Author Archives: Jonny Raine

Serving Up a Hot Curry

When Curry was served up at the Royal Wedding, some certainly found it too hot to handle, whilst others appreciated a little spice to the typically bland affair. No we’re not talking Balti Chicken but Bishop Curry who was invited to preach for the marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry.

The aftermath of that sermon was more than just gurgling tummies. Many were talking about it, from Sky News calling him “the unexpected star of the wedding” to Ed Miliband saying Curry “could almost make me a believer.” Some bemoaned it being out of context or that it went on too long. But then, the Christian interweb sparked up about it with the same kind of heat of a vindaloo – some celebrating the preaching of the gospel, others calling him a liberal heretic.

Since I didn’t watch the sermon live, with all the furore, I put it off and have only just set myself to watching it. For what it’s worth, here are some things I think we should keep in mind about it…

1. The Source

You’ve got to know who Bishop Curry is in order to understand where he’s coming from. Curry is the leader of the Anglican Church in America, the Episcopal Church. The problem is, under Curry’s leadership, the Episcopal Church has largely rejected what Christians have always held as true about marriage and sexuality and what the Bible clearly teaches. For this reason, the entire Episcopal Church is suspended from full participation in the global Anglican Communion – in other words, it is under some form of discipline. It makes you wonder what Archbishop Welby was motivated by in inviting him to preach.

Knowing this about Curry helps you understand better his position and the broader meaning behind what he is saying. When he talks about love and marriage, he really means love beyond the bounds of what the Bible affirms and what the Anglican Church has always believed and still does…officially at least. Like with many ‘Christian’ cults, he may use the same words but he may mean something very different by those words.

2. The Style

This is what captured most people. And for his style, I applaud him. As many people pointed out, he preached it like he actually believed it. He was passionate, he held eye contact, he spoke as someone actually speaking not as someone reading. He spoke as someone enthralled by the message not as someone fulfilling a duty. He wasn’t the most dynamic preacher ever, but in contrast to the typical sermon you’d see at a Royal Wedding, it was hot stuff.

It makes sense for our passion level to match the convictions of what we’re actually speaking about. If you’re preaching about data protection law, you’re probably not going to get so excited, but when you’re preaching about the God of Love, of course you should get passionate and display that through your voice and your body! Perhaps there’s something in that for the way we sing, pray and evangelise.

3. The Substance

The message Curry delivered was essentially that love is of God, as exemplified in the death of Jesus, and that when we begin to live out that love, the world flourishes. Because of what Curry actually believes about other things, unless he were to carefully define what he means by “God” and “love” and “Jesus’ death” we can’t know for certain exactly what he means and whether the substance was worthy. But taken on face value and considering the sense of occasion, that’s not bad going.

See, in a wedding, and in fact in a Royal Wedding, I wouldn’t think it’s the right context for a full blown gospel message, unless the couple were Christians. I personally would want to say something about sin and of Jesus dying to bear our sin, but it’s more of a context for whetting appetites with a taste of the gospel. Curry didn’t go as far as I probably would, but what he did say certainly could whet appetites for the gospel. My concern would be where they would follow that up with a main meal. I don’t think their hunger would be satisfied in the Episcopal Curry house!

So there’s a lot that we could be critical about with Curry’s sermon. There’s also a lot to affirm and be grateful to God about – think of when Paul said “whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18) It’s important to think about the context in which we have the opportunity to speak (for example, we may not be able to go into as great depths sharing the gospel in the workplace as we may in a bar after work) but it’s also right to be bold and courageous and hold clear uncompromising convictions about the only message that will save.

(Originally published in the June edition of the church magazine)

photo credit: avlxyz Lamb curry – Roti Bar, Melbourne via photopin (license)

New Assistant Minister

We’re delighted to announce that Brian Whittaker will be joining us in September as our Assistant Minister. He’ll be joined by his wife, Becca, and their two children. Brian will be with us for a 2-4 year period and will be involved in all kinds of areas of church life to give him a broad experience and training. He is just finishing up his training at Oak Hill, and before that was working for UCCF in the South West.

In the meantime why not follow Brian on twitter. Becca is also on twitter and keeps up a blog, Gold in the Grit.

Appreciate Everything

Masterchef has been back on our screens for a few weeks now and is almost at its finale. One thing I’ve noticed is that you’ll never hear the John and Greg, the presenters and judges, say is that they just don’t like this particular ingredient or style of cooking. Whatever meat or vegetable is thrown at a plate, they will appreciate it for its intrinsic flavour. And whether it’s Italian, fusion or street food, they will enjoy its style and flair for what it is.

It means they can be objective and fair judges. Think about how bad it would be for you if you cooked a mushroom based dish and it just happened to be that mushrooms are the one ingredient that they just don’t like. It could be the best mushroom dish in the world, but you’d be marked down just because the judges don’t like mushrooms.

So what Greg and John have managed to do is to have an appreciation for the intrinsic worth and flavour of each individual ingredient and appreciate the excellence of every kind of style of cooking. It makes their appreciation of food so much broader and so much more about excellence rather than preference.

Having this kind of broad appreciation is actually a great trait to have in life. It can make you much more appreciative of things, and not just the things that you have a preference for, but of all things. For example, I’m not a fan of football – it’s just not my preference. But I’m sure if I treated it with this attitude, I could appreciate the skill, the teamwork, the thrill of the game. Or birdwatching – again not my thing – but if I looked carefully at birds with this attitude, there would be things I would appreciate about birds, such as their colours or their characteristics.

Cultivating this kind of attitude will make us into more optimistic people with greater joy who are on the look out for the positives. In short, it’s one of the aspects of life that helps makes us happier. And there are biblical reasons for being this way – biblical frameworks for cultivating this broad appreciation. Here are three…

Goodness of Creation: When God made everything, the repeated phrase he used to describe it was that it was good. He made everything well. Everything has an intrinsic beauty to it, even though corrupted by sin, everything still maintains a level of goodness. To be able to look for signs of goodness and beauty in everything in this world, even above the corruption of sin, will help us have a broad appreciation.

Image of God: When God made humans at the peak of his creation, he invested within us something of his own image. We are made to be in some many ways, like our creator. That means that in every human being, no matter how sinful they are, no matter how impaired they may be, no matter how abused they have been, every human has significant value and worth. As we see that, we will have a greater love for all humans, even those we find it hard to do so.

Common Grace: When humans rebelled against God, we broke everything and we stained everything with sin. There’s not a square inch of this world that isn’t marred by sin’s corruption. But there’s also not a square inch of this world that isn’t held back by God from being as broken by sin as it could be. It’s God’s common grace that provides the needs of all his creatures. It’s his common grace that keeps societies from turning into complete moral anarchic chaos. As we see more of common grace, we will see God’s goodness even in the darkest of places.

But then, we have seen an even greater excellence in God’s special grace, in the image of his Son, in his new creation. We have come to taste and even greater flavour in Christ. Which ought to give us more cause for joy and delight. It ought to raise the level of our other appreciations.

So as we cultivate these three frameworks in our lives, we may find ourselves becoming more appreciative and thankful people. We may then be people who delight in all things, who experience joy even in dark places. And even more so because of the even greater excellencies we have experiences in Christ.

photo credit: Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34128007@N04/16802375986″>Grilled Salmon</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>