Friday, 1 May 2009
What's the Point of Being a Christian?
No, I'm not despairing - this is the title of the book we are about to start studying! We will be doing this over 6 weeks at St Michael's, Amersham on the Hill, 7.45 for 8.00 until 9.15. All are welcome as we share our understanding of what Timothy Radcliffe has to say.
May 5 Introduction and Chapter 1
May 12 Chapters 2 and 3
May 19 Chapters 4, 5 and 6
May 26 Chapters 7, 8
June 2 Chapters 9, 10
June 9 Chapter 11 and Conclusion
As I starter for 10 I thought I would summarise week ones chapters - after all the Bishop recommends that if we blog we reuse work we are doing for other reasons!
There is no point in being a Christian! Religions are the "ultimate goal and purpose of our lives" - and if they have a point other than this then why take them seriously?
Religions must also have consequences in our lives - they must make a difference. Pete Rollins has something to say about that:
Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris in the 1940s expresses it as: "It means to live in such a way that ones life would make no sense if God did not exist".
If we are trying to convey our faith to people, and particularly the younger generation who have an interest in spirituality, why do we seem unconvincing and even boring? If we talk about love, freedom and happiness but our churches are not places where people love each other in freedom and happiness why would anyone believe us?
It is also important to be clear that the church is not a place for the perfect! It is "a home for everyone, especially those whose lives are a mess". As my old incumbent used to say - we should have a banner over the door - "Sinners only"!
The rest of the Introduction is a summary of the chapters to come
This chapter is about hope.
"We will have nothing to say to young people about our faith unless we are prepared to journey with them, literally sometimes, but also mentally".
"We must walk with people, as Jesus walked with the disciples to Emmaus, even if, like those disciples, they sometimes seem to start by walking in the wrong direction."
"If we are able to find ways to live and share our Christian hope, then we shall offer something for which the world is thirsting."
"Do we offer an alternative story of the future?" We believe in the triumph of good over evil, the coming of the Kingdom and the end to all death and suffering - but we cannot tell how this will happen.
The fundamental paradox of Christianity is that "As Christians we gather to remember the story of that Last Supper. It is our foundational story, the one in which we find the meaning of our lives. And yet it is a story which tells of the moment when there was no story to tell, when the future disappeared."
The night on which the Eucharist was instituted is the night in which the hopes of the disciples and their community disintegrated.
There was then a second failure of hope - the disciples expected the second coming, and it did not happen. And yet " intimacy with the Lord grew as those early Christians lost their certainty". "Crises are our specialite de la maison. They rejuvenate us"
Vaclav Havel defines hope thus "Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out".
"Our hope .... is the ultimate and unimaginable victory of meaning". Something that Victor Frankl wrote about.
We are becoming a society which understands signs, symbols and images - you only have to look at all the marketing that goes on - and yet Christianity has had them all along.
"To hope is not just to bet on goodness being stronger than evil." Jesus transformed his handing over into a moment of gift. "So there is nothing in human history that cannot somehow...be embraced and bear its fruit."
"As Christians, we hope for eternity. But eternity is not what happens at the end of time, when we are dead. It begins now, whenever we share God's life. It breaks in whenever we overcome hatred with love".