Saturday, 30 January 2010

What kind of culture do you live in?

Recently many sporting events were cancelled because of the icy conditions including a match scheduled at the home of football, the Emirates Stadium. I was intrigued by comments made by the Arsenal FC boss Arsene Wenger. He complained about a perceived "risk-averse" culture with clubs, police, local authorities too concerned by the prospect of litigation. He said, "Nobody accepts anymore that the slightest insecurity could exist in our society and that is why the games are postponed when there is no real need for it."
Insightful as is so often the case, Wenger highlights something important that is taking an increasing hold on us as a society.... fear. A risk-averse culture is a fear-filled one - we don't like insecurity, we don't like to feel de-stablised in any way, we will seek after comfort and control of our own circumstances at all costs and of course fail miserably. The earthquake in Haiti causes us to think, the rash of apocalyptic movies and TV series speak of the lack of control and the growing insecurity over our future and yet we carry on in what the final recording of Delirious called the 'Kingdom of Comfort'. Yet we honour and value another kingdom... one that is not risk averse, that calls us to risk all and to not try to save our own lives but rather to lose them.
There is a heightened sense of risk in what we are seeking to do.... become communities of disciples who don't expect others to come to us but rather emphasise going to others. We are laying down the safety of what we know for a far greater prize; that others would come to know Jesus as we know him.... the one in whom we find ultimate security for our lives because he will "never leave us or forsake us". This is the kind of culture we must seek to live in... not a risk-averse culture but a risk-full culture.... so we can say... like Peter said to Jesus "we have left everything to follow you" and hear Jesus' challenging words of reassurance in return:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." 
You will have noticed our new church name - do have a look at our website
We are in the midst of a consultation and planning for hopefully becoming a Bishop's Mission Order (BMO) rather than a Parish Church. Some limited information and a link is available on our website. I am very aware in this process that we have a tendency in the CofE to try to pin things down to early. The genius of the Bishop's Mission Order is that you can allow things to be a 'work in progress' and the advantage of allowing for review is that we can set a course and then make course changes as we go along. As we progress through consultation we need to be really clear on the objectives of becoming a Bishop's Mission Order;

              To enable Kairos to function in non-geographical missional network across parish boundaries developing and planting Mission Shaped Communities (MSCs).
2.      To define the place that Kairos occupies in relation to inherited and other expressions in the Harrogate Deanery as one of mission partnership.
3.      To focus Kairos fully on its distinctive vision and calling.
4.      To ensure that the pastoral care/occasional offices that will be required in the Cold Bath Road/Harlow Hill area of Harrogate are taken care of through pastoral reorganisation.

Keeping things simple, seeking lightweight, low maintenance ways of governing and leading the church and giving continued priority to our vision is vital. All these kinds of things though are of no use without keeping our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Conversion of life, cheapening of grace & the cost of discipleship

It is a costly thing to follow Christ. The 'conversio morum' - the conversion of life - is made much harder by the way we idolize comfort "if it's not comfortable it can't be right".... I like the old translation of Psalm 23 "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" - when you know that the rod and staff were the tools by which the shepherd would guide sheep, keeping them in line and not always gently then you can see a new dimension to the care of the shepherd. In fact we are to look for peace Colossians 3:15 ruling in our hearts - not comfort. Jesus gives us his comforter who does comfort us but often the process of receiving the comforter is anything but comfortable as we are to draw near to him in faith with humility - I don't know many human beings who do consistently well at being humble. I talked about faith on Sunday morning at our central gathering - how to grow in faith from having little faith to the kind of small faith that can move mountains. So often our desire for control, to manage our own comfort stops us from living and walking in faith. There is great joy in knowing and following Jesus but we know that to walk his way is to walk a path of losing ones life in order to gain it. But instead we seek a comfort, a cheap grace, we, in the words of Matt Redman, "craft for ourselves a more comfortable cross".
Dietrich Boenhoffer - imprisoned & murdered by the Nazi regime, a man who was in on the start of one of the new monastic movements spoke eloquently about the cost of discipleship and the cheapening of grace;

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer "The Cost of Discipleship

I need say no more.