• So over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at this fascinating teaching from Simon Walker which he calls ‘The Undefended Life’
  • And we’ve been learning that the heart of the human condition is that we experience the world as unsafe
  • and so what drives us – first and foremost – is the desire to negotiate our own safety
  • Jim was showing us last week that we use a whole host of strategies to negotiate a safe passage through life to ensure our own security
  • we may not be sensing a physical threat to our existence in the same way that our ancestors knew – but how do we get people to like us? how can we ensure our financial security? how can we preserve optimal health? how can we ward off various threats to our professional career?
  • our minds are constantly drawn to the same kinds of questions…
  • what if I lose my job?
  • what if my marriage falls apart?
  • what if I don’t find a life-partner?
  • what if I got ill?
  • what if one of my kids got ill?
  • what if we lost all our savings?
  • what if our house was repossessed?
  • what if I lost my mental health?
  • what if my friends move away?
  • what if the new boss doesn’t like me?
  • what if I got found out?
  • the world still feels unsafe for most if not all of us
  • Simon suggests that at the heart of the Christian gospel is this radical call to abandon the various strategies we formulate to ensure our own safety and allow God to become for us the source of all our security
  • This is what I think we mean when we talk about trust
  • Trust is foundational in terms of what it means to be a christian
  • but I think that what we need to do is to contrast trust with belief
  • i think christianity down through the ages has largely been about belief not trust
  • so what we’ve ended up with is the idea that what God wants is our mental assent to a set of doctrinal propositions
  • you know – if we can just perform some mental gymnastics and convince ourselves that, say. the virgin birth is factually true – not saying it isn’t! – then this is what we mean by christian faith
  • i think there are some real problems with this!
  • interestingly, in the NT the word often translated as belief in our english bibles is the greek work pistis
  • pistis carries a sense of a an action or an experience borne out of a deeply held conviction
  • those of us who are sitting on chairs have already demonstrated this in this session
  • you didn’t come in and inspect the chairs!
  • you came in and sat on the chair!
  • you believed the chair could support your weight and you demonstrated this belief in your action
  • unfortunately, what passes for christian faith oftentimes these days is akin to someone proclaiming loudly “I believe chairs can support my weight” without ever actually sitting down!
  • trust requires participation, belief doesn’t
  • so this goes to the heart of what it means to be a christian
  • are we going to move from belief to experience and trust?
  • does being a christian mean subscribing to a list of certain propositions that have been designated as ‘orthodoxy’?
  • or does being a Christian mean trusting God?
  • you may be able to hazard a guess as to which I think it might be!
  • i think Christianity needs refashioning as a movement of people who trust God rather than an organisation of people who subscribe to certain abstract beliefs about God
  • nothing less than the soul of christianity is at issue here
  • i think the days of creedal christianity are numbered
  • of course it’s not wrong to say the creed or even believe in the creed
  • but I think what has to go is this sense that giving intellectual assent to the various doctrinal clauses of the creed is what Christian faith is all about
  • when I read the gospels and look particularly at Jesus’ encounters with people, he seems to be continually asking people “do you believe in me?”
  • Let’s look at an example from Mark 5
  • 21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24So he went with him.
  • [Jesus then gets diverted by the woman with the flow of blood who reaches through the crowd to touch him and receive healing. He’s talking to her when some messengers come with news of Jairus’s daughter]
  • 35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
  • When Jesus says to Jairus “do not fear, only believe” it’s quite clear he’s asking him to trust him isn’t it?
  • he’s not asking Jairus to try to think himself into believing something that contravenes the facts
  • I think we see this again and again throughout the gospels – Jesus is asking people to trust him much more than he’s asking them to intellectually believe certain doctrines about him
  • In his book Simon asks why idolatry in the OT was repeatedly defined as one of the worst things that people could be guilty of
  • and even more foundationally, how are we even to define idolatry?
  • he suggests that idolatry is fundamentally about control
  • it can be defined as ways in which we try and safeguard our own future
  • so we set up an idol and we pray to it for a good harvest or whatever because in this way we can take some control
  • idols work on a kind of transactional basis – I will give you, the idol, religious observance and you will reward me with what I want – a good harvest or whatever it may be
  • so it’s a way of trying to stay in control and recruiting gods to give you what you want
  • anything that we use to try to take our own security into our own hands can be regarded as an idol
  • so in this sense even our beliefs about God can become idolatrous
  • You expect to earn something from belief
  • in contrast to this is, I think, a way of life that is about TRUST in God
  • For many years I would say that I have believed in God
  • but at the same time, and in the final analysis, I have acted as if I need to secure my own future and make myself safe
  • in other words I haven’t lived out of a deep sense of trust in God, even though I have believed in God
  • we have so many plates to spin these days
  • is it up to us to make sure none of them fall to the ground?
  • do I trust God with my financial future?
  • do I trust God with my mental health?
  • do I trust God with my children’s future?
  • do I trust God with my marriage?
  • or do I say I believe in God but all the while assume responsibility for making sure all these things stay intact?
  • what does this feel like? its a very subtle thing
  • i think we’re talking about a kind of posture, a way we carry ourselves through life
  • are we constantly alert, running continual checks on everything, sitting in the control room of our lives watching all the CCTV monitors and keeping tabs on our various assets?
  • or are we able to walk through our life with an open posture of trust?
  • it’s going to be ok
  • we’re going to be ok
  • i don’t need to lock all these things down
  • i can trust God
  • it won’t collapse if I take my hand off it
  • it’s a gift
  • it’s a very subtle thing
  • i think it even feels like it’s a physical thing
  • we don’t realise how much tension we carry in our bodies – in the background
  • and I think this is accumulated physical tension that comes from a sense of being in a state of constant alert to threat
  • which is one reason why practices – like yoga -that take us deeper into our physicality are important
  • so we need to come at this from both directions –
  • we start seeing it and dismantling it in meditation and prayer
  • and we sense it and see the results of it in our bodies and work from that side of things to address it too

So in summary I think that developing TRUST is a key way for us to live the Undefended Life.

How do we develop TRUST? We haven’t got time to go too deeply into this now but there are some very helpful suggestions from Simon in his book. In particular he talks about three – what he calls – ‘movements’ which we can practically work into our lives – Receiving, Welcoming, and Stewarding.

For me, one of the key challenges in developing TRUST is the challenge to bring a deeper level of acceptance to each moment. To greet each moment with attention, acceptance and reverence and to meet reality on its own terms.

Eckhart Tolle has a great phrase for this : “Whatever you resist, persists”. He’s not saying that bad things shouldn’t be resisted, but that for any real change to come there first has to be an acceptance of the reality of the situation. An alcoholic that resists the suggestion that he or she has a drink problem is never going to change.

So our first response in each moment is to accept reality and in a sense submit to it rather than trying to resist it and bend it to our will – which is what we do most of the time to try and stay in control and make ourselves feel safe.

And then as we do that things begin to flow and change becomes possible.

I think that’s what a life of TRUST feels like.