Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tax Justice Bus

Hurray - we are on the road with the Christian Aid tax justice bus!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Tyrannosaur is my best film of the year so far.......though with a health warning. Jon didn't want to watch it with me for fear it would be too depressing. And true to form, within the first 5 minutes I was weeping.

People in this film do not have easy lives. At the poor end of town lives Joseph, a retired widower in the grip of a rage at life that he cannot control. His little friend, a child over the road, lives under the shadow of his mother's loathsome boyfriend who owns a vicious dog, taunts the child with his mates, and regularly kicks him out of the house to sit alone on the pavement. You feel it is only a matter of time until tragedy strikes.

The worst hand has been dealt to Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker. She brings Joseph to tears one day with a prayer, when he bursts into the shop in one of his rages. (It is the compassion, not the prayer, that moves him.) And they embark on what turns out to be a healing relationship - though without a jot of sentimentality or cliche.

Hannah lives in the nicer end of town. But her life is not what it seems and her horrible plight is gradually revealed.

I don't know if the names are significant. They could be, biblically. Hannah the childless one. Joseph the one called to protect a special woman. There is sorrowful redemption everywhere: in the way Joseph has the chance to move beyond his mistreatment of his dead wife by doing the right thing by Hannah; in the way the barren Hannah brings new life out of Joseph; in the deaths of two dogs - the first, at the start of the film, an act of thoughtless destruction, the other, at the end, an act of love and a desire to put things right.

My thoughts have returned to this time and time again. 100% recommended.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Wine and pandas.

Just returned from New Wine, where I was working for a few days. Never been before and was quite interested. I caught up with a few old friends, which was great.

There was one thing I struggled with: a half-camouflaged prosperity gospel.

This wasn't a gospel of monetary gain as Kenneth Copeland might preach. But it was a message of personal or tribal gain, nonetheless. At 3 of the 4 sessions I went to, the proclamation was that a prayer done right will get results.

Luke 18: 1-8 was used as a description of how persistent prayer gets the world fixed. Mark 9:29 as an injunction to pray harder, while fasting, in order to cast out the demons of our secular society. At a plenary session, there was a stream of open mic testimonies telling how prayer at New Wine had achieved for the storyteller money / relationship / healing / child. Speakers were all leaders of Big Churches that had known Success. The foundational call to a beleaguered church was a call to war - let's pray really, really hard and so force God to show himself and give us victory against a hostile world!

But God is not to be manipulated. Happiness, health and success for self or tribe are not the likely outcome of discipleship. The glory of God is more likely to be seen in sacrifice, humiliation, unexpected outcomes, lost control, than in getting what we want. Let's hear of the glory of God experienced through sickness, solitude, poverty and childlessness, alongside the other stories. Let prayer be submission, not control. It will never be a tool we can use to make God respond!

In terms of our churches (as we know them) growing, surviving, winning back respect... perhaps even this is not to be sought. Perhaps they are the old wineskins. Perhaps not - but we cannot know and should not presume. We seek the glory of God, not the victory of any particular manifestation of the church.

My friend Mike articulated my struggle neatly when he said of certain Christian talks: "it's as if God is a panda: temperamental, near-extinct, only happy to show up when we, his captors, manage to recreate the right habitat and diet." Heaven forbid!