Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting ready for Shane

We're just over 24 hours away from hosting Shane Claiborne and the Rend Collective Experiment on their Upside Down Kingdom Tour.

Tickets are selling like hot cakes which is very gratifying in late August), but there are some still left.If you're in Bromley and are intending to come, let us know. It's going to be a fab night.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting to grips with the vision thing to turn the world upside down

Here's the piece from our church magazine that hits the racks this Sunday - for those not given to read print media or not able to pick up a copy because of distance from the building (forgive the parochial nature of some of the references....)

George Bush senior famously intimated during an election campaign that he didn’t get the vision thing. The Queen on a visit to the London School of Economics in the autumn of 2008, as the credit crunch was sending global markets into free-fall, asked ‘why did no one see it coming?’ Both those issues came to the fore in responses to the disturbances on London’s streets in August. Why did no one see it coming and who has the vision to lead us to a better place for all our citizens? Such questions will rumble on through the coming months.

They were questions that were probably being asked, though in different terms, in Jesus’ day as people responded to economic injustice and occupation. They were certainly in the mind of Luke as he told the story not only of Jesus but also of his earliest followers. It’s that latter part of the story that we are going to pick up in the autumn to see what it might be saying to us at this time in our city.

In particular, we will be looking at the subject of vision. The Acts of the Apostles is built around a number of stories where God’s people saw, heard and responded to vision. Indeed, the story that Luke tells in this second volume is not the story of a well-drilled army of people working from a plan to take over the empire. Rather it is the story of how a ramshackle band of people who loved Jesus were led by a vision from heaven to share the good news about him across the world, to found communities shaped by his values and welcome any and everyone who came to explore what the life of God’s Kingdom might be like. So, this autumn we’re going to be exploring these vision passages in Acts because we too want to be people led by a vision from heaven.

Which brings us back to this summer on the streets of London and other cities around the UK. The Queen’s question is a good one and lots of people have been trying to answer it and will no doubt continue to do so. But for God’s people it’s the vision thing that matters. We are not called in the first instance to respond to a set of circumstances on the ground. We are called to respond to and live by a vision.

As Paul told Agrippa ‘I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.’ That vision showed Paul who Jesus was and is and sent him on a life-long mission to share that Jesus with the Roman world. It led him to plant churches and proclaim the gospel in every city he visited. It led him to take up a great collection among the nations to take to the followers of Jesus living in poverty in Judea. And it led him to his death in Rome having first preached the gospel in that city for at last two years. Paul would not have been the man he became but for the vision from heaven.

And so it is with us: as we seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus in Bromley in 2011 and beyond we too need to see and hear and respond to the vision from heaven. All that we do as a church in seeking to embody the good news of Jesus in our lives and our activities needs to grow out of the vision from heaven.

The vision with which Acts opens is a vision of the risen Jesus telling his followers that the Kingdom will be restored through their lives of witness beginning at home and stretching to the ends of the earth. It’s the vision that holds good for us here and now.

If we want to respond well to the events in our city over the summer, we will be fired by this vision to make Jesus known in word and work in our community. It will mean that our programme as a church will be focussed on embodying and imparting the values of God’s Kingdom on the streets where we live and the places where we work.

Our neighbourhoods need to see that there is a way of living where all people are valued, where we can work together for the common good, where the weak can be supported, the fallen set back on their feet, the poor helped and the love of Christ shed abroad in all our hearts by the Holy Spirit working in, with and alongside us.

For this reason, we’ll be continuing to deepen our links with JusB and Street Pastors; and we’ll continue to explore the possibility of setting up a debt project with CAP, a foodbank with Trussell Trust and neighbourhood groups that will share the good news of Jesus with those around them through parties and practical action.

Paul lived in obedience to the vision from heaven and was accused by people in Thessalonica of having turned the world upside down. We too have the opportunity to be accused of doing the same if we too are obedient to the vision from heaven. Are we up for it?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Enjoying our full pot of beans

Glen Campbell was on the Today programme this morning talking about living and touring with Alzheimer's (I guess that's something we'll get used to hearing in the coming years). It was an uplifting interview with a man whose voice has travelled with me over a number of years.

I'm not a big Campbell fan, though I think Wichita Lineman is one of the greatest songs Jimmy Webb ever penned, but I thought his line this morning about how he views life was just priceless. He said: 'God's going to give me my full pot of beans; I'm sure of that'.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Can we do better than blaming the parents?

There's an excellent leader in yesterday's New York Times that you can check out here. It touches on the issue of parenting in relation to our recent disturbances and the government's response to them and asks the question whether the parents of those who caused the banking crisis, led the hacking of innocent people's phones or over-claimed their expenses in  parliament will be similarly called to account.

It's a good question, one also asked by the comedian Nathaniel Tapley in an open letter to David Cameron's parents (here). It's easy to blame parents, providing they don't mean us.But where did our children learn the values of consumerism, competitive individualism and careerism, the story that lies at the heart of our acquisitive, me-first culture from, if not partly from us? Of course, they also learned it from their peers, the media and the very educational system that countless parents were praising as they lauded their children's achievements in exams yesterday.

More specifically, do we hold the parents of bankers to account for their off-spring living all-out for profits (especially for themselves in ever-inflating bonuses) that come at the expense of competitors and are paid for ultimately by the poor who suffer most in the ensuing busts that follow the champagne-glugging booms? Or do we call the parents of those  involved in phone hacking (an ever-widening circle, it seems) to explain why their children seem to think it's OK criminally invading the privacy of other people? Or do haul the parents of MPs over the coals for instilling in their little darlings the value of grabbing as much as they can for themselves while purporting to serve the interests of others?

Of course not; the suggestion is absurd. So why do we always blame the poor and the parents of the poor for their plight and actions in response to it? We could say that the off-spring concerned (mainly 16-25 year old males) are young enough to be under their parent's authority, as was David Cameron and his ilk when they engaged in the high jnks associated with the Bullingdon Club (here)

Perhaps there are other narratives that we need to be telling our children so that they will grow to model the values we want everyone in our society to live by. When Jesus met a rich young ruler he told him to sell what he had and give it to the poor (because that was the logical outworking of the set of values the rich young man said he had learned from his parents). It was not part of the deal for the rich man to blame the poor for being poor or to say that his wealth was the result of his hard work, careful planning and astute investment planning (see Luke 18:18-30).

Jesus offers a story for us to live by that isn't the one of competitive individualism, consumerism and careerism that we grow up hearing from our mother's knee. It's a story of community, sharing and looking out for the interests of others, a story that's rooted in the cross that deals with all the reasons why we can't live this way and written in our hearts by the Spirit who tells us that we can live this way if we keep in step with her.

As I said in a post recently, what  God expects of us is pretty simple - that we love him and we love our neighbours (you can read it here). That's the story of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced through his living, story-telling and dying on our behalf; a story that's written on our hearts by the Spirit God gives us; a story that our hurting neighbourhoods urgently need to see and hear from us.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Counting down to Shane Claiborne and the Rend Collective

Well, excitement is growing here as we're only two weeks away from our big night with Shane Claiborne and the Rend Collective Experiment. That's right 31 August, 7:30pm, Bromley Baptist Church. Be there or miss it (and live with the regrets...).

Shane Claiborne is undoubtedly one of the most exciting voices to have emerged from the American Christian scene in recent years. In the mould of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne is a great communicator with a bold message - simply that we need to take Jesus seriously.

One of the founders of the Simple Way in Philadelphia, he seeks to live as a disciple of Jesus among the poor and marginalised of that city. It's out of that life that he speaks of God's upside down Kingdom and urges followers of Jesus everywhere to take it seriously.

So, if you're anywhere near Bromley on Wednesday 31 August, then you need to get to Bromley Baptist Church clutching a fiver (and maybe a little more to buy a coffee, a book and CD) and hear something that might just make you think in a whole new way about your life. More than that, it might make you live differently - and let's face it, in the wake of recent events, we need people living the Kingdom of God in our communities.

There will be music from the Rend Collective Experiment, vibrant, mumford-like, intelligent worship music from Northern Ireland. You can check them out on their website here.

And you can find out more about the Upside Down Kingdom tour from our website here (there's even a link to a brief film of Shane to whet your appetite). See you on the thirty-first....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting to grips with some thinking about our current problems

I'm reading Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones. I've had it a while but events have pushed it to the top of the pile and I'm glad it has. It's a great read - I'm 90 pages in and learning stuff from virtually every page. So I heartily recommend it if you want an insight into those often blamed for being poor, feckless and responsible for everything that's wrong with our society.

And over in Canada business leaders have suggested that inequality might be a bad thing. “High inequality can diminish economic growth if it means that the country is not fully using the skills and capabilities of all its citizens or if it undermines social cohesion, leading to increased social tensions. Second, high inequality raises a moral question about fairness and social justice,” they say in a report published this week. You can read a full account of it here.

I found it sobering and full of good sense on the day when the unemployment figures rose in the UK and that unemployment in London, focused on some of the poorest boroughs in the city, rose above 400,000 for the first time in 15 years. This is not good for social cohesion. Neither is the fact that there are nearly a million 16-24s out of work, that's 20% of people in that age group.

Along with Lord Harris of Peckham, I think the Government ought to be doing something about this - but maybe we're both missing something.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Digging below the surface of our recent troubles

OK, I know I said no more riot comment, but I just wanted to alert you all to this superb analysis by King's College's Luke Bretherton. It's on ABC's Religion and Ethics site (click here). Profound theology meets sharp social commentary.

He cites Peter Oborne's piece in the Telegraph which is also worth checking out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Buffetting (sic) the rich...

I wasn't going to blog again today (it's my wedding anniversary - 30 wonderful years!) but I came across two things that I wanted to pass on.

the first is a great piece by Warren Buffett, the veteran investor, a billionaire whose favourite drink, I gather, is Cherry Coke! He's written about the nonsense that politicians speak about the effect of high taxes on investment and where rich people live. You can read it here. It's great stuff.

The other is a simple fact that I came across in Will Hutton's book on fairness that I'm reading again. Talking about the madness of  the market fundamentalism that has dominated economic thinking for the past 30 years - pretty much as long as I've been married! - Hutton points out that governments around the world - but mainly in the West - shelled out $14 trillion to shore up the banking system when bankers crashed it into the buffers.

That amount is virtually the same as the US government's debt. That debt resulted in Standard & Poor downgrading US credit-worthiness (that's the same ratings agency that gave triple A ratings to all the bundles of toxic sub prime mortgages that drove the banking system to its knees) and much hand-wringing about the need to slash spending on government programmes to keep the markets happy.

Which brings us back to Warren Buffett...

A final word on the riots (for now...)

I can't quite believe I'm saying this, but there's a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece by Boris Johnson in today's Telegraph (posted on line late last night here). He is making the government's response look more and more flat-footed and uncertain.His mix of tough policing and the creation of hope for those left behind in our society looks like a promising way forward.

I do think his dismissal of any linkage between the looters and MPs and bankers is a little glib, however. For twenty-plus years we have lived in a culture where those at the top told us there is no such thing as society and that people needed to be set free to acquire because that would result in everyone being better off.

This has turned out to be a cruel lie but it has spawned a culture that idolises material gain. The only measure of whether you are somebody is the size of your bank balance and the ostentation of your home. From the National Lottery to the Million Pound Drop the message is that the good life is only possible with a heap of cash and all the gizmos that cash can buy. Only last night I saw an ad for yet another TV show offering to make someone a millionaire.

And our papers are full of stories of celebrities flaunting their bling and yet behaving pretty badly - as we saw on the first day of the new football season yesterday with players earning £70,000 a week behaving like street brawlers in front of their fan-base - and lambasting bankers bonuses while simultaneously calling for tax cuts for the rich.

It's little wonder the Bishop of Manchester talks of a moral vacuum from top to bottom of our society. Perhaps the rioter who said he was helping himself the way the bankers and MPs had done had a point.

Boris talks about the need to create jobs - and I applaud him for that (as I do Lord Harris who said the same in the wake of his carpet store going up in flames in Tottenham) - but we need to pay attention to the kind of jobs we are creating and the structure of rewards in those jobs. It cannot be true that a fund manager is worth 400 times a care worker in a nursery or old people's home. This pay gap is as much as illustration of the moral vacuum as the silly greed of the gossip pages and the criminal action of looters.

As long as we undervalue those who offer care and nurture in our society, while offering excessive rewards to those who move money from one place to another, we will breed a deep sense of injustice and unfairness. This is not an easy issue to tackle but Will Hutton goes some of the way in his book on how we create a fairer society (Them and Us: Changing Britain - Why we need a fair society) as well as the excellent Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett).

One place to start would be to replace minimum wage with a living wage (putting the wage floor at least £2 an hour above the current one - something Boris supports for London). At the same time you'd have to change corporate governance rules so that maximising shareholder return was not the number one duty of board rooms. We could do this; we just need politicians with vision and balls. And we need to raise the amount the amount national and local government paid care homes.

I'll leave the last word to David Cameron: 'Research by Richard Wilkinson and Katie Pickett has shown that among the richest countries, it's the more unequal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator. In "The Spirit Level", they show that per capita GDP is much less significant for a country's life expectancy, crime levels, literacy and health than the size of the gap between the richest and poorest in the population. So the best indicator of a country's rank on these measures of general well-being is not the difference in wealth between them, but the difference in wealth within them.' 

He said that before the election - maybe he'd like to act on it now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Supporting parents, creating community

The attempt to create a narrative (as the pundits call it) about the recent riots is in full swing. There is one narrative that majors on criminality and another that majors on social deprivation made worse by cuts. It has to be said that neither are entirely convincing.

Both refer to parenting and the Guardian has an excellent piece on that issue today (here). The narratives talk about the inadequacy of parenting or the struggles of parents. And listening to some of the stories emerging from the estates where the overwhelming majority of those involved in the riots came is heart-breaking.

I don't know what the answer is beyond something really obvious that I'll mention in a moment. I'm fairly sure the answer isn't to evict people from their homes because a family member is convicted of involvement in looting. I know that sounds reasonable -  why should society provide homes for the ungrateful? But a moment's thought suggests that pushing the poor beyond the reach of services that might be able to help them get their lives together doesn't sound sensible; punishing a whole family because one member was caught up in a night of madness seems guaranteed to increase a sense of not being part of the community we are all so keen to build.

And as a Christian I have to say that it lacks grace. Most of the narratives lack grace. And so most of the narratives envision a society where only the deserving can belong. I struggle with this because we'd all be up to our chests in the brown stuff if God treated us this way and I think we are called to be like God (Matthew 5:48 etc).

So, my simple, obvious thought is this. Let's not rush to set up parenting courses where experts tell the inadequate how to bring up baby (there's a place for classes and courses and groups, but they tend only to reach those who know they've got a 'problem' and are prepared to admit that to at least one other person). Rather, let's get to know parents and offer them the support that comes through a network of friendship.

I know from having a six month baby in the house that being a parent can be demanding and stressful - and our granddaughter has four adults responding her every cry! I also know from our work offering parent and toddler groups through the church that every parent is grateful for help and advice that grows out of friendship. That is part of being community. Lots of my friends are part of a wide network of friends and family who offer support just by being around.

Most of the families where I am cope just fine - mum and dad are together, the home is secure, money is plentiful, life has its stresses but is generally good. But there are some families that are on the edge, living in poor housing, subsisting on benefits or minimum wage, working unsocial hours, lacking the support of an extended family network. How might our friendship help them? What could the offer of a meal or having the children for an hour or two, organising a picnic for a group of families to be together with something organised for the kids for an hour or so do for such families? Who know where it might lead...

I keep coming back to the realisation that what God expects of us is pretty simple - that we love him and we love our neighbour. Such love is essentially very practical and involves offering grace to others as God has offered it to us. And because this is pretty simple, anyone can get involved.  It doesn't require a bevy of experts or expensive project apparatus to function. It requires people giving time to forming relationships with those around them - people like them and people very different from them - and so making community that works and is mutually supportive.

Of course, more is needed; of course, some problems are deep and require deep wells of grace, experience and expertise to tackle; of course, some people will be impervious to our offer of friendship; of course, we can find all sorts of  reasons to throw our hands up and say 'someone other than me must do something.'

But as Jesus said to the baffled twelve when they were faced by a mob of hungry men, spoiling for a revolution, 'you give them something to eat'. He says the same to us. And we know - because we've read the story in Luke 9 - that Jesus will help us do it once we've knuckled down to attempt the impossible.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What would Jesus do?

There's been far too much pontificating on the riots already, largely by people who don't live in the affected areas and didn't experience what was going on (like me) and I'm reluctant to join in. But following the response to my facebook status this morning, I thought I'd offer a reflection on how I'm feeling and pass on a comment or two that I've found really helpful as I've tried to process how I'm feeling.

I feel sad and pretty helpless. I feel for those who've lost their businesses and homes. I feel for the police officers bearing the brunt of an inchoate anger.  I feel for those who've been left fearful in their communities. The stock response when something like this happens is to find someone to blame. In this situation it's easy: the rioters are to blame for mindless criminality for which there's no excuse. Yes and no.

In one news report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
"Yes," he replied. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?" He went on:
"Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you." (you'll find it here - along with some helpful reflections on events).

He has a point. And his point is not that rioting is a good thing. His point is that he comes from a community that is invisible to us, disregarded by us, not part of the big society that we all feel a sense of belonging to.

In today's Independent, Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kid's Company and long-time champion of neglected communities, offers this insight: 'Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped'. And she backs it up with stories of families at breaking point, receiving little or no help, being made to feel that they are just a problem with nothing to contribute to society and so having no stake in society. Her piece is well worth reading (it's here)

There is a need for a good tough policing response to this disorder; those who have committed crimes - and that's what they are - need to be brought to book. But what then? Will these young people, the vast majority of whom have no qualifications, come from challenging backgrounds, face a future devoid of opportunity, just fade back into invisibility (after they've served time) until the next long hot summer?

Jesus told his disciples that stumbling blocks will come our way but woe to those who put a stumbling block in the way of any of these little ones (Luke 17:1-2). To whom is he referring? Surely to those who have been the subject of his stories from 14:1 onwards - the poor, the neglected, those on the edge, invisible to the god-fearing community of his day, and yet very visible and very loved by God.

So, I think if we are followers of Jesus, we have a part to play in raising the visibility of the unseen communities in our country and working to show that they matter to us because they matter to God. This means that we will resource and run good quality youth work - and press our local authorities to join us in that (by reversing cuts to provision if necessary). For baptists in London, it means asking why our association has no regional minister responsible for youth work in post to enable churches to rise to this challenge. It means that we will dedicate resources to helping those who struggle to make ends meet, cope as parents, achieve at school through projects (which is just a short-hand for motivated, mobilised and managed individuals) offering to get alongside those in need of help. Again we will do this with all sorts of people of good will, including local authorities who need to be pressed to take their responsibilities to the poor seriously.

And first of all, it means listening to those who are rarely heard, hearing what their lives are like, what struggle they face and, most importantly, what they have to offer as a contribution to making the kind of society we all want to live in.

 What we've had enough of is hand-wringing and finger pointing. We're all to blame. But much more importantly we can all play a part of making things better. I think it's what Jesus would do. What do you think?

Friday, August 05, 2011

There's nothing wrong with 'ian' but he won't save anyone...

There's a fascinating and sobering piece on the BBC website about Dutch Christianity. You can check it out here. It has all the hallmarks of a silly season piece - though there's enough happening on the world's stock markets to have squeezed it out - if it wasn't so serious.

Robert Pigott reflects on how some Dutch churchmen are offering a version of the Christian faith without either Christ or faith - so I guess all they're offering is 'ian' (nice boy but he's hardly going to save the world!). The puzzling thing is that the congregations of Klaas Hendrikse and other ministers like him seem to lap up their 'God isn't real, Jesus is a myth, it's all over when you die' version of the faith.

Now, I'm no die hard traditionalist (as many know only too well) but it seems to me that it's a complete failure of the imagination to strip everything difficult out of the Christian faith and yet still go to church. There are plenty of places where people who are not theists, do not believe that Jesus is of anything other than passing historical interest, believe that this life is all that's on offer, can gather to chew the fat and work out the meaning of our time here on planet earth.

Jesus' teaching is not easy - unless you strip it down to a vacuous 'be nice to each other' message that these guys seem to hold to; it is not for those who are not prepared to grapple with the deep mysteries of life, not prepared to face the injustices of the world and protest that there must be a better way to live. To come to church and engage with Jesus is a bold act of the imagination that demands of every participant a willingness to lay aside our easy perceptions of the world and wrestle with what else might be going on within and around us.

Merely to gather people together to tell them that there's no God and nothing to look forward to when we die, so make the most of life here, seems to be a waste of everyone's time - not to mention the cash poured into the utility bills and upkeep of the buildings.

A thought on when it's a good time to take a holiday

The world's stock markets are going south and so, apparently, have our leaders. As economy's tank all over the world and the prospects of recession loom ever larger, the prime minister, deputy prime minister and chancellor have all gone on holiday, leaving the hapless chief secretary to the treasury to defend the UK's totally irrelevant deficit reduction plan, as if our protestations of austerity will save us from the financial tsunami brewing off-shore.

The current crisis is a political one born of our inability to reform financial markets in the wake of the credit crunch. So it is not a time for our politicians to take their eyes of the ball and head for the beach. A massive restructuring of the way money of all kinds is managed around the globe is urgently required so that the poor stop bailing out the rich every time there's a market panic.

We need a more creative approach to getting out of the mess we're in than the slash and burn policies of the IMF, EU and our own governments, cheered on by the nutters in he US tea party movement which merely lead to rising unemployment, falling output and a squeeze on the incomes of those least able to cope in the hope that the system will magically correct itself.

Now is maybe not the best time for our leaders to be on the beach.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sharp stories of a salty alternative to tower building and war mongering

A couple of weeks ago I was preaching on the end of Luke 14. At first sight it seems to be just a general call to discipleship, wrapped up in a couple of think-about-it stories. It comes after the parables of the great banquet but seems to have little connection with them. Furthermore, Jesus speaks off his own bat rather than in response to a question or observation from the crowd. Luke reminds us that Jesus still had a big audience and that they were 'travelling' - ie Jerusalem is getting closer and we all know what will happen there.

And maybe that should alert us to the fact that there's a sharper focus to these words than just a general call to serious discipleship. It also suggests the link with what's gone before. At the end of chapter 13 we have Jesus words about Herod and his tears for Jerusalem. Now we have stories about tower builders and war-mongers. Perhaps we are in the same territory. Tom Wright helpfully suggests that Herod the great was probably the tower builder and that the tower in question was the still unfinished temple and that those plotting rebellion against Rome were the war mongers. Suddenly the story is freighted with spiritual and political urgency.

The parables of the great banquet have strongly suggested that the party God will throw at the end time is for the poor, the marginalised, the dispossessed, those with no stake in the current order who are always being pushed around by what a writer in today's Guardian wonderfully called 'the feral elite'. Followers of Jesus ought to be concerned about the poor and not the dreams of the tower builders and war mongers.

This throws light on the puzzling little saying about salt in 14:34f. God's people were supposed to be showing the world a different set of values, an alternative lifestyle. They are meant to be - in the words of  American historian and cultural critic Theodore Roszak who sadly died last week - a counter culture. The trouble is that Jesus looks around at Israel and he sees that it's anything but. That is why he weeps over the city, why he longs to be able to gather it to himself like a hen gathers her chicks. That is what lies behind his despairing comment that what should be salty is just bland and indistinguishable from the surrounding cultures; it's just another empire of tower builders and war mongers. And Jesus weeps.

Having told the story of the banquet, he calls people to join his revolution, his counter culture, his way of being that embodies the values of the God who reigns. Hence he ends by asking those with ears to hear what he's saying.I don't think it's an accident that this is immediately followed in Luke's account by the parables of lost things (sheep, coins, sons) that are kicked off by the Pharisees grumbling that Jesus models these values in who he offers his hospitality to; nor that the apparently mystifying parable of the unjust steward (the subject of another post to come) follows immediately on with no change of audience or pause for breath.

I was thinking all this when the postman arrived with my copy of Kavin Rowe's World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age. I've been looking forward to reading this for ages, having read a couple of Rowe's papers on Acts, because he argues a political reading of acts that is based on God's apocalypse in Jesus and treads the fine line between being a counter culture that turns the world upside down and fermenting a revolution that seeks to replace one tyranny with another. I'll keep you posted on how it shapes up.