Thursday, 29 December 2011

Who else...?

Who else will tell the community of the love of God?
Who else will tell the world that it is good to take time out to be quiet at Christmas time in the midst of so much busy-ness?
Who else will let people see that words can be full of grace and kindness, even when we are harassed?
Who else can show the world that faith brings strength, help, a rock-like solidity to life when life is at its hardest?
Who else will tell the world that the Bible is full of wisdom and insight, a treasure beyond price?
Who else will try to persuade the world that prayer is an entirely natural conversation with God?
Who else will take the kingship of Jesus seriously enough to live life in a way that is distinctive from the world's attitudes and values?
Who else will know that everywhere we go the presence of God is with us?

Each of these lines is prompted by a conversation I've had over the last two weeks.
Each of these presents a challenge for us as part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Each of these is a responsibility that falls upon us, and we fulfil these responsibilities by our words, by our individual attitudes, and by our actions as a congregation.

No-one else will do this for our community. If we don't do all of these, our community will be the poorer for it! The community may not recognise its need of these and may not want them, but it is for us to recognise spiritual values and see what it good and keep what it good and godly before the eyes of others.

As the year changes, take time to reflect:

  • What has God given to me in the year that is past?

  • What do I hope God will give me in 2012?

  • What can I give to God in the next 12 months?

  • How can I serve others more effectively in 2012?

Happy New Year! May the blessing of God rest upon you and those whom you love.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Christmas mission statement

There's a great deal of publicity today about the death of Kim-Jong Il, the North Korean dictator, as his people shed tears "especially if the cameras are on them!", as one reporter put it. Less publicly, Vaclev Havel died at the weekend and he is mourned by Czechs. I loved some of the descriptions of his manner and life: apparently the presidential palace is so big that he went from one meeting to another, either on roller skates or a child's scooter, depending on which report you hear. John Simpson, the BBC's World Editor described him as a quiet, reluctant leader, who didn't even like wearing a suit, but who had an edge to him that challenged the concept of power. That's the kind of leadership, I aspire to!

On Saturday, the Juniper Green Farmers' Market went Christmassy. The Round Table was there with Santa and Rudolph (aka Ron Grigor - I have the photos to prove it!), having spent last week taking their Santa buggy round the streets. Their aim - to take Santa to every home in the area! They have raised a significant sum of money for local charities and organisations.

It was that mission statement that stuck in my mind. Our aim and mission statement - to take Christ to every home in the community?

In Acts 27 I've been reading about Paul's trip to Rome. He's caught a winter Mediterranean storm. 2 things are fascinating: first of all, God is there with him and his companions, helping them survive the storm; secondly, Paul and the others use their skills and wisdom to make landfall. It is not a case of either/or; it is a case of "both/and". God helps them through the decisions they make and by their skills. God is with us to save us and we have to work out our salvation day by day in the way that we live.

Jesus challenges the concept of power in our world. Read the Magnificat, Mary's song in Luke 1:46-55 again; see the qualities that she identifies in the ministry of her son. William Temple described it - "It's a most revolutionary canticle!" Little wonder that the Magnificat has inspired Christians across the world to challenge the concepts of power and wealth and to honour the humble.

How do we allow the world to hear this Jesus, to find this Jesus at Christmas time? He brings comfort and grace, but there is also an edge to Him, that challenges us, that questions our priorities and that wants us to be humble and gracious in the way that we live.

Have a happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas, the Church and Scotland

Today, Christmas begins! I'm off to the Open Door Cafe Christmas party, to be Santa's little helper (no, not the dog from The Simpsons!) to hand out presents to the children. I'm too young to be Santa! I'll have a cup of coffee with the parents first. Later this week, there will be carols at St Margaret's Court and the Guild of Friendship, a school nativity play, a school assembly at Currie High School and one at Juniper Green Primary School, and then Christmas things on Sunday - communion, Kids' Church Nativity Play, carols at Lorimer House and the service of Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening for which the choir has been practising hard, so come and support them.

For many of these services and events, there is some preparation needed, some way of telling people the story of Christmas in the coming of Jesus. It gets harder and harder to see Jesus through the welter of other things that happen in these few weeks, yet we still tell the story and hope and pray that people believe it.

Today I have been reading the story in Acts 23 of Paul's life being threatened by his enemies. The comment I read reminded me that this is the reality every day for Christians in some parts of the world, that their life is in danger simply because of their allegiance to Jesus. "For many of us, however, used to years of cultural dominance or at least privilege, and at the most non-violent opposition, it would be a shock as well as a challenge." (WordLive) This set me thinking about the Church in Scotland.

For generations, the Christian church has been the dominant force in Scottish society, shaping culture and society in ways that have left us with a legacy of education, the legal system etc. However, the Church is no longer the dominant force in Scottish society and we struggle to make our voice heard in amongst all the other voices. We are being forced to see ourselves more and more as the early Christians saw themselves, a missionary movement with a story to tell. We can no longer assume that people will want to hear the story or will want our services; we have to earn the right to be heard and listened to; we will need to focus more clearly on what really matters about Church.

Christmas is about God coming to live in our world in all its uncertainties and frailties, as well as its hopes and possibilities. Enjoy the week. Let the grace and peace of Jesus sustain you.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How others see us?

I started this working week with a visit to the Open Door Cafe for my coffee. I was putting up posters for Messy Church on Saturday (the banner will go up later when the wind dies down!) and stayed for coffee. I met a few people that I didn't know: a guy called Scott who's taking some Tuesdays off work to look after his son because his wife has gone back to work yesterday and their son doesn't start nursery till January. I had an interrupted conversation with a mum who thought that on the last occasion she came to a church service, the people there were all very old! She said that there was a young minister there - in 2006! Have I aged? Someone asked me recently if I was about to retire!

How others see us? Perceptions that people have of Church will shape the decisions they make - will I go to Church or not? How do we change these perceptions? Meeting people, listening to people, talking to people - it's a start!

Some of you have children who grew up in the life of the Church, but now don't attend. Why did they leave? What was it about the church that meant so much to their parents that they rejected? What would it take for your adult children to want to come back?

This link is to a video about Advent: it is a trailer for a website called busted halo that my browser complained about, but the You Tube trailer is well worth watching!

The on-line Bible readings on SU's Wordlive site this morning are all about the forces that shape our lives. Isaiah 47 is a reflection on what shapes our lives: pleasure, superstition, self - or God. "I am, and there is none besides me" - these are words we declare about God, but Isaiah uses them to show that people in our world say them about themselves; atheism will declare that it is the force in Western civilization.

The challenge for Christians is to know that these words are only true of Jesus and that we live as if Jesus is the only 'I am' who shapes the way we think, speak and act.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The ties that bind...

Folks, it has been a while since my last blog. What moved me to write today?

We're seeing new riots in Cairo, with Tahrir Square full of protesters all over again. Nothing has changed, as far as they are concerned, with the Generals in full control and not about to give it up. There is a news story today that 3 leaders of the Khmer Rouge are facing trial at the United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia; Cambodians hope that they will be able to understand why one Khmer could attack another, something that has bemused them ever since Pol Pot's uprising in 1975.

How are we connected to these stories and to the people of Egypt and Cambodia?

  • We are connected by our common humanity; we see people like us (and they are people like us, with their hopes and aspirations, dreams and disappointments) suffer in ways that concern us, or make us angry.

  • There are Christians in both Egypt and Cambodia and we share a family bond with them; the Christians of Cairo who are facing persecution, and the Christians of Cambodia, some of whom we know well, are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So we pray for them and long that God will bring peace and stability to these two places along with other parts of the world.

This morning, I have been reading Acts 20:17-38, Paul's farewell speech to the elders of the Church in Ephesus. He describes his Christian service and how he has served the Lord with his life that he feels is now in danger and perhaps nearly over. He has been faithful; those listening would be able to verify his claim. This is not pride and arrogance, but a deep awareness of God's grace enabling Paul to be the servant of God in his situation.

Faithfulness: that's the challenge of this Bible passage. We are not called to be superstars of the Church or the Christian faith; we are called to be faithful. Faithfulness is about holding on to the things that matter and living them out. Faithfulness does not mean everything stays the same (that's the mistake the Egyptian generals are making because they want to hold on to power!), but that we share the gospel with others, including the next generation, so that they can follow Jesus and serve Him too.

I'm spending 2 days this week carrying out interviews for new Trustees of the Church of Scotland; pray for us that we find the correct people to serve Christ and the Church well in that setting.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

What happened at the General Assembly?

Yesterday, the General Assembly met to discuss the report of the Special Commission on Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry. We contributed to their deliberations last year by answering their questionnaire.

There were 2 key decisions that the Assembly was being asked to make. First of all, it was asked to allow ministers ordained before 2009 and living in same-sex relationships to be inducted into charges within the Church. The Assembly voted by 393 to 252 to allow that to happen. The second choice before the commissioners was whether to stand with the traditional position of the Church to say that people in same-sex relationships should not be ministers of the church or to allow in principle people in same-sex relationships to be eligible for selection and training as ministers; the Assembly voted by 351 to 294 for the second option. The Church is now in the process of setting up a Theological Commission to begin to make it possible for people in same-sex relationships to become ministers and deacons in the Church of Scotland and to examine the implications of that decision, reporting to the General Assembly of 2013.

These are the facts; what they mean is much harder to understand and describe. For the first time, the Church of Scotland has taken a decision that seems to me to be a direct departure from the teaching of the Bible. Others will argue with that statement and will interpret the Bible in different ways, but that is my personal view. I am disappointed by the Assembly decision, but not necessarily surprised.

There is talk of people leaving the Church over this. I know of one Church that has recently removed any mention of the Church of Scotland from its noticeboard. However, I do not anticipate a great exodus of people from the Church over this; some congregations will leave, some individuals might leave. I am going nowhere. Part of me refuses to be defined simply by my attitude to homosexuality; I still love the Church and honestly believe that God has a plan and a place for me in its ministry.

The Spirit of God is still at work in our community; He is still at work in and through our Church; I hope and pray that the Spirit will continue to sustain my ministry and bless our worship and mission. We have work to do and I plan to be getting on with it, although today I do that with a heavier heart.

Sometimes God has allowed His people to make bad choices to teach them important lessons. In the Old Testament, the people wanted a king "to be like everyone else"; reluctantly God gave them what they wanted. (1 Samuel 8) While there were good moments, by and large the kings that followed led the people astray. Maybe this is God's painful way of showing the Church that "to be like everyone else" doesn't work, or that a radical, liberal agenda will kill the Church.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


The news item this week about paternity leave and the possibily of fathers taking on the care of their child while the mother goes back to work led to a discussion in our house about the presumption that still exists in our society that mothers are the people who care for children. Indeed there is a deeper presumption that mothers are better-equipped than fathers to care for their children.

That led me to think about other presumptions, especially those that operate in Churches: There is a presumption that if the minister is a good preacher he or she will be good at other things too: that he or she will be a good people-person, able to listen and counsel people in need; that he or she will be a good manager of the structures of the Church and be good at change-management. When a nominating committee sets out to choose a new candidate to become minister of a church, they have a list of qualities and skills for which they are looking, but that 'ideal minister' doesn't exist; so they have to pick and choose on some kind of priority scale; let's face it, all they really see of their new minister before their candidate beceoms their minister is how that person conducts a service and preaches; they don't see his or her people skills; they don't see his or her ability to chair a Kirk Session meeting; so the presumption is there - if he can do one, he will be able to do the others!

In fact, in my little example alone there are at least 3 different skill-sets, that are quite distinct. The abililty to preach is a totally different skill-set from that of being a counsellor, or a manager of change. Why do we presume that these skills will all abide in the one person? Then when our expectations of that one person are not met, that one person has to carry the blame for the failure of things that he or she is not very good at anyway!

Here are some other presumptions: We presume that older people hate new songs and that young people love every one of the new songs that are out there. We presume that the people who have been doing jobs in the Church for years are good at them! We presume that people who are the silent majority in a church have no views on any matter or have no skills and gifts to offer. We presume that people who don't express their faith in the language that we use don't have a faith at all. We presume that people who express no desire to come to Bible Study or the prayer time don't read the Bible and don't pray.

These are huge, sweeping generalisations, but....

I'm sure you can think of other presumptions that we make in the life of Churches. Let's challenge these presumptions. Let's build an effective Church for the future.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Life is a peach

The Church is facing a pandemic, a virus. According to Mark Greene is it called SSD. He says "Globally, 98% of Christians are neither envisioned nor equipped for mission in 95% of their waking lives. BUT just imagine if they were..." What is SSD? "The Sacred-secular divide". The Church, he says, is guilty of dividing life into the 'sacred, religious bit' and the rest. We're good at recognising the sacred bit, but not so good at helping people deal with the rest of life. How does the Bible relate to the world of work? How can we help young people develop a Christian view of the maths or the physics they study at school or the books they read for English? How can we help the parents who are bringing up their children and trying to work at the same time?

SSD has limited mission in 4 ways:

  • geographically - usually to within a few miles of the church building and/or far, far away

  • personnel - mission is seen as the province of church-paid people

  • time - SSD tends to confine most people's mission activity to their leisure time, evenings and weekends

  • Scope of the gospel - and the message we share with others, that is no longer about all our life and all our being.
"we have a small percentage of the Church taking a partial gospel to far, far fewer people than are actually known by the Christians in our congregations." "Churches have to realise that the core of their calling is to be disciple-making communities whatever else they do." (Bishop Graham Cray) So why is life a peach and not an orange? Because an orange is made up of segments that you can pull apart and we have been taught to think that God is more interested in the religious segments - prayer, church, worship - and is not interested in work, sport, school, hobbies. The peach is a whole fruit, all together. God is interested in all of our being, all of our life, all of our community. Overcoming SSD can: expand our vision, inspire our mission. release our churches, broaden our minds, enlarge our hearts. nourish our souls, thrill our spirits, free our imagination for faithful following and fruitful living in all of life. I'll lend you the whole essay if you like; it is called The Great Divide by Mark Greene.

Friday, 18 March 2011

It could never happen here?

My blog today is 2 very simple weblinks:

the first is to a news story that was in the press this week and the second is to a group that campaigns to do something about it.

In 2005 the Church of Scotland Guild produced some very good material on this subject and of course, CHO is working along the Cambodia/Thailand border to try to interrupt the trade; talk about putting your life on the line!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

BBC2 and the Bible

Last night (15th March 2011) BBC2 broadcast a programme called Bible's Buried Secrets: Did King David's Empire Exist? This is how the website describes the programme: "Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou goes on the trail of King David and his fabled empire. Did he really rule over a vast Israelite kingdom? Did he even exist? She examines evidence for and against the Biblical account." I have to say it made me angry, so I thought I'd take a few minutes this morning to counter some of what she said, just in case you watched it too!

The programme was based on a premise described as 'Empire'; "The Bible says that David had a great Empire" she kept saying. In fact, the word empire is never used in the Bible during the reign of King David. He ruled over Israel and Judah and subdued a few neighbours, but "empire" is not a Biblical notion. Worse, she then imported her notions of empire, so that there was an assumption that because David had an empire, he must have had all kinds of trapping of power, such as a huge standing army, fortresses and the buildings in his capital city that went with power. She even went as far as to say that if we are to accept the notion that God called David to be King, we needed to see evidence of power, wealth and glory (or words to that effect).

She met several archaeologists during the course of filming the programme. As you can imagine, there were conflicting views based on findings that are 3000 years old. Some were arguing that the evidence begged questions of the Biblical account of David, whilst others were arguing on the basis of other evidence that the Biblical account is accurate. I've never seen a more prejudiced summing up: the sceptics were allowed to comment on those supporting the Bible, but there was no right of reply; her conclusions supported one view because that was the view with which she started.

The Bible story was constantly quoted, but I have to say not often in a way that I recognised.

It is quite right and in order for questions to be asked of the Bible in the light of archaeological evidence. But listen to all of the evidence and give the Bible due place as part of that evidence. Anyone can make the Bible say what we want it to say; the far bigger challenge for us is to listen to what the Bible really says and see what life is like then.

We can't make David (or any other Bible character) fit the mould of our 21st century world-view (of "Empire" or any other notion!); it just doesn't work that way. The call of God on David's life was not about power and splendour; it was about faith and obedience; David wanted to built grand buildings, but God wouldn't let him!

Bad show, BBC. A more one-sided piece of television I've not seen since September when BBC Scotland broadcast a programme telling us that the Church of Scotland is dead.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The doorkeeper - part 2

Following on from Friday's blog here are some thoughts as to what might be doors into the blessing of God for people in our community:
  • Messy Church might be a door for some
  • The Green Strollers might be a door for some
  • a course, such as Stepping Stones or Christianity Explored might be a door for some
  • The Open Door cafe might be a door for some
  • The Sunday morning service, with Kids' Church, creche and youth group might be a door for some
  • The Summer mission might be a door for some
  • The Girlguiding service might be a door for some
  • A bereavement and a funeral might be a door for some
  • A Christmas or Easter card might be a door for some
  • The Guild of Friendship might be a door for some
  • The gift of flowers from the Church might be a door for some.

Actually, given a good heart in us, most of what we do can be a door for some to come into the blessing of God, into faith and into Church. Don't just sit back and expect it to happen; as the doorkeepers, we have to reach out our hands to help people through these doors.

But we can do exactly the opposite. On Sunday morning, a lady (a visitor, the grandmother of a Brownie) was in Church early; she sat at the end of a pew. Then someone else came in and wanted to sit in the same pew, so she went past the first to sit further in. Then 2 more people came and wanted to sit beside their friend, the second lady to hit the pew. The first lady let them past and stood waiting to resume her seat. Sadly, they didn't move far enough into the seat, so our first lady was left standing in the ailse for some time, till finally she moved to sit in the seat in front. People have stormed out of Churches for this kind of thing; fortunately she was fine about it. This was not done deliberately to push someone out; it was simply careless and thoughtless, but it could be the kind of experience which turns a door into a brick wall for someone.

Is there someone for whom you are a doorkeeper? Is there someone that you can help through the door into the joy of Christ?

Friday, 25 February 2011

A doorkeeper?

"I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God..." - these are some words from Psalm 84, as the writer pictures himself standing at the door of the temple, welcoming people to worship. Some of us still do that; we welcome people to worship as part of a welcome team.

Some Cambodian communities have people called "doorkeepers". This is no longer physical, but their job is to look after the best interests of the community. If you want to run a project in their village, you need the permission of the doorkeepers; they will let you in, but also keep you out.

There is a great deal of door-imagery in the Bible. Jesus calls Himself the gate; He stands at the door and knocks; John saw a door open in heaven. (John 10; Revelation 3,4) Here's a Celtic prayer:
God the Lord has opened a door
Christ of hope, Door of joy!
Son of Mary, hasten Thou to help me:
in me, Lord Christ, let there be joy.

How do people find the door into God's blessing and the joy of Christ? There are lots of people who would love to find the door into faith, but are not sure where the door is. Some would even like to begin to be part of a Church, but they don't know how to begin.

We should be keepers of the door and that should mean creating opportunities, creating ways for people to find their way. Maybe we even need to be the doors, so that by and through us, others find their way to faith, to Christ, to Church. How does the Church create these opportunties?

Do people feel for the door, but all they find is a wall? The door ought to be there, and they feel for it and grope along the wall, but they find no doorway, no opening, just a solid wall stopping them from getting in.

2 things: are we blocking the door? Is there something in us or in our Church or in the way we do things that creates a brick wall rather than a door?
Secondly, "the most important thing anyone can do is to take hold of one of these blind, groping hands, and put it on the latch... and open it, and walk in, and find Him... So I stand by the door. (Samuel Shoemaker)

Friday, 18 February 2011

Telling our story!

Have a look at this link to the Tearfund website; you might see someone you recognise!

I was asked to be involved in this DVD project (there is a longer version, with some other people as well!) to tell other Church leaders about our connection with Cambodia. I went to Manchester for a Saturday last year to take part in the filming; it was a long day and there were a few retakes; apparently some bits of the interview appear in another Tearfund DVD, but none have appeared on You've been Framed! yet.

It is good to tell our story, not so that we can boast about ourselves, but to share with others some of the ways in which God has been moving us and prompting us. We have to tell our story in such a way that it is clear that we give glory and honour to God. By telling the story of our involvement with Tearfund and Cambodia, I understand that some other churches have begun to show an interest in this kind of Connected Church project.

This DVD tells part of a story about a particular thing we do and others have responded. As Christians we can tell the story of Jesus, or the personal story of our own faith, whenever the opportunity arises, and tell people a little about the love and faithfulness of God. Perhaps they'll respond positively to that too.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

a selfless act?

Have a look at this; it is excellent.

Last night at Bible study we were thinking about Matthew 5:38-48 and the challenges presented to us by Jesus to be different and to learn to copy the love of God.


Friday, 21 January 2011

Meeting places

Where do you go to meet your friends? The answer to that may depend on to which generation you belong: 50 years ago, it was to the dancing that people would go to meet their friends; now it is Starbucks that for many people is the place where friends meet.

Or is it a virtual meeting place? Do you meet your friends on Facebook? The meeting may not be physical, but an enormous amount of information is shared every day across cyberspace.

Will I see you tomorrow at the Juniper Green Farmers' Market? That has become a bit of a social focus for the community because people meet there and chat. Some Saturdays it has taken us ages to get home because we keep meeting people to talk to; it's great.

In the communities of Juniper Green and Baberton Mains, the snow did us a bit of a favour. Ok, it brought a lot of disruption, caused some to fall and hurt themselves, but there was another side. People were out clearing snow from their paths, or from the roads themselves. Guess what, they began to talk to one another in a way that during 'normal times' just doesn't happen. There is no meeting place in Baberton Mains, other than for parents at the school gate, or if you go to visit a friend.

Church as a meeting place? Here are two thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's little book Life Together which is all about community, one a positive comment and the other a little bit of a challenge. Positively he says about us as Christians: "Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us." We share so much in common by virtue of the work God has done for and in both of us.

Secondly:"If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ."

See you tomorrow?

Friday, 14 January 2011

australian floods - another angle

You will have seen this video clip on the News perhaps; watch it again on YouTube:

This is Toowoomba, Queensland and the video was shot by the Scripture Union worker from the SU office in the town. It now has more that 3 million hits on Youtube!

Emlyn Williams is the Director of SU England and Wales and yesterday I heard him speak about this disaster in Australia as well as other places across the world. Cote D'Ivoire is facing political upheaval and an uncertain future; Myanmar is a country whose future is also uncertain, given the recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi. SU is involved in work in all of these places: there are 500 school chaplains in Queensland, employed by SU Australia, people who will have a significant role in the aftermath of these horrific floods; SU has good people working in Cote D'ivoire as in most African nations and there is even a piece of work being done in Myanmar.

Emlyn's point was to challenge us to think of the news through SU's eyes and remember that there is an SU presence in most countries of the world. Let me broaden that challenge: when we pray for disaster areas, remember that there will probably be Christians there, praying for their own situation, trying to help others, looking to solve the problems they face. They are people just like us; pray for them.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Thorns in the straw

Thorns in the straw is the title of a song by Graham Kendrick. It is about the birth of Jesus and has the picture of the manger at its heart. But there is a twist: Mary sees a thorn in the straw by her baby's head and smells myrrh in the air, the fragrance of suffering.

I have been at Crieff Hydro this week for a minsters' conference. We meet every year just after New Year, a gathering of friends more than anything else. We always have a speaker and this year Sinclair Ferguson, one-time minister of St George's Tron in Glasgow and now living and working in the USA, came to speak. He taught us Philippians in 4 sessions and it was very good.

Philippians chapter 2, Sinclair says, is all about the gospel mindset, how we think as a result of the gospel. Paul tells us about the mind of Christ and how Jesus obeyed His Father by going to the cross. Our view of life, the way we think about God, other people and ourselves, has to be shaped by the cross-centred gospel. But that's not terribly popular, even in Churches.

It never has been. He quoted the great Roman orator Cicero: "Not only let the cross be absent from the person of Roman citizens, but its very name from their thoughts, eyes and ears." Phillipi was "Rome in miniature", a Roman colony; what Roman society liked today Philippi would like tomorrow; what Roman society hated, Philippi would despise. So the cross was abhorrent to Roman citizens.

Yet, says Paul, the Christians are to have their whole way of thinking shaped by the cross.

People love Christmas; but Easter... not so easy to love! Yet, Graham Kendrick sees something important: they are totally and completely connected. And, our view of life is to be shaped by the cross. We love the God who sent His Son; we trust a Saviour who was crucified for us; we rejoice in the love of God, demonstrated on the cross; we count others as more important than ourselves because that's what Jesus did.

Our society doesn't get the cross very easily; neither sometimes does the Church. We have to get the cross; otherwise we have nothing.