Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Good News from Chile

I've been transfixed by the live TV coverage from Chile of the miners' rescue today. It's been playing in the background on my PC. Who could not be moved by the emotions of those rescued and reunited with their families. As the men have been released from the rescue pod it's almost as if they are being reborn; in fact one said 'I have come back to life'.

It's been notable how many people have been talking about God today. The first words of the President of Chile were "We thank God..." At least one of the miners dropped to his knees in prayer as he was released into the sunlight.

The story of rescue and reunion is such a powerful one, and one that the Christian Gospel is founded on. Going back to the days of Israel's rescue from their slavery in Egypt to the message of release through faith in Christ from sin, guilt and the fear of death. The TV commentators were talking about the psychological impact of the ordeal and rescue on the men and their families, and wondering what would happen in the days to come - would they simply return to their old way of living, or would this experience really change their lives. Who can tell?

The Christian church through the ages has treasured the wonderful message of salvation and rescue. As people encounter God through faith in Jesus Christ their story has so often been of transformed lives set free to enjoy life in all its fullness.

I particularly enjoyed hearing the chaplain to the President of Chile. I didn't catch his name, but he is an Anglican minister - English, but fluent in Spanish. 24 Hour News means you can speak at great length as there is no time limit for a report, and this chaplain was really on fire with enthusiasm for what God is doing in Chile. Commenting on the miners' ordeal he said, "There were not 33 in the mine but 34, because the Lord Jesus was there with them." You don't often get that explicit on the BBC news.

Friday, 8 October 2010

All in a day's work

I didn't enjoy having to call the police this afternoon about a man called Anthony who was refusing to leave the churchyard after smashing a window in a neighbouring house and punching someone in the stomach. He was very drunk, but the sad thing was that he was visiting the grave of his daughter who had died in 1991 at the age of 2. He said that she'd been murdered. I agreed to let him stay for a couple of hours, and when i came back he was lying on the grave, asleep. But when he refused to move I had to call the police. It's so hard - you can't reason with people when they are drunk, or even comfort them. The police never turned up, but Anthony moved off eventually, wheeling himself rather uncertainly along the middle of the road, shouting at the passers by.

What can you do with someone's hurt and rage like that? I suppose it has been turned into prayer before now by the psalmists. I couldn't help Anthony, but I can hold him up in my prayers with the knowledge that Jesus knew how to get near to people who were cut off from others by illness, or by antisocial behaviour.

The difference an apostrophe makes

It's surprising the difference an apostrophe makes. When I saw this copy of Metro on the train yesterday I instinctively thought, "Oh no. Are Bob Crow and his union cronies about to step up their industrial dispute with TfL and declare jihad on London commuters?" It's the sort of headline The Sun might run. But then I saw the apostrophe and the meaning changed completely. In fact, the story is about an individual driver who left his family and planned to travel to Pakistan (via the Bakerloo Line, perhaps) and join the Taliban.

Call me a pedant? Some might; but actually grammar can be fun...Well I think so. Thinking about this amused me for the rest of the day - at least while I wasn't concentrating on the more serious matters of our diocesan clergy study day.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Faith and the Secular Society

Today I spent all day in Southwark Cathedral attending a clergy study day. The theme was 'Engaging Faith in a Secular World' and we looked at the sociology of religion: How belief affects what people do. Also, the experience of the Jews during the Babylonian exile, and what that has to say today to a church that finds itself in an increasingly secular and sometimes hostile context. After lunch I managed to stay awake for a fascinating talk on 'Public theology, apologetics and the media.' I'm sincere in using the word 'fascinating', as it helped us to understand why the media ignores so much of the positive message of the church in favour of the divisive and scandalous.

An interesting thought about the Babylonian exile: the Jews actually did quite well out of it in the end - they prospered even in a foreign land. And, more importantly, they learnt that their religion would sustain them even when it was practised outside Israel, and even when they had to accept some cultural limitations - particularly the loss of the Temple.

We also got to greet our new Bishop-elect, Christopher Chessun. He is a very popular choice in the Diocese, it seems.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Grace of Giving

We are having a Stewardship Sunday this weekend (a churchspeak way of encouraging people to give more.) As I looked at 2 Corinthians 8 once again, as preachers do when they have to preach about giving, I realised that the Macedonian church was so generous because God had given them the 'grace' - charis - of giving. In other words, their desire to give was itself a gift from God.

Paul talks about generosity as a gift, along with the other spiritual gifts he mentions. Perhaps we should be praying for that gift of giving as well as doing our best to communicate the need for money in as imaginative way as possible.