Friday, 17 April 2009

Inspired by Stafford

Yes, I am suitably impressed with our incoming moderator's blog, and it has inspired me more than all the guilt-trips and good topics available, to take up the quill again. The intervening months have spanned Christmas through to Lent and Easter, and I've had plenty to keep me busy. Three family bereavements (one grandmother, two aunts) have caused some adjustments in mindset, I suspect. And a busier than planned preaching schedule.

And then of course, there's the Water exhibition... but for that, I'll write a fresh post.

What I've been learning through organising the Water Exhibition though, relates to Stafford's post on seeker-sensitivity in planning worship. He rightly balances the need for our worship to be intelligible and accessible by outsiders, with the focus of our worship being what pleases God. (That begs the question, of course, can God be pleased with worship that, by its complexity, wordiness, dourness, triviality, excludes the broken, the simple, the outsiders whom Jesus longs to include?)

The exhibition came out of a discussion with Tearfund's Louise & Miriam on how to engage students in a social justice group. My feeling was that you can't engage students in groups any more - not at the newer universities anyway... So we decided to offer them the chance to participate in a public exhibition, using Tearfund's theme for the year: Water and Sanitation. Well, I wimped out of the sanitation part in the title - the word's too Latin, too...sanitised, and not very arty! (And let's be honest, I didn't want a hundred versions of great white thrones, porcelain telephones etc. Not for my first attempt at such a venture anyway!)

What I've realised is that there are lots of folk out there who might be interested in what Jesus has to say, and the values his kingdom offers. What they aren't interested in is pre-packaged theology that gives them answers to questions they haven't asked yet. So lots of students (and staff and alumni) were willing to donate time and energy and pieces of work for the exhibition, raising money for a development charity that is primarily Christian, not because they want to support the spread of a theological package, but because they value human life and the quality of life of our neighbours in developing countries. OK some also submitted work because it's good experience and publicity for them as artists. But they were willing to let themselves be associated with a Christian charity.

The opportunity to get to know some students and staff through this process is in itself a journey for me. And a privilege, offering to others the chance to opt in to some of Christ's values - to care for the people Christ cares for... It may not be the whole Gospel, but it contributes to the possibility of belonging, - and important relational help to those who are willing to believe in the One who says Blessed are the poor...

And the Cross? We'll get there eventually. But not too quickly. Even Jesus' closest friends ran away... just a few dear women and John seem to be there at the end. Which of us dares explain away this mystery in theological arithmetic, until our feet have bled with him on that road to blessing the poor and forgiving our enemies?

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