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.