Posts Tagged ‘faith’

I haven’t blogged for a while but have been prompted by the news today of the death of Leonard Cohen, one of the great poets of the 20th and 21st century. In fact, I had just written this piece and recorded it for Sonshine fm this week.

The 82-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter has just released a new album and one of the songs, called treaty seemed to be asking a question about his relationship with God.

It reads like this: I’ve seen you change the water into wine
I’ve seen you change it back to water, too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

I don’t want to pretend to know exactly what Cohen was saying. People have been trying for years to explain his rather enigmatic lyrics. But, there’s a strong religious flavour in his latest album, and I think what he is saying in Treaty is a reflection of the thoughts of many people.

We’ve heard about God. We’ve heard about Jesus. But there are aspects of the story that Christianity tells, that we find extremely hard to grasp. We’re angry and tired all the time and don’t feel like entering into argument or discussion on theological or ethical issues.

But we wish there was a treaty between God’s love and mine. Some sort of agreement about what actually makes up that love.

You see the God of the Bible is described as a God of unconditional love. And in some ways that’s a bit hard for us to handle. Because if God loves us unconditionally, it kind of makes us stop and think about how we respond to that.

And we suddenly realise that we can’t love God in the same way. We realise our own shortcomings, and our failure to really love him. And that can make us feel guilty.
It makes us feel like we want some kind of treaty with God. Some kind of agreement about what our love should look like. If only he didn’t love us so much we wouldn’t feel so guilty. We wouldn’t feel as though we’re inadequate in our love.

But that’s the great thing about God’s love. His love for us is so expansive, so far reaching, so mind blowing, that we realise we really are inadequate to respond appropriately.

But it’s in our inadequacy and our guilt, and our feelings of uselessness, that God reaches out to us, and he says, I can take all of that stuff. That’s now my problem, not yours.

So in a way, we don’t need a treaty in the way that Leonard Cohen suggests. But perhaps there already a treaty in place. The Bible talks about a covenant. A new covenant.

That covenant, or treaty is based on God’s unconditional love. It’s about Jesus coming to earth and giving up his life, making the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could know God’s love and forgiveness. So that discovering his love isn’t about what we have to do, or what not to do, it’s about accepting. It’s about receiving.

Leonard Cohen says: I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine. There is, you know. That treaty is Jesus. And he invites us to give up our feelings of guilt and our efforts to find love, and to accept his free gift of love.

The “U” of Change

Posted: July 5, 2015 in Uncategorized
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The U of changeIn my last post I talked about three hindrances to change. As you move down the left hand side of the “U” through the process of change you may encounter the voice of judgement, the voice of cynicism and the voice of fear. In order to bring about real change it is necessary to let go of these voices. They will take you to a place at the bottom of the “U” where you come to a deeper place of connection with yourself. But change can’t stop there.

As you move up the right hand side of the “U”, providing you have effectively let go of the voices of judgement, cynicism and fear, you will begin to “let come” three new voices that will allow you to more fully take hold of the future.

The voice of hope is the place where you may crystallise the vision. You can start to envision the future more clearly and, having let go of those voices that hinder, are able to be hopeful of what is yet to come.

The voice of grace enables you to explore the future. Someone once said: We need to fail often to succeed sooner. Grace is not an excuse for doing wrong, but it recognises our failures and allows us to move forward without fear, cynicism or judgement.

The voice of faith is the opportunity to step out in practice. Change requires faith because there must come a time when you’re prepared to take a step forward and grasp the future as it emerges.

This process can hold true in organisational change as well as in individual change. It is relevant to the change process that is required in spiritual growth as well as the changes we experience in the workplace, at church and in the home. Remember CS Lewis’ words in my last post: CS Lewis once said: It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

If you’re going through change right now, enjoy the journey and stay strong!

hensWe had our grandchildren staying with us over the holidays. One day we were out the front of our house and our neighbours drove up, stopped and wound down the window.

They acknowledged our three year old grandson and, as you’d expect, he was a little wary of this stranger stopping to talk to him. Instinctively he put out one arm, protecting his little sister who was just behind him.

I was amazed at this response of protection from a three year old. But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Because we’ve all been made in the image of God, and it’s in God’s nature to be protective of those he loves.

The apostle Paul has a great description on love in one of his letters, and it says in part: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts,  always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Some people struggle with the idea of God as father because experiences with their own father hasn’t been good. If that’s the case you may find some comfort from verses like these that show the protective nature of God.

The prophet Isaiah quoted God as saying: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah also quoted God in this way: Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

Here’s one that draws on the image of a mother eagle (Deuteronomy 32): In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. The Lord alone led him.

Jesus himself said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

What a great picture this is of a God who cares so much about those he loves. You can see the mother hen trying to get all her chickens together but some of them are running off in the opposite direction. How frustrating it is to try and keep them altogether.

And that’s just what Jesus is saying. His goal is to protect and draw people to himself, but more often than not, our independent nature comes into play and we resist God’s love.

If a three year old can protect his little sister, how much more will almighty God protect those he loves. And how crazy it is when we don’t accept that love and allow God to protect us.

I thought it was time to dig back on some old posts on a previous blog I was writing for a while.  Coming from the background of a journalist, I thought I’d tell the stories of Jesus from the perspective of someone interviewing one of the people who was with Jesus at the time. Hope you find this helpful:

189 - Jesus is Anointed by the Sinful WomanHey Simon, thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. I’m told you had a rather interesting meeting with Jesus.  How did it come about?

I invited Jesus over to my place for dinner with a few friends.

But you’re a pharisee. Your lot aren’t exactly Jesus’ biggest fans

You’re right there. I’ve given him my fair share of criticism over the years, but there’s something about Jesus that I wanted to know more about.  I thought that if I had him over to dinner, we may get to understand where he was at.

Were you surprised that he accepted your invitation.

You bet. He has dinner with all the low life in town, but he doesn’t usually eat with us. Probably because we’re usually trying to trick him with our philosophical questions. It was a real honour that he accepted my invitation.

So I believe you had a gatecrasher?

Yes this woman walked in, right in front of us all. She was a real mess. She was crying as though something really bad had happened. I figured she must have been abused or something.

Did you know her?

Er… well… I didn’t actually know her.  But the other guys said she was a sex worker. They said she was pretty well known …that is … known by reputation.

So what did she do?

She went straight over to Jesus, got down on her knees and started washing his feet with her tears. Then she brings out this bottle of perfume. It wasn’t a little bottle, must have cost quite a lot, and began pouring it on him.

How did you feel about that?

I was mad as a cut snake. I mean I live in a respectable neighbourhood.  A nice dinner party with good friends. Everything was just right and in walks someone who I wouldn’t normally let anywhere near my house, and Jesus just allows her to blubber all over him. It was disgusting.  Funny thing, his friends didn’t seem to be worried about who the woman was.  They just complained about the waste of money because of the expensive perfume she was using.

Did Jesus say anything about what was going on?

Well he didn’t stop the woman. He just let her go, but he leaned over to me and tells me a story.

A story? What sort of story?

Well he said there was this businessman who was owed money by two people. One of them owed him five hundred denarii and the other 50. When they couldn’t pay, he said he would overlook the bill and let them both off. Then he asks, now which of them will respect the businessman more?

Did you answer him?

Yes, of course, I said it would be the person who was let off the biggest amount.

Did he agree with you?

He points to the woman and says, I’ve been in your house for dinner, you didn’t give me anything to wash my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears. You didn’t offer any sort of affection but this woman has been kissing my feet ever since she walked in the door. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, as the custom is, but she hasn’t stopped anointing my head with perfume.

That must have hurt?

Funny thing is it didn’t hurt. It just made me realise that here was someone who didn’t have any of the privileges I had, but she was offering Jesus a whole lot more than I was. When he said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little,”  I suddenly realised how little I was prepared to give to Jesus.

Will this meeting with Jesus have any ongoing effect on your life?

I’ve got to think about this a bit more. I feel as if there is something really special about Jesus. I’ve been pretty mean to him over the years, but he just accepted me, and seemed to really care about me.  He was quite right about how I had treated him. I gave him dinner, but it was probably more about the social acceptance than anything else. But this woman who had nothing going for her, expressed herself in a way I couldn’t. I think there must be something else that I need to do for Jesus.

Simon, thanks for sharing your story.

Read the story for yourself at Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9

Exploring God

Posted: October 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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ImageThere are often questions we have about God, and at times the answers seem hard to find.

I have come across a website that includes a range of videos, some of which only go for a couple of minutes, but cover subjects such as how can we know God?, how can we know if Jesus is God?, can we question God?, how can we hear God?, along with a range of longer articles on subjects like how big is God?, and how can I find God?

If you have questions about God, Jesus or faith, this is a site that is worth exploring.  I haven’t looked at all of the articles or videos, but what I have seen look really helpful.

As a starter take a look at “How Can We Know God?”, then continue exploring from there.

The inclusion of people with disabilities into the church is an important issue. I came across an excellent article about this subject on the CBM website, quoting Hans Reinders who is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a leading Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith.
Inclusion comes about when we focus on commonalities, not differences
Though friendship is a freely chosen relationship, and one of our most important possessions, it is not something we can achieve for ourselves, but a gift we receive. In the area of life most important to us, we are all dependent. Our universal openness to and need of each other is not dissimilar to living with disability, and this helps us link our lives together

Inclusion comes about when we relate to each other as equals
In friendship we place ourselves in each other’s hands – what is most important to us also makes us most vulnerable. This has helped Reinders reflect on the dangers facing people who find themselves in the hands of people who do not really love them – people who may feel obliged to help them, or are paid to do so, but are not true friends. Here is a place for the church – people who rejoice in dependence on Christ and one other, rather than on maintaining power and control.

Inclusion comes about when we commit to human flourishing and growth
Friendship is like soil most conducive to human flourishing – to people becoming all they can be. What makes us flourish is being chosen. This has helped Reinders reflect on the power of friendship to transform and change people and situations. Against the assumption that things won’t change, is the affirmation that love can and does change everything.

Inclusion comes about when our focus goes beyond public advocacy
Fighting for the rights of people with a disability is a good, political goal, but it cannot achieve the most important good of friendship. “Rights create the bonds of citizenship; unfortunately, they do not forge the moral bonds of friendship.” This insight has helped Reinders take the discussion about disability inclusion from arguments for equitable participation in public spaces to the deeper level of dismantling barriers surrounding the much more important sphere of friendship and intimacy.

Hans Reinders is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a foremost Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith. He is also the current editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, and author/editor of several books on disability and theology, including The Future of the Disabled in Liberal Society, Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics and The Paradox of Disability: Responses to Jean Vanier and L’Arche Communities from Theology and the Sciences.