Thursday, 29 November 2012

Celebrating goodwill and partnership

Just a few days ago, I was blown away by the kindest of gestures. In recent weeks, a focus of our attention in church has been developing plans to open a satellite Foodbank in the New Year. Word of our plans has reached another agency in our area who contacted me with the offer of a Christmas gift, sacrificing the presents which would otherwise have gone to their staff.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this gift, especially in light of Mark 9, which tells the story of an incident when John comes to Jesus, complaining about someone, ‘casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’John is clearly appalled at this unregulated activity on behalf of kingdom, but Jesus shows no inclination to rein in such work. He points out that those who do work in his name are unlikely to turn against him in the future and someone who isn’t an enemy can instead be considered an ally. Finally, he tells the disciples that, ‘whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.'

In his excellent commentary on Mark, Binding the Strong Man, Ched Myers comments on these verses:

John is entertaining “holier than thou” delusions, but Jesus points out how his followers will often find themselves on the receiving end of compassion. In other words, disciples have no corner on the ministry of healing and liberation, and therefore should without prejudice work alongside those whose practice is redemptive.

Our friends in Birmingham have offered us this generous gift, and they’ve come in on the ministry of ‘healing and liberation.’ So often, it seems we’re still like John, still wary of ‘the world’ and suspicious of partnership with agencies outside of the church, who we regard as being in competition, or even opposition, to us. In the process, we blind ourselves to the goodwill and grace which is extended to us by so many people who want the same as us, the redemption of our communities.

Today’s news is all about the question of whether or not we need regulation of the press. I sometimes wonder if we need a debate in church on our attempts to regulate the work of God...

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