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Sermon for Lent 3 Evening Prayer – men and the church

December 8, 2015

sissy churchPut on the whole armour of God – words from our second lesson.

In the name…..

Those of you who admit to watching The X Factor will know Sinnita. Years ago, her only hit song was ‘Macho Man’. I remember it well from my clubbing days. I don’t want a seven stone weakling or a boy who thinks he’s a girl. He’s got to have big blue eyes. He’s got to be big and strong

“Macho man.” What does it mean to be a man? Why did a group of teenage men beat up a young Starbucks manager in Philadelphia “just for kicks?” We have our own wars on the streets right here. Try Stapleton Road after dark.

You might expect me to say that religion is the answer but what does the church offer men? Why are two thirds of congregations women: little old ladies, some married women with their children, some teenagers? If you’re a young man looking for someone to marry you would find few prospects

Research by Tear Fund  and  found that 35% of men left churches in last 20 years. Things that put many men off include:

Sentimental hymns –worship songs with words like: Kiss me with Your healing touch,/Take me to the heat of the fire;/Bathe me in Your liquid love,/Oh, saturate me, saturate me. I will follow you to the cross

emotionalism and compulsory touchy-feely stuff

my pet hate – where you’re expected to hold hands and look into the eyes of others during the grace

‘Church’ is seen as largely about relationships between an individual and God and between the members of the congregation. Women in general ‘do relationships’ better (certainly differently) than men, whether it is remembering the names of their children’s friends, or keeping the Christmas-card list. From the good mornings on the way in to the chatting over coffee afterwards, church is largely about these relationship matters, and many men would prefer a situation that involved more ‘doing something’. Women’s relationships tend to centre around conversation whereas men’s relationships tend to centre around shared activity; a few games of pool at the pub

 Above all, Christianity is seen as a religion for the weak. Church services are passive. While women are allowed to need someone else in their lives, to be a “True Man” is to be self-reliant.

 There’s a men-only church called XY. They meet in a pub. Instead of listening to a preacher they argue, are allowed to swear. Any theology is linked to real life, like ethics in the workplace. They say that, to be successful:

Don’t hold it on a Sunday morning.

Provide food that isn’t vegetarian or soup

Have hymns you can belt out

don’t allow services to go over an hour
don’t do coffee and gossip

Does Christianity offer anything to men? Is violence the only way for some men to express their manhood? Are there other options in the battle called life?

Ephesians shows us another way to say, “I am a man.” It talks about a battle but, “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh” v. 12; that is, not against other human beings. Here the struggle is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” v. 12 These powers manifest on earth in systems and structures that destroy our flesh and blood. Unjust economic structures that starve people to death in the third world, that lead to global warming and expose people to drought, flood and tsunami, that throw people on to the dole queue. Can church be about standing up for justice not just nurturing?

Christians are called to fight these structures. Our writer employs military images, referring to the Roman soldiers his audience saw every day: “the whole armour of God,” “the belt of truth,” “breastplate of righteousness,” “shoes for your feet,” “shield of faith,” “helmet of salvation,” “sword of the Spirit.”

Here’s what Christian men should exhibit:

Telling the truth, speaking truth to power, being impatient with spin.

Being peaceful, not violent – but argumentative when people in power try to pull the wool over our eyes

Making peace by bringing two sides of a conflict together to hear each other’s point of view

Trustworthy – in the stock exchange they used to say ‘My word is my bond’

Reliable – if a parent, you give your kids strong boundaries – neither giving in too easily nor being unapproachable.

Ancient Roman armies marched headlong into enemy forces but the well-protected soldiers stayed in such close formation, shoulder to shoulder, shields overlapping, that the blows of their opponents had little effect. Maybe Church needs to involve sharing experiences of the battlefield. All Christians need to work closely with others not like the autonomous male who seeks to go it alone.

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