Reflection #10 – December 2021

It’s been a while since my last post – so here is my latest reflection, with me considering the damage caused by Storm Arwen, and my thoughts on the season of Advent…

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful – please leave a comment and/ or ask a question if you want to start a dialogue with us.

To Brexit and Back Again

uk-and-eu-flag-with-brexit-text_1017-3488 (2)I woke up at 5 AM on the morning of Friday 24 June to find my world had changed in a way that I didn’t want, wasn’t expecting, and, in my opinion, then and now, for the worse.

The UK had voted to leave the EU!

When I went to bed it all looked good – the Remain camp were expected to win, easily; Nigel Farage had already admitted he felt the result would go against him.

All was well in my world. I had no problem getting to sleep.

But them I woke up early and picked up my phone to confirm my expectations…..

I couldn’t believe it.

There was no way I could get back to sleep after the bombshell that had just been delivered. Thoughts ran through my head. I started to worry what this meant for my family, my country and for Europe. In fact, it got so bad that around 7 AM I had to wake up my wife because I needed to share the news with someone. She was equally horrified – and then she couldn’t get back to sleep either.

We got up at 8 AM in silence – both of us sad and upset, starting to grieve for what we felt we’d lost.

The days since the result have been full of mixed emotions.

Some comedian once defined ‘mixed emotions’ as the feelings you experience as you “watch your mother-in-law drive your brand new car over a cliff”. For me, at times, it has felt like my country, and possibly Europe as well, has been driven over that very same cliff by people who have a very different world view from me.

Mixed emotions indeed.

Do I think those people who voted for Brexit are stupid, racist or xenophobic?

No. That has never been my thought.

My thought has not been about them – my anger and grief are not directed at them.

As a Jesus follower, a Christian if you like, my overriding concern is that Brexit will make things worse for the poor and dispossessed in my country. That justice for them is now further away than before the Referendum. That rather than being a poke in the eye of the establishment, a ham-stringing of the elite, it will be the opposite. That things will become more polarised; that the pay gap will get wider not narrower; that the rich will end up getting richer off the backs of the poor and marginalised in our society.

That politics will swing to the right.

This has made me angry. Not angry at those who voted to leave the EU, but angry at the probable injustice of the result. Angry at the politicians who lied and schemed to get the result they wanted. Angry at the hate and violence that has already been unleashed against immigrants and people from other nations who have come to the UK to work and create a better life for their families.

I am angry at the fear that has driven people to reject the other in our midst, to ‘lift up the draw bridge’, to ‘think first of our own’.

To blame the EU for everything that is wrong in our society is disingenuous at best. The reason the poor are getting poorer, that jobs are more difficult to come by, that the NHS is failing, is not because of the EU, it is a direct result of the ideological choices made by our recent governments.

Has being part of the EU made the situation in the UK worse?  Possibly, in some ways, but in other ways it has held back the worse excesses of the ideological choices that have been made.

But now, with Brexit almost certainly becoming a reality, we might have opened Pandora’s box, started on a road that will make the current situation for the poor much worse – because that will be the political will of those who are in government as we negotiate to leave the EU family.

Should Christians be involved in politics? That is a decision for each individual to make, but we all as Christians must be aware of the effect of political choices that are made on our behalf.

Politics in its widest sense is about people; about how we interact as a society as we live together. As believers and followers of Jesus, our desire for and vision of the Kingdom of God here and now must shape and influence our ‘politic’, how we act towards each other, how we influence and enable the culture around us to be one that glorifies the One that we worship and claim to follow.

I don’t understand why any Christian would vote to leave the EU in the current political climate – because, for me, Brexit, at this time, stands in opposition to what I believe are Kingdom goals.

Others will disagree. I am fine with that. We all need to pray and then follow the lead of our conviction, animated and enlivened by the Spirit working in and through us.

What I don’t appreciate is when some who disagree with my position claim that somehow I am not following the will of God because I wanted the UK to remain in the EU. That, somehow, I am disconnected from God because I am angry at what I feel is injustice, or because they think I am a middle class turncoat who voted with the Establishment, whatever that is, in order to maintain the status quo.

That somehow my vote was in opposition to the work of the Gospel because I believe in open borders, in digging wells and building bridges rather than erecting walls.

That the votes of the 48% who wanted to stay in the EU mean nothing and have no value.

I am angry, but my anger will subside, because anger is a part of the cycle of grief.

I am grieving for something I know we will now have to lose – and many of the people I know who voted Remain are grieving with me.

What we need is some space to grieve.

What we don’t need is mockery, self righteous comments or to be patronised with calls for ‘unity’ from fellow believers who voted for Brexit.

Please don’t get upset with me because I am taking time to ‘get over it’.

I need to be allowed to come to terms with how my world has changed as a result of the Referendum. I need to be allowed to exhaust my democratic right to try and reverse the Brexit decision – even though I know it can’t be changed.

But I will be fine – all will be good again in my world. I am by nature a positive and optimistic person.

By the way, thanks for asking how I am, listening to how I feel, trying to understand where I am coming from by looking at the situation through my eyes – and if you haven’t done that yet, then at least try, because it will make the whole process easier for all of us.

In finishing this post I want to quote from an article that was posted by a friend on my Facebook news feed – it is by David Robertson, from his ‘theweeflea’ blog.

I disagree with so much of what he wrote in his assessment of ‘What Brexit tells us about the Church in the UK‘.

We come from different places in our Christian journey, we have different world views – not that I think mine is better or worse – it is just different.

Some of his comments I found patronising and self-righteous, some of his generalisations a bit broad and his stereotyping a bit strong, but, for me, his final paragraphs are spot on and sum up where we all should be a Jesus followers in a post-Brexit world:

“The Church of Christ is still here and still being salt and light. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said, “As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contribution to human flourishing around the world.”

What we need to ask is how that comes about? If what the Bible says is true…then human being are ‘dead in sins and trespasses’. Not mildly sick. Not a little confused. Not falling a little short of our true potential. We don’t just need to Remain with the status quo, or to Leave a particular political system. We need to be made alive. We need new birth. We need a new beginning. We need renewal, revival and reformation.

I thank the Lord that all over the country there are churches where ordinary pastors are proclaiming faithfully what the Bible says, not changing their sermons to suit the political circumstances; where ordinary Christians are faithfully seeking to serve and minister Christ to the poor, hurting and hungry; and where people from many nations, languages, classes, genders and ages are worshipping together as the Body of Christ. We are not the spiritual wings of the Convertative/ Liberal/ Labour/ Nationalist parties. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, his body, his family, his bride, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Let us be!”

…..and some of us in The Church of Christ voted to Remain.

Just give us time and space and we will be fine.

Social media despondency, what is that about?

Blocked

I got really upset this morning.  Despondent, almost.

Why?

Because I found out that someone who I have come to respect over the last year or so has blocked me on Twitter.  I don’t know why he blocked me.  I don’t think I could have done anything to offend him.

But this got me thinking.  Why am I getting upset?  Why am I getting so emotionally cut up about somebody not wanting to see my Twitter feed or wanting me to see theirs?

To be honest, I don’t even know him.

I met him over the internet, have posted comments on his blog a few times, friended him on Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve never met him in person and would probably walk right past him in the street.

And yet I feel strangely offended and rejected.

How about that for an instant commentary on contemporary culture!

We think we know people because we correspond with them occasionally through the use of social media.  But we don’t know them, we just think we do.  The relationships are shallow, the connections are transitory.  And yet we suffer loss when the relationships come to an end, when we are rejected as easily and as simply as we were accepted.

Why?

Because we are hardwired for community.  We find purpose and value through relationship.  We look to make connections and networks with others who are like us.

The result is that we feel close to someone even though we are not and never will be.

But when we form a relationship we become vulnerable.  No matter if that relationship is deep or shallow, if value and friendship and affection are involved then we will be hurt when it finishes or breaks down in some way.

It just happens more often when you have hundreds of ‘friends’ with whom you invest little time or effort, who have no real necessity in maintaining a close and deep relationship with you. 

Consumer culture makes all things disposable, so why should friendship be any different.

Upset is inevitable.  Maybe I just need to learn not to make a big thing of it.

But it still hurts….

 

 

‘One’ – Reflection by Richard Rohr

Here is an interesting short film clip of Richard Rohr for the ‘ONE’ project where he is asked what he would say to the world if he had their undivided attention for one minute…

His conclusion is that he would tell the world to come ‘closer to death’, to let the pain of others ‘get inside of them’, to be more willing to share the hurt and vulnerability of others.

What do you think?

HT: Mike Friesen (FB)

 

Mark Sayers: Killing an arab – reflecting on the death of Osama Bin Laden

Interesting take on the recent death of Osama Bin Laden at Mark Sayers’ blog:

….As the death of Osama Bin Laden broke,with one eye I was watching the coverage on television, and with the other, the Facebook feed. Reading the status updates, my friends on the Christian left, were dismayed by the spontaneous scenes of people celebrating the killing of Bin Laden in New York and in Washington D.C. My friends who work tirelessly to see God’s peace break out in the world, reminded us that violence begats violence, that killing cannot bring about the kingdom of God. That the victims of 9/11 were not brought back to life by the death of civilians in bombing raids in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. They produced scriptures that commanded us not to celebrate the death of the wicked, and quotes from Martin Luther King, and Ghandi, lauding the attributes of the approach of love and peace….

….Simultaneously my friends on the Christian right, expressed relief that justice had been done. They updated their belief that a man who declared war explicitly on Christianity, who wished to finish what Hitler had started by killing the Jews, who wished to subjugate women, and who deemed Hindu’s, atheists, homosexuals, and Buddhist’s killable on the spot, who had made it his life’s mission to violently create a world wide Caliphate, who wished to kill you and I, was dead. My friends on the right, with heavy hearts, concluded that sometimes, when individuals choose the path of evil, who present a clear and present danger, that they regretably must be killed. My friends also produced scriptures that told us to celebrate the death of the wicked, as well as quotes lauding the quest for justice and the pursuit of freedom….

….In our society with its divisions of left and right, progressive/liberal and conservative. The left will almost always err on the side of love, it will always take into account circumstance, environment and upbringing. It will view God as primarily a God of Love. The right will always err on the side of justice, and will always look to personal choice, and the decisions one takes, despite their circumstance, environment and upbringing. The right will always view God as a God of Justice….

….Christians when looking to scripture, can easily find proof texts, which taken in isolation can justify one side or the other. But both sides when faced with the totality of scripture, will find troubling passages and teachings, texts which seem to undermine our ability to firmly come down on the side of love minus justice, or justice minus love….

….Interestingly as I watched the TV coverage of Bin Laden’s death, there were several interviews with victims of Bin Laden’s violence, people from as diverse places such as Indonesia, Kenya, the United States and Australia. Almost every one expressed a confusion over their feelings, an initial relief and jubilation at the news of his demise, followed by a sense of loss, a fear that this death would only bring more. I think that it was the victims who spoke the most clearly, who unwittingly got to the heart of the issue.

Read full article here

Know God rather than just feel His presence

Uncomfortable but true and accurate thoughts posted by Chris Elrod earlier today:

This past weekend I was going through some old magazines and came across an interview with author Calvin Miller.  In the interview he alluded to the idea that most Christians were more interested in feeling God than really knowing God.  What floored me is that the interview was from the early 1980′s…yet his train of thought is even more relevant today than back then.  In 2011 the Church seems more fixated on “feeling the presence of God” than truly knowing God.  Church leaders seem more concerned with the worship experience on Sunday than the discipling and outreach Monday through Saturday.  Pastors seem to be spending more time worrying about creativity and relevance…than substance and depth.  In an of itself wanting to feel the the presence of God, being relevant, embracing creativity and striving for excellence are not bad things.  However, when they become the primary goal and constant priority…the Church is in danger.

I fear that we are getting people in the front door, baptized and plugged into “community”…yet never see them grow beyond spiritual infant status.  They forever suck on milk as stunted babies and never long for the solid spiritual food that the Father wants His children to desire.  They know the latest worship “hit” word-for-word…but never know the Word itself.  They can quote lines from the latest emergent guru’s book…but not a single line of Scripture from memory.  They know how to go through the motions of worship on Sunday…with hands raised upwards…but never discover that it is our eyes that should be focused to the Heavens.  They learn how to embrace the cultural relevance of this world…but the not the ability to flee from the things of this world in their own hearts.

True church is not solely about reaching people far from God or discipling those that have already come to Him.  True church is both…with equal importance.  It doesn’t mean that every church leader is called to reaching and discipling…but it does mean a healthy church has leaders that can guide people through both aspects.  It is great that people can feel God in churches throughout America each weekend…but if we as church leaders don’t teach them how to truly know God…the Church as we know it…is doomed.

This is just as relevant for the church here in the UK as it is for the church in the USA.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas….

Shepherds-in-the-field

The last couple of months seem to have gone by as a bit of a blur, not much time to do anything outside of work, including, unfortunately, posting here on the Deliberate Disciple!  I have been away a few times, and when I have been at home I have found myself working long hours.  On top of everything, the recent snow has meant that most of the seasonal festivities at our church have been cancelled or postponed.

As a result, I find myself on Christmas Eve not feeling very Christmasy.  So I thought I would wish you all a blessed Christmas and take some time to allow myself to focus on this annual celebration of the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, the Christ.

I was in Newcastle shopping a few weekends ago and heard the Salvation Army Band playing Christmas carols – Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful – and found myself in tears of wonder at the glory of God shown through the birth of His son!

The thing is, and this is what impacted me during my consumer-fest that Saturday afternoon, I think we get Christmas all wrong.  We spend so much time getting ready to celebrate, sorting out the party, that we miss the awe and wonder of the Christmas season.  We get things back-to-front.  We party at Christmas and we get all solemn and sad at Easter.

But think about it.

At Easter, we should be reflective, but isn’t it also a time when we should celebrate.  After all, Jesus died and rose again to give us life for eternity.  If that isn’t something to celebrate then I don’t know what is….

And yes, we should celebrate Christmas, but most of all we should worship and be in awe at what God has done for us in Jesus.

Light of Light.  King of Kings.

Becoming like you and me.

Word made flesh.

Emmanuel.  God with us. 

How wonderful is that?  No, literally, how full of wonder are you when you celebrate Jesus’ birthday?

Today is the day to get excited again about the true impact of Christmas, not just for now or this year but for eternity, and not just for you and yours but for all who believe.

Do you feel it?  Does it make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up?  Because it should!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her King.  Let every heart prepare Him room.  And Heaven and nature sing. And Heaven and nature sing.  And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing”.

Wake up and take notice of the birth of the King of Eternity who came in human form to die so you might live through Him.

That is incredible.  Unbelievable love.

Worthy of glory and thanks.

Worthy of our full attention.

Worthy of our worship.

So please be blessed this Christmas.  Enjoy the celebration and join in the party.  But don’t forget to focus on Jesus and worship Him with true awe and wonder.  He deserves it.

Bless you and yours.

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