Monday, April 30, 2007

The People Known As Christians

Paul Mayer is a blogger in the UK. He's joined the People Formerly Know As series with his take on [everything below is from Paul]...

The people known as christians...

Bill Kinnon started it with his thought provoking meme 'the people formerly known as the congregation', Jamie Arpin-Ricci has written my favourite iteration 'the people becoming known as missional' and Lyn has written the most poignant version 'the woman formerly known as the pastors wife' and there quite a few more out there as well.

I have decided to write this piece on the people known as christians to celebrate all these pieces and from my own perspective I see that we can so easily idealise church and how we go about being or not being the church. Alt titles for this piece could well have been: the people who [mess] up but are loved by God; the perfect church for imperfect people; the hope of the world for the helpless, through the hopeless; and the beautiful but bitchy bride [you may have some more suggestions]...

I really love the church and I really do think it is the best hope we got - it's also full of people like me so as bent as a 10 bob note!

We are the people known as christians, Jesus followers, little Christs, disciples, missionaries, followers, apprentices, the church, the body and bride of Christ. There are billions of us around the world, from every tribe, nation, race, generation, class and sex - and we are just part of the great linked river of faith, with billions downstream from us, cheering us on from history past and billions more upstream from us who will celebrate our faithful journies in history to come.
We are the people known as Christians, dwellers in the now and the not yet, citizens of this world yet strangers in our own lands. For we are part of a people and a kingdom that is present in this world and we live in the hope of the kingdom to come, a renewed heaven and a renewed earth.

Some of us live with unprecedented power and choice, having the ear of great leaders and the respect of many of the institutions of our time. We are amongst the wealthiest people who have ever lived. Living in a time of unprecedented peace, prosperity and plenty. We are able to live our lives in our own ways with our rights and freedoms protected. We gather freely, express openly are beliefs and choose to disagree with one another without recrimination. We live in the heritage of our christian western world and reap the benefits of the generations that have gone before who by their own sacrifices allow us to stand free today. We are ironically also the most anxious, overwhelmed, over worked, worried, fearful, cynical, stressed and depressed people of all time.

Many of us however are persecuted, ignored, and marginalised - we meet in secret, we fear arrest, torture and death. We exist on the crumbs from the table of the rich and wealthy world and what we can eek out with our own hands and lives. We are poor, uneducated, hungry and surrounded by disease and death. Yet we live by faith with lives that are gratefully generous to each other, seeing ourselves as a connected community rather than as individuals. For although we have little and long to have more we know that we already have the one thing that is worth having, a faith that transforms life itself.

We are people who have always recognised the need to gather together - whether we meet in ones and twos with the people who we do life with or in bigger groups to share the story of our lives and communities. Where ever and whenever we as christians have gathered we have seen people's lives transformed, hope spark into life and light flow into the communities around us.
This process can be slow, smouldering and subtle taking many lifetimes or it can suddenly spark into a roaring bushfire of sweeping transformation. For although we are committed to the ancient practises of prayer, study, service, giving and fasting we are not the catalyst for this change merely one means for the Holy Spirit to be at work in us and through us to the world around us.

We are therefore a people of presence, called to be as present to each other and the world as our other centred tri-une God is present to himself and to all of us they created in his image. God the Father who initiates, God the Son who came for us, as one of us and God the Spirit who moves amongst us all. It is the self revelation of our loving tri-une God that is challenging and changing us, leading us on a journey of inward change and outward lives that reflect a growing love, peace, kindness, gentleness, grace, mercy and humility towards the people and places in which we dwell.

We are also a people that when we gather together cause each other to experience hurt, hate, anger, fear, pain, suspicion, loneliness, pride and abuses. For we are not perfect but human, broken, cracked people who manage to inflict cruelties and do damage to each other and on the creation around us. We are to be as much a part of each others help and healing as we are already the cause of each others pain and sorrow. For it is not us the church who brings healing and wholeness to the world but the one we follow and are learning to follow, Jesus, our liberating, life giving king.

We are the people known as christians but we can also be called the imperfect,the isolated, the broken, the bitter, the arrogant, the angry, the humble and the hurting, the sinner and the sinning, the consumer and the consumed, the first and the last, the George Bush and the Mother Teresa.

As christians we are a people who are stubborn, slow to change, quick to miss the point, poor at listening, ignore the obvious, misinterpret the signs, and have huge blindspots we are grateful that God does not speak to us alone but also into the world. We welcome and appreciate critique and the stirring of the Spirit in the people around us, that have caused us to slowly wake up to social, economic, environmental and political justice - for those who have led us into the light through the civil rights, feminist and environmental protection movements, we are grateful.
Yet as the people known as christians we share a common dream, a hope, a savour, a liberator. We are Easter people, who walk in the hope of the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. For in Jesus we see the hope that we will once again have our humanity restored, we will get our lives back andone day live fully anew.

We experience the glimmer of this future when we love instead of hate, forgive instead of strike back, give instead of take, create instead of destroy, help instead of walk on by, laugh with others who laugh and cry with those who cry. These life giving moments remind us of the change that is going on quietly within us, the gentle caress of the Spirit conforming us in the image of our resurrected living Lord. The tongue tingling taste of the kingdom that has come amongst us now, the freedom that is given to escape our tired stories and self focused lives and experience the wonder and life as people called to care and serve each other, the communities and creation around us.

We are the people known as christian. Although we are the numerous and different, the fractured and fractious we recognise one Lord, Jesus and are called by the One God our Father, through the power of the one Spirit to be one body, one people, one nation, one family, one creation and one kingdom. Ours is a life walked together, learning to live for the other, learning to love the other as we are changed by the infinite love of God who is for us and transforms us.



At 5/01/2007 7:14 AM, Blogger Adam Gonnerman said...

I dunno, this just looks like it gets us back where we started.

At 5/01/2007 7:28 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Thanks for posting these thoughts by Paul. I noticed Bill has linked to him too.

At 5/01/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Why do you feel that from Paul's post?

At 5/01/2007 8:02 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Yeah, I first saw Paul's reflections over at Bill's website. I want my readers to keep up with the series.

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