Searching for Church – Sunday’s lesson

thenwhy    from Asbo Jesus blog – Jon Birch

Sunday morning was a salutary reminder of two things. Firstly, how grateful I should be for the company of former employers and fellow employees of Frontier Youth Trust and Oasis College of Higher Education. Working alongside them I have been encouraged, allowed and even required to think, some would say “outside the box” although I tend to prefer Tom Peter’s view “Box? What box? I don’t see no box. Screw the box.”. As should be the case with all good study my chief learning outcomes have been to realise how little I know and how much there is to read about everything.

In all areas of faith and life being able to talk, discuss, debate, disagree and occasionally think aloud the unthinkable has been a huge privilege I have simply come to take for granted. Being part of these authentic communities of practice, being able to negotiate my identity within them and experience the grace and generosity of spirit they try to model has been formative for me. Yes, of course I could come up with a list where over the years there were ‘bad’ situations where we could have handled things better, where we could have been more gracious, more generous. Even so, overall, I’m truly grateful for the chance to be part of a “Christian community . . . where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow” (Henri Nouwen).

Which brings me to the more ranting bit of this post and here I’ll leave out names and locations. As I have recently moved house I am trying to find a faith-based “community of practice”, a.k.a. a church, to be part of in a new location. The second salutary lesson of Sunday came in the form of the sermon which was the most ill-informed, untheological effort I have heard for decades. The visiting speaker, spoke well and wore a rather sharp suit. He managed to take part of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and miss the point so completely that it had no savour and shed no light.

He claimed Biblical authority at every turn as unrelated Bible texts were juxtaposed to suit his agenda is a quite breath-taking misuse of scripture. History was reinterpreted for us in a resolutely childish manner – no, I take that back as it represents an insult to children everywhere. It wasn’t childish it was ‘1066 and All That’ but without any sense of irony. The state of the British Empire and commitment to Christian faith in the United Kingdom are according to the Bible (allegedly, Jeremiah) inextricably linked and thus we don’t have an empire anymore because we have sold out our status as a Christian nation, I seem to remember Darwin got the blame for this. As to the interpretation regarding the current State of Israel – I can’t even begin to unpack the anti-semetic garbage that underpinned it. I live in hope the speaker hadn’t actually thought the logical conclusion of this bit through.

I think it was intended to be a ‘challenging word’, it was, the biggest challenge was sticking it out to the end to see if got any better. It didn’t. He concluded by stressing to us that he there was statistical proof that what people wanted was sound biblical teaching – they didn’t get it.

“That”, as Forrest would say “is all I have to say about that.” Well, no, that isn’t true. . . but I’ve reached the end of trying to be civil.

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