Author Archives: Ian Mobsby

Easter 4: I AM The Good Shepherd: Freedom & Obedience by Ian Mobsby

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In this podcast Ian Mobsby explores the Gospel of John Chapter 10 where Jesus describes himself metaphorically as the ‘Good Shepherd’.   This biblical passage is part of a large text where Jesus uses a number of ‘I AM’ phrases and metaphors to enable people to begin to understand his divinity.  This was recorded at the Parish Church of St Luke’s Church (Camberwell) in Peckham on the 4th Sunday of Easter 2018.

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Easter: The struggle for Hope & Living as a Christian by Ian Mobsby

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This podcast was recorded on the third sunday of Easter 2018, where Ian Mobsby explores the implication of the Gospel text Luke 24: 13-38 which explores the familiar stories of the Road to Emmaus and the first appearance of Jesus to the disciples.  These texts are crucial for our encouragement and hope looking back from the 21st Century, and says something about the calling to demonstrate that we are truly following Jesys by the way we live our lives.

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Maundy Thursday: Ecclesial Community & Betrayal

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And so we start to reach the climax of Holy Week as we enter into Maundy Thursday when we remember Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, gathering the disciples together in the upper room for the Last Supper, and the torment of his praying and betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus as Messiah is birthing in these actions the Church in the context of the Kingdom of God he has been talking about up to this point. He washes their feet as a sign that they will be Apostles of the new Church.   Jesus, in gathering the disciples, performs of the feast of the new Ecclesial Community, the Church, in the first Holy Communion, Eucharist or Mass depending on your tradition.  In doing so he not only births the Church but also, through the Holy Spirit enacts a reconnection where people and the persons of the Trinity are brought close through the actions of Jesus.  But even in this wonderful moment of the beginning of the Church, not that the disciples knew it was the beginning of the Church, there is also a spirit of anger of betrayal as Judas feels such disappointment in what he believes is a failed leader, and goes off to begin the betrayal.

In Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, we encounter Jesus in a dark place, the inner conflict between Human and God must have been intense – and we know this because Jesus sweated blood – a biological sign of extreme distress. And so Jesus there experiences the pain of so many humans then and now who are in places of despair and no hope. Jesus the human is sorely tempted not to enter into Tridium – the three days when Jesus will suffer, be crucified and then the paradox of part of God being dead for 3 days.  So we remember the great sacrifice that Jesus makes on our behalf, and for the salvation of the world, which even now in the 21st Century doesn’t understand or accept the greatest gift someone can give you – life through their own suffering.

So today we begin the great humiliation of God, where the institutions of the Temple and the Roman Empire think they are winning – because they to still believe in the myth of violence as a way to control and win.  They do not realise the Jesus had a different agenda, the way of the Cross, the way of love, the way of redemption through love, not violence, and the gift of the Kin-dom of God and the beginning of the Church.  There is no greater love than this, for someone to lay down their life for a friend… Amen.

Reflection on Spy Wednesday of Holy Week

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Today the Church traditionally remembers Jesus being anointed with oil by Mary Magdelene with priceless oil which was highly criticised by Judas saying the item could have been sold and raised money for the poor, causing a spate between Judas and Jesus, where Jesus hints that he knows his time is short.  So today is called Spy Wednesday, because of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus to the authorities, and was looking for an opportunity to do so at a time when there were less people to defend him.

Judas’ betrayal has always been a huge paradox to me – how could someone who knew Jesus so well go against a man he thought was the Messiah.  The writers of some of the Gospels try to say that somehow Judas was overcome with evil, which is why his behaviour changed so much.  Although I believe in evil, I do, like Walter Wink says, evil is manifested by human selfishness and violence.  This being so, I think I understand Judas’ as being utterly disappointed with Jesus.  His anger and betrayal are because Judas wants Jesus to be a different type of Messiah – more the muscular Christianity and physical type, to throw out the Romans and set up a Theocracy to dominate the world.   So Jesus is a disappointment event to his disciples, and this speaks powerfully to us now in the 21st Century.

So often Jesus’ call to live according to love and the common good just does not make sense in such a competitive and violent world, where humanity is not valued and often commodified.  So Jesus’ challenge is often seen as a weak force, too weak for many who want a warrior-Messiah.  In so doing, they miss the subtlety of Jesus who is his own brand of Messiah.  And it seems that Mary Magdelene is the only one to recognise this, again those who are marginalised and denigrated understand who Jesus really is.

Judas represents all forms of Christianity and the Church who assume Jesus is absent and has no power and so do the most terrible things in the name of Jesus and God. Christian fundamentalists being an obvious example.  Mary Magdelene – is offered here as a good disciple and as we know later, was probably one of the founding disciples of the early Church before patriarchy denigrated alongside other key women disciples in the Early Church as the Church becomes infected with the DNA of the Roman Empire.

So today we remember humbly that Jesus comes as a Servant Messiah – not a Testosterone God and I for one are so grateful that Jesus is this type of Messiah, that brings real hope of change for the world through love.

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Tuesday of Holy Week: Entry to the Kingdom of God is not controlled by human authority and requires no Visa

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On Holy Tuesday we traditionally remember Jesus teaching about his authority and again challenges the Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees of hypocrisy.  We remember today Jesus’ teaching as recorded in Matthew 23 with the Eight woes which for me resound out to all those we seek to control and exclude… He holds back no punches here …. and right now I think Jesus speaks to all those who seek to make Christianity an ideology or a form of fundamentalism.  Here Jesus makes it quite clear that there are no border controls for the Kingdom of God, entry is aligned to following Jesus in Heart, Mind, Body and Soul…  So Jesus asserts his authority over the Temple and the whole religious establishment and is quite clear they have no right to block people from the Kingdom…

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.4 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of shell5 as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, if anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23 d“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. hThese you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25 j“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 n“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 s“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 uFill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,6whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

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Monday of Holy Week: Messianic Challenge to the Market Society & The Religious Temple

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Monday in Holy Week, the day after Palm Sunday, is when Jesus returns to the temple after staying the night in Bethany, where he curses the Fig Tree and literally throws out the money changers in the Temple.  Traditionally this is interpreted as Jesus asserting his Messianic authority and the importance of actual faith in practice, and not on religious privilege.  We remember Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees and Sadducees – that living the faith was important – not just relying on being God’s people – it needed the orientation of the heart and action rather than just in the head and not impacting on the way they were living. It is interesting that the moneychangers were in the outer courts assigned for people like me – the Gentiles.  But at the same time, Jesus has compassion on the sick who gather around him after he throws out the market stalls.

What are we to make of this in Holy Week? 

There is something here about Jesus challenging a purely market society when it denigrates God and the poor and needy, and boy is that an issue right now.  The Poor, in particular, are treated like Lepers in our current culture – where often there is little compassion or support – even from some Christians!   So Monday week is a reminder then to engage with the question how are we IN a modern culture but also NOT OF our modern culture. The balance of affirming what is God, and challenging that what distorts.  Or Jesus puts it far better than I can – Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to Gog what is Gods.

So as we enter Holy Week, think about your life, your priorities, your sense of where God is and calling you, to step up to what Jesus is saying here – around a practical outworking of the Christian life – not to exist out of a sense of privilege or even wealth, but the calling to follow Jesus as he demonstrates his Messiahship, after he has entered Jerusalem the first time on Palm Sunday, and comes the second day to challenge the Authority of the Temple and the power of the Market.

And so in the context of Jesus challenging the Powers of the Religious Temple and the power of the Market, we remember that Jesus anointed and healed those in need, as the new authority is centred on the Kingdom of God, or rather – the Kin-dom of God as a New Zealander friend once called it.

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Jesus does not come to fulfil the myth of redemptive violence, he comes to begin the Missio Ecclesiae and the Kingdom of the Common Good

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It is poignant that as I encounter the shock of France of the senseless killing of ordinary French people killed for shopping at a Supermarket by an extremist religious fanatic bent on redemptive violence for a misreading of the Koran, it is poignant that the Christian Church remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

The crowds were expecting Jesus to be a King, to bring in a new political theocracy by the sword, to throw our the Romans, and to get back to the idea of the Jewish people being special and better than anyone else. This was the common expectation of the Messiah.

But instead Jesus comes in powerlessness, all he can offer is the love of God, himself, this is all he brings and load of ex-fishermen and wasters from the disliked part of the country.

So Jesus hits head on with these expectations that continue to now.  In many ways Jerusalem is still in exactly the same place it was when Jesus came – divided by hate, divided by religion, and divided by the violent politics of people who believe that the sword is the only way to effect change.

But actually Jesus comes with a different agenda, he comes with the idea of love, that God through the Holy Spirit begins the missio Ecclesiae, the mission of a new social order, the mission of the Kingdom, to build a society based on the common good, on common decency, on common opportunity, on the rebuilding of our common humanity – not to be exploited or oppressed by violence.  But set free, as all are set free to be the fulfilment of love and goodness.

And so Jesus hits head on the Roman Empire, the Jewish Religious Establishment, the evil of the Crusades, and the violence of the World, and actually, Jesus is the only one that will continue – the rest will fall and fade – Jesus and his vision of the Loving Kingdom of God is the survivor.

So as the people welcome the King on Palm Sunday, they do not know what type of King they are acknowledging – even today much of the Church has no idea that Jesus stands against the myth of redemptive violence – and comes as the Prince of Peace as foretold at his Birth.

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2. You can’t think yourself into being Christian : Why is NM Important?

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Continuing with my weekly New Monasticism reflection….

It might be a very obvious thing to say, but you cannot think yourself into being a Christian.  It actually takes a lot of formation, intentionality and experience of God to be able to even begin to comprehend what it means to commit to following the way of Jesus.

One of the great problems of the Church in the West is that the Church is still thoroughly affected by modernist culture that was obsessed with the Scientific method as forms of Truth.  And when I say Truth I mean objective Truth.  They truly did believe that absolutely everything could be explained in a hypothesis and it was only a matter of time before Science will be able to explain and know everything.  By implication then, there would be no place for subjective experience, art or spirituality.  Now looking back from our current Post-Secular Culture we know that to be a lie.

So weirdly some Churches and some in the Churches believe that Christianity is a ‘belief’ system, a way of thinking. I have never understood this.  Christianity is so much more than a way of thinking, it is about a way of life, of living, in obedience to the way of life explained by Jesus as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.

The Early Church understood this, for them, they understood the implications of the Jesus as a way of life, a calling to human community, of sharing material possessions, of giving away generously with those who had little and seeking to pray and encounter God through forms of prayer and worship.

So Christian formation in the Early Church was pretty serious.  You didn’t attend an Alpha or other course, you had to live, breath, and serve God with others to begin to get to know what it meant to know God.  The Christian Monastics, seeking to escape the excesses of the Roman Empire, escaped into the Deserts to live this way, who are our inspiration right up to today.

For example in Christian Formation, there is an obsession with ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘dogmatic truth’, or what is sometimes said – right thinking.  This reflects this same obsession with thinking.  Where is the place for encountering God?  Where is the centrality of living it – sometimes called ‘orthopraxis’ and also the central and starting place of ‘orthopathy’ or what is called right feeling or right being…

This takes us right back to the central teaching Jesus in what is called the Great Commandment which draws on the central teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures – the Great Shema – Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One, you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and strength, and love your Neighbour as yourself. Or as a wise Benedictine Abbot said – Learn to receive the love of God, to allow this love to transform your heart and being so that you can truly love others, even those who are strangers.   This is sooooo much more than thinking.

New Monastics take this level of formation and living out a whole of life approach to Christianity very seriously.  My good friend Andy Freeman of the 24Prayer Community once described formation as the Living Room, the Boiler Room and the Class Room, and that seems so right for me.  Heart, Mind and Body….. Otherwise how are we being transformed?

So in a Church so obsessed with words and thinking, a depth of spirituality expressed in life, in prayer, in encountering the love of God is I think a crucial corrective, and this is a commitment that many New Monastic Communities think is essential.

1. Called to live it not just talk about the Christian faith: Why is NM Important?

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So in this next series of posts, I want to engage with the question ‘why is new monasticism important’? Particularly when thinking about the state of the Church and the World and especially when thinking about Mission and Evangelism.

The greatest problem I think – is that people aren’t really living it and following the Christian faith – in that, we are called to live it out profoundly impacting our daily lives.

I think that in our current post-secular culture we are carrying the consequences of the violence to the faith as a consequence of modernity (period of time after pre-modernity impacting Europe from around the 15th Century onwards) and what has unhelpfully been called the ‘enlightenment’ when everything in culture was defined in relation to ‘truth’ as understood as the scientific method.  Here faith then came about ‘thinking’ and ‘reason’ and ‘argument’ so that the more experiential and the essence of Christianity became a way of life modelled on following Jesus went into the background.

So even today – when people come to proclaim faith – or as in the Church of England more likely confirmation – then it is all about what you believe rather than how you live transformed by attempting to follow Jesus.

I think today Christianity has been largely commodified and now becoming or being Christian is relating to attending a worship service once a week and to do some form of 12-week induction course.

This seriously impoverishes the Christian faith and has limited depth.  Unsurprisingly people are giving up on this commodified Christianity because it does not deeply resource you in the complexity of the modern world.

Instead what we need are examples of forms of the Christian Community that live out the Christian faith in depth – as a witness to the reality of God. Not because they are in anyway special – but more because real Christianity does not make sense if it is not LIVED.

This is why I believe so strongly in New Monasticism as a model of small missional communities, a form of fresh expression of Church, because it is one of the ways to focus on living the faith – not just talking about it – with a commitment to ‘prayerful or contemplative action’, to live a Rhythm of Life as a Community, where the focus then is on the New Commandment of Jesus – To Live God, learn to love ourselves to be able to love others and our neighbour.  It is a form of missional community of ordinary people seeking to live counter-culturally and with a sense that none of life makes any sense if it is not about the context of a life following Jesus.

So my first argument here – is that we need profound Christian communities – living out the faith and not just talking about it – not getting sucked into institutionalised and stale expressions of the Church which have no life and too focused on thinking.  And I believe that New Monasticism seeks to be this type of community because mission can’t be about beautiful media with beautiful people with glossy brochures and being cool – it is about the tough call to surrender to God your life, and to seek to follow a rhythm of life of prayer, of service, of study and of action – particularly as Jesus commanded – the poor and the stranger.

So if the Church is going to be effective in mission – we need living examples of doing this well – like Taize, the Northumbria Community and in many ways my own little New Monastic Community – the Wellspring Community in Peckham.

If there are no expressions of communities of deep faith – what then is mission and evangelism for?  It can’t perpetuate the lie of a consumptive spiritual individualst journey that is numbing and I think ultimately does not take you to the depth of Jesus – real mission and evangelism has to occur for me on the back of examples of real Christianity being lived out profoundly as an example – to stand up to all the negative steriotypes of the Church, and to be an example of real Christianity in the eyes of some form of Conservative expressions of the Church which seem to have very little to do with Jesus’ example and teachings in the Gospels.

So my great hope is that New Monastic Communities become an example of a depth of Christianity because they are deeply LIVED by people who are less than perfect but yet are committed to the path of following Jesus as they stumble towards salvation rather any sense of earning it…

This is my hope … mission and evangelism make no sense if no one is really living the Christian faith in community by example.

 

 

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