Uncategorized

What’s in your hand?

God asked Moses “what is in your hand?”

Moses only had a staff, a bit of wood, which seemed useless when looking at liberating a nation from a military superpower.

Yet anyone who knows the story of Moses knows that his staff did amazing things, launching the plagues on the Egyptians,  opened and closed the red sea, cracked open water from a rock and much more.

Never in the history of sticks has one staff been used to do so much to do so many incredible things.

Yet this still through out all this the staff remained a stick (except for the brief time when it became a snake!)

There was nothing remarkable about this stick, other that it was an inanimate and ordinary object used by God.

There was nothing amazing about a child’s packed lunch, the loaves and fish that fed the hungry people who were listening to Jesus!

There was nothing amazing about a gentile widow’s kitchen scraps, oil and flour, used to bake a loaf of bread for Elisha when he visited -and yet it never ran out!

Yet of course it’s not really about the stick, or the oil and flour, or the bread and fish…
…but rather about a God who chooses to use ordinary things, sticks, oil, flour, bread, fish or ordinary people to reveal his glory.

In God’s hands the ordinary becomes the extra-ordinary.

Often though we cling on to the things that we have -with the same grip that the Rich Young Ruler clutched his wallet, forgetting that God can -and does-
use what we give him – God who can do more than we ask or imagine!

Too often I have been in meetings where we haven’t taken a step of faith because we “don’t have the money” but we forget we follow a
God who used a fish as an ATM machine!

Too often too I have been in meetings where we haven’t taken a step of faith because we haven’t got the people forgetting that Gideon won a military victory
through 300 inept soldiers.

God even on one occasion spoke through a donkey!

Proof -if proof were needed- that God doesn’t wait for people or things to reach a certain level of posh-ness before he considers them worthy of his use.

God will use that which we give to him, that which we trust him with.

In the Christmas carol we sing “what can I give him poor as I am, if I were a shepherd I would give a lamb, if I were a wise-man I would play my part, yet what I have I give him, give my heart!”

Paul urges us to “give our souls and bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God”.

When we give God our hearts, become living sacrifices, it is Bible speak for giving everything I am, and have, and ever hope to be… my everything, holding nothing back!

The parable of the pearl of great price tells of a merchant who gave EVERYTHING for this pearl.

So today, remember God wants to use us for his glory, and all that we have.

I will close with prayer the Anglicans say when they give their collection:

“All things come from you O Lord, and of your own do we give you!”

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Just snap out of it…

I don’t know why -well I do a bit- but today has been a day when I’ve really struggled to get going, just feel so low and depressed I don’t want to get out of bed or see anyone, or do anything, it’s like your mind has paralyzed your body is a sea of lethargy.

Often people say really uphelpful things like “just snap out of it” -and I wish I could, I wish I could be free of my own head/thinking more than anything in the world.

I’m not claiming to write a long in depth blog writing the definitive answer to struggling  with depression, yet I hopefully we can challenge peoples thinking about this.

I used to feel incredibly guilty about being a Christian and feeling how I do, surely as a Christian I should be like A.A. Milne’s Tigger rather than feeling more like Eeyore.  Someone how I was a ‘failure’ Christian -or worse a ‘fake Christian’ for not being perpetually happy.

Yet I did wonder, reading some of the Psalms, that David may have had bout’s of depression? Some of the psalms sound like David is depressed, and actually expressing the full range of human emotions honestly before God is okay. Perhaps I would suggest too that our worship has become too ‘praisey’ -and nothing wrong with praising- but sometimes we as humans need to share our tears, our words of lament, of repentance, of confusion with God.  Have we become ‘one-mode-worshippers’?

Certainly it sounds like Elijah did following the Victory on Mount Carmel hit a wall of depression.  God’s response is wonderful, he let’s him sleep and makes him breakfast, before gently re-commissioning him, lovingly restoring his hope and gently speaking truth to him “that 7 thousand have not bowed the knee to Baal”.

David reminds himself of truth to combat the lies within his heart and head in his psalms “yet I will trust in your unfailing love”.

It is not a failure of our faith to have times of struggle, rather it is an admission of our humanity, and our need of God, our inability to do life by ourselves. People talk about Christianity being ‘a crutch’ and to that I’d respond ‘aren’t you broken then, because I know I am and I need God’.  Despite feeling really, really low -I still believe the reality of the resurrection- I still believe that God is good and have put my trust in him, but I know too that the world and me are fallen and not as they should be (that’s why the cross matters so much). So, rather than being a fake Christian, I want Christians to see that even in the midst of depression -even despite the lies that seep into our hearts and our heads- that God does not leave us or forsake us at these times, even though like the footprints poem we might not sense that he is in fact carrying us.

Here are some thoughts on how to work with those of us who get a bit poorly from time to time (we wouldn’t think we were failure Christians if we broke an arm or got the flu).

A.A. Milne’s wonderful character Eeyore (a depressed, pessimistic donkey) shows us a wonderful way of being Church with those of us that might sometimes struggle:

“An awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is clinically depressed he is still invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all his friends. They don’t expect him to pretend to be happy, they just love him anyway, and they never leave him behind or ask him to change”.

I had a beer the other day with my friend Chris, and I must have moaned for about an hour or so, poor guy must have left and gone home to listen to REM “everybody hurts” on repeat to cheer himself up… but he still invited us out for a beer again. That is a wonderful Christ-like example of true fellowship with the DNA of the Kingdom of God.

Although Stephen Fry is an avowed atheist I think he glimpses something of the Kingdom of God in his now famous quote about depression:

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” -Stephen Fry.

Another quote on behalf of those of us who are reasonably good at wearing a ‘grinning’ and ‘keeping the show on the road’: ““Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”-Wendy Mass.

Although, today it doesn’t feel like it, perhaps depression can be a gift to the Church, to help us understand and to love better, and to become more the community we intend it to be.

For me, my depression has really focused my mind in the importance of what Moltmann calls -the theology of hope- so important it is what I have named my daughter- One of the three greatest things that will last according to St. Paul, and yet depression is what hits and undermines this great gift, I think something you learn to value when you have to cling on to it at times

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

A new Vincent Donovan

As my protruding belly probably shows I’m no fitness freak, in fact I haven’t been to the gym in nearly a decade!

When I did used to go regularly one thing I found particularly frustrating was the treadmill, where you ran and ran and never got anywhere, lots of energy but very little progress, yet you can’t stop, if you stop you end up in a crumpled heap of the floor, ‘spat out’ by the machine.

One place I’d like to go to (but never have) is one of those Sushi Restaurants, where the food is on a little ‘railway-track’ going around and around the table, in a continual circle.

To me much of my Church life has felt like these two images colliding, running just to keep still the pace felt like an avalanche of expectations that was utterly relentless, along with the same sensation of: “here we go again, Harvest, All Souls, Remembrance, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Holiday Club, New Wine and back at Harvest again…”.

Is this really what Jesus meant when he said: “Come and follow me? Come and I will make you fishers for people?”.

Whilst at college I read a book that utterly captivated and transformed me, it was by a Catholic Priest Vincent Donovan “Christianity Rediscovered”. A young clergyman who went of the share Jesus with the Masai, and saw that lots of time an effort was spent doing Mission but it was not very fruitful. The missionaries -living in safe westernized compounds- brought food and education and people “accepted Christ” to  access what the missionaries were offering. In China people used to call these Christians “Rice Christians” as they would only be Christians -or Buddhists- -or whatever- in order to gain food.

Vincent Donovan thought this cannot be right, we need to think of another way, and so (rather like Jesus sending out the 72) he just went to village after village and talked to people about Jesus. Some accepted Christ, some rejected him. In his journey he had to learn what being a Christian would mean for a Masai, how would it look? How do you share Jesus in a culture with different values, questions and symbols to ours? -Fascinating book.  He wrestled with this issue and saw an indigenous Christianity form that was authentically Masai and authentically Christian.

To me the early chapters sounded very much like David being Saul’s Armour, being placed on the treadmill, linked to the sushi train. Yet David in Saul’s Armour would have been crushed by Saul. David needed to find a new way, God’s way, to defeat Goliath.

I have seen so many Vicars burn out trying to do mission and ministry as we always have and seeing little fruit but much perspiration, not realizing that perhaps we can get off the treadmill, perhaps the Sushi train can be re-routed.

Thinking perhaps our treadmill is actually more like a fruit machine, we put thousands of pounds into it, occasionally (such as Christmas) it gives us a pay out just large enough to keep us on the treadmill and away from dangerous, pioneering Kingdom thinking?

My friend Mark Rich talks about the Devil longs for Christians to have “maximum weariness for minimum fruitfulness”.

I long for -and would love to be- a new Vincent Donovan “discovering God’s new way to reach the people we serve”, and like Vincent Donovan when we leave the compound and start talking to the people outside our Churches, perhaps our evangelism will get better as we actually ask the questions they are asking, we use their symbols not our own, we talk into their cultural rather than expecting them to translate from ours.

In a fast changing and transforming world I long to see a Christianity birthed and come to maturity in this nation that is authentically Christian and authentically indigenous for the people we serve. Talking Jesus in their own language -just as on that day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Iron sharpening iron.

I have blogged recently about the shocking and sudden death of my friend Simon, which has made me think and reflect more deeply on friendship.

Interestingly too friendship has become a big subject of discussion as a straight bloke Andrew and a gay bloke Shane have become friends on Celebrity Big Brother and there seems to be a twitter-storm about friendship without a sexual or romantic element too it, which is sad I feel as it shows just how misunderstood friendship is in our society.

The film ‘when harry met sally’ has at its central premise can men and women ever really be friends. Again showing how society struggles to understand friendship.

Yet the Christian path is all about having real, deep, authentic, reciprocal  relationships with one another ‘By this all people will know you are my disciples that you love one another!’

A call for Church to restore and fight for the need of human relationships, for friendships.

Yet -as I said in my previous blog- about how I worry that too much of Church life substitutes ‘pleasentness’, ‘niceness’ and ‘superficiality’  for real and authentic relationships. I remember a friend once saying “I don’t want to go to a ‘friendly Church’ but rather a Church I can make friends in!”

I worry about friendship, we live in the world of virtual world of social media where I have hundreds of friends on social media, many of whom I rarely see -and some if I’m honest I barely know. I think we need to hear and heed the words of Shane Claiborne who urges us to remember that the word ‘virtual’ can also mean “not quite real”.

Impersonal friendships based on ‘swapping emojis’ is no substitute for real, face to face human interaction where we can hear tone of voice and make eye contact.

In the virtual world  we can ‘friend’ or ‘unfriend’ people at the click of an button, in a way that I think we risk the  danger of our on-line behaviour filtering into our everyday life”.

Friendship is one of the greatest gifts we have as humans, ultimately we are social beings -even those of us who are introverts!

We were created to love and be loved, this doesn’t just mean a love for spouse and family, but to love the other, to love our neighbours’ -and the call to reach out beyond the bubbles we create to exclude, shield and exclude the other.

Bonhoeffer talks about people having ‘two fellowships’ -the fellowship of the righteous (where we related to one another as ‘sorted’ people) and the fellowship of sinners (where we relate to one another with honesty and vulnerability).

Yet real relationships wont flourish when we just present idealized versions of ourselves to one another because that isn’t really us.

It often takes incredible bravery to choose to let our walls down and be vulnerable with other people allowing them into our lives and allowing ourselves to be known.

Jesus came and removed all the barriers between us and God by his death and resurrection -restoring humanities primary relationship -between us and God-. The vertical relationship.

Yet we are called to be in right relationships with one another too, the horizontal relationship -which makes a cross shape, living cruciform lives.

Yet although friendship is so so important, it is also costly and difficult.

Who we spend time with shapes, molds and fashions us, and we in turn shape, mold and fashions those who interact with us.

Relationships become a transformative crucible.

It can be a painful process, the Bible talks of “iron sharpening iron as one person sharpens another”, yet the sharpening process is often painful, it creates sparks, conflict is often relationships bring great blessing and sometimes real pain too.

Yet, for the Christian we need to ask, are peoples encounters with us also encounters with the Christ within us?

Or do people encounter our fallenness rather than the Holy Spirit within us?

What of our relationships with other people? As we encounter and connect with other people, are we receptive enough to see what refining work God might be doing in us?

Are we self aware enough to see how we affect those we interact with?

So, a challenge to be brave enough to let our walls down to other people? Willing to be shaped and to shape other people, aware of God at work through us but also in us. In relationship which may generate conflict and sparks are prepared to humbly come before God asking him to show us what it is he wants to do within us?

 

 

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Please don’t tell me that starfish story again!

I used like the Star-fish story, you probably know the one? It is of a man seeing another man on beach which is covered in starfish drying out and dying in the heat of the sun. The man is throwing starfish into the sea. The other man laughs at this fellow, and says to him “there are thousands of star fish you can’t make difference to them all!” To which the guy replied by picking up another starfish and threw it into the sea saying “well, it made a difference to that one!”

It is good to be reminded that everyday acts of kindness can be life-transforming-blessing to other people, that the way we live our lives does speaks volumes and our words can hold life/hope/salvation.

I think we often don’t realize the impact that we can make on the people we meet or the surrounding we are in.

I have often quoted verses like “do not despise the day of small things”.

True to that what we think of as “small things” can actually not be small at all, but just under-valued by our society such as bringing up children, caring for elderly relatives or whatever.

Yet, the reason I have come not to like the story of the star fish is it lacks vision or aspiration, it is a message of “do what you can, with what you have” -which isn’t a bad message, but it isn’t full message, surely as Christians following the creator of the universe (we are filled with ‘he that is within us is greater than he that is in the world’ -the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead) we should be boldness and audacity in our visions and dreams.

Too often as Christians our vision is too small, why? because our vision of God and his power is too small.

Sadly I know too many ambitious clergy, but too few who are ambitious for the Kingdom of God.

If we do what we can reasonably achieve with the resources we have, where is faith in that? This isn’t walking by faith and not by sight.  I believe that following Jesus is a white-knuckle-ride of faith. John Ortburg wrote “If you want to walk on water you have got to get out of the boat” -yet unfortunately this pre-supposes that Christians actually want to get out of the boat!

We have become too comfortable with bland, safe, comfortable consumer religion that might wear the clothes of the culture of Christendom but has nothing to do with life lived following Jesus Christ.

We are told that ‘God is able to do more than we ask or imagine’ and yet we live like God lacking in power and might, let’s seek to embody this truth living out our lives for Christ boldly and bravely.

Churches too often our risk adverse, stingy and frightened, and yet we have a risk-taking God generous and bountiful, the God who gives courage.

A friend once talked of the faith he wanted to see birthed within the Christians he journeyed with that made people “gulp rather than yawn!”

Let’s not be victims of events, let’s not just do the best we can with what we have (what a poverty mindset!) but let’s say to God as Caleb did “give us this mountain”.

Let’s pray that God open’s our eyes, our ears, our hearts afresh to his Spirit and seek to step out into our unknown future with our known God, seeing to see the world not with our limited, fearful and timid visions rather pray that God births in our hearts his bold, brave and audacious vision. A vision we cannot fulfil in our own strength, with our own resources, but rather in that position of weakness, desperation and vulnerability where God delights in ‘showing up’ and doing what we could have done without him.

Too often we operate in our own strength, looking through our own eyes, forgetting that we can have the mind of Christ and the resources of heaven at our disposal.

So, let’s leave behind a playing safe Christianity and embrace New Testament Christianity that changes and can and does transform the world.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

In memory of my friend Simon Turner.

On Tuesday I got a phone call from my friend Simon Turner’s brother Nick saying that my friend had been found dead.

I was in shock.

I just felt initially numb.

I knew it had happened but simply couldn’t get my head around it.

How could Simon not be with us anymore?

Last time I saw Simon he looked really healthy. His photo’s on facebook’s look so full of life and fun…

Memories of Simon came flooding back… he was fun to be around!

Karaoke at the Sherwin in Sunday night, entertaining the pub with his rendition of the Killers ‘Mr Brightside’; Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’ -especially lighting a cigarette timed perfectly to coincide with the line ‘Light up!’ and James Blunt’s ‘Your beautiful’.

Or singing the “Greasy Chip-butty song” the anthem of his beloved Blades (Sheffield United), often in a pub full of Forest Fans!

Yet it would be easy to write a bit of a blog about the many stories of Simon being life and soul of the party, and he was lots of fun to be around, but there was also a deep side to Simon that I want to celebrate too.

I had gone to St. John’s College to train as a Vicar, and I wanted to learn more about what it means to look like Jesus (this was before the beard and long hair!).

I met Simon somewhere during my first year or so, or maybe at the start of my second year and we became friends. As my second year unraveled a bit when a relationship I was in ended and Simon was there for me when I was in a low and bad place.

Ironically I was surrounded by a whole load of people learning to be ‘Pastoral’ most of whom didn’t care, and in an institution that “talked the talk but didn’t really walk the walk”, yet Simon was the exact opposite -he didn’t brag about his big heart but his actions spoke louder than his words. I was a mess and probably depressing company, but Simon didn’t care and kept on inviting me out, burning CD’s of bands and just being a really good mate, but never in a patronizing or condescending way, care and compassion but with dignity.

Actually, as this continued over my second and third year and the two of us became ensconced in the life and community of the Sherwin Arms, I discovered the community I thought college should be -and Church I dream of building- were represented beautifully within the pub. I used to think when I saw these guys looking out for each other “Church has a lot to learn from this community”.

Simon  was a nurse initially working with the homeless in London, a real advocate and fighter for the underdog. I often thought if I ended up homeless Simon was the kind of person I’d want on my case, like a dog with a bone, he would take on anyone -irrespective of position- on what he saw was an injustice.

Simon was someone who gathered people together, he was a ‘feast’ type person -rather than being part of a little clique- Simon’s attitude was “there was always room for another one” -and through my time hanging out with Simon I met some really interesting people.

Yet Simon was something of a “Wounded Healer” he’d been through some tough stuff and knew he carried some scars, later it transpired that he had a real problem with alcohol and was addicted, sadly too his marriage to Lucy broke-down, but in the midst of all this Simon showed incredible bravery, going into rehab and turning his life around. This sentence probably makes it sound easier than it was, as anyone whose been around rehab knows it is a tough -sometimes backwards and forwards process- but Simon came out the other-side and lived in active recovery.

More than that, he used his experiences to help other people, and thanks to Simon many, many people are leading lives of sobriety and drug free.

The Japanese have a method of repairing broken pots by using gold as a kind of glue, which means that where the pot was once broken now is its most valuable and glorious.

Such is my thinking of Simon and his amazing work with recovery in South Africa.

Someone who all of us who knew him were incredibly proud of him and all that he achieved.

When I went to St. John’s theological college Nottingham, to learn to be more like Jesus, I discovered most about Jesus whilst I was there, not from the writing of some dead German theologian or from swaggering around the chapel in a cassock, reciting liturgy like Sir John Gielgud but from a friend who swore like a trooper and smoked like a chimney but reflected Christ in an incredible way by his love for people, his loyalty, his passion, his commitment to justice and to truth, his kindness often very unobtrusive, his inclusion, his wisdom, his wisdom and generosity.

Simon’s legacy I believe will reach far and wide, and will be held by many of us so deeply.

Simon was good at parties! Just thinking of Heaven described in the Bible as a feast “probably serving Eggs Benedict, Mussels and hot Bovril!” Heaven

Often I would work late on my dissertation and Simon would text about 9:30 and say “I’ll go ahead of you and get the beers in” -in many ways this feels like a picture now of his death, he’s gone ahead of us but will be waiting for us at that great and glorious party in heaven.

The Christian faith means that death is not a full stop, but a comma, someone we will see again, but for now we’re shocked and gutted at his passing.

How best can we remember Simon?

Perhaps he can inspire us with his boldness at fighting for justice -I remember seeing a photo of him on a protest with a banner saying “PEOPLE CAN CHANGE”- in loving those around us not with patronizing condensation but with dignity and great love?

Perhaps we can be people that let the walls down and see strangers as Simon did as “friends we haven’t met yet”?

Perhaps there is stuff in our lives we need to be free of, and let Simon be an inspiration to sort out that which needs sorting out?

I’m think Simon is someone whom Jesus could be seen in, and I want to be someone that lives a Christ-like life, someone I was blessed to walk with for a season.

Love you bud.

Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory… when we will meet again.

 

 

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

St. Francis.

I’d seen some naff pictures of St. Francis looking all ethereal in his brown habit and long beard, surrounded by the animal cast of “Ace Venture: Pet Detective” hanging around him and to be honest was someone I didn’t know much about -or care much about.

I knew the quote about “preaching the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words”, which although I agree with the sentiment about how important it is that our lives do not invalidate our message, I do think it is often used as a cop-out from not actually speaking about our faith. Interestingly many scholars don’t think the leader of the largest and most fruitful mission movement outside of the New Testament would have said that!

Yet it wasn’t til years later that I discovered St. Francis a remarkable and inspirational man of God.

He was born in Assisi in 1182, grew up the son of a wealthy silk merchant, and lived a young life of descendant and extravagant emptiness, he ended up signing up for a military campaign in Perugia, and ended up as a Prisoner of War in Collestrada. It was during his time here that he had a dramatic and life transforming conversion to following Jesus Christ. When he was freed he returned home a changed man.

Francis spent time seeking God’s call on his life, and heard Christ say to him “to go and restore my Church which is falling into ruins” -he initially took Christ literally and tried to rebuild the falling down Church he was praying in.

Too often we think about the Church as in the building and the institution, yet God does not see his Church as just bricks and mortar but rather his people, his body, his bride those who have heard and heeded the call to following/loving/serving Christ.

His friends tried to tempt him back to his old life and he talked of marrying “A fairer bride than any of you have ever seen… Lady Poverty”.

On one occasion a beggar asked Francis for Alms from his Fathers market stall and Francis gave him all the money he had.

His Father was furious, and beat Francis and locked him away.  His Father threatened to cut his son out of his will if he didn’t give up his crazy new life and ideas.

Too often we allow the ‘golden handcuffs’ of other peoples opinions, financial security, career stability or whatever to stop us doing all that God would have us do. Yet Francis, however, wouldn’t be dissuaded.

In a fantastic act in the middle of the city-center of Assisi -the Bishop used his Mitre to try and protect Francis modesty!

From there Francis literally had nothing, he began to wear a habit -the clothes of a beggar- which has now been known by being worn by monks, but at that time was a symbol of poverty but also a deliberate standing in solidarity with the marginalized.

He was attending a Mass when he heard the story of the Disciples going out to call people to proclaim the good .news of the Kingdom, going without a bag, belt, money or even a spare tunic. This idea of ‘stepping out in faith’ reliant on Christ for everything appealed to Francis and him and eleven other friends began to do just that, sharing Christ where-ever they went taking nothing with them.

His rule of life was simple it was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps” -too often in the Church politics of much of Christendom -now and then- people get so caught up in things that ‘follow Jesus…and walking in his footsteps’ gets sidelined.

Francis began to work with lepers, and on one occasion when he was being castigated for touching a leper spun around and kissed the leper on the mouth. Francis wasn’t afraid to shock and challenge.

At this time the crusades were raging and many people were going off to spread Christianity not with converting hearts but with swords and violence, something Francis opposed. During the war the Sultan (the leader of the Arabic army) offered gold for the head of any Christians discovered in his lands.

Francis bravely sought to make peace speaking both to the crusaders and the Muslims. He walked into the Sultan’s lands, risking his life, and met with the Sulton and although neither converted the other, both walked away respecting the other and becoming friends.

Struck by Francis bravery to seek another way the way of peace, too often we as Christians seem to collude with the idea that problems are best solved with violence.  Francis risked his life to build relationships -friendships- with people who would have been viewed as his enemies. His love, grace and the reality of Christ in his life saved his life.

After the Crusades, the Franciscan movement continued to grow, and a friend, Claire of Assisi, felt called to start an order for women who wanted to live out their faith and discipleship in such a radical way as Francis and his followers, following the three rules of “Poverty, Chastity and Obedience”. In a world that is materialistic and capitalism runs wild to deliberately choose to live in poverty is massively counter-cultural and incredibly liberating. In a highly sexualised and promiscuous culture choosing celibacy is massively counter-cultural. In an independent world choosing to say ‘no’ to ourselves and ‘yes’ to Christ is at the heart of discipleship echoing that war within ourselves that Paul speaks of in Romans 7.

For me as I read Francis words he was someone who wanted to be utterly committed to living his life for Christ. His story reminds me of the Simon-Peter, Andrew, James and John who left everything and went and followed Jesus.

Jesus talks of the parable of the pearl of great price so beautiful and pure that the merchant seeking fine pearls was prepared to give up everything to possess that pearl. We as Christians know this pearl to be Christ.

The murdered Martyr Jim Elliott said “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep (our lives) in order to gain what he cannot loose (eternity)”

So, as we take this glimpse of Francis someone who wasn’t just prepared to go through the motions of faith, but lived a life of radical obedience to his Lord.

I’ll end with Francis famous prayer:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life

 

Standard