Tuesday, 29 November 2016

How a rose explains Predestination

“If I were to plead that the rose bud were the author of the root, well! I might indeed be laughed at. But were I to urge that any goodness in man is the ground of God’s choice, I should be foolish indeed.” 

- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, 28 November 2016

Are there any superlatives left for God?

Do we know what it means to praise? To adore? To give glory? Praise is cheap today. Everything is praised. Soap, beer, toothpaste, clothing, mouthwash, movie stars, all the latest gadgets which are supposed to make life more comfortable – everything is constantly being “praised.” Praise is now so overdone that everybody is sick of it, and since everything is “praised” with the official hollow enthusiasm of the radio announcer, it turns out in the end that NOTHING is praised. Praise has become empty. Nobody really wants to use it.

Are there any superlatives left for God? They have all been wasted on foods and quack medicines. There is no word left to express our adoration of Him who alone is Holy, who alone is Lord.

 Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms, 10

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pastors should visit come rain or shine

pastor shepherdI've recently started visiting regularly in the parish. I was doing this a few weeks back when it was warm and sunny and I jokingly said to an elderly couple that the Summer is great for visiting. Their response: "you lightweight; pastors should be out come rain or shine!" I was a bit taken aback by their criticism especially as the couple in question only come to church on special occasions (perhaps I should have responded "and parishioners should be in church come rain or sun!") Anyway I was reading Chaucer's description of a pastor and noticed that like the elderly couple, he thinks a good pastor visits whatever the weather. This is from prologue to the Canterbury Tales:

Wide was his parish, with house far asunder
yet he neglected not in rain or thunder

In sickness or in grief, to pay a call
on the remotest whether great or small

Perhaps I should be out come rain or shine!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution and go to church!

Image result for ordinary church
Kevin De Young makes a wonderful and compelling case why you should be at church every Sunday. Here's a taster:

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders. Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

15 years after 9/11: a Christian reflection

11th September 2001 is a marker in world history. It is the "where were you when..." moment of our generation. Much like July 20th 1969 was to a previous generation (Armstrong landing on the moon) and May 8th 1945 to a generation before that (V-E day), 9/11 is a day when everyone remembers what they were doing when they first heard or saw the news.

Sadly, since then the fears and anxiety created by terrorist threats have become an ever present reality. We wonder if we will ever be free of that sense of unease in our lives. Recent events including the murder in Paris of an 80 year old priest celebrating communion, continue to feed that unease. 

Therefore, on this the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, it is worth pausing to consider how Christians should respond when horrible things happen (whether it be the carnage resulting from Islamic terrorism or an unexpected diagnosis in health or the sudden death of a family member). As someone has put it “Where is God when it hurts so bad?”

Part of the answer Scripture gives, is that the sadness we feel when bad things happen is one of God’s ways to tell us that this world is not all there is. The book of Ecclesiastes puts it like this:

“God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”

In other words, the world is filled with much that is good and lovely but often things/people/circumstances ‘interrupt’ our joy causing us to wonder if this life is all there is. When, for example, relationships end and we feel heartbroken or when death strikes and we experience desolation, these are huge pointers to our longing for eternal life. All of us yearn for a world where there is no suspicion (of potential terrorists or of anyone else), where there is no need for scanners (at the airport or at the DGH) and where there is no sinfulness (big and public as at 9/11 or small and hidden such as anger or lust).

Astonishingly, the Bible offers us the chance to be part of such a wonderful sin-free world for ever! It is an offer which comes through a man – Jesus Christ – who lived the perfect life that none of us ever could and who died the death that each of us deserved. It is only by believing in His death and resurrection that God promises eternal life (rather than everlasting torment) – a life where there will be no more sickness, suffering or sorrow but limitless joy!

The phrase is true for the Christian believer: all will be well in the end. May we – whatever our suffering – put our trust in Christ as we await that day when all truly will be well, where evil will be finally overthrown and where Christ will welcome all who trust in Him into His everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Parish magazine article for 11th September 2016 AD

Thursday, 8 September 2016