Monthly Archives: June 2012
One of the aspects about Europe that struck me on our recent visit is that many towns, large and small, revel in and celebrate their heritage. We came across museums, outdoor “living” museums, galleries, festivals and a host of signs and placards that pointed both the locals and visitors to the heritage of an area. There was a clear acknowledgement and commemoration of the people, places and events of the past. Communities were saying, in effect, we recognise that predecessors have paved the road for us to be here. Our culture, values and character has to a large degree been bequeathed to us.
I find this attitude lacking in many churches and denominations today. Few people are aware of church history. Key days in the church year are fading away and great songs are being swept away by modern words and music. I am fully aware that the church needs to be relevant and accessible to the contemporary world. I’m not against much of the new. But I am distressed that we don’t hear much about, and from, our past.
We have had great events, people, music and movements that have moved us to the present. We owe a debt of gratitude to those in the past who have been faithful in preserving and promoting the gospel. But is more than just owing debt. By reflecting on our heritage we also confirm those values, beliefs and characteristics that have made the Christian faith and worldview strong.
Two very brief examples(from many that could have been chosen): It was the early church that first liberated women from servitude and not the Women’s Lib movement of the 1970s. It was the church that raised concern for the poor and destitute during the industrial revolution. Labour organisations came later. Because we have forgotten that perspective of history we have been slow to recognise our responsibility in modern issues such as the environment, injustice and so on. Humanists have taken up the issues but often at the expense of the underpinning Christian values that the church brought along in the past.
My challenge to pastors and church leaders is to connect your people to the past so they can see their responsibility for the present and the future, more clearly.
The hard thing to say is, he suggested, “Please forgive me.” Then we make ourselves vulnerable. We place ourselves in the wronged person’s hands. We need to wait for their response. If the person isn’t ready, prepared or of that inclination, they may say “No,” which means that at this point healing and restoration has not occurred. We will need to go further to receive forgiveness.
A great place to practise, “Please forgive me” is in families – particularly between siblings where “I’m sorry” can become a glib catch phrase between skirmishes. To establish a “Please forgive me” procedure is a healthy (and humbling) preparation for relationships outside the family in later life. Knowing that we need to be forgiven for a relationship to be healed also places a brake on our words and actions. It causes us to think twice.
As a Christian, “Please forgive me” reminds me what Christ did so that I might be forgiven. My forgiveness cost a huge price which wasn’t paid by me. Somehow, a glib throw-away “I’m sorry” just doesn’t have the same impact.
Time Chester explores Christian community in his book A Meal with Jesus:
“We think we’re enacting grace if we provide for the poor. But we’re only halfway there. We’ve missed the social dynamics. What we communicate is that we’re able and you’re unable. “I can do something for you, but you can do nothing for me. I’m superior to you.” We cloak our superiority in compassion, but superiority cloaked in compassion is patronizing.
Think how different the dynamic is when we sit and eat with someone. We meet as equals. We share together. We affirm one another and enjoy one another. A woman once told me: “I know people do a lot to help me. But what I want is for someone to be my friend.” People don’t want to be projects. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalization, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community. They need the Christian community.”Chester, Tim (2011-04-05). A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (RE: Lit) (pp. 82-83). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
This is a re-blog of a post I wrote last year:
You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me. Psalm 139:1
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13,14
The continuation can be found here:
My wife observed the following scene:
A granddad was waiting outside a trinket shop. His grandson, about 8 years old, came out and said, “Why aren’t you in the shop with mum and nan?” To which the granddad replied, “I’d die before you’d catch me in a shop like that lad.” Then the granddad put his hands in his pockets and strolled in a circle. The grandson, watching his granddad carefully, put his hands in his pockets and did the same.
This scene speaks volumes about the influence of adults on children. This vignette can be both an encouragement and warning. Our example determines which.
Another blogger, Christine Sine at Godspace, alerted me to a message by Dr. Rowan Williams the Archbishop Canterbury for a Conference on Sustainable Development. (Follow link if you wish to hear the message). Unusually (seeing it was Dr. Williams), I agreed wholeheartedly with the essence of the message – as far as it went. Dr. Williams’ question: what legacy, environmental, social and religious are we leaving our children? It echoed Micah 6:8. But like Micah 6:8, something else was needed – a sharper gospel perspective. In other words, Micah 6:8 comes alive in the person and ministry of Christ.
One of the failures of Evangelicalism is that it has simply personalised faith: faith, it tells us, is a personal matter between us and God. What it fails to recognize is that Christ, in fact, came to redeem all creation – and point to a new Kingdom: A new heaven and Earth. By personalising Jesus and forgetting the Kingdom, we have given people permission to rape and pillage the earth. After all, when it is all finished Jesus will come and take me away – game over. Isn’t that the case? Not really.
The first Adam was made a steward by God. His task was to tend the garden God had lovingly created (Gen 1:28). Dealing with our sin, the second Adam (Jesus) recreated his body – us/the church – into redeemed stewards. When we fail to care for our environment we are discounting and minimising what Jesus came to do. Our sin impacts not just us but also our world. A redeemed child of God is called to live out this new life (by the power of the Spirit) but that new life also involves the world in which we live.
How can we bless our children? We can bless them by showing in our lives how big the Kingdom is. As heralds of that new creation, Christians are called to reveal the way we steward and care for our environment. Which, sadly, has too seldom been the case. It is a practical way of showing love and appreciation to God the creator and loving our neighbour.
So in short, we bless our kids by showing them that Christ’s death and resurrection is real because it shapes the very way we live, not just our “spiritual” lives but also our everyday, social, economic and environmental existence. If we did this of course, our environment would be blessed – because we care as Jesus did.
A Re-Telling of Psalm 19: 1-6The night sky sings mighty hallelujahs that praise the Maker. In every moment of their existence the stars and planets shine evidence, no, proof of His great skill. Silently its witness speaks forever, boundless. Leaving us speechless. The Sun, Moon and Milky Way are a romance of beauty and class Led by the Sun which, circuit after circuit, patiently measures our days, warms and delights us.
It is my contention that we have cursed our children enough. We have cursed them with fatherless and motherless homes, abandonment and brokenness. They have been prey to our marketing machines for years. We have burdened them with imponderable choices. Our lifestyles have brought forward puberty, and the innocence of childhood is now gone in the blink of an eye.
Communally we are under the indictment of Matthew 18:6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. ” Jesus broadens the idea when he says in the next verse, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! ” Our failure goes beyond children from Christian homes, to our society in general. We have failed our kids. We have failed them spiritually, physically, developmentally, psychologically … and the list goes on. This is evidenced by the symptoms: suicide, obesity, unwanted pregnancies, aggression, (some) learning difficulties … and that list continues as well.
For the last few generations we have failed to stop our children stumbling. In fact, we have placed obstacles before them which has prevented too many attaining well-rounded healthy lives.
It is time we blessed our children!
Wealth and unlimited choice hasn’t been the answer. Valueless education (i.e. education without values) hasn’t prevented the problem either. Where does the means for our blessing start? I would like to suggest some ideas, but I urge readers to add their views too.
- Blessing our children through our own examples: Adults need to show what gracious, trustworthy and well-disciplined lives look like. Where else will our children experience and learn this? Not off the internet or TV.
- It has been said often but I don’t think we have got the message yet, clear boundaries with clear consequences need to be in place. Nothing creates more uncertainty in a child than a lack of clear rules and expectations.
- Bless our children with clear values. I am a Christian and I firmly believe the gospel message is the foundation for a healthy life. I need to “walk the talk” if I am to bless my children with the gospel. However, even in a more general sense, values of respect, courtesy, honesty and others, all have a role in developing and maintaining a healthy society. In recent times we have rushed to add laws to coerce obedience because the power of our values has been diluted.
- Bless our children by limiting choices to the level of their maturity. Too many children grow up believing in their own wisdom because they have had an unbelievable number of choices from a very early age (more about this on an other occasion). Learning obedience is not going stifle their personality. It will instill self-discipline.
- Bless our children with healthy families. These families, if at all possible, need to be extended families – communities of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in which a child can learn to share, find a place and garner a treasure trove of memories. Where that is not possible find a community, such as a healthy church and/or neighbourhood where it can work.
- Also, bless our children by intentionally sowing memories and traditions into their lives that they will remember forever and may even pass onto their children. Our children need to know they are part of a lineage, a history and didn’t just appear alien-like out of the ether; their name has a past and in them, a future.
- Bless you children with life skills. Chores around the house is not unpaid slavery. They do two things. They remind children that they are a part of a family community which needs them and in which they have a role, and it also teaches them skills that they will need. Cooking, cleaning and budgeting seem to be important but vanishing skills.
How do you bless your children? How do you develop a foundation for a healthy life that can withstand the storms and tribulations that will come? I would love to hear your contributions.