In this podcast recorded on the third Sunday of Advent in 2015, Ian Mobsby explore the theme of a baptism of repentance marked by trust, generosity and integrity. Ian explores this central teaching from John the Baptist as recorded in Luke 3.7-18.
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In this St Luke’s Church podcast, Ian Mobsby explores the theme of baptism in the Christian faith, and the role of John the Baptist in the lectionary reading for the Second Sunday of Advent. John the Baptist as the last prophet of Israel and what is called the Herald of the Messiah, taught a baptism of repentance and of purification. Since then the Christian Church has baptised people as the beginning of the path of following Christ.
I have been really struck by the Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict:
Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labour of obedience you may return to God from whom you have departed by the sloth of disobedience.
In essence Benedict is opening up the idea that Christianity is about a way of life. This is an important corrective to the reformation which puts the emphasis of belief on thinking. Benedict’s Rule is an attempt to help people grow a distinctive Christian faith which is less ‘What should I believe’ and more ‘How should I live’ which is a crucial question then and now. How do we LIVE the Christian life which is about prayerful action.
The opening sentence of Benedict’s Prologue make this very simple, that involves four elements:
1. Listen – to the masters instructions who calls us daughter and sons.
2. Receive – the grace of receiving the love of God that brings health and transends defensiveness and encourages honest loving vulnerability.
3. Labour – put what you have heard and received from God into practice in the way you live. Prayer must lead to action.
4. Return – that even though we stuff up a lot, God always receives us back.
These four are one of simplest but most profound summary of what discipleship is all about. Benedict was trying to ensure that monasteries focused on Christian discipleship.
The prologue also emphasises urgency, the need to get on with it. ‘Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you.’
But with the full assurance of the love of God: ‘What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, that this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold in God’s loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.’
This is incredibly beautiful. TO see the whole of the prologue for yourself click here
After 13 years working with Moot, it is going to be announced by the Dioceses of London and Southwark, that I will be leaving Moot and the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary at the end of June. I will then take some time off before heading south of the river to be a part time Priest with an inner city parish wanting to develop mission, and also part time Woolwich Episcopal Area Parish Mission Enabler. I look forward working with the mission team in Southwark Diocese and in particular with Jane Steen the Archdeacon of Southwark and Bp Michael, the Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich.
This is going to be a big change, as I have working all my Ordained life so far with the Moot Community in the Diocese of London. It is time for me to leave, after 13 years where the last two have been particularly challenging, and where they really need to move from start up to sustaining, which requires different skills to those that I am good at.
So thanks to all those in the Diocese of London and Moot who have helped me reach this far. I look forward to continue to develop fresh expressions and being an Associate Missioner of the Fresh Expressions movement, as well as working with new colleagues in the Diocese of Southwark. New beginnings! I am sure Moot will go from strength to strength in the next phase of their life, and I remain very committed to developing New Monastic Communities in the UK and beyond. I hope to sustain my ministry to teaching and training that will continue in the UK and abroad.
New beginnings!!!!! I would value the prayers of all my friends and colleagues.
Premodern meets Postsecular: What is a Christian? The importance of listening to the early mothers and fathers
Some have asked me recently, why do you spend time reading the translated works of the early desert mothers and fathers (sometimes called unhelpfully Patristics) to be able think about the faith and mission in the 21st Century?
Well firstly, because this writing was written before modernism. So much of what is written from the enlightenment to recently is based on a western modern culture. For example much of Anglican and Lutheran writing is set in the context of the reformation onwards. Modernism is so deep in the DNA of much writing, that we forget that there is a premodern source for Christianity. If we look to the early writers of the premodern period, then there is real wisdom in some of what is written that can be a deep resource for reflecting on modes of understanding and expressing Christianity in a post-secular context.
A good example is the book, The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Clement. This is an amazing book, that explores authentic Christian approaches to meditation and contemplation drawing on ancient thinking and understanding. This book has literally challenged me deeply.
One of the most beautiful writings regarding what it means to be a Christian was written in a manuscript called “A Letter to Diognetus Chapters 5 and 6″
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life…But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and other ethnic groups as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a homeland to them, and every homeland is foreign…They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all people, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. (Chapter 5)
In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the diverse cities of the world. The soul has its abode in the body, and yet it is not of the body. So Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world. The soul which is invisible is guarded in the body which is visible: so Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and wages war with it, though it receives no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they set themselves against its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh which hates it, and the members: so Christians love those that hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, and yet itself holds the body together; so Christians are kept in the world as in a prison-house, and yet they themselves hold the world together. The soul though itself immortal dwells in a mortal tabernacle; so Christians sojourn amidst perishable things, while they look for the imperishability which is in the heavens. The soul when poorly treated in the matter of food and drinks is improved; and so Christians when punished increase more and more daily. (Chapter 6)
Returning to first principles. The Holy Trinity in contemporary spirituality and mission
The Holy Trinity is the central reality and concept that makes Christianity a distinct faith and not a jewish cult. As such God is a missionary God that challenges the Church and all Christians to participate in this mission and ministry of reconciliation, as God seeks to restore all things into renewed relationship with the divine. In our increasingly post-secular context where people are more interested in spirituality than religion, it is the reality of the Trinity that gives us hope and opens up the spiritual landscape of the faith to those who are un-or-dechurched.
Ian Mobsby is the Priest-in-Charge and Missioner of the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary, the home of the Moot Community in the heart of the City of London is a New Monastic Community engaged with pioneering and creative approaches to mission and evangelism in an urban context. Ian became a Christian through a very early alternative worship community from a background in socialist Atheism. He has written and edited a number of books on mission and contemporary society, and lectured and spoken widely across the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Ian is a member of the College of Evangelists of the Church of England, an Associate Missioner of the Fresh Expressions Team, a national selector for pioneer ministry, and the co-opted New Monastic member of the Advisory Council on the relationships between Religious Communities and Diocesan Bishops in the Church of England.
I have just put up a blog on the Moot Community’s Website about the link between what happened in the UKs first shopping riots and the bleak side of our emerging post-secular culture. I think in the UK we face serious issues – and these have an impact on how we the Church respond in mission to this increasingly unhealthy and unjust situation. To see the blog – please click here
Now that I am again in the South Pacific amongst some of the most post-colonial and post-secular people, I am reminded how anachronistic is the language we use for God. When speaking of God, we tend to use majestic language – of monarchy – of Kingship and of Lord. In a world that is increasingly discovering a more mystical and spiritual sense, this majestic language creates negative connotations around power, hierarchy and outdated forms of governance.
So what language should we use for God? How can we be authentically Christian yet contextual? This is the argument that Sallie MacFague uses in her writings and I don’t think we have been able to make much progress. She suggests the importance of metaphorical theology – the use of metaphorical language in our pursuit of using affirming and accessible words for God.
In the Moot Community we have used words such as Creator, Redeemer and Companion as functional metaphorical language instead of Father, Son and SPirit. But we still have a long way to go.
In countries like Australia, I am reminded that contemporary culture is much more interested in premodern modes of expressing spirituality. There is great interest for example in the pantheism of Australian Aboriginal culture oppressed by colonisation in the modern period. So in our now post-secular culture, premodern language finds new resonance.
So how do we express the deep mysticism of Christianity in a language that is accessible to post-secular seekers. Well for me it starts with a re appreciation of how the Hebrews developed a language for God coming from experience. This is the judeo-christian tradition at the heart of the faith that finds its fulfillment in the Holy Trinity. So we need to increasingly find post-patriarchical and non-power language for naming God.
Just read a really interesting Article in the Australian Newspaper which interviews Tony Blair about politics and religion. It is an interesting reading about the rise of a global post-secular culture, and the dangers of religious radicalisation. Although I don’t agree with Tony Blair about a few things, I think he is right to point out these issues. To read the article see here.
Dear Friends. First a big apology for blog silence. We have been amazingly busy launching the whole new venture of the Moot Community at the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary, and in particular, gearing ourselves up for the Lounge Project, an attempt to have an arts and spiritual and cafe space to promote wellbeing, right living and the Christian faith and spirituality. Nothing like starting a big project in a world resession!!
So I am pleased to say I have the good fortune of going back to Australia to have a bit of a rest and catch up with friends, and do a bit of speaking and encouraging of emerging/fresh expressions/new monasticism. I will post more about this when it is clearer… I will be in Oz from 23rd July to 4th Aug.
Really pleased to say that Moot will be doing 3 services at the Greenbelt Festival on Sat, Sun and Mon, and I will be speaking on one panel and one meditation and prayerful session in Soul Space on the Friday night.