Sunday, December 18, 2016

Behtlehem Choir

A melody not heard before
Tumbles over hill and moor
A song of peace that stirs the air
News from heaven angels share

They sing of peace so rich and deep
For those who mourn, who grieve, who weep
They sing of new life - ours to claim
An end to sorrow, guilt and shame

They sing of hope that never died
Of God’s vast love that dwells inside
They sing of freedom, chains that break
Of new adventures now to take

They sing of unrelenting joy
That starts its journey with a boy
He’s heaven clothed in earthly skin
Who ends a curse for us to win

They sing to us, yes, you and me
Ignite in us eternity
And birth in us a thirst for more
Of all that falls through heaven’s door

Be still and listen to their song
Learn the words and sing along
God has stepped into our world
Into our lives salvation hurled

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Sin, The Outcry and the God who Comes Down

“Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21

An outcry so great and a sin so grievous – this potent combination draws God from His throne to “go down and see.”

Let’s just remind ourselves of what the sin so grievous was.

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”  Ezekiel 16:48-50

“…arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” This is God speaking. Ask any of us about the detestable things and not helping the poor doesn’t come instantly to mind.

Who made the outcry? That is what interests me.  You see, without the outcry being so great, the outcry about the sin so grievous, God would not have visited Abraham to involve him in what happened next. OK I admit He might have come down just for the meal and the baby talk, but one gets the impression that it was the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah that drew Him down.

The dictionary defines an outcry as “a strong and usually public expression of protest, indignation, or the like, a crying out or a loud clamour”. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious indignant protesters in the story.

Does it have to be a person? I’ve heard one or two speakers talk about guardian angels of specific towns or cities. Could it be an angel that cried out about Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin?

What about creation? The whole of creation was tied up with Adam and Eve and fell foul of the Fall and the curse that followed. Maybe nature was fed up of being twisted and corrupted.

Maybe it wasn’t an audible cry at all. Maybe it was a heart cries of tears and sorrow, empty stomachs and disappointed hopes of the poor and the needy – the ones the arrogant, overfed and unconcerned wouldn’t help.

God is moved enough to visit when someone protests so strongly about a sin that cannot be lived with or tolerated. 

Today there are outcries so great about sins so grievous.  And God still comes - in church and people delegated form. His church, His people are the ones He sends to respond to the outcry. It challenges me to think about how I react to outcries. How loud does it have to get before I actually hear it? Do I rank outcries according to how great I think they are before I respond? Do I think that someone else will deal with it? Or do I help?

I am also challenges about my own out-crying. I was talking with a group of young people this week about why we find it so difficult to ask for help. We have this idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Society demands we cope and frowns on those who are struggling.

Christmas is about God coming down to a whole human race that isn’t coping. The sin so grievous is in trying to live a fruitful life without God – the failure to help the poor and needy being just one of many symptoms of life lived without God.  In Christ, God deals with it.

Where Abraham in his bargaining with God stopped at ten righteous men needed to save the city, God stops at one. His One Righteous man saved us all. God comes to each of us, in Christ, through His Spirit.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Cry of Blood

six hundred cells in a single drop of blood
countless drops in a human body
a hundred and twenty days to travel
a hundred thousand miles of micro metre vessels
at a walking pace

the brother’s keeper turns traitor
anger in heart and blade in hand, he
diverts the blood’s journey
and the ground collects every cell
as Abel’s blood cries for justice

the pattern repeats
printed on the fabric of history
as every brother’s keeper refuses to keep
the ground is saturated and
the world stops listening

God listens and births himself
Jesus, divinity in dust, a true brother's keeper
love in heart and nails in hand
he surrenders his blood
it collects at the Father’s throne
and cries for mercy

The pattern is forever altered and
The torn fabric of humanity is mended

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Facing Up to the Enemy

I didn’t plan to watch the whole Matrix trilogy last night. Our paths crossed. It was a planets-lining-up-moment and I went with it.

I have seen them all before but not recently, and not one after the other. I understood the first one and thought it was very clever.  And then it gets all too philosophical. A group of young people and I were debating the whole issue of free-will and came to the conclusion that we are not really free at all because, even taking away all the rules we live by, we are surrounded by the fitting-in thing and a list of what society expects and rewards and punishes, not by prison, but by ostracising us.

That said, I sat down to join Neo on his journey through the Matrix. I have probably mentioned before that I am not a film watcher that keeps a respectable distance from what is going on. I have a joining-in gene when it comes to watching stuff. Sometimes it is kept in check.  At other times I let myself off the leash.

So last night, I sat on the sofa joining in. I did all the martial arts poses as best as I could, sitting down. I did the swirly arms thing and the arm blocks and the chopping motions. And I made the right sound effects as I watched. There was no point where Neo was ever fighting on his own – I was there. Can I just tell you how cathartic that whole first film was for me? Every real and imagined foe I had encountered during the week, I thought about, and I chopped them to bits. And did I laugh? Absolutely.

The second film began. I opted not to try to figure out the philosophy. Remember, it was Friday night and I was rather brain-fried. I was looking for fluff and nonsense. I wasn’t really getting the finer moments of the story line – just continuing my seated Kung-Fu poses. There’s a bit in the film where Neo and his friends are in a tunnel, being chased by a lot of sentinels, squirmy robots with a gazillion tentacles. They are running, the sentinels are hot on their heels. Neo turns and lifts his hand and the sentinels explode in a fire-work flash of lights.

“St Columba!” I roared.

This is not a new swear word. I had been exploring the life of St Columba with a bunch of young people – a different bunch from the ones who had the free-will discussion. In the story of St Columba, he and his friends have an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster. The monster was terrorising the people who lived near the River Ness. One man has been bitten and had died. Columba had buried the man.  Later he told one of his friends to swim across the river to fetch the boat. (Oh, yes, St Columba – of course I’m going to swim across the river to get a boat, even though the monster had just bitten someone – sure, no problem – NOT) Well, without hesitation the man began swimming. And yes the monster appeared. St Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded the monster to “Go no further!” and it turned tail and ran.

St Columba wasn’t a man to shrink back. He faced up to all sorts of scary things. There are so many stories of him and his men going out of their way to confront the things that scared themselves and others. We had a great time swapping stories of our phobias and trying to work out why we held them. We also talked about how to deal with them. One girl talked about her parent’s friend who worked with spiders visiting them with a whole collection of stuff and teaching them how to handle hairy legs crawling over them and to not feel alarmed, giving them information about habitats and lifestyles and, in the process, pulling out the little splinters of fear that had become embedded.

St Columba was a man who took God at His word. The opening chapters of Genesis contain the creation story. People are made in the image of God and given dominion, power to rule, over the birds of the air, the fish in the sea and every creature that moves over the land. Columba took that to heart. God had given him that power and he used it. I know that one day in the near future my free-will discussion young people will be exploring these opening chapters and dissecting them – but I want to have a St Columba spirit about the authority we have been given. I want to face my own Loch Ness monsters fearlessly and command them to “Go no further”.

St Columba and the Loch Ness monster! Neo and the sentinels! The brain made the connection. Neo’s hand raised became my hand raised too. Both of us raised our hands against the sentinels.  Both of us witnessed victory over them. Neo collapsed and I roared out “St Columba!”

In my quiet time this morning – well, it wasn’t really quiet at all, a hand was raised and authority was taken and a few monsters commanded to “Go no further!”