Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Parenting in community

My sermon outline from Sunday. It was great to see the morning meeting packed out ... and I don't think I said any too dumb when interviewed by Radio Berkshire.

Read Mark 10v13-16

A hint of our today
- For a short time, albeit unknowingly to those involved, this crowd became a picture of our today, a group with Jesus in its midst, with Jesus as it’s central focus. Yet Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the children away (presumable they could sense Jesus’ anguish as he anticipated the cross and they tried to protect him?). But it was ‘at such a time as this’ that Jesus made time for the children. He was the kind of person who cared for children, and the type of person children cared for. He must have smiled easily and laughed joyously. Kids like that. It has been said that “We are not to believe in a man’s Christianity if the children are never to be found playing around his door”. And so for the briefest of moments, this 'hint of our today' formed and then dispersed, having had their children blessed by Jesus’ unmerited favour.

Parenting is hard - Parents know all too well the value of support from networks of people (family, friends, special needs groups). All of these networks can offer real & valuable support in areas of raising their children. But there is one community that is unique in its holistic scope and approach … the community of people who are Jesus centred, the church. When people focus their attention off activities or situations for its sense of identity and onto the God/Man Jesus, everything changes. When Jesus is the central focus of a community, Children are highly treasured & valued but they aren’t central to family life, Jesus is. Parenting is hard but being part of a Jesus centred community that can support and learn from one another in all areas of life can be a real asset and a gift from God to us.

God’s grace - Jesus freely took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. There is no mention of any sort of qualification; Jesus blessed them on the basis of His willingness to give and their willingness to receive. They received that blessing in their weakness, helplessness and trust. So it must be for those who follow Jesus. We can’t earn or deserve or merit access into the kingdom of God, we can only accept it as a free gift from God, through our faith in Jesus. God’s grace is sufficient to meet all our needs, just as it is sufficient for us to trust in his Son Jesus for us to belong in the kingdom of God.


Dawn said...

Dear Sean

I write on the issue of parenting but also in relation to your blogs over the last couple of weeks.

I see in your blog about deacons that you once again refer to elders as being men. I recall some time ago that you also posted a blog inviting discussion about the role of women in church leadership.

When I read the original blog I did not comment as, for me, the issue was settled. Whilst I did not agree with your views I did not see it as a "crusade" to get caught up in; a dispute would have served no purpose when seen in the bigger scheme of things i.e. the good work that the Lord is doing through us as a group of Christians. Also, I overlooked the issue as my professional life faced much bigger more consuming battles which has often taken my focus away from the day to day workings of the church. Though my focus remains resolute on Jesus Christ in all things.

However, since your original blog I find the subject playing on my mind and/or being brought to mind when I have those quiet moments with the Lord. Whilst for me I never saw the issue as something which I needed to address, it has made me think about whether this is the environment and teaching I want my children to be raised with.

The thought which keeps coming to mind is that a church is a less potent being if it takes a moral/ethical position which is perceived as being lower that the society in which it exists. I do not speak of feminism but of equality. Our society does not tolerate discrimination and as a nation we would think of discrimination as being an the issue of race or gender etc. Yet in the church this appears to be actively promoted, so far as gender is concerned.

I accept that Paul had very firm views on the subject, as you point out in your various blogs. However, Paul had very firm views on many issues relating to women including telling a young man in love that it would be better to remain unmarried! Yet Paul’s message was one of equality: there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus – Galations 3.28.

Just as Paul had grown up thinking gentiles were inferior to him in the eyes of the Lord, had he not be raised to share the same superior attitude to women? In Acts 10.28 Paul says to Peter that God has shown him that he should not call any man impure or unclean. Therefore, no one is spiritually inferior. God has cleansed people making them pure regardless of whether they are male or female, slave or free, Jew or gentile....

Dawn said...


Jesus never appeared to make any rulings on the issue. He taught women along with men. He refused Martha’s request to return to the kitchen. Jesus had an expectation that all were the same. He certainly did not say that women were not worthy to serve him. None of the disciples were women because culturally this would have been inappropriate. That is the context we must view Jesus’ life in. He was culturally sensitive yet challenged discrimination at every level. He taught about fairness and equality before God.

How one serves the church must surely depend upon what spiritual gifts have been given to that person by Jesus. It is not up to men to decide that a woman may not be blessed in such a way.

There are many examples of women who served as leaders in the New Testament. Junia comes to mind. Romans 16.7 says that Junia was “outstanding among the apostles”. Junia is a woman’s name. Was the role of an “apostle” not a spiritual gift given by God? In 1 Corithinans 12.28 it is said that “…God has placed in the church first of all apostles….”

Then there is Pheobe. Paul sent the book of Romans with Phoebe. Romans chapter 16 introduces Pheobe saying “I commend to you our sister Pheobe, who is a diakonon of the church..” The NIV translation gives this word “diakonon” as being a deacon. However, many other times in the bible the word is translated as “minister” and is the same word Paul adopts when he asks “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?” – 1 Corinthians 3.5. Other places, it has been translated as “servant” maybe because Pheobe, as a women, did not sit comfortably with the rules man developed. Even so, is a minister not a servant?

I put my views as hesitantly as your words in the original blog. I do not wish to cause offence and remain under the authority of the eldership. I trust that there is room for disagreement and debate on issues of interpretation.


Kerry Cowieson said...

I’m glad that the discussion of gender roles is once again being raised within the church. I understand your nervousness and why you refer to it as secondary truth. As a woman though it sometimes doesn’t feel ‘secondary’. I was raised by Christians and a member of several churches before RFC. I had always been taught that I was created and viewed by God as an equal to my brother: as in Gal 3 v 28. The passage in 1 Cor 14 about women remaining silent was always seen as specific instructions to a real church and group of women. This framed how I came to know God; how I understood his view of me and His love of me.

Joining RFC has caused me to try and hold my beliefs but also accept the opinion that women cannot be elders or speak regularly on a Sunday morning – cannot direct the church as a whole. I still cannot make this work – though I love the people at RFC and so much of what we do as a church I don’t want to leave.

I do worry, though, that as my girls grow up they will think that certain gifts or visions that they have may have to go unused or be silenced because they are female. I still find it hard that in a church that so values diversity women can only speak to the church on Mother’s Day. There are so many eloquent and intelligent women in the church, who would inspire all of us; men and women – equally. Even if you can not move on your beliefs about eldership, surely you can see the potential that is being wasted? Not all sermons are directional, after all.

Lastly; I would say as you approach this topic – as you think, pray and write about it – please consider this for a moment. Consider that you still had the same personality; same gifts; skills; vision; but that you were a woman. How would you feel about these verses; these rules then?

I look forward to seeing what you have to say and other people’s responses, too.


Sean Green said...

Thank you both for taking the time to capture your thoughts. I do think it is important to be able to express them.

As you know, as elders/pastors we believe the bible teaches that just as God the Father is head of Christ so to is the husband the head of his wife (Eph 5v23). We also believe that as it goes in the home, so it goes in the church (1Tim3v5)

I will at some point lay out our position again on behalf of the elders, with some more specific details around what woman can and can't do .. and I know that may create a stir!! ;o) .

BUT as I said in an earlier blog, what I don't want us to score a spectacular home goal by creating tensions because of our willingness @ RFC to discuss. We have such momentum in terms of seeing Jesus touch lives, lets not unwittingly cut across because of this important, but secondary issue.

Love, Sean

nicola louise said...

"I will at some point lay out our position again on behalf of the elders, with some more specific details around what woman can and can't do"

- will there be equivalent details around what men can and can't do?

Just a thought...!

Sean Green said...

yeah - that was a dumb thing to write!

How about 'I will attempt to lay out the principles that guide what men and when can do in the gathered church context ...'

Either way there's civil war in Libya,3 catastrophes being played out in Japan and most of Reading don't know Jesus.

Lets keep the main thing, the main thing ;o)