Happy Sibling Day!

I read today that this is national sibling day in the US! I don’t know if it’s official yet, but someone who like me, lost a sib in her early life, has come up with the idea, and I think it’s a good one. I like to think, that because I lost my sister when I was little, I really understood the value of having sibs growing up, although they may disagree! Especially my brother who I used to tickle mercilessly at times.

While my friends, husband and children all know me really well, it’s my brother and sister who know me “no holds barred”;  my foul moods, my tantrums, my bossiness, my doubts, my fears and my paranoia. They get to see me unfiltered, when mum and dad aren’t around, so we can swap stories about the crazy things we’ve been up to without frightening anyone. We’ve covered for each other, and had each other’s backs when things were difficult too.  I hope this will always be the case! As kids you are stuck together, and inevitable comparisons get made, but as adults we really enjoy catching up, and sharing what’s going on.

While siblings in real life are one thing, I think the main perk of being part of a church community is the additional ones you gain. Sometimes that’s a real pain, I mean you don’t get to choose who they are right!! However, I don’t think life would be as easy for me in the real world without my church family around, to encourage, support, and steer me in the right direction. Sometimes one person will receive a word from God, and someone else will interpret it, and it will be for me and my family. Other times I’ll have a picture I can share, for someone else. Often friends from church will help out with practical tasks, and invite us round as friends, when others can’t.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that Jesus appointed 12 disciples. Not 1 vice-chair, 4 directors and 7 general managers as we would have in the public sector, but 12 who shared the leadership of his ministry and all it’s demands equally. In those days, I suspect the average number of children people had wasn’t 2.4, but probably more like the TV show “Brothers and Sisters” with at least 5 anyway.

As you know, I’ve been considering ordination for ministry in the Church of England, and this journey is hopefully coming a conclusion, one way or the another in June this year. I think I’ve been seriously considering it for over 2 years and mulling it over for up to 10 years to be honest. So I think I’ve bored everyone to tears in the process who knows me well, and my brother and sister are no exception. So this blog is an apology for how long it’s taken me to get this,  to all those people who have listened, encouraged and supported. Many have said “I’ve never met a vicar before”, some have said “it’s not the most daft idea in the world”, others ” I can see you doing that”, and without naming any names “at least your not a paedo!”

I really hope I get to be ordained. If I don’t get through then I will deal with it then, and won’t be the same person anyway. It’s been a long, winding road , so no doubt there will be more twists and turns to come. I know if I am accepted I will be giving up plenty of quality time with my friends and family that i have grown up with, and that’s a real sadness for me. Weekends won’t be the same again, and Christmas and Easter, no longer nice lazy bank holiday breaks! I won’t be earning alot of money, and I’ll be on call much more than I am now. I won’t be able to hide behind a desk-job, I’ll be a visible leader.

The reason I’m going forward though is simple, that I love sharing my faith, and seeing others grow through christian fellowship. Also I think if someone turns to Christ its a more permanent and joyful ( and less bureaucratic!) way of helping them get the life they want, than supporting their health and social care needs as I’ve been doing over the last 17 years. I’m not sure the two are mutually exclusive though.I know I will be infinitely better off in many ways;

Mark 10 v29-31: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Unity in Lent

This lent I’ve signed up to 40 acts through  http://www.40acts.org.uk

Today its about diversity and how the churches could work more towards unity across faiths, different colours, creeds. Today’s challenge is about diversity. Last Saturday I attended a teaching session on the Psalms, written thousands of years ago, before Christ arrived,  and the following one seems pretty relevant

Psalm 133 When Brothers Dwell in Unity

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

133 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity![a]
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

The teacher explained that the dew of Hermon was the only water for miles around, for the Jews who were living in the desert, and the oil running down Aaron, was an annointing oil that was used to express God’s pure love for those it touched. When people of faith unite to do God’s work, we are most pleasing to him. It’s not just about our faith, our doctrine, our way of worship, our cool hymns, or giving up alcohol for lent, it’s about what God’s work inspires us to do, and when we do this in tandem, like an orchestra playing a symphony, it sounds amazing to God, far better than our individual songs that he knows and loves dearly. It feels really special to know that I am making a conscious effort to live better in Lent, along with my fellow Christians in the UK. If you haven’t already signed up I’d really recommend it… so far 74,000 have given it a go!

Today gave me a good example, as we went to bed last night we noticed water pouring through the ceiling. Today I knew what it was like to not have heating, water and light in the house. I might pray about people living in poverty but if I experience it, I understand it better.

Ascension

We’ve been watching this programme that’s out at the moment, its about a social experiment, where a group of people are under the impression they are on a space ship going out into the universe, seeking a new planet and new place to live. The people selected to be part of this experiment left in the 60’s, so haven’t seen the social changes that have happened since then, and the social structure is strictly managed. It’s quite a good concept, and quite disturbing to think that the people who’s lives have been radically altered by this experience are essentially living a lie.

At work we’ve been thinking about systems, and how as humans its often easier to subscribe to a culture or system than to act as an individual. Like the people in the phony space shuttle, it doesn’t actually matter if the the culture is based on truth or not, as long as everyone pulls together and works as a team to maintain the working environment. Too much radical change and rebellion is unsettling for any society, and we’ve been considering what small changes we can effect that will improve our effectiveness as individuals and cumulatively move to a new way of working as a team that has more positive effects. To start with this feels really unsettling, but I am really interested to see if we can move from how it’s always been to how it should be.

This morning another Becky was preaching at St Paul’s and she described the idea of someone being called, named by God and requested to fulfill a specific challenge. She described how we are all called to serve God in many ways and how this is a blessing that makes us equal as Christians together, even though some status and hierarchy often exists within church communities. The thing that makes us stand out though I think, is that God not only has a plan for each of us, sometimes it’s a radically different one to the culture, status and practice of the society that you live in. We are not like in the film Ascension, pre-programmed to live specific lives to enable the whole culture to survive, it’s more random and more wonderful in God’s world. People that used to be tax collectors like Levi, that Becky was preaching about, can go on to serve to achieve God’s plans. People who used to be homeless can be statesmen, and mums who are breastfeeding or weaning their babies can also be inspirational leaders. Waterfalls and rainforests, moors, beaches and deserts are all beautiful in different ways. The real galaxies of stars are changing day by day and the infinite nature of the universe is totally awe inspiring.

While the way we live on this planet is not great, and we are probably doing huge damage as the human race, we  can also be fascinating and wonderful people.  The stories of a grandma, raising thousands for a homeless man in the UK has been inspirational recently, and the small acts of random kindness that so many people do every day is not predictable or expected. The difference that parents see in children with special needs can be awe inspiring, and the contribution of people with mental illness to creative writing, art and theatre is immense.

We shouldn’t therefore be scared as Christians to break the mould, or if we feel uncomfortable within the social order, this shouldn’t be a surprise, as God’s ways are wonderful and also quite unfathomable, and that’s what makes it so exciting to walk in faith.

Acts 17 v24-25 “The God who made the universe and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in shrines made by humans, 25 and he isn’t served by humans as if he needed anything. He gives everyone life, breath, and everything they have.”

Walking together to the Lord’s mountain

My friends and I were meeting last night to review a book called “The Help” set in 1960’s America, and we discussed the fact that although slavery is long gone, and the civil rights movement has achieved “equality”, being black in the US doesn’t always feel like being free. We all loved the book, as it depicts women’s ordinary lives and how black women and white women were living together in such different circumstances, obeying different rules and behaving so differently whilst still in the same town, at the same point in history, and all being mothers or grandmothers together. We found it disturbing, and shocking as well as heart-warming and educational.

The news of Tamir Rice’s death today is difficult to comprehend. It seems to us in the UK almost unheard of, that a young boy would be shot at close range by a police officer, or that school children would be carrying guns. The grand jury’s decision not to indite a police officer for the killing of an unarmed man (Michael Brown) is also difficult to understand and the two together is a national tragedy. To be “young, gifted and black, that’s where it’s at” according to Nina Simone, but for Michael and Tamir they are not going to be able to unravel their talents and gifts in this life and their brothers and sisters are in mourning.

I don’t think there are any easy words to provide comfort when someone’s life is taken “before their time”, but I do think as Christians we should be praying in solidarity with African Americans right now. Violence is not the answer, but there is a scene in “the help” when a young man comes into a prayer meeting and says “we need more than just prayer right now”. It doesn’t seem that different 50 years later.

I get a weekly verse sent through to me by the Salvation Army, and this week it was “Coming together is a beginning-keeping together is progress- working together is success” and “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”, so even though you and I are not together right now, I think God will be amongst us somehow if we share this moment of reflection.

The passage we studied on Sunday at church, was Isaiah 2, verses 1-5, which describes a vision of what it would like if all nations came together. I know black and white Americans are from the same country, but they have such different histories, heritage and cultural legacies, that it seems like they live in different places. So maybe we can think about these words as we read the news and watch the TV about these terrible times.

2 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lordto the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.