authority + church leadership + trust

Ploughing through my book on church history I’ve reached the French Revolution and as the centuries pass by a recurring theme seems to play itself over and over again.

Jesus once said these words

‘You know that the rulers of the heathen lord it over them and that their great ones have absolute power? But it must not be so among you. No, whoever wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be your slave – just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free’

Well it’s hard to see how that command of Jesus fits with the words of someone like Pope Innocent III who said of his position way back around AD 1200

‘The successor of Peter is the Vicar of Christ:he has established as a mediator between God and man, below God but beyond man; less than God but more than man; who shall judge all and be judged by no one.’

The author of the book also mentions about how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples while subjects(?) had to kiss the pope’s feet.

Of course that was a long time ago but it seems pretty clear that Jesus was telling the apostles that they should be leading in a completely different sort of way to the pagans.

This was Jesus who practiced what he preached as well, it wasn’t just some type of fancy theory that he said about leading but then didn’t follow through on.
He was cursed and exiled, beaten to pulp and lonely and led like a lamb to the slaughter. He washed the disciples feet. It’s there right at the start, as plain as the nose on your face.

That’s was what being great looked liked.

Yet reading through church history (and you won’t need me to point this out) much of it doesn’t seem to be like that.
Church leaders have continually lorded it over people, over and over and again. And it’s not just the Pope’s in the days of yore. And it’s not just the Catholics either back in the days of yore, it’s Protestants today I guess for that is my branch of the Christian tree.

The author of the book has pointed out a few times that society was different back then so while we look on in horror now at the time it wasn’t considered unusual to execute someone for heresy but I say ‘bollocks’ to that.

The plain fact is that Jesus said that we shouldn’t lead like that, we should wash each others feet and serve each other. Does the Jesus we encounter in the gospels and who said ‘take up your cross and follow me’ sound like the type to be launching a Spanish Inquistion?
Paul was responsible for killing lots of heretics in his day but once he met Jesus he gave up that up.

Killing heretics doesn’t seem to be part of the way things should ever go down. But hey they did.
All this would be easy to dismiss as from another time when things where different except for the way that it still seems to go down that way.  Church leadership seems to be for the ‘movers and shakers’ and certain Christian leaders like John Piper can cause a sh*t storm when they say that the Biblical pattern for a Godly man is a certain way and the batallions of reformed evangelical church leaders line up behind him in agreement and tell the women to stand back while they take charge as God has commanded.

I was originally going to forget about this blog but my wife and I got talking tonight and we realized that the attitude is still around and the struggle is how much you submit to church tradition or the way things are done.

Again we’re all a mess and if you have men with messy hearts you will have a messy church and institution just like any messy institution like the banks or government


that the church should be different if it’s real and really has the Spirit of Christ living in it.
World leaders might kill those that threaten their regime of power but it should never be like that in a church.
Yet we  still do. Not literally but metaphorically.

In closing I guess a lot of my struggle is how much I’m on board with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland or the branch of Christianity I’ve inherited.


seal team 66

Seal team sixty six
(for John Piper and Mark Driscoll)

Seal Team Sixty Six
The Bob’s and John’s and Mark’s and Rick’s
The Al’s and Brad’s and Kyle’s and Nick’s
The Paul’s and Ken’s and Tom’s and Mick’s

Seal Team Sixty Six
Where not deceived by Satan’s tricks
They’re more like God than all the chicks
He’s got some things, He needs them fixed

Seal Team Sixty Six
Discipline you with some sticks!
Stone the weak man with their bricks!
Give you Gospel with some kicks!

Seal Team Sixty Six
An alpha male toxic mix
With all the pain  that this inflicts
Is this the God Christ depicts?

What about the women Jesus picks?

give us this day our daily (Fairtrade) salad?

I’ve been challenged the last few days by soya beans, NT Wright, The Lord’s Prayer and few Facebook friends.

Sitting by myself  in St George’s Market like a Billy-no-Mates  (Mrs Canal Ways is being cultured in Paris until Wednesday) I scribbled all over my notepad(and when I say notepad I mean paper and pen like in the old days, not fancy pants electronic tablet device with WiFi blah-de-blah), and drew thought bubbles here and there, and tried to work out what was going on…

Anyway, after a bit of mind judo and looking ‘intellectual’ I think my thoughts revolve around  words Christian’s pray regularly and what those words actually mean

‘..Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses…’

Firstly, what does the phrase ‘give us this day our daily bread‘ mean?

Is is it just the essentials like basic food, basic clothes, basic shelter, water etc?
Like should we be praying every day for chocolate cake?
Does that count as daily bread?

It would be a messy discussion for church to have but my feeling is we loose sight of the essentials all too easily and confuse ‘wants’ with ‘needs’. For example a family may say we need a large people carry to bring the kids from A to B and comply with EU laws. Maybe that is a need in our culture and society.But is a people carrier for our family daily bread? What are we going to do when families in China and India for examply want to eat the same people carrier daily bread? Are we going to say ‘Er no, because the earths resources won’t take the strain..?”

And secondly would the God who Christians proclaim is loving and just, the Jesus who is Lord and we make a big fuss about on Sunday mornings provide our ‘daily bread’ by exploiting our neighbours around the world?

Obviously once again these matters are complicated and the world is messy (for want of a better word) but do we just leave it at that and say something like ‘I’ve got to live my life, I can’t worry about everything going on in the world sad though it is…oh well,what can you do.?’

Do you ever notice that sometimes when people are slagging off the church  some evangelical book writers or speaker will say ‘Ah, yes, but what about William Wilberforce?He helped abolish slavery you know..
Now abolishing slavery is obviously good except for the inconvient fact that slavery still  goes on and  needs abolished. As this video shows they’re not just working the sugar plantations anymore, they’re working in the salad farms in Southern Spain to supply us here in Lisburn and Dublin with our out of season salads and tomatoes.

If a tomato is  essential daily bread(and we do need to eat) has God somehow given us that tomato using slave labour?
Because hard though it is for us to get our heads and disembodied bodies around that tomato wasn’t just plucked out of a pallet from thin air at the LIDL/ASDA/Tesco distribution cente.

It’s interesting the gentleman at the end of the film says

‘People just don’t want to hear.Everyone knows this system exists. It’s slavery in Europe.At the door to Europe there’s slavery as if we were in the 16th century.Let’s speak out together. No! Everybody can say it. No! You can say that if you continue like that, I’m not going to buy your products. Why do we not say this?’

He’s right. We often don’t want to hear.
Yet (and this is the point where I go into a self-righteous, hypocritical rant writing my blog) we hip, cutting edge Christians seem very adept at hearing that Rob Bell’s latest book is theologically unsound and then having endless theological discussions/fights/tweets/blogs around the reaction to that, or _______.
All the while there are areas of life that we don’t even begin to peak into because they’re too complicated or you need to be an expert  they say you need to be an expert to understand and we’ve more important things to be getting on with.
Eurovision is on!
Man Utd are playing Barca!
iPad2 is out and Steve Jobs is doing a launch!

But how can  we (and especially a Christian ‘we’) have become so used to not looking  into where our daily bread comes from or how it actually got there on our plates?
How can we pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ and not wonder how God supplied it?
Is it unreasonable?Have I just got a bee in my bonnet about something and ‘oh well, what can you do,life goes on?’

All those ingredients in your stock cube that we don’t even know how to pronounce come from somewhere on planet earth. They where not supplied out of thin air in some magic portal out the back of Tesco. Perhaps it was grown in Brazil by slave labour. But who cares eh?

Meanwhile our daily salad or tomatoes most likely has been supplied by slave labour in Southern Spain. Forgive us our trespasses?

deadmau5 and rob bell,john (maris) piper

Well my rocket has appeared and is growing well in the good weather of the last few days. And we”re going to the north coast for a couple of days of fun so before we go I thought I should give the rocket some water. The winter had generously filled our little green watering can with rain and snow water. It was one of those moments when your plans to live a more sustainable lifestyle come to together and you feel like Tom in some episode of The Good Life.

But wait a minute. Why does my compost smell like the sewage works near Hilden? I don’t remember it being smelly before. Oh, did I dissolve some chicken manure in the watering can last year for the  tomatoes and forget to rinse it out?

Careless boy!

But no, H____ would have kicked up a stink about that if I hadn’t washed the watering can out properly…..oooooohhhhhhhhh…there is always the possibility that….please don’t let it be true…..oh, I just know what’s happened now……..yip, just as I suspected….a little drowned deadmau5 at the bottom of the water can in its watery grave now lovingly sprinkled over our nice rocket leaves…….great………….anyone want some of my tasty rocket…

and another thing. Irish roadside picnic sites. Why are they always placed in places that no sane person would want to have a picnic?Usually in a dip, behind a large hawthorn hedgerow with views of the A29 and large orange chip van doing all day breakfasts. It’s like a challenge to put a picnic stop in the most unattractive part of the world.

finally, I was wondering how many extra people would read this blog post about a dead mouse at the bottom of a watering can and the position of picnic sites here in Ireland all the way through if I tagged it with Rob Bell/John Piper.