The 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.