Did you watch the crime drama Maigret recently on TV? They were adapted from the novels by Georges Simenon and portrayed the French detective Jules Maigret. What made the new series stand out from previous ones, however, was the main character. The role of Mairget was played by Rowan Atkinson. I think Rowan portrayed Maigret very well indeed, but I kept expecting him to turn to the camera, open his eyes wide and grin like Mr Bean. That is the challenge for an actor portraying a serious role when he is associated with a very funny one. Rowan is in fact a very good hypocrite.
How do we nurture our souls in a secular world? Historically, Christians have responded in two very contrasting ways:
Nurturing the Soul Through Asceticism
The first approach, popular among some early Christians, was to retreat to the desert thinking they could escape temptation and find holiness through asceticism. By the fourth century CE many Christians were living as hermits and monks in monasteries out in the desert. A fifth century monk, Simeon, took this to extremes. To get away from the hordes of disciples and onlookers who came to visit him, attracted by his already extreme self-denying lifestyle, he climbed a pillar and lived there. He once survived 40 days without eating or drinking anything, which made him even more popular. He spent the rest of his life on a succession of ever higher pillars, to try and get away from the crowds who continued to visit him. Food and water were delivered by village boys climbing up his pillar. After he died, scores of others tried to imitate Simeon, and became known as Stylites from the Greek word for pillar, “style”. The problem is that we can never escape from temptation and sin, least of all retreating from the world into the desert. Jesus was himself tempted by Satan in the desert.
Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000 is the only other miracle recorded by all four gospels. This suggests it has some significance. Not least because of the numbers who witnessed and, indeed, participated in it. Perhaps this is why the story is so well known today. Or is it? Lets test you. How many were fed that day? We are told by Mark that the number of men who had eaten was 5,000. What about the women and children? A conservative estimate would actually put the figure closer to 10,000 or more. But there is more to this miracle than numbers. What was the context? What is the conundrum? What were the consequences? Lets begin with the context.
A small farming village was threatened with drought because the rains had failed to arrive. On a hot and dry Sunday, the pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people returned to church the following Sunday. As they sat down the Pastor gently rebuked them. “We can’t worship today because you do not yet believe,” he said. “But we prayed” they protested, “and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?” Faith is made visible by our actions. So let me ask you this morning “Where are your umbrellas?” Do you have umbrella faith?
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmerwere the six actors in the TV series… that’s right – Friends. It is hard to believe Friends first aired 24 years ago and lasted 10 seasons. You either loved it or hated it. If you’re a fan, you probably binge-watched Friends growing up. And in 2004 you may have bought the exclusive, limited edition “Friends are Forever” season finale from Warner Brothers and possibly even the Friends Party Pack which enabled you to host the perfect evening to watch the final episode with your own friends, complete with the Friends party invitations, a commemorative serving tray, coffee, party recipes, coasters and trivia card game.What made Friends as a series so popular? I don’t think it was simply the acting, the folksy humour or even the static between six young and attractive men and women living in close proximity. I think what made Friends so popular as a series was because friendship and companionship touches our deepest need. And in this fictional encounter between six different people who became friends, millions of people have lived out their own hopes, struggles and dreams. While millions without Netflicks may have mourned the end of the series, the amazing truth of the Bible is that God wants to be your best friend forever.
I wonder if you are old enough to remember the early Beatles hit, “Help”? How do the lyrics go? “Help. I need somebody. Help. Not just anybody. Help. You know I need someone. Help!” Some people view prayer that way. They only call on God when they have a problem.
Corrie ten Boom, knew the importance of prayer. She once asked the question, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?” While your car has both, they have very different purposes. When you are driving, your need to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
The steering wheel allows you to navigate and gets you to your destination safely. But the spare tyre plays a secondary role. You may never have touched the spare tyre in your car. You may not even know where it is. It is probably new and unused because it is only needed in case of an emergency.
How is your prayer life defined by this question? Is prayer like your steering wheel or a spare tyre? Does your prayer life guide you in every facet of your life? Is it something you have your hands on every waking moment of the day? Or is it like a spare tire, something you only use in times of emergency? For most of the day you forget that it’s there. You’re not even sure how to use it and find yourself struggling when you need to use it. Continue reading
Our Father, who art in heaven,
slow to anger, and of great mercy, lover of all peoples of the earth,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Remind us that “all the nations are as nothing before thee,”
their governments but a shadow of passing age;
Thy kingdom come on earth.
Grant to thy children throughout the world,
and especially to the leaders of the nations,
the gift of prayerful thought and thoughtful prayer;
that following the example of our Lord,
we may discern what is right, and do it;
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Help us to protect and to provide for all who are hungry and homeless,
especially those who are deprived of food and shelter,
family and friends, by the tragedy of war;
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us for neglecting to “seek peace and pursue it,”
and finding ourselves in each new crisis,
more ready to make war than to make peace.
“We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”;
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Let us not seek revenge, but reconciliation;
Let us not delight in victory, but in justice;
Let us not give ourselves up to pride, but to prayer;
Lead us not into temptation.
Be present to all thy children ravaged by war:
Be present to those who are killing and to those who are being killed;
Be present to the loved ones of those who are killing
and to the loved ones of those who are being killed;
Deliver us from evil.
Subdue our selfish desires to possess and to dominate,
and forbid us arrogance in victory;
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
~ written by Wendy Lyons
How do you pray when faced with changes that will affect the rest of your life? How do you pray for others facing change? How should we pray living in a fast changing, uncertain, unstable, volatile world? As we have been discovering these Sunday evenings, prayer is one of our greatest privileges. As Tim Keller says, Tim KelletT As God’s children, we come freely and boldly to His eternal throne and share with Him whatever is on our hearts, our hopes, our fears, needs and our questions. In the book of James we are encouraged to:
Pray for the Suffering (James 5:13)
Pray for the Sick (James 5:14)
Pray for the Straying (James 5:19-20) Continue reading