Have We Made Our God Too Small?

I felt the nudged to publish my sermon from this morning. So here it is:

Fifty young people gunned down in Orlando just because they have a different idea about sexuality than a lone gunman? Where is God? A young bright mother, campaigner and MP gunned down in a Yorkshire village because she has different ideas to a lone gunman? Where is God? As we stand here this week (12th-19th June 2016 ) and look at the headlines in our papers and on our television, increasingly it seems it is not unreasonable to ask where is God in our world today. Is God impotent, powerless? Where is the God of power we so often sing about.

I do wonder if he appears to be powerless in our society today because that is what we have made Him. God so often chooses to use His followers to bring answers to prayer, rather than intervene directly, and yet in our culture we seem to have retreated into our churches and apologised for believing in a powerful God. I am not pointing the finger, I find this as challenging as the next person. I am as guilty as the next man or woman who calls themselves a Christian, of making our God powerless. I am apologetic about our God, I all to often take the politically correct route of God works for me, but I don’t want to bother you with Him. There is a children’s song my children use to sing by Doug Horley. The words go like this.

Have we made our God too small, too small?
Have we made our God too small?
He made the heavens and earth and He reigns on high
Yet He’s got the time for you and I
See the glory of God light up the sky
As the clouds proclaim He reigns on high
See the huge expanse of the oceans wide
And a billion stars that grace the sky
I am awed by the power
Awed by the marks of God all around me
Yet I’m humbled everyday by my unbelieving ways
I really, really want it to change.

So my question today is have we made our God too small? Jesus meek and mild has been doing the rounds in our churches for many a year, and yet I don’t see Jesus meek and mild in the Bible I read. I see Jesus caring I see Jesus full of compassion and love for His people, However I also see Jesus strong, Jesus powerful, I see Jesus our Leader. A Leader and Saviour that any woman or man would be proud to follow, proud to shout about from the rooftops. It might not be our English way, but it seems our English way has ended us here, where we are today. We look at Luke’s gospel and we see demons quake at the idea that the Son of God is amongst them.

‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’

Luke 8:28b

Jesus does not hesitate, He cast the demon out of the man, and heals him. Whether we choose to believe in literal demons, or whether we choose to believe it was mental illness the result is the same. Jesus heals the man because He had the power to do so, and He still does today. We should not mistake compassion for God’s people with being meek and mild. When we pray for change to come to this nation, and we should pray for change to come to this nation, we pray with the power of the God who created the universe behind us. If we pray for the men and women of violence in our world, then what pain and devastation can be avoided? If we pray for the men and women of violence to be transformed by the healing power of Jesus, how could this world change? Have we made our God too small by not speaking of Him and his power to heal? If we accept the powerful God into our lives then we can expect transformation in our lives, and then transformation in our country, and then transformation in our world.

The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with [Jesus]; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:38-39

Again in our Gospel we so often see transformation moves to declaration. The man who had been healed could not help himself, he was not English, he declared his faith to those around him. And I have no doubt that those around believed. How could they not? The transformation was so dramatic. I wonder how transformed we have allowed our lives to become? I think I have made God so small that I have boxed Him up. I bring Him out in Church and set Him up as I would the candles, and then when I leave I put him away. I wonder if I am alone in that? The demons in our lives, must laugh at the way we treat the Creator of the universe, as though he has no power. Have we made our God so small that we dare not breathe His name in public? Have we made our God so small that we dare not allow transformation in our lives, or speak of that transformation to others?

If God is the same God today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow then it is clear God is not impotent. It is clear He is not powerless? It is clear He is not small. I want you to know that is the truth. God is God, despite what we see around us. I want you to know that God is powerful, despite what we might see at this moment. I want you to know that He wins. There may be evil on our screens, there may be evil in our papers, but there is an answer, and that is the God you know, the Jesus you read about in your Bible.

But we have a part to play. That part is to stop talking about the Creator of the universe like He is some slightly embarrassing relative. And I am sorry for the times that I have done that. I believe that God is calling to His people, to acknowledge that He is God, to be transformed in our lives and to declare that He is the God who transformed us to the world, to His people. What people?

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

Matthew 28:18-20

God is greedy, He wants all the world’s people to return to Him. So we had better get busy, and see the transformation of this world from evil to God.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Cross clan. As ever this year has been a mixture of blessings and trials, as I am sure it has been for you as well. To be honest the blessings far outweigh the trials, and certainly our trials fade away as we watch our TV’s and read the press.

As ever it’s been a busy year full of change. Becky lived away from home for most of this year,as she completes her final year of her degree. Jessie returned from her gap year too, then started her degree in Bath. Then there was Jack who made it into adulthood just a couple of weeks ago, meaning that we are now a household of adults! Well at least numerically anyway. Suzy is doing great, and continues to work as a pre-schools worker for the Church as well as nanny for three young girls. I was ordained a priest in July, and have continued to love this role as curate at St. Mary Magdalen. I just can’t believe that we are eighteen months into curacy, but that is the truth. Suzy and I managed to sneak a trip abroad a few weeks ago, largely due to some generous gifts. It made us feel humble, and extremely grateful and was just what we needed to re-charge. It was during this time that we came up with an insane idea of seventy goals before seventy. Seventy things that we want to do before both of us reach the age of seventy. Twenty for Suzy, twenty for me, and thirty shared. The goals are beginning to form, some simple, but many outlandish, and crazy. More to come on that in the future.

Just a brief rundown on our year, and I hope that we can catch up in person, perhaps over the celebrations. Talking of celebrations as ever the money we would have spent on your Christmas card has gone to one of our favourite charities. This year, as as a nod towards Jessies gap year the cash has gone to Stop the Traffik (http://www.stopthetraffik.org). It’s a charity that campaigns to raise awareness about the world wide trafficking issue. As a family we have had a long relationship with Stop The Traffik and it was part of Jessie’s journey to do the degree she is doing.

So celebrate the Main Mans birthday, and have a great time doing so. He loves fun, just as much as we do.

Amour Radical

Paris CityscapeIt’s Monday morning and the UK awakes to a new work week. It’s just over two days ago that news began to seep through about the horrible attacks in Paris and the deaths caused. The immediate response was sorrow and compassion for those caught up in the terror attack. A good response, a response that echoes the love we have for our fellow humans. Then fear raised it’s head. Fear that this could happen again in the UK, fear that the London 7/7 attacks would be repeated. If “perfect love drives out fear”, then it is also true that perfect fear does appear to drive out love. Social media has become the heart that we wear on our sleeves over the last few years, and if what we have seen on social media the last two days is our heart then we need a transplant. Whilst many have been showing their alliance with France by adding the French national flag to their profile picture in some fashion, others have been crying, ‘close the borders’ or ‘bomb the @£$%.’ These are just a couple of the irrational, poorly conceived and fearful responses we have seen, from what at other times I am sure are perfectly compassionate reasonable humans.

So for the last forty eight hours my heart has been sinking every time I read from someone I know these or some other similar response to the attacks. My own personal initial response was to pray for those who we caught up in the attack, and keep my head down and my thoughts away from any form of social media. Then I awoke this morning and understood that saying nothing is not an option. My leader and saviour Jesus spoke out about injustices in this world, he is my model. So let me be clear these attacks are intolerable, unacceptable and evil. We should do what we can to bring anyone connected to them to account. However where does all the hate being propagated on social media at the moment take us? In living rooms around the country as young ears hear the hate filled responses, what are we creating for our future? As some of our fellow humans are are spat at on our streets, what dark corners are we driving them to? I am not suggesting that the answer is easy, actually the answer provided by the Teacher is radical.

43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven… (Matthew 5:43-45a NIVUK)

So for me I will be praying for enemies of love, who perpetuate this hate, as they seek to plot and attack. I’ll be praying for my neighbours in my country who spread hate via social media misrepresenting and apportioning blame. I will also be praying for the victims of such attacks in France and across the world. Please come join me in my prayers.


Journal: Tuesday 13 January 2015 15:23

WallWe are sitting in a traffic jam on the way back from Bethlehem to the hotel. Why? Because an abandoned vehicle was blown up in case it was a security threat, and is now being removed. It perhaps sums up the extreme reaction to day-to-day life in Jerusalem. But life goes on. The last 48 hours have been a lesson in how life goes on even amongst the evil that we humans are willing to impart on one another. Yesterday we visited the holocaust remembrance museum, Yad VaShem, a experience I will never forget. A story, no a remembrance of the evil nations have imparted onto the Jewish people. Yes focussed mostly on the 20th century holocaust, but also remembering that this was and is not the only time evil has raised its head against the Jewish people. But what impacted me was that the evil was made worse, if that is possible, by the abandonment of the Jewish people by other nations. For a nation to turn away the individuals of that nation must turn away as well. I jotted down some words on the bus journey home. I’m not sure that they amount to anything other then how my heart felt as we left that place.

Cain beats Abel, you stand by.
We kill you Son, you standby.
Hitler kill the Jews, we stand by.

When will you respond?
When is enough evil done?
When will you send your Son?

I of course don’t believe God abandons anyone, but sometimes the tool he uses to intervene seems blunt, as we His people look the other way. Then today we crossed into Bethlehem, across the wall that divides this land. The irony of a nation that has been persecuted and placed in ghettos throughout its history, segregating people is not lost on me. The politics of it all are so very complex, and I’m not entirely sure I even begin to understand them, but I do wonder if individuals continue to turn away from this land and its people what might happen here and elsewhere. What I have decided is that ignorance is no excuse, and that we should be informed and be ready to take a stance. As we exited Yad VaShem Yesterday, there was a sign on the wall from Imre Bathory, a Hungarian who put his own life at risk by helping to save Jews from the concentration camps. “I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain: ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood was crying out to God?’” As I leave the Holy Land, I take away with me the same desire.

Pure Religion

Journal: Sunday 11 January 2015 17:56

imageWhat to say of the last couple of days and our arrival in the Holy City of Jerusalem. I guess the mosh obvious feeling is one of confusion. Here in a city of religion there are many who would profess to worship a just and loving God, yet there is a clambering to hold territory to stake a claim on their particular version of God and his land. It is easy to see how those who choose to be agnostic or atheistic look on perplexed. With recent events in Paris one wonders just what we have learnt from the last few thousand years of religious conflict. Although I sit here a committed Christian, this city makes me aware that Christians are far from innocent in this history. Yet we must be aware that there are many around the world who listen to their scriptures and try and bring Gods love into this world. My bible says:

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27).

I have seen and heard of pure religion here in the Holy Land, and it is not amidst the pomp, and the glitter. I have seen pure religion or pure love enacted by many people. Here in Israel we visited a children’s home, supported by the operator of this tour. Love is enacted in that place on a daily bases. Today we worshiped with other Anglicans at St George’s, and heard of love that is enacted ever day both here in Jerusalem and also in Gaza. Sick are healed in hospitals supported by those of that Church, and people are fed. Boys are raised and given a chance to be the men God would have them be, supported by travellers. Perhaps that is pure religion, perhaps that is pure love. Perhaps that is God in the Holy Land. Perhaps that should be headline news.