Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Secrets and Self-promotion

Was Jesus into 'self-promotion'? (eg - the miracles, healings, feeding the 5,000, turning over the temple tables etc). These were hardly 'secret' events were they?

And yet he specifically resisted the 'spectacular' when he was being tempted by the Devil, and he told those whom he had delivered or healed not to tell anyone, then there is the whole issue of the 'Messianic Secret'.

I tend to think that Jesus seemed reluctant about his 'fame' and 'popularity'. But I know I may be reading into the Gospel accounts something of my own personality - for I am instinctively more at ease in the background and not in the limelight (and - yes - I know that will come as a surprise to many!).

When I read / hear things which I have written being incorporated without being attributed or acknowledged into (for example) other people's sermons or General Assembly reports (and I have!) then rather than feeling a sense of outrage, indignation or whatever... I have a sense of quiet pride and smugness that I know it was me who said that! (And I am more than aware that this is an acknowledgement of a great deal of very un-holy pride!). Indeed, in these last sentences I fear I have contradicted my position on this!

I am conscious that my own personality can get in the way of my judgement, my opinions and my perspectives on Jesus in the Gospels. What do I do about that???

Part of all this has been precipitated by my feelings of intense discomfort when colleagues 'self-promote' (imho!!) their ministries, charitable acts, congregations and so on...

is that just me? could be! My personality cannot cope with it. I could not easily promote myself, my charitable acts or my congregation's 'wonderfulness' without extreme discomfort.

I recall a friend saying that the one 'sin' he would never preach about was gambling... simply because it is the one sin to which he was not in the slightest tempted! So forgive me if I seem to question at all the integrity of those whom I (in my doubtful humility!) consider to engage in 'self-promotion'. How easy it is for me - who recoils at the very idea of self promotion (and does so from an unhealthy place I reckon) - to question the motives of others.

But the questions are burning within me.

Is it Christian humility to talk about ourselves and the wonders of our ministries and our congregations in the public domain (internet, facebook, press releases, blogs etc)?

Are our charitable acts meant to be published given what Jesus said about not letting or left hand know what our right hand was doing?

Does Jesus' apparent (in my view) reluctance to encourage publicity sit easily with our constant publicising of our congregations and their successes, triumph's, virtues??

Just asking!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Certainty, doubt and faith.

Who was it who said 'The older I get the more and more sure I become about less and less'? Whoever it was, thank you! I have quoted that on many occasions. I began my Christian walk some 38 years ago, and I started off being pretty certain about most things. As time has gone on I have become much more sure of a few of these things and much less sure about most of them!

Dave Tomlinson (author of 'The Post-Evangelical' and Anglican clergyman) speaks of the need to discover a second naivety (I think he too is quoting someone there!) and I whole-heartedly agree. Once we have gone through the questioning of cherished beliefs, the various doubts and a re-framing of the faith (which many - but not all - seem to do) we need to move to a new engagement with our faith in God and our following of Christ which is 'child-like'. That means being willing to live with questions, not always be looking for 'answers' to everything, but does involve what Dave calls (in his new book) a 're-enchantment' with Christianity.

I do not agree with Dave Tomlinson in every respect, but I like that idea of 're-enchantment'.

I have no problem whatsoever with asking questions, expressing doubts and re-framing doctrines... it has been my own journey. But it saddens me that some who take this route get stuck in a place of cynicism, or assume a smug intellectual superiority, or lose their love for God and their passion for the faith, and who having 'climbed the ladder' from their simplistic earlier faith, effectively pull that ladder up behind them and may prevent others beginning the journey.

So I'll raise a glass of decent red (or an 18 year old malt) to a second naivety and a re-enchantment with Christianity. Cheers!