The end of tribal banners

imagesVG4S76E2The Old Testament paints a vivid picture of 12 tribes gathered under their respective banners, camping together and walking together, ensuring that they always knew that the people around them were people whose traditions and ideas they could endorse. There was no risk of inter-tribal activity because the 12 banners ensured they knew their place. If my understanding is correct when Jesus became separated from his family when he was 12 it was because he was breaking rank with a system that came to an end in his death and resurrection. However he left behind one banner for all of us to follow. The banner of his cross. One banner for all of us, even the people whose lives are different to ours.

As fallen human beings we have used all of our creativity and wilfulness to re-create not 12 banners, but literally thousands of banners. As someone who is neither an Anglican nor a Methodist, nor a Roman Catholic, I know that within each of these tribes is a myriad of tribal identities. The same is true for the newer Church traditions, both Black and White. Pioneer is not to be confused with New Frontiers, any more than the Church of God of Prophesy should be confused with the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Inevitably our individual congregations are bound to find a distinct identity, but when our primary identity is not one of being a Christian, a follower of Jesus but instead a Baptist, or an Evangelical, or a Forward in Faith Parish, then we are rejecting todays resurrection, as surely as though we denied Jesus three times.

This morning on Facebook, the evangelical alliance has posted a manifesto for the forthcoming Scottish Referendum. This is fantastic news. However their headline is anything but. “Referendum debate needs focus on poverty, welfare dignity and wealth redistribution, say evangelical churches”. It is easy to understand how this came about. After all this is not a document that anyone else has been involved in, but as someone who is happy to be called an evangelical in terms that I understand it, I can’t possibly share a document that implies that somehow non evangelical churches don’t subscribe to these points of principle. My facebook account is made up of probably 90% non Christians, most of whom don’t really know what the word evangelical actually means and frankly as an evangelical, I am not sure I agree with the definition that many people use when they put it on their websites or social media accounts. Why did the evangelical alliance not use the headline “Referendum debate needs focus on poverty, welfare dignity and wealth redistribution, say churches”. Job done, and I would happily and proudly share the item.

This morning is Easter here in the parts of the world where the majority of Christians don’t follow an ‘Orthdox’ church calendar. We celebrate the risen Christ whose death destroyed the works of the devil and also brought to an end the 12 individual tribes of Israel and Judah. In their place, like it or not is one tribe, with one banner. Lets start living like we believe our own theology.

Watch what we say

10156127_723738871009577_8333096629162769881_nToday being the beginning of the most significant event in the Christian Calendar has led to an explosion of tweets and facebook postings by people I know and people who know people I know. That is the power of social media. We get to read things that were never intended for us because people don’t always apply the same level of care to what they repeat on twitter that they do to things they would say to small groups of friends, or perhaps more importantly, they don’t realise how easily the clever and apposite comment they might make to said group of friends can go viral in a matter of moments.

I am not suggesting that there have been any postings which I would consider abusive or slanderous, but at a point when our comments are inevitably focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus which is not an easy concept for many outside the Church to grasp there seems to be lots of ecclesiastical language being used in a manner that could leave some of our Christian friends confused, let alone those who are not members of any local Church. This is surely a season for clear and uncomplicated explanations, not cryptic comments (always a challenge on twitters 140 characters).  An example which is entirely typical of the sort of thing I mean is a posting by a local vicar, someone I know well and who is usually a fantastic communicator, he even co-presents a religious radio programme. He has put up on facebook a photo of their meal last night which is above and the words “The Triduum is under way.” No other explanation to be seen. Other people who we both know have clicked to say they like this and presumably others might share it in due course. Before lunch this could be all over the South East of England!

I am passionate about the use of social media and I commit many faux Pas myself but at a point in the Calendar when our postings already speak of the mystery and the excitement of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we need to think about the people who are not already in on the secret, particularly on social media! Lets not make things so difficult they have to resort to Wikipedia to discover what strange language we are using to describe something that their calendar points toward Easter egg hunts.