Healing the world

Yesterday we witnessed a combination of showbiz spectacle and memorial serviceas the family, friends, fans and show business colleagues said goodbye to Michael Jackson at the Staples centre with Michael’s casket in attendance throughout. We heard from civil rights leaders, ministers, politicians, former girl-friends, actors, musicians and movingly from his young daughter what MJ meant to them. A few of them were brave enough to confront the issue of his strangeness and the whispers about his morality and relationships with young children.- innocent until proven guilty was the matra. The crowd stood to applaud a misunderstood, hugely generous humanitarian who made God his motivation for his incredible acts of charity and love.  The show (for it was at least partly that) ended with everyone on stage singing the anthem Heal the world- a song which symbolised the hope and generosity of Jackson who is acknowledged as the pop start who supported the most charities. So the fans had their chance to have some sort of closure on the death of their idol, taken from them unexpectedly when on the brink of a triumphant return ;and the family graciously allowed us a glimpse into their private sorrow. World spectacle and media event it may have been, but there was no doubting the love and grief in the Staples Centre yesterday. Let’s pray that the love Michael Joseph Jackson represented and shared with so many causes will be his legacy and inspire many more to reach out in love to help heal the world.

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Challenging Times

Thanks to Nick Fawcett for this prayer which sums up something of how I am feeling this week:

“Gracious God, when life is testing and your purpose is hard to fathom, help me to remember that you are able to see me through. When I feel overwhelmed by the challenge before me, yet so nowhere and no one to turn to, remind me to reach out to you, knowing that whenever I need you, you will be there. Teach me that with you, no situation is beyond hope, and that no darkness can ever fully extinguish the light, and in that confidence may I walk each day in faith, to the glory of your name. Amen.”

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Feeding the one thousand

This morning I discovered that the Unfinished Christian Twitter feed had over a thousand followers. Thank you if you are one of these. If you are not maybe you would care to join and get a prompt each time the blog is updated.

See http://twitter.com/unfinishedchris

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Reading you

CODEX_SINAITICUS_1_John_5_7_8_Comma_JohanneumToday I heard the news that the oldest Bible will go  live on the internet later this week. The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book. This has been made possible by The Codex Sinaiticus Project -an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, conservators and curators, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript. To read more on this see http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/en/

So will we discover that some of the passages we have grown to know and love so well are not quite what they should be? No doubt this will re-ignite arguments and discussions amongst scholars, and I guess soon we’ll have the Blokes Codex S or the 100 minute Codex Sinaiticus appearing in Christian bookshops? What I’d rather see is that all thinking Christians think about how they reflect Jesus to their friends, family and neighbours. After all, you could be the only bible they ever read.

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The start of another Emmaus adventure

Today sees the launch of a community audit I am leading – A Church4U?  at an event based in a local school, followed by  a church service focused on the story of the road to Emmaus. The focus of the audit is to use surveys, focus group and films to discover the heart and soul of the area- a place with two distinctive christian communities yet no dedicated  church building. We hope to discover what residents, and those working in the community, understand church to be, and also if they want to be part of a vision that will establish a multi-use church building as much about community service and a place to be as a venue for Sunday worship.

After the death of Jesus the disciples lost heart and hope. Their Rabbi and leader had died and they were devastated and had little idea of what to do next other than to return to their former lives. It was as if that previous three years had counted for nothing. On the Road to Emmaus Jesus revealed the truth of his mission to them and they learned that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit. They would gain hope and a new mission and would have some story to share- a story destined to turn the world on its head. Today two churches will meet in a community centre without any outward visible sign that they are church. I will be asking them about how many people they are walking with every day on their own road to Emmaus and how these strangers or friends will be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus?

For a previous post on a related topic see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/now-you-see-me-now-you-dont/

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The faith game

It’s not often when reading the Guardian you get what seems to be the beginning of a joke; “what do you get when you put a Muslim imam, a Greek Orthodox priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist monk and 10 atheists in the same room?”  The article went on to say that  Turkish television are broadcasting a new reality Tv show in which, ” contestants will ponder whether to believe or not to believe when they pit their godless convictions against the possibilities of a new relationship with the almighty on Penitents Compete (Tovbekarlar Yarisiyor in Turkish)”

Four spiritual guides from a range of  religions will seek to convert at least one of the 10 atheists in each programme to their faith and those persuaded will be rewarded with a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of their newly chosen creed – Mecca for Muslims, Jerusalem for Christians and Jews, and Tibet for Buddhists. According to the programme makers one aim of the show is to promote religious belief and to expose Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population about other faiths. That  programme’s advertising slogans make some bold claims which include “We give you the biggest prize ever: we represent the belief in God” and “You will find serenity in this competition”.

Only true non-believers need apply. An eight-strong commission of theologians will assess the atheist credentials of would-be contestants before deciding who should take part. Converts will be monitored to ensure their religious transformation is genuine and not simply a ruse to gain a free foreign trip. “They can’t see this trip as a getaway, but as a religious experience,” Ozdemir said. The programme, which is scheduled to air in September, has been criticised by commentators and religious figures for trivialising God and faith.

What’s your final answer or do you need to phone a friend?

Full the full story see  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/02/turkey-penitents-compete-gameshow

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Dignity and death

Michael_Marland_2850751‘It’s as natural to die as it is to be born’- Francis Bacon

Today is the first anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death. I think of Michael every day and we all miss him terribly. Michael had an impact on everyone he ever met and most folks I know who met him have an affectionate story to tell. My wife’s parents (both in their late-eighties )were devastated, not just to lose someone younger than themselves but because Michael’s death made them feel fragile and vulnerable. They couldn’t bear to see Michael suffer as the cancer slowly but surely destroyed him to a mere  shadow of the erudite, articulate, intelligent man they knew and loved. It was a terrible day when he finally surrendered to the inevitable, but there was some low-level consolation that he was not suffering any more and that he had been released from the grip of an aggressive illness which had ravaged him in a  few short months. Cancer robbed us of a guy we loved and gave us unbearable pain and sorrow. Linda had shared his love, passion, joys and achievements over the past 22 years and she was there by his bedside to see his last breath and hold his hand as his passed from our reach but not our memory.

It’s probably not good for me but I have been dipping into John Humphrys’ excellent book The Welcome Visitorliving well, dying well. The author Terry Pratchett wrote about it, “The baby boomers have tried to jog away from death and are learning that whatever you do you still end up out of breath. Yet what we dread is not death, but the prospect of an agonising time dying. We should not have to fear it. Thank heavens John is talking about it.” 

In his book Humphrys explores the case for assisted dying for those  who have no hope of recovery from their suffering and pain. It’s something I find hard to come to terms with or confront in terms of the ethical issues it raises, but when I think of what Michael suffered and what he became, I am no longer cast-iron certain. I appreciate what John has to say about what makes life worth living;” Ask doctors or nurses to define the life force and they cannot, any more than an astro-physicist can define the dark matter that makes up most of the universe. But they know when it is there. They have seen it in the chaotic A&E department of a district hospital when the victims of an accident are being brought in; on a cancer ward for the terminally ill; in the hush o fan intensive care unit where a patient fights for life. And they have heard it in the howling cacophony of a maternity hospital where new life is coming into being. They know when it is present and when it begins to fade. And so do those of us who have no medical knowledge or experience but who have witnessed a life nearing its end.”

If you have the privilege to hold the hand of someone who will  breathe their last  in whatever circumstances I pray that you will be able to tell them they are loved and that you will remember these words of Sophocles ; ‘Death is not the greatest of evils; it is worse to want to die and not be able to.’

This post is dedicated to Michael and to Paul

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