Monday, September 17, 2007

Northern Rock and the church

I walked past Northern Rock in Reading just before lunchtime today...there must have been close to a thousand people queueing to get in. Now, most of me has every sympathy with these people, if i was just about to retire and had my whole life savings with an institution that was probably about to fall to pieces, i'd want my money under my pillow frankly. I want to weep with those who weep.

The other part of me wants to slowly make my way down that line, telling people that, y'know, your money isn't actually stored in a vault in that building, that, in many ways, thats the problem because NR banked so much on the international money market rather than just spending their customers money. I want to tell them that by doing this, by withdrawing all their money, they're actually only making it much much worse. Sit tight, get some impartial advice, stop reading the Daily Mail, and things may well get back to normal.

Now, i can't believe that all these people were financial experts. That they had spent their weekend pouring over the FT or the Economist trying to work out what the best move was. Probably the majority were just doing what everyone else was doing. Interesting. Last week i had a conversation with a friend who knows someone who is a teacher's assistant. The girl she's looking after was being systemactically bullied by some boys sitting next to her in class. The weird thing was that on their own none of the bullys were that bad, but together, they were as vile as you could imagine. Interesting. I remember when i was in school, (and before i say this, i went to a very good school, so the bullying there was rarely anything more than adolesant male banter) when i was picked on by people in a group, they were people who on a one-to-one basis i got on with pretty well. The people i picked on (including one kid because his parents were missionaries. Bravo Ed) i got on ok with when it was just me and them. But in a group of others i could be a nightmare. Interesting.

In a society, in a culture where so much is made of indivudualism, where people will get offended if you try and group them with others, where a group of kids at the end my road dressed more or less the same will hang around for hours on end doing nothing, seemingly so they can just be together, what is the church to make of it all? Apart from the practical level of counciling and looking after those who may have lost their life savings, the bullys and the bullied, sharing the Gospel with the disenfranchised kids, what are we to do?

When God saves us, He calls us into a community. Not by any any means a perfect one, but a community hopefully marked by grace and love and justice. Into a community of people revolutionised by the Gospel. A community where Ethiopians and Phillipinos can worship shoulder to shoulder, where the doctor and the recovering addict can talk about football over a cup of tea. Where Christ's glory is all. The people who are probably still queuing outside Northern Rock are doing so, in part because of the safety in numbers, but more so because those numbers have made it the right and attractive thing to do. Because people in that community have taken the time and effort to tell people that they need to be there. They've crossed cultural biundaries to do so.

You know where i'm going now. Money is the most important thing in our culture. Because things rule people and you need money to have things, money is king. People are staning for hours to protect their money. They are a new community. What about God's new community? When will we unleash the Gospel? When will we see people queuing to get into church, because of what they've heard, because people have convinced them that it's the right thing to do?

Lets learn from the communities of the disenfranchised.

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