Palm Sunday

palm

Coming from one of those austere evangelical backgrounds I find the Anglican church and her ways sometimes strange.  I often mutter at the vicar and Curate “Papist” or “Heretic” when they talk of the Anglican calendar or activities.  They always ignore me!

Today being Palm Sunday we had the local Beaver Scouts parading in, flags and banners and all, even though there were only around a dozen of them.  In the 1950’s the then ‘Boy Scouts’ and ‘Girl Guides’ would have had dozens not a dozen on parade, fashions change and the military aspect of such events does look somewhat incongruous to me these days. Being Palm Sunday and with many kids and strangers accompanying them the service was aimed in their direction and handled quite well I thought.  The curate had many kids out there acting out Jesus entry into Jerusalem in both modern and ancient style.  The eight year old with beard and Jesus hair went down very well even if he could hardly see where he was going.  The music also was aimed at kids, well most of it, and this appeared to be enjoyed more by the adults!  It makes a change from the usual stuff.

Churches like the Anglicans make a big thing out of Easter, quite rightly in my view, however evangelical churches while remembering Easter tend to take the view each Sunday, if not each day ought to be ‘Easter.’

‘Lent’ is something many follow giving up things in preparation for Easter.  It does appear to me however that what most people give up is nothing of any value.  Often we hear those who give up chocolate, sweets, beer or some such, we never hear of those giving up hate, resentment, cheating or the like, I wonder why?  Those who choose to follow Jesus ought to be giving up wrong attitudes and putting themselves under his control that way they need not give up anything but continue to develop the life Christ wishes to live through them.

Oh how easy it is to talk innit?  How hard to live the life.  Yet of Jesus died for us, if Jesus will judge us one day, and if Jesus loves us and one day we will be with him then it is worth while trying to follow him.  I have touched on his life and I have tasted something nothing on earth can equal (So how come I forget this so easily?) and I want more of it.

The meeting this morning ended with a whimper as the kids paraded out and the leaders went with them.  We all stood there for a moment somewhat stunned at the ending and then made a dahs for the coffee!  Several were killed in the rush!  I got in first however…

p1060166

Where Are We?

cross

So I wake in the morning and wonder “Where is my head?” It was there the night before, I remember talking to God in a sleepy type of way yet in the morning, refreshed and awake, there is no sign of it.  There is no sign of the faith, love and earnestness that appeared in my thoughts either, vanished like mist in the sunshine.

At times like this I ask “Where are we?”  If God is there, and I met him the other week I vaguely remember, I remember also answered prayer and small miracles, so why can I not figure it out this morning?  Of course he is there however my body has decided that sleep, hunger, exercise, sex, illness or some other desire has pushed him out of mind and he may be gone for some time.

The difficulty of remembering God when such moods arise cannot be measured, we are all slightly different, as indeed are our situations.  The clever people tell us to “Have Faith, remember he is always with you” and they are of course correct.  However this does not make it any easier, especially if pain or tiredness hinders thinking.

The truth is sometimes we don’t want to think about God, we prefer other delights, or somethings not necessarily delightful, it just dominates the thought processes.  There is much to say on this subject but my mind is fogging over with tiredness, I have just eaten, and I just cannot be bothered thinking.  Maybe laziness is the real problem, not the other things…

Genesis 16

The bible, that collection of Gods works on earth, does not hide the truth about people, not even those chosen by God personally to do his work.  Genesis 16 gives a wonderful insight into people, not just people of their time but people for all time.

Around about 2000 BC God reaches down to a man called Abram living around Ur in what is now southern Iraq and tells him to leave his father and mother and go to a place he will be shown.  At the time it is likely Abram only knew the goddess situated on top of the ziggurat in Ur itself and the lesser moon-god placed alongside her.  So why did God reach down to Abram?  There were I believe 25,000 or so in Ur and many more like Abram round about, why pick this man?

Eventually Abram makes it to Canaan and settles there.  However his wife has not produced a child and feels this deeply so she resorts to the fashion of the day and forces Abram, who shows little reluctance, into sleeping with her slave girl as wife.  This situation is not recommended in scripture but as these people did not possess scripture bar God revealing himself to Abram their lack of appreciation is understandable.  Hold on a minute, even though scripture was not laid down in our hearts we know right from wrong yet Sarai & Abram went ahead with this just the same.  Conscience is inbuilt I say.

Inevitably this goes wrong.  Hagar, the slave, becomes pregnant (I wonder how long that took? Did Abram make it last?) and soon a bitchiness found only between females comes to the fore.  Having suggested the idea in the first place Sarai then blames Abram for Hagar’s abuse of her mistress, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering,” she yells at him.  Abram, head of the house though he is, responds with a courage renown to belong to many a married man, “Your servant is in your hands, do with her whatever you think best,” he says running for the hills.

Things do not turn out as one would expect.  Hagar, being abused, runs for the hills but meets with God there.  In similar fashion to Abram this son is given the promise of becoming a huge nation, many descendants, too numerous to count, although he will however be a ‘wild donkey of a man’ and turn everyone against him.  Why does God do this?  It is unclear to me why this should be, surely ‘wild donkeys’ ought to be avoided? However she returns to her home and life continues.

Note the lack of scripture, the human responses so similar to our own, and at no time did Sarai nor Abram ask the God who called them out of Ur about their lack of child.  These people had no bible, we have it complete yet we are less used by God than they!  We know that in all things God works for the good but his ways do not match our understanding. In this situation Abram was 86 years of age, God appears to him later when he is 99 and he has a son then, his own.  Some of us may find that encouraging…

Community

c

I hate the word ‘community!’

Everywhere you look the word arises, police and government officials, media personnel, advertisers and so many others use this word and it means absolutely nothing!               Since the 1980’s when it came to the fore during the Brixton and other riots the word ‘community’ has become one of the ‘in words’ used by people who should know better.  At that time the greasy Conservative Home Secretary Kenneth Baker was never off the telly telling us of his discussions with ‘Black Community Leaders.’  What community leaders?  Who elected them?  I recall when I was around 10 or 11 years of age listening to a discussion amongst some locals round the corner from where I lived.  One remarked that she was the ‘Tenants Association Chairwoman,’ this surprised me as I had never heard of this and I winder if my parents had also?  That women has pushed herself to the front was my limited understanding and black community leaders, Bernie Grant and  Diane Abbott proved to me that such people still existed.  What community did they represent?  The black one?  The mixed (diverse we must say today) population?  No, they represented themselves and Abbott has done so ever since.

There is NO community!  Certainly not in London where I resided for twenty years or more. There are groups of people, sometimes organised sometimes just for a project, who work together, but there is no community.  It is a word that since the 80’s has drifted into media speak and is repeated automatically by those who do not have time to think.  It ought to be banned and people forced to use appropriate words such as Town, city, village, hamlet, dump!   Area is an acceptable word, as is district, locale or some such, just don’t go implying there is a ‘community’ a word that suggest togetherness where there is none.  And to be fair usually there is no keen community anywhere.  In some places neighbours do get along well, caring for one another in times of trouble, lending a hand, keeping the streets secure and such but these are in small areas only, anything beyond a few houses and the darkness descends.  Let us drop the words used wrongly and say what we really mean by communicating with words that truly mean something concerning the district in which we live.

Oh yes, later I will discuss the use of the Americanised phrase ‘growing’ as in ‘Grwoing the church,’ or ‘Growing the business.’ No, you ‘build’ a church, you ‘build’ a business, and if you cannot speak correctly don’t say anything!

Deceit, continues but different

ad

Watching a repeated yet again programme about Adolf Hitler, his rise and fall I noted how he called a well educated intelligent nation to destruction.  His words inspired many yet they were full of lies and few saw through them.  One woman looking back wisely noted that it was not Hitler himself but the ‘dark satanic power behind him.’

She was right of course.  Hitler was an unbalanced men, he had many problems within himself and found in war a way to express himself and survive.  Outside of war he failed to relate to people properly and refused to accept anything that did not meet with his wishes. In itself this is not indeed unusual and such a tendency can be found within us all to some effect however when used by a greater power it led to slaughter, mass slaughter.

In the 1930’s the lie spread was a nationalistic aggressive one based on Darwinism.  The weak go to the wall and the strong thrive.  Opponents must be heartlessly destroyed, pity is weakness, the feeble minded were worthless and must be removed for the greater good and opposition must be wiped out. In short truth, the knowledge of right and wrong that is hard wired into us through our conscience must be pushed aside and killed.

Today the lie is more subtle, today the lie removes right and wrong and replaces this with political correctness, the new standard that must be obeyed and all opposition swamped!

Today the lie is a false kindness.  While aborting babies is seen as normal, some seven million since 1967 in the UK alone, opposition to this murder is opposed on the lie that ‘it’s a woman’s right.’  Nobody has a right to murder.  Same sex marriage has arrived in the UK even though a mere twenty years ago this was rightly seen as a nonsense.  Today however anyone who opposes this or objects to homosexual behaviour is regarded as a criminal and receives abuse and much name calling for standing up for normal behaviour.

Political correctness rules today by a subtle shift from right and wrong.  Instead of rightly accepting people because they exist we must never disagree with them if the murder a child in the womb or have an abnormal sexual behaviour.  We MUST accept this or else!  That is the fascist way today!

Christians will of course accept all people as they are, whatever their situation and they will point them to Jesus Christ so they too will have the opportunity to repent, that is change their ways and find a new and abundant life in Christ Jesus.  There is no other way to God the father on this earth.  Peoples sexual sins, the abuse of a child in the womb are all able to be forgiven by the gracious kindness of our God who wishes all men to receive a life full of joy.  His truth rings a bell within us, a bell we resist because we prefer the easy option of our own ideas.  However truth, the sense of right and wrong still call us to obey them.  We know within ourselves the sense of right and wrong,  we deceive and hurt ourselves by refusing to obey this.

My the Lord bless you and keep you, may he make his face to chine upon you and give you his peace.

Sentimental Worship Songs

Is it just me?

Four songs were sung today and I noted an inclination towards a type of song that I am not too keen on.  Where it comes from I could not say, but I might guess, and I for one am not happy with the idea.  What I am getting at is the slow, almost sentimental approach to a song.  It seems such an attitude is worship but to me while this has a point, that ought to be  a reaction that comes after praise and not something that leads into it.

The spiritual will say they began the day praising and came to church ready for such a response.  I say the majority live in the real world.  Praise ought to lead into worship, slow songs rarely do, especially when the words are slushy and not biblically motivated.

It seems to me we are seeking experience and not worship!

One example.  “Jesus, we enthrone you” used to be one of my favourites.  Sung with pace and gusto a room full of people were lifted to look at Jesus and not themselves.  When searching YouTube for this song it took a long search before I found one at the right pace, all the others were slowed into ‘gushy’ mode.  This ought not to be.

Some slow songs are marvellous, I used to like many, but the trend today is to sentimentalise the song and therefore the worship, this is a big mistake.  I am more sentimental than most but this trend does not inspire looking to Jesus, it inspires looking to the emotions.  Emotion is great, and ought to be expressed in worship, however it is easily replaced by something based on emotion, not faith in a person.

 

Joy and Responsibility!

A sudden joy came over me this morning.

I entered the day in the usual fug and sat at the desk searching for a brain.  Suddenly it came to me that I was privileged to have been chosen to hear God’s call to Jesus!  The worries and problems of the previous days disappeared.  Suddenly I was clear in my mind, suddenly I lived again!

My life was changed by the thought that Jesus had called me, God the father had chosen to reveal Jesus to me and therefore he was going to be with me.  Considering my thoughts over the past week this was great.  This was something I needed to hear and as always I did not expect to hear this and not at that time of day either.

Jesus has called me, Jesus has chosen me and like Peter as they walked by the shore he asks me to ‘Follow Him.’  It is easy to be glad that he has called, it can be difficult to follow, it can be glorious when we do however.

I respond by saying ‘Yes’ when he says ‘Follow Me.’  I am comforted by his leading and his concern, I remain however conscious of my uselessness, my weakness and my temptations.  However let us have a go, we can only win with Jesus!

The World is Loud, God is Quiet

I was reading ‘Tacitus’ this morning, his ‘Histories,’ and this includes a short description of the Jews and the fighting in Jerusalem during the ‘Jewish War.’  It is likely he obtained the story from Josephus who wrote his famous book concerning this event and I was taken with the noise of battle.

The Emperor Nero was informed of the Jewish revolt and sent Vespasian to Judea to deal with this.  During the years 67 and 68 A.D. Vespasian conquered the majority of the land, capturing Josephus in doing so, and during the 69th year he began to recognise that he was in line for the throne.  Therefore as three other men, Galba, Othos and Vitellius fought and died over the leadership he accepted the call to become Emperor.

Vespasian therefore began to collect his army and head for Rome, hindered only by the winter seas and opposing winds.  His son Titus, another efficient General, was with him during his conquest and Titus was charged with finishing the fight by taking the city of Jerusalem.  This was a hideous conflict.  The city was rent in three while different groups fought one another rather than the Romans.  The suffering of those trapped inside during this siege was appalling.  Titus’ army eventually crashed through the walls and slaughtered any who resisted.  Carnage and looting, destruction left and right, savagery and violence abounded.  Even the Temple at the centre of the city was torn down, as Jesus had said it would be.

As I read this short description I was struck by the noise.  The noise of battle is ferocious, the clash of metal weapons and armour, the noise as objects hurl through the air, shouts of encouragement and screams of pain all around until victory is won.

With Jesus this is not so.

Jesus does not scream and shout, his method is not one of noise, even though he is capable of noise if required.  His voice is the ‘still, small voice,’ the ‘whisper.’

Speaking to crowds Jesus spoke in parables so those ‘seeing could not see, and hearing could not hear’ something which confused me for years.  Yet many who heard him did not hear and repent, many who heard him then and indeed hear his words now miss what is said and go on their way.  Jesus spoke to individuals not crowds.  Possibly he did not know who was listening, he sometimes was shocked by those who showed faith, he merely spoke, not shouting, and the Holy Spirit did the work.

The Word of God quietly continues to work day by day and we do not see it.  The preacher speaks either well or badly, it matters not, as if the Holy Spirit is there to work someone will be touched by him.  This is a quiet work, not the raging sound of battle.  Jesus, God the Father, calls individuals to himself one by one and we do not know where he is working.  However we must witness for him, preach and teach if those are our callings and live for Jesus daily – otherwise all is lost.

God’s ‘still small voice,’ the ‘whisper,’ defeats the sound of battle.

Churches

There is an old Scots story that reflects the situation in Scots churches once upon a time.

Two men, Jimmy and Bob, and found trapped on a desert island and after some considerable time a ship arrives to rescue them.  The captain looks around the island and discovers that while there are only two men there are five huts.

He asks Jimmy, “Why so?”

“Well,” says Jimmy, “This here is the hut I live in, and over there is the hut Bob lives in.

“So what are the three other huts for?”

“Well,” says Jimmy,”That hut there is the church I go to.  Over there is the church Bob goes to.”

“Aye,” says the ships captain, but that is all very well, what about the other hit then?”

“Oh that,” says Jimmy and Bob together,”That’s the church neither of us goes to.”

Sadly in some areas this remains still the same situation.  Now here I call ‘church’ something that accepts the bible as the Word of God and a people who seek to know God and follow Jesus the Messiah as Lord. Anything outside of this concerns me not.

I mention this because I sat in a church this morning that is a combined effort of Methodist and United Reformed.  These two churches merged some years ago working the various outlooks on Christian discipleship well together.  Too me many of their ideas are a bit needless but that is irrelevant as that is their business and they are what I call secondary things.  All churches have their own little foibles and we must leave them up to the members to decide whether they are good or bad.

Apart from theological reasons, you either follow scripture or you don’t, there are human preferences in choice of churches.  Some are loud others quiet, some frankly boring, others dozy.  This comes down to people, personal preferences and there is little you can do with this.  We are all different and each church of whatever denomination will reflect this.  Some have formal criteria which must be covered at all times, others follow a pattern found in several like minded places, we choose the one we fell happy with.  This is not wrong.

However some people put up barriers between denominations.  To attend some churches outside of your own could lead to a request to leave, this is unfortunate.  Attempts in some places to get churches to work together often fail as ‘theological reasons’ deter this, often this is an excuse and the desire to run things your way comes first.

Our pattern must come from the New Testament churches and there we see all churches united in love and unity at all times, except when they argue of course.  The church at Colosse was a bit out of the way and I suspect quite small.  At Corinth the church was in the middle of a big city with an egalitarian attendance each one willing it seems to speak out on their own behalf.  Even Paul’s two letters did not produce the ‘love’ he sought, Clement from Rome wrote a long, very long, letter years later in an effort to heal their rifts. While it is clear churches did contact one another each was different, the settings were varied, the numbers also, teaching from passing apostles and their followers may have been abundant or rare depending on where they lay, and often disrupting influences would arrive altering the teaching even amongst the best taught churches, Ephesus for instance had years of dubious preachers even Paul and John could not deter.

So I found myself in this mixed bag church watching while the men at the front held a wooden cross and the large attendance, no seat for me bar in the far corner like Tom Thumb, the large attendance came forward and added a flower to the cross.  This took around twenty minutes and reflected a symbol of their devotion.  It was a wee bit strange to me from a Presbyterian/Baptist/Charismatic background.  Symbols are not something I go in for bar bread & wine.  The people were happy and this is a place where Jesus was clearly worshipped and put my grumbles in their place.  I would to be as sure and happy as most of these were today.

On the other hand I almost went to a church that rapidly rises onside me, an Anglican one!  Dearie me not just Church of England but with a woman vicar, heresy!  Yet she knows God and appears to me to be the right person for this churches needs at the moment.  I considered risking banishment from Baptistry by taking communion there, but went to the other place as it was nearer!  No church suits what I look for, even though there are several with God fearing people seeking to do his work.  None fit my personal wishes, maybe there is a reason for this?

The good thing is that today churches are relaxing in many ways.  Old separations are being pulled down, denominations work together often having mixed services once a month, this is all good.  The variety of differences may be irksome occasionally but those who seek the Lord should be encouraged and we should mix with them and learn about him who died for us and is their Lord also.

A Visit to St Paul’s, not that one….

Image

 Peter Stack

St Paul’s is a small church fifteen minutes walk from my abode.  The area is mostly what we used to call ‘working class,’ but many of the one time Council houses are now owned by the one time tenants.  The area has its problems but it also had many good people working to make the most of where they dwell.  The church which once had around seventy members saw a falling away, due sadly to the failings of the vicar.  Recently he retired and was replaced by a young vicar who has immediately got the church up and running once again and the future now looks assured.

It is some time since I was last here but today I found the church warm and welcoming as it should be, with around sixty people there. Young and old, screaming kids and despairing parents, married folks singles and odds and sods also.  I was the sod by the way! Anglicans are strange people to me in many ways, especially as I come from a straight forward evangelical background and the use of a sheet to follow, including responses, I find somewhat difficult.  The singing of the ‘Grace’ at the end, accompanied by holding your neighbours hands caught me out somewhat to others mirth!

Two other factors were not as I would plan things, the sermon came from a woman called a ‘reader.’ whatever that is, and the thrusting young vicar was female!  Female, a woman!  Tsk!  Who would have thunk it?  The readers sermon was at least based on scripture, and this church is indeed a down to earth evangelical one, but not the kind of sermons I had become used to in days past. The vicar herself (also a woman!) did attempt to give some time to the kids but for me she talked like a, er woman, but did impress that Jesus sees us, not past us but looks right at us in love!  The kids then thundered up the steps into a hall to scream away from the rest of us.

My one thought was that services ought to begin with a couple of worship songs to fix the mind in the God that is to be worshipped, spreading them out as occurred here did not give the right effect I thought.  However that appeared to meet the needs of those attending as indeed did the vicars way of talking, she talked like a woman!  Indeed she spoke to them as she may talk to people in the street or to her friends, and that made people comfortable and she appeared approachable.  Her manner, the kids, the friendly people all made this a comfortable evangelical church rebuilding its congregation after a dry spell and in their own time bringing God into one small but needy area of the town.  This is what attracted me to the church many years ago, the people being my kind of folks, and the potential is great here.  I once delivered mail in the surrounding streets and always thought this church had a great position here.  The people need to know Jesus and now they appear to have someone able to lead the church in that duty.

All in all I was pleased overall with my morning even if the church does not quite provide what I was hoping for.  I can see me returning many times.