Author Archives: Stephen Sizer

2020 Olive Tree Calendar

The Calendar includes stories and reflections of farmers, sponsors, campaign’ partners, picking and planting programs’ participants; Updates on the Israeli occupation measures against Palestinian land, farmers and olive trees; Palestinian and international memorials and feasts, as well as the JAI’ upcoming events and programs.

You may order your desired desk/table hard copy/copies, from the JAI, at: info@jai-pal.org to be posted to you. Please state your postal address, telephone number, and desired number of copies, in your order. Calendar copies are Free as gifts to JAI’ partners, friends, campaign’ supporters and promoters. Any contribution though to help cover the costs of production and postage is very much appreciated.

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The Religious Implications of the Deal of the Century on Christians

Jared Kushner’s long awaited “Deal of the Century” aspires to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians through $28 billion of investment in the Palestinian economy. Previous international initiatives have proposed exchanging land for peace. This US initiative, appropriately called “Peace to Prosperity”, unashamedly proposes trading land for money. In this regard, Kushner’s “deal” actually has strong biblical precedent. In Genesis 25 we read of how Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of stew.

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The advantages of not excusing ourselves

It takes great humility 
to find oneself unjustly condemned
and to be silent,
and to do this is to imitate our Lord.
The truly humble person
will have a genuine desire
to be thought little of, and persecuted,
and condemned unjustly,
even in serious matters.
 
You know that I deprecate
excessive penances;
here, however,
there is no cause for fear
that your health will suffer.
The interior virtues
do not weaken the body,
but strengthen the soul.
 
Remember how the Lord
took the Magdalen’s part
in the Pharisee’s house, 
and when her sister blamed her.
On the cross, He had only a thief 
to defend Him.
Be glad when you are blamed,
and you will see
what profit you experience in your souls.
 
In this way you will begin
to gain freedom.
It is difficult at first,
but with the Lord’s help,
the gradual attainment of this freedom,
and of renunciation and self-detachment,
is quite possible.

The Way of Perfection, chapter 15
Saint Teresa of Avila

Modern English Version translated and abridged by John Venard OCD

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I don’t think I am paranoid but…

We support refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton. One particular asylum seeker was advised by the Home Office that she and her family would be rehoused to another city. We helped clean the rented property after they had gone and returned the key to the landlord via the estate agent.

As the family were to be housed temporarily in a hostel by the Home Office until permanent accommodation was found, we gave our home address to the estate agent in case any mail needed forwarding to the family. Big mistake.

First of all, I received a letter from Southampton City Council stating that I was no longer required to pay Council Tax and that our direct debit had been cancelled. The euphoria was short lived when I received an identical envelope from the Council addressed to the asylum seeker at our address.

It took a month of writing letters and phone calls to Southampton City Council to convince them that we had not moved and that the asylum seeking family did not live at our address, indeed they had never even visited our home. It took another month for the Direct Debit to recommence. I asked who had advised them that we had moved. No answer.

Then guess what? Today, I received a letter addressed the the asylum seeker at our address from Southern Water. Here we go again. Was it the estate agent? If so, were they under some kind of legal obligation to notify the local Council and utility providers of the forwarding address for the asylum seeker?

I am now half expecting to receive letters from our telephone, gas and electricity providers addressed to the asylum seeker as well.

And to make matters a little more confusing still, the letters were addressed to the partner of the asylum seeker whom I’ve never met and who has lived and worked abroad for some while.

Photo taken in the Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

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7 Steps to Claiming Your Share of Abraham’s Inheritance

They say, “where there’s a will, there’s a family” and boy has there been a family dispute over the inheritance of Abraham. Millions and millions of the relatives of Ishmael and Isaac believe they are the rightful heirs. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the longest running dispute in the hands of the United Nations. In fact its over 4,000 years old. It is also the most dangerous military conflict in the world, without any international regulation of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons held by some of Abraham’s descendants.

And it is undoubtedly the most controversial media story in the world with accusations of holocaust denial, anti-semitism, racism, apartheid and Islamophobia. And, sadly, it is being perpetuated by some misguided Christians. Today in our teaching series, ‘What Abraham discovered’ we are going to discover the rightful heirs of Abraham, how to resolve this age long conflict, and most important of all, how you can claim a share of Abraham’s inheritance.

Seven Steps to Claiming Your Share of Abraham’s Inheritance from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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Stillness

by Lou Lam

I once heard someone say, that daily prayer and scripture is as important for a new mother, as milk is to a baby. I knew it would bring much-needed life and nourishment to my tired being. Life with two little ones has been quite a shock to the system, to say the least. No antenatal course quite prepares you for the requirement of such a total sacrifice of your body and self. The vulnerability, pressure to avoid mistakes and harassment of expectations is often overwhelming as I would fret over my attempts to “sort my life out”, portray an appearance of success, pursue professional dreams, grapple endless to-do lists, toddler-going-teen tantrums and navigate commitments to my family. In a season where I didn’t have the time for many words, I longed for a tangible assurance of God’s presence. But carving out time for myself to shower or eat, let alone have quiet times has felt quite impossible. Daily brain fog becomes the norm on better days or sleeps deprived migraines on others. At times I even struggled to string thoughts together talking to friends.

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Richard Bewes: With a Bible in his Pocket and Jesus in his Heart

We thank God for Richard Bewes, for his biblical teaching, his inspirational books and his pastoral heart. We were honoured to have Richard and Pam as members of Christ Church, Virginia Water since 2013. It was a privilege to have Richard join our preaching team and mentor several of our staff team. Richard also helped launch Peacemaker Trust in May 2017. He was a valued and respected member of the Peacemaker’s International Board of Reference. Continue reading →

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Mary: How to Follow Jesus

mary

I would like us to spend a little while thinking about the very first member of the church. The very first person to see the risen Lord Jesus, the first person to respond to him, the first person to tell the good news to others, was not one of the Apostles, but a woman, Mary Magdalene. Let’s discover how Mary became a member, the first member of Christ’s New Testament Church. Then let’s think what that means for us too. Mary Magdalene appears in all four Gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. From these we learn that Mary Magdalene became a friend and follower of Jesus after he cast out 7 demons from her.

She was present during Jesus’ trial (Matthew 27:45). She was there at the Crucifixion (John 19:25). She watched Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (Luke 23:56).  And on Easter Sunday she and some other women were the first to discover the stone had been rolled away (John 20:1), first to meet the risen Lord Jesus (John 20:15-16) first to tell the disbelieving disciples the good news (John 20:18).

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The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

cross-and-crown-of-thornsI wonder if you have ever been to a Death Café? There are or have been nearly 3,000 around the world since the first was held in London in 2011. Visit www.deathcafe.com, enter your postcode and you will be directed to the nearest. There was one at Virginia Water Library last week. “At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion about death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. – With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action – Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!” I welcome this initiative to break the taboo of talking about death. But how much more helpful and above all hopeful to discuss our mortality in the light of the most significant death in all of history.

John Owen, the 17th Century pastor and theologian, who became chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, managed to squeeze ‘death’ into the title of a book about Jesus, three times. “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” dwells on the love of Christ and the deep conviction that Christ’s work on the cross literally saves us from the deadly nature of sin.

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Easter in Three Dimensions

Between Good Friday and tomorrow Easter Monday – that is four days – we the great British public (and some very nice Expats) will have consumed rather a lot of Easter Eggs. Do you know how many? If you put them in one big pile, how much would it weigh?  Is it 260 tons of chocolate, 2,600 tons, or is it 26,000 tons. Yes its 26,000 tons. That is a lot of chocolate to eat in four days.

Do you know what the link is between the egg and Easter? It goes back to the time when chickens laid their eggs in the Spring, like sheep have their lambs. Easter marked the end of Winter and the Lenten fast.  People celebrated Easter by feasting on things like new laid eggs which were traditionally scarce in Winter. It all got a bit confused when farmers realised they could trick chickens into laying eggs all year round by keeping them in light warm buildings,

and it got really confusing when Mr Cadbury in the 1870s realised there was more money to be made in selling hand-painted chocolate Easter eggs than real ones. Everything else is, as they say, history.

The encouraging fact, however, is that in a recent national survey, one in three people in Britain indicated that they believed in the historical and physical resurrection of Jesus.  Whether they understand the purpose is another matter.

C. S. Lewis once said, “Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax...”

This morning I’d like us to think about how the resurrection of Jesus is three dimensional.


 

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