Monthly Archives: January 2010

What is love?

Normally I would be able to get an autorickshaw, but because this was monsoon time, this was proving difficult and any autos that there were were whizzing past me.

In the middle of this rainy scene, a slightly curious bloke appeared

Disturbed as he was by the less than usual sight of a white person,

Standing late at night,

Alone on the edge of the payment

In the middle of the monsoon.

He walked round me, like I were an exhibit in a museum

He walked round me one more time

And then in an effort to work out if I was human

Or in the way that an earthling might try and open conversation with alien

He tried on me on the one phrase in English it seemed that he remembered.

“I love you”

And it felt odd,

It felt that this guy was seeing some sort of potential in this encounter

That I was not.

Now the one problem was of course,

This guy was mistaken

But the early Christians

They saw a potential in their encounters, they saw that they could loved

Even when others did not.

Some words that I have quoted with you before, from Minutius Felix, and early opponent of the Christians who later became one himself.

The Christians, they form a rabble of profane conspiracy, they despise temples as if they were tombs, they despise the titles and the purple robe of the high government office, though they are hardly able to cloth themselves in their own nakedness.   Just like a rank growth of weeds the abominable haunts where this impious confederacy meet are multiplying all over the world.  Root and branch like a weed, it should be exterminated.  Because they love one another before they even know one another, they practise a cult of lust calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately. Minutius – Felix.

Ruining The Moment

Let me give you another example of the jarring-ness of love

That jars like that man on that street corner in Trivandrum telling me that he loved me.

It is the moment in a wedding when everything is happy and smiles.

People are very precious around weddings

Nothing can be allowed to ruin the big day

The bouquets have to be right

The dress has to be perfect

The hymns beautiful

The bridesmaids walk in at the right moment

What are you so frightened of

What terrifies you that will happen if a bridesmaid comes in at the wrong moment

What is interesting is that the ancient order of service is unafraid to ruin the wedding

It says, “Let’s go to the moment when one of you is sick

Let’s go to the moment when one of you has had enough of the other

Let’s go to the day, when you look back on this day and say ‘What was I thinking?’

And we can do that, because the love that you celebrate this day

Is strong enough to get you through that day.

I _____, take you ______, to be my wedded wife. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.

You can see the horror on the one who has worried about the choice of dessert wine, and the order of the bridesmaids and the speeches.

Let’s talk about the day that we die.

Let’s talk about that day.

Real love jars, is deliberately different,

Because so much of the world is not set towards love

And so love has to jar with those parts of the world.

The Kind Of Love

The kind of love that the Christians talked about

Could cope with that moment.

Let’s look at Paul’s early definition of love.

So what we are going to do is look at verses 4-6

Verse 4 – Love is patient, love is kind

Verses 5-6 – 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.[1]

And then verse 7 which is better

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endure all things”

Love is Patient

Current definitions of love make it sound easy, it is something close to a drug

She loves me – yeah, yeah, yeah- the cry of ecstasy

Love me tender –

All you need is love

Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help following in love with you

Cheryl Cole

It wasn’t complicate

It wasn’t premeditated

Wasn’t underrated

I’m so glad you stated

Let’s go ahead and say it

“I love you”

But Paul goes for this definition

“love is patient”

And something is very telling there.

Love does not force,

Love is patient

Love is not in a rush – in a rush for what

Love is patient

Love has a confidence that what is now, will not what is always to be

Love is patient

How can love afford to be patient?

Something that is not now

Love must first of all be patient

Love waits for something that is not now.

And it believes that God is at work

You cannot believe in love being patient if you do not also believe that God is at work

Love has a vision of what is now, being something more.

And it is prepared to wait.

Love is not about some feeling of gushing ecstasy

Love is about a vision of what each of us might be

Love is always intended on the growth of the other.

There are forms of love that suffocate.

Love that always wants the child to remain a child

Love that wants the other to worship

Love that wants the other to give me my place

These are false loves

Love is patient because it has a vision

Think of the people that you love

What vision do you have for them

How might they grow

Not grow because they are wealthy

Not grow because they are successful

But grow because they are thoroughly good

There is nothing greater in all the universe, says Dallas Willard

Than a good person.

Love has that vision.

Love Is King

Love gives the other what they need

Not always the same as nothing, not always the same as everything

Love is kind

Christians, this is possibly what we do the best

Being kind

The old emperor Julian, who hate Christians, used to say “not only do they look after their own poor, but they look after ours as well”

I was speaking to a guy last week who said that the reason he belongs to the Church that he is in now is because when his wife was ill during pregnancy, the Church cooked meals for them every day for six weeks

Or the kind of kindness that lets go

I was with recently a couple called Sandra and Connor Mulholland from Belfast

Who are responsible with others for a project called the Bridge, which existed in East Belfast for the training, help of the community

And their came a day, when they said that this cannot be run by middle class professionals from South Belfast, it must be handed over

And so they gave the ownership and the running of the Bridge over to people in the local community.

Kindness always involves two kinds of work

The work of thinking about the other

The work of talking with the other

The work of doing something for the other.

So that is two things that Love is

Love is kind

Love is patient

Love Clears A Lot Of Things Away

Love, if want to truly love another human being

Funnily means doing a lot of work on myself.

Of beginning to give to God the things that stop me loving.

Love does not envy – so that is your envy of the other doing well

Love does not boast – that thing where you want to get noticed

Does not insist on its own way – that’s not say love is weak, but love is not selfish

Is not irritable – that thing we have where those around us get our frustrations, even frustrations that are not their fault.  How do we stop being irritable

What are the causes of irritableness, can they be removed

Is not resentful- that learns to take away the blames

It does not keep a record of wrongs

It genuinely forgives.

Real forgiveness is not instant, it is a path that you set yourself on

But a determination that I am not going to hold this thing against you.

Love And All Things

Love then has a relationship with “all things”

I am struggling to see what that means

Love hopes all things – love does not hope for your to do badly in your exams, it does not hope for you to come round to my way of thinking, it does not hope that you are humiliated for having rejected me.

Love sees all things, and touches them with hope

So that everything that is , you hope that it is fulfilled, never give up on what they might be in fullness, that they might be what they were made for

Hopes all things

Faiths all things

And then there are the kind of things that hit you

These you bear

These you endure

That is love

I am actually encouraged

Because if you are in a place where everything is unrealised and you have to hope

If you are in a place where everything is on top of you

That is the place where you can love

Love is in the exhaustion of a married couple where one of them has dementia

Or where people fight for justice for someone who is unjustly accused

Or where a child cannot get through the night without waking up all the time

Or where a partner has to try and forgive the hurt of another’s unfaithfulness

Or where someone believes in the other, even though their own confidence

Or their own self has been shattered by depression

It often is between family members

It is often between neighbours

And it must always, always, be in this family

The Church.

And it doesn’t sound too great does it

I want the old drug love

The old kind of love that made you go on a high.

That love never gets you to the best places

It takes you to a place and then snatches it away and it is never the same again

That is not love.

I had an incident last week taking a child to school

And it was the usual thing of fighting to get socks on

Fighting to get out the door

Fighting to get to school on time

And then you put that child on the line

And you look at that child

That child that three minutes ago was the cause of the greatest pain ever

And you want that child to be safe

And you want that child to be happy

And you want it to be that in future, me and that child will be together

And you are prepared to bear anything to get that for that child

And love is like that moment of seeing

That hopes, endures, believes, faiths

And that is love

And the Christians said

That love is not just for my child

It’s for random strangers

To the unknown and the awkward and the worrying

Indiscriminately

“I love you too.”

AMEN


[1]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

Standing With Integrity

Stand – page 232

Don’t get too daring.  Satan has had thousands of years of practice and we do not know 100th part of what he knows.  – Martin Luther

Great meditation on Ephesians 6 and the armour of God on page 233

Lord,

Help me to stand today

Temptations and trials abound

When life hurts,

I get confused, dishones, suspcious and critical

I put on the belt of truth

 

When life hurts,

My relationships suffer – especially my relations with you.

I put on the breastplate of righteousness

When life hurts

I either get really lazy or I make myself really busy

I put on the shoes of the gospel

When life hurts, I let down my guard and leave myself exposed

I put on the shield of faith

When life hurts,

My thinking get negative and I question everything

I put on the helmet of salvation

When life hurts,

I’m a coward

I take hold of the sword of the Word

Lord, it doesn’t feel very ;finished’ down here

I don’t feel very ‘finished.’

See me kneeling,

Help me stand.

 

Page 234, from C.S.Lewis

Sooner of later [God] withdraws, I not in fact, at least from their conscious experience… He leaves the [human] to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.   Our cause is never in more danger than when a human – no longer desiring but still intending to do God’s will – looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys

 

The Godless Nine Lessons Increased My Faith

with the rings backlit by the sun, and what appears to be a tiny moon around Saturn, but is actually our own wee planet.

Saturn Backlit

He then talked about the Hubble deep field view, which had a range of vision, as if you took a 5p piece and held it up to the sky at a distance of 75 feet, and that in this view there were many dots of light, and each of these dots represented a galaxy.  This is a picture of 1500 galaxies – that is stunning.

Hubble Deep Field

He also quoted “the great” Carl Sagan who said that this is what you get when you leave Hydrogen atoms alone for 13 billion years, and a brilliant throwaway, that 1 billion years after its inception, the universe had cooled enough for stars to begin to form.  That’s just crazy.  (Having done some recent looking up, I do like Carl Sagan’s view that the only scientific theory that could conceivably do away with God would be a theory of an infinitely old universe; I think I agree with that- far from Dawkins’ claim that Evolution gave God his redundancy notice– what hubris!)

I always feel that cosmology is more comfortable ground for the theist than biology (I look forward to that ground shifting over the next few decades; although it may also involve some serious reflection on the groaning of creation, and the source of violence in the natural realm) so didn’t get my faith tested by Dawkins’ later appearance.

The Scriptures and The Transformed Mind

“I wish I was more like her”

“I wish that he was going out with me instead of her”

“She loves herself so much”

“People will always reject me”

“I am not going to manage this, I am going to fail”

“Stay positive, Stay positive, stay positive”

“one day they will all release how great I actually am”

We have all these thoughts that fly across our minds

And these thoughts seriously influence what we do.

So these thoughts here, seriously impact what we buy

And these thoughts here

Which we are trying to learn,

Are thoughts that might pass us exams

And some of these are good

And some of these are going to destroy you

I work with one guy, who always thinks that people are going to let him down, and so he gets angry with people, because he wants to prove that this is right

I know someone who is a wonderful woman, a doctor, talented and witty, and she is going out with a guy much older than her, who will not commit to her, and she keeps with him, because there are two thoughts “this is the best that I can do”, “going out with you is better than being single”

What goes on here,

Is the stuff that our life comes from.

Life comes out of the words that fly across here.

Life Comes Out Of Words

Can any of you remember the story of the beginning of the world

Now can you remember how it was that God made the world

Were there these giant hands that came out of heaven and got some plasticine and  and made the mountains, and some then a bucket and filled the seas, and lit a match at the beginning of time.

No, it was not hands that started the world

It was words

Words started the world.

Words start things.

Words are where life comes from

Your life comes from the words that fly across here.

When Jesus came to earth, one of the most famous parts of the Bible didn’t call him the action, didn’t begin by calling him the hands of God, or the mind of God, or the eyes of God, or ears of God

The earliest Christians called him the “Word of God.”

And the remarkable claim of the early Christians was that this word could dwell inside of you.

Teach and admonish each other

Sing songs

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do in the name of God.

And this word because it came from God

Could have a bigger power than

“You’re worth it”

“Have a break, have a kit-kat”

Even bigger power than

“You’ve passed”

Or “I do”

Or possibly what some people believe to be the most powerful words that can be spoken “You’ve got three yeses, you’re through to the next round.”

Let These Words Become Part Of Your Life

And what I want to say is that I know of no one who has managed to live a life of God speaking through them, acting through them, loving through them in a consistent way without letting these words, seriously speak to them, transform them

Jesus according to Ephesians is washing us with water with the word

–          the Holy Spirit and these words

Some of the words might

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33)

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in all humility count others better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3)

“Do not be afraid” (366 times throughout the whole Bible; Matthew 14:27)

“Sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasurer in heaven.” Mark 10:21

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whosoever believed in him might not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And these are the words that give life.

Let this word dwell in your richly, and do everything in the name of God.

I want to talk about how the word has changed people.

But before I give warnings

“Read the Bible every day” is not the great Commandment

Sometimes it is tempting to think that the strength of our Christian service is measured in how often we read the Bible, and how much we read.

I, as someone who reads the Bible possibly more than your average punter sometimes thinks this, and it is poison.

I remember the way that as students we used to do Bible exams

And I am so resentful of the people who gave me bad marks all the way through these exams.

And completely missing the point of sitting them in the first place.

The Word is what enables us to live the life

If is not the life

The other problem is that we think that God is going to get us, if we do not remember to do our Bible study

“How close are you to God?” is often the same question as “How are you reading your Bible at the moment?”

It’s Not A Book Of Spells

Sometimes people think this is a book of magic words, with spells that if you just look up the right one, then like a ultra-powerful horoscope, it will tell you what to do.

This can lead to enormous problems.

What if you were to randomly open the Bible and it fell open at Judges 3:22

22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirtf came out.[1]

Or the famous story of the person who opened their Bible first at
Matthew 27:5

“And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.”

Follows by Luke 10:37

And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise”

It Is For the Soft Hearted

Jesus we are told often preached and it never changed anyone

The Bible says that these people had hard hearts

When you read the Bible, you must read with a soft heart

With the Holy Spirit helping you

That I think is what the “Water and Word” part is about in that verse that we read earlier

The Spirit and the Word

Don’t Try To Read From Start To Finish First

One of the most common problems that people encounters is trying to read from cover to cover

Instead start with Mark, or read some notes, or if your Church has a reading program

If go through one of the Bible in a year programs

Or do what a friend of mine did, and read the gospels a verse per day.

What I do seriously recommend is that you make this part of the pattern of your day

Reading this book

One way I think is to set aside a time

And I have a phrase which is pivot to base, always start with the word, and read.

And let these words, start you in your life.

I want to now just tell a number of stories of how this word has spoken to me.

And you will probably notice a theme here, that all of these were about trying to let the world dwell richly in me

Although in a lot of them, there was this curious way that the verses came up at the right time.

Colossians 1:21-22

“And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

So many of the most important moments in people’s lives occurred when they realised this remarkable thing that God loves us not because of what we do, nor just because we impress him, but because God just loves, and God forgives.

This was the moment for me.

It happened when I was working in India, and I had gone out to India as a Church worker, and this had put a bit of pressure on me, because I began to worry that I really believed the thing that I was meant to be representing.

For about 6 weeks, painful weeks, I felt distant from God,

And I would keep praying for God to come and speak to me

And it seemed so distant, and I didn’t think that God like me very much

We had this thing that often happened in India

Because I was the only white person who was often appearing at Churches, they would put me at the front, to be a kind of celebrity Christians

And I remember one time praying, and thinking about how didn’t like me,

And just as I did, these verses which I think I had read earlier that day

But which I had memorised on a week away two years before that

Came back to me

Once you were hostile, but now he has reconciled you.

And it was like I was lifted.

Proverbs 31:30

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

This I heard at a Church in Glasgow, when I was trying to work out who to marry

And this question goes through your head

Do I fancy her, Do I fancy her

Do I really fancy her,

Will I always fancy her.

And what happens when you think like that, you stop fancying her.

And you need some kind of other word to help you

And I was in Church that morning when this passage which is only read once every three years in Churches, and sometimes much less than that was read.

And I heard a whole bunch of verses which seemed to apply to my then girlfriend

And then this verse

Which seemed to capture her completely.

Matthew 5:39

“But I say to you, ‘Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’

This is a hard verse

But the thrust of the meaning is that in every conflict situation

You have three choices

Fight

Flight

Or something else

And Jesus is saying do something else

If someone slapped you on the right cheek, they had slapped you back hand

They had slapped you like you were a slave

And to give the other cheek was to say, hit me again, but this time you respect, because you must treat me as an equal.

Shaine Claibourne, and activist in Philadelphia spoke about the way that people in his community which had tried to live with the poor had tried to live these words

And the situation which befell one woman who was part of their community

She was living in her home, a single parent with her child.

In a rough neighbourhood, when late one night she hears a knock at her bottom door

And then the door opens, And footsteps are coming up her stairs

And she has to think what to do.

Fight, Flight, Something else

What is the something else,

What would Jesus do?

The door opens,

And she sees this man who has broken into her home

And her first worst words

“Do you know what time this is?”

And she explains to the guy that this is too late and that he is going to wake up her baby,

And she lets him sleep downstairs, and in the morning she cooks him breakfast.

Isaiah 55:11

So also will be the word that I speak—

it will not fail to do what I plan for it;

it will do everything I send it to do.

[2]

“Julius Hickerson was a promising young doctor who could have enjoyed a comfortable life in the United States, but he felt God’s call to serve as a missionary in Colombia, ministering to souls as well as bodies. His friends and associates thought he was crazy, and he himself must have wondered when, after two years, he could point to few visible results of his labor. It ended in tragedy as he was killed in a plane crash attempting to take supplies to a remote village.

“But in the wreckage some natives found a well-marked Bible in their language, and they began to read it. They told others what they had read, and before long churches were started. The Southern Baptists, unaware of what had taken place, sent a missionary back into the area, and he discovered the place fully evangelized. When the missionary asked how it had happened, the Colombians showed him a Bible. On the inside of the cover was a name—Julius Hickerson. The written Word of God will not return empty.” –from The Trivialization of God by Donald W. McCullough (p.124-125). Read Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12.


f the dirt…: or, it came out at the buttocks

[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 . Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

[2]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

No Church

St Columba HighI noticed this Inverness Courier story about St. Columba High Church having their building closed (there has to be more to the story than what is being let on) and worshippers are having to move to an area “with no Church.”

This blog would like to make the pedantic but fundamental point that if worshippers have moved to an area, then the area must, by definition, have a Church.

Conversely, an area which is likely to have plenty Church buildings, but little evidence of a Church is Dunblane on Sunday morning.  How many ministers are currently hatching plans to start worship at 1pm?

No Regrets

This is Ortberg on the David-Absalom tragedy in 2 Samuel, in particular the way that David never says “My son” until it is too late (2 Sam 18:33)

It is a story about regret, and regret because of the thing that was in our grasp that we missed, that we did not do, when the chance came.

“What do you do with a regret you cannot fix

You give it to a God who cannot fail.” (32 mins)

Also looks at the regret of God in the Noah story.

God’s pain at a sinful world receives its ultimate expression on a cross.  On the cross God gnashes his teeth.  “My son, My Son” if only I could die in your place, and on the cross God does.

Story about putting our burdens down, a pack that you didn’t know that you could put down.

How to wreck your life

The old gods have not gone away, they have just gotten sneakier.

Prosperity masks our idols and crisis reveals them.

The question is not “Do we have idols, but which ones do we have?”  Ortberg names eight:

1. Money

2. Success

3. Being smart – bragging about degrees

4. Attractiveness – often a lot of pain and attention and anxiety given to this one

5. Relationship.  This one is a little more subtle.  It is about the place that we can give certain relationships.  There is a book called “If you can’t live without me, how come you’re not dead”, which is about the obsessional nature of relationships.

6. Pleasure – what we call addiction, the Bible calls idoaltry.  So many of the rituals and dynamic around addiction are about worship

7. Church – a big problem in Jesus’ day

8. Work –  people trash their lives over work.

Then Ortberg asks 10 questions that allow us to mark against each of these, and work out which is our idol

1. Which of these do I find myself thinking about the most? Look over those eight. Which one of those
eight occupies your minds? Because our idols are what we tend to daydream about. We just think about
them a lot. Which one of those eight do you think about the most?
2. Which one of those do you most fear losing or feel like life might not be worth living if I did not have
this, if I lost that? Which one of those tempts you to feel that way?
3. Which one of these idols most gives me a sense of identity? Which one most makes me feel that
because I got this or am this, I’m somebody? Which one of those most gives you a sense of identity?
4. Which of these do I most look to, to make me feel secure? Which one are you most tempted to gain a
sense of security from? Put a little check mark next to that one.
5. Which of these eight do I most want to be known for? Again, it could be success or a relationship or
having money or something.
I was talking to one of my best friends. I have known this guy for 30 years. We went to grad school
together. But we were talking about grad schools we applied to, and I was telling him about one that
rejected me, but I implied if I really wanted to get into it, I could have gotten into it. Now, why do I do
that? Well, I have an idol problem. It’s embarrassing and goofy to talk about it, but it’s just in me.
6. Again, as you look at those eight, which one of those eight most causes my emotions to go up and
down? …makes me happiest when I have lots of it, makes me saddest when it’s threatened. Just put a
check mark next to that.
7. Which one of those would other people who know me well say is my most likely idol? Which one of
those items of the people who know me…because other people, they see that stuff in me. Well, just put a
check mark to it. Which one would other people say is probably your idol?
8. Of those eight, which one do my efforts most tend to revolve around? Because we give our behavior,
our actions, toward our ultimate priority. Which one of these do I sacrifice the most for?

Tim Keller, in his book “Counterfeit gods” quotes two scholars who say that the central organising principle of the Bible is the rejection of idolatry.

The cost of the idols

1. They will cost you gods purpose for your life.  The idol has no greater purpose for you, it only wants the best of you, or it will make you like itself – added by Neil

2. They will exhaust you – “thou shalt perform”

3. The idol will not give you what you need the most.

Option For The Young

  • Young people live in places with complex social histories and youthwork landscapes.
  • Olson commented that though she herself is not a person of faith, she has “faith in people of faith” (not something you are likely to read here, for example).  Reasons why she thinks a Church which engages more with young people is necessary are for her:

    • It is another avenue of opportunity for young people
    • Allows people of the Church to escape from their own “poverty of ambition” caricature of the life of young people.  She characterised young people as being engaged in a very difficult contest (which slightly reminded me of the description of the life of young people in Chicago in Freakonomics, in which the rewards are great, but there are very few winners, and everyone has to start at the bottom – X-factor write large).
    • A chance to link into a network with resources which go all the way up.

    It was sobering also to hear Noel Matthias (who grew up in India) saying that “growing up in Scotland is extremely hard”; and Martin Johnstone, in a push to move away from the culture which moans about young people, reminisce about an old friend who once commented “I am so hopeful about the future because of our young people, they are so much better than I was when I was their age”.

    One Body, Many Parts

    So one day he called the family together

    He, his wife and his daughter sat down and he dropped upon them this bomb shell

    “Here’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to go to Mexico and build an orphanage for $45,000”

    You can imagine what the first response to this, was total shock.

    But after about two days the second response kicked in.

    The wife kissed her husband for the first time in months, and their relationship began to rediscover some of its old affection.

    And the daughter what did she do?

    She began to use Facebook to contact all her friends and raise money for building this orphanage.

    And after some weeks she broke off the relationship with the boyfriend.

    Miller suggested that the reason for this was that the daughter had a new story.

    It was the “build an orphanage for abandoned children” story

    It was a story in which she was the heroine

    And heroines don’t go out with losers – their term not mine,

    And so she ended the relationship with the boyfriend.

    Do you ever see someone you really care about

    You really value and cherish

    Perhaps your own daughter, in a relationship with someone who is wholly inappropriate

    And you are thinking “What are you doing with that guy?  You could do so much better than him?”

    But part of the problem is that she has not realised what she is

    How precious she is

    And does not think that she is worth any more than his

    Promises that never come to much

    His derogatory names for her

    His refusal to offer him any sort of a firm commitment

    And she begins to think that that is what she is worth.

    That is the pain that Paul is in with the Church in Corinth

    The Corinthian Church, like all his Churches, is like a daughter to him

    It is like a child

    And the child is in pain.

    The child is in pain, because it is tearing itself apart into different factions

    It is in pain because some of the factions are suing each other in court

    It is in pain because some of the factions come to communion and eat all the bread and drink all the wine – the wealthy factions versus the slaves who have to finish work

    It is in pain because some of the parts of the Church look down on other parts, for being less religious than them

    And yet when they do have a part of the Church that is behaving way out of whack, that is causing genuine harm, they do nothing.

    And so what does Paul do with the child that is in pain

    He gives them another story

    In fact he gives them two stories.

    The second story is that the Church is going to be redeemed and become part of God’s everlasting creation

    That’s the story that we will be thinking about over the next few weeks

    But the other story that the Church is given is

    “You are the body of Christ”

    You are messed up

    And you are sinning

    And you are failing to live the kinds of lives that you are called to

    But you remain the body of Christ

    That is your story.

    In the passage straight before this one

    Is the one about some of the Corinthians feeling superior to others, because some of them can speak in tongues, and others cannot.

    And the one before that is about the communion services where the rich are fed and the poor go away hungry.

    And Paul says “You are one body”

    One Body, Many Parts

    The first thing that Paul says about the body is that bodies have many parts

    You cannot get a body that is of one part

    Nor can you get many parts that not part of a body, unless they are dying I guess.

    You have to deal with the fact that Christ works on this principle of the many being one.

    Sometimes, people say “I prefer to talk to God by myself”, “you don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian”

    And those things are right

    But,

    You are going to handicap your Christian growth so much,

    Because you violate the principle that Christ’s body is many parts

    It is not just you

    And for all the pain of their being many parts

    Of different parts having to be co-ordinated

    Of different visions

    Christ says “No, it is the many parts approach that we are going for.”

    “many parts being one”

    This great miracle that something which is many, can have something about it which is unified, one.

    That is the story

    Many, but most truly one.

    Paul, from verse 12 through to 14, says three times, “many” – “one”

    And he notes that we have all been baptised

    And we have all been made to drink of the Spirit.

    We have different backgrounds

    We are middle class and working class

    We are employed and unemployed

    We are male and we are female

    We are young and we are old

    We have been coming to Church all our lives, we have been coming for a matter of weeks

    We can remember who Mr Sillars was, and Mr. Currie was, and some of you have only known me.

    Some of us like old hymns, some of us like modern worship songs – the guitar wars

    Some of you relate to me, and some of you find me odd and distant

    But we all came out of that font

    And we have all been made to drink of the Spirit – any of us who have believed the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation as Ephesians puts it

    All “one”

    And the many-ness is not the last word,

    It is the one-ness

    So as we look to the future, so we are “one”

    Not Feeling Part Of The One

    Now in the body in Corinth,
    There is a problem, that some people are acting superior

    Saying you have to speak in tongues

    Arriving first to the communion services and eating all the food

    And Paul has spoken against that thing.

    But it is interesting now,

    He turns to the people who  have been on the wrong end of that kind of behaviour

    And he anticipates their resentment

    And it is this resentment that he addresses.

    Because if one of the obstacles to Church membership is the complacent and arrogant behaviour of those who are sure that they belong

    Another is the resentment and hurt of those who are given the message that they do not.

    And it is that second group that Paul addresses here

    And he has the audacity to suggest that they have modes of behaviour that they need to change.

    Not a part of the body

    Have a read of verses 15-16

    If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. [1]

    And Paul is saying here, actually your resentment, your pain

    Your sense of inadequacy doesn’t actually change your belonging to the body

    It’s almost like saying “tough, too late now, no you feel rubbish, but actually, you might feel not a part of the body, and all that feeling may be very powerful, may cause you to think all kinds of divisive, neglected thoughts,

    But actually, it changes nothing, you still are a part of the body.

    Why you feel nothing

    And then Paul begins to address, why you might not feel anything

    It is because the body has assigned a rank to you

    And you have believed it.

    In fact, our resentment, our sense of not being needed, does not mean that we not part of the body.

    It is interesting that when we are handed jobs in the Church

    Or parts of the body

    Some jobs are inevitably more glamorous than others

    Or given a different ranking.

    And Paul senses that there is a different ranking that we give to parts of the body

    Hand is ranked higher than foot

    Eye is ranked higher than ear, which in turn is ranked higher than nose.

    Curiously, this is a ranking that actually does operate still today.  The state of Connecticut in American assigns the following compensations for different body parts:  The master hand is worth 168 weeks of pay, the other hand, 155 and the foot 125.

    The Eye is worth 157 weeks of pay

    And the nose is worth 35.

    The heart is worth 416 and the pancreas 416, the liver 347 and the kidney 117.

    The state of Connecticut has ranked the value of parts of the body.

    But what about actual people, would we ever be so crude as to rank them

    As to put a value on how much they are worth

    Of course we do, it is reflected in how much we pay them.

    One of the galling things about these bankers saying “I am entitled to £500,000 worth of pay” is effectively what he is saying is “I am worth 20 of you.”

    And you could get angry with these guys.

    You could be full of resentment.

    But that would only be because you worried that this valuation actually might be true.

    And so Paul gets to work on the Banker’s valuation system

    And the State of Connecticut’s valuing system and he offers instead one of his own.

    And Paul’s valuing system is that every part of the body is ranked the same.

    And this partly goes back to the fact that we are all baptised

    And all been made to drink of the Holy Spirit.

    But also because all are needed.

    If the body did not have you, Oh ear who is worth 130 weeks’ pay, how could it hear

    If the body did not have you, Oh nose, who is worth 35 weeks pay, how could it smell.

    You are thinking “Could live with that, could live without being able to smell”

    But Paul won’t hear of it

    A body that can’t smell is as unthinkable as a body that can’t see.

    And this is something that we have to realise about our body here

    There will be something vitally important

    And that this body will not be able to do if you are not a part of that

    And the first person who has to believe this is not me – I am the second person that has to believe it

    The first person that has to learn to believe this, is you.

    You are in the body, and you are worth as much as a Session Clerk

    As an elder

    As an organist

    As a board member

    As a Sunday School teacher

    As a property convener

    As a treasurer

    As a minister

    We don’t communicate that

    We don’t use you enough

    But that is the truth.

    And how we get to the better future, is if we start to believe that.


    [1]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

    Does Parenting Make A Difference

     

    Matters: The child had low birthweight

    Doesn’t: The child attended Head Start

     

    Matters: The child’s parents speak English in the home

    Doesn’t: The child’s parents regularly take him to museums

     

    Matters: The child is adopted

    Doesn’t: The child is regularly spanked

     

    Matters: The child’s parents are involved in the PTA

    Doesn’t: The child frequently watches television

     

    Matters: The child has many books in his home

    Doesn’t: The child’s parents read to him nearly every day.