Each month I join Father Dave Smith for his Sunday Eucharist and provide a brief homily on the Epistle reading of the week. This week, Dave and wife Joy visited Southampton and so we recorded our discussion on Philippians 2 in the Titanic pub close to the port where the Titanic sailed on its ill-fated maiden voyage. The landlord even kindly turned the music down for us (a little).
Surrender is not a popular word, is it? Almost disliked as much as the word submission. It implies losing, and no one wants to be a loser. Surrender evokes unpleasant images of admitting defeat in battle, forfeiting a game, or yielding to a stronger opponent. The word is almost always used in a negative context. In today’s competitive culture we are taught to never give up and never give in. So, we don’t hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, to surrender is unthinkable. We would rather dwell on winning, succeeding, overcoming and conquering not yielding, submitting, obeying, or surrendering. It is ironic then that surrender is at the heart of the Christian faith.
On Palm Sunday Jesus rode on a donkey not a horse. Jesus came in peace not war, to surrender not conquer. Jesus came to give his life as a ransom sacrifice, to be the Passover lamb, to make atonement with God. And when some in the crowd laid their coats on the ground, it was a sign of their surrender to him. Because surrender is the natural response to God’s grace and mercy. Our surrender is called many things in scripture: consecration, taking up your cross, dying to self, yielding to the Spirit, presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice. What matters is that we do it, not what we call it.
I am delighted to make available a digital copy of my book Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? in Arabic – indeed two versions. The first was kindly translated by Nicholas Abou Mrad in Lebanon and published by the Arab Group for Christian Muslim Dialogue. The second was translated by Revd Jos Strengholt and published by the Anglican Publishing House in Cairo.
Click on one of the hyperlinks above or cover to download a copy.
The book is also available in English and published by Wipf & StockContinue reading
It was a delight to attend the 50th anniversary Greenbelt Festival held at Boughton House, near Kettering in August. I was part of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) team sharing a marquee with the Action around Bethlehem Children with Disability (ABCD). During the Bank Holiday weekend, I interviewed several speakers and participants.
Daniel Munayer is the Executive Director of Musalaha, a faith-based organization that teaches, trains and facilitates reconciliation mainly between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, and also international groups, based on biblical principles of reconciliation. Daniel spoke at Greenbelt sponsored by Embrace the Middle East. In this short interview he shares his vision for the future in Palestine.
Linda Ramsden is the founder and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions(ICAHD UK) which is dedicated to resisting apartheid and building a shared democracy from the River Joran to the Mediterranean Sea.Continue reading
The Arabic edition of my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church is now available as a pdf download
The print version of the Arabic edition of Zion’s Christian Soldiers was published by the Anglican Publishing House in Cairo and is also available and costs £8.95 plus £2.75 postage in the UK and £4.75 internationally. Order via PayPal.
The “Pillars of Hercules,” which flank the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar between Africa and Europe were from Roman times associated with the Latin phrase ne plus ultra, meaning “No More Beyond.” Certainly no one dared question the prevailing belief that there was nothing beyond the horizon. That was until 1492 when Christopher Columbus boldly sailed westward and discovered the New World. On his return, Spain celebrated with a new national logo. Coins were struck with two words: plus ultra meaning “More Beyond”. If you have experienced bereavement recently you know that ‘out of sight’ does not mean ‘out of mind’. But is there more beyond? More than simply the act of remembering the past? The Christian hope is that there is a new world beyond our horizon. Our Psalm this evening teaches us to look beyond our limited horizon, beyond what we can see, feel or touch. Psalm 103 inspires us to feel the heart beat of God’s love and realise there is indeed yet ‘more beyond’ our horizon to discover. More of God’s character to understand. More of his purposes to discover.
More of his love to experience. More of his commission to fulfil. More of his justice to proclaim. More of his love to share. More of his glory to praise. Psalm 103 inspired Henry Francis Lyte to write one of the most opopular hymns in the English language “Praise my soul the King of heaven”. No wonder. We have here in Psalm 103 the authentic utterance of a redeemed child of God, who piles up words to express his gratitude to the God of grace. There are three sections to the Psalm.
God’s personal blessings (Psalm 103:1-5)
God’s Covenant Mercy (Psalm 103:8-18)
God’s Universal Dominion (Psalm 103:19-22)
Let us consider them in turn and discern whether there is indeed “more beyond”
What is your purpose in life? Do you know? The Bible says, your mission is to prepare for eternity. Because life is a preparation for eternity. You’re going to be doing four things in heaven forever and ever and ever. And God wants you to practice those here on earth. What are they? First is worship, you were planned for God’s pleasure – to know and love God. The second is fellowship, you were formed for God’s family – to learn to love each other. The third is discipleship, you were created to become like Christ. And the fourth is ministry, you were shaped for serving God. Now, once we have got those four down, we come to the fifth purpose, which is the only purpose you can only do on earth. You were made for a mission. In John 17, verse 18, Jesus said this – “In the same way that you gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.” In John 20:21, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” To do what? Please turn with me to Matthew 18 because we are going to answer three questions. What is our mission? How do we fulfil our mission? And when will we complete our mission?Continue reading
My favorite hotel in all the world is the Walled Off in Bethlehem. Designed by Banksy, the anonymous British artist, it overlooks the Separation Wall. In bricks and mortar Banksy demonstrates how art can become an act of defiance against Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid. Tuesday this week, 29th August, was the anniversary of the assassination of Naji Al-Ali, the Palestinian political cartoonist and writer who drew the iconic image of the 10-year-old child Handala, which you often find drawn on the Apartheid Wall dividing the illegal Israeli colonies from the Palestinian ghettos. Appropriately therefore this week’s Kumi Now reflection, is entitled, ‘Art as Resistance’.
“Too often the Palestinian tragedy is portrayed as a humanitarian crisis rather than one that has to do with identity and self-determination. They believe art is a luxury that Palestinians cannot afford. That, instead, what they need is bread to eat, to fill their stomach, so they can think and live another day. But people “shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). Art and culture instead feed the soul and allow it to thrive. It gives people the strength to refuse being on the receiving end, perceived as victims. It allows people to become actors instead of spectators. It gives them the long breath necessary to resist. For wherever there is occupation, there will be resistance. The question therefore is not whether to resist, but how to resist.”Continue reading
I wonder if you have seen the film, The Devil Wears Prada? If you have, you won’t forget Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep. She is the editor of New York’s most popular fashion magazine Runway. Ruthless and cynical, she is intimidating and manipulative – the queen of the fashion industry. Andy Sachs played by Anne Hathaway is the rather naïve young graduate fresh from university who wants to be a fashion journalist. A down-to-earth girl she lands the magazine job “a million girls would die for”: junior PA to Miranda Priestly. She is quickly sucked into all the glamour, power and ambition of the fashion world. Andy puts up with the eccentric and humiliating requests of her boss because, she is told, if she lasts a year in the position she will get her pick of other jobs, perhaps even the journalistic position she truly craves. In the middle of the film, there’s a poignant scene where Andy has an argument with her boyfriend, Nate, because her work is consuming all her time. They’re standing outside a restaurant late one night and Nate complains about how she has missed his birthday, how she’s constantly late for all their dates and how he hardly ever sees her any more. She replies, “But Nate, I didn’t have a choice.” He looks at her as if to say, “Of course you’ve got a choice.” And then her mobile phone goes. It’s her boss.Continue reading
How do you find authentic, deep, lasting fulfilment in life? Is it a dream or can it be a reality? The problem is after years of bombardment from the secular media and advertising we are confused, cautious, sceptical. The daily diet on the TV, on the bill boards, newspapers and magazines tell us unashamedly that freedom and fulfilment comes from indulgence, luxury, space, exclusivity. The subliminal messages tell us to indulge ourselves. Fulfil our desires. Pursue pleasure. Stay free. Protect my space. Minimize commitments. Given such messages, it’s easy to understand why many people are cautious about commitment – whether its commitment in marriage, commitment to a charity or community service, commitment to our Church. We fear commitment, obligation, being tied down, restricted. If I commit myself, will I end up enjoying it or regretting it? Will life really be more fulfilling? Or just more draining? Well contemporary medical research provides a conclusive answer. Dr Paul Pearsall, the psychologist, writes in his book The Pleasure Prescription (Hunter House, 1996) “Modern research shows one of the most pleasurable of all human acts is also one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and for others.
Gentle, caring selflessness results in significant health benefits.” In the mid 1980’s Allan Luks, author of, The Healing Power of Doing Good, conducted a survey of 3,300 volunteers.Continue reading