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.

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.

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'.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Pool of trust

Whenever I see someone operating a speed camera I thank them. It might seem odd since I was once caught doing 35 mph past a school, but ever since I've driven more carefully and changed down a gear in restricted zones.

It's important our driving is held to account, and all other actions for that matter. Why? If we keep our collective behaviour on the roads to a high standard, we'll be safer for it. Several local speed restrictions have been lowered to make just that point. It's like a pool of trust.

Imagine if a small minority get away with dangerous driving, it would allow normal behaviour to drop to a lower standard. It's as if the banks of the pool of trust have sprung a leak, and the overall level of trust is going down. On the other hand, if our standards are kept high then the level of trust rises and we're all safer.
A betrayal of individual trust in any sphere of life also reduces the value of trust for all of us. If I fiddle my tax return then everyone else has to pay a bit more to cover the shortfall. We rightly should challenge each others behaviour, not in a self-righteous way because we all make mistakes.

I've noticed local electronic road signs have sometimes been flagging up the message 'Take your litter home like everybody else'. It's a reminder that works because if someone tips stuff out of their car window as they drive along, the verges become polluted for everyone.

And of course this trust pool works at every level including our local and national government. Broken promises, false claims, and downright lies all drain trust from political life. Some of Jesus' strongest words were used against hypocrites. Careful decision, accountability, and clarity help build up trust.

You and I can make a huge difference through our actions, and the quality of our speech. We can increase the level of trust so everyone lives richer lives.

And finally, can you think of any part of normal life that could continue if there was no trust at all?

Monday, 3 June 2019

Dung beetles and humour

Someone in the Post Office has a sense of humour because 1st class stamps celebrating Dad's Army have been issued to coincide with what might have been Brexit.

Our politics seem jammed in ways that maximise division and breed intolerance. Media of all sorts, mainstream or social, have become unsocial. Genuine leaders receive death threats and are at risk of harm. Officers of state across the world throw insults at each other, and will do anything to gain attention.

We might well feel like calling all of them 'stupid boys', and want to encourage each other 'not to panic'. We could shrug our shoulders, sit back and treat the whole thing as an international soap opera, or give up all together.

Or we could take a lesson from an apparently daft insect. You couldn't make him up! He's one of nature's jokes. Job description: collect refuse, roll it backwards [how do they see where they're going?] until you get home, use these balls for supplies of energy and nutrients which nurture your offspring. And by fulfilling these instructions you'll leave the place tidier and cleaner!

These humble beetles show great persistence, and they get the job done against all the odds. We can learn from them to refuse truth-tiredness, and find the energy of hearts set aflame by God's Spirit. The book of Proverbs 6.6 invites us to 'Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise'. Nature can teach us a few tricks.

And it's no joke because hate and fake are stalking our planet. Let's not forget that they are transient threats to eternal truth, and the power of love.