Friday, 22 April 2016

Sermon Notes - high high low low

The past 10 days I have been on a study trip in Israel. 

There is an English phrase 
What goes up must come down 

In Israel the saying changes:
What goes down must always go up! 

I was actually impressed by how the people got about seemingly so easily. We found it hard work! Maybe it's the Dutch beautiful flat landscape that gave us the extra challenge. 

One highlight for me was 

Sermon on the mount 
On the mount looking over the Sea of Galilee and the hills. 

This was a beautiful moment reading the words of Jesus looking at the places he could see. Then realizing a rabbi teaches from the world around. This was a high. 

High high

Traveling home however was a different story. When I arrived home I was to be confronted with the loss of a dear friend. Same age, same kids age, same married age. I cannot put into words how this affected me. It was such a low. 

Low lows 

God is with us through it all. Just when I was beginning to be overwhelmed God took me back to the mountain. He took me back to sitting on the side listening to his words being read. 
The words from the sermon on the mount came back to me. 

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 NLT

“"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 ESV

Never before had those words had so much power. Today I draw close to him. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Israel Studies Day 9

Our last full day of programme is complete. We went to the beautiful Caesarea. We took a historical tour and watched a film about the history. The thing that struck me is the destructive nature of people. Some people want to create but when someone creates instead of it inspiring us to go and do likewise we destroy. Empire after empire not only conquered but destroyed what went before. 

It's like that all over. We today are no better. We see people trying to create a better life for others and instead of helping we criticize until they are broken. It's like we are not satisfied until the world is filled with broken people just like us. 

I will be glad when Jesus takes us home because then the destructive nature of mankind will be at an end. I long for a day when instead of destroying the creativity of others we lift each other up and celebrate being created in the image of a creator. 

Now that I think about it, it's like we are trying to erase the image of God in one another. No matter how hard we try we cannot take away what God has created us to be. 

God the creator, the almighty, the great I am, the centre of love, you are worthy of all praise! 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Israel studies day 8

Take a deep breath and let's go. The whirlwind tour continues. Each day my little head filled with more and more information. Today however I put two thoughts together. 

On the mountain yesterday we were told how a rabbi would teach. One style of teaching was that the rabbi would sit and teach using what they saw around them. If you are sitting on the beautiful hills surrounded by lakes, green, desert and life then your examples will come from that. 

Today we went to a castle. With many levels of stone. Stone is a huge resource for Israel. Everything is made and carved from this beautiful sand colored stone. You get layers and layers of history in stone buildings that archeologists have managed to recover. 

When you put these two thoughts together I thought, is it any wonder the bible talks about the stones crying out! The stone is such a used resource it bears the burden of the nations who have lived here. It is the witness of all the destruction and devastation humanity has caused. So it's no wonder that the rocks and stones will cry out. They have seen too much. 

Maybe we need to stand witness better than the destructive power of humanity that has gone before. Maybe we should be striving to be a better witness of what God can do. Instead we conquer each other and destroy the land and al its inhabitants. What does it cost us to live in peace! 

Israel day 7

We walked the route of Dan. The tribe maybe lost but the lush fertile land they lived on is not. Walking over stoned routes crossing the Jordan was an amazing experience. Each stone took us higher. Each stone led us on. I wish I had slowed down and taken it in. 

The lesson I learnt today with our hurry hurry quick quick tour of learning is it is important to go slow and take it in. There is a saying that says you need to stop and smell the roses. I think this is so true. You will not get to smell the roses at your funeral so stop and smell them when there is still life in you. God did not create a machine he created humanity. Love live and be at peace. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Israel Studies day 6

5 shekels. The price of doing anything is 5 shekels. Look after my bag, 5 shekels. Hold this while I take a photo, 5 shekels. Save me a seat, 5 shekels. So it's a common language between all the many cultures of pastors I currently share a learning space with. We giggle we smile and we say 5 shekels. 

Today we went to a place with a common language. Fun! A nature reserve where you will see Jews, Muslims, Christians spending time with their friends and family side by side with one another. You forget for a moment that outside of this place there are huge divides. You forget that outside of this place there is no love for one another. Yet when they come into this place it doesn't matter the love they share with friends and family moves them beyond the fight to peace. 

It makes me wonder what should our churches be like. Should people come in and have the same paradise experience. It doesn't matter where you are from or where you are going. What matters is the love we share for God. So when people come in they see what they do not see in the world. They see people who are different but who love and accept one another regardless! 

Accept the love of God. Then love God and love one another that is our mandate! 

Israel Studies Day 5

Sabbath worship. 

How do you spend your sabbath? I had the privilege of spending it with 35 pastors sharing communion in the garden at Golgotha. What an awesome experience to receive communion with pastors who normally do not get a chance to relax. 

What I learnt today was that God is interested in all aspects of your life. God wants to be a part of your journey. God wants to share in the highs and lows of your story. Not as a bystander mourning the loss of a relationship but as an active participant. Will you share you life with Christ. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

A visit to Bethlehem

I am not sure I knew what to expect coming here. Our guide told us that the Christians here are very poor and need our support. She said it so many times it was like a drill you recited. Of course I am not oblivious to the news and politics surrounding the region and the terrible treatment of Palestinians. What to expect when visiting Bethlehem. 

The first thing was the the cultural difference between western minds and African minds. I think had we gone to Thailand and there was haggling and selling it would have been more accepted than here. In this place I noticed people not thinking kindly about those people who sell for their living. I think we have so moved in our culture that we forget this is how people make their money. If they don't sell they don't eat. Because our payments go through our bank we forget. 

Anyway I digress the guide was the most surprising thing of our trip. He was a preacher. Well a disciple. Maybe a better description is that he was a Christian and sharing the message was second nature. As well as giving us history he gave us the true message of Jesus. That was his way of saying it. Love God and love one another. This was the nicest thing about our visit. 

It's a shame that politics changes everything. Power seeking people corrupt and cause harm. Imagine there was a point where Palestine and Israel worked together. Then along came the power hungry and then it all goes to smoke. Love God. Love one another. 

I am the Descendant of Slaves

I am the descendant of a slave. We are the survivors of slavery. I stand with my family who survived the death boats. I honour those we lost through years of beatings hangings lynchings. I remember those who were lost to humanity through the dehumanizations of my people. I am the descendant of slaves. 

I will live a life to remember those that fought to survive. Those that stood up and lay down their life so I might be free. I will remember those who were abused so I can be here. I will remember those whose lives are not recorded not mentioned not remembered by anyone. I am the descendant of slaves. 

To my fore-parents who were abused and raped and the price we paid was too great. To my fore-parents whose children were stolen and killed. To my fore-parents whose daughters were raped repeatedly. To my fore-parents whose sons were brutally murdered. I will not forget. I am the child of slaves. 

I will not be silenced I will not be ignored. I will not be made to accept another persons version of history to quiet my pain. I will remember always. I am the descendants of slaves. 

I stand free like so many before the time of slavery. Those who didn't know their family were being stolen and killed, raped and beaten. To those who as free men and women who had their choice removed and their lives torn apart. I will always remember that we were free. We are free. I am the descendant of slaves. 

The pain, the torture, the evil exacted upon my fore-parents will not be forgotten. I will remember. I am the descendant of slaves 

I may not look like you because they raped my fore-mother. I may not know my language because the stripped out fore-parents of their language. I may not know my country because they took me from my land. But I will never forget that I am the descendant of slaves. 

We who survive stand strong and remember. We who survive fight on for our rights. We who are alive. Remember always what was done. Honour those that went before us. Live a life remembering that our freedom came at their price. I am the descendant of slaves! 

Israel day 4

Before 10am in the morning I was inspired to write a piece about my own history. We visited the museum of the history of the holocaust. These past few days there has been so much said about remembering. Today that really hit home. We should remember. The lie of forgive and forget is not true. 

The bible is a gift not only for inspiration and living but also to remember. I have been fascinated that everywhere in the bible God instructs the people to have a remembrance service or day or celebration for those trials that have passed. In doing so it gives the people peace and healing from that. 

As a Christian I have the communion service to remember the pain of sacrifice. I have a moment when I can pause and reflect on the pain that has gone before.  I have something tangible to hold onto that is a symbol of hope. I am a whole person with personal experiences as well. 

Each year I remember my birthday. As my mother would say the day I tortured her to enter the world. I celebrate the gift of life I was given by her my unknown father and my God. I take great pleasure in celebrating the life of my children on their birthdays. Grateful that God has given them life through my husband and I. 

There is one part of my however that has been stifled by the world. I have been told I must not remember. I must move on. I have been told that it doesn't count. I have been silenced again and again. So I acknowledge today that I am the descendant of slaves. I live free where once they were bound. I need a land to go to. A museum to remember and honour. I want a day where we who survive can honour the lives lost before us. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Israel Studies Day 3

There is something about the third day.  When I went to language school to learn Dutch I was on a one week intensive. Each day we were out by 8am and back at 9pm. But on the third day the teachers told us that they shorten the day because students experience a dip in learning always on day 3. My fellow cohort was no different. Their idea of early however was one hour earlier than normal. 

Well today is the third day and unlike language school we finished two hours early. I cannot tell you how relieved we were as most of us slept on the coach! That's how tired we are. Tomorrow will be better. 

Today I had an overwhelming feeling that power clouds judgement. We want to be right so badly that we dig ourselves in and never let anyone else in. Three major religions. One God. Three and a lot more ways trying to control worship. Maybe if we stop trying to control worship then our experience with and of God would actually transform our lives 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Israel Studies 2

Silence. I come from a big city. A big busy loud bustling city. Silence is relative to where you are. When I was living in the city we sought silence in parks, in high places and we would enjoy our silence. 

When I moved to the countryside I lived in silence. The silence would keep me awake at night because it was still and quiet and all I could hear was the owl and it was so loud and busy. 

Then I moved to the suburbs and it was a nice quiet road to raise a family. The silence was beautiful. The neighbors were great. I also became a parent and so silence had a different meaning. 

In scripture the bible refers often to silence and quiet. Listening to Gods voice or meditating in prayer. So I got involved with making spaces for silent worship. I would create quiet places, silent worship, and  prayer gardens. All this was in an effort to hear silence. Today all that changed. 

Today I went to the desert. Today I went to the site of the Dead Sea scrolls and I listened to the most beautiful silence I have ever heard in my life. Silence took on a whole new meaning to my life. 

Imagine being there in that silent place where you can hear what is happening for miles. Then God appears to you and a voice from heaven says... 

This idea of being in that silent place and having God talk to you is the most amazing thing. Today I am struck by the awe of God. Yes God is my friend, my father, my savior, and my creator. But God is awesome. Be inspired. 

Israel day 1

Israel studies - Day 1 

Living in a place of worship. In my denomination we have many opportunities to worship together for a week or two at a time. The highlight for many is something we call camp meeting. A week of worship together. When you are there in that place everywhere you go everyone you see is from your denomination. The atmosphere is like nothing you have experienced. While it is an amazing week I have often thought how challenging it would be to live in that way all the time. Being in Jerusalem you really have a sense of living in a place of worship. 

Living in a place of worship shapes everything about you. It shapes the whole world and everything you say and do. It is such a different way of life and unless you have lived it I don't think it makes sense. It's so easy for us to look at this part of the world and tell them how they should get on but living it is so different. How can you truly separate politics from religion when everything about religion shapes everything about your world. 

You think about this. Where you walk. What you see. What you say in greeting. What happens is all based on the different places of worship. Someone is always praying. Worship is always happening. How you dress and speak affects the worship of others. Add to that the tight place packed with so many people all with their own version of what is holy what is right. When you live in that place no wonder there is tension. Not because of God but because of power. People want to control how everyone else is worshipping it. 

Power for humanity is everything. We want to control others. We live to do it. I here often from western minds that it is God who is the route of problems but really all problems start in the same way. Humanity have choice and because we want power and control over one another we do terrible things. Terrible things in the name of ourself in the name of religion in the name of government. There is no difference. I thank God I have hope not in man but in God that it will not always be this way. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Israel Study Tour - arrival

Well this has been eventful trip and it hasn't even begun. We were due to fly from Brussels but due to the terror attack everything had to change. So after much discussion and negotiation we had a new airport to travel from. 

I had a new experience on board. I was sick. Actually physically sick. I was so embarrassed but the staff were wonderful really caring. Because I was sick I sat at the back. At that moment I was joined by 10 Jewish men who needed to pray. I was quite astonished to watched this mixed group of men stand together to pray. 

It was impressive to watch Jews from different sectors of their faith stand together. Orthodox Jews, liberal, young and trendy. There was a father and son.twy were together sharing a book. Really tender moment.  There were 4 young guys. Three were very giggly and the fourth was stuck in that place between friends and belief. Trying his best to focus on what was happening. 

This really made me think. As Christians do we stand together in this way. Would we pray so publicly. Would we solicit others to join us no matter which denomination or spectrum they are on. Maybe we are missing a fundamental of our faith. It doesn't matter which part of the spectrum we are on. What matters is that we all pray to one God. 

As I left the plane with this thought ringing in my ears. I was met at border control with a different thought. The gentleman who was questioning me was confused I did not know who my father was. At my age I had to have a full conversation with a stranger about not knowing my biological father. This is seemed so foreign to me. I have come up against this time and again. It never stops surprising me though. I have the privilege of having a wonderful step dad and family. But because my biology is missing I am somehow looked on strangely. I took comfort that my Heavenly Father has never abandoned me. Draw close to him. Focus on him. Maybe that's the unifying thought. That God brings us together. It is in him we trust.