SIMON PERRY

P1030950

 

The Problem-Solution mentality is a modern way of life.  If there is a problem there is a solution.  A problem can be isolated, identified, labelled.  Someone can be held accountable, responsible and blameworthy.  Teachers, doctors, politicians, managers, and I suppose even ministers of the Gospel.  If all is not well, we get a new vision (or a new visionary), a new strategy to deal with the problem.  

 

Our church is not growing in numbers, our church is not engaging socially, we are not loving enough.  What we need is a strategy that will enable us to solve the problem.  But problems are not so readily identifiable as we might like to think.  

 

The ‘problem’ that many of us wrestle with is how to be politically engaging, socially active, ecologically progressive.  And our churches and our worship just don’t seem to be able to cope with it.  So how can we come up with a clear solution, with an effective strategy, with a simple and articulate set of aims.  

 

Regardless of the worthiness or otherwise of our cause, these are modern ways of dealing with a perceived ‘problem’.  But it seems to me that there may be others.

 

Having spent a bit of time in the Psalms recently, it strikes me that the psalmists never did this.  They never came to God as though they were coming to Jimmy Saville, with a clear petition that would result in their rejoicing that ‘God fixed it for me’.  (Sure they would ask God for stuff, but they did not bring to him a strategy for fixing the world!)

 

Instead they worshipped God within an awful tension.  On the one hand they felt the pain of injustice.  On the other hand they knew that this is not what God wants.  And in the midst of this, they lamented, they cried, they accused, they grieved, but they praised and thanked and worshipped.  No documented strategies, no plans to fix the world, no tidiness of beliefs.  Just the struggle to articulate the tension, and to look for God inside the tension.

 

Worship in our contemporary setting might be best led by those who inhabit the tensions of our day.  Instead of retreating into upbeat worship that ignores the world’s problems, or utters passionless intercessions that convince worshippers they care when they do not, real worship invites worshippers into the horrors and darkness and suffering where God is found.  If we want to be clear, articulate, focussed in our worship – then this is the only legitimate place to be so.  Forget solving the world’s problems.  That’s God’s job.  We just need to worship the God who is found in the mess.  The Gospel makes sense nowhere else.

 

(Published in BT, 2008)

 

Politics is not Primary

The Problem-Solution mentality is a modern way of life.  If there is a problem there is a solution.  A problem can be isolated, identified, labelled.  Someone can be held accountable, responsible and blameworthy.  Teachers, doctors, politicians, managers, and I suppose even ministers of the Gospel.  If all is not well, we get a new vision (or a new visionary), a new strategy to deal with the problem.  

 

Our church is not growing in numbers, our church is not engaging socially, we are not loving enough.  What we need is a strategy that will enable us to solve the problem.  But problems are not so readily identifiable as we might like to think.  

 

The ‘problem’ that many of us wrestle with is how to be politically engaging, socially active, ecologically progressive.  And our churches and our worship just don’t seem to be able to cope with it.  So how can we come up with a clear solution, with an effective strategy, with a simple and articulate set of aims.  

 

Regardless of the worthiness or otherwise of our cause, these are modern ways of dealing with a perceived ‘problem’.  But it seems to me that there may be others.

 

Having spent a bit of time in the Psalms recently, it strikes me that the psalmists never did this.  They never came to God as though they were coming to Jimmy Saville, with a clear petition that would result in their rejoicing that ‘God fixed it for me’.  (Sure they would ask God for stuff, but they did not bring to him a strategy for fixing the world!)

 

Instead they worshipped God within an awful tension.  On the one hand they felt the pain of injustice.  On the other hand they knew that this is not what God wants.  And in the midst of this, they lamented, they cried, they accused, they grieved, but they praised and thanked and worshipped.  No documented strategies, no plans to fix the world, no tidiness of beliefs.  Just the struggle to articulate the tension, and to look for God inside the tension.

 

Worship in our contemporary setting might be best led by those who inhabit the tensions of our day.  Instead of retreating into upbeat worship that ignores the world’s problems, or utters passionless intercessions that convince worshippers they care when they do not, real worship invites worshippers into the horrors and darkness and suffering where God is found.  If we want to be clear, articulate, focussed in our worship – then this is the only legitimate place to be so.  Forget solving the world’s problems.  That’s God’s job.  We just need to worship the God who is found in the mess.  The Gospel makes sense nowhere else.

 

(Published in BT, 2008)