15 06 2013

I firmly believe that one of the things that can hold us – the church – back from reaching our potential is a lack of honesty about how we feel about God. There is such a subtle and unspoken pressure to be alright with God, to be positive about God. And if we don’t feel like that, for fear of looking like we’ve got it wrong, we keep quiet.

Which is why the following conversation started by a new Christian friend on Facebook can teach us something so important.:

facebook psalm

Why do I think this can teach us something? Because it’s so biblical. Biblical?! Yes, you know those awkward bits of the Psalms about killing enemies because they are evil, about dashing the heads of babies on rocks, about devouring enemies with dogs? This is that. This is brazen honesty before God, it’s taking the belly rage and whipping God with it. This is what we want to happen, in the moment, when we are angry.

What I am not saying is that the sentiment is right. And I don’t believe the David and the other biblical ragers did either. We can’t use it to justify doing bad stuff. But what is right is the honesty, something we shy away from in church so much. Which is weird, when the Bible is stacked full of people kicking the verbal hoojimey’s out of God and his failure to act, his failure to rescue, about how the evil prosper and the good die young; and about how he forgives our enemies, looks graciously upon those we hate, and shows mercy to those who plainly don’t deserve it.

There are people I know who are raging against God not healing them from terminal illness, from grief, from depression, from mental health problems, from addictions, from abuse. We must allow people to rage. IT’S BIBLICAL! What we don’t do is stay there, live there, become twisted and bitter and gnarled. It is our responsibility as church to be honest with each other, and then afterwards to help each other through it, to then have sensible discussions about grace and love and forgiveness and patience and justice and mercy.

And regarding the above conversation? There’s no simple answers, because we each have to find our own way to see God’s grace at work. In our society it’s ok to just be angry and vengeful; when we discover God’s grace we discover we can’t do that anymore. We can be horrified, disgusted, deeply moved and angry; but we can’t stay there.

Sometimes even that can make us angry. Grace is scandalously unjust. 

why i still believe we can change the world

22 02 2012

I was talking to someone yesterday about changing the world. Changing the world is something that  I believe we are called to do; or at least, it is a consequence of doing what we are called to do. Which is to follow Jesus.

When we follow Jesus, the world changes. Not all at once. Because the world isn’t a big mass of ‘all at once’, but is made of up people in families and communities. So, as we change, so our world changes. Like a virus, but a good one.

Is it still called a virus if it’s good? 

The conversation began about being angry. My friend was angry about the situations adults can create for kids. Grrrr. It is enough to make you angry. But what do you do with that anger? Suppress it, ignore it, release it on the running track? Or do you allow your anger to show you your passion; and do you turn your passion into action.

If homelessness makes you angry, you’ve found you passion for the poor. If the treatment of people with mental health problem makes you angry, you’ve found your passion for the marginalised. If football makes you angry you need to get out more.

And so on. 

But what’s the point? I can’t change the world. I am just me. Better to live my life, to be calm, to keep quiet. And if necessary, channel the anger into my running. Or my music. Or whatever. 

But who does that benefit? Just me. Not the world. In this conversation I realised that I still believe we can change the world. Which is not a doe-eyed optimism that if we all stand in front of Bambi we’ll save her. But that being the change we want to see in the world (Ghandi said that, I wish it was Jesus) is a theological imperative. That means we absolutely have to. Because if God cares for me and wants to turn my life around then he cares for everyone. We are not meant to be saved and gather dust like an old piece of furniture. 

If we follow Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to grow fruit in us then we cannot be blind to the world around us. We cannot give more than God has already given. We cannot sit on our laurels (what are they?) and complain it’s too big a problem. 

And I don’t believe this is a specialist branch of the Jesus movement called ‘activist Christianity’ which can be opted out of, any more than repentance or grace or being slightly fed up with Church can be opted out of. 

So I do believe that we can change the world. Not on our own. The ‘we’ very much begins with God, revealed in Jesus and present by the Spirit. Present in us, whom he called his body. Of course it is a stupid idea and of course I don’t REALLY believe that me, I, Kevin Lewis, can change the world. On my own. But together we can. One starfish at a time.

Do I always feel it? No. Do I always want to be a part of it? No. Is it frustrating? Yes. Do I see changes? Yes.


Mostly importantly, is it true? Yes.  


3 08 2011

Anger rages noisily like a loose sail flapping in the gusty wind

Pulling and tearing and finally breaking free

Floating, gloating and looking back at her former captor

The torn remains holding helplessly on to the mast

Watching in pain as

Anger greedily surges away on the wind

Floating high in the empty sky

With freedom in her eyes

Thrashing in her heart

And a tear across the face of her soul.  

apocalypse (s)now

12 01 2010

fight for survival

When was the last time you killed someone? Today? Yesterday? We’ve had snow of such apocalyptic proportions, cutting off communities, blocking food supplies, stirring such rage that surely has forced us into some difficult decisions. Like, where do you get guns from. And who to kill first. After all, we can’t all survive. Tesco’s ain’t full enough for all of us.

You haven’t resorted to this? Why not? I guess I’m relieved. But still. How have you managed to repress the self-protecting pack-hunter hiding in all of us, the predator, who lives in a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest – or at least, the one with the biggest gun – world?

Maybe I’ve watched too much TV. Last year’s Survivors, which begins a new series tonight; Day of the Triffids; 28 Day Later, and so many others, all tell the story of a major catastrophe that leaves humans struggling to survive, mostly because without warm living rooms, mobile phones and an open petrol station we all go native, turn feral and kill each other. Why? Because at their root, humans are selfish.

It used to be preachers who had the monopoly on this story. Humans are evil! Humans are depraved! Humans are full of sin! You will be judged! Now, we don’t need to say anything. Survivors: humans are bad. TV news: humans are bad. Avatar: humans are bad. EastEnders: humans are bad. It really is everywhere. I don’t know many humans who need to be told they are crap. Most of us are fully aware that we feel like that already.Who needs Augustine’s doctrine of original sin when you’ve got the Daily Mail.

grim smiles in the fight for survival

If it was Christian preachers who set us on this path, maybe it needs to be Christians preachers who re-set the balance, who address the balance of a world out of kilter with its creator. Maybe we need to apologise for getting something so horribly wrong. Because if we begin at the beginning, to use Rob Bell’s phrase, we discover that humans are not inherently bad and evil; humans were not created depraved and in need of redemption. God saw what he had made, and it was good. It was good. Not perfect, as in a finished product out of a machine; but good, like fresh apples on a tree. This is Genesis 1 and 2. Things were good. So, the original state of humans: good. The default setting: good.

Yes, things changed in a way that Genesis 3 and the rest of the redemption story tries to explain. And then, at the end in Revelation 21-22, things are fully restored. Good. Good! So perhaps there is a different story of human life that we can tell. Stories that are not all about how humans make things go horribly wrong, but how humans are created to make things go right; that by nature we do not all revert to type and kill to survive, but that our nature is to over-rule the survival-of-the-fittest  instinct and look out for those weaker than ourselves. That has happened countless times in the snow over the last few weeks. People putting themselves out in order to help others; people meeting their neighbours for the first time on order to help them with their shopping or get the car out of the drive.

Stories of hope, stories of human goodness. I know it is not always easy. When in an almost empty-shelved (compared with normal!) Tesco’s on Saturday I was tempted to take more milk than I needed in case it we couldn’t get any more; but that would mean there was none left for anyone else. So I only took one. Big deal! But it’s little things that give us hope.

I know that without Jesus I would be more selfish, more opinionated, more impatient. So maybe Survivors is right. maybe I would kill to survive.  Maybe we all would. Maybe the new secular gospel preachers of sin, hell-fire and death have got a point. Maybe all I have said is wrong.

I hope not. Certainly not throwing Jesus into the snowy mix as well. Its times like this he’s especially relevant, especially challenging. In the midst of the bleak midwinter, in the midst of the thawing apocalypse snow. Anyone want to watch The Day After Tomorrow?

another cold-hearted human

rants in your pants

23 08 2009
X Factor

X Factor

There was a bloke on the X Factor yesterday who suggested that despite the name of the band being Triple Trouble (or something like that), he wasn’t the kind of’ ‘hoodie’ who caused trouble, but just liked singing and making music. I wasn’t sure I believed him (call me a cynic), and then when it turned out his primary talent is about as far from singing as Simon Cowell is to a counsellor, and chose to tell him, he reacted angrily, demonstrating that perhaps “Triple Trouble” was the correct name after all (and I had a self-righteous moment).

BBC News

BBC News

More reflections on the X-Factor to come, especially with the new format adding, I think, to the confrontational and ‘freak show’ element…  however, this time it was the reaction I was interested in. It is amazing what a sense of injustice can make us do, how quickly it can change our mood. From being cut up in the car, or someone stealing ‘our place’ in the check-out queue (‘our place’ – hehe we humans are so possessive!), to bigger things, like the banks making new money whilst others lose thier livelihoods or  this situation about the release of  Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, (dodgily convicted) suspect of the Lockerbie bombing. When things go wrong, how we rant, how we get angry – sometimes, sometimes, with justification.

Where do we rant? Anywhere. The US Government is ranting in an unprecedented way at Scotland (see Nick’s blog for reflection on that); the X-Factor blogs are full of rants about the justices and injustices or judges decisions and the format of the show. Tabloids are full of rants, blogs are full of rants ( am I ranting?), the Psalms are full of rants. The what? The Psalms? In the Bible?  I thought that was all safe and harmless, religious stuff? And I thought you were going to tell me ranting was wrong?

No, no. God is constantly on the end of rants from men and women unhappy at the injustices going on in the world, unhappy at his perceived inaction in the face of it; he is not a God we are afraid to face with our anger. Do not be afraid to face him with your anger.

He is not, though, happy with the kind of rant we might blog, under a pseudonym, venting our frustration in words we wouldn’t use if people knew who we were or could answer back; he is interested and yearns for us to express our anger passionately and vehemently, and (just about!) controllably. A man called Bill Hybels once said that if you discover what makes you angry, you discover your passion. What makes you angry? Is it injustice, inequality, unfairness, gossip, bitterness, poverty? Is it words, is it music, is it the very meaning of life itself? Turn that anger into holy passion and, as Hybels said in Courageous Leadership, the local church is the hope of the world.

Sometimes though prayer can seem so very diluted, weakened (especially, I should know, in churches), when it should be passionate, colourful, angry. Instead of beginning “Dear Lord…”, maybe we should begin “For crying out loud! Aaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I wrote this about prayer once.

a gentle clearing of the throat

prayer is like a gentle clearing of the throat
a careful excuse me
ignoring the ‘do not disturb’ sign
but only to slip a note
or a gentle clearing of the throat
to draw attention
without causing tension

but prayer feels like it ought to involve
more shouting
some shoving and
some flouting of the rules
some yelling because we should be telling it like it is
not quietly murmuring
but loudly stirring
earnestly yearning for God to hear
to act
to reach from his pedestal
to change all that is cruel and heartless and human

because his name means God with us
because prayers mean God help us
our cry us say something to us

yet in this moment of tension
and pleading
we pause…

and in faith are conceding, of course,
to hear
we must listen.

© Kevin Lewis 2007

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