Pulling us up from the mud

June 12, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Bible, Front, Mission, Tanzania, Theology

Having been in Mpanda for three months now we are starting to feel settled and are enjoying our work, making friends and organising our house to feel like a home! I’m particularly enjoying my job as operations manager, helping to set up and maintain the office for the project as our colleagues work with the local language communities to write down their languages and start translating parts of the Bible.

One of my favourite (in a tiring kind of way) moments of the week is Thursday evenings, when I get together with several of our Tanzanian colleagues to do a Bible study in Swahili. We have wanted to read through one of the gospels, so have started with Matthew and read a few verses each week. Read the rest of this entry →

Look at Jesus

October 14, 2011 in Mark, Bible, Front, Theology

I first came across this video a couple of months ago, of N.T. Wright being asked what he would say to his children on his deathbed. His response is simply to read the gospels and look at Jesus.

Jesus is absolutely in the middle. If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but you’re actually part of the drama which has him as its central character. Read the rest of this entry →

Expecting the Unexpected

October 10, 2011 in Mark, Bible, Front, Theology

At our early morning (6am… not easy to wake up for…!) Bible study at church last week we were discussing John 1, and in particular the Jewish expectations of a messiah. Often when we talk about what first-century Jews expected of a messiah it is easy to be critical, as we read the gospels knowing that Jesus will be revealed as the true messiah and expectations of a violent revolutionary will prove to be well wide of the mark.

But it struck me last week that this view may be unfairly harsh on the first-century Jews. After all, the Romans were occupying their promised land, and had desecrated the temple. They were in political turmoil and had apparently been overrun by their enemies. Read the rest of this entry →

What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus?

March 8, 2011 in Mark, Bible, Church, Mission

I’ve never met Jeremy, but have been following his blog on and off for the past couple of years. It was only today however, that I took the time to read some of his story of what it has meant for him to follow Jesus over the past few years.

I attended a Christian school, then went to a Christian college. After college, I spent five years as a pastor before enrolling in a leading Christian seminary to get a four-year Master’s degree in Bible and Theology. While in seminary, I worked as an editor in a Christian non-profit publishing and conference organization. As I neared graduation, I put together my resume so that I could get back into pastoral ministry. The placement counselor of the seminary told me that he had never seen a resume like mine, and that I could basically write my own ticket to nearly any church on their list.

That’s when my world began to fall apart. As I began to look at these churches that might want to hire me, I realized that I didn’t want to pastor a single one of them. They all had nice buildings, and lots of smiling, happy people with thick wallets. If I got a job with one of these churches, I and my family would have led comfortable, safe, and secure lives. I probably could have risen in the ranks of church hierarchy, written a few books, and been asked to speak at conferences.

… But as I looked around these churches, there were no poor, no homeless, no prostitutes, no atheists, no drug addicts. There definitely weren’t any democrats. Apparently, such people could be prayed for, but were not allowed to actually attend church.

That’s when I realized that I no longer wanted to be a pastor in the type of church that would want to hire someone like me.

So I began to change how I prayed. And that was the biggest mistake of my life.

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Jeremy continues to tell his story over the next few months and years in this post and elsewhere on his site. It isn’t an easy story. It isn’t a nice comfortable tale of a successful pastor selling some books and becoming a Christian celebrity. It’s a story of pain, of struggle, of darkness at times. Jeremy is no longer part of a conventional church, and yet as he studies the gospels with atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and Rastafarians, his story seems in many ways to echo that of Jesus that we see in those gospels.

I’ve been very moved by Jeremy’s story, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I’m shocked by how he was treated by Christians who told him all the answers but refused to honestly discuss his questions. I’m scared by how his Christian friends and colleagues abandoned him overnight when they thought he had become a heretic. I’m humbled by the way those who are not part of the church are often more loving and accepting of those who don’t have all the answers. I’m challenged as to whether I would be willing to give up the “respected Christian” status in order to really relate to and reach out to those often rejected by the church. But I think most of all I’m struck by the parallels with the Bible, where simplistic answers and earthly pride so easily distract the religious, and they are oblivious to how God is working through humble people as they live in awe of him and relate vulnerably to those around them.

Jeremy’s story challenges me that God doesn’t fit in my box, in my work or in my church. While I am preoccupied with “working for God”, I don’t notice Jesus over the other side of the road hanging out with the homeless and the prostitutes.