Share with Widgetbox

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jesus Loves Me...more

As I reflect upon 2008 and continue to look ahead to 2009 I have begun reading "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren and it is a veritable ray of sunshine in my darkness at the moment.

I have been out of church now for 9 months and am feeling ready, in early 2009, to begin steps towards beginning a house church. As I have pondered my journey which mirrors that of Dan Poole in the book I realize that one of the sticking points is the pseudo-priestly role of evangelical pastors in the eyes of some church members.

What I mean is that in the Catholic system the priest is called "Father" and you come to church to receive a word from the priest who is God's representative and voice. The priest gives communion as the agent who is able to offer the sacrament and is also able to dispense forgiveness. This is a very terse generalization but my concern is that the evangelical pastor often feels a subtle pressure to be right or more right than the church with which we don't agree. The church member turns up on a Sunday to sing some songs, feel good and then hear what advice and information the pastor can mediate from the pulpit. It is very much a priestly role and one with which I am not comfortable.

I recall my previous preaching engagements which were very well received but I found it frustrating trying to offer challenges and exhortations for people to make a difference in the Monday-Saturday part of life. Many people didn't seem to want to be challenged; they simply wanted to hear me offer a well-presented message that made them feel better about themselves and the next stop was morning tea and catching up with one's friends. I remember many a time when I would sit by myself at the end of the sermon despondent that people didn't seem to be too challenged or touched even though I had put all my heart into my exhortation. Yes, some people responded but the majority of people seemed to have a medium-level expectation which they weren't prepared to give up.

I don't want to be righter than the next man or more loved by Jesus; I just want to explore my own journey of faith and, as a pastor, I want to listen, share, dialogue and encourage others with their journeys of faith.

This is a ramble and a distillation of my thoughts. Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Looking Back to Go Forward

What a year. I haven't blogged in a while partly I think because the cumulative crap of this year piled up and landed in a heap on me as I reflected on 2008.

Went to UK at end of 2007. Didn't go all that well with my family. Came home to Oz a week earlier than scheduled. Falsely accused and stood down from ministry in my local church. Cleared by authorities but no apology or support from church except for a handful of people.

Ongoing problems with my middle son's autistic developments. Naturally there were tensions in the marriage with all the crap floating around. Where was God in all this?

Even though I feel like the man in the picture stretched to breaking; trying to find a way out of this year in one piece my confidence in God's love has never wavered. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I have an abiding trust that God is there for me and my family.

I think this is why I find myself at the end of the year attempting church in a pub and driving a taxi because I want to meet people who need to find a deep sense of hope and purpose and tell them about this wonderful God who has loved us and sustained us through 2008.

Thank you to each of you who reads this blog, contacts me on facebook and has shown love and support that has really touched me deeply. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Light in the Darkness

Tonight was very special.

I read some reflections from Eternal Echoes where Sally considers hope in the midst of struggle and the beauty of grace and sanctification when we are feeling in a dark place. I also read some of the birth narrative from Luke and I discussed the mixture of doubt and hope contained in the Christmas story.

Doubt must have arisen as shepherds and magi made their way to a stable in a provincial backwater to look for the Savior of the world. Amidst the doubt and tiredness of the journey was a growing sense of hope.

There were 4 of us upstairs in a pub on a Tuesday night and, as we discussed our doubts and reflected on what hope in God meant for each of us I felt that the church had turned a corner and rather than being my "thing" God had been allowed to come into our midst much like He came into our midst through the baby Jesus as the incarnated God.

After talking for a while I took out some candles and invited people to light a candle to symbolize our light in the darkness. People could pray aloud, meditate, reflect or just relax in the sense of hope amidst the busyness of this season.

As we sat with the flames flickering on the table in the middle of the group I closed my eyes and felt a profound sense of God's presence. I haven't been to church in 9 months except for one unsatisfactory appearance a few weeks ago and tonight I felt a sense of deep joy and gratitude as God came amongst us through His Spirit upstairs in a pub on a Tuesday night in December.

Jesus is truly our light in the darkness.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Erase Hate

Yesterday was World AIDS Day a time to reflect on and remember a disease that is continuing to decimate scores of people across the world. I do not have any direct experience of AIDS but I have recently come into direct contact with the gay community who, sadly, have a close acquaintance with the disease.

As my personal blog for World AIDS Day I wanted to draw attention to a story that has touched me deeply. It is the story of Matthew Shepard.

Matthew Shepard was a young gay man who was conned into going in a vehicle with 2 young men. The two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, lead him to a remote area east of Laramie, Wyoming, where they demonstrated unimaginable acts of hate. Matthew was tied to a split-rail fence where he was beaten and left to die in the cold of the night. Almost 18 hours later he was found by a cyclist who initially mistook him for a scarecrow.

Matthew died on October 12, 1998 at 12:53 am at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. His entire family was by his side for the last few days of his life. His funeral was attended by friends and family from around the world and gained the appropriate media attention that brought Matthew's story to the forefront of the fight against hate.

It is 10 years since the horrific events that led to the premature death of Matthew Shepard. The foundation bearing his name continues to raise awareness of hate and prejudice and seeks ways to overcome homophobia in modern society.

As we remember the countless people suffering from the AIDS virus I wanted to draw attention to the hate and prejudice that is still evident in society and in our churches towards gay and lesbian people. Today is the day to erase hate.