And now let the weak say, “I am strong”,
Let the poor say, “I am rich”,
Because of what the Lord has done for us…
We sang these words during a worship session at a retreat in Nepal. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and most of us had been working there for a few years. The person leading the retreat had come into the country on a visit and was perhaps experiencing a bit of culture shock. His first words after the worship session were, “What do those words mean? How can you sing ‘Let the poor say I am rich’ when surrounded by such poverty?”
Someone with a different perspective effectively debunked our superficial spiritualising of sentiments expressed in the Psalms. With one comment he used the words of the text to undermine our casual acceptance of what we thought it meant. It was a particularly effective example of ‘deconstruction’, which is such a feature of postmodernism. Read more
A friend of mine was asked if he was having a crisis of faith. He replied,
No, I’m having a crisis of church.
He seems to sum up what I am hearing from many people who have faith and want to take it seriously, or who are seriously exploring faith. Many are telling me that the church does not help them on their spiritual journey. In fact church has often been a hindrance.
And, I must say, this resonates with my own experience over the past ten years or so. It was initially hard to be honest and to admit that church no longer ‘fit’, it no longer felt right – especially since I was the minister!
Obviously I did not always feel this way. I had been comfortable in church and my faith was nurtured within it. So what is going on that I and many others are now finding church a problem?
I think that a large part of it has to do with culture. Read more
“There is no alternative” was a favourite phrase of Margaret Thatcher’s in the 1980s. No alternative to free markets, free trade and capitalist globalisation. No matter what the cost to communities or to individuals, she argued, there was no alternative to free market economics.
In my last post I began to explore the question posed by the Northumbria Community, “how then shall we live?” In particular, how shall we live a faithful life when we are living in thrall to a system of global free-market capitalism that is tantamount to living under the control of an empire? This empire, as all empires do, maintains its control by the constant assertion ‘there is no alternative’ and by the suppression of all attempts to propose alternatives.
The problem for those living under an empire is that in some ways there is no alternative. No matter what we think about global capitalism, each of us is part of the system. The simple fact of having a pension or a mortgage and of being a consumer of products and brands means that we are enmeshed in the system and in some ways dependent upon it. And let’s be honest, no matter how we feel about it, those of us living in the west benefit from this system at the expense of most of the world’s population. Read more
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
In a previous post I began to write about the Northumbria Community’s concept of ‘living the questions’, in particular how the question ‘Who is it that you seek?’ leads to a worldview built on taking Christ as the clue to understanding the world.
This advent I have been thinking of the Northumbria Community’s second question, ‘how then shall we live?’ It is a question that applies to my personal life, but also to bigger issues, such as the response to current events like the attacks in Paris. Read more
In my first post I tried to describe the faith journey that I am on; the journey into an experience of exile stimulated by changes in the world around me and consequent changes within me. I hinted that this is both an enriching and an unsettling journey.
If you had spoken to me several years ago I would have said that faith was about providing answers to very important questions: about God, about humanity, about who Christ is, about how we relate to God etc. I would have considered a faith that did not provide answers to be ‘woolly’, intellectually inadequate and without direction.
I have, however, now come to a different understanding of questions and answers. The problem with a focus on answers is with their finality. They give an impression of having arrived at the answer; that once the answer has been found we now possess the truth. There does not then seem to be much room for progression, nor any desire for movement. Not only does this not sit well in the current cultural climate, but, more seriously, it seems to leave no room for the mystery and incomprehensible nature of God. Read more