Father God, Fear, Luke 15

wait ’til your Father gets home.

I don’t know if that was something you have ever been threatened with, the idea is that Dad is someone scary who you don’t want to be on the wrong side of.

Most of us at sometime in our lives have ended up stood outside the head-teachers office, that fearsome character who you want not to see at all costs.

Sometimes we have this idea of God.

On Sunday we had this demonstrated to us by getting a family to act out the reading of the prodigal son (actually acted out with a daughter)and when the story said about the Father ran too meet her, the girl screamed and ran in the opposite direction. She expected that the Father was angry and wanting to punish her.

This demonstrates the biggest problem humanity has, we run from God rather than running too him.

Our image of God is the angry parent or the scary head-teacher, yet Jesus paints God as the Running Father, that rushes to meet his Son. Jesus -full of grace and truth- says “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, in other words God is like Jesus.

Jesus had authority and was pure and Holy and yet the unrighteous felt that they could come to him and be changed, Jesus brought hope and love, not fear and rejected.

The idea of God as a scary headteacher is a really unhelpful one, yes, we need to remember that God is God, he is mighty and powerful, but he is also “slow to anger and abounding in great love”.

Christians aren’t people who are scared by God, fear creates submission, no, instead it is “the love of Christ compels us”. God says his “perfect love drives out all fear”.

In fact the book of Hebrews reminds us we can approach the throne of grace with boldness by the blood of Jesus.

we don’t have to approach God on trembling knee because our sins have been covered over by Jesus and “see how the Father has lavished his love upon us that we might be called children of God”.

I remember reading a story of JFK junior coming into the Oval office at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and climbing on his dad’s lap, he had no qualifications or mandate to be there, simply he was a child of the president.

So, let’s draw back and see God not as the angry thunderbolt lobbing Victor Meldrew type, but rather let us discover afresh how John describes God in just three words “God -is- Love”.

Love that as George Herbert says “bids us welcome”, the “love of Christ compels us” and love that makes an end of all our sin. A love that draws us close not pushes us away.

So, let’s not hide behind the sofa from God, but instead run into his open arms of love.

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Jugementalism, Luke 15

The Older Brother Syndrome.

The parable known as the prodigal son, I think is a story we often get wrong as Christians…

we focus so much on the son who went away and the Father who welcomes him back but spend very little time thinking about the older brother, yet I believe the older brother is actually the key person in this story.

Anyway, I’m running away with myself… The older Brother features at the end of Jesus’ lost trilogy in Luke 15.

The story starts with the Pharisees moaning about Jesus hanging out with ‘undesirables’  which prompts Jesus to tell this story.

The first story, the Lost Sheep which features the Good Shepherd -A Jesus image- leaving the 99 to seek the one that was lost, can you imagine how his ears must have burned, I bet the 99 we fuming, probably writing strongly worded letters to the Bishop about the appalling lack of pastoral care they felt they were entitled too, this Shepherd (word inter-changable with Pastor) really should be at their event eating quiche not wasting his time on people who we never see in Church.

Jesus talks about rejoicing in heaven not at the standard of their catering or their full programme of events, but rather over the sinner who repents.

Interestingly, Jesus talks about “99 righteous people who need no repentance” is being provocative, the Jews knew that they weren’t righteous, even though they tried hard, Jesus is challenging their superior attitude here!

Then we move on in the lost narrative, with the lost coin, here the lost item is portayed as something incredibly valuable, a comparable image now-a-days is ‘imagine a woman lost the diamond from her engagement ring”. This is telling, why? because the people at that time would have no time for sinners and think they were worthless and a waste of time, here they are likened to the most precious of possessions.

Jesus is saying “those people who do not even feature on your radar are incredibly precious and valuable to God”. Again, re-emphasising the point, we hear of Angels rejoicing in heaven over sinners repenting, showing the difference between peoples warped perspective and God’s perfect perspective.

Then we end up at the story known as the prodigal son story. The older brother only features at the very end of the story, returning from the field grumpy because his younger brother has returned and been welcomed home.

what do we know of this young man? we know he is a grumbler (grumbling doesn’t go down well with God it caused the Israelites to wander the desert for 40 years) and his is ‘self-righteous’.

I would also suggest that this young man is actually the more lost of the two brothers, the one who although with the Father more actually knew him -and his heart- less.

The older  brother thinks of the Fathers stuff as his own, “why are you killing the fatted calf?” How often in our Churches do we see the older brother type get possessive about things that don’t belong to them, but really belong to God? Sadly, too often in Churches people care more about things than people, and it is a tragedy that must make our Heavenly Father weep.

The Older Brother has been around grace and love all his life, and yet perverts this into some transactional deal “look at what I’ve done for you, I deserve…” Yet God’s love isn’t earned, or conditional on dutifully delivered work hours, actually the younger son clearly knew his dad better than his older brother.

The Older Brother refers to his brother as “your son” and which the Father corrects him and calls his “your brother”. The Older Brother’s way of thinking of “them and us” is at the heart of all division throughout the centuries.

The Older  Brother says “This Son of yours has wasted all your money on prostitutes” which is interesting, no where in the text does it say he went with prostitutes, yet the older brother types are normally gossips who dishonestly embellish the truth. It is funny how we get so judgemental about sexual sin but gossip and slander is sadly much too common place within our Churches.

The Brother is smug, he doesn’t think he’s a sinner, he doesn’t realise that he has no rights to his Fathers money either, his dad can do what he likes with his money, including leaving it to the “Cats protection league”. we somehow think we have a right to Salvation and God’s goodness, yet we don’t, although God is gracious, merciful and give us not what we deserve, but actually what we don’t deserve.

The writer Brennan Manning talks in his wonderful book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” about the choice we have at Easter time, “the choice is not between Jesus or Barabbas, no one would choose a bandit over Jesus, but rather it is between Jesus and Caiaphas (the High Priest).”

The choice between grace and law.

The choice between being admitting your a sinner and being smug.

The choice between religion and life in the spirit. (Religion is as helpful as throwing a drowning man both ends of the rope).

The choice between love or judgement.

The choice between risk or the status quo.

The choice between heaven and hell.

Jesus is challenging the people to see their own lostness, bursting the fake comfort of arrogance and self-righteousness to embrace truth and grace which enable us to experience the Fathers Embrace.

The older brother syndrome I believe has been there through out scripture of people thinking they know better than God and point scoring by running other people down, and here Jesus tackles it head on. Here those who think they are the ‘goodies’ in the story end up as ‘the bad guys’.

what of us, which brother are we? whichever it is, run to the Fathers embrace with humility and real not pseudo-repentance.

Here is what william Booth said about the fear of the Older Brother Syndrome getting a grip on our Churches, over a 100 years old, but scarily prophetic.

“The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
William Booth

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Luke 15, Salvation

I’m not lost, am I?

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

You might have just skim read the passage, and thought, the prodigal son, not again, been there done it got the t’shirt.

But bare with me. I want to just ask you one question, which of the two sons would you say was the one that was lost?

I would suggested that much of our reading of this passage is a little wrong, we often read the this story following on from the lost sheep and the lost coin, and so we often call it the lost son, three things starting with the same word, that’s almost Anglican alliteration.

Yet I think we need to look at the start of chapter 15 to see what this passage is really saying, who is Jesus addressing, he’s talking to those who don’t think that they are lost, the ones who think that God must be very impressed with them as they have letters after their name, buy the daily mail, wear a shirt and tie, and have sat in the same pew since the Norman invasion.

They hear the first two stories and think that the young lad who ended up in his fathers arms via the pig sty is the one that is lost, not the nice ‘you can marry my daughter’ older brother, who you just know wears chino’s and deck shoes… yet in the final twist, perhaps Jesus is telling them, that the older son, is the one who is lost, because he simply doesn’t understand the extent of the Fathers awesome love for him.

I believe that Luke 15 is actually the hinge of Luke’s gospel, the main point all the way through the gospel is that those who think they’re out, from shepherds, gentiles, ritually unclean, prostitutes, tax collectors, gentiles find themselves embraced by the furious love of God… where as the priests and religious leaders, the people who should get it don’t.

This is a massive theme within Luke, it starts with Zachariah and Mary being contrasted together, a learned Priest in the temple does not believe God can miraculously open up a womb whereas a simple peasant girl (largely educated and probably largely ignored) understands, believes and puts her faith in God and surrenders to him.

A theme that continues through out the gospel.

Contrast Jirus’ despair when he believes  his daughter has died, with the woman with the issue of  blood who believes that just one touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment can make her clean.

You see, many of us may have found God a little like the younger brother, but beware my friends, I know that I can, have and to my shame do, revert to an older brother attitude sometimes.

We forget that we too are forgiven sinners.

Cleansed, restored, redeemed and delivered.

We forget the sheer scandal that is the awesome grace of God.

The scary words of Jesus over the woman who anointed him with perfume before the Pharisee, is “those who have been forgiven much, love much, but those who have been forgiven little love little”.

We become so accustomed to the furious love of God (I love that phrase, it’s from Brendan Manning, author of the ragamuffin Gospel) that sometimes its life transforming power sometimes alludes us…

I think to call this parable the prodigal son, is a little inaccurate, firstly the word prodigal means extravagant and generous, so I’d say the extravegent one in this story isn’t the son, but the Father.

Also, the idea of a lost trilogy makes sense, but for too long we have got the wrong Son, marked as the lost one.

This Son didn’t realise how much his Father loved him.

In a script I once wrote about this story I included the lines “if it had been you, I’d have done the same for you” words which don’t feature in the Bible, but I think is the unsaid words in the story, would the fathers heart have broken the same if his older son had gone off, yes, of course it would. The younger son, actually realised a little more about the grace and compassion of his dad’s nature.

But even then, he doesn’t quite get it, he wants to come back too his Father not as a Son but as a Servant.

He  knows his father will have pity and mercy towards him, but full redemption and restoration, that is goodness and grace beyond his wildest imaginings.

A bit like in the story of Dicken’s Great Expectations, an ungrateful Pip is embarrassed and ashamed of  his unsophisticated brother in law/surrogate dad when he is living the high life in London, yet he collapses and awakes in his family home, Joe having paid off his creditors, the rejected and spurned one loves his and takes him home, paying his debts. In many ways a picture of the cross of Christ here.

So, maybe we can call the younger Son lost, as even he did not comprehend “how long and wide, and high and deep was the love of -The Father- the transcends knowledge” (I substituted the word God for Father from Eph.3:19)…

Maybe it is the story of a son who was physically lost, and one who lost but still at home?

Maybe it was one who was lost in terms of understanding his Fathers love, and other who was a little less lost?

Maybe it is a challenge to us who think we’re home and dry, to not take God’s grace for granted, to keep our hearts from becoming dry, from allowing the cancer of smugness to strangle our acceptance of grace.

Too often we think our acceptance of grace is something we receive at conversion, but no, grace is something we need like oxygen every moment of our existence and without it we wither and die.

Let us be people who embrace grace, like drowning me, seizing this beautiful gift with both hands, something we are desperate for, but something which our Father longs to pour out onto us.

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), Listening, Luke 15, vocation

Smelling the Sheep!!

 “You need to go out and sniff the sheep“! This was a phrase I’ve seen in a job advert for a vicar, it made me snigger as I don’t consider myself a sheep sniffer!

But did think about the image…

Where do we define what God is doing in his world, not from a safe distance in our comfortable churches, but in the midst of the vcommunity and listening to see where God is at work.

It reminded me too thst mission us actually about people more than strategy, and often the key component (which is so often missing) is relationships, we are in danger of knowing about our communities rather than knowing the people within the communities.

Smelling the sheep is a smelly and unpleasent job, something we’d rather not do, but when we do mission we encounter the poo and messy of broken and hurting lives.

Mission can’t be done from a safe comfortable distance away, the incarnation (Christ becoming human) shows the model which is becoming one of us, living ith, sharing our lives with.

 Too often we try and only reach out to nice people without lots of smelly brokenness, not realising that everyone is probably more smelly and more broken than we realise, in fact we might pong a bit ourselves too!

When we do Street Pastors I often talk about double listening, listening to the voice of Gods spirit and the voice of the culture around us…

I heard a tragic story of JJohns evangelistic event in a Cathedral, it was packed, and he asked who here attends Church regularly and almost every hand went up. We often do missional events to Christians to make us all feel better about ourselves, rather than trying to be Missional in amongst the stench of the farmyard, surrounded by the sheep.

I was thinking about being a Vicar as a shepherd (after all Bishops have crooks the imagery is there in scripture) and Jesus talks about a hood shepherd laying down their life for the sheep

The good shepherd in Luke 15, who goes to “seek and save the lost”…yet to often we act out the parable in reverse we have two or three fat sheep in churches wanting 100% of the shepherds time where the 99 are wandering the hills being devoured by wolves.
 The call is to be out there were it isn’t safe but dangerous, a place of sacrifice, after all the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

-Sometimes we are scared of the ‘sheep bite’ from within the sheepfold, that keep us from fulfilling our calling to help in the rescue mission we are called too undertake.

Let us learn as Christians, to follow the footsteps and be like our Good Shepherd.

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Luke 15

Lost…

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

You might have just skim read the passage, and thought, the prodigal son, not again, been there done it got the t’shirt.

But bare with me. I want to just ask you one question, which of the two sons would you say was the one that was lost?

I would suggested that much of our reading of this passage is a little wrong, we often read the this story following on from the lost sheep and the lost coin, and so we often call it the lost son, three things starting with the same word, that’s almost Anglican alliteration.

Yet I think we need to look at the start of chapter 15 to see what this passage is really saying, who is Jesus addressing, he’s talking to those who don’t think that they are lost, the ones who think that God must be very impressed with them as they have letters after their name, buy the daily mail, wear a shirt and tie, and have sat in the same pew since the Norman invasion.

They hear the first two stories and think that the young lad who ended up in his fathers arms via the pig sty is the one that is lost, not the nice ‘you can marry my daughter’ older brother, who you just know wears chino’s and deck shoes… yet in the final twist, perhaps Jesus is telling them, that the older son, is the one who is lost, because he simply doesn’t understand the extent of the Fathers awesome love for him.

I believe that Luke 15 is actually the hinge of Luke’s gospel, the main point all the way through the gospel is that those who think they’re out, from shepherds, gentiles, ritually unclean, prostitutes, tax collectors, gentiles find themselves embraced by the furious love of God… where as the priests and religious leaders, the people who should get it don’t.

This is a massive theme within Luke, it starts with Zachariah and Mary being contrasted together, a learned Priest in the temple does not believe God can miraculously open up a womb whereas a simple peasant girl (largely educated and probably largely ignored) understands, believes and puts her faith in God and surrenders to him.

A theme that continues through out the gospel.

Contrast Jirus’ despair when he believes  his daughter has died, with the woman with the issue of  blood who believes that just one touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment can make her clean.

You see, many of us may have found God a little like the younger brother, but beware my friends, I know that I can, have and to my shame do, revert to an older brother attitude sometimes.

We forget that we too are forgiven sinners.

Cleansed, restored and reconciled.  

We forget the sheer scandal that is the awesome grace of God.

The scary words of Jesus over the woman who anointed him with perfume before the Pharisee, is “those who have been forgiven much, love much, but those who have been forgiven little love little”.

We become so accustomed to the furious love of God (I love that phrase, it’s from Brendan Manning, author of the ragamuffin Gospel) that sometimes its life transforming power sometimes alludes us…

I think to call this parable the prodigal son, is a little inaccurate, firstly the word prodigal means extravagant and generous, so I’d say the extravagant one in this story isn’t the son, but the Father.

Also, the idea of a lost trilogy makes sense, but for too long we have got the wrong Son, marked as the lost one.

This Son didn’t realise how much his Father loved him.

In a script I once wrote about this story I included the lines “if it had been you, I’d have done the same for you” words which don’t feature in the Bible, but I think is the unsaid words in the story, would the fathers heart have broken the same if his older son had gone off, yes, of course it would. The younger son, actually realised a little more about the grace and compassion of his dad’s nature.

But even then, he doesn’t quite get it, he wants to come back too his Father not as a Son but as a Servant.

He  knows his father will have pity and mercy towards him, but full redemption and restoration, that is goodness and grace beyond his wildest imaginings.

A bit like in the story of Dicken’s Great Expectations, an ungrateful Pip is embarrassed and ashamed of  his unsophisticated brother in law/surrogate dad when he is living the high life in London, yet he collapses and awakes in his family home, Joe having paid off his creditors, the rejected and spurned one loves his and takes him home, paying his debts. In many ways a picture of the cross of Christ here.

So, maybe we can call the younger Son lost, as even he did not comprehend “how long and wide, and high and deep was the love of -The Father- the transcends knowledge” (I substituted the word God for Father from Eph.3:19)…

Maybe it is the story of a son who was physically lost, and one who lost but still at home?

Maybe it was one who was lost in terms of understanding his Fathers love, and other who was a little less lost?

Maybe it is a challenge to us who think we’re home and dry, to not take God’s grace for granted, to keep our hearts from becoming dry, from allowing the cancer of smugness to strangle our acceptance of grace.

Too often we think our acceptance of grace is something we receive at conversion, but no, grace is something we need like oxygen every moment of our existence and without it we wither and die.

Let us be people who embrace grace, like drowning me, seizing this beautiful gift with both hands, something we are desperate for, but something which our Father longs to pour out onto us.

We are truly lost when we think we don’t need this great gift.

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community of grace, Godliness, inclusion, Journey, Luke 15, Romans 7, welcome

Not good enough for Jesus?

This isn’t what I was planning on writing about today, was planning to look at another one of Paul’s fantastic prayers, but this has been something birthing in me for a while…

And will probably get some people defriending me on facebook!

I believe that we called as Church to be a welcoming and loving community that points people to Jesus and says “Wow let’s follow him, can you help me? can I help you?” -(whilst praying together that God himself will help us).

All the way through the bible we see people with broken and messy lives flocking TO Jesus and yet 2000 years later these same people are running FROM Christ’s Church.

In his book ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace” Philip Yancey tell a story of someone whose really messed up, and when asked about getting help from the church her response was “I feel bad enough already, they’ll just make me feel worse”.

Someone yesterday told me a story of someone saying to her, “You are a Christian you must hate me because I am gay”, -makes you want to cry doesn’t it? We shouldn’t be hating anyone, and so sad that any group feels hated by the Church, when Jesus’ message is one of love.

I’ve been asked ‘can I come to Church even if I don’t agree with you on everything?’

The answer is “YES!” Of course, you are most welcome, in fact I might not be right on everything! Rather you came, thought, prayed and wrestled with scripture about what I say than just blindly accept it.

Ive traditionally thought of being a Church which calls people to belong, believe and then behave, but people don’t always live how we think they should even when they are Christians, in fact I’m a Christian and I don’t always live as I should.

Often we talk of “before I was saved I… ” Yet I don’t know about you, the things that tempted me before I was saved can still tempt me now!

Even as a Christian I can echo St. Paul who says in Romans 7, “the good I want to do I don’t do, and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do do” -the apostle Paul knew he wasn’t in some state of sinless perfection.

It seems sometimes we try pretend to the world that we are Christians that don’t struggle, aren’t broken, never tempted, don’t get confused (especially not about theology).

Seeming to want to project an image to the world of perfect toothed sortedness, yet the bible shows us God has broken people who screw it up, doubt, chicken out and get it wrong.

As Christians (especially those of us in leadership) I believe we need to model being “wounded healers”, people who are changed and transformed by being in Christ, and yet still human, still people in need of Gods grace, love and forgiveness.

I want a church that’s authentic.

I want to be real about my struggles, doubts, baggage, bruises and the sin that so easily entangles.

The problem is we often think if people don’t agree with me, they can’t be proper Christians.

Or perhaps they are doing things we don’t like…

Because I am pro ordination of women to all three dimensions of ministry (Deacons, Presbyters and Bishops) and therefore interpret some verses in Timothy different from other Christians somehow I’m not legit.

Because I believe Spiritual Gifts are for today, I’m not some-kind of pseudo-evanjellyfish-.

Others may ask questions around marriage, but that surely doesn’t make them not Christians it just means they have different opinions.

They might be wrong (I might be wrong)…

I was asked on Made in Bristol what I’d do if a gay person came into Church and I said something like “introduce myself and make them a coffee, which Is exactly what I’d do if a straight person came in too”.

I was reminded of a quote again by Philip Yancey that sometimes “it is easy to find sex on the streets than a hug in a Christian Church”!

The more I have thought about it, I have thought about the story of the kids coming to Jesus and the disciples trying to turn them away, I don’t want to turn anyone away who comes seeking Christ.

When I start become the doorkeeper and bouncer I need to remember the story or the Pharisee and the tax collector, when the Pharisee told God how good he was, and the tax collector just said “God have mercy on me a sinner”…

I do not want to be like the older brother in Luke 15, grumbling at the Father for his grace and loving kindness.

Or Jonah moaning about God not destroying the wicked people in Nineva…

The most repeated phrase in modern translations of the New Testament is “God opposes the proud but lifts the humble”.

The Bible keeps on confronting our stereotypes with God showing up to those the people of the day didn’t think God should be interested in, but he was.

Perhaps this is a time, to be honest with ourselves, realize we too are broken and sinful people, we aren’t good enough for Jesus, but he loves us anyway.

Let’s not be older brothers as in the story of Luke 15, but graciously love extravagantly and keep on pointing people to Jesus without judgement and finger pointing.

Now don’t get me wrong, holiness really matters, but as Billy Graham once said, “It’s the holy spirits job to convict, my job to love” -the problem is we sometimes try and do God’s job for him!

A friend talked of his Church being a “Community of Grace”.

At my licencing in Kingswood, the Archdeacon preached from the passage where the Greeks said “we want to see Jesus”, perhaps mission is making it as easy as possible for people to meet with Jesus, and what I have noticed when people meet with Jesus that encounter is normally transformative!

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