Political · faith · World Affairs · Poetry · music · community · Following Jesus · Creativity, · Truth

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers,

So – we’ve had a series on church on the different aspects of service that people might be called to. See above.

I was with a group yesterday and we were talking about what an evangelist is. Essentially someone who shares their faith with others. But what struck me as we were talking was the importance of listening to each of these ways of serving.

Apostles are the people who are out in front of a new venture. I was talking to Emma and her husband Andy on Sunday – Emma runs something called the Long Table in Matson (Gloucester), and they were telling me that they spent a long time listening to the community in Matson before setting up the Long Table project.

Prophets are the ones who speak truth to power. Often but not exclusively people involved in the arts – musicians, poets, artists and so on. They are listening carefully to be attuned to what’s going on around them in the world. Movements in the political and cultural sphere; aspects of church that are in danger of, or already have gone off track.

Evangelists sometimes get it wrong by just speaking louder ! To share faith with another human being requires respect and careful listening. Talking with, not talking at.

Pastors are those who have a deep concern for the well being of others. What they offer needs to be connected to the need of the other, not the need of the one offering support. Listening is crucial.

Teachers also sometimes get it wrong – maybe they pitch what they’re trying to communicate at the wrong level, or are just out of sync with those who are learning. Perhaps we should think of this as creating a space for learning. Again, listening to the ones who are learning will help to get this right.

This all might seem glaringly obvious, but it struck me how central listening is to any kind of activity within a community, be that a family, a business, a church, or whatever …

The other thing that I’ve noticed as we’ve been working through this at church is that although some people have a particular ‘gift’ for working in a specific area, all of these ways of serving are open to any of us. So ….

Get your creative juices going and try something new
Try to be informed about what’s going on in the world – but it can be tricky to know who’s truth telling …
Think about your passions and who might be interested in sharing that passion
Think about the people in your networks, and how you can be a caring presence
We all have wisdom, knowledge and experience to share with others … how’s that going ?

But don’t burn out ! Maybe at some point you’ll notice an area where you shine, and you can give the major part of your energy to that.

Grace and peace.

faith · Political · World Affairs

Three Russians On A Bus

We’re on holiday. We hardly ever go to the same place more than once, but this is our third stay at Hotel Viewpoint in Patara on the Turquoise coast in Southern Turkey.

So yesterday we went to Kas, a town about an hour away, on one of the small buses (Dolmus) that you find all over Turkey. On the way back we got into conversation with three young Russians.

They were sitting just behind us and after a few minutes listening to them speaking to each other in Russian, I turned round and we began chatting to them.

How do you see this ending – all that’s happening in Ukraine ? I asked. They had no answer. It’s impossible to say

They told us some of their story. For fear of being drafted into the armed forces, along with many others, especially young people, They left Russia in June, leaving their families behind. They are now living in Kas. They were taking a trip to Patara, where we are staying, to see the spectacular sunset from the top of the sand dunes that look over the 18km long Patara beach.

They were all in their mid twenties, and had left Russia concerned about the direction the war was taking. They talked about before the war, back in the Autumn of last year, when they were hearing rumours of Putin’s plan. They couldn’t believe that he would carry out the threat of ‘The Special Operation.’

I asked if they had managed to get jobs since their move to Turkey? They are able to work remotely, but are working for a Russian company so weren’t sure how long that would last.

They were totally against the war and were concerned about how we in the West viewed Russians. People are not allowed to express their opposition, even by calling what’s going on ‘a war .’ Harsh prison sentences are promised for those who step out of line. Their hopes that Russia would be a democratic country have disappeared, at least for the time being, as they live under this dictatorship.

Did we in the UK have the impression that most Russians were in favour of the war ? They were sure that there was a rising tide of anti- war opinion in Russia, especially among younger people. But will that change anything? The people now leaving Russia are the ones Russia needs, but for many, leaving seems the only option.

Years ago, in a previous life, when I was a teacher, our year 8, (12 year old) students had the opportunity to take Russian as a second modern foreign language. There was a good uptake, maybe partly because there was an exchange programme each year that gave students the chance to experience something of life in Russia. They invariably returned with generous gifts from their hosts, and stories of Russian warmth and hospitality.

This is the real Russia, it seems to me, not the crazed land hungry President Putin and his cabal.

I explained to our new friends that we are Christians, and are dismayed by the way that the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church is such a supporter of Putin. This seems to go against all that we hold dear about our faith. They weren’t surprised, however and explained that the Russian Orthodox Church as just another expression of the State. “It’s political”, they said.

The conversation really made an impact on us, and we told them that we will be praying for them and will share their story.

Grace and Peace to the peoples of Ukraine and Russia.

faith · music · Poetry · World Affairs

People Sitting Around For Safety

I read this today in the most recent issue of ‘Mojo’ magazine.

It comes from an interview with musician and producer T Bone Burnett, where he speaks of an aspect of the role of artists. It is something to do with looking at our world through a particular set of lenses and reflecting that back – a role that is often challenging and sometimes not well received.

“Artists have to be careful – and I say this as a Christian who loves all mankind (laughs). We have to be careful of letting the audience determine what we do. Society is a campfire that people sit around for safety and warmth. They gather, and they stay there. Artists are the ones who hear the scary noise in the darkness, go out and find out what it is. If artists just sit around the campfire with everybody else, you just have a bunch of campfire music.”

I would say that the same is true of others, including many of those who take faith seriously. Our poets, pastors, preachers and prophets are called to do the same. To be a channel for words of challenge as well as words of comfort.

faith

Learning Wisdom From The Street

I came across Street Wisdom a few years ago.

We read about it online and decided to have a go. This was in a church context one Sunday morning in the school holidays, when we tended to try something different each week.

Ever since then, I’ve been meaning to find out more about it, hopefully experience it again, and maybe gather a group to try it.

So a few weeks ago, I went on the Street Wisdom website and signed up to hear about forthcoming events. Then, a couple of weeks later, I had an email about two events. An in person event that was unfortunately too far away to consider, and an online event.

So I signed up for the online event on Zoom. There was just one other participant, and the facilitator, (who decided to take part as well as leading). I’ll describe what happened in a bit, but first, it may be helpful to give you an idea of what a Street Wisdom event is.

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but basically the Street Wisdom website describes it as “an everyday creative practice you use as you walk. A smart fusion of mindfulness, neuroscience and wellness, it unlocks our minds and unblocks our creativity with every step.”

So how does it work ?

Gather a group together – online or in person. In 3 approximately one hour sessions the group will
Prepare – Get tuned in
Experience – Walk the streets with a question in mind
Reflect – Come back and share the experience.

Stage 1: Prepare – Get tuned in
After some introduction, the group spend the first chunk of time tuning in. There are three questions to help us do this. Participants are invited to do the first short walk (about 10 minutes), and then come back and share.

First question: What am I drawn to ? What am I noticing ?

Second question: Slow down. Walk more slowly; be more aware of your breathing etc.

Third question: Find/Look for the Beauty in everything.. Once more, come back to the gathering point and take time to share if people want to.

Then think about a question that you want to ask the street.
It could be a big question – like considering a job change or a house move – something that isn’t resolved.
Or it could be something like ‘How can I make more time for relaxation ?’

Stage 2: Experience – Walk the streets with a question in mind
Then you have around 45 minutes to take a walk and ask your question, and see what answers or guidance you find as you walk the street.

Stage 3: Reflect – Come back and share the experience.
The final part gives the group an opportunity to share, if they wish to, anything that they have learned … about themselves maybe, or the situation/question they had in their mind.

So at this point I’ll share how it worked for me.

Tuning in
I had been drawn to the colour of summer flowers in the front gardens of the street where I live, and then the shape of the leaves. I looked at the solid edges of the brick walls and the hard tarmac of the street.

I slowed down … and tried concentrating on my breathing.

I went out of the back door and looked at the patch of grass in our back garden. It was covered in weeds and clover. I tried to see something beautiful but struggled. I really want a nice green lawn! I focused on what this brown, weed infested patch might become in time.

Walking the street
Before I went out for the walk, the facilitator asked us if we had a question ready. I was unsure. Maybe a question about community ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the strength or otherwise of communities, and noting some of the things that have happened during the pandemic that have had an effect on the strength of community.
Forced isolation has made things harder for many which has sometimes resulted in finding ways to overcome this. For example, experimenting with things like Whatsapp groups to keep in touch and support the more vulnerable.

I had the beginnings of a question – ‘What could I do to strengthen community where I live ?’ He suggested I start with ‘what one thing …’ to give some focus to my question.

I refined the question to ask ‘What one thing could I do to help me work out how to connect more with my community ?’

So – off I went with this question. As I walked, I bumped into a couple of neighbours and chatted. We had spoken a bit at our recent street party. They live about 100 yards down on the other side of our street.
I walked on, and pondered my question.

As I walked, I realised that my encounter with my neighbours had helped me with my question. The street had spoken to me! What comes before connecting ? Listening. I need to focus on listening and understanding.

So, I didn’t get an answer to the question, but I did refine the question, reframing it a stage back from the original question.
’What one thing could I do to help me find a way to listen to and understand my community better ?’

Sharing the experience.
So after the walk, we reconvened on Zoom and shared what we had learned. I offered my insight about listening to my community, which another person found helpful in relation to their own question. We talked for a while, encouraging one another to continue the journey of seeking answers to our questions.

Since then
As I think back to the experience of Street Wisdom, part of the answer to my question is simply to be out and about more. I have a spiritual practice of starting each day with some prayer. I have typically done this at home inside or in the garden. I started experimenting with doing my prayer on a walk.

For three weeks I’ve been doing this, combining some listening to a daily podcast – Lectio 365 – with walking quietly and meditating on what I have listened to, and becoming more aware of what’s around me.

It’s a work in progress, like everything – I hope to write more about how this way of praying develops, as well as saying more about community.

Grace and peace.

Activism · Climate Change · Ecology · faith · God · Political

Daring, Imaginative, Faithful And Challenging

Continuing thoughts on the prophet Jeremiah.

In chapter 43, Jeremiah has arrived in Egypt – against his wishes.

He had, over a long period, distanced himself from the ruling elite in Jerusalem and preached a message of God’s judgment against Israel. He had urged the leaders to stay in Jerusalem; God would have a future for them if they listened and stayed.

They had not followed God’s word as proclaimed by Jeremiah, but had insisted on going their own way – to Egypt where they believed they would be safe.

Once in Egypt, Jeremiah engages in a symbolic act that continues the message that God’s future for Israel lies not in Egypt but with Babylon.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: 9 Take some large stones in your hands, and bury them in the clay pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Let the Judeans see you do it, 10 and say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to send and take my servant King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he will set his throne above these stones that I have buried, and he will spread his royal canopy over them.

In this act, Jeremiah not only subverts Egyptian power, but affirms the superiority and God appointed influence of Babylon in Egypt. The large stones that he buries are the foundation for Nebuchadrezar’s throne.

This symbolic act is: daring – a public act; imaginative – seeing the power of the symbol; faithful – to what God has been saying; challenging – both to Egypt and to Israel.

What symbolic acts of resistance have we seen, or might we engage in, that would subvert, for example the power of oil and gas companies, or militarism, or the gun lobby in the USA ?

And behind all of the above there is something to do with that part of our human nature that is driven by fear of the other, and an overwhelming sense of entitlement and privilege.

Bible · faith

We Step Outside The Text

My brain hurts!
I’m reading in Jeremiah … a short passage today (Jeremiah 43:1-7), raises some interesting and challenging questions.

Let me first summarise what’s happening and then think about the intent of those who wrote the text. I guess this is all about how we view scripture and how it comes to us.

Basically this is what’s happened: The forces of Babylon have finally overcome Israel and taken off most of the people into captivity in Babylon. However, there is a remnant who are still left and they are trying to decide whether to give in to The Babylonians or run to Egypt for help.

The prophet Jeremiah has been warning Israel that God’s way, and their only hope, was to surrender to Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon. (The defeat of Israel is God’s judgment for neglecting God’s commands to care for the weakest – the widow, the orphan and the stranger).

Two of the leaders of the remnant group, Azariah and Johanan, ask Jeremiah to pray to God for guidance.

Jeremiah’s answer is that God’s word is still the same. Stay in Jerusalem. If they truly want to learn to listen to God’s way, this is what they must do. But this is not what Johanan and Azariah wanted to hear.

Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other insolent men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, “Do not go to Egypt to settle there”’ ….

(In reality, they had probably already decided that they were going to lead the people to Egypt, whatever Jeremiah said, in the belief that they would be safe there).

The outcome of all this is that they ignore Jeremiah’s warning that going to Egypt will end in disaster. They decide to go to Egypt and take Jeremiah with them – possibly of his own free will, or maybe as a captive as he was against the plan – it’s not clear

Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah … everyone …. the men, the women, the children and the princesses, and came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord.

Now … let’s step outside the text for a minute. The authors of Jeremiah are among those deported to exile in Babylon. It is during the years in exile that much of the Old Testament is written. They write from the point of view that the exile is indeed God’s judgment, and that they must use the years in exile to reflect on past failures and seek to be more faithful to God’s word.

So, as we think about the intent of the authors, it’s reasonable to suppose that they want to claim that they are the true remnant of Israel and not the group that ended up in Egypt. Their position is that they are the community that God has chosen to take forward.

So now … I’m thinking about the process that brought the text to us … a process that would have included some editing and in the end a decision that this was indeed God’s word to Israel.

Those who considered the book of Jeremiah as having authority, and included it in the Hebrew Scriptures have a particular point of view. That is … it is the voice of Jeremiah that needs to be heard.

We know that all reporting of an event is told from a point of view. There is no such thing as a totally impartial observer. In the same way, the text of Jeremiah witnesses to the conflict between Jeremiah and the Royal house of Israel, but it is not a neutral voice.

The account is presented as both political reporting and theological fidelity. No doubt there are times when political reporting is not faithful to God’s word. I would take the view that Christians who are determined to support the gun lobby, or the interests of oil and gas companies are not being faithful to the teaching of scripture.

The book of Jeremiah is presenting a political point of view and claiming that they are being faithful theologically. The authors are not neutral voices. They take up a particular standpoint. In this chapter it is that those who go to seek refuge in Egypt are being disobedient to God’s voice.

As we read it, we have a choice about what view we take. Do we trust the process that has resulted in the book as we have it ? Do we side with Jeremiah or Johanan and Azariah in this account ?

Perhaps the most important thing we can say is that the values Jeremiah holds are ones that we too want to follow. The word that comes up very often is ‘listen.’ The Hebrew word doesn’t just mean hear with your ears, it means pay attention and act accordingly. Listening is active and leads to being obedient to God’s word.

We might think that hearing God’s voice is tricky … In situations where we need guidance that might be true, but as far as understanding how we are to live, we have quite enough to go on. Perhaps the key is to make sure that we develop practices that lead to all being treated fairly and with compassion.

faith · music · Political · Songwriting

The Front Of The Queue ?

Re: My recent post – How to avert the crisis.

I just finished this song that seems to say a similar thing:

Waterfall

She wanted freedom –
But there’s was nowhere for her to go
It’s hard to choose between
A bus ticket and a winter coat

See how the water flows
Freely the waters flow
But never to her door
never to her door


He always thought –
Just stand in line and it would come to you
It might take time, but you would get to the front of the queue

See how the water flows
Freely the waters flow
But never to his door
No never to his door


See how the water flows
It seems like the water knows
Maybe the water chose ?
For some to have it all
While others are in hell


Cool water
Cool, cool water
Cool, cool water
Flowing down

See how the water flows
Could be the water knows
Say that the water chose
To be a waterfall
So no one is in hell.

See how the water flows

Could be the water knows
Say that the water chose
To be a waterfall
To pour upon us all..

Activism · Bible · faith · Political · World Affairs

How To Avert The Crisis

There’s a passage I’ve been reading in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them— 9 that all should set free their Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should hold another Judean in slavery. 10 And they obeyed, all the officials and all the people who had entered into the covenant that all would set free their slaves, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again; they obeyed and set them free. 11 But afterwards they turned about and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them again into subjection as slaves.

This story relates to part of the
covenant that God had made with Israel. It concerned members of the community of Israel who for whatever reason had fallen on hard times. Maybe their crops had failed and they had been forced to sell their land to make ends meet. Or even worse, they had been forced to live as slaves to pay off a debt. Every 7th year, according to the law of Israel, their debt should be cancelled, they should no longer be slaves, and land that was forfeited should be returned to them.

The context for this passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah is that Israel has strayed from God’s ways. They have gone after other gods to worship, and have neglected the laws concerning the care of the poor,
particularly widows, orphans and foreigners.

God’s judgment on Israel is that they will suffer the consequences – and be invaded by Babylon and many of the population be taken into exile.

For much of
the time, the leaders in Israel – the ruling elite of kings and priests, ignore these warnings.

But the
crisis deepens. Invasion looks likely. It seems that Jeremiah’s dire warnings are true.

What to do in a such a situation. For the leadership in Israel this means
trying a last ditch attempt to avert the crisis by obeying the law that God had given them and setting free the slaves that should have had their freedom in the 7th year of their slavery. It’s a cry to God to say -“OK, we’ll do as you commanded. Now please come to our help and stop this invasion.”

What happens next is that king Zedekiah reverses his decision and makes them all slaves again ! The reason is not given. It’s possible that the threat from Babylon went away, and Zedekiah thought he could get away with going back to business as usual –
oppressing the poor.

Or maybe the economic situation got worse – so bad in fact that landowners needed slave labour to survive and put pressure on the king to reverse the decision.

Whatever it was, Jeremiah’s verdict is that once again the King and the
ruling class have ignored God’s commands and will be judged.

That’s a long, but necessary preamble …

This incident makes me think of the Coronavirus crisis that we have lived through, and still are to some degree. In the early days, our government put in place measures to reduce the negative impact on the population by
introducing the furlough arrangements, whereby the government would pay businesses to keep people on the payroll while they were not able to carry on trading. (Eg – restaurants that had to close completely in the pandemic).

Now the direct threat from Covid has reduced because of the success of the
vaccination programme. It’s back to business as usual. In the immediate aftermath of Covid, the pressure was off … but the government needed to recoup as much of the financial outlay as possible. So …

We are seeing increases in National Insurance contributions, and other ways that the
government are seeking to increase revenue.

Then comes another crisis … Ukraine and the consequent increases in oil and gas prices as well as effects from the grain harvests in Ukraine being disrupted.

What do we see from the
government – a £150 rebate on council tax … with another sum – that will need to be paid back. For an average household, that £150 will go in two months in their increases in gas and electric bills.

Meanwhile we still read of massive bonus payments to some, while others are sitting with hot water bottles and blankets to keep warm, and relying on
food banks for essentials.

Can you see the parallels ?

What
happens to nations, businesses, organisations in general when those at the top are sitting pretty while the poorest struggle to survive. In the end those nations, businesses, etc will fall.

A
settled social order relies on justice for the poor. Without economic justice, society eventually collapses.

What do we need ? Justice for the poorest. When do we need it ? Now !

community · faith · Prayer

In Ordinary And Hidden Moments

We’ve been watching the series ‘Pilgrimage’ on BBC TV this week.
In previous years, the programme has followed a group of celebrities on a pilgrim route – one year it was Rome, another was Compostela, another was Istanbul.

This year, they are following the journey of the 6th century saint Columba as he set up Christian communities across Ireland and Scotland.

The group this comprises 7 people, with different stories, and differing degrees of faith from Agnostic to Committed. We hear about upbringing in Christianity, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam and how that has shaped their lives.

The moment I want to reflect on comes at the end of their third day of pilgrimage. It’s been a tough day, with challenging walking, and they have arrived at the hostel where they will stay the night.

It’s Friday, the days when Jews will mark the beginning of the Sabbath with an evening meal. Over the last three days, actress Louisa Clein has talked about her Jewish heritage, and her increasing confidence with talking about her faith. She is keen to share the experience of Shabbat and hosts the meal.

There’s a point where she takes the Sabbath bread and breaks off pieces and shares it around the table. A simple ritual that speaks of the importance of faith and community. It’s one of those moments where you sense that something important is happening. There’s a closeness in the group that is cemented in a way that goes beyond words.

We have really warmed to this group of pilgrims as they have laughed and cried together. Laurence Llewelyn Bowen is an unlikely leader of the group. We noticed the times when he opens up conversations about faith, and when something he does or says holds the group – like when he addresses them as family. Each person contributes in their own way, from encourager to questioner to faith defender. We love it. I would love to gather a similar group from my locality to do a pilgrim walk together and share our stories …. I wonder …

Going back to the Sabbath meal in Pilgrimage – it reminded me of one of the stories of Jesus. It takes place after the resurrection, when two people are walking home from Jerusalem and Jesus joins them as they are walking. They talk as they walk – much as the seven pilgrims have done in the BBC programme. They share the things that are deep in their hearts.

In the Bible account, the two reach their home and invite Jesus to stay with them. As they sit down to their meal, Jesus takes the bread and breaks it, and in this moment they realise that it is Jesus. A moment of profound realisation that happens in the everyday action of breaking bread.

Today I read this:
”The big thing is not to treat today as a step towards what you are hoping for some day in the future, but to accept that this day contains the seeds of all that you hope for. This is it ! Now this particular day might not feel special, in fact it might be important that it does not feel special. We need to allow ourselves to be drawn under the skin of the day and into its earthy mystery.”
(Running over rocks, by Ian Adams p. 106.)

I confess to finding this a challenge. I have a tendency to be always looking forward to the next thing. My mind is in the future. Future projects and possibilities. So I need something to earth me in the present moment. For me it’s a daily time of reading and prayer. But there are many other ways to include this ‘welcoming the day’ into our lives. It might be to create a simple ritual that we can repeat each morning to remind ourselves of the importance of living in the present.

It could be a song, or a prayer, or an action …

One of the prayers I have used and found helpful is the Morning Prayer by Padraig O Tuama.
You can find it in his book “Daily Prayer”

Morning Prayer

We begin our day alone,
Honouring this life, with all its potentials and possibilities.

We begin our day with trust,
Knowing we are created for loving encounter.

We begin our day with hope,
Knowing the day can hold love, kindness, forgiveness and justice.

A reading followed by a time of silence

We recall our day yesterday,
May we learn, may we love, may we live on.

We make room for the unexpected,
May we find wisdom and life in the unexpected.

Help us to embrace possibility, respond graciously to disappointment and hold tenderly those we encounter.
Help us to be fully present to the day.

A short silence

We pray for all those whose day will be difficult.
We name them in our hearts or out loud
May we support, may we listen, may we change.

We resolve to live life in its fullness:
We will welcome the people who’ll be a part of this day.
We will greet God in ordinary and hidden moments.

We will live the life we are living.

A short silence

May we find the wisdom we need,
God be with us.

May we hear the needs of those we meet,
God be with us.

May we love the life that we are given,
God be with us

Bible · faith · Grace

The Last Shall Be First

I’ve been reading Jeremiah 31 today. The promise to Israel that they will return from exile.
The story of exile and homecoming is one of THE MAJOR THEMES in the Bible. A couple of things I noticed:

There are various literary devices used in scripture. Among other things, they are designed to make the message memorable, or emphasise certain aspects of the text.

For example – repeating an idea but using different words – sing, shout praise …
Or having a refrain as in Psalm 46 … ‘God is with us’

Another, perhaps less recognised literary device is to do with a mirror image structure called a chiasm

In a chiasm, you have a structure that goes something like this from Milton’s Paradise Lost:
A. Adam,
B first of men
B` to first of women,
A` Eve

There’s a nice chiasm in Jeremiah 31 that you can see here

One of the points about a chiasm is that the whole thrust of the passage is often to be found in the centre of the chiasm.

In the case of Jeremiah 31, the centre of the passage has these words.

8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labour, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.


These words show us God’s heart and God’s intention for Israel. That is to restore them and bring them home. But the remarkable thing that struck me was those who are specifically mentioned as coming home. The blind and the lame, the pregnant and those in labour. That is, the most vulnerable.

God promises to become like a father to these most vulnerable of his people. They will be like the firstborn.

What an amazing thing to read and understand. God’s concern is for the weakest. As Jesus would himself demonstrate throughout his life – “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Or, as American priest and writer Robert Farrar Capon often wrote – God’s concern is for ‘the little, the lost, the least and the last.’

Are we able to see ourselves here in this company? Because we all need to find our way home. And maybe part of that journey home involves becoming vulnerable and surrendering our impulses to be strong and in control.

Wherever you are on this journey. Grace and Peace.