Thursday, December 17, 2009

And there's more..

Good Morning God,

There's a peculiar form of religious linguistic schizophrenia in a significant number of your ministers these days, including me - and it's all to do with holding the tension between making the gospel accessible for all, and challenging people to accept the challenge of discipleship.

Starting where people are often seems to entail 'dumbing down' the language of faith - but the reason that there is a language of faith is precisely because some things need to be said differently to even stand a chance of being understood: the great mystery at the heart of the Eucharist for example, needs the proclamation
'Holy Holy Holy Lord', God of power and might..
'God you are bloody Amazing!' - doesn't always manage to communicate the awe, wonder and otherness of that moment.

Likewise, 'my mate Jesus' , the guy we talk about in the pub, or at mother and toddlers group etc, can sometimes seem a little too nice to make powerful, life-changing, world shaping demands of us..

Liturgy has its place - especially at Christmas. Its important that we do somehow communicate the challenge of faith, not just the choice of faith, because to do less is to strip the gospel of any real import. Being a Christian ends up being reduced to something similar to being a supporter of a particular football team, or pop idol, or strictly come dancing contestant without the challenge of discipleship.

There's more - so much more to being a Christian than knowing ABOUT you God. Christ didn't come just to give us a religious holiday or a feel good factor. Our Christmas language can remind us that Christ came to give us so much more..

In Christ you invite us to encounter the truth of what we are not yet - but are invited to become, and to know that there is an 'other' who is 'holy' and different from us who, even in our wildest imaginings we could not consider ourselves to be the equal of.. but who nonetheless draws us close.

So we religious language schizophrenics spend our Christmases telling our stories with knitted nativities, or similar props, all the while we are really waiting and praying for the moment of grace when your Spirit can break in and speak. We conduct our candlelit carol services, and hold our breath in anticipation of the Holy speaking through words and music..
Finally, when we know our words are too simplistic and chatty, you nudge us to reach for the religious liturgical silence which speaks most powerfully albeit religiously into the timeless spark of grace, when - as Wesley put it - you were 'contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man'

When that silence has spoken, stilled the chaos and birthed possibility; and whilst the echo of it still lingers in the memory, you give us a moment to make the invitation: -

there's more...


  1. Deeply thought provoking.

  2. Yet grace can work in amazingly subtle ways. Jesus did not often speak of the kingdom in overtly theological language, but by talking about seeds, fathers and sons, glittering treasures, bread, wine. Sometimes we professional communicators forget that. I know I do.

  3. Agreed.. Jesus used common language to tell parables, but he also used religious liturgical language at key moments.. like quoting from the psalms from the cross..
    And using silence..

    Both and not either or..
    And sometimes.. we forget that in our desire to communicate the extraordinary moment in the ordinary language of the day..