Sunday, 27 June 2010


Avid followers of this blog (I appreciate both of you...) will know that at the heart of what I believe about God is His extraordinary decision to give us real choice. Even when it hurts us, hurts the world he created and ultimately and most profoundly, when it hurts Him.

So when people speak about the woman's right to choose you might expect me to be in the vanguard, championing this cause. And in almost every respect you would be right. The right of a woman to have the same life choices as men. The right to education, jobs without discrimination. The right to be seen in every way as equal in significance, calling, gifting as men. To even think that it could be otherwise appalls me. The right of every woman to be treated as a unique individual of inestimable worth, her right to choose her life partner, her right to choose what she does with her body.

But, and you knew there was one coming, in making those free, God given choices, we have also to take into account the consequences of those choices. If I choose this partner, I am at the same time choosing not these other partners. If a couple choose career before having children they simultaneously accept the risk that they may not be able to have children in later life. If a woman chooses to have unprotected sex she risks contracting an STD and becoming pregnant.

Because God gives us these choices, I would and do fight for the right of the individual to make such choices and I would and do fight against the abuse people suffer when choice is turned into control. But along with this I want to cry out that there are consequences to our choices. I believe we all have the right to choose folly - I would fight for that right. But I will also shout at the top of my voice that it is folly.

Now I know that abortion is a complex and sensitive issue. I do not believe that abortion is always wrong, and even where I believe it is wrong, I am not saying that it is different, less forgivable than any other wrong choice. Having faced the choice ourselves as a family, I don't enter this debate lightly.

I want to stand with the individuals who on medical advice have to agonise over the decision as to whether to continue a pregnancy or not. I want to minimise and see redeemed the pain and shame felt by those who have been abused by men and find themselves pregnant. I want to stand with such women, to apologise for what has been done to them, to support them in whatever way possible, whatever they decide. And for those who contemplate abortion or have already decided through fear for themselves, for their future, for their child's future -  and carry regret or guilt, again, I would want only to stand with and demonstrate however inadequately, the love that God has for them.

What I feel I must rail against is the misuse of language that disguises the reality of the choices we make. Of the increasingly casual attitude towards sex, that early pregnancy is seen by many as being casually disposable. Much has been written about the early sexualisation of children, many have observed that pervasive shows such as Friends purvey a view of sex as casual fun with no consequences. It's everywhere, from advertising to banal QI, from the playground to the workplace. The 'morning after' pill is described as a contraceptive when in fact it acts to terminate any early pregnancy.

What we do through this is lowering of the consequences is to make apparently easier the choice to have unprotected sex. Firstly having sex outside of a committed, long-term relationship is portrayed as the norm, as comparatively trivial. Secondly, you lose nothing - if you contract an STD it's seen as a bit inconvenient, but not a disaster, almost a badge of honour - look how in control of my life I am. Thirdly, there's always the 'morning after pill' and if you missed that opportunity, well it's your body, you have the right to choose....

It breaks my heart. Because it isn't true. All our choices have consequences, some of them can't be easily undone. That isn't to say there isn't grace and restoration and hope and victory and fulness of life, but that's in the context of working through, not avoiding, the consequences.

So let's tell the truth and then let people choose.

Abortion as a casual alternative to abstinence or contraception is wrong. It isn't unforgivable, but the consequences are no less trivial than the baby that would have been the result of the pregnancy.

Sex is not just a physical act. There is an emotional and spiritual dimension. Of course it's not just for creating children! Of course it's supposed to be fun as well as intimate. But God designed it to build relationship, to breakdown barriers, to create emotional and spiritual bonds between two people. So that's what it does, whether or not the individuals believe in God or not. Untangling these involves grieving, breaking the power of the spiritual ties, dealing with all sorts of emotional baggage.

Conceiving a child means that you have to take into account someone else's rights to choose as well as your own. I know we call it a fetus to make it sound less alive than a baby. The truth is of course, that in the majority of cases, in our western world, if the mother just keeps doing what she has been doing, it will result in the full-term normal delivery of a healthy baby. Only if we intervene will that change. So no matter how early we choose to intervene the truth is we are choosing to prevent a child from ever being able to make it's own choices. Again, let me be clear, I am not saying it is always wrong, but let us tell the truth so that we can make the choice in an informed way that gives due respect to all concerned.

God gives us choice. His heart is therefore for those who have no choice, for the poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable. Surely, the unborn child must be at the centre of God's heart.

A report today (Friday) said that there was no evidence that an unborn baby less than 24 weeks from conception could feel pain and that therefore the law on the time limit for abortion need not be changed. So we have reduced the consequence of the choice on the basis that we don't think it hurts the baby. I'm just not convinced that God sees it that way.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Moses, Gavin & Stacey

If you're not familiar with Gavin & Stacey, have a quick look at this clip. What follows is a little known episode...

That's amazing, I don't suppose you see that very often...
Unbelievable it was. Four hundred years slaving in Egypt then God intervenes and set us free. I remember it as clear as if it had been last week.
When was it?
Last week.
Right - so you remember it well then?
Oh, yes. Chased by the Egyptian army we were. All the way to the Red Sea. Thought we were going to drown. Or get chopped into little pieces by the Egyptians. Or trampled by all the people behind us who were trying to escape being chopped into little pieces.
Ooh, that's terrible, so what happened? Did you get drowned or chopped into little pieces?
No. We didn’t. Didn’t even get wet. God parted the waters and we all walked through. Thousands upon thousands of us. Completely dry we were.

Except for the Egyptians that is.
What happened to them then?
Drowned. Water didn’t part for them see. Came back. Drowned ‘em all. Very wet they got. We were dry.

Hungry mind, but dry.
You must have been so filled with faith, seeing God do that.
Oh yes, filled with faith. But not with food see. Hungry we were.  No cucumbers. Or Garlic.
Bet your breath smelled better though!
Mick! Don't be so rude. Bryn's just survived being chopped to pieces, now he's about to starve to death...
That's right... Fed up we were. Not fed, but fed up. Hungry see. Nothing to eat. No cucumbers.... Or Garlic.  Told him we did. That Moses. Never elected you know, didn’t vote for him. Stands up there, tells us to leave Egypt. No thought to how we were going to eat. Brought us out into this desert to die. Hungry we were see.
But you had just seen God use Moses to rescue you from slavery!
Well yes, but that doesn’t fill your stomach does it? I told him straight. No cucumbers I said. You tell that God of yours. You tell him. Hungry we were.
So you complained to the God who had just rescued you – how did that go?
Quails and Manna.
Ooh, Quail – nice bird, very tasty. Didn't we have that at that posh place in Southend?
That was pheasant, you've never had Quail. Never had manna either – what is it?
Yes. Manna – what is it.
Not sure I follow, but God gave you this food?
Oh yes. Never doubted Him. Every morning He said. Manna. Didn’t keep well mind. Real problem storing it.


You've got to be so careful with this foreign food.

Oh do stop going on! Surely God told you how to keep it?
Oh yes. He told us. He said it wouldn’t keep.
But you tried to keep it?
Well, of course they did.  No guarantee there’d be any the next day - no shops are there.
But God had told them there’d be some each day..
Well yes, but how can you trust God?
Well, for a start, He said He would rescue you from Egypt, that He would save you from the army?
True, He did.
And did He?
Of course He did. No drowning, no chopping into little pieces.
And you say He promised to feed you every day?
He did. Except for the Sabbath.
That's outrageous! He left you without food on the Sabbath?
No, not exactly left us without. He told us there would be double the day before so we wouldn’t need to collect it on the Sabbath.
So, what did you do?
We looked for it on the Sabbath.
Well, you must be so sure of God's love for you after all that?
Oh yes. Completely trusting, no problem there, always knew He’d come through.

It’s just that we’re a bit short of water see. Brought us out of Egypt so that we can die of thirst He has. That’s what He’s gone and done. Lulled us into a false sense of security He has. It’s all very well that water parting, quail feeding, manna providing, Sabbath sorting. But what are we going to drink I ask you? Hasn’t thought about that has he? Stuck up Moses with his high and mighty ways. We didn’t vote for him you know...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Dear God....

I've been catching up on my correspondence....

Dear Mr Obama

I note with interest your anger and frustration regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is interesting to note how much tax revenue the US has made from the oil industry, how many people are employed by it, how much political power it has exerted. Interesting too to note that the US is one of the most voracious users of oil based products and that the US has persistently been the last nation to sign off on the reduction of carbon emissions. So, in summary, the US has an insatiable thirst for oil and has previously dragged its feet on any changes that would have reduced demand or increased the price - placing huge pressure on the companies to produce cheap oil. I wonder then how the US would respond to a different type of  oil disaster? Say an American ship with American oil sailing from one part of the US to another. Oh, the Exxon Valdez, the one where your courts kept finding ways of reducing the damages - and then sold the repaired ship so that it is still in service...

But of course, the biggest oil related disaster is well away from US territory. It's called Iraq.

So can I respectfully suggest that you stop BP - Barak Posturing that is.

Yours etc,

Dear Mr Capello

I wonder if I could call you Fabio - given how much we English are paying you, I feel it is the least you could do. Now, I realise that you must be receiving a great deal of advice at the moment and I freely admit that I am not an expert in football tactics, but then it seems clear that in this respect we are very similar. I am however passionate about seeing people fulfil their gifting. Seeing players of proven ability playing with shackles, out of position and with no visible plan seems a criminal waste. Gerard and Lampard have never worked well together and Heskey, really? The same Heskey who came on as a sub in the last world-cup and tried defending only to give away the free-kick which looped over Seaman's head, knocking us out of the competition? Ok, so I know I should exercise more forgiveness but even so. I hear you tried to persuade Scholes out of retirement - why not Gary Lineker, he'd have more chance than the ones you played the other night. So, my advice. Don't rely on big names. Get everyone to work for everyone else based on their unique gifting. It creates this amazing thing called team.

Yours etc,

Dear Dr Who,

I really like the Tardis and appreciate that your time is much in demand. However, I have a number of projects for you - some are pretty big picture, others I admit somewhat personal. Firstly, if you could go back in time and prevent the birth of Adlof Hitler, I think most people would agree that this would have a beneficial outcome. Secondly, and I know this might seem less cosmically important, but nipping forward a week and bringing back the lottery numbers for my friend would help if her washing machine breaks again.

But here's the biggy. I'd like you to go back and have a word with Eve. Tell her not to eat it. Tell her the serpent is lying. Come to think of it, tell her about six million Jews, tell her about my friend. If that works out, you won't need to do anything ever again.

Yours etc,

Dear God,

You probably know the content of the other letters without me going over them all. If I'm honest (and I guess that would be best), I'm a bit fed up with hypocrisy in high places. I get disappointed with people underperforming when I trust them. I feel distressed when people live in black and white instead of colour. And I wish you would use some omnipotence to intervene at key points to prevent the suffering.

But I just want to say this. I love that you give me significance. I love that you let me and Mr Obama and Fabio make choices, even when they lead to disaster. Because only then can we produce beauty, make choices that build for eternity. And I know therefore that you have to give that same capacity to choose to a Hitler with the capacity to affect millions. That if a just God were to intervene and stop the monster, he would have to intervene to stop us too.

So, thank you. Thank you for this immense privilege. Help me make those good choices. Help me be worthy of your trust.


Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mind the Gap

Watched a great game of tennis on Monday. Wasn't at Eastbourne, it was in Luton. Amazing shots. Just when you thought an unplayable lob had gone up, back it came smashing down. Contoversy too. 'YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS' but oh yes, apparently the decision is final, no appeal to hawkeye.

"It's the system you see. Doesn't meet the criteria. Can't help. Fifteen-love. Exceeds those other criteria, can't help. Thirty-love. Not in our area, try somewhere else. Forty-love. Somewhere else thinks you are the somewhere else. Forty-fifteen. I've done everything I can - except help. Game LBC. New balls-up please."

It's a real shame that it was played with a person not a ball. (apologies to all those working in the system, I can only imagine how it has ground you down to the point where you have given up hope)

It's a bit like going to the doctor (apologies to my GP / medical friends). If you don't have something with unambiguous classic symptoms you're basically stuffed (that's a medical term..) You'll likely get passed from Dr Pillar to Mr Post with various letters and forms getting lost between the two. On subsequent visits you are guaranteed not to see the same person twice and will have to explain everything from the beginning again. Eventually, under the laws of averages you will either die or will randomly see someone who successfully guesses at a diagnosis - in either case ticking boxes in the system and saving somebody (not you of course) some money.

Press 1 to wait, 2 to wait longer, 3 to listen to some soothing musak, 4 to listen to these pointless options again or 5 to talk to a person (only kidding, there is of course no option 5)

I want to shout 'I'm a person'. My friends who are hurting are not parts of your system, they're people too! I don't want to treat you as a functionary in a system, I want to treat you as a person as well!

Monday was a good day. No, really. Someone came to gently ask whether I had got some decisions right. Questioning the system out of relationship, out of respect, out of the knowledge that they could question without fear. I was challenged and deeply encouraged by that. I read some poetry by a friend who has been unchained, breaking free from the system the enemy would trap us in. It moved me to tears and made me feel very proud of her and God. I was able to spend time with another friend, thinking through how to break out the mould the world system presses us in to. I had lunch with Steve,our Senior Pastor, exploring how to avoid rituals that become systems with a life of their own.....

I design systems. They can be very helpful. But they should serve people, giving them time to focus on the people they are intended to serve. Too often we become trapped by the systems at the expense of the most vulnerable. And even when the systems work well, there are always situations and people who don't fit the system.

What I love about God is that He creates order, builds structures - then, for the sake of real people, He breaks all the rules. He goes out of His way to find the lost, seek out the vulnerable, ensure that no-one falls through the cracks.

....and I installed a gift-aid package on a remote computer and had a surreal meeting in a cupboard about the position of a pillar. (Thanks Gail)

Never mind 40-love. For love's sake, lets mind the gaps.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

What God Wants

Ok, are you up for some speculation? It's what I do when there are some bits of the puzzle that don't seem to fit. I jiggle them round, put them back in ways I haven't tried before and see what it looks like. How does it compare with what I know to be true? If it fits, no matter how unlikely, I let it stay there for a while, prayerfully revisiting it. If it survives that, I write it up and let my more theologically trained friends look at it, allow them to help reshape it, reposition it. Finally, after it has sat in my mind and heart for a while, becoming part of me, transforming me, I then feel comfortable to begin teaching it. What follows is something that I am becoming more confident of.... Let me know what you think!

Here are the questions that started me down this particular rabbit trail:

  1. They are supposed to multiply, why haven't Adam & Eve 'known' one another before the Fall?
  2. If God is so keen on relationship, why does He only visit Adam & Eve once a day?
  3. What's this whole business about Adam naming the animals?
  4. Why isn't Eve surprised by a talking serpent?
Starting from first principles. What sort of relationship does God want with us? Well, Jesus talks about a progression from servant to friend and John after years of reflection reveals the highest description; Husband- Bride. But if that's what God wants, how to get there? Here's a story that might fit the facts and answer the questions.

The Bride
Once, there was a King of unimaginable power. He had only to give the merest hint of wanting something and it was his - his loyal servants competing to make it happen. One day, he was walking in a wonderful garden when he came across a young girl, playing amongst the trees. He watched for a minute before she saw him. He loved the way she moved, loved the boldness she displayed in climbing, loved the grace of her play. Recognising him, she wasn't overawed by his presence but spoke freely - something that brought joy to his soul. After a few minutes of conversation, he realised that his heart was lost to her. It was an innocent love, but even so, one that he could not yet declare, she was too young. So he made to carry on his way but seeing the love his master had for the girl, his most trusted servant asked: 'Shall I have her brought to the palace?' But the King did not want her by command, he longed for her to love him as he already loved her. Longed for a day when she might be old enough to freely give her love, not have it forced from her.

So instead, he commissioned his servants under the command of the one they called 'Light' to protect the girl, to give her scope to grow, to mature, whilst keeping her safe from anything that would harm. 'Tell her about me' he commanded, 'be honest, allow her to choose, but in everything you do and say, represent me to her'. And from time to time, he visited the garden, walked with her, spoke with her, observed over time how she was becoming a radiant young woman, always being careful not to stay too long, not to impose himself on her. And as she grew, so did his love for her.

Patiently and with infinite care he waited for the right moment and slowly it came. More and more he could see her developing understanding, her growing maturity. 'Soon' he said to Light. 'Soon she will be ready, soon I can declare my love, soon your job will be complete.' The words tore at Light's heart. He had become the girl's most trusted friend. Constantly she looked to him for advice, for news of the king. He could see her love blossoming for the King, knew the time was indeed right. He couldn't bear it. He feared that the King would have no more need of him. Didn't understand that love is not finite, that loving one does not preclude loving the other. All he saw was the power, the majesty, the significance that the King had bestowed on him, in order to woo the bride. All his identity had become engrossed in that role, now it would be taken from him.

And so he comes to Eve and tells her that the King has betrayed her. That far from seeking her best, he has kept the best from her. 'Here' he says, 'take this fruit, it will make you king-like'. Confused and now full of doubt - after all, her must trusted friend is telling her, she takes the fruit and eats....

On the eve of the wedding, the best-man rapes the bride.

The Bible
Now we see why Adam & Eve hadn't 'known' each other sexually - when they woke up in Eden in terms of maturity, they were as children, pre-adolescent. Now naming the animals has a context - they are now mature and knowledgable enough about the ecology of the garden to give meaningful names to them - they have grown and developed. Now we see why God could not spend all His time with them, it would be inappropriate, perhaps even abusive for one with such power to overly influence those He wanted such a precious relationship with. Now we see why Eve trusted the serpent. Now perhaps we see the true horror behind the temptation and feel some of God's rightful anger towards the enemy. We have been lied to and abused.

A Last Adam & A Second Eve
Mary Magdelene comes to Jesus with a love that knows no limits. Weeping, she unpins her hair, scorning the shame and kneels down. She takes her tears and washes Jesus' feet, takes the perfume - God only knows what she sacrificed to buy that - and when she has finished anointing him, extravagantly uses her hair to dry his feet.  It is the complete, abandoned love of a bride towards her groom. And Lucifer, 'light', looks on in horror. At last the incarnation makes sense to him, it's the garden all over again, one representing a Bride falling in love, giving herself to the groom. Entering Judas as he had previously entered the serpent, he ridicules the woman, criticises the waste. But Jesus rebukes him and honours instead the woman.Once again, the enemy will seek a means of betrayal.

Finally, in that other garden - resurrected Jesus, our 'last Adam' would wait for this second Eve. 'Mary' he would whisper. In that first garden, Eve would be deceived and as a result death would come and womanhood would be suspected of not being able to handle truth. Now in this last garden, the one who is Life would give the greatest of all truths to this woman and commission her to tell it to the men 'Jesus is alive!'

Redemption is complete. We collectively are to be the Bride.

Let's stay pure, let's hold nothing back, let's enjoy the love of God. 'He brought me into his banqueting house and his banner over me, is love'

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Without Ceasing

Look through any photo album. It's going to be full of photo's of those special occasions. The wedding, the newborn, the first house - though maybe not in that order. It's the same with relationships. The stand-out memories are that first moment, a first kiss, the first - well, ok, you get the idea. These are the poles in the ground that support the tent of the relationship. They give it the framework, the structure, but they're not the relationship, they're not the tent. The tent is the fabric made from thousands of small threads. A canvas woven not out of one or two strong cords, but out of a multitude of tiny, impossibly weak, strands. A relationship that lasts is not founded on the spectacular events - the things that make the album, but on the countless shared experiences, the innumerable mundane joint tasks, the multitude of seemingly banal conversations. And these don't have to be dull or meaningless. Rather the love on which the relationship is based enriches and gives meaning to the otherwise routine. They reinforce the common values, they provide the conetxt into which quality moments occur that ultimately define the relationship.

God created you because he wanted you to experience the extraordinary love that He already experiences within the trinity. God wants to have relationship, loving relationship with Him. Of course there will be the pivotal, intense moments. That first decision to follow Jesus, being filled with His Spirit, the first time you see someone healed, a spectacular victory over temptation. But the fabric of the relationship, the trust, the joy, the peace, is rooted in the moment by moment presence. And that is what prayer is, it is the means by which we make relationship with God real. This is what Paul means when he says we should pray without ceasing. It's the breathing of our spiritual life.

You're walking to work, reviewing the day ahead. Consciously bring God into it. 'Lord, this is what I think the today's priorities are, is that how you see it - what am I missing? And by the way, that is a fab looking sky'. And you get that gentle nudge - take this route, not the normal one. So you turn left not right and bump into someone you know. 'Wow' you say (coffee hasn't yet kicked in) 'that's a coincidence, I was just praying for them last night'. You chat for a few moments not realising how significant that conversation will be later in the day. It's then that God gives you that gentle sense that your agenda is going to be turned upside down and not to fret about it. You arrive at work to discover there's a power cut. No computer, no internet, no email, no panic - you were forewarned. The simple things, making faith real, bringing the presence of God into the present.

Of course there are other times when our praying takes a different, intercession and spiritual warfare - more on those later.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

In Jesus Name

Maybe I've been watching too many space launches, but here goes - countdown to prayer:

10. What she said was very funny, but this is a prayer meeting, stop smiling.
9.   Lean forward on chair into 'bow down' position
8.   Eyes together, hands closed. Rats. Wrong way round. Eyes closed, hands together.
7.   Period of radio blackout otherwise known as embarassing silence.
6.   Someone is praying, quick, focus, can work out shopping list later.
5.   Falling asleep here, switch into autopilot; throw in some random 'mms', 'amens' and 'that's right'
4.   Oh God, everyone else has prayed, I can't even remember what we're praying for.
3.   Ok, autosequence start, guidance is internal
2.   In Jesus Name
1.   Amen.

Helen Roseveare, famous missionary went to her home church to a prayer meeting where everyone got stage fright in her presence. Eventually, she prayed 'Oh Lord, please deliver me from this awful prayer meeting'. It was a prayer quickly answered.

So what is this thing called prayer? It's a bit like world peace - no one is going to say it's a bad thing, but few people seem to have much clue beyond that - and those that claim to are generally unlike normal humans. You know what it's like, you oscillate between those who are taking authority over demons to the person praying for a parking place.

I especially love those prayers that completely abrogate any sense of responsibility - take your pick:

'Lord, come and take control of this meeting' ('cos I am so unprepared and don't trust this lot to respond)
'Lord, please send labourers into your harvest field' ('cos I for one am not going)
'Lord, bind up the broken hearted, heal the sick' ('cos I'm uncomfortable being around dysfunctional people)
'Lord help my friends with their practical needs' ('cos I'm too busy with my ministry to actually do anything)

But I also love the classic hedge your bets prayer:

'Lord please heal John of this sickness; a) if it is your will, b) by means of the NHS which you have wonderfully provided as a fallback, which frankly is a relief because I'm not sure about options a & c... c) miraculously, because despite rarely if ever seeing it, we know we should believe that you could do it, although we'd probably be in need of medical assistance ourselves if you did, d) miraculously - over the next 5 days - by which time the meds might have kicked in but we can claim it as healing through this get-out clause'

Also in my top ten are the prayers spoken in ancient English, often using screeds of disconnected pseudo-scripture:

'O Lord, thou knowest all things and art my everlasting shepherd and I lackest no good thing since I knocketh and the door openest unto me and verily I walk in dark valleys but thy rod hast smited mine enemies who thou lovest with an everlasting...' Sorry, have to stop you there. Repetition of the word 'everlasting'

Finally, perhaps my all time favourite, the information prayer:

 'Lord, we pray for Bert who is ill at this time, although may be getting better because he has an appointment at the doctors - not his usual one, but the locum, at 11:30. Nevertheless, we do pray that his abdominal pains - possibly due to kidney stones, but we won't be sure until the scan results come back, which they hadn't when I called his wife Joan at 7:47 this morning.....'

But whichever it is, we know that without the magic phrase at the end, none of these prayers can be heard. So, altogether now:

'In Jesus name, amen'.

Well, that should have offended pretty much everyone by now, but if not, let me know your favourites and stay with the blog over the next few days as we explore!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

What Next?

It isn't that we don't have the food. We have so much we are growing obese with it. It isn't that the distance between the food and the hungry is too great, we casually fly half way round the world on holiday. It isn't that don't have the technology or logistics skills to transport it, we can mobilise whole nations for war. It isn't that we don't have the vaccines to prevent measles, or the nets to prevent malaria or the condoms to prevent the spread of Aids....

Have you noticed how many programmes there are based on sneering? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy 'Have I Got News For You', 'Mock The Week' and the like. It's just that every now and again, it goes too far, gets too much.We all agree with the stupidity of some other group. We feel better because others appear worse. We are right, others wrong. It's someone else's problem.

It's very easy to agree with general statements: the absurdity of people dying when we have plenty. We agree with the sentiment, feel good at having agreed with the general presumption that something must be done. By someone. It's especially convenient if the problem is patently too big for an individual to solve - it further absolves us from action. It's systemic, way beyond us, the government, other countries should do something. We can't be expected to. Be realistic, I have my own family to think about. I have a full time job, in any case, I already tithe, what do you expect me to do? Sell up, go and live with them? Anyway, it's their governments fault - corruption is rife. If they weren't fighting a civil war, there's be a chance...

Me thinks the Lady doth protest too much....

I think a just and loving God might be saying that to us what He said to Peter. Stop with the excuses, stop with the bravado. Cut to the chase. Do you love me more than these. More than these trappings of life. More than these others that you love. More than these other people you compare yourself with. More than life itself? If you do, you will feed my sheep. If you don't, stop pretending, at least be honest.

"But I haven't had a call to go there. I haven't a call to that kind of ministry." It's not good enough is it? If we saw a man drowning would we turn away, carry on with what we were doing, just because they didn't call out from the waves to us personally for help? What calling do we need to act compassionately?

'I can't' is not going to be an acceptable answer when we give account. Every person like us who said 'I can' will stand as a judge against us. The moment someone who has nothing gives from their poverty it demolishes the excuse 'I have nothing to give'. Every time someone who had everything to lose gives it up freely in the service of the poor it destroys our excuse 'I can't be expected to risk that'. Whenever someone with the same frailties and temptations as us does that which we have declared impossible, it converts our 'Can't' into the more truthful 'Won't'. On that judgment day, God with witnesses at His side will point to the poor who remained poor, the sick who remained sick, the starving who died and declare 'you chose to allow this'. No more will it be the impersonal face on the TV, no longer the theortical statistic. Instead it will be the resurrected individual we have to answer face to face. 'I decided my comfort, my future was more important than yours'

Jesus said that the way of life is narrow and few find it. Do we really think that a one-off intellectual or emotional response to God's offer of salvation will do if  followed by a life untouched by His life and unchanged from the world?

So what to do?

I invite your thoughts and comments.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

I met you today

Following on from yesterday, I wrote this is dramatic reading for two narrators and two individuals. As the dialogue progresses the two get closer and closer until they are face to face, touching raised hands. You'll get the idea.

Sadly, it's as relevant today as when I wrote it 25 years ago.

It took longer to wake up this morning.
But the baby crying finally got through.
My milk ran out yesterday,
We have no water. What can I do?

It took longer to wake up this morning,
I slept through the alarm.
Forgot to order the milk
Kid’s can have toast, they won’t harm

I’m not hungry any more, just numb.
But the baby won’t stop crying,
Waiting for his food to come.

I’m not hungry today
Had friends round for dinner last night.
Met to eat, share and pray

The baby stopped crying.
I think he’s dying.
I hope so.
I couldn’t bear another day,
Helpless in the face of his tears.

What a day!
The little one’s teething again.
At least he’s stopped crying,
now the Calpol’s eased the pain.

Got to the camp at last
No food, but then I’m passed

Got house-group round tonight
Third World Missions -
a real delight....

There’s a white man in the camp
Well clothed, well fed.
Looks at us through a metal eye
But offers us no bread.

Just in time to get some tea,
See if there’s anything on TV.
Oh, just the news, another famine.
Some poor baby and it’s mother

The man’s eye comes closer,
Adds to my fears.
And as I look into it
Your face appears.

Her eyes are staring, she’s looking at me
The face is familiar, I can’t quite see
She’s so desperate, it’s the end of the line
Oh God!
I recognise the face - it’s mine.

I met you today, I didn’t mean to interrupt
Your well ordered life with my chaos.
I didn’t mean to break through your  illusion
With my needs.
I met you today, I’m sorry my life inconvenienced you,
That my nakedness offended you.
That my bloatedness disgusted you.
I’m sorry that the flies buzzing round my baby upset you.
That the helpless pleading in my eyes distressed you.

I met you today. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.
I won’t be here tomorrow.

By contrast, click here.