Posts Tagged 'rob bell'

Ball Of Confusion

“Ball of Confusion

That’s what the world is today.

Hey, hey.”

From “Ball of Confusion” by The Temptations (and Love & Rockets)

The video clip above still encapsulates a seminal song for me from the eighties.  A time where words and sounds collided to resonate with the state of the world…weird, to think it was a cover version of a song by soul legends, The Temptations…

The lyrics still ring as true today as I look out of my window, read the paper, surf the net, watch the telly or speak with people I know.

One of my friends faces redundancy, another has financial issues to try and resolve, one suffers bipolar and is in a really dark place of self harm and repeated attempts at suicide…

I once heard a podcast of Rob Bell talking of the idea of “Sabbath”.  He described it as “the day when my work is complete, even if it’s not.”  I really like that phrase.  For me, these past few weeks have been demanding as I try to juggle work and other commitments.  I face some mega deadlines in the weeks ahead and, if I stop and think about it too long, I feel my stomach tie into knots.  The flip side is that I am thankful that we are winning so many instructions in these tough economic conditions.  So at the start of this day, I commit to sabbath.

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I’ve also felt a conviction to take more of my prompts from scripture rather than just my own worldview of conventional wisdom or song lyrics…

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians Ch3: 6 & 7).

Wonder (part 6)

This is the sixth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here and post 5 is here.

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So as I mentioned earlier, the same day of the terrorist attach on Glasgow Airport in July 2007 we went to hear Rob Bell deliver a presentation in Glasgow entitled “Calling All Peacemakers”.  What does that look like?  Thank you Fourth space for sharing your notes from the talk which I have heavily plagiarised for this post!!!

Rob pointed out that the Kingdom of God is here, right now, and is present.  The message of Jesus is to return (to repent) and get back into a right life.  BUT: We live in an evil, dark world.  A world with fighting and turmoil and pain. What does Jesus say to that?

Jesus says if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one.  He helpfully explained that for the Jews, the right hand was the clean hand, used for eating and handshakes.  The left hand was used for…..well, not polite stuff anyway.  You’d want to wash your hand.  So the left hand was unclean.  So you would only strike someone with your right hand, as otherwise you would be unclean.  You had two options – a right hand fist to the right cheek (hitting with a fist was indicating that person was your equal – remember it was all about relative status) or secondly, to slap – to strike an unequal, with the back of your right hand; this would be done only to a slave, a minion, a soldier below you, to someone less human than you.  So if someone hit you on the right cheek, then it follows that it must have been a slap as they couldn’t hit the right cheek with their right fist.  To have been hit on your right cheek must have indicated that the person hitting you thought you were below them – a lesser human being.  So when you turn the cheek, they would have to hit you with the fist, treating you as an equal.  It was a simple way of turning things upside down of asserting that you did not consider yourself less than them and asking them to recognise that.  It moved the position of the person being struck from unequal to equal.  This simple action takes away power and coercion.   It says, “Treats me as equal.  Validate me”.

If someone takes your coat, then give your shirt also.  Remember that the Jews would have had 2 layers – a shirt, then a coat.  So if someone sues you and takes your coat (what if you have only that left, 80-90% tax rates at the time – Jews had been conquered, there was a big army, which was in need of high revenues, so there was a high tax on people conquered – e.g. census at Christmas for purpose of counting people).  People were losing family lands.  People were oppressed.  People who were poor and having to get hired out hourly to work on their own land.  These people were experiencing shame, humiliation and guilt.  All you have left is your coat.  You are poor.  Jesus says to give to them your shirt also.  Why?  Because viewing the nakedness of another was shameful in that culture for the person who viewed it – not the person who had been stripped bare.  Again, this turns things upside down.  The master would then say “stop doing that”, put your clothes back on.  The oppressed person is now acting, the master begging him to stop.  It offered an innovative, peaceful and practical way to deal with the situation.  The genius is that the aggressor may change his heart and give the coat back.

Jesus says if demanded to walk 1 mile, then go another one.  Romans mastered the place, these are the people who invented crucifixion.  These were not nice conquerors.  Roman soldiers could demand that you walked with them, to carry their pack – even if on Sabbath, you had no choice, even if it meant being apart from your family.  It treats you like an animal.  BUT Roman military rules restricted this to 1 mile per person.  So if you then walked another mile, the Romans had to beg you to stop – otherwise they would be in trouble with the military commanders and could face a court marshall.  The Romans would have begged you to stop.  A Roman wouldn’t want to be caught punishing a person who was carrying their pack.  So Jesus says be fearless. Go the 2nd mile.  Put the Roman in an awkward situation.  Ask him to do something.

The world we live in suffers from lack of imagination.

When we suffer wrong there are 2 approaches we usually take:

1)  Do nothing.  Pacifism.  Turn the other cheek.  Take it.  God loves you.  Jesus gave my spine to someone else.  This is not what Jesus is advocating.

2)  Strike back.  Pick up the sword and swing.  Corresponding level of aggression.  “Let me tell you about those gossips so you can pray better for them” etc. At that moment you have just lost.

Jesus is giving a 3rd way.  Not passivity.  3rd way theology.  Jesus pioneered non-violence.  Gives us imagination.

Turn the other cheek.  Do not co-operate with anything that humiliates you.  Preserve the image of God.  Protect the humanity.  He holds out the possibility that the aggressor may have a change of heart.  We can see it acted out in more modern examples e.g. Freeze practices of Danish resistance.  Chose a random time, e.g. Thurs 2.07, held a 2mins freeze.  Saved thousands of people, allowed thousands to escape WWII with their conscience intact.

Is there a 3rd way here today? Can I do things differently?

How can you get to the oppressor asking you to stop your innovative, non-violent and yet provocative action?

The 3rd way demonstrates tremendous creativity and  massive courage.

THE CROSS

This was first seen as an icon 300-400AD, funnily enough the same time as the Romans died out.  Crucifixion was a genius tool for oppressors – kills people, they suffer for a time, most people can see it and heed its warning.  The cross only became art when people who had seen crucifixion died out. – YET WE SING SONGS OF THE CROSS & ITS POWER. HAD COSMIC IMPLICATIONS FOR FIRST CHRISTIANS. GOD RECONCILES ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF THROUGH THE CROSS.  God makes peace with all things.  Very real reconciliation.  The work has been done, it’s about trust through the cross & resurrection.

BUT REMEMBER THAT THIS RECONCILIATION REFERRED TO ALL THINGS. Reconciliation – trusting Jesus is where it starts.  The cross is our personal encounter with Jesus.  Christ wants to put each of us back together.  The cross is the only hope.

As church experiences shalom together He works inside us, bonds us to others.  We then understand we need to bring shalom to the world.  God wants to reconcile himself to all things.

The world today

– 6bn people

– USA 300m

– UK 60m

This is only 8% of the world population.

  • 1 billion people do not have clean drinking water
  • 2.6bn people do not have adequate sanitation – leads to lower immune rates etc
  • 780-800m people are hungry due to no food
  • 2.2bn children. 1bn live in poverty (absence of basic necessities)
  • 2bn no electricity
  • 80% live in sub-standard housing
  • 1bn can not read or sign their name
  • Wealthiest 1% have same net worth as poorest 57%
  • 1bn people live off <$1/day
  • 2bn more <$2/day

THIS IS NOT SHALOM

  • 20% of the world consume 86% of world’s resources

In Rwanda there was a woman who was very poor – a micro-finance loan was given, she bought a stall, built house & owns it, uniforms & food for kids & they go to school.  She was able to pay the loan back. $40 loan.  Given to someone else. Etc etc.   For these particular series of talks Rob Bell was offering £1 off the ticket price and that £1 went to turami, to micro-finance in Burundi where $90 is the average annual income.  The repayment rate on micro-finance loans is 98-99% globally.

All the spare money from the speaking tour went to turami.  Lets set out to bring shalom.  Catch a vision for being a peacemaker.  Bring shalom to the world.

 Peace & Shalom.

Wonder (part 4)

This is the fourth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.

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In July 2007 there was a terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport.  Those who drove a burning vehicle into the departure lounge did so “in the name of God”.

That same day, we were in Glasgow listening to Rob Bell deliver a talk entitled “Blessed Are The Peacemakers”.

What does that really look like right here, right now?

Lucky

“It’s gonna be a glorious day”

From “Lucky” by Radiohead

When Thom Yorke delivers the above line, it is a crecendo which soars and lifts my spirit.

Today I was awoken by the my daughter’s calls for me which have become my Sunday morning alarm.  Once I got focused, I realised that I had a heart and head full of content thoughts having spent the last two evenings in the company of important friends, chatting to the wee small hours over good food and red wine. 

After a read of yesterday’s Guardian whilst my daughter watched a little TV, I pulled on my jeans and wind-cheater and strolled down the road to our favourite, nearby, cafe to pick up fresh coffees and pastries.  The sun was still low in the sky and bright enough for me to squint into it for most of the walk.  The air had that frosty chill when you inhale deeply followed by steam exiting my nostrils.  My Bloody Valentine provided a perfect sound-scape from my headphones as I tried to dampen the muffled sound of the passing cars and their long shadows.  There were copper leaves in the gutter and middle aged women carefully delivering communion galsses to the local church.

Sunday is often referred to as a day of rest.  We had the best laid plans of making it to the early service at 9.30 as my wife was heading off to a class with a friend at 12.  We were nowhere near making 9.30 and had thought of just ditching the 11.15 service in exchange for a family day together and, maybe, a drive in the car listening to last week’s sermon on iTunes.  20 minutes before the 11.15 service, our nearly four year old started saying how much she wanted to go to church.  Five minutes later the two of us were properly dressed and bundled into the car with her singing “Worthy, You Are Worthy” the whole way there.  (It is usually that, or “The Milkman of Human Kindness” from the child seat these days and either is fine with me).

We made it to church on time and joined some close friends in the pew.  The music was great and my daughter was desperate to go down the front and do some actions she had learned to “Worthy You Are Worthy”, before disappearing to Sunday Club all by herself like a proper little indie pop kid.

The sermon was powerful.  Our Senior Pastor Karl noted, “We are here today because God brought you here”.  I was there because my insistent nearly 4 year old wanted to be at church enough to kick my butt into action and I am more than grateful to her for it.  As I type this, my wife has headed out to the evening service to hear the same sermon.  As I look at the scribbled notes I took during the sermon, I wonder what specifically I was meant to hear?  What is to be illuminated to me and how will I respond?

The afternoon was spent helping my daughter on her bike, aping around in crunchy, fallen, leaves, playing in the swing-park, eating a late lunch and playing “nurseries” whilst being scolded any time I tried to sneak off to play my drums.

All in all, it has been a glorious day. 

I once heard Rob Bell deliver an amazingly helpful sermon on what it means to keep the Sabbath.  He described it as “the day when my work is complete, even if it’s not”.  A time to intentionally set aside the things that so often consume us, to rest and be fed instead.  He encouraged the listeners to find out what feeds their souls and to do that.  For me, I really miss church if I’m not there on a Sunday – not out of any sense of religious guilt, but, simply because it is a great place to be.  A place where I am accepted, stimulated, challenged and leave with a bunch of thoughts and ideas scribbled in my notebook and bouncing around my  head.

Feeding my soul might include anything from spending a lazy day with my family, a cozy afternoon in our home with the rain drumming off the skylights or paddling out into the sea on my surfboard to try and catch some waves – just feeling small in the vastness of nature, but fully alive.  And yet, any of those activities would take second place for me when compared with getting to one of our Sunday services.

Morrisey once beautifully sang, “Every day is like Sunday.  Every day is silent and grey”.  I no longer see Sundays or Sabbaths as something to be endured, but rather as something to be embraced.  As the Icicle Works put it “Love is full of wonderful colour”…or as REM put it, “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight losing my religion”.  But, what I have found is something stripped of tradition and ritual and yet appreciative of what those things point to or can help with.  My faith has felt more alive and stimulated in the last three or four years than it has done in a quite some time.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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