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An Advent Meditation

December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Still me Lord and calm me. You’ll be with me throughout today. I know it. Let peace rule in my heart. Let calmness rule in my soul. #Advent

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Enfold me Lord. You love me and you’ll love me all through today. I know it. Let love rage in my heart. Let God rule in my soul. #Advent

Forgive me Lord and cleanse me. You’ll be with me throughout today. I know it. Let forgiveness rule in my soul. You are in my soul. #Advent

You Lord are Mystery. I cannot know you fully. Yet you’ll be with me throughout today. I know it. Let me awaken to your glory all around. #Advent

You Lord are my strength. You’ll be with me throughout today. You are my joy. Lord you are my life. You are my salvation. I know it. #Advent

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.

 

Reflection – Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

May 23, 2014 1 comment

I am not long back from a tour of Israel. I last went in 1988. The country has developed massively in that time but the politics remain complex. With a population of 8 million, contradictions and conundrums appear at every turn. Instinctively, as a Christian, I want to love Israel but they themselves make this far from easy. The national character is likened to the ‘sabre’, or prickly pear. The visit left me saddened, and with a deep disquiet of whether the present situation can ever truly be resolved. How can such divided peoples live side-by-side, even if a two state solution were to prove possible?

Jerusalem from Mount Scopus

Whilst there I read through Psalms 120-134, ‘The Songs of Ascent’; songs sung by the Jews travelling up to Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6 exhorts us to ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’. Peace is never more needed than it is today. Hostilities and injustice abound across Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Even the Christian denominations add to the sense of tension. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a travesty of all that the gospels teach. Discord and disharmony lie at the centre of one of the most important Christian sites on earth!

A visit to the Holy Land is far from straightforward. It throws up thorny issues of land ownership, disputed borders and national security; concepts which in the UK we are rarely forced to consider. We Brits have our own issues to face as our history from the Mandate period has left bitter memories in Israel. I fully support Israel’s right to exist, but how does its antagonistic policies toward the Palestinians sit with the scriptural injunction to take care of the stranger and neighbour?

There are no simple answers. The situation would appear intractable. What we can and must do, however, is to continue to ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’; an anguished city over which Jesus himself wept.

This reflection was published in Together Magazine (May to June 2014).

Opinion – Interviewing and appointing staff; the Jesus approach

November 14, 2010 4 comments

Hiring people is fraught with difficulty. I have always thought that interviews are something of a lottery. People who do well in interviews don’t always perform well in their jobs – and vice versa. Despite all the available interview tools and techniques, I‘ve learnt that the most realistic way is to trust one’s own instincts. When all’s said and done, it’s actually a judgement call. 

I mused on the dilemma of recruiting people recently whilst reading through Mark’s gospel. There have been a number of books and studies published over the years about Jesus’ technique in choosing his disciples; the how’s, the why’s and the outcome. Like most things, its best not to push these conclusions too far but it is interesting to see how Christ went about the task of bringing his Apostles on board. There is little doubt that they were a pretty eclectic and disparate group – it must have been very hard work keeping them together. 

Reading through the first chapter of Mark, I was forcibly struck by the impact on the family of Jesus’ call? I wonder what their father and the other men thought about James and John dropping everything and disappearing in this way? ‘Without delay, they left their father and followed Jesus’ (v20). We tend to concentrate on the brothers who followed (and applaud them for it) but what about those who were left, seemingly in the lurch, to carry on the family business? There are always two sides to every story and sometimes we gloss over one in favour of the other. To me, this appears to be a piece of very rushed recruitment! Preachers praise the response of these brothers but I’m unsure whether that’s the whole story here? 

Mark 3 (NIV); 13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Reading chapter 3, it immediately shouts out that, of these 12 fellows, some went on to be high profile individuals, some failed entirely and others ended up as virtual nobodies. Yet all had been called and all had taken up Jesus’ challenge. I guess this probably mirrors real life. No doubt we’ve all worked with folk at both ends of the spectrum. Not everyone can be famous and some people will not always be capable of reaching the potential that others saw in them at the outset. Mixing high and low profile individuals in the same team is not easy and requires wise and resourceful management. All teams experience such highs and lows – the disciples were no different.

Jesus knew exactly ‘who he wanted’. No lists of recommendations, no psychometric testing, no profiling, no recruitment agencies – just a personal and clear choice of the people ‘he wanted’ – sounds easy doesn’t it? But, I wonder, did Jesus get some of it wrong? Should his choices have been better? Was he right to impact other people so negatively by his clear ‘choices’? Could these appointments be described as essentially indulgent?

It leaves me feeling that the manner of the appointment of the disciples leaves many unanswered questions, no matter what we may have been taught over the years. If you read on in Chapter 3, verse 21; even his family went to find him ‘to take charge of him for they said he is out of his mind’. Who said that reading and living the Gospels was easy?

Makes you think doesn’t it?

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