Saturday, November 12, 2011

For the pod: Like or love?

It is no secret to readers of the blog that I have been working through the book of Luke as my day-off habit which amounts to nearly one hundred sermons (I have missed quite a few but have listened to a lot). I reflected at length on the content of one sermon and its preacher here (at the helpful prompting of a friend). I started on the journey because someone told me once to always be working through a gospel in some way or other and I happened upon this series of teaching which was just about to get going. Somehow or other I have stuck with it.

Yesterday, I spotted a quote by Adrian Plass that goes like this, "God is nice and he likes me" and I tweeted that I was pondering it. A Vicar pal wanted to know more about my thoughts. I will tell you why I was pondering it - it was because I had just watched a sermon and was still reeling. It is called Jesus' Crucifixion and Death.

If you have bothered, as I have, to listen to so much Bible teaching then this must surely be the one it all centres in on, that it revolves around and is the one that might explain the passion and at times offensiveness, in some people's eyes, of its preacher. The Cross is offensive and always will be (1 Corinthians 1:18). Facing that and coming to terms with that and owning your part in that and choosing to believe that the cross happened for you is what the Bible calls salvation. No one deserves it and so often it is those who truly realise how little they deserve who embrace the gospel. This is the sermon that it has really all been about (documented as Death by love). It made me think about my own life, my priorities in the time I have left, my preaching, it made me think about why the church you will see is full and yet so many others are empty and rarely see a converted soul from one year to the next. It made me wonder if I have made the Cross 'Of first importance....', it forced me to face my own sin and receive God's burning love anew. It shocked me and reminded of Gods extraordinary and indescribable goodness and it made Jesus's love profoundly real to me once again. It may well not do that for you but this sermon landed deeply on my heart.

When as a child my Vicar (a dear man as I always say) dressed up in that funny outfit, when he sung that liturgy rather off key, when he went through the same communion words week after week, when he shook my hand at the door and said 'See you next Sunday' and when I then watched the old ladies in hats on Songs of Praise later in the day this is the event that we had been reenacting and been thankful for. This is the event that means St Bottock's and Rev Bob-a-job's like me are here in the first place. We have come so far in some quarters since that day at Golgotha that we have even now managed to turn the gospel and the task of proclaiming it into a comedy called Rev that we are all chuckling along to. The Church to many in these days is not much more than a joke, when it should instead be a source of resurrection power. This is, I have to tell you, an incredibly important way to spend an hour of your life or 'the most important hour of your life' to quote the preacher. Alternatively you could watch the omnibus edition of Eastenders. Is "God is nice and he likes me" a reasonable descriptor? Love to me- amazing grace love -truly seems a better fit. Watch this and then only you can decide.

1 comment:

Simon Ponsonby said...

I have always enjoyed Plass for his powerful use of words and prophetic insights into church life. But when he described God thus, I think he must have just eaten a bowl of luke-warm tapioca and had that still his mouth. God is not nice - Jehovah, the mighty sovereign glorious Lord of heavens and earth, worshipped by myriads of angels, sustaining creation with a word, who sacrificed his only son to redeem sinful humanity from sin, death and hell can hardly be said to be Nice. Really? Is that it??? All God's actions and attributes are perfect - nice is neither one thing nor the other, its neutral, its the semantic equivolent of the colour magnolia. God is fierce and tender and omnipotent and tearful. I think it should be banned from the dictionary - it is a way of saying nothing whilst still speaking. If you said a painting or the wife's new dress or the supper I just cooked was nice, you would be offering faint praise, nice is almost an insult. Saying something and nothing. Its a non-word, and so to dare to use this word of God is somewhere between banal & blasphemy.