Activism · Political · suffering · World Affairs

Today It Is Nakba Day

I just read a post from Huw Thomas.

It reminded me that today is Nakba Day. The day when Palestinians remember the forced removal in 1948 of their families from their ancestral homes.
This is not just a past event, but an ongoing horror story where Palestinians are routinely abused and refused;
victimized and minimized;
oppressed and dispossessed.

I wear a bracelet most days that says – Save Gaza / Free Palestine.
It’s a reminder to me not to forget the Palestinian people and their struggle to be treated a citizens with equal rights.

Huw Thomas in his blog points us towards a couple of organisations that have helped him in his thinking about this issue.

There are a couple of organisations that have shaped my thinking on this…


or Peace Now

and Occupied Thoughts is a brilliant Podcast

Amos Trust – worth all the support you can give…
(I echo that thought)

We try to live with hope and send all our prayers to those engaged in the struggle for peace with justice.

A Prayer For This Day · Activism · Bible · Political · Prayer · suffering · Truth · World Affairs

Praying For The Ukrainian People

Today I read these words from the Prophet Jeremiah chapter 11:

God told me what was going on. That’s how I knew. You, God, opened my eyes to their evil scheming.
I had no idea what was going on—naive as a lamb being led to slaughter!
I didn’t know they had it in for me, didn’t know of their behind-the-scenes plots:
“Let’s get rid of the preacher. That will stop the sermons!
Let’s get rid of him for good. He won’t be remembered for long.”

Then I said, “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, you’re a fair judge.
You examine and cross-examine human actions and motives.
I want to see these people shown up and put down!  I’m an open book before you. Clear my name.”

The people of Anathoth, the home town of the prophet Jeremiah, want to silence him.
Jeremiah is unaware of this until God shows him the truth.
Then he realises their plan to get rid of him.
He appeals to God and God’s justice.

We were not unaware of Putin’s plan, but we did not want to think it would happen. Now it has.
This is my prayer, as we also appeal to God for justice.

The name Putin is derived from put – путь, the Russian word for ‘way.’
Правда is Russian for truth
ZhiznЖизнь is Russian for life

We pray to the LORD of hosts
The LORD-of-the angel-armies
Not to come against might with more might
But to raise up the people of Russia in resistance.
To reveal the bare pravda
To see false, fake rulers standing naked
Hands tied behind their backs
Their power and glory stripped.

We pray to the LORD of hosts
The LORD-of-the angel-armies
To raise up the people of the earth in solidarity
To reveal the Pravda and the true Put
To see the people of Ukraine delivered from evil
Once more able to live Zhizn openly and spontaneously
Not cautiously and warily.

Pray for the peace of Ukraine
Prosperity to all you Ukraine lovers
Friendly insiders, get along!
Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
I say it again: live in peace!

(The last section is From The Message translation of Psalm 122 in the Jewish Scriptures)

faith · Grace · Poetry · Storytelling · suffering · Truth

Full Of Wonder And Mystery

I’ve just started reading Marilynne Robinson’s book – ‘Lila.’ Set in the town of Gilead in Iowa, it has the feel of other novels I’ve read recently. (The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and Devisadero by Michael Ondaatje). All of the books are written with the skill of a story teller and the language of a poet.

As someone who believes in the grace of God that surrounds and covers us, I was struck by these words, spoken by her pastor husband.

…. No. No, it isn’t. I think you are asking me these questions because of some hard things that have happened, the things you won’t talk about. If you did tell me about them, I could probably not say more than that life is a very deep mystery, and that finally the grace of God is all that can resolve it. And the grace of God is also a very deep mystery.” He said, “You can probably tell I’ve said these same words too many times. But they’re true, I believe.” He shrugged, and watched his finger trace the scar on the table.

Grace and peace.

Bible · faith · Political · Prayer · suffering

Coercive Silence and Generative Silence

Some years ago now, I discovered the value of silence, especially in the context of prayer.
My practice of silence as a regular discipline has varied over the years – I’ve been thinking recently that I could do with making more of an effort to build it in to my daily routines.

Generative Silence

Early Experience
I was brought up in the Open Brethren. For all their faults, there was so much that gave me a healthy foundation for my own spiritual life. One of those was the importance of silence in worship. We had no pastor, no paid leaders, and there was a degree of openness that encouraged every member to play their part. (Like many churches – as long as they were male, in those days)
Our morning meeting on a Sunday had no written liturgy, and what happened would be different each week. We would be guided, we prayed, by the Holy Spirit. There would be hymns sung, scripture read, and prayers prayed. No long sermons – maybe a brief thought, usually related to one of the scriptures that had been read. And quite a lot of silence.

The value of silence
I remember particularly a book by M.Basil Pennington – Call to the Centre that helped me establish a way of praying with silence.

The other key moment was watching a series on BBC – The Big Silence – sadly no longer available on BBC iPlayer, but no doubt available on DVD.

Quaker Silence
When on Sabbatical in 2009, and during the time that I was discovering again the value of silence, I attended a Quaker meeting and wrote a bit about it here. The meeting reminded me of my own early experience of church with extended periods of silence. This kind of silence can be generative – lead to new thoughts and actions that work for the good of all. You know the phrase – ‘a pregnant pause?’ I suppose a pause is a kind of silence, and the pregnant pause is one that’s full of meaning, waiting to come out. It reminds me that silence can be generative, and that out of this silence, something new can be born.

Coercive Silence

Those with social privilege have the option to remain silent.
However, not all silence is helpful. The silence experienced by many people will not be chosen but coerced. I remember being a part of conversations where the subjects of religion and politics were outlawed – and yes, they can get boring and unproductive. But part of the reason why these discussions are out of bounds is because the privileged and the comfortably secure don’t want to have their position challenged, and because of their privilege they can choose not to have the debate anyway.

I was listening to a programme on the radio yesterday – ‘Green Inc’. Unpacking the multi-billion-dollar industry that’s rebranding the oil and gas industry as green. Whilst investing huge amounts into prolonging the oil and gas industry, there’s an attempt to persuade us that it’s not so bad after all. One way of silencing others is to shout louder and longer using the best of modern media in an attempt to drown out alternative voices.

Many of us have experienced this in our church life. We’ve heard the dominant voices and wanted to speak, but somehow there hasn’t been a forum for that conversation, or we have lacked the courage. In churches that are led by strong willed clergy, it may be hard for other voices to be heard. Even in more egalitarian faith communities, it’s often the most confident who speak the most, and they may not be the best voices to listen to.

Women, the Gay community, Black voices, the Poor generally – all have struggled to resist the forces that have threatened to silence them. There’s a verse in Exodus chapter 2 that I have mentioned recently in another post, where over many years, the Hebrew voice has been silenced by oppression.
“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.”
The period of slavery in Egypt left them voiceless. In desperation they cry out in the hope that someone will hear them. The road to freedom started with that cry, but they would need determination to follow through on that path.

So what about those who do not have a voice – those who are forced in one way or another to stay silent. We may not even realise that it’s happening, but in any situation where one voice, or one set of voices are dominant, it’s likely that other voices are not able to speak.
You may recognise in your own experience times when you have wanted to speak, but not felt able to.
You may remember times when you have tried to speak, but found that your voice is drowned out by others.
Conversely, you may recognise in your own words and actions times when you have prevented others from speaking.

May we move to a place where all voices can be heard and listened to, and that we pay attention especially to the voices that are coming from a different place to our own.

Grace and Peace, and good listening.

Bible · faith · suffering

When The Work Is Done

Holy Saturday and Prayer

Today is Holy Saturday. An important day in the Christian calendar. The day between Good Friday and Easter Day. That holy space between death and resurrection. The space between desolation and life.

My reading in the book of Lamentations, still despairing over the destruction of the Holy City, Jerusalem, has these words, addressed to God:
You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. Lamentations 3 verse 44

But even in the midst of this despair, we read just a few verses later:
I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit;
You heard my plea …
You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!
You have taken up my cause, O Lord, you have redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3 verses 55-58)

Somehow in the life of faith of the Old Testament saints is a recognition that even in a time of loss and grief, when God seems to be absent, the only thing to do is to pray. Prayer is all that is left. It’s a paradox. We see no hope, and yet, in spite of that, we hope. These passages are a deep well of resources for the person of faith.

Walter Brueggemann puts it like this:
“Faith is the capacity to hold both honest reality and open possibility”

I wonder if Jesus’ disciples were able to draw on those resources after the crucifixion. I wonder what hope, if any, they were able to find ?

Holy Saturday and Rest

In the Jewish faith Saturday is the seventh day of the week. The Jewish Sabbath. A day of rest. It starts on Friday night and lasts until Saturday night. This recalls God’s work of creation, where each of the acts of creation ends with these words:
And there was evening and there was morning, the first (second etc) day. Genesis Chapter 1

The Sabbath day of rest mirrors God’s own rest at the end of the work of creation:
On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
(Genesis 2 verses 2 & 3)

This Sabbath day, Holy Saturday, is also the culmination of God’s work. As God rests at the end of the work of creation, so now another work is finished. Jesus’ dying words on the cross are ‘It is finished’
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19 verse 30)
It is at the cross where Jesus finishes his work to be with us in solidarity until the very end.

So this day is a day when we wait. Nothing happens on Holy Saturday. It’s a day for quiet contemplation. Until the celebrations that begin to signal the resurrection, there are no services. Everything stops.

It’s a day when we might recall those aspects of our lives where, like the writer of lamentations, we hold those two ancient prayers together. The prayer of absolute despair and the prayer of hope in the face of no hope.

You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.
I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea … you came near when I called on you;

In some mysterious way, the hope doesn’t deny the state that we are in, and yet the reality of that despair cannot stop us from praying.

Grace and Peace.

faith · Grace · suffering

I Can Do All Things

A couple of months ago, we walked past a guy wearing a T-shirt that had the message on the front “I CAN DO ALL THINGS.” There’s a verse in the New Testament that says ” I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” and as we walked past him I wondered if that was the message he was trying to convey. In that moment I wanted to stop him and ask him, but the moment went, and we had walked on. I still wonder what the slogan was all about.

Then, some time just before the American presidential elections, I was watching a T.V. programme about Donald Trump, to do with his friendship with Norman Vincent Peale, church minister and author. In 1952, Peale wrote a book ‘The Power of Positive Thinking,’ that greatly influenced Trump. This relationship seems to have been a decisive factor in Trump’s worldview, shown for example in Trump’s frequent claims that they were going to beat the coronavirus any day soon, despite the evidence that infections were increasing.

So the slogan – I can do all things – can mean different things. For Peale and his followers it might be about the power that we can exert over our circumstances by virtue of our ‘Can do’ attitude. For the Christian, it must mean something completely different. For the Christian, it must be based, not in our own strength, but in humility. And it’s not about denying the obvious facts just because we see things differently.

It often means, for example, dealing with the hard things that come our way – not by denying that the hard things exist, or by making them disappear, but by finding the grace to live with them.

Grace and Peace.