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Authentic Community Engagement

WHAT AM I LEARNING?

1. Church planting in a public housing estate, I discovered that my excellent historical theology had to become ‘this minute, today’. First, casting myself on the mercy of God to catch me, I learned with their kind help and support for my Oxford ways, to respond today to the leading of the Spirit. Second, we did things only in the way that the locals did, and required of the denominational rules that they be the ones to conform. Thirdly, we learned to live the beauty of a healed and holy life, not the harshness of holiness. So, a small church flourished, miracles happened, lives were changed and new music was born.

2. Commencing a new beach mission up the coast, the team were good at praying and preaching, not great at agreeing theologically, and lousy at connecting and sharing with holiday makers. I think we were so busy that we spoiled everyone’s holidays. As a leader I had to find a way to empower their hearts for authentic witness. We did it by accident. Our efforts at exercises that actually helped would later become ‘Makes You Wonder’. We cut down the programme and made spare time, rather than add one more programme and then another. By our second year, we had more adult conversions than all other WA beach missions put together. This approach would later empower people in 22 languages of Australasia and the Pacific. It is still working.

3. Hanging around street kids and mothers groups, seniors lunches and business breakfasts, everyone without exception loves to be heard on their deeper yearnings. Most people also value a positive word of reframe and encouragement for their journey. It must be done such that their autonomy is respected, e.g. “it is up to you what you do with this but what I am hearing is this…” but it must simply offer help for the journey.

4. At a Stolen Generations Conference one year, one of the Aboriginal elders asked for me to close the national meeting in prayer. It triggered a traumatic response, based around the abuse of the missions to which most of thousands of children were taken. Later she said that she had asked for prayer because she had recently decided to forgive the church for what they had done to her mother and her siblings and herself. I told her she had made my day, made my decade in fact, I was standing on holy ground. Seven years of walking together in compassion and justice without asking for a right of reply, had proven my heart, and I was not too proud to represent the church saying thank you for forgiving us.

5. In the desert, the majesty of the stars and horizon is very present, and people feel both small and special at the same time, cherished and at risk. Life is on the edge, not of the abyss of European thought but of the fullness of fragile life. The current almost universally held ecological meta-narrative is a great opportunity for us that the New Age was not. Connecting with Creation and Creator removes the consumption addiction, sets up the bigger intimate questions and scripture answers those personal questions with a personal invitation, another question if you will, and not with objective proof. People are enlarged into this good news, not judged. In a pluralistic environment the lived life of Jesus can easily hold its head up above the rest without having to be try hard or a put down.

6. We were surprised to receive a modest bequest for evangelism, so we decided to do something of lasting experimental value. We would run a Christian Information Service advertising for enquirers in the newspapers. We tried all kinds of ‘relevant’ approaches e.g. ‘do you want to know the meaning of life?’, ‘are you troubled by something’, etc and each of these approaches received some enquiries. We printed colour booklet which was itself a very popular outcome from the experiment. Then we tried ‘do you want to understand Jesus?’ and the response rate immediately doubled. Being both human and God, both historical and present, he is already relevant and accessible. There is the main focus. Not church, not a better life, nor the various idealisms of the liberal elite. I cannot overstate this – our goal must be NOT to be like the church BUT to be like Jesus. Speak like Jesus about Jesus. Live with all the passions of Jesus.

7. Even when people are empowered for witness, all is not well. The task of evangelization belongs to all of us and other parts of the church have other gifts of service. One essential role, as both Scripture and Basis of Union attest, is the gift of the Evangelist. Church people can learn to witness in their own words with their own faith in their own world – if they are willing but reach their limit. They need an evangelist in their midst not visiting from interstate! Two questions: How will you find yours? What will you do to form them into maturity? On the latter, we have a course work outline below, but as usual it is not the reading that forms them. More exposure and experimentation is required. Methodists have profited from organising ‘Lay Witness Weekends’. On finding those ten percent of Christians who might be evangelists, they are hard to find:

· firstly because they prefer not to be with the church people, but with the yet-to-be churched people.

· Secondly they are not patient of the casualisation of church, preferring adventure and enthusiasm to procedure and caution.

· Thirdly, the Uniting Church has so privileged caution and concensus that now no one’s gifts are named and formed. Blend is our recipe and bland is our style.

· Fourthly we have too narrow an image of what an evangelist is. – a ‘Billy Graham preacher’ or someone who corners the unsuspecting into a prayer of repentance, or… Anyone who helps others to find faith in Jesus or to commence the path of Christian discipleship. Look for anyone who is enthusiastic, outlooking, expressive, hospitable and centred in Jesus in their personal life.

8. I am a bit shy. I do get around though and a lot of my contacts are valuable, appreciated but too brief. I resolved to resource the ongoing conversation by starting a web site or two that was resource-rich and introductory. Here is the outcome, and let you be the judge:

Chaplains’ Web: www.spirituallife.uwa.edu.au

Ian’s Blog: www.wa.uca.org.au/uwachaplain

Max Doubt: http://maxdoubt.wordpress.com/

Interfaith Online http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/uwaucafrontpage

They get over a thousand hits each year., which is more than I expected.

9. In our small presbytery when I was first ordained, in the first decade there was only this – let us not attract more people like us, let us evangelise and church plant as our first funding priority. In ten years the denomination tripled in size. So, because I am still concerned to mirror the mission of Jesus, I know that healthy growth can happen.

I conclude by asking honestly what will review MY evangel? I am not very good at this. I see too few conversions. So what has been my response?

· I pray that God will lead me each day to someone with who I can share his influence in my life. And he does.

· I see very many conversations with lots of community contact. They are food and drink to me, as to our Lord in John 4.34. There are times when I run dry and start again. Perhaps join me in that prayer- “Please God lead me today to someone with who I can share your influence in my life”

· I know it gets through to some. Every month someone says to me something like: if I had known you earlier in my life I might have been a Christian (to which I say ‘it is time for us all to start fresh’).

· Within me, I have a very divided mind but I have cultivated by spiritual discipline a heart that is deeply passionately simply for Jesus. That is my essential base for avoiding secondary issues. My daily, weekly, annual calendar reflects that cultivated task. I would be dangerous without it.

· I would like to be supported by a church that spoke up that Jesus was not a white man and repented of the atrocities of the enlightenment and colonialism.

· I would like tools that I didn’t have to invent all the time.

· I would like congregations, to take people to, which are not glorified singalongs.

· I would like to have confidence that my colleagues are not going to let me down and water down either the blessedness or demands of discipleship.

I see the different parts of the task rejoicing together: John 4.34-38. The Message

34-35 Jesus said, “The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time!

36-38 “The Harvester isn’t waiting. He’s taking his pay, gathering in this grain that’s ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That’s the truth of the saying, ‘This one sows, that one harvests.’ I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.”

That’s my church.

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10 Things Christians Should Say More Often

Huffington Post Posted: 09/01/2013 8:26 pm

By Christian Platt

I had a series a while back about the Christian Cliches that we should drop from our lexicon, and since then I’ve had people ask what they should be saying instead. So here’s a list of handy phrases to help bring followers of Jesus into a post-Christendom, 21st-century world.

1. "I’m Sorry." – There’s plenty of hurt in the world related to Christianity, and even though we may not personally be responsible for that damage, it’s amazing how far an apology will go. Even if we’re only acknowledging the hurt and disenfranchisement, we should show some regret that something of which we are a part has contributed to someone’s suffering.

2. "How can I help?" – Sometimes we have a bad habit of diagnosing problems and coming up with the solution without actually sitting down and talking with the folks we’re supposedly helping. Though well intended, this can come off as arrogant, and can also end up being a waste of time and resources. Yes, it’s more vulnerable to ask an open-ended question like "How can I help?’ since the answer might require much more of us than we planned on. But that’s the risk of doing real servant work.

3. "I don’t know." – I’ve listed this one before, but it bears repeating. Some of us have been raised with the misapprehension that we always have to have an answer to every question having to do with our faith. But better than pat, rehearsed (or worse, pulled-out-of-our-asses-on-the-fly) answers is the humility of admitting we have no idea sometimes.

4. "I could be wrong." – This goes along with #3, as one of the most damaging things in any faith tradition – or in any cultural system, for that matter – is the idolatry of certainty. When we hold so fast to an idea that the people involved take second chair to our certainty, we’ve created a space where pain and alienation are sown, rather than compassion and reconciliation.

5. "What do you think?" – A third in this theme of what Tony Jones calls "epistemic humility," when it comes to scripture at least, though asking people their thoughts on the Christian faith, the Bible or anything else is a healthy practice for all involved. In fact, I learn more about my faith sometimes from non-Christians than I do from those who are so close to it (like me) that they become blind to the problems, right in front of us. Any good Christian should keep some non-Christian friends on retainer to help keep them in check and lend them some necessary perspective from time to time.

6. "I love you." – We have the best of intentions when telling others about God or Jesus, but unless this is already a central theme in your life, talking about how God loves you can come off as strangely abstract and a little bit crazy. Rather than speaking for God, it’s best if we take the risk and simply speak for ourselves. It sounds nice to say "God loves you," but it’s a real and important risk to say "I love you."

7. "Tell me more…" – Showing genuine interest in the lives and stories of others is the foundation of Christ-like family. So often we sit right next to people – be it at church, work, school or elsewhere – whose stories we know little or nothing about. Whereas in the past, Christendom’s aim was mainly assimilation, a post-Christendom world requires us to be willing to be changed as much as we seek to affect change in our relationships with one another. It’s no longer about eradicating differences, but rather, it’s about cultivating a love that is stronger than those differences.

8. "That just sucks." – This goes along with the Christian compulsion to try and fix everything. But if I’ve learned anything from thirteen years of marriage, it’s that solutions don’t always go as far as empathy.

9. "Let’s give it a try." – Along with presiding over decades of prolific growth (both numerically and institutionally) many Christians began to believe that they were primarily stewards and guardians of the institution rather than preparers of the way for a divinely-inspired kingdom on earth. It’s in the nature of institutions to resist change, however, whereas preparation is all about making room and clearing space in anticipation of something new. As Paul says, our faith requires a childlike "What’s next?" kind of openness, rather than leaning so heavily on the spirit-killing mantra of "But we’ve always done it this way."

10. Say nothing at all– Filling awkward silences with chatter is endemic in our entire western culture, but Christians are particularly guilty of whipping out the cliches when there’s dead air. Sometimes the best prescription is simply to be present, or maybe to listen. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we have been commissioned with fixing everything. We could start by adding intentional silence more often into our own spiritual practices, just to get used to how it feels.

Five Kinds of Wonder

By Ian Robinson

You could tune out, plug in your iPhone, stay distracted. You could collect wow photoes, gather tweets on new exo-planets, speculate on the possibility of life out there. It would be… interesting. On the other hand, you could wonder.

That would be no small thing. Like Love. Below are just a few of the categories of wonder that are the stuff of life, that great experiment. I here follow and build upon the science of Roy Abraham Varghese.

(References: Varghese, RA (2003) The Wonder of the World – a journey from modern science to the Mind of God, Tyr Publishing, Fountain Hills, Arizona. Shorter and more accessible is Varghese’s Appendix in the controversial book by the former atheist Anthony Flew (2008), There is a God –how the world’s notorious atheist changed his mind, Harper One, New York. )

1.Life

DNA has only four words, Guanine, Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine (GACT). From these four, arranged in sequences and chains comes three and a half billion nucleotide bases in each cell, which cooperatively and intelligently manufacture all life forms. And that is just the beginning of the wonder of cell chemistry. It is a great wonder that we humans have come to know about it, but it is a wonder that it exists at all. We can speak too of the puzzling dynamics of insect flight and birdsong, the Cambrian explosion, the evolutionary story, the power of consciousness, brain plasticity, the universality of beauty and the default mechanism towards symmetry, just to spin off a few. Life in all its wonder.

2.Home Sapiens

The five empirical senses are amazing. For instance, eye -images reverse and invert in the brain, so we can know what’s going on around us. Add to that the senses of sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing. Add to them temperature and weight and these seven senses drive empirical science. Scientific instruments are extensions of these. With these we register and measure the four dimensions of time and space. These seven senses provide data to human reason to process and systematize. And it does find patterns and symmetries at all levels of enquiry.

In addition, however, there are seven other intuitive senses which shape our lives and tell us what is going on around us – a sense of beauty, of justice, of connection, of consciousness, of value, of spirit, of simplicity (e.g.Occam’s Razor). With these senses we create and relate to the world, its creatures and persons. These too provide data to Reason to process and systematise. That’s why there are all those books in all those other libraries. Reason, data and evidence are not the sole preserve of empiricism.

Homo Sapiens shares much with less intelligent creatures, but we are also aware that we are self conscious beings. The ‘I’ is not a particle in us or a part of us, but some whole thing.In just 200 thousand years since homo sapiens emerged from the tree, we have moved across the entire planet and into outer space.

And then there is you – beautiful, unique, a mystery unfolding, capable and loving, an awesome human, seriously streaked with flaws and egotism, able to leap great brilliance and great wrongdoing in a single bound. Amazing homo Sapiens.

3.Microverse

Since Heisenberg a hundred years ago, the science of the microverse has been characterised by the logic of paradox and endless leaps of imagination. But emerging from the Big Bang came instantaneous relationships of immense wonder. A proton is 1836 times bigger than an electron, but the two have equal and opposite electric charges, both behave as quantum waves or particles, creating photons. They achieve the only right balance before which molecules can form, and for the suns can explode. Last year, why should we be surprised, some experiments appear to overturn the speed of light as insuperable constant. And then there is the mutli-billion dollar search for Bosun’s Hick, the ‘God particle’. And who does not wonder that the strong and weak magnetic forces emerged from the Bang just right for anything at all to exist. Every one of these even by itself is a captivating wonder.

4.Macroverse

13.7 billion years ago , we had a singularity, a ‘Big Bang’. It is not over. But the galaxies are accelerating so the explosion is still getting Bigger. If it had all happened one part in 107 slower, it would have all collapsed in by now. We are now 100-200 galaxies, each comprising 100-200 billion stars, and that is only 4% of the knowable universe. Any suggestion that empirical science can rule out the existence of all other dimensions is over-stating what we know.

Dark energy, so called because we don’t know what we are talking about, is driving the Bang forwards. Dark matter is exercising a force of gravity on every kind of known mass but, being relatively evenly spread through the galaxy, is not itself affected by its own kind of gravity.

If the known gravity had been any stronger than it is, the universe would have collapsed. Any weaker, the galaxies and stars could not form, all would be gas and dust. Wondrous and wonderful.

5.Meta-terrestrial intelligence

The universe or multiverse or pluriverse, whatever, is dominated by over-arching smarts. It works together. Just a few constants control it all, and just a small variation in each one would see us off the plain of existence.

We have something rather than nothing, but why this particular sort of something? Mind and science can explain things really well, and mathematics has an inexplicable power of correspondence and explanation for the way things are. We are finding overall and comprehensive order that is already there, working away.

So, with humility this time, that sense of order asks us to demand again – How did any thing come to be? How did consciousness (and value and beauty) come to be? Why are there laws, structures, symmetries and super symmetries? Many scientists are concluding that it is a smart universe, steadily moving in this direction for billions in the direction of an Intelligence that is all pervasive. The universe ‘knew we were coming’ they say. Charles Birch uses the intriguing notion it was being pulled along as much as pushed or caused.

It is a cheap shot, in my view, to despise this sense of ‘design’ that is espoused by those who do not share your own philosophy of scientific knowledge. Whatever your capacity for complexity or enquiry, the universe is wondrous to behold at every level, in every language, in every place.

Even the position of the earth in space, just off the edge of one arm of a moderate spiral galaxy, means that we can see far into a heavily populated space, wondering who and what is out there and able to discover amazing things through our fantastic powers of observation. It is as though we are riding a huge Hawaiian wave of extraordinary wonder. And our surfboard is that planet. If we were more centrally located in our neighbourhood, a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, the sky would be uniformly grey, like twilight, and only a few bright stars would be visible. But walk out into the desert away from the campfire, and you will hear gasps and sighs, an excited sense of connection with all that blazes upon you, the tone of deep longing to be at home there, and the tiny voice of those who know we are so much smaller than we want to believe.

Finally

We have been positioned to wonder, designed to wonder, given the ability to wonder, in a world that was instantly Bang-full of the most unlikely coincidences, and a world that yields up its laws of stability.

All science is built around the wonder at the way things are, and why is it so. Science grew where people believed that some Intelligence had made a stable universe, not a capricious unpredictable one. Old ones in the modern science like Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal, Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, Planck and Heisenberg, through to today with Collins, Humphreys, Lennox, Polkinghorne, Birch, Plantinga, Tillich, McGrath, Davies and Flew. So many top scientists and philosphers of science put the lie to that well-publicised, absolutist atheistic fundamentalism that is being falsely called Science and Reason by some today.

All science is built around finding how things work and why that happened. That is, ‘Why’ in the sense of ‘cause’ not ‘why’ in the sense of ’purpose’. The universe came into being. Why? Consciousness has come into being, why? Morality and Beauty has come into being. Why?

One theory has a personal God did it and does it and remains on staff for the life of the project. This being is only interested in enquiries around their particular chemistry of genuine love, truth and respect . Everything about this theory or belief is like some aspect of contemporary science, and there are no rules of Reason or evidence that are being exempted to establish this belief. So please consider, and get started.

You and I are an experiment in extraordinary wonder. To wonder is to do great and persistent science. To wonder is to meet the Great Spirit, and to learn to engage with the intuitive language of spirit, like all the billions through the years who have tried this great experiment, and have been found. It is simply wonder-ful.

PATRICK WHITE’S EPIPHANY

Patrick White is the only Australian to twin the Nobel Prize for literature. Until late in life he kept his experience of epiphany in the closet. He knew that talking about it was deviant from the social mainstream.

Awareness of God came to him in 1951 when he was nearly forty. He did not speak about it publicly until the publication of his self portrait Flaws in the Glass , thirty years later in 1981.

Epiphanies can be ordinary or they can be dramatic and visionary. White’s was ordinary. It occurred when he and his lifetime partner Manoly Lascaris were living on a farmlet at Castle Hill on Sydney’s outskirts. White explains what happened:

During what seemed like months of rain, I was carrying a tray load of food to a wormy litter of pups down at the kennel when I slipped and fell on my back, dog dishes shooting in all directions. I lay where I had fallen, half blinded by rain, under a pale sky, cursing through watery lips to a God in whom I did not believe. I began laughing, finally, at my own helplessness and hopelessness, in the mud and stench from my filthy old oilskin. It was the turning point. My disbelief appeared as farcical as my fall. At that moment I was truly humbled.

Prior to this slip-in-the-mud epiphany, White says he believed in nothing but his own egotism and ‘in my own brash godhead’. After it he and Manoly began attending worship each Sunday at Castle Hill Anglican church for a short while, and White came to view his novels as the artistic expression of the reality he experienced with his slip in the mud experience:

What I am increasingly intent on doing in my own books is to give professed unbelievers glimpses of their own unprofessed faith. I believe most people have religious faith, but are afraid that by admitting it they will forfeit their right to be considered intellectuals.

From Bruce Wilson REASONS OF THE HEART, p 3-4

Allen and Unwin and Albatross Books, 1998

A Liturgy for Easter Sunday

Four readers, one prayer, one 5 min sermon, 7 songs, leader. Everything white.

prepared by Ian Robinson

Leader: “Christ is Risen”

Response: “He is Risen indeed”

READING 1. IT IS SUNRISE Mark 16.1-8

Leader: These women came to the first Easter Sunday morning filled with disappointment in their lives. All they have left to work for is to carry out a decent burial.

On this Easter morning, are you pre-occupied with disappointment? Is this the best you can do with your life – to keep a decent, respectable life? You could do worse, but the promise of Easter is that you can actually have God’s purpose working in your life.

You can be holy. The Risen Christ has a new beginning for you. It’s no wonder the women’s first thought was how scary it could be.

READING 2. THE TOMB IS EMPTY Luke 24.1-12

Leader: At this stage of events, they are only afraid. They are afraid of two things.

One is that their enemies have stopped at nothing to suppress Jesus’ movement. They are afraid they will be the next to be arrested, flogged and crucified. At least two of them leave town immediately. Jesus had to catch up with them in a town called Emmaus.

Maybe they are also afraid that Jesus might actually have risen from the dead, as they heard the angels say. It is such a shining hope, so much would then be different, and that alone would be very scary. No wonder the Risen Jesus kept greeting them with: ‘peace be with you’.

Remember the goodness of God. Remember the kindness of Jesus. He has never brought harm to anyone who placed their trust in him. Peace be with you.

READING 3. JESUS APPEARS Luke 24.36-44

Leader: There he is in the flesh. It changes everything. There are huge possibilities that open up now. Walking with Jesus in freedom from sin. A new life, a new vision. Forgiveness and love both given and received. Finding self in serving others. Making peace with justice. Integrity and generosity that counts for all eternity. Personal communion with a living God. What richness he has lavished on us in Jesus Christ!

SERMON

To be honest, Easter is not all about huge possibilities that open up. There are also some possibilities that it closes down.

If you like to be the victim, the tragic, the hero, the bitter fighter, then with the resurrection of Jesus your whole life is shattered. With Jesus leading us beyond death, we need no longer get so bitter about death and suffering.

Again, if you like to accumulate experiences, accumulate money and securities, live on overdrive, fly off on sex or drugs, then the new life of Jesus has shown up your emptiness. With an eternity to live, we need no longer rush to fit in every good thing we can get.

Again, if your focus is ‘me’, what about me, what’s in it for me, what I want, where I’m going, do it my way, the empty tomb shows how fearful we really are to be embraced by life. We are no longer our own – we have been bought with a price and held beyond death! To live the new life we have to stop reinforcing the defences of the present one.

Yes, there is some bad news for some. But I find that it’s good news, the happiest news of all time. I know I haven’t got it all sorted, but as I walk the road with Jesus, the light from the empty tomb is just simply fantastic, worth living for, and worth dying for.

Amen

Prayer 1

Because you have saved us so openly and so strongly,

We are confident to bring to you

all our disappointments.

We bring to you our narrow thinking.

May your Kingdom-purposes be seen in us.

Because you have loved us so completely,

We can bring to you our fears and pain.

We bring our doubt- that you might give us less than the best.

We welcome the New Life

That you have pioneered for us.

Because you have conquered death,

We can put aside the fear of suffering,

and the bitter sting of death.

Gently, please, take apart our inner defences, and set us free.

Open up new spaces inside our hearts,

Space for being loved, being safe,

being clean, being true, and

spaces for integrity, generosity, kindness, and peace.

READING 4. JESUS SAYS ‘HANG ON A SEC’ Luke 24.45-53

Leader: The power to live the New Life does not come just by wanting it, choosing it, training it, being born with it, or seeing it in someone else. The power comes through the Holy Spirit, whom we must welcome into our life.

BENEDICTION

Because you walk with us, Jesus,

and show us freedom from failure,

We can give and receive

both forgiveness and love.

We can find ourselves in serving others.

We can make peace with justice.

We can know, more deep than breathing,

this personal connection with the living God.

Oh, the riches of the love

which you have lavished on us in Jesus Christ!

So, shock us into life!

Nurture us into love!

And impel us with your grace

To share again and again, in myriad ways,

That vast good news: Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

Hallelujah! Amen.

Makes You Wonder Resources

How Jesus Failed

by Ian Robinson

Many people, some of us, even some so-called theologians , suspect that Jesus was a failure. They say, his capture and cruel death was a failure that the early followers tried to turn into something good, hence the name Good Friday. But they could not be more upside down in their thinking. In today’s Good Friday service, we will do something a bit different. We are going to listen to some of the mocking voices at Jesus. Hear what they said against Him. Two things come of this – 1. in their words maybe we will hear ourselves. 2. But there is another flow of thought in the opposite direction. In Jesus’ apparent failure, God was achieving something – something as strong as our salvation.

Mk 15.1-5 – Ian R

POLITICAL FAILURE

‘Are you the King of the Jews?’, asked Pontius Pilate. Did he really want to know, or was he hurling out one of those sick jokes that come up among soldiers? He could not see a man with an army. The joke shows Jesus holding on to no privilege or rank. His followers, all disappeared by now, are all ordinary folks and broken people. Is he going to rule the world with that lot? Pilate thinks a king would gather to himself unanswerable power, but Jesus does not really give him much of an answer. Political failure? Today, the lasting truth is that Pilate is gone and the Risen Jesus rules a billion souls. We broken souls have been the bearers of the news of real glory.

Refrain Response: He seems to be a failure,

yet somehow he knew

The truth about us.

Mk 15.12-15 – Ian R

A MARKETTING FAILURE

“Crucify Him!” they shouted, all the louder. They knew what they were asking, bloody death by excruciating torture. Not a great audience response for Jesus. He has been voted off. But it was due to a kind of envy, the story says. Envy is the currency of all marketing. I sometimes think:Can the advertisers make us want what we do not need? We start to think habitually about everything and everybody: What can we get out of this? We have ulterior motives for everyone. That’s this kind of Envy. We humans want so much, we have so much, we crave for more and we hunger for things and experiences, prestige and securities – all unattainable in the work of one lifetime, unless someone else pays for us. So, in the corridors of power, we make systems and rules that make us into the winning side, we take most of the big fish and the resources. Our rules simultaneously make millions poor, that is, bring children to an early death. In a nutshell, this envy is the cause of all the sufferings. In the name of justice, someone will have to pay. To stop it all, Jesus will pay for our sins today.

Refrain Response: He seems to be a failure,

yet somehow he knew

The truth about us.

Mk 15.29-32 – Ian R

A RELIGIOUS FAILURE

‘He said he would rebuild the temple in three days, ‘. They scoffed at him, ‘Ay, that’s a good one. You said you saved others, now Save yourself!’ So the mockery went as people passed the crosses along the road nearby. These people who take such supreme pride in this magnificent temple of King Herod, built under cruel taxation, were the collaborators in the spoiling of the people. Like the prophets Isaiah and Micah before him, Jesus’ faith is not about magnificent ritual. In history, we have built such regal blasphemies in God’s name. Somehow though, the accusers had heard his promises – to surpass it all. In three days Jesus did raise up a different way of life. So, for our sake, upon this Friday, upon this cross, he will not save himself. For he has pledged himself to save us. It is not the nails that hold him to the cross, it is love.

Refrain Response: He seems to be a failure,

yet somehow he knew

The truth about us.

Let us consider in silence that your name and my name was before him on this very day.

Silence with instrumental music

Mk 15.33-37

AN INTIMACY FAILURE –

The last cry uttered against God this day, comes from Jesus himself. ‘My God my God why have you forsaken me. Or in his Galilean accent, words burned unforgettably in their brains, Eloi eloi lama sabachthnai’. They never heardJesus say anything remotely like that before, for he simply loved his Heavenly Dad, called him ‘abba’. But has Jesus’ intimacy with the Father failed at last? The most precious intimacy in the entire universe, is it as shredded as it sounds? Sin and darkness have taken their toll on his heart, bitterness has crowded around his exhausted mind. All our alienation from God, all our stubborn pride, all the hubris that nails terror into human souls is numbing Jesus’ spirit to death. And yet, and yet, he speaks to his father. He is not silent in his darkness. Even the bitterness he shares with Abba. This Love can carry even this pain, All the pain we get, all the pain we give. The people standing near him dont get it, they think its about Elijah or deliverance or something. Their lives roll on, ying and yang, day in day out. But the unthinkable good news from this failure at the cross is: God listens to laments, and Love wins. When our hearts are breaking, that’s how the light gets in. So, desire this Love above all else.

Refrain Response: He seems to be a failure,

yet somehow he knew

The truth about us.

Friends, we are drawing this time together to a close. Turn your mobiles to 3pm and set the alarm for the hour Jesus died. This afternoon you can recall this service and stop a moment.

We have seen in the words of torture, mockery and apparent failure the uniqueness of Jesus’ light, his love, his power, his payment for all human horrors and hubris. Now, what does it mean, the Book of Romans says, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. You and I are freed of wrath, of darkness, of selfishness, of sin, both its power and its penalty. Jesus’ victory is confirmed when we gather here on joyous Easter morning. Let us not be spectators, mouthers of words, who repeat the cruel and casual apathy of the first Good Friday. Let us make an offering of ourselves to God.

A BIT OF A STRETCH

GOOD FRIDAY 2010

by Ian Robinson

"One for all and once for all" that’s Good Friday’s theme. It’s a bit of a stretch to grasp this.

St Paul tried: "that God was pleased to reconcile himself all things, whether on earth or heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross" Colossians 1.20.

To reach out and cover the distance, to make the gap close up, God stretched all the limits. On this day, as John Witvliet wrote recently, the one called ‘Living Water’ says ‘I thirst’, the one called ‘the resurrection and the life’ actually dies, the one called ‘great high priest’ becomes himself the sacrifice, the ‘King of Kings’ is killed like a common traitor. All this is so that he ransoms us, pays our debt, conquers all the evil we will ever have to face, opens the way to the loving Father, creates a well of healing, becomes the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, and we? We get the gift, the good stuff, the offer that should have you smiling like a lotto winner. And that would be a stretch.

But it is not lack of understanding that finds us struggling with it. IT is where we stand. I understand that rthere are many things that may be holding us a distance.

We might stand with those whole religious views are black and white, right and wrong, boxed up and unable or unwilling to see who they have before them. In Jesus we see a man of Spirit, in touch with God intimately, the living Word, the mystery revealed. So don’t stand there.

We might stand among those who pride themselves on being ‘realistic’, or real-politick, as the media has it. It’s a semi smart way of avoiding the value of true human being. It’s a semi cynical way to stay away from this love. In Jesus you are being loved more humanly, more divinely, more powerfully, more respectfully, more brilliantly than one mind can fully comprehend.

We might also feel plain unworthy of such a lavish love. I know it is hard t take in, but you’ve hit the jackpot. Your sins and shame are no barrier. It has all been really redeemed. The slate is really clean. This much (arms wide open on the cross) does Jesus love you, long for you and call for you.

We may not want to trust God. The world is cruel, brutish, unpredictable – how do we know that the creator is not also cruel? In Jesus we see, that’s why. The Father’s love had come to guide us back into the fullness of life and love that we were made for. You can trust God in this hurting world.

There it is. It is a stretch, I acknowledge. But that is a cross that I will gladly bear all my days