From the Curate…

If recent statistics are to be believed, there are now more non-religious people than religious. 53% claim no religion, of those over 70% are 18-24. So, what should I feel about this as a Vicar in the Church of England? Is the death of religion imminent, should we prepare the obituary?

Well I hope so! If the understanding of Religion is a universal label that reads Religion is “the reason for wars” It is “non-tolerant”. Religion is “for those who cannot think for themselves” Religion is “Boring, irrelevant & untrue.” If this is Religion then I really do hope it rises to 100%.

I feel I need to redefine how we understand religion. I want to suggest we begin and end with Jesus. (Don’t roll your eyes and if your one of the 53% stay with me). For me Jesus is about relevance, radical and relationship, not religion as most understand it. I am more than happy to discuss further. Mark.james@christchurchportsdown.org
Jesus is just a Myth, isn’t he?

Fact: No credible historian today would deny Jesus existed. There is enough independent evidence, outside of the bible to prove he existed so I offer a question: Who was he? Was he just a man or was he God as he claimed? Maybe you would align to this: Jesus was he just a good moral teacher?

C.S. Lewis, most famous for writing the Chronicles of Narnia said this. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.” Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Where is the evidence for Jesus raising from the dead and in doing so fulfilled 300 prophesies described in the Old Testament, some of which he had no control over. His place of birth and how he dies for example?

His body stolen by the Authorities? If that is true why didn’t they not produce the body when those that followed him grew in number? The 12 disciples stole him and lied? Well they were mostly all killed in horrific ways, it is unlikely they would have all suffered for a lie. His body was stolen by robbers? Well why did they leave his grave clothes, the only items of any value?

What evidence is there of Jesus today? Well firstly I’d point to over 3 billion people who follow him in various ways. And secondly, I’d point to the Church of England.

I have no doubt the Church of England has a way to go in conveying the person Jesus Christ is as it seeks to speak into today’s context but it is my experience, my prayer and my passion that it continues to do so, just as it has from the moment it was commissioned by Jesus.

The Church of England is old and that is a good thing. It has stood the test of time and has been tried and tested over the centuries, it is responsible for social change and is the cornerstone that shaped our morale culture. Today it is the world’s largest volunteer organisation involved in every corner of global pain and suffering, established by Jesus over 2,000 years ago.

It is the place I thought the Church was irrelevant and filled with odd balls, in many ways it still is but that is okay, we’re all a bit odd if we are honest. Like many, much of what I saw and see in the Church I continue to wrestle with but here I am, here we are, and I love it all.

It is from this place, your Parish church that I want people to know Jesus. I have chosen to believe it is true. Not because I am unable to think for myself, quite the opposite. I have studied and debated with Christian, people of other faith and those with no faith.

Sherlock Holmes said when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? For me that is where I started from. I concluded that it must be true.

As I conclude I think about those people exploring together who Jesus is, something we continue to do each day. Over the next 10 weeks we will explore who is Jesus, why did he die, how do we trust the bible, what about suffering, where is God today?

Speaking specifically into this Parish I believe the living breathing word of God is far from the Obituary column. Something exciting is happening and Jesus is calling you to be part of it, despite how alien that may feel right now! You have begun by reading this. I started by saying that Jesus is about relationship and not religion. Jesus wants a relationship with you just as he does with the billions of people around the world who have already said yes.
Why not rediscover who Jesus is for yourself by saying yes today, discover him for yourself as we too continue to discover him. Contact me if you would like to discuss further. Let us journey in this amazing, relevant, exciting and radical journey we call life.

God bless

Revd. Mark James