Classic Cars, Beards, Ageism & the Gospel for All

Car-loving people of a certain age begin to yearn for the vehicles of their youth. Penny’s birthday present to me was a ticket to a classic car experience at the Heritage Motor Museum. I spent Saturday soaked in nostalgia and sentiment. It was a good soak.

We were treated to talks on classic car ownership, demonstrations of classic car maintenance and trips in classic cars. My ride was a 1959 Morris Minor. Yes, even older than me!  This car had been on the road for two years before I was born.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove up to the museum (old cars, old men and significant beards were all in my mind). Some of my assumptions were proved right, and some wrong. For example, the man driving the Moggie (nickname for Morris Minors) was 23 years old. Younger than my son.

Tom bought his first car at 15 years of age, and currently owns several classic cars, restoring and maintaining them as a hobby. We drove for 20 minutes, and he talked about his car and love of cars for 19 1/2 of those minutes. Unbridled enthusiasm poured out of him as we trundled towards our destination. A word in edgeways I could not insert. Ordinarily this would bother me, but on this occasion I simply sat back and enjoyed basking in someone else’s passion.

Part of what was going on in my mind was a silent self-rebuke regarding my ageist assumptions. Here was a young man (a young woman also brought a spectacular Singer) confounding my prejudices. It made me reflect on who I think may or may not be open to finding a relationship with God. It’s so hard not to pre-judge someone’s openness to the gospel based on my own experience. Jesus was not like this. He spoke to every type of people the society of the day would have shunned.

A short list: a gentile (Matt 8.8), a ‘sinful’ woman (Lk 7.37), a sick person (John 9.1ff), an unclean person (Matt 8.2-3), a Samaritan (John 4.7ff) and many others.

Who do I not speak to? The old, the young? The educated, the uneducated? The smart, the shabby? Which skin colour, sexual orientation, social group do I avoid?

The New Testament is drenched in references making it clear that, as the angel said, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV11). Peter said, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39 NIV11), and he and the early church came to understand that “even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18 NIV11).

The unexpected spectrum of motor enthusiasts reminded me to reassess my assumptions. How about you? What helps you to see people as people, and not as labels? Add a comment to the blog and spur us on to treat all people as Jesus would.

Parasites and Wonder – how questions help our Bible study

Is it a car, is it a boat? No, it’s a car on a boat – or, more precisely, a car body on a narrow boat.

Every new day brings a fresh strange sight on our local canal path. The car in the picture has been stripped of its engine, transmission and wheels. But the rest of it is sitting on the boat. Some questions:

  1. How did it get there? 
  2. Why? 
  3. What is it used for? 
  4. When is its canal tax due?
Some questions remain unanswered, but that does not mean the questions are bad. Questions are good, even when we don’t get answers. Questions prove we are alive. Let me illustrate …..
I love the TED talks. I listened to one yesterday. It was about parasites. One particular parasite is ingested by a shrimp, causing the shrimp to turn pink and to clump together with other shrimps so that flamingos will see them, eat them, and provide the right conditions for the parasite to reproduce. An extraordinary story. I could not listen to the talk without asking, “Why does this happen?”, “Why does it have to be this way?”, “How does the shrimp feel about the deal?”

The story and the unanswered questions take me to a place of wonder. Wonder is caused by questions. I like to be in wonder because wonder reminds me there is a God. Hence the importance of asking questions.

When do we ask questions? When things surprise us. When do things stop surprising us? When we stop asking questions. One of the reasons I read the Bible is to find questions. If I search for questions I am never dissatisfied, but if I search for answers I am often dissatisfied. That’s not to say the Bible does not have answers (indeed, it has all the most important answers humankind needs to know), but if we stop looking for questions we stop growing. If all we are looking for is answers it means we have already decided what the questions are, and that limits what God can teach us.

Sometimes people of faith feel bad if they have questions, but Jesus rarely rebuked people for having a question (e.g. Matthew 24.3). He only corrected those who came to him with questionable motives behind their questions (e.g. Matthew 22.15-22).  My recommendation is to to keep asking God questions – just do it with the right spirit, and allow Him to retain the right to leave some unanswered.

I’ll be back to the canal in a week or so. If the boat is still there I’ll be tempted to ask the owners what the deal is with the car. But maybe I won’t ask. The mystery is more interesting.

In the Pink, Acts 4

It was a bit early for the shock of the pink. My bleary eyes were arrested by this site on the morning dog-prayer-walk.

Someone wants to make a statement. Someone wants to be noticed. Someone is either very bold, or very colourblind.

Standing out from the crowd is something anyone can do in one way or another if they want to. The question is the motive behind it. Now, I have no idea of the underlying motive prompting the narrow-boat owners to splash the pink, but I do know they could hardly be surprised if someone stopped to ask them, “Why?”

This issue of standing out is a tricky one for a disciple of Jesus. If we are asked, “Do you want to look different from the rest of the world?”, there is really no right answer. If we say, “Yes”, we could be accused of self-righteousness, and if we say, “No”, we could be accused of assimilation into the standards of this world. So what is one to do?  Well, let me share with you the words of a friend of mine. It goes back to last Friday night at a church meeting.

Lolu started his talk on Acts 4 with this strange assertion on the first slide of his PowerPoint presentation: “You Do Not Need To Be Bold”. The congregation looked at one another in confusion. What did he mean? I thought all Christians were meant to be bold. Jesus was.

But his point was well made. You see, although the boldness of Peter and John was obvious to those around them, “..they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men…” (Acts 4:13 NIV11) the real question was, where did this boldness come from?

Lolu pointed us back to something Jesus said earlier, “make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:14–15 NIV11) If we focus on the “I need to be bold” approach we become self-focussed and it ends up being about us, not God.  However, there is an alternative approach.

We can decide to trust Jesus for two things:

  1. He will only put us into situations that we can handle – with his help
  2. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, Jesus will give us the words to say 
If that’s the case we will end up being bold, it’s just that the credit will go more clearly to Jesus (they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus, Act 4.13). No, we don’t need to be bold (at least as the focus), but we do need to trust Jesus when we find ourselves in a scary place.
What helps you to be bold? What gives you the security to get outside of the comfort zone? Pink or not on the outside, I hope you’re willing to be pink on the inside!