[un]conscious-stream[ing]

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Building

My great friend Charles led the thoughts at church a couple of weeks ago and a mighty fine job he did of it (listen here).

The brief summary of his thoughts is as follows:

The Israelites knew how to build! They had a background in brick-creation and tent-making. These were skills that God used and enhanced for the building of the tabernacle. In the same way, our skills are transferable when building a place to worship God.
This is not a place made of stones, but of people, a place where we are both the builders and the building material. We are all important and all have something to give. Our uniqueness is not weakness and our weakness may be strength. When we choose to build with God, we build something that keeps growing and doesn’t decline. Finally, We must all “excel in the gifts that build up the church” 1 Cor 3:10-15

This got me thinking about an interview that I had recently read with Amy Williams – the British Skeleton Bobsled Gold medallist of 2010.
The salient point of the interview was this sentence.

“…every decision, every single day was, ‘will this help me win gold, yes or no?’ Is this ice cream going to help me? No, then don’t eat it. It was as brutal as that.”
Amy Williams

The laser-focus on that Gold medal was something that impressed me and stuck in my consciousness, so when Charles quoted from 1 Corinthians “excel in the gifts that build up the church”, Amy’s words came back to me.

Almost immediately, I merged the two things together in my head to come up with this mantra for our church lives.

“…every decision, every single day needs to be, ‘will this build up the church, yes or no?’ Is this {insert action / comment here} going to help? No, then don’t do it.”

Can we do that? As individuals? As a community?

I’m going to try, anyone else in for the journey?

It’s all about Rescue – Part 2

I have already discussed that though ‘The Exodus’- the account of the people of Israel (Jacob’s changed name) being rescued from Egypt by God may have been the first ‘corporate rescue event’, and the first genuine introduction of the hebrew people to the character of God, it is by no means the first rescue.

There is a rescue in the beginning of that story, before it even really begins.

Moses is rescued from Pharaoh’s cull of baby boys as his mother places him in a basket made of reeds and puts him in the river. He is rescued from this basket by Pharaoh’s daughter, who brings him up as her son.
Moses sees the anguish and suffering of his people and wants to rescue them, starting off by murdering an Egyptian slave-master to rescue a fellow hebrew. (see Exodus 2:11+12)

Rescue, rescue, rescue… You must be getting the picture by now.

But track back again to before the story of the Exodus and, having already looked briefly at Cain & Abel and Noah, the chronologically next most well-known rescue is probaly that of Abram (Later Abraham) & Lot (Genesis 12 and Genesis 18), both these men were being called away from places that were either wicked or would not do them any good long-term. Abram even negotiates more rescue from God in Genesis 18, a story that eventually culminates in the exodus of Lot from Soddom in Genesis 19. At least that’s what it seems like.

Have a closer look at that ‘rescue’ negotiated by Abram. The story unfolds with the back and forth bargaining from verse 22 to 33, and then, the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah is stayed for four people. That is less than half of Abram’s final bargaining point. Clearly, God is more forgiving and gracious than Abram, God rescues a whole city for four people. (Yes, the next two chapters are fairly unsavoury and eventually, only three of the people get away before the place is then destroyed.

God it seems is teaching Abram about rescue and about grace. We often view the story as Abram convincing God not to decimate a place, but Abram stops asking at a point before God stops rescuing.

We’re barely out of Exodus – the second book of the bible and we have come a cross a lot of rescue stories already!

Did I say “It’s all about rescue”? There is going to have to be a part 3, maybe more.

It’s all about Rescue – Part 1

Creation is not the first belief about God!

In the ancient Hebrew world, God was not primarily ‘Creator’.

The first real nation-wide interaction and exposure to God for the Israelite people was at the Exodus. The people were rescued from slavery in Egypt, hence the first part of Exodus 20

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Exodus 20:2

The people, rescued from slavery, led out by Moses, who then really introduced them fully to God in the next few chapters, initially thought of God as rescuer, then went on to explore what else God was. They posed the question “Who is this rescuer God, what else has he done?”

And then the story of creation was explored and told and passed from generation to generation as were a lot of other stories throughout history. Many of them are other stories about rescue!

In fact, if we read the creation story as not a completely literal, historical account, it too can be thought of as a type of rescue. There is a growing acceptance that in aligning the evidence we have available through scientific exploration and reasoning, and the biblical text, we should be viewing the ‘Adam and Eve’ story as more symbolic, and that in the event of the two – Adam and Eve being real people who actually existed (I’m not denying it as a plausible possibility), they were called away from the race of people that existed at the time and as-it-were, ‘rescued’ – set apart to and for God. See ‘Who Were Adam and Eve Part 1 and Who Were Adam and Eve Part 2 for a bit more exploration into these concepts.

From the beginning then, we can see God is a rescuer, saving people, drawing individuals out into relationship with Him.

The next most obvious, perhaps most famous rescue story is of course that of Noah in Genesis 6 + 7.

God the rescuer, rescuing Noah from the adverse and oppressive, the wicked and sinful.

But (at risk of being accused of jumping around) if we go back almost to the beginning and look at some of the earlier stories in a bit more detail, we can discover yet more rescue.

One of the most striking is God’s rescue of the first convicted murderer.

Genesis 2 holds the story of Cain & Abel – the story of the first farming rage incident and the first recorded murder.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 2:2-16

What fascinates me is God’s double rescue – firstly in verse 7

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God is offering Cain a way out before he even gets to murdering his brother – God is saying, bring me a sacrifice in the way I have asked for it and there’s no problem any longer. God is also warning Cain that if he doesn’t, God can see that he is going to face temptation that he will find hard to resist.

Then, after Cain murders Abel, you might think that as punishment, God would just finish him off, but instead, God protects him from anyone else – Verse 15

“the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him”

God rescues the first murderer. Yes, Cain faces a punishment / consequences of his actions, but God will not allow him to be harmed. That’s fascinating. That’s incredible grace. Not to totally condemn or reject the first murderer, the first person to kill someone else is rescued by God from anyone seeking revenge.

It’s all about rescue, really, all about rescue.

There are more, lots more, but they will have to be covered in part 2.

Divine Comedy?

Reading John 5, I was confused by the seeming incongruity of verse 14.

The context: Jesus has just healed a man who had been an ‘invalid’ for 38 years, told the man to ‘pick up his mat and walk’ and promptly vanished. The man is then reprimanded by the pharisees for carrying his mat on the sabbath, and a little while later, Jesus finds him at the temple and says to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

It is possible, and has been suggested by many that the man had gone on to the temple, set himself back up as a beggar (likely as not his previous ‘occupation’ whilst being an invalid) again, and Jesus is warning him not to deceive people when he is actually well.
As an explanation, that’s fair enough and perfectly plausible.

However, I wonder if actually, because we can’t hear the tone of voice, we are missing something in the way Jesus says that sentence “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” I wonder if, instead of threatening the man, rather than this being some kind of warning of divine punishment if the guy doesn’t stop sinning, perhaps, Jesus is having a little ‘private’ joke with the guy.

Is it possible that Jesus sidles up to the chap and says, with a big grin and a sparkle in his eye, (reading between the lines) “you know the pharisees, their inflexibility, their attention to the minute detail, their officious judgemental ruling that even carrying your mat on the sabbath is work and therefore a sin… well, make sure you don’t go on ‘sinning’ {wink} (doing things the pharisees disapprove of) or something worse might happen!”?

Could it be that Jesus is having a little dig at the pharisees and a little laugh with the healed man?

Jesus knew that in the cultural context of the day, people thought that God punished sin fairly immediately or at least that people’s disabilities or misfortunes were thought to be because of their sin. He also knew that God doesn’t work like that. Maybe, what seems to be a veiled threat of God’s imminent judgement, could be Jesus making light of how the man had been perceived by the pharisees.

And maybe after that, the man goes off and tells the pharisees it was Jesus who healed him because he knows it will not only wind them up but it will get them off his back for carrying his mat?

I don’t know, but I could just imagine Jesus having a bit of a lark with the man about the oppressive yoke that the pharisees were trying to lay on the poor guy.

I could well be wrong, but it doesn’t seem very Jesussy to make that sort of dark threat to the guy he has just healed, especially a threat that is hollow in as much as we know that God doesn’t generally punish people specifically for specific sins, but that sin brings it’s own punishment & carries it’s own consequences.

Jesus is all about forgiveness and the only people he condemns are those that think they have it all ‘right’ – i.e. mostly the pharisees and ‘teachers of the law’.

Would he really turn to threatening someone he had just taken the trouble to seek out and heal?

Late to the ‘party’

The other book I had with me on holiday was Rob Bell’s (in some circles – controversial) book “Love Wins”.

Yes, I’m pretty late reading it and passing comment and I’m sure that all possible comments have already been aired on the book, but I wanted to share some thoughts on what ended up being another fairly rapid read.

Interestingly, going back to read Rob’s earlier book ‘Sex God’ since I’ve been back from holiday and remembering a fair amount of ‘Velvet Elvis’, ‘Love Wins’ is really just further development of a thread that runs through a lot of Rob’s work.

Rob came in for a lot of criticism having written this and was called all sorts of things even before its release, even by people that hadn’t actually read the book (a dangerous policy if you ask me).
The first label levelled at Rob was that he is a ‘Universalist’. I didn’t get that impression from reading the book. Rob is definitely not saying “everybody gets saved in the end regardless”, he does however ask the question “what kind of God do we believe in?” Do we believe in an all powerful God that can find a way to redeem everything and everybody in His own way, or do we believe in a God that isn’t powerful enough to find a way to restore all things to himself?”

That’s quite a different thing and its quite a fundamental and important question.

There’s some very good explorations if what we understand by Heaven and Hell also. For example, in summing up the chapter on Hell:

“To summarize, then, we need a loaded, volatile, adequately violent, dramatic, serious word to describe the very real consequences we experience when we reject the good and true and beautiful life that God
has for us.
We need a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep within our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way.
And for that,
the word “hell” works quite well.”

Rob writes very gently and graciously and even if you don’t agree with his position, you would need to work hard to take offence, the book is more about asking the questions than specifically finding the ‘right’ answers.

Rob likes the parable of the prodigal sons and he uses it in this book because it highlights both extremes of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, coexisting in the same place: it’s purely our response to God’s love and grace that defines which place we chose to exist in. Rob rounds up the story by saying:

“Neither son understands that the father’s love was never about any of that (being good enough to deserve the father’s love or bad enough for it to disappear). The father’s love cannot be earned,

and it cannot be taken away.

It just is.

It’s a party.

The final chapter closes with a great passage that encapsulates both the continual restoration of all things into God’s “shalom” and our response to God, His love, forgiveness and grace.

“I believe that the indestructible love of God is an unfolding, dynamic reality and that every single one of us is endlessly being invited to trust, accept, believe, embrace, and experience it. Whatever words you find helpful for describing this act of trust, Jesus invites us to say yes to this love of God,
again and again and again.”

The book is definitely worth a read, I have barely scratched the surface in reviewing it here, it is also the perfect companion to ‘After Magic‘ by Kester Brewin if you want to read two books together!

After Magic

I don’t get very many of them but having a holiday is good for me in many ways. One of them is that I can make some time to read. On holiday I read more of my bible, and I get to try and read some of the books stacking up on my reading list.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this year I have brought (and finished by day 2 of the holiday) the most recent Kester Brewin book “After Magic” a fairly slim volume but compelling and a cracking good read.

It could actually work as a final section to Kester’s previous book “Mutiny” – my all time favourite book of 2012, but it has rightly been written separately, as, though there are certainly some overlapping themes, shared material and concepts, to combine both into one volume might have clouded the ideas in ‘Mutiny‘ and been too much to absorb in one sitting.

Firstly, it is not for people that aren’t able to read with an open mind.
Secondly,it is a mature work of depth and whilst it deals with some complex theological and philosophical ideas, it is still clear and concise.
Thirdly, it is a profoundly challenging piece, sometimes paradoxical and regularly counter-intuitive, yet I found it difficult to outright disagree with anything in it.
Fourthly, I would encourage you to read it, whoever you are, whatever your belief system or background, I believe Kester has captured something radical, in as much as a radish is radical; something that returns to the roots of the Jesus movement, something that, if adopted by Christianity in general, could return people’s view of Jesus and his message to their compelling and beautiful origins.

I’ll begin with the basic premise of the book and then discuss a few points that came to me as I was reading it.

‘After Magic’, drawing on many contemporary and historic sources of literature and cinema, refers to a number of ideas revolving around the structure of a magic trick: “the pledge”, “the turn” and “the prestige”.

  • ‘The Pledge’ – showing the audience something ordinary and ‘unchanged’.
  • ‘The Turn’ – making that ‘ordinary’ object ‘extra-ordinary’ (making it disappear or something similar).
  • ‘The Prestige’ – bringing that ordinary object back again.

Whilst people enjoy a good magic show, they don’t really believe what they see is actually magic, nor do they want the ‘trick’ completely explained because then it will loose it’s mystery and excitement. What people do is temporarily suspend their disbelief to participate and fully enjoy the spectacle.

The central theme to Kester’s book is that all superheroes need to renounce their super powers to actually reveal their true humanity. Kester argues that this is true in the dance with the divine also, the unrealistic and infinite demands of the gods that are worshipped, on route to them offering us meaning and power, purpose and wealth.

Kester makes a good case for the structure of a magic trick being adopted in the gospel story, with a slight twist on the traditional angle:

  • The Pledge: Revealing Immanuel – God with us
  • The Turn: Christ crucified
  • The Prestige: The resurrection of Jesus and his subsequent charge to his disciples to be his body acting as him in this physical world

Kester posits That only in renouncing his divinity and revealing himself through the medium of his human son can God truly divest himself of these infinite demands that we believe he has of us and only by moving through and beyond the super-natural, the belief that God is going to step in and magic things better for us in our tricky situation, and embracing real love in the way we live on his planet, can we truly be released to live out the life outlined by Jesus in Matthew 25 (and incidentally that of Mathew 5 also).

I feel like the underlying message of ‘After Magic’ is about living as if God did not exist, so that we use the abilities and power God has invested within us to work through all the challenges we face with real love, and not wait around for some supernatural intervention to make things right again.

I think that works as an argument. I don’t deny that there are times when God does step in and act in supernatural ways, I’ve met too many people, heard too many true stories and observed and experienced this on too many occasions to say that, but if we live in a way that is always waiting for the supernatural to happen to correct things, if we only worship out of some desire to appease or win favour, then we deny the power of God to work through people.

To get a genuine clear grasp of the depth of Kester’s ideas, you do really need to read the book, my summary skips a lot of important stuff and is rather a skim through. It’s a great read, well worth both your time and money.

A couple of ideas that came to me on reading the book:

I wondered whether some of the references to some of the writers (film and book) were drawing on an approach that they are essentially attempting to portray that “humans do really have all the answers to the problems of this world, future, etc. if only we look deep enough inside ourselves.” I’m not sure whether I do fully subscribe to this view and I’m not sure if Kester is actually supporting it. There is a reference in the book to an approach to Christianity that relies on people attempting to earn salvation and do the work of saving humanity themselves. I would echo Rob Bell’s words from “Love Wins” which say in reference to Philippians 3 “Let us live up to what we have already attained.”

“The Father has taken care of everything.
It’s already there,
ready,
waiting.
It’s always been there,
ready,
waiting…

…Jesus forgives them all,
without their asking for it.

Done. Taken care of.”

All that is left to do is to carry on displaying this God and this Christ in the way we live, in love as humans.

Which takes me to the next point which Kester looks at in his last chapter which is a fitting conclusion to the book.

On ‘living as though God doesn’t exist’, Kester suggests this naturally leads to the outworking of Matthew 1:21, in that we live from, through and out of that love, that we are saved from our selfishness and other destructive behaviours.
That really resonates with me and in a very real way, it will manifest ‘Immanuel’ – God with us, because God is love and this fits neatly with Kester’s interpretation of the phrase “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

So. Go and buy the book, you won’t regret it. http://www.kesterbrewin.com/aftermagic/

Busy

busy-character2I am trying to expunge the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary.

I learned the other week from Steve Wiens that the Chinese pictograph for the word busy (at the top) is composed of two different characters: heart and killing.

Yet, when digging a bit deeper, I have discovered that this is not quite the case. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature refutes the claim in a very precise etymological post.

However, his conclusions don’t detract very much from the idea that there is a drain on our hearts if we overload ourselves. Even if, as Prof. Mair suggests, the second character is strictly a phonophore, or phonetic indicator, not a character that attributes meaning to the word in question, it is clear that the ancient wisdom of the Chinese connects the concept of business directly to the heart.

With that in mind, I’m stopping saying I’m ‘busy’. I have plenty of work but I love every minute of it. I am involved in a partially hectic and occasionally frantic home-life, with the activities and general hubbub of three children, but all of it still feels life-giving, life-affirming, not heart-draining. I’m still contributing to various activities within our church (despite the sabbatical) yet none of these feel like a burden.

So no, I’m not busy. I’m active and occupied and sometimes don’t have all the time that I feel like I need to complete what I want to complete, but I’m not endangering my heart in any way and I’m going to stop saying the word, because I am, at the moment, incredibly happy and content with the way things are.

Which is probably when I ought to be careful not to get complacent or smug. It could be dangerous if I got trapped into thinking that either I was ‘busy’ or that I could just coast along.

I’m still working at living up to the words of 1 Timonthy 6:6

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”

Letting Go

I don’t know if you have ever had the experience of doing something for a long time and then stopping and stepping back and deliberately not doing it.

I’m not talking about breaking a bad habit, but about the things that you do, through choice or occasionally by default that often while you are doing it, you look around you and wonder if anyone else could do it or if you are actually the best person to continue it in that situation.

I stepped away from most of my church duties at the beginning of December 2012, partly because of the birth of our third child and partly because I needed some distance and a bit of a rest from all the many different things I was doing.

I wanted to have space to think, space to write (I committed to writing at least one blog post per month) and space for things that had been going round my head, thoughts to emerge and be able to expand things without time constraints. My idea was hopefully to be able to have a few developed things under my belt for when I decided was the right time to pick up some of the things that I had previously been doing.

One of the responsibilities I had previously held was of preparing all flyers, posters, promotional material etc. for all the different church activities. This included a certain amount of design, a heavy weight of time, lashings of patience and developing a diplomatic streak that I had previously not been aware I possessed. Over the last several (I can’t remember well enough to count) years, I had tried, by use of layouts, fonts and styles to develop a recognisable ‘branding’ or ‘identity’ that would make it clear and apparent to people looking at some invitation or information from The Bethel, that it was from the same place, that a thread ran through, that we were unified in our approach, not just a disparate random selection of activities with no collective or binding core. I’m not sure how well I did, but I think that by the time I stopped, the church ‘literature’ (hate that word) had some level of common, recognisable identity. In fact most of the good stuff was developed in creative partnership with real, genuine artist Sarah Gillingham (not available on the web).

When I stepped away from this, I didn’t know what would happen, I wasn’t sure whether some things would be done at all. I was anxious that it would fall back to the previous state of things not being obviously linked or coming from the same group of people.

Sometimes when you let something go, it’s hard and there is a sense of mourning in some ways, and it creates a void that looks like it might not be adequately filled.

And more often than not, stepping away from something that you are proficient enough at, to have a rest and let someone else do it becomes the best thing that you could ever have done…

…because the person who comes in to replace you is so much better than you could ever have been and they create things of genuine beauty and creative genius and if you hadn’t let go of it, they would never have had the chance.

And that’s what happened.  Thank you Tim Stock, a truly sparkling, creative mind, bulging with fresh, stunning design, with a fierce passion for fonts to match my own and rather too much interest in creating the perfect height for a parenthesis or exclamation mark.  More to the point, Tim’s natural flair and proper training in graphic design truly dwarfs my inherited / genetic and mostly cobbled together ‘design’ credentials.

life-love-hope-cutout

You might not believe how much I feel relieved, enthused, excited, like a weight has been lifted, like I know that I can pass everything over into some really good hands. The first genius stroke was the design for the ‘life love hope‘ Easter programme we put on. The web page doesn’t really give the design the credit it’s due, the print media was just brilliant.

Maybe you can learn from my experience. Maybe there’s something you need to let go of to allow someone else to take on and fulfil their potential. And maybe the results will be more incredible than you could ever imagine.

Mercy Seat

I was reading the story of the wilderness journey and the construction of the tabernacle and it made me think about the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.

Whilst initially, the construction of the gold-covered wooden box with cherubim either side might look like Israel’s version of an idol, this building directive is in stark contrast to the culture around them at the time, a culture of images / idols carved out of wood or cast from precious metals.

The difference that drew my attention was this:

Then make a mercy-seat from pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim out of beaten gold. Make them at the two ends of the mercy-seat. Make one cherub on one end and one cherub on the other end. Make the top of the mercy-seat, with the cherubim at each end, of one piece. The wings of the cherubim should spread up over the mercy-seat. Their faces should be toward each other, and toward the mercy-seat. Put the mercy-seat on top of the box. Put the Law which I will give you into the box. I will meet with you there. Between the two cherubim which are upon the special box of the Law, I will speak to you about all the Laws I will give you for the people of Israel.

Exodus 25:17-22 (New Life Version)

God requested a seat to be made for him to come and meet with the representative of the people. (at this stage it was spoken to Moses but later on it would be the high priest).

God didn’t want anything to be made to represent Him, or something that could be worshipped in itself, he wanted somewhere to ‘sit’ while he talked with the people.

It’s fully in keeping with both the God who says ‘make no image‘ and also the God who comes to live in and with us, first through the person of Jesus (John 10:38 / John 14:10+11) and then for those that choose to have relationship with Christ, in and through us (John 14:20 / John 17:21).

The box is not the important bit, nor is the ‘mercy seat’, but the one who comes to sit on it and be with his people.

It reminded me of a ‘voice of the day’ from the ‘God’s Politics’ Sojourners web site.

The resurrection of Jesus was simply God’s unwillingness to take our ‘no’ for an answer. He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that he himself has now established permanent, eternal residence here on earth. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.

Clarence Jordan

God came to be with the people of Israel as he sat on the ‘mercy seat’ (mercy being a good word worth looking up yourself), in amongst the grime and muck of a wilderness nomadic community.

God sent His only Son, who emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) of himself and filled himself up with his Father, into a world full of the grime and muck that came with roman occupation, torture, military dictatorship etc.

God promises to come to the earth again (Revelation 21), (not that he has ever left – “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Ephesians 4:6) not to whisk people away to somewhere else, but to live with them and be their God in and amongst them, initially at least – in and with the grime and muck of the 21st century, in all the mess that we have allowed our world and lives to get into.

That’s a pretty significant forward-looking symbol in just a wooden seat covered in gold!

Our Street

We live on the best street in the world!!!

It may not be the prettiest, though it is pretty at times.
It is definitely not the most expensive or most salubrious, but its still the best street in the world.

And that’s because of the people.

Our neighbours are just fabulous.

The people that live around us were there to support us and provide a shoulder to lean on as we tried to pull things back together in the aftermath our burglary.

There’s nothing that our neighbours didn’t offer in the way of help, resources and comfort to get us back on our feet, they are kind and considerate, they are generous and friendly.

And that’s why we live on the best street in the world.

In many ways, our street acts as our church as much as our church does. It provides community in the way we support each other. There is love between us as neighbours in friendship and in the display of patience, kindness, unselfishness, no envy or boastfulness, no rudeness or pride.

It reminds me of a song by the band faithless “God is a DJ“, the relevant lines being:

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
It’s a natural grace
Of watching young life shape
It’s in minor keys
Solutions and remedies
Enemies becoming friends
When bitterness ends
This is my church

It’s a great tune and a great fit for our street. Have a listen (spotify install needed).

In general, the whole community in Old Trafford is great, full of incredible and fantastic people, but we feel that our street has got that little something extra special.

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