Holocaust, Pain, Remembering, sin, Suffering.

Holocaust Memorial Day.

Today is holocaust Memorial Day, more than 70 years since the liberation by the soviets of Auschwitz extermination camp.

Today we remember those murdered in the Nazi Genocide, Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, gays and anyone not fitting the Aryan ideal.

for me this is something I feel something of a connection with as my Grandfather, George Mason, guarded the prisoners at the Nuremburg trials, and must have heard and seen evidence that must have been truly horrific.

Often, we think of this type of evil as very distant from ourselves, we are civilised and educated, we think “it could never happen here”, but the holocaust reminds us that Germany a ‘civilised’ nation of ‘educated’ people right on our doorstep, people just like you and me, did horrific things. Evil on our doorstep. Evil with a face like ours.

The truth is, that it could happen here, it could happen again.

Although many have said: “never again” many of us, especially those of us with kids, fear that “history could repeat itself”.

President John F. Kennedy said “those who forget the past are deemed to relive it”.

There is a famous picture and quote that says “it didn’t start with the gas chambers”, gradually unchallenged hate and vile lies slowly took hold of a nation inch by inch causing unimaginable human suffering and pain.

Scripture calls us to be aware of the times, that’s not talking about simply ‘end of the world’ stuff but rather understanding the what is happening in the world and how to respond in a Christ-like way, seeking his Kingdoms advance.

 “For evil to triumph it takes good people to do nothing” Edmund Berk reminded us, watching question-time last night I was scared by the rhetoric which kept saying that Teresa May should not mention Trumps desire to “ban all Muslims from coming into the USA” or “continuing the torture of waterboarding” so as not to jeopardise the trade deal.

I have heard people saying they don’t vote because “it doesn’t change anything”, however, today reminds us that for the marginalised and disenfranchised it matters very much. A chilling poster has a picture of SS officers standing in front of Extermination Camp victims with the words “just because you are not interested in politics does not mean that politics might be interested in you”.

I have been reading the book of Esther recently, realising that anti-Semitism tragically is not a new phenomenon, Mordecai was aware of the times and went to Esther who in turn went to the King. A picture of engaging with the people of peace who can speak and be heard by the people of power.

Listening to the immigration debate the unsaid message that must come across to minority groups is that they must feel as though the nation is saying “there are too many of you here” -frightening rhetoric when we think of today.

Although many know my political persuasions are somewhat left wing, my challenge is to think what a Kingdom world view looks like, listen to the call for justice and compassion, listen to the marginalised and disenfranchised and say “Lord what would you have me do”. It may lead you to a different place to me, but my question is “is it spirit led?” as sadly I fear that too many of us keep our faith and our politics separate and I believe Christ is asking us to make him Lord of both.

I’ll end with a poem which has massively challenged me over the years:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Martin Niemoller.

 

Today, on Holocaust Memorial Day, it is a reminder to be people of the light, walking in the light, people who drive back darkness, “salty people” who combat the decay in the world.

People who “Do justice, Love Mercy and Walk humbly before our God”.

People who pray “Lord, let your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” and live in line with that awesome prayer.

And what we do for the least of these, especially the persecuted minorities, we do for Christ the Jewish rabbi, the political prisoner, the child refugee, the homeless preacher without anywhere to lay his head.

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Remembering

Do This In Remembrance Of Me.

When we see the poppy it jogs our memory to remind us of those who have lost their lives in conflict and war.

When I see my wedding ring, I remember my wife Allana.

When I look at my wallet, I have a photo of my daughter Hope in it, and I remember her.

Jesus said when he took bread and wine, and said “do this in remembrance of me” he wasn’t meaning an occasional reminder of something we remember every year, but for the rest of the year often is not at the forefront of our mind.

Rather it was more like seeing your hand with the wedding ring on it, a constant daily reminder, just like seeing the photo in your wallet, keeping reminded of what really matters, what matters the most. You see we might only have communion maybe once a month or so, but actually eating bread and drinking red wine would be something that is part of everyday life, every meal.

When Jesus said “every time you eat and drink remember me” he meant living life constantly reminded of Christ and what he has done for us, habitually living with his death and resurrection as our focus, a reminder to live in –to inhabit-  his story.

A little like saying to a teenager, whenever you look at your phone remember Jesus.

Our memories effect our future choices.
Our memories shape who we are.

Yet sometimes our memories slip and lapse. Too often we get distracted by a different story, the worries and cares of life, the other stories which pull us from the one true and main story, the trivialities which get out of focus and become false priorities.

So, let’s keep our focus on remembering to keep the most important thing –Christ- as the most important thing, the eternal corrective, reminding us of what ultimately matters most and what doesn’t. A call to allow the death and resurrection of Christ effects and affects every choice we make, every relationship we have and every thing we are, not something lodged in the back of our minds, but living and dwelling where our story becomes entwined in God’s Story.

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Peace, Remembering

Blessed are the Peacemakers.

I have been thinking about Remembrance Sunday quite a bit today and I have been thinking about how we often romanticise conflict, when in reality it is truly hellish, death, destruction, mourning, pain and misery.

The problem is we live in a world of cartoon heroes and computer games which reset and everyone gets up again and restarts.
We live in a sanitized world of hollywood violence, without mess, blood and post traumatic stress.
I think our generation has lost the idea of the horror of war and violence.
Even in real warfare often soldiers no longer see the whites of people’s eyes but rather blips on a computer screen, removed so much by modern technology from the consequences of our actions, but for the family suffering drone attacks it feels very very real.If we don’t see what we have done, it doesn’t seem or feel real, but that doesn’t make not so.

Often we think of many of our actions as victimless, and yet no sin is actually victimless as it all resulted in the crucifixion of the Holy One, Christ Jesus.

I worry in our world we often see violence as a first resort rather than the last option, when every other avenue is closed.

I think too that often we have violence within our hearts, often the way we speak to people or about them can cause great damage… We all know the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” simply isn’t true… We can, and sadly do, cause massive amounts of violence with out tongues, our words, or our on-line conduct. Back stabbing and character assassination can be fatal for people without resorting to physical punches.
In a world that seems more full of hate, fear and violence than many of us can remember, we have the challenge to be bringers of peace, peace-makers, shoes fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
We serve the Prince of Peace that urged us to turn the other cheek, which is incredibly tough at times, to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.
Although on some occasions conflict is healthy, the question is are we engaging in this conflict from the right heart, what is our motivation?
If it is a  love drama, bigging themselves up by running other people down, this is not the way of Christ…
Yet if truth and love are joined together we will want to see people set free and thrive, to see people flourish rather than flounder, grow  and move on and become more Christ like.
I think how can we expect there to be peace between nations when we can’t be at peace with one another?
We all have a personal responsibility to be bringers of peace, bringers of reconciliation, people of healing and not an inflicter of pain or brokenness.
The way of Peace is often the braver choice, non retaliation takes immensely more courage than to lash out.
So, the challenge to lets be people of peace.
Let our gentle answers turn away wrath, defusing tensions, hostilities and conflict rather than ignite and inflame.
Lets bravely and courageously make the world a less violent, hostile and nasty place as we seek to see the Kingdom of Christ come on earth as it is in heaven.
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love, Peace, Remembering

Some thoughts on the Anniversary of the battle of the Somme.

Today is when we remember the battle of the Somme, I don’t know if my great grandfathers fought in this, I know they both served in the First World War but don’t know much more details than that.

War is horrific.
Real people get killed.
Real people suffer life changing injuries, both physical and emotional.

The First World War was called “The War to end all Wars” and yet we know the Second World War came hot on the heels of the first.

The 20th century is believed to have been one the bloodiest centuries of all time.

My grandfather, George Mason (if Hope had been a boy she would have been Rubén George Mason named after him) served in the 2nd world war, and had to stay on after the end of the war in Nuremburg to guard the Nazi war criminals. I’m guessing this kind hearted young man heard stories so horrific of mans humanity to man that you probably could never get them out of his head, I don’t know as I know he never spoke about this season of his life, at least never to me.

Looking at a war memorial in Portsmouth I looked at the long lists of names of people who died, and then looked at their ranks, lots and lots of low ranking navy personal died and yet very few senior officers.

As I thought more about the horrors of war two things struck me, thoughts of bravery and cowardice.

The cowardliness of senior officers sat back out of harms way with their plastic soldiers and the Gin and Tonics sending brave husbands, sons and fathers into harms way.

One of the great leadership maxims I try to adhere to is, “don’t as anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself”, leadership isn’t remote from the mess, pain and suffering of the people we are privileged to serve.

Nor in the economy of Love, the economy of God, is the life of General worth more than a Squaddy.

Every time I come to an event like today I wonder, am I a pacifist, I do reject the myth of redemptive violence (xx country did something bad to us, so we bomb them often hitting their women and children and hospitals, which causes more suffering, pain and hatred and fuelling the horrific cycle of yet more violence). As Ghandi said “If we take and eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth we will all be blind”.

Yet I do believe that sometimes intervention needs to happen. Someone needed to step in and liberate Auwitsz and say no to the advance of Nazi Germany one of the most evil regimes on the planet, for the sake of the innocent who were being slaughtered like cattle.

We admire Churchills ‘bulldog’ spirit, the underdog taking on the mighty, for the sake of justice and for the bringing in of peace and liberation from tyrany… And history has not remembered Nevile Chamberline so kindly, he tried to appease, barter and do a deal with Hittler.

As I thought about this, I was struck afresh how gobal politics reflects human nature, world relationships mirror local relationships, will we ever have peace accross nations when we as people can’t even live in harmony with one another?

I thought of the First World War, where people would rather exchange bullets than gather around negotiating tables, were the cost pride and misplaced thinking caused thousands of children to be orphaned. Are we people of peace? Are we ministers of reconciliation? Bringing people together in love, harmony and forgiveness? Seeing broken relationships restored one with another? Bring people to God to see that broken relationship restored?

Yet are we people of invention? People prepared to put ourselves in harms way for the sake of our fellow human race, made in the image of the God we serve? People not just called to complain about the system, but as Bonhoffer called the Church to consider to be “prepared to drive a spoke into the wheel of tyrany and injustice”? As Edmund Beurke reminds us “for evil to prosper all that is required good people to do nothing”

Yet I fear to often we seek to (like Chamberline) coexist with evil, apease wrong doing, barter or banter with sin, which say deafen our consciences but does nothing to eliviate the plight of the victims of the corrosiveness of the advance of the Kingdom of darkness.

Too often I wonder if I am like those First World War Generals sat in the comfort of my home with my cold beer, watching oppression, exploitation and humanities inhumanity towards each other and yet it is other people who are fighting this evil.

Perhaps all of us are called afresh to leave our sofa and fight with love and compassion, joining the ranks of our brother and sister foot soldiers? Realising the sacrificial cost to following the heart of God will be costly and yet going anyway being people of peace and reconciliation, the church should be putting herself in harms way and drive a spoke into the wheel of all that causes suffering, exploitation and injustice.

As I type this challenge I feel scared, I need you to help me in this quest, I need God to help me fulfil this call, I need something of the Churchill Bulldog stepping out despite the seeminly impossible odds asking the Holy Spirit to bring me the courage and the bravery not just to play at being in the battle (running around like a kid with a stick shouting “Bang”) but actually seek to follow the steps of Christ to turn this broken and upside down world the right way up for him.

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