Well Bishop Martyn’s 3 day mission to Broom Leys and Coalville is over! It was an exciting time and thank you to everyone who took part and helped and who came to the events. The 3 day mission was called, of course, Bishop Martyn’s Big Conversations because we were opening up conversations to talk about life and faith, about God and our world, about heaven and hell. Having these conversations is important because we no longer live in Christendom when it was expected that all would come to Church in a Christian nation, today many will make a decision about their worldview and their life style and the options they will choose in life. So it was really good I thought that the Bishop was a likeable and approachable Christian person with energy and the ability to answer many questions quickly and sharply with integrity and honesty.
There were many highlights during the 3 days, but some that stuck out for me were the amazing number of young families that came to our family fun get-together on Saturday. There were over a 100 people who came and we were overflowing! The prayer breakfast at Wetherspoons was interesting in that the breakfast was really good and good value and the conversation amongst those who were there was vibrant and caused a bit of a buzz in the restaurant and the Bishop was able to talk to a few people about their lives, some of which were quite moving as people talked about their loneliness. Then of course the time in Castle Rock with groups of 20-30 youngsters asking questions, which Neil, our Curate, had put so much hard work into preparing, was I think really good and wonderful of Castle Rock to open up the school in such a way to all 600 students to talk about faith and life.
I thought it would be good to share you with you some of the young people’s questions and you can think how you would answer them.
• Is God real? If so where is the evidence?
• Is hell real or not?
• Who decides whether you go into heaven or hell?
• Is the Creation of the World True?
• Why is there pain if God created the world?
• Why does God let us hate people when we should love them?
They are all really good questions and I wonder how you would answer them? – Perhaps you would say go and talk to the Vicar?
In all the questions we ask though there is a perspective on life behind it, there is a worldview behind them. To answer some questions actually means changing a person’s view on life and the world, that they may have grown up with or educated with.
For instance, is the creation of the world true? Well you only have to look around to see that it is – it is a created place, so yes it is true. But the question comes more from the debate that schools and society have entered into on the creation of the whole world in six days as stated in Genesis versus the evolution of the world over millions of years. The premise of the questions is from a worldview that is flawed. The Bible talks about God creating a world for human beings because he delights in us and wants us to know his love and how special we are to him and how valued each individual is to him. It explains the evil that gets in the way of knowing God’s love and separating us from him. Six days can also be translated from the original Hebrew as six ages. Evolution on the other hand is a scientific theory to try and explain what is happening in our world and where we have come from and how we are developing. In both of these God is very much present and not absent at all.
It’s like the debate on science and religion which is put forward as though they are different. Science is out to disprove that God exists whereas religion is out to prove he does exists. The premise of the debate is wrong, the worldview it comes from is incorrect. If you have a view that God doesn’t exist then you will set out to use science to prove that case, if you have a view that God does exist then you will see so much in science that shows God at work, not least to see that our world is special and uniquely positioned from the Sun for life to exist. There are many scientists who carry out their work from a Christian viewpoint.
You would have heard the story of the scientist who came to God and said, “We’ve figured out how to make a man without you.”
God said, “OK, let me see you do it.”
So the scientist bent down to the ground and scooped up a handful of dirt. But God stopped him and said, “Oh, no you don’t. You get your own dirt!”
Our view then determines how we answer questions about God. Why is there pain and suffering if God created the World? Immediately we are assuming that if God is in something then there shouldn’t be any pain or suffering, yet actually there is much pain and suffering on Jesus journey to the cross, there is much grief in Jesus when he sees the world suffer and it is actually at these times that he comes very close.
100 years ago, when medical science wasn’t so much advanced, people lived in the knowledge that they would die. Death was part of life. But we have built our culture today to expect suffering to be fixed and pain to be solved and death to be put off as long as possible, so much so that when tragedy occurs we have to question if God exists because if he did then tragedy wouldn’t exist, but that isn’t scriptural at all. Our worldview has changed.
In actual fact death is part of life and God through Jesus Christ is very much part of this, in fact so much so that he brings us to new life in Christ, our identity is in Christ and eternal life is in Christ. Our God is a God of the living not the dead. Out of pain and sadness comes treasures in Christ, the dying process is a deeply deeply spiritual experience where Christ is with us taking us onto to a new life with him. Often we can’t have this without pain.
I remember being with a parishioner and her husband during her terminal illness, we had some immensely spiritual moments with Christ. I have sat with another m,emeberr of our congregation in her pain and known an immensely close healing presence of the Holy Spirit. I was compelled by God’s Holy Spirit to see a man in his illness. Central to Christ’s mission is not merely deliverance from sin but the provision of a state of wholeness and blessedness in which a person realizes the purpose of God for them. Jesus ministry was to those who were in need so that they could know this renewed wholeness in their lives, not just physical, but spiritual and emotional and in relationship with God.
Why does God let us hate people when we should love them? There is a premise and worldview behind that question, assuming that God will take control of everything for us and that we have nothing to be blamed for. Well Jesus teaches us how to forgive because we have been forgiven and how to love even those we hate. He doesn’t allow us to hate he shows US how to overcome the sin of hate in our lives.
Our questions then are dependent on our worldview.
Jesus talks to this in our passages this evening. (Mark 2:18-22 & Acts 2:1-13). No one will take a piece of cloth that hasn’t been washed and shrunk and uses it to mend an old cloak because once it is washed it will shrink and tear the cloak. No one will put new wine that is potent and lively, into already stretched old wineskins, because it will break the wine skins. The new that Jesus is bringing to us doesn’t’ fit with the old viewpoints and worldviews, it is something totally different and you can’t understand what Jesus is doing if you stick to the old views. On the day of Pentecost God did something new. He filled those who would believe in his son Jesus Christ with God’s Holy Spirit and gifted them for God’s work and purposes in this life. They became excited and they challenged the old views on the world as Jesus challenges the world today. You will never know God’s Holy Spirit if you never know Jesus Christ as God’s son and that means that you have to make a conscious decision in faith to believe, the decision is ours to make, not God’s to make on our behalf. Jesus challenges the worldviews that we might have inherited and been taught and in answering questions about life and faith, we too challenge those old worldviews.
At our Churches Together Prayer Morning yesterday we heard many stories of the new wine in our communities, the people praying at Christ Church, the Youth Worker here at St David’s, the 80 young people that Heartland Youth for Christ come into contact with, the new Pastor at GCC and the new Vicar at Christ Church and all were enthusiastic about the new confidence that the Bishop’s Mission has brought to us and the realisation of the strong relationships and regard that the Church, especially this Church, is held in our community and the hunger to know something new and different.
The Spirit is moving and doing something new let us follow and be faithful and tell our story, but let us beware of being drawn into the old worldviews and old viewpoints that many questions are asked out of. The new wine will not fit into old wineskins it will burst them. Amen