haunted by peace

‘If only you knew the things that would make for your peace’. These words have been haunting me over the last few days. They are what Jesus said as he wept over Jerusalem when approaching the city for the last time. He longed for his people to be at peace with themselves, their calling, with God and with life. The Hebrew notion of peace fascinates me. It is a blessing given from the start of the Judeo-Christian narrative throughout history to today, but the meaning has been somewhat lost in translation. Shalom (the Hebrew word for Peace) is a word picture of God’s dream and purpose to restore humanity and all creation to his original design … and more. It means everything coming into its rightful place the way God intended. It is about the Kingdom of God, that reality where God’s will is being done, its about him making all things new. Its about wholeness and life and healing and reconciliation, Joy and restoration, redemption, grace and right relationship with others, oneself, God and the created world. Shalom.

‘If only you knew the things that would make for your peace.’ There are paradigms that I have that take me away from God’s purposes, his good and perfect will that effects not only myself but those around me; and there is a paradigm and perspective that enables me to see things through his eyes and understand the world in his light and make choices from there. Both John the Baptist and Jesus called the people to have a ‘metanoia’, to change their paradigm and perspective so that they could recognise the Kingdom of God, in other words God doing stuff his way in their midst. They had been waiting for the unfolding of Gods plans for centuries, the danger was that now that things were moving, they would miss it because they were looking with blinded eyes… they needed to have a metanoia, a changed perspective. (the word in Christianese is ‘repent’).

However, Jesus said those words to a city, a community, a society; not to individuals. I look at Britain today and I hear his words – if only our nation knew the things….. but wait, we do! We have been there before. We do know the things that would make for our Peace, its just that we have forgotten and lost our way. Centuries before Jesus spoke these words, God sent a message to his people in exile instructing them to ‘seek for, pray for and work for the peace of the place where I have sent you’. I believe those orders are still standing orders for us today. Our job is to help our nation re-discover its God given purpose to live and chose and lead in the world according to his design; that is with justice, kindness, mercy, honour and compassion; caring for and defending the poor, the orphans, the widows and the refugees. We need to turn the hearts of this generation to our past redemptive heritage, inspire them to stand with courage for the things that goodness demands of us today… for the sake of the generations to come, so that they in turn can live those things that would make for their Peace.

Come on, its time to change the world.

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Fruitful Friendship

As I write I am sitting in the sun lounge of my new home with the sun streaming in and the window open so I can hear the red kites calling. It’s been a lovely day, gathering for worship, connecting with people I am enjoying getting to know, then lunch in the botanical gardens with a friend. I am currently in the midst of major transition both personally and at work, there are many unresolved situations, but as I sit here having made my first rent payment, I am very conscious of the generous faithfulness of God.

This week I have been pondering the theme of fruitfulness. What is the key to fruitfulness and, when we aren’t experiencing it what does that tell us? As you know I have just spent a couple of weeks with the Fusion team in Albania and true to say I have been impacted by this incredible bunch! I am learning so much as I reflect on my journey with them. They are fruitful. If they only have 60 young people on a Day Trip where Jesus is introduced and the opportunity to respond to him is given, they are disappointed. These Day Trips happen once every one to three months! They have the freedom of the city of Korce – they are able to run community festivals in the main square at any time with no notice. In fact the city authorities ask for their involvement with any community event; they know they will create a positive, wholesome culture. They have a growing national profile with the theatre productions they put on… and the list goes on with lives transformed at every turn.

They don’t have an office. They don’t have a PR plan. They don’t have a web site. They don’t write newsletters often. They don’t have financial structures and systems – partly because they don’t have any finances! They do spend most of their time in coffee shops, meeting, connecting! They thrive on each other’s company. They love to worship together. They have a church that loves them, commissions them, supports them, partners with them, and compliments their ministry.

In John 15 Jesus tells us that our purpose is to be fruitful and in so doing bring God glory. He then gives us some clues as to have we can make sure that happens. He says we need to remain in and with him, in his love; he nails it by describing our relationship with him as friendship. “Don’t act like my servants, franticly trying to please me, just be my friends, get to know me and live the way I do. An easy way to live the way I do is to do the things I ask, I don’t ask much, but the most important thing I ask is that you love one another like I have loved you.”  (my paraphrase!)

There is a little trick here that I haven’t spotted before: as you love me the way Jesus loves, I will experience his love… you are causing me to remain in his love. So in the context of fellowship that is fuelled by Christ’s love, together we obey both his command to love each other as he does and his command to remain in his love.

So the keys to fruitfulness that Jesus highlights are: loving God and getting to know him as a friend, authentic fellowship where we love each other as Christ would, and lastly asking God for stuff. That’s it. It doesn’t have to complicated, it doesn’t have to be frantic. It’s the way Jesus lived… which does mean that it could get messy and it will involve death, but it will be fruitful and give God much glory.

An Easter Trail

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On Thursday a group of us headed down to Redland’s Education Centre to participate in their Easter Trail. We are exploring ideas and approaches that would help us present the story of Christmas and Easter in even more accessible ways for our culture and setting. It was great, we got to follow Peter’s journey from […]