How to avoid God – and others . . .

It was Seventy-five years ago this week (June 8, 1941) that Oxford Professor C.S. Lewis ascended the pulpit at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford and delivered a sermon entitled “The Weight of Glory”. Now, I must admit, up until this week I had never read it from start to finish but only ever read excerpts and quotes in other literature. It is breathtakingly beautiful and shines a light, if such a thing were possible, on the heavenly world that is to come. In 1949 Lewis published a book by the same title, and in it was a prescient warning of the dangers of the world he was heading into, and in which we now live.

Lewis wrote: “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”

In his own homeland of Britain, The Guardian reported that the Office for National Statistics published statistics in 2013 which found Britain to be the loneliness capital of Europe. The article notes research from  the University of Chicago which “found loneliness to be twice as bad for older people’s health as obesity and almost as great a cause of death as poverty.” As worrying as this is, the 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed showed higher incidence of loneliness than did the over 55’s. America shows similar trends with the suicide rate growing over the last decade, and things would be little different in Australia.

NY Times columnist, Ross Douthat calls what is happening in the West a “retreat from community” and ponders that if it continues, it “is simply destined to leave more people disconnected, anxious and alone.”

Lewis saw this retreat from community on the horizon, one in which he diagnoses the root cause as a retreat from God. He ponders, “How then, it may be asked, can we reach or avoid Him? The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a very large part of the human race failed to achieve it. But in our own time and place, it is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.”

The irony is this: if we make time for God in our lives, we are more likely to make time for others. Faith has a private and personal dimension, but lived in the Spirit and love of Jesus, it always leads us out in love to others.  Jesus came to this world so that no would be lonely, He is a true friend to all.

In Christ,

Nicholas.

 

The God I Don’t Believe In

Unbelief is kind of the cultural vibe at the moment in the Western world. Doubt is the new black. Sociologists and demographers have coined a term for those with no religious affiliation: “the nones”. Written 45 years ago, John Lennon’s dreamy song, Imagine, has become a reality for “the nones” with its phrase “imagine no religion,” as has the classic R.E.M. anthem, Losing my Religion.  We see atheist writers and speakers taking on celebrity status and even churches for people who don’t believe in God.

And yet, globally speaking, religious faith and devotion is on the up and shows no signs of slowing down. Most people in the world believe in God or gods and the vast overwhelming majority of people in the world believe in the reality of spiritual, non-material life. So really, the question globally is not so much “do you believe in God,” but rather, “What sort of God/gods do you believe in?”

It’s within this context that we are exploring over the next little while what sort of God Jesus reveals to us.  We will ask questions of faith by starting with a negative: The God I don’t believe in. We want to thoughtfully and respectfully engage the erroneous caricatures of God that have become common in our culture. We want to ask: “what sort of God does Jesus reveal to humanity?” Maybe you do or don’t believe in God; either way, this series is for you.

Whoever you are and whatever you do or don’t believe about God, you are most welcome to come along to NightChurch at Kew Baptist, 5:30pm on Sundays. Perhaps you resonate with one of the images of God below? We would love you to hear what followers of Jesus really believe about God.

April 17 – The Arrogant God

How can Christians claim Jesus is the only way to God?

The Arrogant God – Sermon Notes

The Arrogant God – Discussion Questions

April 24 – The Intolerant God

Is faith just a repressive moral straitjacket?

The Intolerant God – Sermon Notes

The Intolerant God – Discussion Questions

May 1 – The Violent God

Doesn’t religion cause wars?

The Violent God – Sermon Notes

The Violent God – Discussion Questions

May 8 – The Uncaring God

How can God be good with so much suffering in the world?

The Uncaring God – Sermon Transcript

The Uncaring God – Questions

May 15 – The Homophobic God

Does God really hate gay people?

The Homophobic God – Summary and Discussion Guide

May 22 – The Ignorant God

Hasn’t science disproved the existence of God?

The Ignorant God – Questions

John Lennox – 7 Days of Genesis

June 19 – The Angry God

How can a loving God send people to hell?

The Angry God – Questions

June 26 – The Gender-Stereotyping God

The Gender-Stereotyping God – Questions

July 3 – Q&A Panel Night