Ministering to teenagers is tough. I once taught a confirmation class and it was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do. I also once spent a week looking after teenagers at a Christian conference and that was…well…let’s just say I prayed a lot that week. If only I had help from Ignatius…
Today I’d like to look at another doctrine that is out there in the Christian world. It is usually called either the doctrine of “Eternal Security” or “Once Saved, Always Saved” (“OSAS”).
In case you haven’t heard of it, this doctrine basically says that once you have been “saved” (however one understands that to happen) you can never lose your salvation – it’s absolutely impossible. No amount of sin can change that. Your card has been stamped, the credit card paid off and your name added to the guest list….
I’ve decided to write a few blog posts concerning certain doctrines which are out there in the Christian world at the moment. Now, my entries are going to be rather critical of these teachings, but I think it needs to be done. Today I would like to begin by looking at the “Prosperity Gospel”.
This doctrine particularly frustrates me. This is because, if for no other reason, it presents a new Gospel, one that has been taken and reshaped by the world’s standards.
The “Prosperity Gospel” is rooted in the idea that “Jesus came to make you healthy, wealthy and happy…”. It will rarely ever be presented under the name “Prosperity Gospel”, instead being presented as integral and central to “The Gospel” itself.
The Prosperity Gospel is a very attractive teaching since it promises comfort and material wealth in this life if you just have faith. Sometimes associated with this is the idea that you must “seed your miracle” by giving your money to a particular preacher, certainly a lucrative market for the less-than-honest…
Now, there are certainly shades of opinion and variations in how literally the concept of Prosperity Gospel is understood – not every pastor or church will give an identical message (the nuttier end of the spectrum you find on YouTube is downright scary). However, all focus around the idea that God will always materially prosper you and keep you healthy in this world. I would suggest, however, that God’s plan is a little bigger than that…
Today is the feast day of one of my favourite Saints, the great St. Maximilian Kolbe.
I’m not really sure why, but I can’t recall hearing stories of the lives of the Saints whilst I was growing up, despite being in Catholic education for most of my schooling. I actually first heard the story of Maximilian Kolbe whilst visiting a Protestant church. For me, this was an often-repeated irony, having actually been introduced as an adult to the Saints by a Baptist Pastor!
When I first heard his story in that Protestant church, Maximilian was quite-rightly held up as a model of Christ-like behaviour. Unfortunately, I also remember it was in a sermon where he was contrasted with another figure who was specifically identified as Catholic, whereas Maximilian’s background was not mentioned.
It was only when I started to read more about him and his story that I discovered that he was not only Catholic, but a priest and at that time, to my horror, someone with a very strong Marian devotion.
The BBC, or “The Beeb” as they’re affectionately known, produce a TV programme back in the UK called “Songs of praise”. It is a fairly middle-of-the-road religious programme which is broadcast from a different church each week. The show is usually composed of interviews with local figures, a snippet of that week’s sermon and lots of footage of people singing very energetically and piously for the camera… 😉
This week, the programme is broadcast from St. Stephen’s…
Next week is the anniversary of the death of Brother Roger of Taizé in France. If you have never heard of this man then you have really been missing out…
Although he lived much of his life in France, Brother Roger was originally from Switzerland, the son of a Protestant Pastor. In 1940, after studying Reformed Theology in Strasbourg and Lausanne, Roger felt God calling him to go to Taizé, a small town south of Paris. For two years he lived a life of prayer and helped those fleeing from the Germans into unoccupied France.
Founding of a community
After being forced to leave Taizé, Roger returned in 1944 where he began to found a group of men living together in community. This eventually flowered into the ecumenical monastic community which forever after would be associated with the name “Taizé”. The focus of this community is prayer, silence, peace, social justice and reconciliation. Brother Roger wrote many books on these topics.
Monks in the “Church of Reconciliation”
Below is the reflection I gave on 22nd January 2005 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in response to the follow passage of Scripture:
After saying this, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
… Consecrate [those you have given me] in the truth; your word is truth….I pray not only for these but for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me.
May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you loved me.
…. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them – John 17:1, 17-23, 26
This is the week of prayer for Christian unity, so I intend to speak for only a couple of minutes so we can get back to the business of prayer. I wanted to say just a few words about the reading that was chosen for tonight’s service.