworking of their salvation plan knows what it is like to give sacrificially and for that gift to be rejected.

A gift is not a gift unless someone can refuse, a gift you cannot refuse is an obligation and speaks of power and poverty.

Yet generosity begets generosity, the giving of gifts is infectious, jesus asked the woman at the well for a drink and (with 4’999 other people) shared a young boys lunch of 5 loaves and two fish, as Jesus knew that a gift that is accepted with love is best shared with those around us. I love the story Shane Claiborne tells of buying a street child an ice cream in India and he let all his friends have a lick. Gifts are best enjoyed and shared within community, the gift reaches further and blessed more. God loves a cheerful giver because a cheerful giver resembles himself. Jesus condemns the sinful servant in his parable who receives a talent from his master and buries it in the ground doing nothing with it, yet sadly too often this is how we as Christians behave! We forget from whom our gifts come and what we are supposed to do with them.

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Family Disagreements…

For a while my dad had a liberal Catholic retired vicar in his congregation who would occasionally help out. Dad and he were talking about communion (and I think he thought Dad was being a bit fussy!) Dad said: “Over the years quite a lot of blood has been spilled over these issues!” to which the reply came “but none of mine!”

To me this illustrated three points, the first that there have always been disagreements amongst Christians, second that Christians have not disagreed in a loving and Christ-like way (burning and torturing those we disagree with seems catastrophically at odds with the one who says “love your enemies”) and thirdly what is our response -is it to say that things don’t matter or aren’t important or do we find a way of graciously disagreeing well in a Godly and respectful way?

Although in our culture we do not torture and execute one another but yet we behave badly to those we disagree with. Sadly the conservatives attack the liberals both saying they are “not proper Christians” or “thinking compassionate human beings”. In recent years both sides of the women priests/bishops debate behaved badly as have both sides in the ongoing debate on human sexuality. Yet too so often sadly the local Church politics can become toxic over all sorts of petty trivialities when we lose our Kingdom perspective. Sadly, too many people have left Churches bruised not by God but human sin and spitefulness.
What does it mean to “seek first the Kingdom of God” where we are seeking primarily to see God’s will be done on “earth as in heaven” which often means that we may have to surrender our ego’s, status quo bias or modern-day pharisee seeking to thwart the work of the Spirit, before we start throwing stones have we gone before God in prayer (interestingly in my former parish my most obstructive and difficult person didn’t attend a single prayer meeting in the 8 years I was there, which I think was not co-incidence).
Too often as Christians we are far too prepared to give someone a piece of our mind, but never a piece of our heart.

Each of us has a responsibility to choose how we behave towards one another, chose whether we separate from the crowd and speak up for righteousness. It is amazing how one person can change the direction and atmosphere of a meeting. Are we people that bring peace or escalate conflict? Do we abide by the principles of is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary or Kind -if not it is sinful behaviour.

On one occasion I spent a whole day trying to make peace between two church members about where and how high plates were stacked in the church hall kitchen, neither would apologize or reconcile with one another.

How as Churches resolve our major disputes if we cannot even live in peace within our own Christian communities?

Christianity requires us not only to hear a sermon on loving our neighbour, nor to just highlight it in our Bibles, but to actually live it out in how we treat one another.

We badly need to not only discover what is/isn’t orthodox belief but learn what is orthopraxis behaviour. Too often (on whichever side) we have not just “won” debated but lost people we have grieved the spirit of God, divided the body of Christ and alienated those we are called to reach!

We live in a world that tolerates everyone and everything, but I think Jesus didn’t tolerate people but rather loved them. I do not want to be the kind of Christian that just tolerates people.

Nor do I want to be in Church which exists in an uneasy truce where people are apathetic about their faith and choosing not to think in a grown-up way about the elephants in the room, but instead lean to behave as Christians as we engage, listen and love on both sides of any debate.

Our culture has fallen for the lie that if we don’t agree with people, we must hate them! This is made worse by how we weaponize words on social media. The truth is we can embrace people we disagree with in a healthy, respectful and loving way, indeed often we grow and flourish when we engage, debate and journey with those whom we disagree with rather than trying to live in an echo-chamber of only engaging with people who think the same as us. Indeed, it is the friction within our relationships and within our thinking that often is the catalyst for God’s refiners fire that helps us understand ourselves, one another and God better.

My colleague Dave (a Christian) does an RE lesson with a humanist, both disagree with one another on the answers to life’s most important questions, but can still be friends with honesty and authenticity. They are not saying ‘it doesn’t matter’ but rather modelling how to disagree well with grace, respect and listening to each other.

Jesus let people disagree with him, walk away from him and wasn’t afraid to speak up and speak out when he disagreed with things.

We are called to love one another even when we don’t agree, to read the Bible and pray together, being honest about when we disagree with people but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

I long to see the local divisiveness of Church politics evaporate by people loving one another and living out their faith.

I long to see the big issues of the day resolved by loving one another, reading and praying together and even when we may not agree over doctrine we still choose to hold together in unity as the people of God, the body of Christ and not grieving the spirit of God.

This maybe messy and uncomfortable but what an amazing witness to the world, we may be an odd and diverse family but one that hangs together even when we disagree and clash our love for one another holds us together as a community of grace.

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I surrender all (no really, everything)

I was in the car chatting to my friend about stuff and the conversation moved a bit deeper, my friend is a Christian and she is gay and she has chosen celibacy as she feels this is what God is calling her too.

It prompted an interesting conversation about the call of those of us who follow Jesus to surrender all to him.

Some Christians who are gay do not feel that this is something that God is calling them too and have gay partners, there are also some Christians who would insist on mandatory celibacy for all gay people. It is this subject
which has been the ‘deadlock’ issue for large parts of the Church.

Yet, I want to take a step back from it all, and think afresh about the idea of Jesus being Lord of all:
Jesus, Lord of my everything.
Jesus, Lord of every relationship I have.
Jesus, Lord of all my dreams and desires.
Jesus, Lord of my finances and everything I have.
Jesus, Lord of my heart, mind, soul and strength.

There is an oft quoted adage that “if Jesus is not Lord of all, is he Lord at all!”

I recall on one occasion hearing a gay person saying about Jesus: “Yeah but he doesn’t like the way I live my life!” -Yet I believe that Jesus is good news for everyone!

As I thought about this I began to realise that I have no authority to tell anyone what they can and can’t do -especially if they are not Christians-, in the old model of Christendom we have tried to impose a moral structure on people who do not believe in Jesus and it feels like the heavy yoke of legalism.

Christians I believe we are all called to impact and encourage each other, iron sharpening iron, but also carrying one another’s burdens and loving one another, and we have yet to manage to disagree well with compassion, love and mutual respect.

Somehow we need to look afresh at our message and realise that it is truly good news for everyone whoever they are.

Yet although Jesus is good news but also requires sacrifice and surrender from us all. If we submit to Christ as Lord, we will be challenged profoundly in every area of our life as we go through God’s refiners fire, the process of sanctification, being made Holy by God with him at work in our lives by his Spirit.

Saying “yes” to Christ is a big decision, Jesus himself urges those to “count the cost” of following him and uses the picture of “picking up the cross” to describe the Christian life.
I worry that the Church has obsessed about sex and sexuality, that this is the only subject that is talked about, but I know God is wanting me to surrender things each and everyday and this extends to every area of my life, we are in grave danger of selling discipleship sort if we just focus on one part of life to the exclusion of all others.

We often trot out the truism that “God accepts us as we are, but loves us too much to let us stay that way”. If we hear and heed the call of Christ what are we prepared to sacrifice for him, the disciples on the Galilean shores left everything, and the rich young ruler choose cash over Christ, what of us?

Sadly the Church has become obsessed by what we do in bed rather than what we do within our banks or how we treat our breather? ! Jesus cares about every area of our lives, including our sexual, financial dealings and friendships.
What does it mean for Jesus to be our Lord of every area of our lives?

What does it mean to live for Christ and hold nothing back?

Which stems from a question each and every follower of Christ (or seeker of Christ) needs to ask: “If I come to Christ and seek to follow him, can I trust him with my whole life -including the bits I care most about and want to hold on to!” Which is asking if God good? Does he want the best for us?

Yet, as I urged the lad I met with Street Pastors come to Christ and know he love you, as you follow him and learn to trust him, we will be changed and challenged.

Other Christians will have different views, but when we disagree we need to learn to love and be gracious with one another, respect difference and read the Bible together prayerfully asking God to speak to us.

Recently my friend and colleague has been doing some fab RE lessons with the chair of Dorset humanist associations, they are friends, and they do a fantastic lesson together despite disagreeing they get on well and respect one another with love. How I long for this attitude to become more prevalent within the Church.

So, let’s take a moment not to just think about surrendering to Christ to be something that we try to impose on other people, but something we all do coming to Christ and being transformed more into his likeness, not judging one another but learning together with mutual love and respect.

Most of all, let us come to Christ knowing he loves us and we can trust him with everything that makes us who we are, and know that he is for us and not against us, wanting to bless and not to hurt, knowing he is good and his plans for us are good too.

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Recovering Pharisees.

As I began to write these blogs there came a As I began to write these blogs there came a moments realisation that I would have to talk about the gay issue as most of us have had the teenage church sex talk that included the line “About God creating Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” (which is something of an unhelpful trivialisation of an important debate).

As I thought about this topic I recalled my journey on this (and other issues) and I cringe with shame at how unloving and judgemental I have been at times. At the time I would have said I was speaking up for the authority of scripture and defending truth (although I still have a high view of scripture and care as much about believing what is true as I always have). I realised I was in danger of loving cold hard doctrinal positions more than people. Orthodoxy (right doctrine/belief) is important but, so I have come to discover is Orthopraxis (right living) how we behave, how we treat one another matters to God.

As I thought about how I ruled people ‘in’ and ‘out’ I felt convicted -its not my place to rule anyone in or out- and as I looked at the life of Jesus who showed those who thought they were ‘in’ might not be and those who thought they were ‘out’ were welcomed in.

I remember a young person saying to me when I was doing Street Pastors “you must hate me because I am gay!” which made me realise what a tragic message we have sent the LGBT+ community, “Jesus really loves you mate” I said both our eyes welling up.

That night I was deeply challenged by the words of Jesus when he told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:

“9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I realised that I was a Pharisee!
Or at least on occasions (probably more frequently than I would like to admit) I could be pharisaic.

I would think that I was occupying the moral high ground, yet I know and knew I was broken, flawed and fallible really challenged me! The words of Jesus to “let those without sin cast the first stone!” remained as challenging today as they were 2000 years ago, the call not “not too judge one another” or to ”try and remove the speck in my brother or sisters’ eye whilst ignoring the plank in my own.

As a Christian I can’t stand in condemning judgement of anyone because I am someone in vast need of forgiveness and grace -before God I know I am a sinner- nor can I judge someone else’s servant.

Indeed, Jesus’ command to love one another has no exceptions -indeed to love people we agree with on everything is easy the challenge comes when people think/believe/act differently from how we think they should is when it becomes challenging.

I remember saying that “there is level ground before cross of Christ we all come needing mercy and grace and none of us can stand tall confident in our own righteousness but empty-handed trusting only in the blood of Jesus that saves us”.

I wondered too whether I might be more condemning of the things I wasn’t tempted to do rather than the weaknesses I easily slipped into?! Why are certain sins (often sexual sins) seen as much worse than greed or gossip or any other sin?

A Native American Proverb says: “before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes”. As someone who suffers from depression, I have had many well-meaning Christians say unhelpful things to me because they simply have not experienced what I am going through and do not understand it, I wonder if the same is true for issues of sexuality and other issues? It is very easy to just say “its sinful” and close our minds and hearts rather than listen, learn and love real people with their experience, struggles, thoughts, doubts and questions -the second is a costlier call but I believe is more Christ-like, meeting people where they are at, coming alongside, rather than standing back shouting at them from the side-lines.

I was asked on the local TV station “what would you do if as gay person came into your church?” (I should have corrected the interviewer and said ‘its Christ’s Church not mine’). but I said “I would welcome them, introduce myself and make sure they had coffee and cake, which is what I would do if anyone else walked into Church”.

At a recent Messy Church our local Vicar Tess talked about the disciples trying to keep the children away from Jesus -and Jesus said “let the little children come to me”- and the image struck me that I don’t want to be that type of disciple!

I do not want to stop or obstruct anyone from coming to Jesus.

I also know that when people encounter Jesus they are transformed, I also know that often his priorities and work in our lives often looks different than we expect, because the Holy Spirit knows us all better than we know ourselves, and maybe Jesus doesn’t instantly say the things to people that we think he should. The more I have thought about mission I have concluded that mainly I am to introduce people to Jesus and then slip quietly away embracing the call to invisibility and gently facilitating people meeting the Living God.
I’m not saying we cannot have opinions on these matters, but as we need to be wise and gracious in our conversations about things that Christians disagree on.

We are told to “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect” when preaching the gospel, we need to extend love and respect to those who we might to agree with, to listen to their journey and their experience, be wise about when, how and even if to speak, to pray and read the Bible together with openness, respect, and in the context of relationship of love.

I came across a quote from Billy Graham when a gay couple travelled with us in one of our Churches “it is God’s job to judge, the holy spirit’s job to convict and my job to love!” and loving people with the mess that life brings is an example of grace.

The call to love our neighbour as ourselves has no wriggle room, we are not called to love only those who appear respectable, indeed Christ said he had come not to call respectable people but sinners. Jesus hung out with all sorts of people and yet the Church has sadly become very respectable.

The number of times I have had conversations with people who feel (for whatever reason) that they wouldn’t be welcome is heart-breaking. I want Church to be messy and I want to be a Christian that looks more like Jesus who was constantly getting into trouble with the religious elite by loving and hanging out with people and in places that people thought he should not.

Tragically I believe that the Pharisee disease is rife amongst our Churches, and sadly many Christians end up becoming Pharisees, worried about the petty things such as rules, objects, possessions and other trivialities and showing no grace or love. Sadly, too often we end up looking more like the grumpy older brother in the parable of the lost son -the older son is I believe much more lost than his younger brother!

If I ever end up running a Church again, I would call it “Recovering Pharisees” -as I want to look like Jesus more than Caiaphas (the very religious chief priest, the head pharisee), I want to be full of grace and truth, I want to be someone that “by this will people know that I am Christ’s disciple, that I love one another” as I point people to Jesus who is able to fully understand all the complexity of humanity and meets us all where we are at, but loves us all too much to leave us there.

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