One of the senior members of my last church once asked me what I thought of Jeremiah; I have to confess that I mumbled about the prophet being one of doom, gloom and misery. The other day I found myself thinking of this occasion when I was reading a few verses from Jeremiah 7 in my daily readings. The commentator was talking about God promising to be with us in the midst of everyday lives, and went on to say that it was no use going to church unless we also stood up for justice and looked after people in need.
Sadly, it is often true that people drift away from churches because they don’t see the relevance of the worship to contemporary issues or even worse, because someone has been difficult or bad to them. In rural areas it is often the case that people gather together out of a sense of community, yet in many places that gathering of people is becoming older and older. That’s not true everywhere, of course, there are some churches where people of all ages gather for worship and fun and to be encouraged in faith. It is these so called “successful” congregations that are studied by those worried about the decline in church attendances.
I’m not sure why I started this today……. it kind of sounds like the start of a sermon. Confession time here: I rarely read online sermons unless I know the preacher, but occasionally a good first line grabs my attention. My thoughts this past week have been very much on how others see or understand God. Mainly that is because I have been listening to an audio version of The Shack, by William P Young. I first blogged about it here in 2008. It is a book that people seem to either love or hate, and how people feel does not split according to their tendency to follow one type of theology or another.
Standing up for justice in a blog which is by its nature open source, is not always easy. Many bloggers are much braver than I am. As explained previously, I tend to worry about giving offence. It is a disease that comes insidiously to clergy, who have to worry about the need to be prophetic like Jeremiah, and to balance that with the inevitability of annoying those who contribute to the coffers of the church. That is why The Shack is so refreshing, it stands theology on end and makes the reader think about heart and mind and what really matters. The three persons of God (ie the doctrine of the Trinity) is dealt with in an innovative and refreshing way, and difficult issues like evil, suffering and death are addressed head on.
As it is nearly 2yrs since I first discovered the book I would be interested in hearing what others think.