Christmas Health & Safety

Christmas Health and Safety reminder:
 
There is some official concern at the intentions expressed in public songs.
 
Please be advised that all employees planning to dash-through-the-snow-in-a-one-horse-open-sleigh, going over-the-fields-and-laughing-all-the-way are required to undergo a Risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs.
 
The assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.
 
Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch-their-flocks-at-night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that prior to shining-his/her-glory-all-around s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory
 
Following last year’s well publicised case, everyone is advised that legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. Rudolf Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.
 
While it is acknowledged that gift-bearing is commonly practised in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded under provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Further, caution is advised regarding other common gifts, such as aromatic resins that may initiate allergic reactions.
 
Finally, for those involved in the recent case of the infant found away in a manger, with no crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

Christmas video 16: Shepherds, Wise Men and baby Jesus spoken word

Miriam Swaffield wrote these spoken word videos about the shepherds, the wise men and baby Jesus. They are brilliant, we’ve used them with our 11-14 year olds who’ve loved them.

Fusion have recorded them and made them available for FREE download here – you might want to use them in your services or youth events you’ve got planned.

Links from the world of Christianity & Theology

Some interesting links from the world of Christianity & Theology:

One in five Brits do not know Jesus Christ born on 25 December, study finds: Report that a study has found that one in five British people do not know that the birth of Jesus is celebrated on Christmas Day.

Church of England trains leaders to help deal with terror trauma: Report on the Tragedy and Congregations project to help churches respond to the impact of tragedies through training ordinands in good practice, reflection and personal resilience.  One of my old lecturers, project director Professor Christopher Southgate, from the University of Exeter, is quoted.

Cassock chasers and compromised clergy: A response to abuse in the Church: blog by Dean of St Paul’s about Safeguarding and how the Church should respond better to survivors.

Oldest complete Latin ​​Bible set to return to UK after 1,302 years: the oldest complete Bible written in Latin, Codex Amiatinus, one of the great treasures of the Anglo Saxon world, is to return to Britain after more than 1,300 years. It will be lent to the British Library for a 2018 exhibition, Anglo Saxon Kingdoms, by the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence.

Public trust in priests has fallen to an all-time low: how do other professions compare?: Report that public trust in priests and clergy has reached an all time low, according to figures from Ipsos Mori’s long running Veracity Index. Of 988 adults polled, 65% said they trusted priests to tell the truth in 2017, down from 69% in 2016.

Christians are deemed to be dangerous, says Tim Farron: Report on a speech given by former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron at the annual lecture of the think tank Theos.

 

Christmas video 9: Mulberry Miracle

What does Christmas without Jesus look like?

Today in our consumeristic society we replace Jesus with a handbag, a smartphone, food, and so much more.  This is a great video that would work well at a carol service.

Christmas video 2: Jesus: Truth or Fairytale

“Jesus: Truth or Fairytale?” a Christmas video resource aimed at 16-19 year olds. For many young people Christmas is a fairytale, a nice story we repeat each year. This video asks the question, what if God really came to town?

The video features Meg Cannon reciting a spoken word piece that brings back the grit, humanity and truth into the nativity story, and then questions what that might change. If Jesus’ birth was a real event, what does that mean for me and what does that mean for you?

 

 

Children’s & youth work links

Links from around the world of children’s and youth work:

What happened when 9 teens gave up their mobile phones for a week: anyone who has worked with teenagers for more than 5 minutes know how connected to their mobiles they are.  So what happens if they were separated from their mobile lifelines for a full week?

The Smart Talk is a website that helps parents and kids come up with a set of mobile phone rules together, and creates a handy agreement you can print out.  This tool is more than a simple checklist; it’s meant to start conversations between parents and their child.

What I Teach My Students About Alcohol: Austin McCann shares what he taught his young people about drinking alcohol from the Bible.

Teens Tell All: Your Guide To Teen Slang, From Bae To Woke: As part of TODAY’s “Teens Tell All” series, they asked teenagers to enlighten adults about all those mysterious terms they throw out when they talk or message.

Jesus was a Youth Minister: Jesus’ disciples were mainly young men.  This makes Peter the perfect, Biblical example of what it looks like to mentor a teenager!

 

Church doesn’t welcome the working class

Church doesn’t welcome the working class

I’ve been chewing over an article that Chine McDonald,  the Director of Communications & Membership at the Evangelical Alliance, recently wrote on the way in which the church is overwhelmingly full of people from a middle class background:

Our society is vastly, scarily unequal. The opportunities that are assumed by some are beyond the realms of possibility for most others.

But sadly it seems fewer places are more unequal than the UK Church itself. Recent Talking Jesus research commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance, the Church of England and HOPE, shockingly revealed that 81 per cent of practising Christians have a university degree.

I found it a deeply concerning statistic when you take into account that most people in the UK do not go to university.

She goes on to write:

If we’re going to be a Church for all, we’ve got to rethink some of the church practices that are vestiges of culture rather than true expressions of our faith in Jesus. Encouragingly the Fresh Expressionsmovements springing up around the UK are doing just this.

We’ve got to be truly welcoming of people who are not like us. We’ve got to be prepared to be uncomfortable and not force people into the moulds that make them seem more palatable to us.

There’s a great quote in one of my favourite musicals My Fair Lady in which Professor Henry Higgins embarks on an experiment to turn “common flower girl” Eliza Dolittle into a lady fit for a king.

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl,” Eliza says, “is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

The thing that will ultimately draw people of all backgrounds to faith in Jesus is treating them with a profound love that comes not from ourselves, but from God. That’s love: not exclusivity or judgment about whether we’re wearing the right clothes or pronouncing the words correctly. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Let’s love people into the Church and pray they’ll realise that because of the cross, they’re already fit for the King.

Assembly: Tolerance

Assembly: Tolerance

This was the assembly I gave this morning at one of our local Junior schools, on the theme of tolerance:

The past few hundred years have been marked by ethnic and racial conflict, as the Holocaust, the Rwanda genocide and the ongoing war in Syria demonstrate. There have also been individuals who have stood above the hatred and violence, however, and called for peace and cooperation. One of the most famous fighters for peace was Rev. Dr Martin Luther King.

Can you imagine a time when black people were only allowed to sit on certain seats at the back of a bus? When black people were not allowed to vote in elections? Can you imagine a town where black and white children had to attend separate schools? Where black and white young people were separated at dances by a line down the middle of the room?

Sixty years ago, in the southern states in America, this was how it was. Let’s hear about three ordinary people who had the courage to speak out.

An ordinary clergyman, with a minister for a father and a teacher for a mother, organized peaceful protests and boycotts against discrimination. Here was an ordinary black man who spoke out against the injustice that he saw. This ordinary black man delivered extraordinary speeches with memorable lines like ‘I have a dream that one day down in Alabama … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’

This man was Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964, assassinated in 1968, at just 39 years old.

In the town of Montgomery, like most places in the deep south, buses were segregated. On 1 December 1955, Rosa Parks left Montgomery Fair, the department store where she worked, and got on the same bus as she did every night. As always, she sat in the ‘black section’ at the back of the bus. However, when the bus became full, the driver instructed Rosa to give up her seat to a white person. When she refused, she was arrested by the police.

In protest against bus segregation, it was decided that from 5 December, black people in Montgomery would refuse to use the buses until passengers were completely integrated. For 382 days, the 17,000 black people in Montgomery walked to work. Eventually, the loss of revenue and a decision by the Supreme Court forced the Montgomery Bus Company to accept integration.

An ordinary woman showed extraordinary courage. This ordinary woman became known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’.

On 28 August 1963, two to three hundred thousand Americans converged on Washington DC. This was the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom’. The organizers had many aims, but what unified the march was a call for greater freedoms for African-Americans. The date chosen for the march fell on the one-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the United States of America. Racial inequality was still rampant, however, and African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens in many states.

President Kennedy was attempting to pass the Civil Rights Act at the time, which would provide greater freedoms for African-Americans. While many marched as a show of support for the President, others marched to criticize the Act for not going far enough.

Dr King was tasked with giving the final speech and he captured both the anger and the optimism of the march. ‘America has given the Negro people a bad cheque’, he said, referring to the centuries of slavery and racial injustice, but ‘we’ve come to cash this cheque’ by marching together. The civil rights leaders had come together to the nation’s capital to demand a fair deal for all.

Yet it is the ‘I have a dream  . . .’ segment of his speech that has passed into history. Dr King called not for acts of revenge against oppressors but understanding and cooperation. The most famous line of the speech – ‘I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!’ – carries a promise of peace, reconciliation and an end to racial conflict.

Those two examples are completely true. This one is not. It is taken from the 2007 hit movie Hairspray. It’s Baltimore, 1962, and Tracy Turnblad, an ordinary young girl, is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show. Tracy auditions for the show and gets to appear – a dream come true! However, she becomes aware of the way that her black dancer friends are being treated and realizes that she has to do something. As she tells her father, ‘I think I’ve kind of been in a bubble … thinking that fairness was gonna just happen. It’s not. People like me are gonna have to get up off their fathers’ laps and go out and fight for it.’ This ordinary young girl brings about an extraordinary integration.

This, too, was the power of Mahatma Gandhi – the humble little man in peasant’s clothes who, armed only with the weapons of love, peace and justice, brought the mighty British Empire to its knees. Gandhi believed passionately that if his cause was a just one he would win – no matter how powerful the forces against him. He famously said: ‘Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.’ Gandhi was ‘one man come in the name of love’.

At the heart of the Christian faith there is also ‘one man come in the name of love’. Jesus enters Jerusalem knowing that it is there that he will come into conflict with the might of the Roman Empire and face the fury of the Jewish religious establishment. And so he comes armed – armed with the weapons of love, forgiveness and peace – and he comes riding the humble donkey.

Into a world of division and barbarism and violence – a world, in other words, not unlike our own – comes the Prince of Peace, whose power lies not in military might but in selfless love. And here’s the thing: his kingdom, established by the power of love, rather than bullets, has lasted far longer and been far more influential than the kingdom of any military conqueror?

Time for reflection

What are you and I prepared to do in the name of love?
Do we have even a fraction of the courage of the Tank Man
or Rosa Parks
or Martin Luther King
or Gandhi?
Can we walk with Jesus on the way of the cross?

In the face of a world of greed, violence and oppression;
here at school in the face of the bully and the aggressor
or in the face of those who simply do not care –
what will you and I do in the name of love?
Prayer
Lord,
give us vision that we may see a better world,
and give us courage that we may act to make it happen.
Amen.

How The World Looked When Jesus Was Born, According to Roman Geographers

Jesus world

Neatorama recently highlighted what the world looked like when Jesus was born.  Thanks to Strabo, the Roman geographer, we have a 17-volume description of the world as they knew it.

Here is what the world looked like to Strabo and his contemporaries: the globe was divided into five sections, with two cold bands on either end, two temperate bands, and one hot and “torrid” band at the very center. The inhabited world, a large island, was confined to a northern quarter of the globe and was surrounded by oceans. Or at least, that’s what was assumed: no one had ever circumnavigated the known world.

Strabo was pretty much correct in what was known, although that still left a lot of unknowns. In his world, Israel was a small and politically insignificant place that was nonetheless a crossroads between three continents. Read about Strabo’s view of the world at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user Paolo Porsia)

The Queen’s Christian faith

 

HOPE - The QueenIn her 2014 Christmas broadcast the Queen said:

‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.’

It is the most recent of many public references the Queen has made to her Christian faith.

In 2016 people around the county and throughout the Commonwealth will gather in their communities to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. Her actual birthday on 21 April will be celebrated with

  • four days of celebrations in Windsor 12-15 May;
  • a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday 10 June;
  • the traditional trooping the colour ceremony – the Queen’s birthday parade – on Saturday 11 June in Horse Guards Parade, and
  • a massive street party for 10,000 people on The Mall on Sunday 12 June.

The whole country is invited to join the celebrations in our own villages, towns or cities. HOPE is working in partnership with Bible Society and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity to publish a very special book focusing on the Queen’s Christian faith.

The Servant Queen – and the King she serves: This beautifully illustrated short book uses the Queen’s own words to draw out the central role of her trust in Jesus Christ, offering us all an inspiring, multi-faceted insight into a life well-lived for others.

Find out more here.

Christmas video 19: Shepherds, Wise Men and baby Jesus spoken word

Spoken Word - Christmas

Miriam Swaffield wrote these spoken word videos about the shepherds, the wise men and baby Jesus. They are brilliant, we’ve used them with our 11-14 year olds who’ve loved them.

Fusion have recorded them and made them available for FREE download here – you might want to use them in your services or youth events you’ve got planned.

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Youth Talk: Why are Christians so hypocritical, nasty and judgmental?

Why are Christians so hypocritical, nasty and judgmental?

Last night I spoke to the young people on the topic of “Why are Christians so hypocritical, nasty and judgmental?” as part of a half-termly series we do on apologetics.  Here’s the powerpoint if it’s any use:

 

One of the biggest question people have against God and the Church is “Why are Christians so hypocritical, nasty and judgmental?”

 

I remember visiting a church where I arrived late, and so sat in the back row. The man leading the meeting halfway through got everyone who was in the back row to stand up. He then got everyone else in the church to turn and face those standing and pray for them that next time they wouldn’t be so lazy and get here on time. Surprisingly I haven’t been back to that church!

 

People have experienced a lot worse than that – some treatment by the church and Christians has been horrific and heart breaking. Some of you will have very reasonable reasons for not believing because of the church and what it has done to you.

 

I get your objection and I’m onside with you. Sometimes how we Christians have behaved has been awful. Let’s look at the objections

 

My objection is not to God but to his so-called followers on earth – paedophile priests, charlatan evangelist millionaires, why does God allow them to do their thing?

 

When you read in the local paper about a church leader now serving time in prison, and when you read about Councillors and MPs writing to David Cameron saying that because you passed the equal marriage act now great judgment will come on this country; and when people like Young Cho, running the largest church in Korea, just got sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars. When we hear of these things I get it, I understand.

 

Another objection is having been abused by one church I decided to try another this time with the Church of England when I subsequently came out as a gay person I was rejected – it is quite clear to me that church does not want me, there are members of the church who despite knowing me will not even acknowledge me on the street. Do you know what I get it, and if the church has been a part of that please accept our sincere apologies for that. It is appalling.

 

I hate to see photos of Christians on marches with slogans and banners that say things like “God hates fags”. It is wrong.

 

Another objection: why is it that I have more Christian values as a non-Church goer than some so-called Christians? I remember speaking to a young person who said the reason I’m not a Christian is this, my friends condemn me for smoking but they’re sleeping with their boyfriends. Another said this, I’ve a friend called Mary, Mary is a gossiping Christian, I have another friend called Sarah who isn’t a Christian and doesn’t gossip – I’d rather be with Sarah the non-gossiping, non-Christian.

 

Another objection: if the church is meant to be a place where all can be welcomed and come in why has its actions meant that some people cannot access it for fear as to how they will be perceived in the church. A conversation took place with a sex worker on the street one night, and trying to support this young lady we asked whether or not she’d thought of going to church. She looked incredulous and said why on earth would I think about going to church, I feel bad enough already.

 

Final objection is this: it’s not so much the idea of God I object to, it is the Christians I have trouble with. Gandhi said this, “I don’t reject your Christ, it’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

 

You see it is not so surprising that this Christian message, the Gospel message, which means good news doesn’t seem so good news when we see apparent frauds and charlatans saying one thing and living in a completely different way.

 

I just want to put out some assumptions that many of us carry:

  1. Firstly, Church is meant to be about love, kindness and tolerance. The subtext is you are meant to accept me for who I am even if that differs from what you believe. And if you don’t like you’re not meant to point it out or show your disapproval.
  2. Second, Church is meant have a moral compass with integrity, standards, and authenticity. The subtext is you are meant to be beyond approach, practice what you preach. You set a standard and if you don’t live to that standard you get loads of abuse as a result of that.
  3. Thirdly, all Christians are probably hypocrites.

 

Now without wanting to offend, I would tend to agree with all those statements, at least in part.

 

To say all Christians are hypocrites is true some of the time. For me often, if not daily, as a Christian I will pretend to be something I am not. Let me just unravel a little bit of what a hypocrite is and isn’t as I think there is some confusion.

 

A hypocrite was actually a Greek theatre term. Literally it means a mask wearer. They would be on a stage, with a mask on them, it wasn’t the real them but a character, a persona that they were portraying. In the Bible that Jesus got hold of this theatrical term and completely redefined it. He started to use it in the religious arena as Jesus hated mask wearing religious fakes.

 

Matthew 7:

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

 

In Matthew 23 Jesus said:

13 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

15 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

16-22 “You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

23-24 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

25-26 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

27-28 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

 

So Jesus took this word from the theatre and completely gave it a whole new meaning and the word was never the same. Now imagine how appalling it is now, the very thing that Jesus hated, is the very thing that is so often associated with the movement he came to start. How tragic is that the word hypocrite is a hallmark of the church as though it fits like a hand in a glove?

 

Now I understand that the fakes, the phoneys and the frauds who live their lives in front of God without even blushing, who publicly condemn others whilst doing the same in private.

 

Hypocrisy what is it? What is not hypocrisy?

 

Hypocrisy is not when someone fails your expectation of perfection. Someone falls short of your expected standard. It isn’t about catching out a Christian who says they follow Christ and by making a mistake we say “Ha, you hypocrite”. A Christian making a mistake is not hypocrisy, it’s a mistake!

 

If you spend any time with me you will realise how far short I fall of the expected standard. The question is does that make me a hypocrite? If being a Christ follower means I have to be perfect then yes I am a hypocrite. However, I don’t think that is the case.

 

What is the opposite of hypocrisy? It is not perfection but it is authenticity, genuiness, transparency. Living without the mask.

 

A hypocrite is someone who is pretending to be someone they are not. I reckon we are in danger or prone to this. We often try to be something or someone that we are not. We might put on a persona in order to receive acceptance. Matthew 23, Jesus said everything they do, those hypocrites, is for show.

 

So if a Christian claims to be perfect, morally superior in anyway then they are being a fake. Jesus’ teaching is this: keep it real, love God, seek God, you don’t have to be perfect, in fact don’t pretend you are perfect as the moment that you pretend that you have got it right that is the moment that hypocrisy comes out.

 

1 John says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” A Christian author, Philip Yancey wrote a book ‘What’s so amazing about grace?’ he came to a conclusion that there were two groups of people that Jesus met. The first group was the sinners who knew it and the second group were the sinner who denied it. This first category of people, the sinners who knew it, Jesus spoke grace, love, compassion. To the second group of people, those who sinned and denied it he called them hypocrites, he confronted and he challenged. The Christian life isn’t about pretending we have it altogether. In fact we don’t, and the fact is we’re all in the same boat, all needing treatment, some of us have accepted the treatment Jesus is offering – that’s the only difference.

 

If you feel tonight that you can’t become a Christian because you’re not perfect then there’s a misunderstanding about what Christianity is about. In fact some people would say I don’t want to become a Christian because I know I can’t be perfect and I know if I cant be perfect that is being hypocritical and I don’t want to be hypocritical therefore I don’t want to be a Christian. That’s upside down and back-to-front thinking as the very essence of what Christianity is about is people who recognise with their hands up to recongise I’m not perfect, there’s so many things in my life which are wrong but do you know what I’m in the process of change.

 

You might say I can’t become a Christian because I’m carrying a load of baggage. Well welcome to the club, you’ll be struggling just like the rest of us.

 

When I look back I think I’m more like Jesus now then I was a year ago, or five years ago, and I think that’s replicated in this room. One day I will conquer, but I’m in the process of change and I know my life has changed.

 

Authenticity is about transparency and honest life change.

 

If we go back to Mary and Sarah and take a snapchat view, in the eight seconds we want to be with the non-gossip. But we fail through the snapshot to realize where Mary has come from. We don’t know what Mary was a year or five years ago. This issue of gossip might be tiny in comparison with the fact that a few months ago she was an axe-wielding murderer. And we have no idea with Sarah, the non-gossip, what difference Jesus would make if she became a Christian because we just get the snapshot moment.

 

There’s many a moment where we look and can’t believe in Christianity or Jesus because look at that. We miss out on the transformation that has taken place in millions of peoples lives who are committing themselves genuinely to becoming more like Jesus.

 

Jesus in Mark 2 :

As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

 

We see an upside world with the outcast, the sinners welcomed to eat with Jesus and instead, those with good reputation, the moral reputation, the religious hiding behind the mask are out in the cold.

 

The world of misfits are invited and welcomed in. It’s like Charlie Bucket getting the Golden Ticket, the invite to the factory. The misfits are invited and then donated the whole factory.

 

The church community will be messy as we’re full of screwed up people, welcome to the club! It’s no wonder therefore that churches are full of people who say one thing and don’t always mean it. Sometimes we’ll act in a way that isn’t always consistent with the Christian faith because of the nature of the people who come along. People who know they make mistakes but are on a journey of transformation.

 

But don’t think this is an excuse. Jesus didn’t make things easier, he rose the bar – don’t murder in the Old Testament, he says don’t get angry; don’t commit adultery in the Old Testament, he says I don’t want you looking at that guy like that as you wander down the street as if you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. He raised the bar but he didn’t put in place a perfectionism we couldn’t obtain, he makes a way for us to meet with God.

 

Sick people need doctors, we all need to remove the mask and get ourselves into recovery. The real issue is Jesus not the people who follow him. I grew up in the 1980s, one of the best bands then was U2, and one of their best songs was Pride in the name of love. Most of you will have no idea who they are let alone the song I’m talking about. Then you hear that some of your mates are playing this song in your school’s Got Talent competition. They massacre the song and you go away and wonder what on earth was all that about. Let me encourage you there are millions of Christians walking around playing a bad replica of who Jesus is. Please don’t get put off by how we have failed because you need to listen and see the original Jesus. Don’t judge the cover version alongside the original it simply cannot compare. Christians will disappoint you, Jesus won’t.

 

Whatever has happened my plea is look at Jesus, the original, and see what he’s all about.