Sunday’s Coming on YouTube is one of the things that has cheered me up recently.
No remission of truth
I think there is something particularly tough about talking to old friends about Jesus. It is difficult to talk about… [more]
Places of refuge
The Church is a often seen as a place where people are right, or think they are. Wouldn't it be better if it was a place where people went when they needed love?
Problems with getting out of the boat: part 2
The other main issue I have with John Ortberg’s If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, concerns… [more]
Spring Harvest Grumbles No. 2: When Worship isn’t
I failed to get to church this Sunday as the Mrs was stewarding at the Moon Walk in London So, no James this week but I… [more]
Jesus never met a prostitute
I have a couple of pieces on the go at the moment and I am happy with neither of them: hence the long gap since my last post.… [more]
Some of the things that make me cross involve our society and its perspective on things. I was one of the many people… [more]
Problems with getting out of the boat: part 1
So, one of the (many, many) things that made me cross last year was a less than dutiful approach to guidance in… [more]
Reason grown courageous
We tackled one of the many difficult bits of James last Sunday, the bit about faith and deeds. What good is it, my brothers… [more]
We had a good sermon at church last Sunday. It seemed that our vicar thought otherwise and my heart went out to her because of this. She preached on James 1 1-12 and she talked about perseverance, trials, humility and expectation.
She was humble and sincere and she opened up about her pre-sermon crises of confidence.
There was one thing she said that struck a particular chord with me and that was concerning our necessary reliance on God and how, as Christians we sometimes need to humble ourselves completely to let God take control.
I had a great time at Spring Harvest again this year, it is a wonderful event and I would recommend it without reservation. (We went to Minehead instead of Skeggy due to the scheduling, but enjoyed it so much we will probably do the same next year.)
Of course there’s a “However”, I am cross, after all!
However, there is one aspect of the event that makes me rather uncomfortable and it has done each year we have been. Is the increasing promotion of new material and merchandise detracting from Spring Harvest?
I was one of the many people who read today the news that KFC have been ordered to pay over £5M to a young lady for the brain damage she suffered as a consequence of salmonella poisoning allegedly picked up from a chicken wrap she ate at a KFC restaurant in Australia.
Now, two things stand out to me. Firstly is the size of the award. It seems very large. I have not been able to find much detail regarding the case, but this amount of money would lead me to suspect some level of extreme negligence, not just an accidental, isolated hygiene breach.
The other main issue I have with John Ortberg’s If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, concerns his treatment of the other disciples in the boat. Throughout the book and the development of his argument, he consistently refers to the remaining apostles as “boat potatoes” equating their behaviour to that of the stereotypical couch potato.
When the first reference is made, I was a little shocked, but the phrase is repeated throughout the book and becomes one of the key motifs. The other disciples are clearly to fulfil the role of stooges during the development of the theme. This made me cross.
So, one of the (many, many) things that made me cross last year was a less than dutiful approach to guidance in a book by John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.
In this book, Mr Ortberg uses the passage in Matthew 14, when Peter attempts to walk on water, as the basis for promoting more active discipleship. The book is not a great one, and contains a number of rather dubious examples and, while I believe Mr Ortberg is right to try and mobilise Christians and to promote active commitment to discipleship, I am not happy that he chose a very good approach to the task.
I have always envied those who appear to have bags of energy and an iron self-discipline. I seem to have zeroes in both of these attributes. When I was at school and college I performed magnitudes better when external discipline was high, often falling to pieces when left to my own devices (A-level Maths being a particularly striking example). Similarly, I have always performed best in team sports where I can rely on others to help set the pace and provide persistent focus and motivation. In the workplace, I have learnt to harness deadlines in order to drive myself, but even now I often rely on last-minute efforts to deliver.
I am a Cross Christian. I believe Jesus died on the cross, for me. Not just for me of course, he died for you too (yes he did, wow! eh?). But he did die for me. That fact is staggering. Jesus Christ died for you and me.
It is more than that though. Jesus didn’t just die for us; he let us kill him on a cross. This is an important distinction to make because it implies a very explicit act of will. Forgive the irreverence, but Jesus did not have a bit of an accident with a cross.
Nor did Jesus have no choice in the matter.
Jesus was the Son of God and he was God incarnate. He had repeatedly demonstrated his sovereignty over creation, life, death and Satan and he was the most powerful being ever to exist. In the heavenly host, he commanded armies of universal supremacy and power. He could unleash the wrath of the creator at will. He could end the universe in the blink of an eye.
One does not crucify such a person without his explicit permission.
Jesus chose, deliberately and intentionally, to let us kill him and, I believe, he continued to choose to do so incessantly and resolutely until the point of his death and beyond.
When I think of the crucifixion, one of the pictures that come to mind is Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.
This is a striking image and, although a little kitsch, it appeals both to my surrealist sensibilities and to my sense of drama and perspective. The painting shows Christ on the cross, but without nails or ties, looking down, from high above, on a fishing scene. I can easily imagine, in the darkness above and behind the crucified Lord, the most powerful army ever to be arrayed: Michael, Gabriel and the host of heaven baying for blood, desperate to intercede, with Christ’s outstretched arms the only things preventing a devastating execution of justice upon mankind.
The crucifixion is one long, terrible and unparalleled demonstration of loving restraint.
Thank you, my Lord. Thank you.