The Bible reading today is a simple question to Jesus about what is the most important commandment, or to put it another way, what is it that God really wants us to do.
And Jesus gives a very answer, quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy (part of the Torah): Love God, Love people.
I remember being asked years ago by a member of a youth group I led how if you love God totally would you have anything left over to love people with. The questioner thought of love as a fixed amount – sort of like an apple pie. And some people had a bigger capacity to love (had a bigger pie) than others. Now if you gave your whole pie (all your love) to God, then there wouldn’t be any pie left over to give to others.
But love isn’t like a pie (a fixed amount). It’s more like a muscle in your arm. And the more you use it the stronger the muscle becomes. So, the more you love the more your capacity for love grows.
And secondly, God is not an object, or a person’s name. So, to love God is not like loving your cat, your friend or your parents. Its better to imagine that God is like an unseen energy (think electricity) and to ‘love’ God is to contribute to that unseen energy. How do we do that? Well, by loving both ourselves and loving other people. By acts of care and compassion we contribute to the energy – the life and mission – of God.
Jesus’ credo: ‘love God, love people’ comes from his Jewish faith. But now its part of the Christian faith. And part of other world faiths. Millions of people understand that to love people and build caring communities is to contribute to the energy - the life and mission - of God
Today we are going to do something quite different in church – we’re going to watch a 15-minute little movie called “On the Brühl”. It was the best short film documentary at the 2020 Burbank International Film Festival.
It’s about an Irish Methodist minister, Barry Sloan, who moved to the German city of Chemnitz, and with a bunch of local Christians set up a ‘living room on the Brühl”. The Brühl Boulevard is a street in the town. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Brühl had been a buzzing thoroughfare in this east German city. But it experienced hard times in the decades after unification. It is now in the process of regeneration. Sloan and the team call the living room ‘Inspire’ and it is open to people of all faiths or none.
The film is framed by images of far-right anti-immigrant protests in Chemnitz in 2018. Between the scenes of police in riot gear, On the Brühl juxtaposes those violent events with the warm, welcoming community-based meeting hub of ‘Inspire’.
What are the key values that Barry and the team bring to this work?
Community, hospitality, reconciliation, neighbourhood…
Not judging, learning from anyone…
Partners: People of good faith working with people of good will for the common good
What the key ways that Barry and team make their values into a reality?
music, whiskey tasting = events that draw on the strength of the leadership team
décor and food that invites ‘hanging out’, ‘chilling’
bring and share lunch
addressing needs: learn English, kids programme
supporting other local businesses (notice where he is singing outside)
Organisational stuff: how did it come about and how is it sustained?
Cooperation with local council
Charismatic catalyst (Barry)?
Group of Christians from different churches
Finances? (Mission grant from Methodist church? from Council? Income from café?) Council leasing/giving them the space?
As a ‘church’ how is it different?
No services, sermons, teaching, study groups…
90% of attendees aren’t Christian
If you were creating a creed (a statement of beliefs) about ‘Inspire’ what would you include?
We believe in…. God found among us in laughter, food, and company
We believe that we don’t have to ‘save’ people (they will experience God on their own terms)
We believe that someone who might not be of the Christian faith has things to teach someone of the Christian faith about God (Frankie story)
We believe in ‘doing Jesus’ in everyday connections, working, serving, blessing.