In a previous blog I explained about the plan of Westminster City Council to deal harshly with rough sleepers and I appealed for prayer; It would seem that the decision has been overturned and this is a cause for rejoicing. Please see the link below………………… (you may have to cut and paste to join the two halves together.
Sadly, it’s still not clear whether or not the council has also dropped the proposal to ban rough sleeping in certain areas, so the need may still be there to protect and argue the case for our friends who have little option but to sleep rough. Please continue to press your MP over this and to pray about the whole situation.
At the same time lets rejoice over what has been achieved.
The picture alongside is that of the crematorium in East Finchley. It reminds me of the Friday funeral services I used to have to carry out for people who didn`t have anyone else to turn to, and often the unknown of the borough. I was always taught to give them dignity because even if we didn`t know who they were, God did; lets pray that Westminster City Council can do this whilst they are still alive.
I led a Church evening tonight on the subject of listening to what the community is saying……………………….. Coming from the Fresh Expressions stable it introduces the concept of 360 degree listening. That is to say the idea of listening to the community around us, listening to what the Church is saying, listening to the wider world, listening to the culture, listening to God through scripture and prayer.
It’s fascinating to see people’s reaction to such an idea; why ? Because many in the Church (and Rotary and other organisations) only ever listen to the voices that suit, or the voices that do not challenge, and I include myself in that. It is very easy to seek out those with whom we agree and then denounce others who are in disagreement as being irrelevant or out of date: to decry them as not listening to our view when often we have made our minds up before hearing theirs.
And yet so often the Church is out of step with society, because we refuse to be moved from “the way we do things”. When our services are perceived as dull and boring how do we respond ? Often by saying that it is up to others to change to suit our ways. I once had a Church of 12 members who spent more time complaining about another Church half a mile away who had demolished their 200 seater premises because they weren`t big enough, than
they ever did on asking why we weren`t attractive to people !!
This is why I like the concept of 360 degree listening: because it reminds us that we need to keep our eyes on the culture we’re called to serve (Paul and the message about the unknown God in Athens comes to mind), and also to see what God is doing within the culture. We`re also called to keep our ears tuned into both the culture and God to hear peoples cries and needs and also to hear the direction God is leading us in. We cannot simply go our own blind way seeking to perpetuate that which keeps us happy and comfortable, but we must be open to the voice of God and we must learn to seek out what he`s doing in the world. The whole concept of the Fresh Expressions movement encourages this through 360 degree listening and it’s absolutely amazing what has come out of it.
Tonight, at the Church where we held the meeting using a large map of the village and placing dots to represent things it was amazing how many times people who had lived in that village all their lives kept saying “I didn`t know that” or “I never realised there was so much……………………….” Maybe in order to take this further we all should stop periodically in our busyness, pause to reflect where our society is at and is going, where we are personally, and ask for Gods direction in our lives and in our relationships: BUT we must then listen to what God is saying to us, for if we don`t listen to Him then it is all pointless.
Maybe there is a good Lenten discipline here: hang on !! isn`t that what Lent is all about anyway ? If so are you and I engaged in listening this Lent ?
I`m aware that I haven`t written much on the blog of late. Part of that is because of busyness and part of it is because of an overwhelming sense of sadness in the light of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. I`m always conscious of how flippant and fun this blog can seem and it almost doesn`t feel right to be writing something so fatuous at a time like this.
As with most of my readers I have watched the news and read the papers with a mixture of incredulity and horror over what has happened. I don`t suppose I`ll ever forget the scenes of that ship caught in a whirlpool heading towards its inevitable destruction and the sense of terror that must have been amongst the passengers on it. Nor will I ever forget seeing the waters with all their filth, gunge, debris and so on gradually over coming the streets and roads of Japanese cities carrying with it no doubt helpless, trapped people.
It has been truly horrifying and I`ve remarked several times that if we had watched it in a cinema we would have remarked about the computer graphics and yet this wasnt a film dominated by mind-blowing computer techniques; no, sadly this was reality and it has left true devastation in its midst: devastation not just of property and resources, but more especially of people’s lives.
So the question needs to be asked “Where is God in all this ?” I know I cant answer the inevitable question of “Why didn`t God prevent it ?” and I certainly won`t go down the route of declaring it as Gods punishment (that’s just lacking too much in a Gospel understanding of God), but I feel that I can say with certainty that above all else the loss of life will have upset and hurt God tremendously. I believe that God would be in the middle so the devastation bringing whatever comfort and peace he could. I believe he would be in the men and women engaged in rescue work. He would be in the medical teams seeking healing and he has certainly been in the hope generated as survivors have been rescued over the last few days.
I believe in a grieving God who weeps with his people and his creation, but I also believe in a God who seeks to alleviate suffering by raising up men and women who will truly be his voice, hands, actions in the world.
Like countless others I continue to hold the people of Japan in prayer and in love.
Every now and then special memories come along and today has truly been one of them for me.
Julia is a girl I`ve known since she was 8 years old; along with her sister Ellie and her Mum and Dad Alison and Stuart, they are the best friends we have in this area. Along with Judith from Oldham we feel very blessed with their friendship. Well, today Julia married Joe in what was a lovely service, smashing reception and a terrific atmosphere.
I was able to return to my old Church of St. Andrews Langley Mill and conduct the wedding (Thank you Rev Dan) using one my puppets that Julia and Joe had bought for me. Rev Neil Down (think about it……………..) stood in the pulpit throughout the wedding and became a feature of my talk about marriage being a meeting of equals but God is in charge.
At the reception the speeches were excellent, not too long and quite funny (especially Stuarts) and the dancing was very enjoyable.
Our youngest daughter Vikki was one of the bridesmaids and she brought Tom along. What a smashing lad he is. Rebecca looked quite stunning as did Alison.
Considering I regard Julia and her sister Ellie as like Godchildren you can imagine how special today has been and even now I`m still on something of a high.
Memorable day and one that will linger in the mind for ever. Unfortunately I`ve left my camera in the car so can`t put any photographs up. Sorry !!
Thank you Joe and Julia for letting me be a part of the day.
Please hold in prayer Julia and Joe on this their wedding day. I`ve known Julia since she was a little child and regard her (and her sister Ellie) like a God-daughter, and so I`m especially proud tha today she is getting married,.
If you`ve got a spare prayer going you may well want to remember the Minister who is conducting the wedding………………. that I`ll get the words right !!!!