Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Gift from Thomas

Jesus teaches us (please note the present tense), in the wisdom writing of our Christian tradition that we are to love God with our heart, with our mind, with our soul, and with our strength. I think it is a deeply reassuring direction for all of us whose world view is informed by the insights of science, and the experience of technology. Our love of God is not simply based on feelings although feelings have a part to play in our love of God and each other. We are also called to love God with our minds and our ability to reason. So I thank God for Thomas when he said, ‘I won’t believe unless I see. I won’t believe until I touch the scars and know that what you others are saying is real!’

Our minds enable us to question, and learn, and make sense of things; our minds give us the ability to be creative and communicate…

I would like to invite all who read this little column to consider some faith related questions because ‘though I thank God for Thomas I think there are some things we cannot see and would struggle to measure…

Can we see love… or do we only see what love leads people to do? Does that make love any less real?

In a world that faces seemingly overwhelming challenges what role does hope have in keeping people going? We cannot measure it or grasp it, and yet hope seems to have the power to keep people going, and transform them.

The Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, and the Arabic word ‘Salaam’, are each words of blessing which we translate into the English word ‘Peace.’ What does peace taste like? How do we work for peace and experience it as individuals and as a community?

The questions are not entirely random because love, hope and peace seem to be recurring themes in the faith journey that Jesus calls us to.

Reflecting on Resurrection

The week before Easter is always an intensive time of story telling for the Christians that belong to mainline denominations.

We remembered a triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the crowds full of hope and expectation. We remembered the controversial clearing of the temple which left the crowds confused and the Jewish authorities determined to end a man’s life. We remembered this Jewish man sharing with some close friends in a festival meal. We remembered him washing their feet and reinterpreting the familiar symbols of bread and wine. We remembered how this man was betrayed and deserted by his friends. We remembered how he was tortured and killed.

We remembered the sense of loss, and fear that the friends of this man had and were quiet in that remembering.

Then into the darkness came light, a candle was lit and we began to sing songs of joy. We remembered a woman going to a tomb and finding it empty. We remembered her weeping and somehow the Jesus she had known became present to her, transformed into the Christ figure no longer limited by the boundaries of time and space.

In a literal and metaphorical way there is so much hope present in this story. Somehow in the mystery and grace of God, death need not be the end. In the mystery and grace of God, new life and new beginnings become possible. In the mystery and grace of God, no matter how great the injustice or overwhelming the darkness, the light of justice can shine. This is good news for a world all too familiar with bad news.

So, let us each live knowing that life is a gift; that new life is possible; and that unselfish love is the only thing that makes sense.

An Easter Prayer:

Holy and loving God, we thank you for the hope of resurrection in the daily nitty gritty of our earthly life. In the midst of disappointments, fears, hurts, sicknesses, and difficulties in sharing relationship, we ask for the grace to recognise and find new life. Then in the mystery of whatever happens after we die, we ask that you take care of us, in the same way that you took care of Jesus, our Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Arms and Zimbabwe

Each week through Lent we have an inward focus grounded in Psalm 139 verse 14 which affirms that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. To help us reflect on this statement we have a life size skeleton in the church for Lent and each week we have been thinking about the bones found in a particular part of the body. This week we remember and give thanks for the bones of, and related to, our arms: clavicle, scapula, humerus, radius, ulna, carpals, meta carpals and phalanges.

Our outward focus this week is the African country we know as Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's total population is 12 million. According to the World Health Organisation, the life expectancy for men is 37 years and the life expectancy for women is 34 years of age, the lowest in the world in 2006. The HIV infection rate in Zimbabwe was estimated to be 20.1% for people aged 15–49 in 2006.

Shona, Ndebele and English are the principal languages of Zimbabwe, English being the official language. Less than 2.5%, mainly the white and mixed race minorities, consider English their native language. The rest of the population speak Shona (76%) and Ndebele (18%).

The economic meltdown and repressive political measures in Zimbabwe have led to a flood of refugees into neighbouring countries. An estimated 3.4 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population, had fled abroad by mid 2007. Some 3 million of these have gone to South Africa.

Please pray for the people of Zimbabwe.