Sunday, 7 September 2008

St Paul's press officer ...

This morning I preached at one of the Genevan Anglican churches for the meeting of the press officers' network of the European churches (PONEC).
You can find my sermon here, in it I wonder about how very good St Paul's spin doctor must have had to be.
Towards the end I also mention Laurent Schlumberger's excellent book Sur le seuil - les Protestants au Défi du témoignage - on the threshold Protestants faced with the challenge of witenssing to their faith. In it he argues for a renewal of bearing witness to our faith in a way that is honest about doubt but also doesn't get lost in intellectual discussion forever. I forgot to add in the sermon that Laurent moved from being a regional president in the Eglise Réformée to serve as minister to a "mission populaire" in Paris. Witnessing to faith is not (just) about writing books but really about getting onto the threshold and amongst the people.

Writing the sermon and revising it I thought about how hard it is for people to deal with conflict in the church - many of us cannot cope with muscular discussion. Over the decades our culture of debate has become less feisty. Just as society is becoming more diverse and plural we actually seem less able to cope with debate and disagreement. Easier to reduce church for praying and listening to nice things about God.
Anyway as ever I digress, here's how the sermon ends:

"Before I finish I’m afraid you are going to have to allow me one final linguistic aside. There is a wonderful German word Schwellenangst – it means fear of the threshold, fear of knocking on a new door, doing a new thing, being on a new threshold.
But God has not given us a spirit of fear of the thresholds where the witness to our faith takes place, but a spirit of dynamic power, passionate love and wise discretion.
So may God's Spirit truly blow a hurricane of wise discretion, love, and power calling us to live on that threshold where we bear witness to the faith and keeping all of us - 'on message'."