Weird Christianity in an interfaith world

Proverbs 8:1, 22-31 Psalm 104:26-27 Colossians 1:15-20 John 1:1-14.

Christianity is weird.  Most religions just believe in God and believe that good people go to heaven and bad people don’t.

But Christianity’s weird.  We believe in God,– but we say that God is Trinity : three in one and one in three:   And we don’t follow rules or laws either, we say that we have been set free and that we live in the Spirit…..  and that even sinners go to heaven – weird.

Judaism says that Moses gave the Torah.  Islam says that Mohammad gave the Quran – but Christianity says that the Virgin Mary gave us Jesus – the Word made flesh .  To be precise:  The Virgin Mary is the Christian Moses or Mohammad and Jesus, a person and not a book,  is the Christian Torah or Quran.  It’s Weird.

None of that really mattered 500 years ago.   Christians lived here, Muslims and Jews lived somewhere else –  but now its different – we all live side by side in the same streets and sometimes in the same houses:  and we have all discovered a terrible truth – we quite like one another – they’re quite nice really.

In fact;  many of them are much nicer than we are :  and better people than we are,  better at praying and fasting and studying and at living their faith – and their young people go to the mosque, and the synagogue and ours don’t.  We just can’t say that we’re right and everybody else is wrong any more … We have to start looking at things a bit differently.  But we have a problem:  what do we do with Jesus?

In the beginning was the Word…. and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And if Jesus is God, then people don’t really have the option of ignoring him, do they? And so we’re stuck.

But let’s start off by saying what we can say.

First if all we can say that there is only one God. Some people call God Yahweh, some people call God Allah, but there is only one God up there in heaven and all of us are trying – well or badly –  to worship the same God.  That’s good. I wish more people worshipped God.

Secondly we are all children of God:  God loves everyone and God hears the prayers of all people, whatever their faith – and even if they have no faith.  That’s good too.  I wish we could all learn how to treat one another as children of the same heavenly Father.

Thirdly God is God – and that means that God is much much bigger than we can imagine. God’s ways are not our ways, and the mind of God is beyond us all.  So no one – not even Christians – can understand God or speak for God.  That’s good too.  I wish everyone – of all religions – could approach the throne of the heavenly grace with just a little more awe and reverence and humility – and that people would stop saying that they know what God wants.

 

But .. and there are a few ‘buts’  ….  not all religions are the same.  That’s obvious.   We all have our own ways, our own traditions and our own customs.  Some of our ways and traditions and customs are cultural and some are theological.  Some matter and some don’t matter.  There are things about Judaism and Buddhism and Islam that I don’t like and that I don’t agree with – but honestly – there are things about the Church of England and certainly things about 2000 years of Christianity that I don’t like and don’t agree with either.  None of us has a clean record.  None of us understands everything.

 

And then there is Jesus.   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God –  and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongs us.  and we sort of can’t get over it :  If Jesus is God – then it is hard to ignore him. – isn’t it.  We hold the ace card.

So let you give me my way of resolving this problem.  The scandal of the particularity of Jesus – as it’s officially called:  it looks like this:

God is God.  God is not a man or a human being in the sky – God just is.  and none of us know or understand what God is like.  God is Immortal, invisible, God only-wise.     never changing, and without beginning or end.  But,  because God is, God also does – God creates:– and so life – all life: –  life on earth: life on Mars – life on Alpha centauri 876 – exists because God is,  it is all an outpouring of God who creates.  You could say that ‘in the beginning was an overwhelming outpouring of creativity – or you could just say that in the beginning was the Word.  It means the same thing – and it’s easier to say. So God is never just God who is – God is always God who creates as well:  Source and Word.

So God creates the earth, and the animals, and dinosaurs, and lizards and human beings – and martians and aliens – and God just keeps on creating and creating.  And eventually people grow to be free.  They make choices, sometimes the right choices and sometimes the wrong choices – the world, and all of creation is full of life and decay – good and bad  – it is free.

And so God reaches out to creation : we say that God loves creation because that’s the best and highest human word we’ve got : love.   God loved the dinosaurs and the lizards,  God loves the human beings.  And because God is always creating, – Word – and because God is always loving – Spirit –   God speaks to each human being and each human being hears that faint voice of God in their hearts.   Some respond, some do not, some are prophets, some are priests.

 

God loves and speaks to people in the arctic Tundra, God loves and speaks to people in the Chinese desert, God loves and speaks to people in far flung lands, and God loves and speaks to people in the old land of Canaan.   Each race and nation tries to make sense of what God is saying – but God’s ways are not our ways and it is hard for the human mind to comprehend the ways of God.  We can only do our best.

 

Eventually  – because God will not be stopped – God’s creativity becomes so great that the Word becomes flesh.   God becomes a part of what God has made – God climbs into creation  – and now God can work on it again, transforming it from within.

Now I don’t know what that last sentence means – No-one knows how God saves the world  – what the Bible calls the restoration of all things – but it’s what God does.  It’s God’s work and it doesn’t depend on whether or not we understand it or even believe in it.  In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself…  God’s work, not ours. God’s work for all creation – not just for us.

Some people – those who were lucky enough to live in Galilee and in Jerusalem in the first half of the first century – saw this in Jesus and they created a new way of praying, and worshipping and believing  …. a new religion, and it worked for them.   It didn’t change God of course –  it didn’t change how God loves everyone in other countries and in other worlds and in other universes – but it changed them – it gave them a Way, a Truth and a Life.  They called it Christianity –  the Church.

And that is who we are today: Christianity –  the Church.  We worship the one true God – like many other people do around the world  –  we are children of the same heavenly Father – as are all other people around the world – but we bring new treasures to the table. We say that God is One – ‘immortal, invisible, – unchanging and other, and we say that God is also the Word made flesh – God’s unstoppable creativity and life which bursts into creation – being a part of it …  and we say that God loves and speaks to creation and reaches into every person’s heart – personally, directly, and powerfully –  Spirit – so  we call God –  Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and it all sounds a bit weird.

And we believe that God who is independent of all creation and has also crept into creation  – The Word made flesh –  has transformed it, recreated it, and saved it –  from within.   We say that salvation is not about obeying rules and regulations and about the good going to heaven and the bad going to the other place – it’s about the Saving work of God. We say that ‘we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us’.  Yes, it’s weird – it really is very weird – but it’s the jewel that we Christians have to offer – the everlasting instant: the paradox of Christ.

The Very Rev’d Paul Kennington