8.10.07

tales from the outside: sacramental space II

when I started writing these pieces of work I gave the caveat that ‘I may be wrong’. I have no 100% certainty. I am entering a place that is attempting to take us all to a place of renewal. I speak to all my brothers and sisters, but also particularly to my evangelical brothers and sisters who are so wounded at the moment. I began by expressing my expectation that conservatives would tear me apart, and that opens may be wary of my openness. This is part of my story, part of my experience of being among all hues of evangelicalism – but let me re-phrase what has been interpreted by a commenter as a self-fulfilling prophecy, in terms of my expectation that conservatives will tear me apart.

You are all my brothers and sisters. My heart is heavy with the wounded nature of evangelicalism at this time in our history. I desire for us all to be One. For us all to be found in the One who holds us all. For us all to find each other in the One who holds us all.

I understand, perhaps more than you think, that writing such exposing pieces seems to be counter to this desire. I believe it is the way forward. With all my humanness and with all my vulnerability, I give you part of me.
_____________________________________________________

I wish to stay within the context of sacramental space and the nature of preaching which, I believe, is the creating of that space for God to encounter people. It is within this context that great joy and great pain can be felt in the safe hands of God. It is a place for God’s healing and God’s invitation to have its focus. It is a place where we listen together for God’s Word to live among us and in us.

I am a preacher. I love preaching and I feel the weight of responsibility when I preach. I also feel the freedom that God gives me to bring something of myself, who I am, to the Word. To make it dance and give it a life beyond the page. I love Scripture, the way that it has a richness that is so deep I haven’t even begun to discover all that God has to teach me from it, about himself, about me. I can feel God’s delight when I read something that comes to life and I join the community of God’s people through the ages, reading, hearing, listening for God’s living Word.

I say all this deliberately so that you feel the wound that is felt when, in this sacramental space, you hear a word that seems outside who you understand God to be. I understand that ‘hurts’ and ‘damage’ and ‘wounds’ are not ‘fashionable’ to talk about, in the sense that to give away this part of myself is not comfortable for others to read. I can only offer you my own discomfort along with your own. And also to tell of the hope of healing that has been offered to me and which is as sweet as honey to me. I would not have missed this depth of journey with God, despite the pain.

And now, I offer you my wound. If I begin with this text:

‘As it is written, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.” What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” ’ Romans 9:13-15

This was part of a text that was preached – in all honesty I cannot tell you how much of the rest of the text was used because beyond the first 5 minutes of the sermon I was stunned to the point of deafness with an illustration based on this part of Romans.

The preacher told us of an experience of friendship at university halls of residence. In the halls the preacher’s neighbour on one side (let’s call him David) was a Christian, on the other side the neighbour (let’s call him Peter) was not. The preacher was friends with both these men, he apparently knew them well. What was the difference, we were asked, between David and Peter? Why was one a Christian and the other not? It was not, we were told, that one was more caring, intellectual, than the other. No. But God loved David.

God loved David.

My heart broke.

What about Peter? I screamed silently. Desperate for Peter, for all the ‘Peters’. Before this point, this was so outside my understanding of God that it did not occur to me that for some this is such a commonplace doctrine that no-one got up and walked out. And I looked for that person, the first to walk out on this notion. And I forgot for that moment, that I was that person, so I sat there, deaf.

A whisper from the Enemy – ‘maybe you’re a Peter.’ ‘maybe God does not love Peters.’ ‘maybe God hates Peters.’

But I know that God does not hate ‘Peters’. I know that God loves all that he has made.

Conservative Evangelicals

Open Evangelicals

Anglo-Catholics

Liberals

Buddhists

Hindus

All humanity

All Creation


Shout it from the rooftops.

9 comments:

dave williams said...

Jody,

Do you have the preacher's name, contact details and a full outline of his sermon. Where was the sermon preached and when. As a Christian committed to truth and to unity I would like to speak to him or her and discuss what was said. I would like the full context so that I don't misjudge him.
The sermon was obviously given publicly so you should have no problems revealing these details.

Many thanks

Dave

Dave Williams said...

Jody,

I woudl also like the names of the ministers and churches concerned in your previous allegations. Again with contact details. I will write to each of them personally letting them know what you have written about them and giving them the opportunity to respond

jody said...

Dave

I think that you have misunderstood the nature of my posts. Do you really want this to become a witch hunt? (I certainly do not)

I am not going to give names and I'm not going to respond to comments which I find aggressive.

in Christ
Jody

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think Dave Williams's comment says it all. As if. Your story is quite a personal one but it happens in all its particularities to many.

dave williams said...

Jody,

I'm not into witchhunts. Indeed is that word, or the constant tarring of "Conservative Evangelicals" with the same brush as the unnamed defenceless villians any less "aggressive" than a simple, reasonable and indeed quite normal request that the other side of the story is heard, or at least the full context is given.

I can assure you that in the workplace, my non christian colleagues would have expected nothing less if rumours and gossip was circulating.

Come on Jody, let's at least have the dull transcript of this sermon.

At the moment all I can see is that the accused was trying to make the point, provocatively perhaps that the issue in terms of salvation is not our own abilities, goodness or intellect.

davewilliams said...

For dull please read "full" Hopefully not a freudian slip!

jody said...

Dave

As I said I think you have misunderstood the nature of my posts. It is precisely because I don't want this to be gossip or accusation that I have not made it personal to the other people involved. I have not named them because I am not angry and do not wish to fight. They are necessarily part of the story, and their story has impacted mine deeply, but the focus is MY story.

So, my brother I ask you with my heart open to engage with me on this road of reconciliation. I long for the day when we (OEs and CEs) are not so divided. I don't believe that day can come unless we face up to some of the difficult stuff.

In Christ, Jody

dave williams said...

Jody,

I understand that you and I have a half complete debate going on regarding how we address God, what the nature of the Trinity is etc. We also had an incomplete conversation about Penal Substitution.

But really, engaging with you on the road of reconciliation. It sounds like there is a little bubble to be burst here.

Jody, there are debates and disagreements going on -as always about how we interpret Scripture and how we join up our theology. These are important discussions. That doesn't stop and hasn't stopped Christians sharing in communion together. Bishop Tom Wright can write a critical review of Mike Ovey's book and still preach at Oak Hill, and share in communion, for example. I can still meet with and enjoy fellowship with my paedo-baptist friends and then they can tell me what's wrong with my congregationalist theology! Such conversations need to keep going.

Then there are people who have fallen out with churches and individuals. Some have behaved wrongly to others. No doubt in some cases those who think they have been wronged are actually the ones in the wrong. Sometimes it was equal fault. Such relationships should be repaired where possible.

Then there are people who have engaged wilfully in false teaching for gain. They have spent their time attacking the body of Christ. At those times, it is appropriate to exercise the tools of discipline given to the church.

It seems to me that you have confused all of these. You have issues to sort out with specific people not with some mystical entity called "CEs" and not on behalf of some other mystical entity called "OEs"

jody said...

Dear Dave

I don't think I have confused these things - surely our theology bears out in practice?

I indeed have friends who differ from me on such issues as creation, headship, atonement, gender and much more I am sure. I consider them dear friends.

However, perhaps there is a deeper theology at stake which is more difficult to determine and discuss. I have made my story personal to me, but I have offered it here because it seems to be of a type, of a pattern, because I am aware of others whose stories and concerns are similar.

It would be easier to say 'it's not a problem, it's just one church, one person', and then of course none of us would have to tackle the mystical groups of OEs and CEs - which are, inarguably, not mystical groups at all, but very real groups of people, both who want to love God, but who are struggling to exist alongside each other.