Sunday, 21 August 2005

Just out of genuine curiosity ...

Which came first?

Your faith ...


Your music ...

Monday, 1 August 2005

Remembering WHO IS in control!

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
-- Isaiah 41.10

Just wanted to convey my thanks and appreciation to all of you who have called and written words of encouragement, and have been praying about the situation here in London.

In light of all the other daily devastations that take place globally, we have so much to be thankful for. We all wish we could help those suffering in India and Niger. On the Afghan and Iraqi fronts, there are people -- men, women, and children -- who battle daily to survive in a hostile world that was always the norm even before the Russians or the Taliban or other despots came to power. I know for Afghans in Kandahar where I once lived, life has not improved much in the past four years. And whilst the Muslim sects in Iraq are vying each other for power, let us not forget that many Iraqi Christians still reside amongst them all.

For those American and British soldiers who are trying to keep peace and hunt terrorists at the same time, the world must at times seem a very confusing circle. Just wars ordain sacrifice. I'm not too sure this has been fully understood since our world leaders raised the battle cry. And it seems there is never enough time for those who grieve their losses to mourn before it is time to mourn for another.

So then, how do we embrace what God is telling us through Isaiah 41.10?

This past Sunday, I was struck by our Gospel lesson from Matthew 14.13-21. This is the passage where we learn that Jesus feeds 5,000 men -- besides all the women and children -- with only five loaves of bread and two fish. This becomes such a miraculous feast that his disciples collect twelve baskets of left-overs at the end of the day. This miracle was borne out of compassionate spontaneity.

You see, what made such an impression on me was that just before Jesus found out about this massive crowd of seekers, he had withdrawn '... by boat privately to a solitary place'. To mourn. He had just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded on a whim. In today's comfy and tidy little Western world we have met news of beheadings with revulsion. And emotions emanating from most of us have probably included rage. Was rage a part of Jesus' emotions on that very long day? I wonder. He had to get away by himself on a boat, and find a special place where he could take in what had happened to his dynamic cousin. Now the scriptures do not tell us too much about the relationship between Jesus and John, but it seems that they must have been extremely close. Their mothers were very devoted to each other from the beginning. John was the one who rejoiced to baptise Jesus. Jesus fulfilled John's purpose in life. I think spiritually they must have been really close mates. (This is definitely on my 'Things to check out when I get to Heaven' list!) Jesus, as perfect as he was, must have been totally devastated!

But Jesus, at the urging of his disciples, saw the crowds that had gathered and felt compassion. He did not seem irritated. Amazing. I don't know, but there are times when those disciples seem like a real officious pain in the neck, and they would definitely have tested my patience! Instead Jesus turned his attention away from his own grieving for John. Whatever sadness or rage he must have felt, he let it go. Nor did he require any of the crowd of strangers to go through a security check-point before he ministered to them.

God's promise in Isaiah 41.10 allowed a grieving Jesus to heal and feed over 5,000 total strangers. Few of us today have all the practical answers for taking care of our little global community. We don't know how to make it totally safe and secure, or full of physical nourishment for all. But we should -- after all the many years some of us have spent studying the Bible and going to church -- at least know how to pick up Christ's mantle of compassion.

Through terror and tragedy, our world is coming together more closely. Whether our neighbourhood is homogenous, or decidedly multi-ethnic, we can no longer ignore the array of spice in the cuisine. Being self-righteously critical of other economies, governments, cultures and languages will not further the cause of Christ. But love and a genuine understanding for each other will. These two principles, on the surface, may seem too simple a solution, and idealistic at best. But the deeper implications of Christ's example in the midst of his mourning time for John illustrate how abundantly effective these principles can be.

When we extend Christ's mantle of compassion to those who are caught in a perpetual cycle of mourning, no matter what country or culture they may be from, perhaps suffering on a global scale will begin to fade away.
God will uphold us all with his righteous right hand!

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