Have you noticed that when a new hotel or commercial building is being constructed, the architects will invariably install large mirrors in the lobby? Ever wondered why? Apparently, we complain less when we’re looking at ourselves. We all get distracted by our reflection at times, don’t we? We all want to be seen, to be recognized, to be accepted, affirmed, encouraged, appreciated, valued. And that’s OK. It is instinctive to want to be loved. As long as we are not preoccupied or obsessed with ourselves and what others can or should do for us. But like the mirrors you sometimes find at amusement parks, our self-perception can so easily become warped or distorted when we view ourselves through the eyes of other people rather than God. It is bad enough when this is tolerated in a community and remains unchecked. But it is much worse when religious leaders encourage and exploit their position. Then it becomes abusive and manipulative. I have been a victim of that kind of spiritual abuse. And if you have been a church member for any length of time, you probably have been too. Spiritual abuse ranges from the relatively benign to the lethally toxic, but usually stems from a misuse of authority by religious leaders.Continue reading
Have you noticed that when a new hotel or commercial building is being constructed, the architects will invariably install large mirrors in the lobby? Ever wondered why? Apparently, we complain less when we’re looking at ourselves. We all get distracted by our reflection at times, don’t we? We all want to be seen, to be recognized, to be accepted, affirmed, encouraged, appreciated, valued. And that’s OK. It is instinctive to want to be loved. As long as we are not obsessed with ourselves and with what others can or should do for us. But like the mirrors you sometimes find at amusement parks, our self-perception can so easily become warped or distorted when we view ourselves through the eyes of other people rather than God. It is bad enough when this is tolerated in a community and remains unchecked. But it is much worse when religious leaders exploit their followers. Then it becomes abusive and manipulative.Continue reading
When I was a child, I used to read the Daily Mail newspaper every day – well, the Peanuts cartoons, to be precise. I still remember when Lucy asked each of her friends whether she should have her ears pierced. The conversation went on for days. Schroeder was playing his piano. “Do you think I should have my ears pierced?” He replies, “I don’t mind, you pierced mine long ago.” She storms off. “Linus, Do you think I should have my ears pierced?” “I have a better idea…” he replies cheekily, “Why don’t you have your mouth boarded up?” Lucy wallops him. When he comes to, he reflects, “It was worth it!” How do you cope with people who just don’t seem to like you? No matter how hard you try to be nice to them, they will always twist your words, they question your motives, they gossip about you, they try and discredit you, they seem to undermine you at every opportunity. Maybe you work with them, maybe they live next door, or maybe you are related. How do you deal with them? Blank them out? Retaliate? Stoop to their level? Do you go on the defensive? How do you react?
In our gospel reading today, we see how Jesus dealt with his enemies. We see his passion for them. When they ask what appear to be innocent questions, Jesus responds with a question of his own: “What do you think about the Messiah?” – “who is he?” (Matthew 22:41). Implicit in that question are two more, “Why did Jesus come?” and What is his claim on our lives?”
Life is a journey, with a beginning and end. We’re all travelers, somewhere on that journey, forever on the move, learning, growing, changing. The disruption caused by Covid-19, the daily news updates of casualties and the attempts to find a vaccine inevitably lead to a rollercoaster of emotions, highs and lows, hopes and fears. Psalm 23 is probably the most widely known and best loved of them all. In part it is because it addresses the strong emotions we often feel at times such as this. There are two parts to Psalm 23:
23:1-3 “The Lord Is My Shepherd” – What I affirm about God.
23:5-6 “Your love will follow me” – What I experience of God.
Verse 4 links the two together. The Lord is my Shepherd because I know Lord you are with me.
I imagine you know quite a few people who do not believe in God. How do you answer them? Where do you begin? The first thing I want to say is that when you encounter someone who doubts the existence of God realize that it is not your responsibility to convince them or win the argument. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Since God is not visible to the human eye, there can be no direct physical proof of him. However, God has provided ample evidence of his existence and character both in the created world and in the unique nature of human beings. Above all he has given a perfect and sufficient revelation of himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Besides these evidences, there is the witness of the Bible and the prophecies God placed in it which have come true. Finally there is the testimony of the Church. Today one quarter of the world’s population claim to follow Jesus Christ. Ironically, the Church is growing fastest where the persecution and opposition is the most intense. Let make some observations before we look at Psalm 19 our reading for today. First observation: Because of our fallen nature it is natural for people to doubt the existence of God.Continue reading
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