After the financial crash of 2008, we were given the “burning rig” talk. That talk to tell us things were dire, things would get worse, but if we all pulled together, all tightened our belts, then – even though there would be casualties along the way – we would pull through – that we would make it. But if we didn’t – if we insisted that we “spend spend spend” as usual – if we demanded that things continued as they were … then we would all be chopped down, burned alive, that all of us would come crashing down and finish the job “the bankers” had started (cue pantomime boos and hisses). That burning rig talk was directed at the whole country and had a purpose.
We would all go through a period of austerity so that we all survived together. That was 10 years ago.
I was drawn to Matthew 10 last night. It began with a very short extract: “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves”. And this morning I was drawn back to the phrase and then the whole chapter: “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority … “
Matthew 10 reminds me of a burning rig talk. That to get to the Promised Land, first must come austerity. No baggage. No credit cards or PayPal. No personal comfort zones of any kind. And there would be casualties along the way. And the Good News is really the Divisive News. There would be hatred and anger directed at them – they were sent out as sheep amongst wolves – they must, therefore, be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. And then the consequences: the “all will come crashing down” option in verses 37-39 – or the obvious – “you will see the promised land” option in verses 40-42 … That was 2000 years ago.
I have no idea whether Matthew 10 was the work of an audio-typist … whether it is a transcript of Jesus’ words … whether it was made up afterwards … whether Jesus ever uttered these words …
(and part of me still reacts to my “words of doubt” … Why is that … ?)
But that tells me how much an impact “the church” has on my life. How much the “cultural Christianity” of my country still permeates. How much I am influenced by the superstitions of “God as taught” – the Either Or God.
“A God who will cast you out if you don’t believe” versus “A God who will love you for eternity if you do”. Either Or.
And if you don’t “get it” – even after the Son of God came to earth as a “mere human” (like what I am) – and died a horrible death (just for me) – and then rose again after a 72 hours (which is like a dose of man-flu) – if you don’t get it after all that – then more fool you! Except the sanitised version is “we will pray for you”.
My God used to be the “Either Or God”. That’s how I was taught. That is what I inherited being born in this country. The bible is never taught with a message to challenge that Either Or God. The edges are softened: God is Love and He Loves You! But the core message remains: He IS an Either Or God.
I am challenging that teaching.
Because my God is not “either or”. My God has encouraged and applauded my journey of challenging the bible. My God has encouraged community and communion with those who believe differently, who worship differently, who would never call themselves Christians (or Muslims or …), who would never define themselves by any “theological viewpoint”. Because “saved and churched” or “lost and unchurched” is just that – “theological viewpoints”.
My God (who was freed for a short time between keeping Him safe in a box in the Old Testament culture, and then re-boxing and re-branding Him in the Early Church onwards culture) is of eternity and love without condition.
And both are neither “Either Or” – love and eternity cannot be boxed and rebranded – nor controlled and parcelled out to some but not others.
I am challenging that teaching.
Because being saved (for me) did get in the way of being freed to meet a God of “I Am” – a God devoid of theological viewpoint “boxes and rebranding” – free of creeds and crosses – free of the baggage of “cultural theology”.
The burning rig speech 2000 years-on is those boxes. The creeds 2000 years-on is that rebranding. Theological viewpoints are almost always self-defining and divisive with God again an “Either Or” God.
And I am challenging that
theological cultural viewpoint.