Friday, April 18, 2008

Who's your Daddy?

Reading Ephesians 5 with Steve on Wednesday. I often find myself cruising through these back-end sections of Paul's epistles as if they're some after thought sticky-taped on. No doubt I'm governed by some misguided approach where I tell myself I'm in need for some 'real theology' not just some 'do this and don't do that'.

Of course that's all rubbish - everything Paul says is completely rooted in what God has done for his people. We're called to be 'imitators of God as beloved children' (5v1). Paul's not whacking Christians over the head with a load of 'to-do' lists, rather he's getting right into the heart of the relationship between Christian theology and Christian living.

The call to imitate God is not some wishful thinking on Paul's behalf, but rather its based on the wonderful reality that we are now God's beloved children, and children imitate their parents. This pattern pops up again and again in the back end of Ephesians - reason for action is everything, and for Paul the reason is knowing who we are. In v3 our identity as 'saints' means certain stuff isn't even to be named among us. In v4 it isn't that filthiness and crude chat is bad that should stop us from doing it, but that it's 'out of place'. Again, in v7-8, 'do not associate with them; for one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light...'.

Christian ethics, that is how you live as a believer in Jesus, is always worked out and motivated by taking note of who you are. It's what fits. Of course if there's no knowledge, if there's no awareness of who we are, then we're either gonna forget and worse head elsewhere for our sense of identity, or we're gonna drift into a stuffy moralism that has lost sight of reasons and truth and thinks of Christianity as actions alone.

That's why simply remembering my identity, as a child of God, a joint of Christ's body, a member of the household of God, is such a precious and cruical thing to do each day. It rams home the importance of a book like Ephesians in stopping us in our tracks and giving us a reality check. This is reality.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Furniture demolition, cups of tea, and being church...

I spent a couple of hours yesterday morning joining a mate as he helped clean out a flat lived in by one of his distant elderly relatives. The old lady in question is suffering from dementia and had been moved out of this top-floor flat in west London to live with family up in Scotland.

As we attacked old beds with saws to make them fit down the stairs, lugged 60's design chairs down four flights, and then shifted it all into a minibus, we realised the reality is we were stripping an apartment of a lifetime's worth of collected possessions. Old hoovers and chairs and pans off to the dump, pictures and books and crockery to the charity shop; it was a pretty sad moment really.

I would hardly have said there was much there that was in anyway unnecessary - it didn't make me suddenly want to streamline my material existence (although, that wouldn't be a bad thing for me to do!). But it did ram home the realisation that at the end of the day all these bits will be left behind. Whether it's being mowed down by a bus in my mid-twenties, signing out at seventy-five, or just being carted out of my home to somewhere, where for a few years, they'll sit me in front of a TV for most of the day and feed me my meals; we will leave this stuff behind us.

Yet it wasn't just furniture being left behind. As we chatted over cups of tea made in very retro china cups there were stories. Stories of a battleaxe of a Christian lady. Stories of the many gatherings in the flat as she opened up her home in loving hospitality. Stories of a woman who loves playing her part in God's body. And as the day went on two things happened: the flat got barer and barer, but also more and more people turned up to help out. Again and again, "Hi I'm a friend from her church" was the opening line. No sermons, no singing, but definitely church in action.