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Check you get the demonstration model...

Check you get the demonstration model... not the disapprover!

It’s often been claimed that most preachers only have one sermon that they re-produce in 52 different ways in the course of a year. In one sense one shouldn’t be surprised at that because we’re called to preach THE Gospel.

Within that we all have our ‘bees in our bonnets’. I suspect a quick read of my contributions to this publication may well reveal consistent themes. To save you the trouble, I have to admit to a discomfort with ‘dour’ Christianity.

Put at its simplist level; it’s a lot easier to DISAPPROVE than it is to DEMONSTRATE. It’s also a rather dangerous strategy, for folk might notice the beam in my eye while I’m busily pointing out the spec in theirs (Matthew 7:1-5).

As I go around, it grieves me that some folk see Christianity as a negative religion. I’ve said before that I think it’s a pity that the word ‘NOT‘ is to be found in the Ten Commandments. No, I’m not suggesting that we should all rush out and steal, covet and commit adultery! Jesus, in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), puts things in a positive light. Here Jesus focuses not just on people’s actions but upon their attitudes.

The Pharisees were frequently in conflict with Jesus because, whilst they administered the rule book with great effectiveness, they failed to remember what was at it’s heart. The focus of the Jesus ministry is SHOWING people the way. God DEMONSTRATES His own love for us in sending His Son into the world so we could see for ourselves what He expected of us.

There’s an interesting website called the Ship of Fools website. Part of it consists of anonymous visits to churches by a mystery worshipper... Even the sermons are scored, the welcomes assessed, the coffee evaluated. While part of me resists this sort of consumerist approach to church, it’s not bad for us to see just what we demonstrate to the casual visitor.

I accept that there is a danger, of course, in making a judgement on the first visit. Most things that matter do need to be gotten used to. First impressions aren’t always accurate. We can however, be blind to what we demonstrate to others. I’m moderate, reasonable, charitable, even tempered, generous to a point, never known to lose my cool! Oh and please don’t talk to my family!! What matters is not my perception but God’s perception of me and indeed what I demonstrate to others.

The Easter Message of Hope and New life in Christ lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It didn’t all end on Good Friday with the death of a prophet who lived too dangerously. Death was conquered. Christ is raised. As God didn’t walk away from the world 2000 years ago, nor does he today. We have something to celebrate. Happy Easter. Oh and by the way, next time you encounter a Christian just check you got the DEMONSTRATION MODEL... NOT THE DISAPPROVER!!!!

The Ven. Richard Gillings
St Columba's Episcopal Church