Saturday, 23 October 2010

You are my Hope!!

Much has been written about the recent "miraculous" rescue of the Chilean miners, churches claim it as an answer to prayer, the Chilean government as a triumph for them and secularists as a triumph for humanities ingenuity. A story with a happy ending but sadly its not often like this.

As a Child I saw the tragedy at Aberfan unfold in the news, there was no rescue for most, just death under a slide of spoil from the coal mine. This year China has suffered a number of mining tragedies, one reported in April trapped and killed a number while others were saved, and another at the same time as the Chilean one killed 37. China alone loses over 2000 miners a year in such disasters.

I am happy for the miners and their families who were saved in Chile, but can't help asking the question, what about those that were not been saved in such disasters and their families? I wonder if they were able to find comfort for their misery and pain?

We all of us will find ourselves in difficult if not impossible situations in our lives. How can we take comfort in scripture when all around is chaos and confusion? One obvious place is Psalm 46, which talks of God who is our fortress in such times and the one who calls us amidst the confusion to "Be Still and know that I am God". But I think Psalm 71 and especially v14 is key in this; not simply calling on God but remembering who he is and recounting the things he has done, reminding us of the God that we worship, trust and have hope in (v5, 11). The psalmist recalls God in the good and the bad and talks of their hope in God who is their salvation.

Hope is the bottom line; if we hope and trust that God has saved us through Christ, eternally, then even though this life may prematurely end in some disaster or we lose someone we love, we can know that those who believe and trust in Christ will find new life, eternally with him. It cannot remove the pain of those left to mourn but it can provide the beginning of comfort. It was this hope in Christ that led Paul to be able to say in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

As an after-thought, we hail the rescue of the miners - but who is asking why it happened, could it have been prevented and why in so many counties is mining so dangerous? Perhaps because life is not as valuable to the corporations who own the mines as the product of them and too many are forgetting the value God placed on us when he sent Christ to save us? We should value each life as God does - of inestimable value.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Telling the Stories

In our computer and gadget driven world where there seems so little time to share the stories of life and deeds that encourage and guide us, often from the older ones among us who have much wisdom to pass on, I think we lose out on a major part of life and learning.

I am sure that many have heard expressions after mistakes have been made like "No one reads history anymore" and "if only I knew then what I know now". The thing is its often those very things that others with a few more years under their feet have grown wise in and, if asked or given the time, can share with us and help us not make those mistakes.

Moses reminds the Israelites in Deut 6 - "Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children." talking about God's commands and awesome doings. The key in this passage is to tell the children about God and all he has done, answer their questions about him and to constantly remind ourselves as well. God does not want to be taken for granted in our lives, he wants to asked to be actively involved every day.

I conducted a funeral this week and in it allowed a time for  those who knew the man to share memories of him, what struck me was the now older people, who as young men and women were deeply affected by this mans example and gentle but firm witness of his faith. They respected him and loved him and wanted to talk of his witness to God throughout his life a God who was clearly invited to involved in his life every day.

We have that desire to share the stories of Jesus to thank for the gospels as the writers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, reflected on and wrote down their accounts. The oral tradition committed eventually to paper, sharing the stories with future generations.

How often do we simply sit and share the stories of the Bible with each other? How often do we find time to talk to the children about them and enthuse them with these stories and with those of the lives of people who have followed Jesus?

After all good examples are important and we have few enough good ones to follow, telling the stories of Jesus offers an incredible example to all.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Community benefits

I read somewhere years ago that some life events are more stressful than others. Things like getting married, moving home and having a child were at the top of the list. I managed to avoid moving and getting married close together, but then events meant that I moved jobs, home and within a few months my wife had our first child! The best laid plans often fall down.

The real problem is not the event but the way in which we handle it, how we prepare, how much we get worked up worrying about it and what we do to ensure that the event goes as smoothly as possible. Are you someone who learns from others or someone who just knows that they can do it alone and does not need any guidance or pointers or help?

The church community is a place where we should be supported as we travel through these life events, a place where we can find wisdom, comfort, support and help. As the church described in Acts 2 seems to suggest, we share together. When we moved back in 2007 to be nearer the church we are serving in, the church folks were amazing, helping us clean our old home for its new owners and cleaning our new home ready for us, we would have been at it for months on our own, as it was it took just a day.

I often find people in church with more knowledge of something than me, perhaps you find it a problem to ask for help or advice or guidance? For me its one of the joys, to learn from others, the same is true of our walk with Christ. We are not meant to do it alone but in community so that we learn from each other and gain a better understanding of God through his people rather than develop a sanitised understanding that fits our comfort zone. After all the wisdom of God is not as the wisdom of humanity and we seek it together not apart - a hot coal taken from the fire soon cools and stops glowing, put it back in the fire and it burns brightly again.

All too often we can allow a disagreement or disappointment with some aspect of church, cause us to distance ourselves from that church community instead of applying scripture like Philippians 2 and
1 Cor 13 to it and ourselves. The writer of Hebrews tells their readers Don't stop meeting together, instead get together and encourage each other. So make being part of your Christian community a priority in your life, share your skills and understand and listen to the wisdom of others and accept their help.