A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Baptist Times report of the murder of homeless Ralph Millward see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/this-is-the-big-issue/#comments . Last week this post was made on my blog from a relative of one of the boys charged with Ralph’s murder.
“I’d like to say that i am disgusted by his actions. Many look for excuses everywhere when the young kill. I will not. I am shocked by the brutality of Ralph’s murder and i will never make excuses for him. He is not my child but his family need to look to themselves for his actions and not try to blame anything they can. There is no excuse for taking a life, particularly, a life that was so defenceless. My thoughts are with Ralph’s family and not with my young relative charged with his murder. I will never forget Ralph in my own prayers. His murderers deserve nothing. I know the details of how Ralph died and i will never forget them. The only consolation for Ralph is that his brutal death may make our country wake up to the plight of the homeless and help more. If no-one else will say it in my family, then i will. I am very very sorry for the actions my young relative took that night. No excuses. R.I.P. Ralph Millward.”
I think this is an incredibly brave and honest post and pray that the person will come to see that the murderes may in our terms deserve nothing, but more than anything they need to encounter the grace, love and forgiveness of the God of justice for the exluded and vulnerable. Love is stronger than hate.
I absolutely love the compelling opening to Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love.The story begins on a windy spring day in the Chilterns when the calm, organised life of Joe Rose is shattered by a ballooning accident. It is a terrifying and tragic tale of how five strangers come together in a field as they try to hang on to a hot-air balloon that has come lose from its moorings and prevent it from drifting away with a young child in its basket. As the balloon slowly rises on the breeze, one -by one- four of the strangers let go, but the fifth, John Logan, clings on in a vain attempt to weigh down the balloon and rescue the child. The balloon soars higher and higher and McEwan’s closing words of the first chapter describe the inevitable outcome;
” I still thought there was a chance that a freak physical law, a furious thermal, some phenomenon no more astonishing than the one we were witnessing would intervene and bear him up. We watched him drop. You could see the acceleration. No forgiveness, no special dispensation for flesh, or bravery, or kindness. Only ruthless gravity. And from somewhere, perhaps from him, perhaps from some indifferent crow, a thin squawk cut through the stilled air. he fell as he had hung, a stiff little black stick. I’ve never seen such a terrible thing as that falling man.”
The rest of the book goes on to explore how Joe copes with the terrible experiences of that fateful day and the impact of an obsessive interest in him from one of the other would-be rescuers. It’s a story of what happens to those who let go to save themselves and the impact of one man who clung on to help and eventually fell to his death.
How long have you tried to cling on to something that you know is taking you further and further from safety? You are thinking that if you had bailed out earlier then you could have done so without too much damage, but now if you let go the consequences for you would be too great or you may damage others- you are literally in way above your head and theirs- so you cling on. You hope that the balloon will drift somewhere better, somewhere where you can start again, but you are not in control and you don’t know it’s final destination. Letting go seems impossible , so you cling on tighter and you are blown further and further away from where you intended to be.
If this image means anything to you at all- have the courage to let go and know in your heart that Jesus will catch you, and can heal you from the bumps and bruises,loss of face or punctured ego and pride that you’ll sustain. Letting go and experiencing freedom and new life is better than clinging on and feeling out of control buffeted by the wind and external forces you cannot control.
Yesterday I heard the well-known evangelist J John address an annual consultation from the Group for Evangelism in London on the theme ‘For God’s sake say something!’. Around 70 people responsible for co-ordinating evangelism and mission across a variety of Christian denominations gathered for a discussion on the subject of proclamation evangelism- has it had its day or does it still have a role? J John may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but with great humility and purpose his keynote address provided a real challenge for the audience. He talked about a letter he had sent to 1,500 church asking them if they provided any sort of training programme to their congregation in how to share faith. Out of the 1,017 replies only 36 said they had something in place. Isn’t that just the problem with sharing our faith- it’s always somebody else’s responsibility. J John has developed a programme called Breaking News to help equip churches with some techniques and guidance on how to share faith: but is training without prayer or a real heart enough?
Jesus said the gospel is based around two prinicples: loving God and loving our neighbour. So how many of us care enough to pray by name for our neighbours ?(in fact how many of us really know our neighbours well enough to tell them that we are doing so?). J John went on to explain how his family are known locally as the ‘neighbours from heaven’ who care enough to help put and infirm neighbours to bed each night; to put out the bins of their elderly neighbours who can’t manage it, and to visit the dying son of a woman in the street who isn’t a Christian. They are ready to respond to need where it is because that’s what Jesus would do- even when they feel inadequate for the task.
I am becoming more convinced that praying, loving, caring and sharing is the best mission strategy we can have. This is how we can live out the gospel; this is how we can make a difference ,and this is how we can introduce Jesus- the saviour who loves- because that is what we’re meant to do. We don’t need a branded week/month of action to do this and then go away- hit and run mission has little legacy. We need to build it into our service for our neighbourhood day-in-day out and pray without ceasing. We then have the credibility to talk about the one in whose name we do this and people start to listen when they see what this love has caused us to do. Could there be a better calling card?
For more on breaking news see http://www.philotrust.com/shop/viewproduct/66
In WM Paul Young’s best selling book The Shack Sarayu is advising Mack about the rules in Scripture. The conversation goes like this:
“The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus. While words may tell you what God is like and even what he may want from you, you cannot do any of it on your own. Life and living is in him and in no other. My goodness, you didn’t think you could live the righteousness of God on your own, did you….It’s true that relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you the answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you….Religion is about having the right answers, and some of their answers are right. But I am about the process that takes you to the living answer and once you get to him, he will change you from the inside.”
MacKenzie’s is a journey of change and transformation through grief and then love and it is on this journey that we constantly need to be reminded of the one who is with us and can guide us if we let him- not through rules but through love. As Oswald Chambers said; ” faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the one who is leading.”
Step back 2,000 years and experience the spectacular production of BEN HUR LIVEat the O2 Arena! That’s what the advertising says. BEN HUR LIVE brings to life the love story of Judah and the beautiful slave girl Esther, set in the time of Christ. The show is based on the story by Lew Wallace and leads the audience on an awe-inspiring and fantastic journey through deserts, on high seas, into the hectic crowds of an Arabian bazaar, all produced on a huge scale with breathtaking action and amazing effects including the legendary chariot race, an incredible sea battle, and extraordinary daring stunts.
The publicity is fantastic and the posters talk of the legendary Chariot race, a dramatic love story, a sea battle, gladiators…..and Jesus’ message of peace. Now I am sure this show will be quite a spectacle and thrilling for audiences to watch but it’s a little annoying to see Jesus’ message of peace get co-billing alongside a dramatic love story, sea battles and gladiators. The real story of Ben Hur which the author himself subtitled as A Tale of the Christ is the power of the love and message of Christ to transform the lives of people. It has been this love which has changed individuals and nations down the ages and it is this unconditional love which people of today need to hear about- never mind the chariots.
But people going to the O2 for entertainment may encounter miraclesLet’s hope people come away from the show talking as much about Jesus than the set, the animals and the chariots
BEN HUR LIVE premiers at The O2 arena on 15th September 2009. For more information see http://www.benhurlive.com/
Last night I went to see Trevor Nunn’s exquisite revival of A Little Night Music by one of the musical theatre greats- Stephen Sondheim. As expected it was enchantingly performed by an ensemble cast and lived up to its billing as “spinning like a seductive merry-go-round”. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, this witty and stylish celebration of romance is set in 19th century Sweden where affairs of the heart are uppermost in everyone’s thoughts. It’s the story of people who are all stumbling their way through the tangled-web of romance, passion, seduction and hope that envelopes their lives- they have to learn new things and unlearn old things about love and themselves- they have to work out their futures for themselves.
Each day I read from Nick Fawcett’s excellent Daily Prayer, and today’s section was headed “Working it out for ourselves”. The passage was from Philippians 2:12- “You must work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. recognising that God is at work in you so that you will be able to understand and accomplish his good purpose”-how apt for the lovers in the show- particularly as one of them is studying for the priesthood!
Sometimes it is hard to understand love and what it does to our emotional and spiritual life and sometimes we just have to work it out for ourselves. Nick’s book goes on to encourage us with a quote from Ephesians; ” I pray for this…that Christ may so dwell in your hearts through faith that you will be able to grasp with all the saints the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ; and that you may know this all-surpassing love in such a way that you will be filled with the very fullness of God!”
So let’s send in the saints rather than the clowns on this subject.