Gods Fragile Christmas!

So I’ve been considering Joseph this Christmas, what a top man he was! His fiancé was pregnant, he knew it wasn’t his (for biological reasons) and he stood by his partner, not only did he stand by her and not divorce her or have her stoned, but he took Jesus as his son and named him, it was official, Joseph was Jesus Step Dad! But what if this hadn’t happened?

Do you know, it was absolutely critical that it did? The Old Testament has many prophesies about the Messiah, the one who will come and save, the one whose kingdom will last forever. The prophesies are there to back up the fact that Jesus is who he says he is, they are about the whole of his life and many were completely out of his control. One of them was that Jesus would be in the blood line of King David, this was crucial and very well known at the time, If Joseph ignored Gods voice about who the child in Marys womb was, would Gods plan be back to square one? I don’t want to doubt God or deny that he is in control, but in terms of the narrative, unless Joseph took him and named him, those prophesies about Jesus wouldn’t be true.

Let me really briefly mention Moses, floating off down the Nile (as many babies of the time did) with the plan being to escape the decree to murder all Hebrew boy babies, Moses was drawn from the water by a midwife with a tear in her eye…but what if she didn’t, I don’t want to over dramatise, but there were crocodiles in the Nile, where would he have ended up, would he have dehydrated? Once again, I don’t want to doubt God, but the story suggests his plans can be and are vulnerable.

So why am I telling you this? Well maybe this says something to us? Maybe it says that Gods plans can be and still are vulnerable, maybe in terms of House of Bread that we aren’t to settle for what we see, maybe we aren’t to accept the situations that we face? Maybe God is at work and whether we choose to believe it or not, he is incredibly dependant on his people to stand up and be counted, to get involved and stuck in. What if we hadn’t set up House of Bread and we had just settled, it would seem a tragedy now, having seen and heard all the wonderful stories, what if the midwife…what if Joseph…. what if (insert your name here) didn’t follow Gods call and do that thing he is telling you to do?

Anyone for a HoB riot?

Lets Have a Riot!!

Well not quite a riot, but maybe!

One of my favourite actresses of all time is the one and only Judy Garland. She is the lead in a film set in the late 1800′s called the Harvey Girls in the town of Sandrock, Arizona. The basic premise is that several towns in that area have changed significantly, the previous centre for the community being a drinking house with dancing girls now replaced by a new restaurant chain that employed a different type of female, ones who dressed appropriately, spoke well and whose ambitions were to settle down and raise families. Sandrock, so the powers that be feared, was in danger of losing its alcohol dependant and very promiscuous culture

‘They will be building a church before we know it’ one resident exclaimed!

I wont ruin it for you as you will no doubt be down blockbusters after reading this, but the film is about that battle between these two cultures clashing and what these new Harvey Girls bought to the table (so to speak)

Its an interesting comparison to what happened in Ephesus (Acts 19) when Paul arrived. The previously pagan culture, underneath, welcomed Paul with open arms (he spoke daily for two years in a huge lecture theatre) its was a wide open door he reports in Corinthians. No longer did the locals need to worship gods made with their own hands, no longer did they depend on certain gods in the hope it would give them certain things, Paul spoke of one God, a God who wasn’t distant or hand made, but close and very real.

What he said didn’t change the culture though, it was the way people responded. The city began to look different, one local silversmith who produced ornaments used for worship in the temple began to speak out against the new beliefs, the effect in the economy and the future of their temple. The crowd responded and a riot ensued. It all soon cleared up, but Paul had to go and move onto somewhere else.

However, the interesting thing here is the huge effect that the reality of God had on the society, while causing a riot might be bad publicity (although lisa would im sure lead the way and be the first to call it a HoB riot) It has to be our goal to change culture. To some extent we already have, over 100 people a week now come though the doors of Trinity church and that is just a small part, we have seen lives changed, people change how they live and what they chose to spend their money on, churches (including where I am from) make the local poor as much of a priority as anything else.

But we must not stop there, we must continue and believe that the longer we all work together, as we try and flesh out who Jesus is, as we speak out about him, that maybe Stafford can look a very different place.

Its a great shame that we don’t have Judy Garland today, she with some other fairly insignificant people did change Sandrock, and as lovely and beautiful and wonderful (id better stop there…) as she is, we have a much better figurehead with us, and it was in his name that Ephesus changed so dramatically, so whether we succeed or fail, i’m up for giving it a go!

And if we really want to be biblical, when the riot kicked off, the leaders were shipped out the way quick smart, so if anything does happen, Will, Lisa, Jack, the Trustees and myself will have a taxi standing by!

Matt

What’s really Important?

On Sunday evenings at church, we have been going through a series on Paul and his missionary Journeys. One thing that has really interested me is he absolutely knows his theology or we might say, he absolutely knows his own mind, based on what he believes about God. He gets this from understanding what we now refer to as the Old Testament, from talking to apostles and from taking time out to hear from God (travelling to desert lands of Arabia).

One thing he is certain of is that no one needs to be circumcised to be a believer, he believes that converts are saved by God’s Grace and because of what God has done, rather than anything we can do… Paul believes it so much, that he calls a council in Jerusalem to discuss it!

However, in the next chapter of Acts (16) Paul has his Timothy, his travelling companion, circumcised.  Why is this? Well, put simply, Paul is more concerned that people hear the message he has, than the believers around him get it completely right.

It doesn’t mean he is weak or easily led, it means is that there are some things that he believes but can lay down, and there are some things that he can’t lay down.

In this case it is that people must be able to hear about who Jesus is, there must not be a barrier, it is better to circumcise Timothy than to not, because a circumcised Timothy, would be accepted, if they accept him, then they might accept the gospel.

The Hymn Writer John Newton said in 1799 that Paul was a ‘Reed in non- essentials and an Iron Pillar in the essentials’

The Application for us, is to say, what is it about my faith that is a reed and can bend and be laid down, and what is at I need to make into an iron pillar. That’s why House of Bread is so important to me, because it represents all those things that I believe are true about God, it represents Justice, Gods heart for the poor and the marginalised, Gods love for community, Gods desire for people to hear about him, the way people are restored through it both humanly and spiritually. For me these are the ‘Iron Pillars’ and I am prepared to lay down pretty much everything else I know or believe about God, for this to happen.

For Paul it was more important that the gospel was spoken out rather than he got his way on circumcision. Circumcision was like a Reed to him, whereas preaching was an Iron Pillar.

What can you bend on, or perhaps more importantly, what do you need / want to stick to?

You might be right, God might prefer Organs over Guitars, priests residing over communion rather than plasterers, three point sermons over kids talks or whatever, but I think Paul is saying here, that actually, all those things that we get excited over in church, don’t really matter in the context of people hearing about Jesus.

Mr Encouragement!

Mr Encouragement!

Well I’ve been thinking about a character in the bible this week called Barnabas, his name literally means ‘son of encouragement’ …Barnabas Encouragement!

When he was around, it was the beginnings of the church (check out the book of acts) and the church became renowned, and developed a particular reputation.  A quick internet search of ‘church, vicar, religion’ and we see the reputation that we have these days, back then however, they were known for how they lived together, they sold everything and gave it away…’there were no needy persons among them’ we read.

Barnabas (Mr Encouragement) it is said, sold a field and presented the money from the sale to the apostles, can you imagine that, so much are you aware of Gods great and deep love for you, so much do you see the great and deep love God has for the others, that you sell a field that you own and give all the cash, effectively, to the poor!

Barnabas also has a history though the development of the early church of encouraging others to step into what God has called them to, He introduced and advocated Paul soon after his conversion to the disciples who are afraid that he is still out to arrest and murder Jesus new followers, he did it again later to trigger a three huge journeys that planted hundreds of churches that changed the face of southern Europe. He does it again with someone else called John Mark, recognised a calling and nurturing him to complete the task God has set him.

So I think Barnabas Is great, what a guy, giving his money to the poor and building up and encouraging those around him whom God has called to particular works. Now I’m not finishing on a sour note, I’m not going to say ‘if only there were more like him….’ Because I know loads of Barnabas’s, I watch them arrange things through email and Facebook,  I see it every Wednesday at Trinity Church, at trustees meetings and in council offices. We can always do more and do better, but I thank God for the Barnabas’s at HoB, you really do make a difference!

Have a great weekend guys!!

Matt

A Hob Family?

A HoB Family?

Now there is an interesting concept! In a world increasingly fractured, fragmented and isolated, the church is obliged to step up and be authentic family with each other. I hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about ‘sharing life’… the problem with most of what I read and hear however, is that it is usually with someone thousands of miles away, and for only a couple of weeks. It is right and correct to support people abroad, but we should be doing this wisely and use our money as frugally as possible, why go and build a bit of a house in Tanzania your air fare covers a whole one?

The real challenge with being a church family, is doing it day in day out, when the best china has been put away and the dust has firmly settled, the real challenge is being a brother or sister or surrogate parent or Grandparent, to someone who actually might let you down again and again

I said a prayer recently that God would give me a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a church family, and boy did he answer it! I attended the graduation of a friend of HoB who had been in Rehab, I met this person as a homeless man, we became friends, he came to church….some two and a bit years later after a whole load of difficulties, I sat in a room listening how his journey had been, how helpful he was to the other guys there, I welled with tears as I spoke out my excitement at the years of recovery ahead of him. He was in church on Sunday, the most popular man in the building, he’d been on the prayer list for over a year and asked about week by week, and there he was, the past mattered not, the fatted calf was being prepared and as much as his bad times saddened us, this made us happier than you could imagine.

I sat in on an interview after the graduation, the guy asked me if I’d had a good day, my answer was that considering it was my ten year wedding anniversary, my wife and I could honestly, hand on heart, not think of a better way to spend it, than joining in with a brother who was celebrating his freedom.

The bible is full of imagery of how the church should be a family, why would we be surprised that it’s a blessing, or pleasant, or enjoyable, to take these journeys with people, I left the centre last week full of joy, full of hope for my friend and fully reminded of what it means that HoB, while not anywhere near perfect, tries to be a family to one another.

Letter to HoB Friends

Hi All, Just thought I would blog this to help get the word out!

 

(Not blogged for a while so hope this works!)

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you all to just update you on the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment with House of Bread. We began talking about the need for what we do four years ago, we felt that God had called us to this work and I’m sure that you will agree, it was Gods timing that we did so, the world that we now live in is very different from four years ago, with bedroom taxes, higher unemployment, changes to benefits systems etc. we have found a huge need throughout the week for what we do.

It is important that in order to maintain what we do, we change and respond to the demand. As you will have noticed, Wednesdays are increasingly busy, and that is brilliant, we are so pleased that people choose to come and have dinner with us. What we need to do however, is adapt to the increasing need and make sure we are serving you guys as best as we can.

The short term plan is to offer the food bags the day after House of Bread at 2pm, every Thursday here at Trinity. There will be tea, coffee and biscuits will be available and we will give the food bags out then. This achieves two things, it gives us an extra room and means that some people may only choose to come on the Thursday.

The long term plan is to offer more House of Bread meals, we will never move away from Wednesdays and as always, everyone is welcome. What will be looking to do however is have some extra sessions which some people might feel more comfortable at. This is just an idea at the moment but look out for more ways to connect and share with us.

Can I also end on a rather practical note that under no circumstances can alcohol be seen or consumed anywhere around or outside HoB. It is not fair on those trying to give up or cut down; it is disrespectful to the building and puts the whole operation at risk.

Thanks so much for your support and the blessing of being able to meet and know you all!

 

Matt

Day 4 and 5!

And there it is! 5 days complete, that was the challenge (but im going to do the full week because, well, because i am!

So day 4 was Wednesday and the free food was once again rearing its very welcome head, House of Bred arrived and was very welcome, i had eaten only toast on day 4 as i had ran out of the basics but still had some frozen chicken left over. I had a lovely dinner at HOB and left with a food bag that contained a loaf of Greggs free bread (i did wait til last!)

HOB was a great help and much needed, the food bag has some good tinned stuff in it and it will more than tide me over until Saturday, i have £1 left in my budget for another loaf should i need it.

However, thurday arrives and the free food continued to be offered, the senior minister at church wanted to meet me for lunch, he offered me the Yard pub and i went, he was insistant that he pay for it as he called the meeting so i had a lovely fish and chip dinner accompanied by a cup of tea. All of this just underlined to me the huge gap between my life and that of some of my HOB friends, again because of my job and what i do, the opportunity to meet with Alex and be fed by him was one that just wouldnt be offered to most of my HOB friends, very sad but thats the reality. (not an attack on you Alex, just you arent going to be having dinner in the Yard with everybody!)

I was very aware however looking at the menu that the meal i was eating cost £6.99, we didnt have an offer meal, we didnt try and be frugal and get something from Greggs, i chose a dinner that as it happened cost the same as the budget for the whole week that i had been set, one weeks worth of food, nourishment, vitamins, iron, minerals, one week of the social implications of sharing a meal with someone, was all blown out of the water for one lunch that by 8pm tonight will be long forgotten and with my animal instincts i once again, will be searching out another meal and sharing it with someone else.

I wonder what God thinks of this situation, when he sees me eating a meal that costs the same as a weeks food for someone else, its the same way i might look on in distain at someone who spends the same on a car as i earn in a year, or a holiday for a week that could save the lives of hundreds of chjildren in Africa.

It was interesting as i walked through town, i met a new friend to hob who was busking with a sign saying he was homeless, my meal could have bought him a coat, or a flask or some fags and a sandwich, i wouldnt have missed the fish and chips if i had done that and i would have been able to give someone else something that would have been much more valued and appreciated…but i didnt, i had a chat with him, listened to his story a bit more, offered some practical help when he was ready and went on to have my nice dinner and cup of tea at the Yard. Sadly, we all do this in one way or another. The early church just after pentecost the bible says became known for sharing everything and living together well and looking out for one another, i might not be great att that but maybe i could go without one or two things more and ensure that someone who has slipped through the cracks of society is looked after and out for, maybe if i had invited him for lunch or forsaken it and done something for him, something significant would have happened, maybe he would have trusted me more and taken a chance on my help, maybe it would renew his faith in people enough to give life another shot. I didnt do it however, i walked on and had my nice dinner with Alex

(I did get him a brew from Greggs though!)

£1 A Day food (Day 3 and 4)

Hello Again!

Well i have been away with college so here is two for the price of one!

So going away… I have been off with college to a retreat centre and as you would expect, the food is gorgeous and there is plenty of it. On arrival (well after the 1st session because i was last!) i went hunting with my good buddy Ian, to find a brew. In the space of three mins, we found two sets of facilities and five stashes of biscuits, and not just your basic smart price stuff i have been eating at home, these were high class biscuits of extreme quality, ones that laughted in the face of a dunk! So i thought to myself, here we go again! More free food and in ridiculous quantities on its way, it was nice to have the selection and quantity that was there, but it just served to underline for me the vast difference between my life and that of many of my friends.

So i went fairly hungry til i got there to try and make this experiment worth something, ate my biscuits on arrival and then  came dinner!

free dinner tues Followed by free pud

Not all of the scones were mine, but you get the point! Oh and there was soup to start!

The following day was much the same, plenty of toast available for breakfast, a nice three course lunch and then i got home lookiong forward to getting back into the spirit of the £1 a day, well as the letters in Viz used to write ‘imagine my suprise’ when as a thankyou for feeding the outlaws cat, they reward us with a beautiful steak pie full of best steak and thick gravy! I know its not in the spirit of the process but its getting silly now, i literally cant move for free meals, they are everywhere!

This week has challenged me more than i thought it would, i thought by now i would be chomping at the bit for House of Bread, but im not, im facing up to the sober reality that as much as i might seek to help church reach out to those on the margins of society, to the poor, the isolated, the prisoners and all the other words we use, as much as i might think im the best man for the job because i ‘remember my roots’ or have a scruffy coat or even that i just prefer being with these guys than anyone else, as much as i might kid myself, my world is a million miles from theres, they just happen to orbit past each other now and again.

Day 2!

Well its day 2 of trying to live on £1 and I have to say… it’s easy! Only…a bit too easy!

The more that I reflect on this, the more I realise that living on £1 for me is just a world away from living on the same amount if for some of the guys that I spend time with…

for instance, if you are homeless, it’s impossible to live on £1. When you buy any meal as a homeless person, you are effectively paying to have it made for you, you simply can’t do it. Or maybe you live in a shared house or on your own in a flat…it’s very hard to achieve economies of scale in your cooking. You can cook a meal in bulk but you then have to freeze it (if you have a freezer and if you electric doesn’t run out) and if you do have a freezer, its rather boring to eat that meal throughout the week!

My family have joined me in parts through this week and it’s so much easier to cook a meal for 4 cheaply than to cook for one. This is highlighted at the House of Bread. I sometimes cook on a Wednesday and if I cook for 70 there is no way it will cost more than £30 and that will be a good balanced healthy meal!

So what happened today. Every Sunday at Church there is a free dinner to anyone who wants one, so today I took advantage, i had a very balanced and lovely meal, I had a pudding and because people there know me and like me and im the training Minister.. I had numerous offers of free dinners! I even took home a left over cake!

This week, furthermore, there are more offers of free food. I’m taking a communion service tomorrow which is followed by (you guessed it) a free lunch. I have college in the afternoon til Tuesday (with various free lunches and turning them down is wasteful). Wednesday I have HOB leaving Thursday/Friday to try and get back to the challenge.

My mum used to say the old phrase ‘money goes to money’ and it seems to ring true here, I can’t move for free lunches and I’m supposed to be finding this hard. The truth is, that there is a world of difference between some of our guys needing some food help and me needing it, the people in church this morning meant well but there were others who needed the cake more and I’m sure they didn’t get the offers I got. I’m beginning to think it is impossible for me to authentically do this. Im just too middle class im afraid! I’m going to go through the week, take the offers but at this stage i might have to do it for a prolonged period to really understand what it is like.

Day One.

DAY 1 of £1 for a Day!

Well…Its been quite an eye opener so far, the hardest bit was going shopping! I had about 45 minutes in one of the major supermarkets on Friday night and really struggled to use my budget wisely! I bought the obvious things like cheap pasta, reduced bread and cheap sausages…all food that fills people up, but not the sort of food that is going to keep me particularly healthy!
I was really aware as i walked around the shops that most of what i could see…i simply couldn’t afford! Its quite fun at this stage but i am also very much aware that this is a reality for many people and that it is week in and week out.
So the end of day 1 approaches, i feel full but strangely discontent with what i have consumed. If this carries on, Wednesday and the prospect of a meal, sandwiches and a food bag at House of Bread will be very much the highlight of my week!
Tomorrow bodes well however, as its church and there is usually a lovely dinner available afterwards for anyone that wants one…Yes Please!
Matt Turner