Tag Archives: Faith

The Peace Baby

‘I can’t forgive you.’ Is the kind of statement that separates people, divides communities and causes rifts that last years, perhaps life times. The words signify a break in that relationship, a fissure opens up between you and they.

When I face my tormenter, I can’t forgive from my own wellspring of strength. No matter how much I work out in the gym or look inwards. Instead it is only when God supports me, and reminds me, that he loves the person behind the torment that there is a bigger narrative! Only then can I find the strength to have compassion, the strength to stand and not be his victim anymore.

This christmas the birth of Jesus could be seen as a peace offering, the beginning of a way back to God and a deepening of our walk with him. It is said of a primitive tribe in some far flung place on earth, that part of their culture when one tribe is at war with the other, the offering of a peace baby could be made, in this ritual the chief offers his own baby to his enemy to be raised as one of them. As long as this peace baby survives peace remains intact between the warring sides.

God put his son into the hands of those who didn’t truly understand who the messiah was, to people who were impoverished in so many ways. God entrusted his sons care in a simple act of  trust that is reciprocated. In that simple trust the cosmic rift between us and God begins to be healed, closed and shut for good.

Gods lullaby to us is of a love that transforms, Joseph into the most understanding husband ever, that his betrothed would be pregnant by God, this love transforms a peasant girl into Mary mother of God, Shepherds into the first evangelists, and wise men into the first christalogical scholars.

I wonder how Gods lullaby might transform us with our internal struggles, and how this song might lead us to a new place of healing and understanding. Of a God who will literally go the distance for us. I wonder would we at least, in his strength, go the distance for one another.

My children sometimes come to me affronted by the other who has wronged them in some way, all too often as parents we hear the line, “they started it!!” After which forgetting how young they are I  try to explain, that if no one steps up and becomes the bigger person and breaks that cycle, when does it stop. He looks at me blankly and replies, ‘but she started it!’

We find in the christmas story that God breaks the cycle, which begins with birth and ends in resurrection. God begins a 33 year peacemaking programme with humankind with the people of Mary and Josephs time. As we celebrate Christmas this year we are reminded of his peace initiative, God’s olive branch his peace baby who doesn’t stay dead, that the rift between us and God might be healed and peace maintained forever, by a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, who is called Jesus.

Merry Christmas.

Kneeling Before My Friend

side chaple

A pastor takes a moment from the business of the cathedral worship service to step into a side chapel, its windows overlooking the city in a wide angled panoramic. His heart is heavy and his eyes are brimming with emotion.

He feels the need to kneel before the centre piece of an altar and a cross. Checking that no one is around or could see him through the doorless entrance, he kneels, allowing the emotion to show in a measured way, the dam wall of pride and stubbornness holding back the deep waters of his swirling emotions.

“Save my children,” he stutters through gritted teeth, “I want them to know you lord.” And as he bowed his head in prayer and closes his eyes, he adds “save your church.” The silence and tears give way to a renewed commitment spoken to his Lord and King, “I commit myself to its survival, its future and I entrust my children to you. Amen.”

In those few moments in that side chapel, I wasn’t asking for salvation for my kids as much as I was asking the Lord, that my children might know Jesus as I do. As friend, shepherd, confidant. So that when they find themselves lost in the darkness that life can bring, they might know what being found by God feels like.

I long also for the healing of a broken church, filled with many different people’s, with diverse and entrenched views not dissimilar to my own. So kneeling before the altar, I recommitted myself to its future, its success, rather than listening to the naysayers, I choose instead a realistic hopefulness one rooted in faith in Jesus. I choose to hang my hat on the calling Christ has placed upon my shoulders, that of being a presbyter.

I don’t know what the future holds, whether British Methodism will rise much like the story of the fiery Phoenix of old, nor whether my children will know Jesus as shepherd and even Saviour in the same way I do. But I commit my way to trust the Lord knows what he is doing.

Broader speaking as pastors, lay people, whoever or whatever our role is in our beloved churches, of which neither the Pope, President, Moderator, Arch-bishop is head of but are able caretakers. For Christ is our head and he speaks through our leadership and our laity, through our community as a body of disciples and the community who don’t know the Christ who we follow. I wonder what are they saying to you?

Brothers and sisters let us lay our worries at Jesus’ feet, our fears and anxieties for what might become of us as a body of believers in the UK Methodist Church. Let’s live not as the persecuted or afflicted, not as cultural oddities, but as proud to be called Christian. May the term Christian, come to not be synonymous with racism, bigotry, abuse of others. But synonymous instead with a Jesus Christ who loves died and rose for everyone, gay, straight, men, women, kids, whoever.

I am Christian, a Methodist, a pastor, my identity is not denominationally bound, but Methodism is the home I feel most spiritually connected to. For its lack of religiosity, for its passion for the poor and marginalised and offering all people hope in Christ, for its failings and successes, finally for its future whatever that looks like.

Proverbs 3:5-6 With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow. (NRSV Translation)

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Retreat Is Not Surrender

stressedThe phone is ringing constantly, I am being overrun by emails, my diary is full to bursting, I am stressed and to my horror I look ahead in my diary to see, that the entry for the next day, is blocked between 10am and 3pm as a spiritual retreat with my wife (not that spending time with my wife is a bad thing!) I instinctively wonder where on Gods green earth do I have the time for that!?! I begin to frantically think of excuses, so I can cancel it and keep my nose to the grind stone, and do Gods work for the church he has placed me in.

Yes I get to that place all to often with my schedule. When I’m generally too busy to pray, read the bible, spend time with my family, eat well, and actually relax in any meaningful way or indeed any of the aforementioned in a way that is satisfying.

It doesn’t even seem to matter that a few weeks ago, my body tried to teach me a lesson and took matters into its own hands! It was as though my body had decided to club together for an intervention to make me stop. It collected a nasty flu bug,  breathed it in deeply and nagged me over the preceding  week that if I didn’t rest I was done for and indeed I was! By thursday evening of that week, after I got back from  my second funeral that day I only had only one option, which was climb into bed and stay there for a few days. I cancelled my services and appointments and rested and wasn’t myself really until the following week.

But back to this retreat in the diary, what was I to do? Well, do you know, I didn’t cancel it and went on it just me and my lovely wife, we talked, prayed, ate snacks and looked at the beautiful view. We even did an entry in our couples devotional bible that we have been doing sporadically for our 13 years of marriage, we are in Nehemiah! We both experienced Gods peace, his holding, realigning our perspective to his, a reduction in stress and a reorientation to the path the Lord is leading us on.

My work load hadn’t diminished, but somehow taking that space and time, to centre on who I work for rather on what my denomination demands of me, made the jobs, the need for inspiration a little easier and life became more in perspective. Just as the gospel of Matthew 6 :28-34 reminds us to live  first seeking the kingdom of God.

Sometimes the last place we go, is the place we should start. I encourage you to retreat, not out of weakness but the need to seek God, lean on him, trust in him, deepen our walk with the only one who sees the whole picture and for whom the present you’re experiencing storm is already history. Then step out in faith not leaving God behind, but lifting your head up looking ahead at what is coming together with the one who loves you more completely now than he can ever love you.

1900031_10153932473690111_2012419033_n “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Easter Day: Told You So…

entry two in a disciples diary might read:

Dear Diary,

Not really sure where to start, apparently i have been a bit short sighted, my self loathing of yesterday has been overturned, to mind bending joy. I cannot really totally believe it.

Apparently God you can walk away from crucifixion, who knew! And me and the guys are acting like we knew it was all part of the master plan. But diary, i didn’t know. Am wondering if  I should scrub out yesterdays entry, I should have listened more, maybe I would have released.

I suspect i am not the only one who didn’t know, I wonder if the 12 knew? The chosen Jesus team, I saw one of them yesterday, if they knew he was coming back, they weren’t showing it. Anyway not one of them has said i told you so yet!

So what now, everything was true about Jesus, what does it mean? I am not sure which is easier, believing he was dead and it was all over. Or dealing with the ramifications of Jesus rising from the dead…

Since then 2000 years ago  believers has been figuring out what Jesus resurrection might mean, for how we worship, and live for God. There have been colossal mistakes along the way, illustrated by damaged people who have left, and those who think Jesus is still dead. There has also been an awesome, global outpouring of charity motivated by the love Jesus showed, which has begun schools and hospitals, feed and clothed the hungry and poor, and has and continues to fight for the rights of the oppressed and not listened too.

Lets Pray

Lord forgive our imperfect attempts at building your kingdom. May the power of the cross that broke you, also break our pride, busyness, personal agendas and give way to renewal of self and your calling to the church. Show us lord what you see.Amen

A Brown Taped Bible

A Brown Taped Bible

Sitting across from me is a bible. I know it’s a bible, because of where I am, but if I was somewhere else like a coffee shop or library I wouldn’t be sure. This bible isn’t shiny or new, it’s bent from usage, it has seen hard times. The cover mended so many times, it’s now completely covered in brown tape obscuring its title and its potential.

I wonder if you or I might be a little like this bible, bruised and battered, tired and weary, needing rather than another strip of tape to patch us up, instead we long for renewal.

Underneath the tape of that covered bible sitting on the table, beats the heart of the living God and that is no different for us, who are bound in tape. We know the riches of Gods word, we know the inner reassurance of his presence (I pray), just somewhere along the way, tiredness has crept in, weariness as settled on our spirits and we have forgotten?

Perhaps forgotten to look up, to look up into our heavenly fathers eyes and see our reflection, and let him breathe into us his refreshing spirit. That our bonds might fall away. That we might again walk on the edge with God holding onto his hand seeing others how he needs us too, being ready to speak his word bringing refreshing, renewal and challenge.

So my prayer…
Lord God, send your renewing spirit, where cynicism had left us cracked and dry, where life has left us jaded, thirsty and hungry, cloth us once again with power from on high. Fill us with your refreshing, that our journey might be a source of inspiration, our words reflect your mercy and grace, and help us to live anew whilst holding your hand.
Amen

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