Re-thinking Christianity - one week at a time!                 'NOT YOUR USUAL SERMON'                                Radical. Rational. Inclusive.                                                                                              

'NOT YOUR USUAL SERMON'. A weekly reflection and questions for discussion based on the Common Lectionary passages. Download 3 months' FREE here. Friendly feedback always welcome.
1. JUNE 9TH TO AUGUST 25TH 2019.pdf
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Imagine doing 'Christianity' differently. Is a 'God' still the answer to life's questions? The bishops talk of 'Re-imagining' the Church. You can't do that if the beliefs always remain the same. What was considered 'true' in the past might not be 'true' now'. But hardly anyone wants to talk about that or to question the historic doctrines and creeds. The status often given to the Bible prevents many of us from seeing faith as intellectually or morally possible. We have learnt a lot more since then!

 

There may be an 'unutterable beauty' (Studdert-Kennedy) or an 'infinite mystery' (John Churcher) behind it all. But once you have uttered its name, or claim to know all about it, that's no longer what you are talking about. Those 'gods' are ours alone. Most people think it's all superstitious nonsense; maybe they're right. But there's a long human story here that we're in danger of losing. So let's at least make it clear that it's all our own ideas that we are discussing. Then perhaps more will join in the conversation, rather than just ignoring us or feeling excluded unless they conform.

 

I don't think Jesus of Nazareth was ever interested in starting a new religion with himself as the focus. That's all down to us too. So what's left? An exciting journey towards discovering our full humanity. But we have to be honest. Is Christianity 'good news'? Or just more 'fake news'?

 

Here's where I'm coming from. Does it make me a 'Christian'? Almost certainly not. Does that matter? 

 

  • All religion, like art or music, is an entirely human activity. We create our beliefs, our scriptures, our gods, and all the images and words we use to describe them. All religious claims are human claims, from within our human experiences and senses, not an encounter with an 'Other'. How can they be anything else? We need to find an ever-new vocabulary if 'spiritual' ideas are still to have any meaning. Or just let them go and start again from here.

 

  • Jesus was a man of his time. He died because the Romans executed him, not because a God required it for my 'salvation'. He was not himself 'God' and never claimed to be, but he shows that self-giving and compassion are the ideal ways to live. His example (and that of others like him) can bring us healing in the face of all the things that seek to damage us . His human life offers us a path to follow in our search for personal wholeness.

 

  • Because of the unjust way he died, he also symbolically 'bears the sins of the world' in solidarity with all others - of any faith or creed or none at all - who have been oppressed, disadvantaged and excluded. His memory lives on in us and he acts as a focus for all those who share his fate. Following his Way means we have to stand alongside them and try to find what is good in the world - previously known as 'seeking the kingdom of God'! 

 

 

Let's talk about God! I also offer a Study Day on request looking at John Robinson's classic book, 'Honest to God'. Can there be an authentic 'Christian' faith without an interventionist personal God? Is it all about life before death, not after? Have we missed something important here that might help people to see it all in a new, more C21st way? See below for more details.

 

My reflections are like a film 'based on the book' or a screenplay 'inspired by real events', not just a carbon-copy of the original. They are a kind of 'midrash' -  a commentary on and development of the original Judao-Christian texts and beliefs, not merely their repetition. So, for example, this contemporary image, from Sri Lanka after the dreadful bombings, is a symbol that Jesus stands with us, here on earth, in our suffering, pain, loss and violence, not up in heaven watching. My human journey includes Jesus when he was still remembered as a radical teacher, healer and prophet who lived on in people's personal/spiritual experience, not as the second member of an eternal Trinity. How might following him be re-interpreted in the light of what we now know to be true? We do not have to keep to the ancient path alone.

 

We have to be prepared to reassess the content of 'Christianity', not just its presentation. I am not attacking it; I'm trying to re-think how it could be.  A faith should focus on how you live; on what difference it makes, not just be a list of required statements to which everyone is expected to assent without discussion. Fundamentalism and so-called 'Biblical' authority are not the way forward, in Christianity or any other religion. That's like asking people to use the internet based on a manual designed for a typewriter! It might work for a few who are willing to set aside everything else they know to be true, but it just digs a deeper and deeper hole for them to disappear into.

 

The overwhelming majority of people are not convinced. It's a stone when we asked for bread. Just the same old wine in recycled wineskins. We need something genuinely new.

 

'And a little child shall lead them' said the prophet Isaiah. I recently visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The centrepiece is a massive circular war memorial with two group sculptures. Each of them shows muddied and frightened figures gently bearing away a dead and naked man from the battlefield. A school party was there and one of the children asked her teacher, 'Is that Jesus'? The answer, of course, is 'Yes'. That's how Jesus still lives, as we find that his human story echoes our own. That's the Way I try to follow.

 

I value the Christian past. I find Christian history endlessly fascinating and probably know as much about the Bible as most clergy! This is my heritage and I am not ashamed of it. I don't want it to die. But it will, unless it changes. Christianity has never come to terms with the new view of the world that came with science, Darwin etc. It still asks us to believe in a God who is now unbelievable. We're still waiting for a theological revolution to match the astronomical one after Copernicus! So let's say something different before it's too late!

 

Simplistic 'answers' to life's questions just don't work anymore. Or they don't last. Cathedrals are showing increased attendance because they offer such a range of more thoughtful activities and styles of spirituality. For me, the music is a metaphor. The faith journey should be like great music, with a variety of ideas and insights alongside each other. It can be challenging at times. But we need to enjoy the harmony, not expect everyone to sing in unison, or no-one else will listen.

 

NOT YOUR USUAL QUIET DAY!

A STUDY DAY ON 'HONEST TO GOD'. Or 'NOT YOUR USUAL CHURCH WEEKEND'. No endless PowerPoints or lengthy lectures. Probably not much silence either, but plenty of opportunity for reflection, discussion and questions. This short book, very controversial but widely read when it was published in 1963, still raises many fascinating issues for the open-minded enquirer, whether or not you would describe yourself as a Christian. You don't have to agree with it, but what was all the fuss about and what might we have to learn from its contents today? A day/weekend to find out and make up your own mind. More details below:
'HONEST TO GOD' REVISITED.pdf
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But my website also reflects my other main interest. Can Christianity and its central figure mean anything to those who are not convinced that conventional ideas of 'God' and religion take us where we need to go as modern, thoughtful human beings? Can faith be radical, rational and inclusive?

 

Friendly FEEDBACK is always very welcome. Please let me know if you have found my thoughts interesting and helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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