5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), Anger, Boldness, Bravery, Courage, Ephesians 6, Leadership, love, Pastor, prayer, Protest, shepherd, Spiritual Warfare

The Angry Pastor Prays.

we often have this idea of being pastoral as being weak, wet and woolly.

Interestingly people often seem to pride themselves on being rude and obnoxious and try to justify their behaviour by saying “I’m not pastoral, I’m prophetic/evangelistic/apostolic”…

Yet I think this show not only a misunderstanding of the role of the prophet, evangelist and apostle, but also an acute misunderstanding of the role of the pastor.

The word Pastor or Shepherd are often inter-changeable.

It is easy to think of the Shepherd as gently nurturing sheep on some idyllic hillside somewhere nice and peaceful. Yet the reality is more of a challenge, sheep are easy prey, the shepherd has to fight of robbers, wolves, lions and bears.

There is nothing wimpy about the shepherds in Biblical times, it was a tough and often bloody role, killing of wolves and scaring away predatory beasts.

It is a costly role. Jesus himself said “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”. Many of us in Pastoral ministry may not have been killed but we certainly have had to cope with some incredible spitefulness.

Yet sheep are not particularly grateful, in fact sheep need saving from themselves most of the time, often getting themselves lost, stuck on hillsides and sometimes -especially the rams- they can be violent towards the shepherds too.

There is a picture of Jonny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow running from a group of wild people armed with spears and the caption says “Be a Pastor they said, it’ll be fun they said”.

The shepherd has to preserve the sheep, protecting them from the dangers outside and the dangers inside. A thankless task. A task that requires us to be pro-active. A task that calls for courage and bravery.

So, as we re-think this role of Pastor as not being weak and wishy washy, but a person of action, going where angels fear to tread, “someone fighting for you and for your spiritual growth”.

In fact much of the imagery around the Christian life is that of battle and warfare.

Even images such as God shielding us under the shadow of his wing, are actually more violent than we like to think, just think of how protective of her young a swan or wild goose is? Yes, it’s an image of shelter, but it is also an image of protection against all that can wage against us.

I want to think for a second about our emotions, so often we are so British that we think of the only emotions that are healthy in the Christian life is a serene gentleness.

Yet I would suggest that one of the most pastoral acts we see Jesus doing is throwing the tax collectors and the money changers out of the temple, he’s angry.

I5 is right to be angry at injustice, at wrong behaviour within the Christian family. Scripture doesn’t prohibit anger but rather it says “in your anger do not sin”.

It is not fashionable to talk any more about the wrath of God, but I don’t believe that God is impassive and emotionless about the horrors that are carried out in his world, and sometimes in his Church. God’s anger is righteous, but it is still anger none the less.

And lastly let’s think about “angry prayers” -the Psalms is full of them (and many written by a shepherd). It is right and proper to be honest with God about how we are feeling, and if we feel angry at something it is good to tell him.

Often in the west, especially in the Anglican church, our prayers can be a bit placid and bland, but perhaps we can pray with a passion knowing that God loves us and wants to hear our hearts.

In fact if we are angry because of our zeal and fire for the things of God.

Our prayers too can be warfare, can be violent -scripture uses the image of destruction- tearing down strong-holds, standing firm in the full armour of God… Yet the opposition too sounds fierce and scary “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”.

Our prayers are powerful and offensive to the “powers and principalities of this world”, as an old adage goes “Satan scoffs at our plans, laughs at our schemes but trembles when we pray”.

Martin Luther talks about grasping our hands in prayer as an act of warfare on all that is evil or destructive. In the book of Zechariah, we hear of the Devil being rebuked “the Lord says NO to you Satan”.

Prayer is a defiant action.

The Angry Pastor prays for brothels to close and people to be set free, for drug dealers to cease trading, for violence to cease, for gossip to stop, for relationships to be healthy and for the Kingdom to advance.

The prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much.

Scripture warms us we have not because we ask not, so let’s take the ground and ask for more and more of the Kingdom to become here on earth as the gospel is proclaimed and lives are transformed.

The angry pastor does battle on her knees, fighting in the heavenly realm, fighting for less of sin, the world and the devil to have influence and control over those whom we love and serve.

So, let’s reclaim biblical pastoring to look like that of Christ the good shepherd, bold and brave, fighting for us, our defender -seeking our welfare, but prepared to even save us from ourselves. The person of courage and boldness, but motivated by love -love for the person and love for the Shepherd King and his Kingdom.

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Bravery, Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday & Clearing the Temple.

Today is Palm Sunday.

It would be easy to do a blog about welcoming Jesus into our lives, welcoming Jesus back into his Church, welcoming Jesus back into the City and welcoming him back into this nation and the world. -And certainly that is my prayer, especially as the Turning Mission starts today.

Nor am I going to do a blog about the fact that the Donkey was not a war-horse a symbol of peace and humility.

I could also talk about how the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a Donkey was the fulfilment of a messianic prophesy in Zech.9.9, the people would have seen this as a clear acknowledgement that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, that is why they are getting so excited.

They have heard of his miraculous powers and they are imagining these being waged against their enemies.

The common idea at that time was a Military Messiah, like another Samson, who would over-throw the Romans, and rule over them like another King David. People would have expected after Jesus rode into to Jerusalem claiming to be the Messiah for him to wage some form of attack the Roman headquaters, but instead of clearing out the Romans he went and he cleared out the Temple.

They were expecting Jesus to judge the Romans and instead he challenged them, he challenged their religious practice and piety and found it wanting.

The temple really mattered to the Jewish people, they were very proud of it, and here Jesus is attacking the thing they hold most dear, questioning their motives, their faith, their hearts and their priorities -I don’t think we can quite grasp how huge and offensive this would have been for the people at that time.

Most of us are happy for our enemies to be judged, but, all of us are less keen when we ourselves are in the dock.

Jesus talked about seeing the speck in your brothers eye whilst having a log in your own, when we invite Jesus into our lives, home, family, work, church, city or nation he may start with the log in our own eyes not the speck in someone elses… and that might be uncomfortable.

Inviting Jesus into any situation is a courageous act of faith because Jesus may start by challenging us rather than challenging those around us.

Jesus may wreck our nicely ordered temples, and neat and tidy lives, he’s not into cosmetic change, tinkering around the edges, but gets to the heart of the issue -which is rarely comfortable.

Jesus rarely is into the preservation of the status quo but rather is into transformation.

Shane Claiborne said: “I know there are people out there who say, “My life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around; and then I met Jesus, and my whole life came together.” God bless those people. But for me, I had it together. I used to be cool (I was prom king, for heaven’s sake). Then I met Jesus, and He wrecked my life”.

Inviting Jesus in, is not something to do lightly, it is the biggest and most costly choice you will ever make, it goes on and on challenging us years after our first “yes”, but it is also the greatest and best choice any human being can make.

Are you brave enough to risk getting messed up by inviting Christ into your life?

 

 

 

 

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Authenticity, Bravery, Guidance, Risk and Change

We Can’t Stay here…

“You can’t stay here” I said aghast as I visited Jo who was homeless living in a boiler room with water washing through it like a river.

“It’s not that bad, I’ll be okay!” was the reply (and she lived there for a further 6 months).

The people of Israel lived as nomadic desert people for 40 years, they were happy to trudge around in the heat and the absence of water, because this was safe, comfortable and familiar.

I am someone who hates going to the dentist and normally when the pain thresh-hold gets to the point when I can bare it no longer I stagger to the dentist, until I’m agony I put of going. Telling everyone “I’m fine”.

Is there pain that is unresolved that is getting worse?

Are there things in your life that hurt but hasn’t reached agony yet so you’re in pain and popping painkillers like smarties?

Over the last two years of our interregnum we have had a real challenge with trying to develop a culture which doesn’t tolerate people being nasty to each other. The least helpful thing when trying to change the culture was people saying “it’s not that bad” or “its just how people are” or other such excuses.

People talk about being Pastoral, and yet sometimes “sorting it out” is the most pastoral thing we can do, intervention is often scary, bringing change and risk, the familiar cycles are broken and the status quo is interrupted, sometimes things carrying on as they always had sometimes isn’t the best for anyone involved.

Ironically though, I am actually someone who hates conflict, I know others thrive on it, but I’m not one of them. Yet sometimes following Jesus sometimes means doing and saying the tough things that need to be done because they are the right thing to do.

It is an uncomfortable place to be the one that acknowledges the elephant in the room, and being the one who suggests that maybe this elephant in the room needs dealing with again takes bravery, but the bravest thing of all is actually dealing with the elephant and taking it out of the room.

It feels very unpastoral to cause this upset and to challenge things that have become part of the DNA of where we are but perhaps the least loving thing for those we are called to shepherd and pastor is to let the status quo go on unchallenged.

Perhaps like the homeless person at the start of this blog, you feel that “if you stay here you will become sick, and possibly die”.

Perhaps like the toothache this pain can be sorted out with 10 minutes of discomfort in the dentists chair, the pain can be cured if we take decisive action.

Sometimes we need to see the peril in a situation, or feel the pain to make us change.

I have said at Church “unless we reach out this Church building will be closed”

I think that in order to move forward you not only sometimes have to make the compelling case for moving to a new place, but sometimes we have to say “we can’t stay here”, we have to make the case that where we are is not a place we want to stay.

Bishop Lee once wrote a piece which talked of a woman living in a hellish place, but not wanting to leave, she was asked “why do you want to stay here” and she replied “it maybe hell, but I know the street names”.

We feel safe in the familiar, even when the familiar is harmful to us.

Change is something, that all of us find to some degree threatening.

I was talking to a landlord the other day and they were talking about how their regulars don’t have much cash and so making a living is tough, many of the regular customers are getting old and dying (or going into residential care) wants to modernise, do food, entertainment and quizzes etc, duke-box etc. Yet the fear is “will I loose the regulars”? Also, it’s a risk I could update everything and still not attract new customers. His response was “I can’t afford not to do it” in other words if the pub goes he and his family loose out, he needs to do all he can to try and make the pub viable and successful.

Often the risk is not to do something, the more dangerous risk is often to do nothing at all, that is the more risky behaviour.

Ironically, when we take no risk the thing we fear most actually happens, we perversely become self fulfilling prophecies.

One of my favourite films is Dead Poets Society, where their mantra was “carpe diem” -seize the day.

I’ll close with the thought that often it is the opportunities that miss are those we regret the most.

I believe that God is a God who wants to change and transform, and we often miss out on the wonderful signs of his Kingdom because we are begrudgingly satisfied we what we are used to rather than dreaming dreams of what could be.

So, let’s dream dreams, let us not settle for what we have, but step bravely out into the future, we may not always win, but for me the biggest failure is the failure not to try.

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Bravery, justice, Mission

Just One More…

I really want to see the up-coming film, Hacksaw Ridge about the pacifist who won a medal for gallantry and bravery for saving the lives of many people as a medic carrying them from the battlefield to safety.

This morning we went out into the community to talk to local people, and a lady called Sofia was saying about having seen this film and was struck by a scene when every-time this skinny guy brought another person to safety he kept saying “just one more” and went out and brought another person to safety.

I wondered whether we need a bit more of a this thinking within the Church and the Christian Community?

I wonder if we get too satisfied with what we already have, rather than constantly wanting to push onto the ‘more’ that God has in store.

This in-quitting perseverance, that keeps on going with a wonderful spirit-filled tenacity I find inspiring. Echoes of Nehemiah on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, or S/Paul keeping on proclaiming Christ even amid massive persecutions.

Reminded me of a more modern Saint William Booth who said:

“While women weep, as they do now,
I’ll fight
While little children go hungry, as they do now,
I’ll fight
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now,
I’ll fight
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,
I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!”

Steve Chalke, the founder of Oasis, was once asked what his greatest gift was to which he replied “I’m a plodder”… What he meant when he elaborated on this was “he just keeps going and didn’t quit”.

I remember Bill Wilson (leader of the worlds largest Sunday School in Brooklyn New York), who said something that once really challenged me, “Christians so often quit before the miracles kick in”.

So, a challenge, to keep on going, keep on building, keep on fighting… and saying whilst there is still one person who doesn’t know the love of Christ say “I will go”, “just another one”, never complacent, never satisfied with where we are at, but looking to God’s glorious future.

“Forgetting what is past, I press on towards the goal, to win the prize, which Christ Jesus has called me too”.

 

 

 

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Bravery, faith, Joshua, vision

Joshua…

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites
(these are their names, and then follows a long list of people, including a Vophsi which I think is a great name).These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.’ (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, towards Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.

At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’

Just to finish the story off, the people didn’t respond in faith and ended up wandering around a quite small dessert for 40 years, before their next generation went into the promised land led by Joshua, who was probably about 20 here, and so would have been about 60, so  when he’s used of an example of a young leader they’re not doing their maths right (although Samuel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Mary and the disciples and Timothy are all still good illustrations of God using young people!)

Here the people are faced with a choice, to choose to live the life that God has for them, or to stick with the old, comfortable and familiar life. 

The choice is between a life in a fertile land of their own where they can settle down, or the nomadic life of a desert traveller.

Bishop Lee read a quote out about a woman who said “I know I live in hell, but I do know all the road names”, meaning she knows that her life was horrible, but she just couldn’t cope with the change.

The problem was the Israelites were faced with a choice, did they trust that God was able to lead them into what he had promised or not? The same God who had delivered them from the hand of pharaoh, and provided for them in the desert in some remarkable ways at yet they looked at this large fortified city with panic, rather that looking at our faithful God and pray!

The choice we all have on a daily basis is do we panic or pray.

What rules our hearts, faith or fear?

Faith is being certain of what we hope for and confident in what we do not see (Heb.11.11), as Christians we live/walk by faith and not by sight  2 Cor.5.7… 

Faith is putting it into practice, living it out…

I was thinking too about faith and fear being cultures… 

The Israelites created a culture of fear, defeatism which caused them to walk away from the promised land and die in the desert.

Imagine the bravery and social awkwardness of Caleb and Joshua saying after a long diatribe of negativity to stand up and speak out that they believed that God could do it. I am guessing many of us have been in that awful situation in our Churches where faithless defeatism sometimes runs rampant, and we have to stand up to a hostile (and often quite patronising) group and say actually I believe if God is calling us to do this, then he will be faithful.

Sometimes too, the hardest people to speak a word of faith are those closest to us, these were Joshua’s tribesmen, relations, friends; and yet was called to say to stand up for his faith in front of them. Often Christians find the hardest people to talk about Jesus too our those closest too us. Yet here we see Joshua model bravery of speaking up a different and an unpopular view-point, but one that was right. Joshua was prepared to say the unsayable, because of his love and loyalty to God.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to speak a word of faith only to get fobbed off with a line about ‘love your enthusiasm’ -which is normally code for “I think you’re a bit naïve!” -Yet actually when we look at this from God’s point of view it is the  other way around, with God we are always in the majority, he is the God who is our provider, he is faithful and will fulfil all that he has promised, in fact even when we are faithless, he will remain faithful for he cannot deny himself.

Steve Strydom uses a great phrase, “God’s will God’s bill!” -in other words Jehovah Jirah is our provider.

Are we people who look at the size of the problem or the size of the God who is  our solution.

Too often our Churches can be places of pseudo-faith, where we pay lip-service to trusting in God, but our lifestyles and our life together says a different story. The problem with ‘lip service’ or ‘phoney faith’ is that scripture reminds us that “God is not mocked” and he reminds us that “Faith without works is dead”, to say “I believe God can do it, has to be backed up by our actions otherwise it is empty rhetoric.

I want to close with being a culture of faith, scripture talks a lot about taming the tongue, and all of us can probably remember the story when one person completely changes the atmosphere by what they have said or done. Faith snuffed out by unrighteous cynicism.

Or we could be a community which is filled with faith, spurs one another on in faith, encourages and nurtures faith, a community when faith sets the tone.

This is the culture Joshua created with God, having first heard God speak “bold and courageous, do not be terrified, for I the Lord am with you where-ever you go” Josh 1.8; which led him to issue the Israelites a challenge,  ‘Choose this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house we will serve the Lord’ (Josh 24.5). They were clearly filled with faith, as wandering around the city armed with nothing more than a mouth organ seven times a day, was God seeing their hearts and they were obedient, he delivered the city into their hands, and brought them into the promised land.

So a challenge for us all, are we people who are shaped by fear or by faith? When faced with adversity do we panic or do we pray? Are we people who inspire and encourage faith, or are will filled with cynicism that snuffs it out.

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Bravery, Carrying burdens, Counselling, Depression, Discipleship, self awareness

Counselling thoughts…

I have recently been having counselling.

There I’ve said it!

Just as a couple of years ago I felt it was right to ‘come out’ about the fact that I had depression and was on medication, medication I’d dearly like not to be on, but it does help me function and survive so for the time being it looks like the tablets and I will be walking together for the foreseeable future at least.

Counselling was something that has been suggested and something I felt very fearful about, for whatever reason I found it tough to admit to the Doctor that I needed help, and to admit to the Diocese that I felt I needed to go to counselling.

I think that all of us want to tell ourselves and the world at large that “we are ok”. It matters to be “OK”, and admitting that we’re not ok feels somehow like we are failing, like some-how we can’t cope with life.

Yet as I wrestled with this ‘black dog’ I suffer with, it has helped me to realise at the heart of being a Christian is the admission to God that we are not Ok, I can’t do life on my own, I need help, I need a Saviour, I need a healer. Perhaps why the opening stanza on the sermon on the mount is “blessed are the poor is spirit because they know their need of God” (paraphrased).

To admit to the world that I am a Christian, but one on medication for depression, isn’t shaming the gospel but rather showing that Christianity isn’t for the sorted together religiously pious (ironically the people who Jesus never seemed to get on well with).

I think we live in a world where too many people try to pretend they are perfect when none of us are.

So, eventually after a particularly tough time over summer/September I got to see a counsellor, for 12 weeks, it is a very scary thing being in a room with another Christian, and to just talk and share, the power of being listened to is such a wonderful and powerful gift but a gift that seems rarer than diamonds in everyday life.

It takes courage to not ‘filibust’ -where politicians talk out the time on a debate so it gets thrown out- it is very easy to just talk and talk rubbish, but it is hard to choose to talk about the reality of issues of pain, loss, challenge, disappointments, hurts, expectations and experiences which shape and define us with honestly, to another human being and before -and with- God. Often slowly as we voice and own what is deep with us, we discover deeper revelation of ourselves but with self-revelation also comes a responsibility.

Ignorance makes no demand for a change of behaviour.

Ignorance has the security of the status quo.

Ignorance is self-delusional, and deep down we know from scripture that “truth sets us free”.

In discovering more of ourselves, which often is challenging, we aid ourselves in understanding ourselves, our journey, make-up and origins it helps enable us to shape our future in a better and a way of wholeness.

It is often far to slow, those of us who want a quick fix have to live with the frustration of our brokenness as often those simple solutions are (to quote Barak Obama) “neither simple nor solutions” and we must come to terms with being us.

Sometimes, it feels like being a small child on a long journey as we call out “are we there yet?”, in other words “am I sorted yet?”.

It has felt a bit like “Mary Poppins’” bag seeing my counsellor, as when I think “we must be done now” a well phrased question makes me realise there is still so much more baggage in the rucsac of my life that perhaps needs to be looked at, and perhaps not carried on into my future.

I think I was expecting to find a “magic silver bullet” one issue one thing that answered everything, and yet discovered layer upon layer of influences and pieces that explain a lot which helps me understand better.

We have an expression “don’t go there” and often that is how most of us live our lives, often sub consciously, and yet I believe in going there we discover critical insights, deep understanding and aids us into stepping closer towards greater peace and freedom.

I wish I could write a post saying everyone should get counselling to be sorted, but the more I travel on in life I realise none of us are every sorted, but I have discovered we can be more sorted than we are at the moment, we can have more peace than we currently experience, and there is more freedom than what we at this present time know.

 

 

 

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Bravery, Discipleship, Peace

Hacksaw Ridge.

I had half written todays blog (looking at John’s 3rd letter, two very different influential leaders which John tells his protégé Gaius to emulate and to give the other a wide birth… anyway maybe I’ll get it out for tomorrow). But I was struck by an article about this film in a magazine I was reading, and it really challenged me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all.

It is the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a Christian (7th Day Adventist) and a pacifist, who refused to go into battle with a gun, yet he went unarmed into the heart of battle in World War II, as a medic, in one battle Hacksaw Ridge he saved 75 lives. The first ever conscientious objector in America to win the medal of honour.

In the clip he speaks of making a broken world much better.

We see to the dreadful way he was treated by his own side, mistreating his and acting violently towards him… Yet many who sneered at the pacifists assumed cowardliness probably owed him their lives through his bravery, risking his life to save those who had mistreated him, sneered at him, laughed at him and treated him with violence.

I am not quite a pacifist, although I have sympathies with their viewpoint, but I see violence met with more violence just causes more violence to escalate.

Ghandi once said “if we take and eye for an eye then the world would soon be blind”.

The Dali Lama says “Our primary purpose in life is to help others, if you can’t help them at least don’t hurt them”

Yet Jesus talks not just of turning the other cheek, but goes further than asking us not to harm one another, he tells us to “love our enemies”.

And the prophets of the Old Testament paints a picture of a day ‘when spears will become pruning hooks and swords to ploughs –and people will war no more’. Shane Claiborne and his crew have done turning illegal weapons of street war and gang violence into gardening tools.

I recently preached about refugees and homelessness out of the back of the Christmas story (which feels so topical this year… If I was a film maker I would love to have set a version of the nativity in Calais Jungle!). I got the kids to look at their Palm prints, their finger prints, the eyes of the person next to them and their ears too, talking about our uniqueness and our preciousness to God. I went on to say that each one of us “our price is beyond Rubies” in fact our worth is so much that the God of Heaven stepped down from heaven to suffer and die to save us. If that is how much he loves me, then that too is how much he loves my friends and my family, and also how much he loves my enemy too, the people we walk past, the people cause us to shout at them when they come on the telly. It’s not saying God approves of what people have done, but despite however awfully people behave they are still loved by God, made in his image, and the cross offers them eternity, new life, forgiveness, Grace and love.

I can understand Desmond T. Doss’ position, that when I am armed with a gun in battle I am trying to kill a child of God, someone for whom Christ died.

My mind wandered to the Armistice Day Sermon by my friend Geoff Waters who talked about the bravery of the stretcher bearers in the First World War who stepped into no-mans-land and carried off the sounded soldiers, both allied and enemy, friend and foe.

The image of the medic, looking to seek and search for the injured to bring to safety and restore to health, wandering amid the mines, barbed wire and mustard gas felt like a powerful re-telling of the story of the parable of the good shepherd. Yet to risk your life rescue an enemy solider, a person who may have killed your friends and relatives and stands for everything you detest, could be a powerful re-telling of the story of the good Samaritan, or perhaps it is a illustration of the verse that “whilst we were Gods enemies Christ died for us”. Dying for an ally is brave, dying to save an enemy is truly Christ-like.

I am a big fan of the pacifist author Shane Claiborne living in one of the most dangerous cities in America, Philadelphia, who talks of “risking his life for peace” and talks of peace and love being things he would die for “but not to kill for”.

The Cross was be considered now a brutal war crime, a crime against humanity, an act of extreme violence, yet inflicted on one who didn’t fightback, who chose the path of non violence I’m sure he could have relied a revolution by his oratory or by his divinity slayed them all, yet instead he “was led like a lamb to the slaughter” and who forgave his murderers.

We believe that love is greater than hate.
We believe that light is greater than darkness.
We believe that hope is greater than fear.
We believe that peace is greater than war.

Our world is broken, back-to-front and upside down.

The old story of violence breeds yet more and more violence, we need a new story and that story is actually a very old story, a story of a God who loved and died for his enemies.

I don’t believe our conflicts in our world are going to be solved by arms races, massive walls and diplomats rushing around the globe, but rather I believe peace is found in following the path of the prince of peace, the lamb that was slain.

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