The Gospel is grand but jolly ordinary

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians very naturally divides into two parts; chapters 1-3 are a theological outline of God’s enormous plan to renew creation in Christ, which has begun in the church, chapters 4-6 is the ‘therefore’ – ethical teaching for the church in light of what God is doing.

When looking at these two sections side by side, it can feel like a bit like looking at the Sistine Chapel and Duke Street Church (or perhaps a simple block of flats) side by side. One is breathtaking and beautiful, the other is very functional.

It’s so important that we see the vital connection between the two halves of the book though. The way God’s cross-won, spirit empowered, word renewing mission (described in ch 1-3) is going forwards is through the ordinary situations described in chapters 4-6, the church pulling together, marriages being characterised by self sacrificial love, children obeying their parents, employees working hard and employers being kind and fair.

It’s in the nitty gritty of life that the spiritual battle described in ch 6:10-20 takes place too. That passage is not talking about dramatic power encounters and but the battle to live the Christian life in the church, at home and at work.

Christians who love their high level theology need to see that true theology plays out in rock solid situations. At the same time, those who think it’s all about miracles and wonders need to see the Christian life isn’t all about the supernatural but it is radically ordinary. Each one of us needs to draw on the resources of God’s enormous plan for inspiration, vision and direction in the ordinary world of church, home and work; because that’s where his transforming work is most shown and where it most matters.


‘There must be more than this’ – no, there mustn’t!

Last Sunday Ollie Tucker preached a cracking sermon on Colossians 1:13-23. I was struck by how the letter addresses the desire for ‘more’ in the Christian life, not by offering a new experience or a 7 step guide to something, but by re-presenting the majesty of Jesus.

Put it on your Ipod and listen on the way in to work.

‘Jesus is neither Liberal, Labour nor Tory’ a doorway to political indifference?

North American evangelicals are generally more vocal politically than their counterparts across the pond. This is a funny old business, especially when one considers the separation of church and state in the USA and the presence of a national church with bishops in the house of Lords and the Queen as supreme governor in the UK. However, for good or for ill an American style ‘culture war’ has been spotted looming over our little Island at various points this year, when discussions regarding the place of Christianity in the public square, homosexual marriage and house of Lords reform have successfully served to distract politicians from the more pressing task of shifting the deficit.

One of the weaknesses of the North American church’s involvement in politics is that often a particular party becomes the party Christians are expected to vote for in certain communities. This is normally the Republican party in evangelical circles, although much has changed even in the last 10 years (I remember reading Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics: Where the right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it  in 2006 and being encouraged to see that there’s more diversity than I had realised). British evangelicals often dangle off the other end of the spectrum, with an indifferent attitude that never even considers that there might be a party which is more in line with Christian values than another.

It is to this indifference, or supposed neutrality that Michael Kruger has written a worthwhile article. Kruger says

‘just because God does not (and cannot) unequivocally endorse either party is not the same thing as saying that it doesn’t matter which party we vote for.  Some parties are more pleasing to God than others’.

Kruger is a North American addressing his own country’s situation, but it’s applicable to any democracy. I’m cautious about his brief comment on ‘the bible isn’t a scientific book’ being a ‘cliche’ (it may be, but I think that the general idea behind that phrase is important and different to the political issue – the former addresses modern scientific questions, the latter addresses timeless moral questions). Pedantry put aside, it’s a good article.

I’m not scared – you just disagree with me

I am Arachniphobic. That means, of course, that I have an irrational fear of those eight legged creeps that will undoubtedly stalk my bedroom and hallways in force this Autumn. I can’t explain why I am afraid of them (hence the fear being irrational). However, I am happy to accept that it’s completely ridiculous of me to be unable to peacefully share a house with a harmless, helpless little insect.

This is why it is so frustrating when opinions which are based on calm reason and sound logic are deemed ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘Homophobic’. I’ve no doubt that there are people who have irrational fears of Muslims or homosexuals (I am not trying to justify mindless or aggressive behaviour). But what about people who have concerns and opinions on these issues, which are not impulsive jerks of the proverbial knee? It is the people who, in these situations, use the language of ‘phobia’ to demonise the disagreeing that are truly ‘phobic’. They have an irrational fear of people who have opinions that are different to their own. A phobia of those who don’t toe the ‘tolerant’ line by daring to suggest that some things are objectively right or wrong, true or false.

What should this be called? Disagreeaphobic? Conservaphobic? IdeasIdon’tlikeaphobic?

And did those feet in ancient times…

An amusing letter from Sunday’s Telegraph:

SIR – David Cameron has endorsed English sports teams singing Jerusalem (report, July 15). My father, John Foster, a well-known Church historian in his day, once said to me: “Yes, a wonderful tune; but the words ask four questions and the answer to them all is: ‘No.’ ”

M A Barstow
Lechlade, Gloucestershire