Monthly Archives: June 2013

Australians : the comeback champions?

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This guy, nice guy, quite popular, he dies. All his friends are upset. He’s gone but never quite forgotten – not long later he makes a miraculous comeback. In church that’s the story of Lazarus, in politics it’s Kevin Rudd.

There is another story – these men, tired, from all the running are finally found in a field. Certain defeat looms before them, then their captain looks around and says, “Do nit be afraid. There are more with us than against us” as an army of loyal supports appears.

In the Bible that’s the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6, in sport it’s Queensland taking the State Of Origin field in Brisbane last night.

Last one – a warning to the British and Irish Lions from the prophet Micah

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.”

Watch out for Kurtley Beale!

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Yes Jesus loves them!

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The hardest thing about following Jesus is loving the ones he loves.

We all have them, at work, at school, in our circle of extended acquaintances – those people we just can’t get on with. There is usually no real reason for it, just a sort of a ‘like’ block – you just don’t like them and they (usually) don’t like you. It’s no one’s fault, it’s not a result of a fight or argument, it’s what people call a ‘personality clash.’ You can still be polite but you just can’t bring yourself to like them.

But you’ve got to love them.

Racism is something I have never understood. I really can’t make out why the colour of your skin can make you more or less worthy, more or less a person. It’s something I just don’t get. Maybe it’s my upbringing (although in a small town in North Wales in the 70’s they weren’t many people who didn’t have my skin colour), maybe it’s the people I’ve met along the road, I don’t know but I just don’t understand the racist mind. I would go as far as to say I hate racism. I hate what racists stand for, what they believe, their narrow minded view of humanity. I want to hate the racists too.

But I’ve got to love them.

Pedophiles! To quote most of society – they are the scum of the earth. Especially the ones the trawl for and then train young children. The very thought abhors me. Our justice system cannot be too harsh on them – there is NO justification for what they do and I hate the thought of even one free to continue their evil ways.

But I’ve got to love them.

Westboro Baptist Church, The ACL and various other bigots. I hate what they stand for, I hate the fact they use the name of Jesus to justify all their very unChristlike behaviour. I hate that they have influenced the media so much that most people think that every Christian is just as bigoted and hate filled as they are. As institutions I loathe them – but the individuals that make up those institutions –

Well, I’ve got to love them.

By now you’re getting the idea I hope. It may be a difficult concept but you should be catching on –

Murderers – hate what they do – but I’ve got to love them

Wife beaters – hate what they do – but I’ve got to love them

Most politicians – as shallow as a dried up pond – but I’ve got to love them

Homophobes – all people are different, get over it – I’ve got to love them

English rugby fans – I don’t hate them but they are a bunch of misguided, self righteous, know it alls – but I’ve got to love them

I could make the list a very long one and after each category I would have to put – but I’ve got to love them.

This is what makes following Jesus so hard. It is not an easy option, it does not make you a soft person. It is one of the most difficult things imaginable – Jesus calls us to love the people that every fibre in our being is telling us to hate. Those that we consider the lowest of the low – there we are called to love. Those who hold the complete opposite views to us – we are called to love. Those who would use terrorism to wipe out what we believe in and stand for – we are called to love.

They are all children of God, they are all loved and valued by him. We may not see their worth but he does. If one person counts, then everybody counts!

It may be hard for us to understand and even harder for us to do but we are called to love everyone.

And loving them means we should try and show them what it means to be a follower of Christ – that they, who ever they are, have value and worth. That Christ died for them as much as for us and that they, too, can be accepted. We may not like what they stand for, or what they do but we should love them, selflessly, as Christ does.

Oh, following Christ is far harder than not following him. Jesus is not selective – he loves everyone.

Now I take strength in the fact that Jesus never said we have to like everyone, just love them. That I can try to do….

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Accordions

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Accordion to a recent survey, replacing words with the names of musical instruments often goes undetected.

(Ignore the spelling mistake – the perpetrator has been punished!)

Did you see the error in the sign? (Not the spelling mistake.) Did you notice the musical instrument? Read it again – did you see it this time?

If you missed it how many other things do you miss every day? Things that are familiar or unwanted become almost invisible to us.

Years ago, when I was a minister in Wales I dressed as a homeless guy and sat in front of the church on a Sunday morning. I made exactly £1.27 in the hour before worship, most of it from people who didn’t go into church. NO ONE who went into the service spared one moment for the homeless guy outside the gates of their church. I was totally invisible – the accordion in our sign.

The accordion is a great metaphor for the lost of society. There are very few people who like the accordion as an instrument and even played well it is not a glamorous one. You are not going to impress the girl next door by saying, “I pay the accordion, you know.” The accordion is best left alone…see what I mean?

Do we see the big issue seller on the streets of the city? The homeless person sitting outside the library? The person with a disability on the train? Do we remember the hidden asylum seekers in the camps? Our world is full of accordions – and it was these people that Jesus showed are the most important. He spoke to lepers (unheard of in his time), he dined with tax collectors and ‘sinners’ (simply just not done), he spent his time with prostitutes (and not in the way everybody else did) and walked with outcasts, the lowest of the low. The individuals most people miss are the ones Jesus made a beeline for – the accordions.

As Christian people, well, just as people we should take more notice of those around us and think of the accordions in the world.

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Jesus is a Melbourne Rebel

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Jesus was always a rebel.

Today he is a Melbourne Rebel.

It’s hard for us to understand just how much of a rebel this man from Nazareth truly was. His message was so revolutionary that he was killed because of it. In a time when there was segregation at every turn, Jesus accepted everyone. In a place where women were seen as processions, he treated them as equals. To those who were shunned by society and the church of the day he went to dinner, shared a drink and enjoyed their company. He took the norms of society, upended them and showed what true love of humanity is. He spoke out about oppression, injustice and freedom.

We have nothing to compare him to – he was more of an activist than Bono or Sir Bob. More concerned with the state of humanity than Mandela or Tutu. More radical than Lady Gaga and more than a rebel than anyone I can think of.

Jesus was a true rebel! He was unique – he was special.

Now as we are talking of special – let me tell you about a group of special rugby players. Once every 12 years there comes a special tour, the Lions come to Australia.

The British and Irish Lions arrive and, for those of us who love rugby, it is the most exciting of tours. The best players of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the odd one or two from England join together and take on the ‘provincial’ teams from around Australia and then the might of the Wallabies.

This week the Lions play the Melbourne Rebels. It is, without doubt, the biggest game in the short history of the Rebels, a chance to face the greatest touring team that only visits once or maybe twice in any players career. The Melbourne Rebels are so far the underdogs that it is impossible to imagine an scenario where they can beat the Lions.

Now I read in the Bible that Jesus was always for the underdogs of society. Therefore, I say, today Jesus is a Melbourne Rebel!

So, as he is everywhere, he and I will go to the game and cheer on the Rebels. We will watch them lose (he tends not to do miracles in sport and he did help Brisbane over the weekend it seems) and we will enjoy the spectacular game.

Jesus the rebel will watch the Melbourne Rebels and then ask us to be as rebellious as him. Love the unloved and unlovely, see all as equals and work for a better and fairer world for all.

True rebels!

In the same way we cheer on our rebels at AAMI – listen for his voice when we show loyalty to his rebellion –

“C’mon Rebels!”

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I have decided to stick with love

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Since I was about 14 and my mother gave me a book of speeches for Christmas (I know I was an odd child) I have loved the words of Martin Luther King Jnr. Written down his words are moving, demanding attention and action. It was a few years later that I heard a recording of that famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. I’d marvelled at the power of it on paper but to hear it – it blew me away – and still does every time I listen to it. The rhythm, the pace, the delivery is as close to perfect as any speech I have every heard but far more than that is the passion and the content. How anyone cannot be moved when they it is beyond me.
(Here’s a link to a short version of it in case you want to hear it.)

Over the years I have read more and more of the words of MLK. Some of his lesser known speeches are every bit as powerful as the ones that the world knows so well.

Yesterday I stumbled upon my “Speeches of Martin Luther King Jnr” book again and start to browse it. It is a sort of yearly ritual – I re-find the book on one of my shelves and dip into it and then get hooked and read it through again. Every year some new words or phrases jump out at me. So far this year it is the words from a speech called “Where do we go from here?” delivered in August 1967 to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. The words in brackets are the audience responses.

“And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. (Yes) And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. (No) And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. (Yes) For I have seen too much hate. (Yes) I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. (Yeah) I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. (Yes, That’s right) I have decided to love. [applause] If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love.”

(The full speech, including the vocal responses from those in attendance, is available at: http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/speeches/Where_do_we_go_from_here.html) and © the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are copyrighted by the King Estate.

The words that are so often pulled from this speech (and the ones for our sign this week) are “I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Now I want to write a wonderful blog on those words but I can’t measure up to the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. If I try to commentate on them I feel I will just detract from their impact. Instead I want you to read that passage again and I’ve bolded the bits I want you to take notice of…

“And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love.”

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