Saturday, 29 December 2012

Miss placed Trust - Trust

We could take the front page of any newspaper and find these headlines somewhere
Gun Crime problem , Foreign troops occupy our land, People desperate to know the future seek guidance from horoscopes and fortune tellers, Banks on the edge of collapse, payday money lenders in high interest rate rates row.
Like a high calorie sandwich The reading from Isaiah has four fillings
1.       Full of superstition  v6
2.       Full of silver and gold v7
3.       Full of horses and chariots  v7
4.       Full of idols v8
This is a political, religious, financial and sociological appraisal of a people in trouble. 
So I am with Desmond TuTu  when he say He once said,
“Those who say that politics and religion should not mix do not read the same
Bible as I do.”

For at the heart of the issue for Isaiah is one of trust.
The people no longer trusted God or the prophets so they went calling on those who would tell them what they wanted to hear. It always easier to listen to someone telling you something you would like to hear, want to know, rather than the truth or what you need to know. How good I am is easier to listen to than did you know you need to change.
So let me first talk about misplaced trust.
Misplaced Trust They put their trust in foreign armies v6 and armies of their own rather than trust in Gods promises to them and the covenant’s he made with them.
Missplaced trust in Money It is always seems better to trust our now and our future to money v7  that seem s to be there and then possibly gone the next minute but we are never sure if the money  belongs to us ort someone else.
Misplaced trust in Idols For the people who Isaiah had in his sights exchanged a relationship with God who promised them that he would be there God and they would be their people.  Here and now just seems plain daft. To trade the real thing for something fleeting wooden unable to bring life to people and communities to trust a wooden idol

The headlines above could be the headlines of today.
Communities today that collude with laws and gunmen that kill our children misplace their trust in cold steel and bullets. They choose not to trust each other  opting for gun, power and individual freedom over community service and relationships between neighbour. Misplaced trust
Banks that will not work with or trust poor communities to provide finances to lone parents and poor families. Allowing others to move into the space in our communities that offer high interest rates of debt that will and is choking families. Banks and government would rather trust algorithms and bonus driven traders that would deceive us in thinking there is much money in the land but for who? Misplaced trust
We are a people so driven by consumerism to buy and to spend is the purpose of life what we own becomes our idol our god. Trust anything with a USB plug on it with a brand or logo that we are sure will be out of date in season. Misplaced trust in branding and add filled fleeting dreams.
We are a people so desperate for direction and hope for the future we will seek direction in anything from horoscopes to clairvoyants. Prostituted trust. 
We in our own time have seen trust mishandled by police armies’ politicians and church.  That does not mean we abandon the opportunity to trust again.
Many of us will have experienced misplaced or broken trust in relationships that till this day hurt us and sting like an open sore. But that should not mean that should be our framework for life to come today tomorrow.
This child Jesus who came to Mary born out of obedience, miracle and trust in God.
Place by John in his gospel as cosmic event the light he speaks of is the light of a different way of living to the one on offer then and now.  God the Father trusting his only Son to a badly organised family unit, trusted into the arms of an ill prepared mother, trusted to a community with poor hospitality, trusted to a country under occupation fleeing to a foreign land, trust, trust, trust far too much trust for God you would think .    
Jesus came to be worshiped and trusted. Jesus came to speak to authority that could not be trusted. Jesus came under occupation to show how to live with money guns and oppression to offer alternative to misplaced trust. Jesus came to shine a light on those idols and gods that mean so much to us.
 If you have trusted Jesus in the past you might know how rewarding and difficult that can be. It is possible the New Year will offer new opportunities to identify misplaced trust in our lives and our church community. It is possible the New Year will offer news ways of trusting our now and our future to a life shaped by Jesus.
Since delivering this Christmas day sermon I have been encouraged  to reflect on how I can trust to a life shaped by Jesus in the new year . will we do this together?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wallander Vs Hutch

Wallander vs Hutch
In 1975 I was 17 years old it was the year The Boss Delivered  Born to Run deep into my soul.  TV screen heros came and went with regularity. There were enough detectives on TV to cure all crime. But who was my hero? For instance I never wanted to be Ironside (can you blame me) only flirted with smelly Colombo,(not literally) Kojak was too old like a dodgy uncle but Starsky and Hutch well they were the people to be in the late 70s.
This united pair burst onto the sunny California scean in a Ford Gran Torinos "Bright Red" (paint code 2B). In Aston where I lived there were no hills, no beachs no Bright Red Torinos, but I did have my Austin A40. They ran, jumped into the car without using the doors slid of the roof lounged on the bonnet (hood) and pulled guns and people out of the boot. In my distant days of youth, the days before varifocols and flatulence Starsky and Hutch  inspired Friday night drives in my A40 with The Boss on the cassette player. I looked so cool trying to enter my A40 through the window trying to spin the wheels and stalling.  Their car had an enviable sound (dubbed probably) from a V8, no worries about pollution and tax bands. These detectives had energy and life to the full and an uplifting soundtrack. For me the hero was Starsky with highly fashionable cardy and trainers always trainers so I always had trainers.

2012 Now the soundtrack to my life is Richard Hawley and the detective is Wallander, Kurt is middle-aged. He looks as if he is dressed from anywhere nowhere not even M&S. He is at times a lonely figure in the workplace. No pre-liposuction beach babes at the end of the day for him. Sweden maybe beautiful but it is not California, the low gentle lighting and lack of hills and half-light homes frame him compress him.  Kurts car is an attractive dull Caspian Blue (metallic) Volvo XC70 with a 5 cylinder diesel for efficiency and care for the environment. I have not once seen him jump through the open window of the driver’s door. Is Kurt disappointing? No.    
For kurt’ isolation focus him, his angst clouds his vision to the possibility of joy. His hope is in the dull methodical casework were he craves for an opening. His language visual, to the blind he would be silent.  For me he is the hero of today working against all odds, his reward only in the positive conclusion of the case. He is my Jeremiah. His borderline depression is ok if not almost desirable. He is not newwine or oldwine he is anywine at the end of the day. (as long as it’s redwine) he seems broken yet functioning not triumphant but determined committed reflective. His fear of the gun and death give us who at times are unsure how to live life to the full a man to follow. For the men who find it difficult to be the pumped up hero of the V8 torino Kurt offers a new Jeremiah.    

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Wood for the trees

Wood for the trees
I was in a gathering where the question was asked  “name someone of spiritual strength”. The required buzz among the listeners started with their neighbours and then we were offerd the opportunity to shout out a verbal offering some names.  And so they came; Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Dalie Lama, Desmond Tu Tu and finally The Queen. There was then a short silence.
I wanted to call this blog Pavlov’s dogs but I am aware this would seem offensive. It is not meant to be. But can we not see the wood for the trees?  Are we just conditioned to recite a list of people we have never meet to be our spiritual hero’s. Is it safe to have spiritual heroes we cannot question or hold to account or share our lives with those who are firmly located on another continent or watching us on TV?
There is the cynical situation that whatever the question is in Sunday school the answer must be Jesus.  The list above must be the adult version of Sunday school. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying they are not spiritual giants I presume they are, I have never had the privilege of meeting any of them. There is a train of thought that you should not meet you hero’s as they will or might disappoint you, it is why I have refused all offers to play with Bruce Springsteen, the dream is better that the fear of the reality. But I don’t think that is a good stand to take in spiritual growth. In the gathering mentioned above were three clergy people. All who have given a major part of their lives and their families to live in highly demanding poor communities. These three people who I believe are deeply spiritual but not it seems enough to get on the list above, can we not see the wood for the trees? 
But here is the point. It is one thing for a community not to recognise their spiritual leaders living amidst their community. But if we don’t see our clergy as spiritual people, spiritual hero’s how will we see our fellow believers as spiritual people, spiritual hero’s. Among us are follow pilgrims of faith who have given their lives to sustain local churches people of spiritual strength clergy and lay.  Or more to the point if we don’t recognise local community spiritual strength or spiritual hero’s how we will ever see ourselves on the list of usual suspects above. For at some point in growing up we need to recognise that each of us is called to be a spiritual hero, have spiritual strength in some way.        

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Are we yes but people?

During our cell group this week we engaged with the reading from Sunday, Galatians 3:25 end.
The writer of this passage wants the reader or listener to engage with some challenging ideas pointing us to some divisions and differences that don't seem to a have a place in the church or the kingdom. Or if they have a place in our life for us to identify them and reflect upon them .
Many of us crave for difference young people don't want to be like their old people, punks are not like Goths. Team and party colours separate from each other because we don't want to be like them other people.

 But not all difference is bad. It is the difference and separation that does not allow the other person to take their full place in our community that should unsettle us enough to examine its cost. When we looked at some issues of difference and division we began to go to default position and say yes but, yes but they, yes but God would not, yes but that don't seem right. We knew God had a big vision but we could not help saying yes but. As I think through the divisions and differences in my life I am trying to listen for the,  yes but.   

Monday, 25 June 2012

Wider debate about Welfare!

Wider debate about Welfare!
One dictionary version of the word on the lips of our government,  welfare,  a governmental agency that provides funds and aid to people in need, especially those unable to work. So welfare seems to be about distributing money to those in need (not unlike being a parent) and today that focus for the government is the under 25 year olds on housing benefit. Some we are told have become used to getting hand-outs that are taken for granted and not deserved. (Like me when I was a child)
So here is what I am pondering what if we move those responsible for Tax Breaks into the same Department of Welfare hopefully in bringing the two departments together we will discover some synergy (cost savings) redundancy (eventually seeking housing benefit). It seems to my narrow uneducated way of looking at life both departments share the same definitions of Welfare as some of the definitions and language are similar. The role of both departments is to identify needy people and distribute money to them that they have not worked for or don’t deserve. Those looking for tax efficient lifestyles and those looking for some where to live seem to have a lot in common from a combined welfare and tax return department. One set of people are required to jump through a set of hoops, be interviewed by the department in question and may have the welfare withdrawn at some point because they don’t need it. The other set of people covered by the new shared department are contacted by Mr slick 3% have a meeting in an expensive hotel where they are invited to join a scheme where at some point in the future the same shared department advised by Mr slick 3% will distribute money to those who don’t work money they don’t need or earn. But there is a flaw in my pondering, at some point in the future the two the two sets of welfare people might get mixed up. Those looking for housing benefit might get distributed to them large undeserved tax breaks. And those who Mr Slick 3% is working on behalf of might get some housing benefit. But I am hopeful that those putting together the new combined system will find a way of not getting the people mixed up, the last thing the country needs is irresponsible people wondering around with large amounts of unearned underserved cash wasting it on things they don’t need. We might end up with an economy in growth but that’s another department problem, isn’t it?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

10:10 on a Friday Night

10:10 on a Friday night and the door bell goes. I turn on the CCTV to see a man I don't recognize. 
on opening the door he quietly informs me "get me an ambulance". A quiet and nervous conversation slips by. He can hear the voices, what voices, the voices in my head he tells me. Does he not know i am not on duty for the Mental Health Trust i work for! He is quiet but internally focused as he tells me of his past experience in mental health institutions. His internal voices are encouraging him to kill himself. My concerns for him and me rise, I call the ambulance as he is clearly poorly. The police come (thank you ) the ambulance comes. And my caller becomes agitated by the laughter of the professionals, paranoid, they wont take him seriously. He fears. He seems sure they will take him away and just drop him off somewhere. I try to reassure the calls the professionals have made and the wards they have mentioned seem correct. I don't leave him as directed by the police because he seems lost and unsupported, childlike. So i wait. he willingly gets on board his ride towards mental health care. Its about 11:00 and i go and finish watching the Big Bang Theory.  
another night in the parish encountering people with mental health illness. I hope and pray the voices did not succeed in their plea and threats.