Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rockets, Bombs and the Peace of Christ

Facebook is full of people talking about their Christmas shopping, their excitement at the forthcoming celebrations. I am surprised by how organised everyone appears to be, and the effort they put into the present buying. I am writing this article while I watch Children in Need and I am thinking about all the people in Need this Christmas and what they are all doing around the world while we all collect our gifts ready to give presents.

While in this country we  prepare for Christmas by shopping and partying, elsewhere it is not such a easy ride to Christmas.

I wonder what people in Gaza and Israel are hoping for this Christmas, perhaps to be still alive, not to have lost a family member or members in the violence. 

I wonder what those in Syria will be thinking about as the violence ripes the country apart.

The churches in Nigeria, will they be able to celebrate without being blown up, killed or kidnapped.

And what about those troops celebrating christmas away from their families in a land full of danger

What about all those effected by the revelations about Jimmy Saville. They will be hoping for justice and to be finally believed after all these years. There are also many people, for whom the revelations about Jimmy Saville will bring unpleasant reminders of events in their own life. Emotions that were once buried now returning to haunt them.

We seem to constantly be failing children in our society,  hear in Doncaster, recent reports show there is still an institutional failure by the council to have sound and safe ways to keep children in need - quite simply safe and sound. However, we have also seen what happens when common sense is not heeded by the false accusations leveled at Lord McAlpine.

The vast vast majority of people adore children but sadly there is a minority that prey on children and their vulnerability. all of us need a good mix of common sense and vigilance at all times.

The heart of Christmas is of course not the richness and comfort of our own lives but the poverty of a child born to parents who had no where to sleep so they ended up bunking in with the domesticated animals. The story of a child born in poverty and who then died as man in captivity will be repeated around the world in the time between now and Christmas and will continue into the future, repeated over and over again.

God does not come to us in shopping centers, nor in the rich and famous, neither does God come all neatly wrapped up in posh paper. God came as one of the weakest in society to show us that true power is found in grace and mercy not in rockets and bombs. He came as a baby to show us to value the weakest above the strong, surely if we can do this then that is the greatest safeguard for us all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A time to remember

The window in the North Isle of Wadworth church, that depicts the stoning of Stephen should be a reminder that early christians did not have life easy, many lost their lives because they believed in Jesus Christ.

Stephen is recorded in the Bible as the first Christian Martyr, there have been many more since, many throughout the world this year. Many more are held in prison for their beliefs.  Remembering their sacrifice is something I feel very passionate about as do others in the congregation, and of course Shirley had been an advocate of Open Doors for years, before I arrived at Wadworth.  The bible urges us to remember our fellow Christians who are suffering in prison. As communications improve we get to know about more and more examples of Christians suffering for their faith, we are asked to pray for certain situations and instances, by organisations like Open Doors. The window showing the stoning of Stephen acts like a marker in history urging us to do something, to contribute to the prayer support that our fellow christians are due. The window yells out “you should be doing something”! And so we shall.

Some of you will have already noticed the re-siting of some notice boards to the the north isle altar, and during the All Saints service on 1st November and continuing onto the 4th November (when we take part in the international day of pray for persecuted christians) we shall formally make this area a focus of attention for persecuted Christians in our Parish. How this area in church will develop I am not sure but it is a step on a path, the end destination only God knows at the moment.

We continue the theme of remembrance as we proceed into the following week and Remembrance Sunday. Britain has now had troops in Afghanistan for over 11 years and as I write, 433 service personnel have lost their life. Almost 10,000 troops are still in Afghanistan. Numerous documentaries have been made about the conflict, and I have been struck, by the sheer bravery of the people serving out in Afghanistan and by the starkness of the conditions they fight under. It is the bravery and sacrifice we remember.

On the third sunday in November we have Bishop Peter joining us to lead worship at both the 9am service at Wadworth and the 3pm service at Loversall.  Please come and join us as he is a great speaker. We also start Prison Week on this sunday and continue with prayer services on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm at Wadworth Church. We need a Prison system that works, and we have a very large prison population in Doncaster with 4 prisons. At each service we will pray specifically about a prison and an aspect of the justice system.

We end November with one of my favorite sundays of the year, when we celebrate Christ the King. This is one of those Sundays when you can sense the awesomeness of God, and make some sense of the daftness of life on this earth. Whether we are imprisoned for our faith, sacrifice our life for our country, try to make sense of the most terrible of crimes and how to punish the perpetrators, nothing makes sense without the sense that there is more to our existence than our life in this earth. The Kingly might of Christ, risen and victorious, is the only way have to make sense of anything, earthly or heavenly.