Around Easter time, a few years ago, I found myself in Bethlehem. I planned to spend the day with a Christian family in a village called Beit Jala near Bethlehem. Their land had just been confiscated. Their beautiful old olive trees are being bulldozed to make way for the 8 metre high Separation Wall. It was going to come within 3 metres from their front door and not only cut off all day light, but cut their whole village in half. The Hafrada or apartheid wall (that is what it means in Hebrew) has been ruled illegal by the highest court in the world, the International Court of Justice. But few are doing anything about it. So we did. But we never got to see the family that day.
As we walked down the hill towards their property we came face to face with a line of soldiers with guns and tear gas and sound bombs. And they were not about to let anyone through. They tried to scare us off by lobbying few sound bombs at us. And they succeeded in scaring us, temporarily. But we carried on walking toward them until we came face to face with these young soldiers. We assured them that we were unarmed and had peaceful intentions. We were not there to hurt them. We disagreed with what their government is doing. We wanted to see our friends on the other side of the road – please. They said no and after an hour or so we went home. I came back the next day with a friend and we managed to see the family and take these pictures.
I am still working through the rights and wrongs of civil disobedience. What do you do when you see people made homeless, widowed, orphaned? When you witness deep injustice, theft, exploitation? When you see a State abuse its power? And Christians justify this theft of land in the name of God? What would you have done? More importantly what would Jesus have done? I can tell you what he would not have done. Would he have picked up stones and thrown them at the soldiers? Would he have taken up a gun and forced his way through? No, of course not. But would he have ignored the suffering? Would he have walked by on the other side? I don’t think so. What was the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If you are not sure, you need to watch our film With God on our Side.
I have always fancied going on a cruise in the sun and 15 years ago I got my chance. In 2004, I was invited to co-lead a late Autumn Cruise through the Mediterranean for MasterSun, a Christian travel company. It was billed as the “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” cruise. We visited some of the Biblical sites on Crete, Jerusalem and Galilee, and some of the sites of churches planted by Paul and the Apostles in Turkey, Patmos and Greece.
There were daily lectures to give about the significance of the places being visited the next day and the situation of Christian communities today. And we did indeed pray for the peace of Jerusalem. MasterSun had already invited a host from Christian Friends of Israel and they wanted someone to provide another perspective – hence me. When my name appeared in the publicity for the cruise, however, a rather eccentric Pentecostal minister warned in a prophecy that the ship would sink. MasterSun didn’t seem too worried but I did some research on the kind of whales that live in the Mediterranean.
The cruise actually went very smoothly. Apart from the last night. We encountered a rather violent electrical storm in the Aegean Sea not far from where Paul encountered his. This one had everyone on deck taking photos of the impressive thunder and lightning display. All except me. Being a little deaf without my hearing aids, I slept soundly right through the night. I heard all about it the next day at breakfast. It is the nearest I have come to experiencing the kind of crisis Paul describes in Acts 27. You may like to turn to it with me (and check out the outline in your weekly News)
The fact is, all of us, at one time or another, will find ourselves in a crisis. Sometimes we cause our own problems, sometimes we have no choice, but everyone experiences times of crisis. And it doesn’t seem to matter how good we’re trying to be. As the Scriptures say, “The rain falls on both the just and the unjust.” So how do we deal with a crisis? Like Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army crying “Don’t panic, don’t panic”? How can we stay calm? How can we maintain our confidence and courage, regardless of what happens? Continue reading →
Which command in the Bible is repeated most frequently? Do not worry? Why is that? Because from birth it is our default position. “I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m afraid…” Even as Christians we are tempted to doubt our loving heavenly Father. Satan knows if he can get us to doubt God, we will live defeated lives. That is why Jesus says over and over again in the gospels, “Do not be afraid, little flock…” (Luke 12:32).
But did you know some people are more prone to worry than others? Over forty years ago, two cardiologists, Milton Friedman and R.H. Rosenman observed that the primary risk factors of coronary heart disease, i.e. hypertension, smoking, and elevated cholesterol, could not explain why some people suffered and others did not. Their research published in 1974 revealed that personality type was also a major contributory factor. They divided people into Type A and Type B. And if you are worried about which Type you are, you are probably a Type A… They observed that Type A people were more prone to worry than Type B and were also found to be three times more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack, even if they were did the same sort of work and lived in similar conditions. Rob Parsons has identified some of the traits of Type A personalities. See if this reminds you of anyone. Continue reading →
I have a problem with suffering. I am sure you do also. A couple of years ago I experienced some of the worst pain in my life and I ended up in hospital. I knew the medical reasons why I was suffering but that didn’t make it any easier. If God wasn’t going to answer my prayer and take the pain away, I wanted to die. When the pain had gone I changed my mind. We struggle to keep their faith when confronted with pain or illness or death.
The problem of suffering is therefore a question we have something in common with our friends. The answer to our question should therefore help them as much as ourselves. For some it is an intellectual and theoretical question about the existence of God and problem of evil. For others it is a present and personal experience. The answer we give will greatly depend on the context. Our culture finds the issue of suffering a huge problem. The presence of pain and evil in the world leads many to question the existence of God. David Hume, the philosopher put it like this:
“Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (David Hulme)
Here is how C.S. Lewis framed the dilemma,
‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both. This is the problem of pain in its simplest form.’ (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)
In today’s Guardian newspaper, an editorial reports on a speech given by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo on the new US strategy of “Real Deterrence”
“Pompeo says killing of Suleimani is part of ‘bigger strategy’ to deter US foes… His speech, The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example, focused on what he called a Trump administration strategy to establish “real deterrence” against Iran…”
Disney’s animated film Frozen 2 has apparently already grossed more than $1 billion in box office sales. I am looking forward to seeing it with a selection of grandchildren over the Christmas holiday. The original Frozen, is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the Snow Queen. The story set in a northern paradise called Arendelle, an idyllic village on the shores of what looks like a Norwegian fjord. Princess Elsa has the power to turn everything to ice by a simple touch but cannot control her ability. She has a young sister, Princess Anna, and they are very close. But one night, while they are playing, there is an accident. A wound to the head leaves Anna with a streak of white hair. A wound to the heart however would, we are told, be fatal. As a result of the accident, their parents decide to separate the sisters.
When Elsa becomes the teenage Queen, at her coronation she loses control and freezes the whole village. In desperation Elsa runs away to a mountain in isolation. Anna is as outgoing and fearless as Elsa is afraid and reserved. She is determined to find her sister and unfreeze her village. But that is just the beginning of the adventure. While Walt Disney may not have intended it to be, the Christian message is more clearly explained in Frozen than in any other Disney fairy-tale. Christian principles and presuppositions are implicit throughout the movie. Let me highlight three:
As we look to the year ahead, we praise God that through friends and supporters, 80% of the 2020 budget is already pledged or funded.
However, we need to raise a further £6,000 ($7,500) to respond to the requests already received or anticipated in the year ahead. Thee include projects in Palestine, Rwanda, Syria, Tanzania, USA and with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.
Please stand with us and make a one-off gift or regular monthly donation before Christmas. If you wish to give regularly, you may download a standing order form and return to your bank. You may also donate by making a cash or cheque deposit or transfer directly into our Peacemaker Trust Metro Bank account using our bank account number 19949718 and sort code 23-05-80.
“يسيرون ولا يكلون” “They will run and not grow weary”
November 29, 2019
Meeting in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, we are over 350 persons— women and men, young and old, lay and clergy, Palestinians and friends from all over the world—reaching out to the Church on the Tenth Anniversary of Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth.
Since the launch of A Moment of Truth ten years ago, life in Palestine has rapidly deteriorated under the illegal occupation by the State of Israel. The oppression is more aggressive and brutal. Our imprisoned and besieged sisters and brothers in Gaza, non-violently gathering in the March of Return, were the targets of a bloody and deadly response. Settlements continue to expand. Threats of annexation of the Jordan Valley and the settlements themselves grow without a word of condemnation from the major powers. We are experiencing the continued dispossession of our land, our freedom and our human rights.