Thursday, 6 February 2020

Faith = Belief x Action

I'll have mixed emotions when I first receive a Brexit 50p coin, and perhaps that's exactly right. We've been told to choose one option or the other: in or out, control or influence, border or not.
 
Jesus' actions were challenged by a trick binary choice: should he pay taxes to the emperor or not. He asked for a coin [Matthew 22.15-22] and flagged up that it had two sides, one bearing the emperor's head. He argued that his challengers had responsibilities both to God and to the emperor.

It is unclear quite where the United Kingdom goes from here, but whatever the outcome it should include a balance between all our responsibilities. Open debate is essential, and the disturbing trend in government of avoiding scrutiny is a dangerous path. Jesus responded to questions, and asked many himself. 'Speaking truth to power' is the motto of the United Nations; we all need to be held to account.

The famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel's father believed that he could build a tunnel from Kent to France. As I understand it the Chunnel actually starts at the original site of what proved to be a hopelessly optimistic attempt. He had belief but his actions didn't bare it out.

Several generations after that failure tunnelling machines working from France and Britain met under the English Channel. 25 years later an average of 60,000 passengers pass through the tunnel each day, along with 4,600 trucks, 140 coaches and 7,300 cars; that's about a quarter of our continental trade.

The faith of many thousands involved was demonstrated by their actions in turning their collective belief into reality. It wasn't easy, but adventures rarely are. However, they left an amazing legacy, and a fine example of greener travel because it's powered without using carbon fuels.

You and I won't build a tunnel, but the small details of our living can present the same challenge: will we #makeadifference by demonstrating our beliefs through action? I thank God so many do, and add my hearty encouragement.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Adventure, and toothbrushes

Robust romance leads to adventure, so if I send or receive a fleeting gesture on Valentine's Day it's unlikely to be remembered. On the other hand if I live in a grace-full way as opposed to a grace-less one, then life will be more exciting and rewarding.


East Suffolk Council

After Christmas I try to thank any 'recycling operatives', the fantastic people clearing away the tons of rubbish after our celebrations. They are often cheery, even though only getting one or two days holiday. So much of what they collect is the residue of fleeting gestures.

The amazing lego kits will be built, jigsaws done, internet bombarded with a myriad of new devices ... and what will last? Imagination to create something different from all those coloured bricks; websites giving inspiration, perspective, and humour; and above all relationships that evolve with generosity.

In September 2018 I bought some bamboo toothbrushes [as if only cleaning one tooth?!]. I was delighted to be asked in a pub what had happened to them. Well, the spent brushes didn't go to landfill; instead I used them as kindling to light the wood burner. It felt good not to add more plastic to the environment.

by Ash Mills

At first sight this stunning picture makes it look like Salisbury Cathedral is flooded; in fact the reflection is on water filling the font. The image reminds us of our relationship with nature. Will we be graceful towards her beauty and power, or treat her as a dump? 

Half hour worship by candlelight takes place in St Andrew's at 7.30pm on Tuesdays and Fridays. We've just finished a series on marriage, and celebrated a core part of life which needs support from everyone, whether married or not. Some of the wisest counsellors are single and can see the wood from the trees.

In in all our relationships with each ourselves, with other, with different cultures, and with nature may we seek the greatest fulfilment. Jesus' first miracle was to turn water into wine at a wedding. He blessed adventure.

Friday, 6 December 2019

20-20 Vision!

With a quick backward glance Café Church looked forward to possibilities for silicon and carbon. We started by agreeing that endless arguments about the Big Bang were rather pointless.
www.tubefilter.com

The Higgs-Boson was discovered in 2012, and promptly called the 'God Particle', but who put it there? As I understand it, this enables mass to be created. Or in other words we've seen the firework display that is our universe, now we've found the firework. By the way, all are welcome to Café Church or any other worship for that matter.

Looking to the future [something natural at the beginning of a year], we asked the question: if carbon and silicon are right next door to each other in the periodic table does it mean they have a future together? Could that be part of our natural evolution? What was in a laptop a few years ago is now in a mobile phone, and artificial intelligence [AI] is making itself at home more and more.

axial.acs.org

St Paul wrote that Christians should be marked by renewal of their minds, not changing opinion sporadically but considering possibilities for the future. Jesus talked about young people having visions, and elders dreaming. In other words we look back to see forward and come to clear judgements. Discoveries won't be put back in their box, but just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.

A very Happy New Year, with peace in heart and mind. Here's to 20-20 vision!



Monday, 4 November 2019

How should I vote this Christmas?

It would be wrong to tell you which political party to vote for but it's appropriate to suggest things to consider in making a choice. Here's a list which might help in choosing who to support:
 1) are they taking green issues seriously?
 2) do you trust that their promises will be honoured?
 3) are they balancing justice with mercy?
 4) do empowerment and aspiration feature?
 5) will they be a good constituency MP?
 6) and are they addressing Brexit?


As I shake hands after worship in the Church it's not unusual to hear a wide range of opinions about party political issues. That's great because it demonstrates that faith brings with it responsibility to vote, to play a part in the community, our nation, and through appropriate world-wide causes.

Going back to my suggestions [and of course there are many other factors], let me argue for those who are not old enough to vote but are clearly expressing their concerns through demonstrations right across the world. 1, 4 & 6 have vital long-term implications in a world largely controlled by vested interest. Our votes should represent those without an electoral voice. Incidentally, I think 16 would be a good age to begin voting; after all it's when you can get married without parental permission!

2, 3 & 5 are about the integrity of the candidates. Being a Member of Parliament is an amazingly difficult role to fulfil, with instant social media reporting or distorting responses to questions. However Jesus was a master at responding to those trying to catch him out. A classic response to a binary question was to ask for a coin. Are you on God's side or the emperor's? He said a coin had two sides, and so our allegiance is both to state and to God.

The miracle of Christmas is that God showed himself to us in human form through the baby Jesus. He was the ultimate constituency member because he grew up to become involved in all aspects of life, and that gave him the right to be our Representative.

So lastly, do vote for those who take faith seriously, and a very Happy Christmas to you.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Life and limb

I was horrified to be reminded recently that only 80 years ago World War II began. It seems that we've only just finished reliving World War I. But of course that's exactly what it must have felt like. I remember being taught that more died in Europe from war last century than in all previous conflicts. And many were damaged in mind or body so they could only really exist afterwards, not thrive.
peace bench by Jurassic Roundabout cycle track

My generation didn't fight in the wars but do have uncles, aunts, and parents who did; or who grew up during the horror. This means first hand memory of those times is fading, and that brings the risk that we take peace for granted.

Sadly since then many have been killed or maimed in Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan to name a few. It has been great to see Help for Heroes emerge alongside the British Legion as a way of recognising this amazing sacrifice, but still we often take Her Majesty's Forces for granted.

It's important to remember the Reserves who make a significant commitment in training so that they are ready to serve if called up. Those working in intelligence are vital in thwarting acts of terror, and giving politicians information on which to make decisions. Our ambulance, police, fire, and coastguard services play an important part too. All in all the numbers involved are huge.
Jesus told a story about a king honouring those who didn't feel worthy of praise because their acts of kindness were natural and spontaneous. 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me' [Matthew 25.40]. The costly commitment to peace is made on behalf of all of us.

With whatever Brexit throws up next, lets make sure we act and speak for peace, to honour the fallen, and recognise all those who work to keep us safe. May we live life to the full as we treasure the extraordinary gift of peace.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Fruit counts

Against my better judgement I had to admit that when I worked in the Central Electricity Generating Board [CEGB] the ruthless managers often achieved more than others. That meant cheaper bills for consumers.

CEGB logo

Jesus taught that judging people by the fruit of their efforts was important. He was quite relaxed about things, even though the political climate of his day would make Brexit seem straightforward. He put it like this: 'Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit [Matthew 7.17]. Some make great claims which result in little, while others achieve beyond expectations. Leaders need to bring the best out of the teams they head. We are held to account for the fruit of our labours.

I might be tempted to write to the Prime Minister as Mr Dominic Cummings, and congratulate him for controlling Boris Johnson so effectively. He is certainly a ruthless manager. Both Cummings and Johnson will be held to account by the fruit they produce. That might be through Parliament, or via social media, or through the ballot box. Whatever the outcome of a confused time in the UK, fruit will tell.

Jesus was no lightweight because his teaching made it clear that diseased trees are cut down and burned. It's a powerful image for all of us. Voting and influencing those in authority are important, but so are day to day actions. We never get this opportunity to make a difference for good again.

In a time of national confusion, we can be crystal clear about our words and actions. Have a good day!

Friday, 9 August 2019

Voluntary victim?

One of our choices in life is between letting the past haunt us, or letting go into future freedom. Easier said than done, but Jesus Christ taught about forgiveness as liberation. One of his well known stories involved different quantities of wood.

He exaggerates to make the point. It's no good trying to get a speck out of someone else's eye if you have a plank of wood in your own eye. Sort that out first, and then you'll be able to see straight to help someone else. All of us make mistakes, so being honest about our own failures means we can advise others without being self-righteous hypocrites.[Matthew 7.1-5 has the full quote]

Seeing straight isn't just for now, it's about past hurts too. Over the years I've had many conversations with those who have been deeply hurt, and some seem to cling on to the pain. It traps them. Where can liberation be found?

Sometimes it can be as simple as letting go of an object, and in so doing symbolically breaking the bond that has ached for many years. I find this particularly helpful, and it's perhaps no accident that Jesus gave us symbols to help us grow in faith: bread and wine for holy communion, water for baptism, and his presence at a wedding [more wine!].

I might put a stone on a windowsill and let it accumulate all the angst that might otherwise eat into me. Then when it's 'loaded' I throw it out to sea. We're not machines as if we could just throw a switch, so sometimes the 'letting go' has to be repeated perhaps in a different way. Over the years I've become better at not carrying unnecessary burdens, even if they were hurtful at the time.

Healing prayer can help, for example the Tuesday and Friday 7.30pm candlelight services at St Andrew's often have [check page 18 in the Register for details] healing prayer received by everyone there, including the leader. Candles can be lit too. You are warmly invited to join these half-hour services which are a real tonic.

Forgiving others is vital too, but sometimes forgiving ourselves is harder. I imagine sitting at a distance from the cross, and witnessing the innocent Christ humiliated in public, hurting beyond words. But he does speak, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'.