Archive for the 'Mission' Category

03
Jun
12

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

14
Apr
11

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!

13
Mar
10

God’s heart for the poor

On thursday we visited 3 mission projects in Narobi. The one I went to see was in the Korogocha slum. This is one of the poorest in the city with almost everyone unemployed.

We went to a Medical Centre who have a maternity clinic in the slums. Its like a beacon in the midst of the darknesss. We were met by the doctor who talked about how they charge very little and make a loss in order to help the mothers who come to them.

We were then taken by the mothers to their home where we talked with them about what it is like to live in the slums. The mother that Cristi from Romania and I went with was called Lilian. She had a breach delivery and the baby needed to be resuccitated. They live in a room about 8 foor by 10 foot with a stove, a bed, a sofa and very little possessions. The walls were made of mud and metal pipes. The roof was metal and there was an illegal electricity supply.

Kevin who lives with her volunteers for the Red Cross at times but one of the main ways of getting money is collecting plastic and glass from the nearby rubbish tip and selling it. I asked Lilian if she did that and she said ‘yes she leaves the baby with neighbours’.

I discovered that these people pay rent to live in the slums. This is structural exploitation. The system takes money from them and people get rich on their poverty. This is all sanctioned by the government. Olga  commented ‘people should not have to live like this’ and that is a great summary of what many of us feel

My overriding feeling was initially one of surprise. People were resilient and they were surviving. The clinic offers hope in some areas and is effective in demonstrating word and deed mission. But over time this surprise turned to anger. This is a system that makes it difficult to escape from the slums. Lilian came to the slums as a 9 year old when her father died and her mum could not cope. She is now 19 living there with a 4 month old baby.

In contrast we have seen many signs for churches and there is a massive divide between the rich and poor churches. Alongside that there is the NGO’s in the area. I realise that its impossible to do everything but it’s hard to imagine living here and turning a blind eye to the injustice.

Yet I ask myself, ‘Do I do the same back home?’. What does it mean for me back in England to do something about the injustice I see around me?

10
Mar
10

Not how I imagined!

On Saturday we were part of a reception here at Brackenhurst for SU Kenya. There were presentatiions from movements around the world – India, Tajikistan and Fiji as well as from within Africa. It was an interesting afternoon although I am still shaking my head regarding the stats from India: 1.3 billion, 4% Christian (over 50 million), 350 million gods, over 400 languages. How do you actually even begin to do mission in that world.

 But the other thing that has changed is my perception of SU International.  I imagined that SU England, Scotland Australia – they would be large. The others they would be small. Of course some are: SU Romania is very small. SU Queensland is massive (just under 600 staff) due to its chaplaincy programme. SU Nigeria employs 345 staff.  The impact of our work has been put in perspective too. SU Ghana has been running for 120 years. They have 40 staff but volunteers run 1566 school groups

 So the challenge for me is making sure that we use our resources wisely. Of course for most movements it’s the empowerment of volunteers that is central and as we look ahead this is a key piece of strategy for us to invest in.

09
Mar
10

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

09
Mar
10

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.

25
Sep
08

Unseen Footprints

Among the books I’ve re-read this year has been ‘Unseen Footprints: Encountering the Divine Along the Journey of Life‘ by Sheridan Voysey kindly sent to me by SU Australia. It’s a fantastic read and is very much an evangelistic book for contemporary western society. Instead of starting with proving God, it looks for evidence of him in our world – his footprints.

In many ways it offers a similar approach to Tom Wright’s ‘Simply Christian’. But whereas Tom’s book is like CS Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’, Sheridan’s book is at a more popular and engaging level. There is a fantastic chapter in it all about our vision of the future and how it shapes life in the present.

‘God dreams that we become all he designed us to be, with all our individual flair and talent realised, But he wants even more for us. He dreams of us embodying the luminous character of Jesus Christ, “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” God dreams of that flame of faith within us growing until we become people of light.’ (p135)

and then he goes on to say that we are called to transform this world by doing 4 things

Imitating the genorosity of God
Expressing the life of God
Cultivating the heart of God
Celebrating the love of God

This so much echoes the challenge and call to missional community that I feel.