Archive for the 'culture' Category


Remember your creator

I was recently asked to speak at a school leavers service. An audience comprising 17/18 year olds at the end of their school career and their parents and staff at the school. There were clearly people there with a range of understandings of faith. What I said was warmly received and as I have reflected on it, I feel sure that I pitched it right. The text of what I said is below. Since there were no visuals available I have just reproduced the text. Enjoy!

They came on boats of all shapes and sizes, leaving behind most of their possessions they had set off with their hearts full of hope. For many it was a difficult journey, cramped conditions, lack of food stormy seas. But they knew they were nearly there when they saw the statue in the harbour entrance of the river. That statue, a present from France symbolised a new world of great opportunity, and as they disembarked at Ellis island they knew that their adventure was only just beginning.

In January I spent a few days with the family in New York on holiday and visited the Statue of Liberty and the immigration centre at Ellis island. I was surprised at how small they were. But of course it was not their size that mattered – it was what they represented to those who had crossed the ocean for this amazing new world.

In many ways I am speaking today to a group of leavers who in a similar position. A new world of opportunity lies in front of you. Just like those who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to America, you are about to enter a new world. What will you do with that opportunity?

Today we have had two readings from the Bible
The first is an old man looking back on his life
He has had everything you could dream of – success, fame, women, stuff. In his day he had it all. What does he say?

‘Remember your creator, fear God and keep his commandments.’
‘Remember your creator in the days of your youth’

King Solomon had everything and yet he realised that it was all nothing compared to knowing his creator.

The second is a young man at the peak of his popularity. Crowds follow him everywhere he goes. They hang on his every word and follow him e everywhere . What does he say?

‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?’

This man, Jesus ultimately died penniless and as a criminal but had more impact on the world than anyone who ever lived.

What will you do with the choices you have before you?
It may not seem like it but over the next few months you will have the opportunity to make choices that will potentially shape your whole future.
Who you are friends with? What you do with your leisure time?
These two pieces of wisdom are really significant pieces of advice to take account of?
Take time to consider the idea of a creator, take time to consider what is beyond the here and now

So as I have been given the chance to speak to you now what would I say?

1. Be yourself
Steve Jobs said . ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.’
It’s so easy to waste time trying to emulate someone else when what you really need to be is you. After all when there is only one of something it’s precious, and only you can be you so that makes you valuable. God made you to be you – don’t waste time trying to be someone else.

2. Remember God
The world we live in is amazing. But it’s easy to rush by and miss what it has to offer. No-one ever says I wish I had spent more time at the office. So savour life and live it to the full.
Jesus said ‘I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s fullness (John 10:10).
Fullness of life comes when you remember your creator that’s what Solomon realised.

3. Make a difference
It was 31 August 1997. My youngest son came up to tell me because there was no children’s TV on that morning because Princess Diana has died in a car crash. A nation mourned publicly and retold and relived her life. It was a story of tragedy and pain – of someone who never really came to terms with herself, her status and how to make a difference in the world. On the same day someone else died. On any other day this would have made headlines but because of Diana, it went by almost unnoticed and I think that she would have been quite pleased at that. Mother Theresa spent most of her life living and working in the slums of Calcutta with those that nobody else thought mattered. Here we are 15 years after her death and the work she started continues and grows with over 4000 people working in the charitable order she began. She knew that it was worth investing in making a difference in the world.

So what will you do? Will you be yourself? Will you remember God? Will you make a difference?

I want to end with some words that have been credited to Mother Theresa. They were either on the wall of the orphanage she ran in Calcutta or on the wall of simple room where she lived in that same orphanage. They sum up what I would suggest is an alternative way to live that will mean you do those things I have mentioned.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
f you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway


sheep or goat? – april 14

Reading Matthew 25, Highlighted Passage: 25:31-46

Another uncomfortable parable. I have heard it preached on as if the message is that we should care for other Christians but feel that is too narrow a perspective. In keeping with my challenge of reading scripture against myself (with thanks to Pauline Hoggarth), I find myself wondering if I fall in to the righteous category or not!

This is also an interesting story in the light of Rob Bell’s latest book – Love Wins – more on that after I have heard him speak next week in Liverpool. In the meantimne when will I be feeding the hungry, caring for the sick or visiting those in prison in the next month – now that is a challenge!


judgement is terrible – april 9

Reading Matthew 23 Highlighted Passage: 23:29-39

We see the heart of Jesus as he looks at Jerusalem here. His assessment is motivated by love but is also realistic. I wonder how I look at my city – my society. I believe that god is in control but also when people choose to live without God the consequences are serious.

How much do I have the Father’s heart for my community – wanting to care for them and sharing their pain. If not I am in danger of just being like the teachers of the law who justify themselves – teachers who Jesus condemns?


who is your hope in? – march 24

Reading: Matthew 12. 1-21, Highlighted Passage: 12:15-21

Jesus is at it again – turning the ideas of the day on their head. He challenges the normal expectations of the Sabbath and then reminds them that God always works through the unexpected and unusual ways – but therein lies hope.

It reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Cor 4:7, ‘we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us’. That’s what I call hope!


Fast plane to Cairo – reflections on Egypt part 1: Driving

I have just returned from a trip to Egypt working with the High School Youth Committee on training writers and leaders. There is a lot to think about so in between moving house I will take some time to post some thoughts.

The first impression of Egypt as we were transported from the airport was how crazy the driving is. White lines ignored, regular use of the horn and driving very close. On one trip someone in the car said – ‘this is a one way street’ to which the reply was, ‘this is Egypt’. Additionally it seems that to cross the road you set off and just keep walking , staring the driver down who comes towards you. Driving a bus means one hand to steer and one to sound the horn every 5-10 seconds. You need to watch out for the cars driving at high speed flashing their lights and sounding the horn – not police cars just people who won’t stop. Amazingly we saw no accidents – but there are clearly many. A newspaper as we were leaving said that the statistics are 8000 people die and 32,000 are injured every year On the roads of Egypt.

Maybe the driving test – taken on a bare piece of land where you have to show your ability to drive around comes is part of the answer. If you hit them you fail – miss them you pass!

So having arrived home safely I am grateful to those who drove us – Nader, Adel, Lucy & Mary. I wouldn’t even want to try and am grateful that they kept us safe.


Gospel and culture

Joe Kapolyo is minister of a church in London. He is also a member of SU council and grew up in Zambia. His sessions with us included a look at the way in which the gospel and culture are connected and what we should do about.

Although this is not a new area of thinking for me, the African perspective was really helpful. It made me stop and think about my own culture and how it impacts the way I see the Bible and faith. I know that my working class upbringing influences how I see the world. It makes me value extended family and friends more than my current middle class culture. I also need to be willing to critique that working class upbringing. My left wing political views have their origins there too and I also need to put those under the microscope of the Bible.

I need to allow my core values to be shaped by God so that I can more and more be shaped by him and made into his likeness


Being a Global Christian

Please accept my apologies that I haven’t posted for a few days. I had some computer problems and access to the internet was proving difficult – all sorted now. Expect multiple postings as I try to catch up.  

I have an increasing feeling of being both privileged and challenged over these few days. Our community consists of enormous SU movements as well as small ones. News off the challenges being faced by Togo after the elections and the violence in Nigeria are impossible to ignore when you are spending time with people from those countries. I have been involved in co-ordinating the worship and I have really enjoyed singing in multiple languages including English (easy that one), Russian, Hindi, Congolese, and French (challenging for a failed linguist). But it’s the same God we serve and although we may express that differently it gives real meaning to the sense of what it means to be a family from every tribe tongue and nation.  

The challenge is in working out how I keep that international perspective in mind when I return home. It needs to be a motivating force for what we do locally.

In the Alps

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