Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year, and a thought

As always it's going to take a while to get used to putting 2010 or '10 on the dates. As usual we'll come to it.

Just reading Vincent Donovan's Christianity Rediscovered, one of the great books for re-thinking how we do 'mission' in the world. (I mean mission as Christians to people who don't know about Christ, of course, though I note how strongly this word has been adopted by the business world - here, for example.)

Donovan makes a very strong point (particularly around pages 37-9) that God is the 'High' God - the one above all petty, personal, local, national gods. There's nothing new in what he's saying, but we still find it very hard to comes to terms with. Each of us has our own view of what God should be like, and we don't think at least some of those other people ought to be allowed to share him. Nations claim him as their God - the US is a prime example at the moment (and even Hitler managed to invoke him as the German 'God').

Different Christian denominations claim that He's their God - they don't say it outright, but they're often very suspicious (underneath) of the God those other denominations adhere to. This has changed enormously in my lifetime - when I was a child, Catholics - of which I was one - didn't walk on the same side of the street as each other, let alone go to each other's churches. While we were by no means as intolerant as our Irish forebears (only a generation or two behind us), I can remember distinctly hearing the chant, Proddie dogs, stink like frogs, being shouted from one side of the street to the other - Proddies being Protestants. Fortunately I had no idea what this about at the time!

And within denominations we're not always sure that the god that the Baptists/Presbyterians/Catholics up the road worship - those very people who ought to be our brothers and sisters in Christ - is quite the god we worship.

But God is the High God, the God overall. It took the Israelites quite some time to come to terms with this, even though their prophets shouted it into their ears again and again, and their father Abraham left his home country in order to be a blessing to all nations, not just the tiddly little one he begat. Even when Jesus spoke it out again and again, he was struggling to get the idea across. Ultimately - and temporarily - the god(s) of the Pharisees and Romans prevailed, and Jesus was executed. The High God, however, the one that Jesus told us was the Father of everyone, raised him up again - He wasn't having any of this nonsense about the petty little local Jewish god that the Pharisees and Sadducees worshiped.

Donovan points out that the Masai, to whom he was a missionary, already had a High God. But He was their god; he wasn't even the god of their neighbours three miles down the road.

How we delight to be tribal, whether we're African or American or Asian, or New Zealanders...
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