I rarely watch ‘Newsnight’ but caught it last week. I watched this section open-mouthed and genuinely grateful that my license fee enables things like this to happen.
Yes: he does not give a complete vision and you may be thinking ‘but will it work?’. But, in a western culture where politics seems to have become management, the rich get richer and large swathes of Western Europe have no engagement with any political process, this makes for compelling viewing. I was practically on my seat cheering when I watched this.
The more I see of Russell Brand, the more like him: passionate, inconsistent, lewd, funny and angular. Why is it a comedian proving more prophetic than a politician? Maybe it is because he has nothing at stake and can speak freely. Maybe we need the Shakesperian fool more often than we think we do.
This is not a ‘political’ blog in the sense that I don’t ‘do’ political commentary: I don’t feel fully qualified to do it. However, in a week when a bunch of smirking and laughing millionaires began to effectively dismantle the welfare state, something in me snapped….please be aware that when you have privilege and you say you are making tough choices: smirking and laughing do not help in convincing the rest of us.
I have never voted Tory in a General Election: I could never bring myself to. But I do remember a Conservatism that did not victimise and scapegoat those at the bottom, that argued that wealth brought responsibilities. I don’t see that much anymore.
So I thought I would quote Neil Kinnock, at the time when Labour were in the wilderness in the 1980s. More particularly just before Labour were heavily defeated in 1983. I find his words passionate and oddly prophetic:-
‘I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford. I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income. If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old’.
I started this series as I had become aware that there was a tendency among all of us to suffer from the ‘Messiah Complex’: either variations on the theme of ‘I am above everything’ or ‘I am responsible for everything’. I thought it was especially magnified amongst the ordained due to the pecularities of the role; a tendency to work alone, to be the ‘God’ representative, to have few external markers of ‘success’ or ‘job done’ and to have to speak-at least once a week- with people listening to you and not butting in. Those things can destroy you if you are not careful.
This was one of the last things I put on the old blog. I’ve used it loads. It helps me to fight my own symptoms:-
It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Oscar Romero (1917-80)
I don’t really ‘do politics’ here. It wasn’t what I set up this blog for. However, I have been following the ongoing saga of the camp around St Paul’s in London for a while (The City of London and North Yorkshire may as well be in two seperate countries). The protesters may lack coherence but there are a number of insightful voices.
Several times a week I get an http://www.ekklesia.co.uk mailing which mostly speaks common sense. When the Church in this country, locally or nationally tries to speak ‘top down’ I stop listening. While such a mode of speaking/acting may be popular for large sections inside the church, it just makes us look remote, patronising, arrogant and worthy of being ignored.
This statement last week by the Director of Ekklesia gets to the heart of this issue and mission in a post christian culture:-
“Occupy LSX has also presented an unprecedented (some would say God-given) opportunity for the established Church radically to reconsider its mission and message in a plural society – seizing the chance to move from failing attempts at top-down control based on historic patronage, and towards dynamic engagement with those at the grassroots and on the margins of an unequal and uneasy social order.”
“The core Christian message is that, in Jesus Christ, God pitched a tent among human beings for the purposes of bringing about radical personal and social change based on love and justice. The ‘vertical church’ of Christendom, emblemized by the remote, patronising and hierarchical response of the St Paul’s management to a flowering of creative protest, is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in a post-Christendom situation. By contrast, Occupy, with its energy and imagination, is modelling a different possibility for the church. The institutions of Christianity need to be remade from the edges inwards. They need to be turned inside out.”
(I’ve tried, but there is nothing right with this picture…i think I must have entered irredeemably ‘grumpy old man’ territory…)
Lots of thoughts go around my head on Sunday. I never find it easy or glib to stand in front of others. Maybe that is why I sometimes overreact on here over people who seem to do or songs that seem to proclaim ‘all is well’.
I’m taking with me into this day a story I heard from a school with a faith basis of a child joining with special needs ; the sense from the Head that other parents were muttering along the lines of ‘I’m not sure about this: how will this affect the education of my child’. I’m also taking with me looking for another car (the last one is no more- being written off in a crash)- taking ages to find the ‘right’ car or the ‘safest’ one. I’m thinking of the temptation to buy more than I ‘need’ or buy the car that is safest for us-keeps our little family safe, but may actually be more dangerous to other pedestrians or other drivers.
These are unconscious (and conscious) middle class mores that we look consciously (and unconsciously) for God to baptise, either on a Sunday or with this kind of vague christianity that permeates areas like where I live.
As I preach and lead worship, I realise it is not ‘them’ I am preaching at, so much as ‘us’. I want to give hope, but also faithful questions and try and get at a ‘Jesus centred’ way. I react at a ‘gospel’ that seems purely ‘spiritual’ or another extreme that seems like social work with a bright thought attached. It is never easy….
Here is Psalm 15 (the Message) which has made me think a lot this week:-
God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?
tell the truth.
“Don’t hurt your friend,
don’t blame your neighbor;
despise the despicable.
“Keep your word even when it costs you,
make an honest living,
never take a bribe.
“You’ll never get
if you live like this.”
‘leadership is being deeply aware of the gap between what is, and what is not yet, and having the courage to attend to the gap’.
I’ll lay my cards on the table: a lot of what I read about ‘leadership’ leaves me cold; it seems to owe more to management speak and crushing the opposition than anything biblical.
I like this quote; it gives me hope as it talks about listening and watching, dreaming and then inspiring- I want to be a leader like this.
From time to time (and sometimes more often than that) I post stuff on this blog that has been shamelessly ripped from other sources.
ThisÂ made me think this week-
I am increasingly convinced that our â€˜missionalâ€™ voice is tied to our prophetic voice and if we canâ€™t live significantly different lives and reflect the kingdom in the things we do, then chances are people will not be the least bit interested in our words. By the same token part of the churchâ€™s role in society is to critique the ways we seek meaning and fulfillment and to boldly point people back to Jesus – knowing that many will still regard this as folly.
This quote from Segunda has resonated deeply with me over the last few weeks:
â€œWe believe it is appropriate to the religious life to call into question or even protest against church and society; against the church to the extent that it is decadent or ambiguous, or has lost its radical dynamism; against society to the extent that it has become dehumanized or dechristianised and
thus the source of oppression and injusticeâ€ p.82 Following Jesus
Newbiggin has said that the â€˜church is the hermeneutic of the gospelâ€™, or in laymans terms â€˜the way the local church expresses itself communicates clearly the nature of our gospelâ€™.
I find that at times my life seems to look like nothing more than a religious version of ordinary suburban existence as I fall into line with everyone else, but I desire much more than this.
Try these as well which seem to be saying the same thing:-
http://plantingcentral.typepad.com/bench/2009/06/what-would-you-have-done.htmlÂ (at the 6th paragraph)
http://timchester.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/living-ordinary-life-with-gospel-intentionality-means/Â for practical ways of beginning this.
Hmm….. listen then for what the Spirit is saying to the churches…… I am involved with places where some want to try new things. Hell, I want to try new things. Perhaps what these writers are getting at is a new thing that is a very old thing………… and the cost- can we pay it? Can I pay it?