the advent sessions // spiderman

23 12 2013

This week our church was protected by Spiderman. Which to be honest was a lot more comforting than all this baby-talk. It’s a lovely story, great for the children. But it’s all a bit… twee. The nativity I mean, not Spiderman. You want a story about unknown local boy made good. It’s Peter Parker. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.

If Mary and Joseph had grasped that, they would have had him born somewhere safer. Raised somewhere cleaner. Tutored in using his powers for the good of all, you know. By which I mean people of influence. Not just the unseen and unknown. Then the good would trickle down. And wouldn’t end in ignominious death.

Then there’s branding. Spiderman has his web. The baddies see that, they quiver. Batman has the bat. Even Spiderman has the “S”. Jesus? A manger, or a cross? If churches had a symbol that struck fear into their enemies, now that would be better.

But. I suppose the story isn’t so twee once you look at it. Strip away the trimmings and you’re left with teenage faithfulness, courageous parenting, fearful refugees, and the murder of children by a despotic King. The unbelievable risk of God, the risk not to come in power with angel armies, not to leave his terrifying mark on the door frames and be the harbinger of fear and doom. Not to be a one-man superhero show.

Maybe living among and loving your enemies is more courageous than frightening them. Maybe taking a risk and living the daily pain of forgiveness is more courageous than revenge. Maybe including unwelcome shifty shepherds and astronomers of a different religion at the birth of the Son of God was a remarkably brave and unexpected thing to do. And a sign of things to come. 

Maybe the manger and the cross are better symbols than the spiderweb. Maybe the church is protected by something even greater than power.     


economical with prayer

25 09 2011

I believe in an interventionist God. Which means that I believe God interferes with the natural order of things every now and then. But in a unique and often misunderstood way.

Superheroes are interventionist. They drop in, tackle the bad guys and leave. Doctor Who is interventionist. He flies around messing with worlds and saving humanity and leaving. Mercenaries are interventionist. They will intervene wherever depending on the contract.

Image from ASBO Jesus

God is different. Because his intervention is relational. From Abraham to present day and most obviously in the person of Jesus, God prefers to be embedded, involved, entangled. Incarnate. So swooping in from the Bat Cave or the Tardis or wherever, intervening to knock a train back onto the rails or catch a falling piano before it crushes a child is not really his scene.

Though he breaks his own rules. So he does do that. Which makes him complicated.

Today I saw a headline stating the EU was “praying for a miracle”. This is the God many people would like God to be. Mostly silent and undemanding, but available to rescue us when we truly cock things up. The ultimate super-sub you hope you don’t need but keep on the bench just in case.

Will God provide a miracle to rescue the world economy? Will Greece suddenly discover on Monday morning they have enough money to cover their debts? Would that be a worthwhile intervention from God? After all, the poor who’s jobs and savings are most at risk will benefit.

Or maybe God has already intervened. When he gave us minds to think and hearts to feel. When he gave us consciences and ethics and the ability to think in community. That so many of us have chosen to ignore that and gamble our money or spend money we don’t have – personal or sovereign – and get into unmanageable debt does not put any obligation on God to “sort it out”. Does it?

I believe in an interventionist God. But not one that works to formulas or demands or contracts. One that is already intervening because he is here, embedded and incarnate. He lives in us who call ourselves church, and if we are his body we need to be doing what he would do. Putting ourselves in dangerous positions challenging the ruling elite, giving up our own wealth and time for people we don’t know who are being beaten up by the system we are a part of, loving God and our neighbour more than we love our own families and our security.

God has heard our very economical prayer. But he won’t sign a short-term contract. He’s in it for life. Are we?

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