Category Archives: justice

Ready? #Advent

Aleksander Ivanov - The Apparition of Christ to the People (PR)
Is this him?
The One we’ve been waiting for?
Is this The One God promised
who would rescue us
and take us home?
Is this God’s Chosen
showing us his ways,
telling us what God would have us do?

We are desperately looking for someone,
so in need of a hand to guide,
a shepherd to lead,
a leader to take us home.

Is he coming?
Shall we still wait?
will he come
and take us,
show us,
live in us?

He is coming.
But in his coming
there will be changes to make,
different ways of thinking
and living.
Generous ways,
selfless acts,
not wanting more
than is yours,
living
and helping others to live too.

Oh yes he is coming –
but are you really ready
for what that will mean?
It’s reality in your life,
what will be asked of you?

Are you ready for him to come?

The theme for the third week in Advent is The Lord’s Anointed.  We look to the one who is to come.

Luke 3:7-18 (CEV)

Crowds of people came out to be baptized, but John said to them, “You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? Do something to show that you really have given up your sins. Don’t start saying that you belong to Abraham’s family. God can turn these stones into children for Abraham. An axe is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.”

10 The crowds asked John, “What should we do?”

11 John told them, “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have any. If you have food, share it with someone else.”

12 When tax collectors came to be baptized, they asked John, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 John told them, “Don’t make people pay more than they owe.”

14 Some soldiers asked him, “And what about us? What do we have to do?”

John told them, “Don’t force people to pay money to make you leave them alone. Be satisfied with your pay.”

15 Everyone became excited and wondered, “Could John be the Messiah?”

16 John said, “I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in his barn and burn the husks with a fire that never goes out.”

18 In many different ways John preached the good news to the people.

Wild and Lone the Prophet’s Voice

Sorrow #Advent

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky 01

It can seem at times so hard to find any hope in the world, any glimmer of a different future, perhaps especially today, of a time when war and troubles are over, when sorrow has ended.

One thing the Old Testament show us is that Twas Ever Thus.  Humanity has always done a good job of causing trouble for one another – mistreating, making enemies, creating disaster – generally trying to prove who is bigger, stronger and making the life of the weak and vulnerable even more precarious.

Into this God spoke.  Into this God continues to speak.  The Advent message of hope is as needed today as it was when the prophets first spoke it.  God promises that this will end.

Why hasn’t he yet?  Perhaps we haven’t given him chance, allowed him to.  God is trying to stop wars and we keep starting them.  We are still intent on proving who is better, more right – and we fail to live with one another, with tensions and different opinions.  We struggle to do it over even small things, so no wonder we can’t do it over international conflict.  And when weapons get involved, there will only be one end – more hurt, more destruction, more suffering for those who didn’t start anything.

Yet still God continues to stand with us, weep with and for us, and promise an end – just as soon as we let him.  Sorrow will end.  We will be safely home.

God will lead us home and we will be safely blessed – that is our Advent hope.

What am I doing to work with him?

O Lord,
I know you weep over humanity,
you are distraught
at the things we do to one another.

You promise to bring us home
to a place of safety
and joy,
but we carry on the fighting,
discrimination,
injustice
and wonder why you aren’t doing something.

Forgive me Lord
for the part I play
in keeping anger and oppression going.

Today
and tomorrow
may I work with you
to bring an end
that we may be able
to come home to you.

The theme of the first week in Advent is The Day of the Lord.  We look forward to the coming of that day.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

(CEV)

A Song of Celebration

14 Everyone in Jerusalem and Judah,
celebrate and shout
    with all your heart!
15 Zion, your punishment is over.
The Lord has forced your enemies
    to turn and retreat.
Your Lord is King of Israel
    and stands at your side;
you don’t have to worry
    about any more troubles.

16 Jerusalem, the time is coming,
    when it will be said to you:
“Don’t be discouraged
    or grow weak from fear!
17 The Lord your God
wins victory after victory
    and is always with you.
He celebrates and sings
    because of you,
and he will refresh your life
    with his love.”

The Lord’s Promise to His People

18 The Lord has promised:
Your sorrow has ended,
    and you can celebrate.
19 I will punish those
    who mistreat you.
I will bring together the lame
    and the outcasts,
then they will be praised,
instead of despised,
    in every country on earth.
20 I will lead you home,
    and with your own eyes
you will see me bless you
    with all you once owned.
Then you will be famous
    everywhere on this earth.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

O Lord the Clouds are Gathering

Hannah, Elkanah, Life – and Eventually Samuel

What an amazing array of emotions and family dynamics are played out in this short passage!  It plays out like an episode of a soap opera:

1 Samuel 1:4-20 (CEV)

Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he gave some of the meat to Peninnah and some to each of her sons and daughters. But he gave Hannah even more, because he loved Hannah very much, even though the Lord had kept her from having children of her own.

Peninnah liked to make Hannah feel miserable about not having any children, especially when the family went to the house of the Lord each year.

One day, Elkanah was there offering a sacrifice, when Hannah began crying and refused to eat. So Elkanah asked, “Hannah, why are you crying? Why won’t you eat? Why do you feel so bad? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

When the sacrifice had been offered, and they had eaten the meal, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli was sitting in his chair near the door to the place of worship. 10 Hannah was brokenhearted and was crying as she prayed, 11 Lord All-Powerful, I am your servant, but I am so miserable! Please let me have a son. I will give him to you for as long as he lives, and his hair will never be cut.”

12-13 Hannah prayed silently to the Lord for a long time. But her lips were moving, and Eli thought she was drunk. 14 “How long are you going to stay drunk?” he asked. “Sober up!”

15-16 “Sir, please don’t think I’m no good!” Hannah answered. “I’m not drunk, and I haven’t been drinking. But I do feel miserable and terribly upset. I’ve been praying all this time, telling the Lord about my problems.”

17 Eli replied, “You may go home now and stop worrying. I’m sure the God of Israel will answer your prayer.”

18 “Sir, thank you for being so kind to me,” Hannah said. Then she left, and after eating something, she felt much better.

Samuel Is Born

19 Elkanah and his family got up early the next morning and worshiped the Lord. Then they went back home to Ramah. Later the Lord blessed Elkanah and Hannah 20 with a son. She named him Samuel because she had asked the Lord for him.

So many questions and issues are raised – more questions than answers:

  • a man’s different treatment of his wives (ignoring the fact he had more than one wife, as that would have been the acceptable norm then!).  Treating them differently because he loved one ‘more than’ the other.  Is it right to treat people differently depending on how we feel about them?  Should there be parity among family members and those we have a responsibility too?
  • One wife likes to make the other miserable.  We get the impression that she takes every opportunity possible to rub in her having children, being a ‘proper woman’ and Hannah not. A cruel thing to do, but perhaps not an unfamiliar one.  When have I been on the end of that kind of behaviour, and how has it made me feel?  How can I bring that to God?  OR when have I done such a thing, with or without intending to?  What can I do about that today?
  • Hannah’s feeling of worthlessness – Elkanah does his best.  Where do we find our human value – especially if there is part of our humanity we feel is missing or we have failed at?  Where is my worth?  How can I reach it, broken, battered and bruised as I am?  Our value to God is way beyond our achievements and what others think of us.
  • Hannah’s utter desperation.  She is willing to pour her heart out to God.   Is there something in my life that brings me to such a point of despair?  What can I do about it?  Can I bring my despair to God as Hannah did?
  • The misunderstanding of the Eli!  Are we sometimes to quick to jump to conclusions?  Or to assume what someone needs without allowing them to verbalise it?  Do I do that?  Do we allow people the opportunity to speak, to share?  Can I make a safe place for that?
  • God answers Hannah’s prayer exactly as she asked.  Probably my most overwhelming feeling about this passage is ‘That’s not fair’, ‘what about me?’ ‘what about all the prayers, equally fervent, that don’t get answered so obviously?’ That nearly made me leave this passage alone.

But that is a reality.  Sometimes our prayers are answered exactly as we want – and other times not.  How we deal with that is perhaps more a measure of our faith than the size of the prayers we pray in the first place.  This wasn’t the first time Hannah had prayed this prayer by any means.  Her journey had been a long struggle.  She had suffered on and on.  And now, at this point God responds as she wishes.  Now is the time for that to happen.  We don’t know why God knew that this was the right time, the right way – but it was.  And Hannah is delighted to respond in faith and offering.

But there were so many times when it wasn’t the answer she wanted – as there will be in our lives too.  We have to find a way of carrying on, of continuing to pray, of still holding our situation before God, whilst also allowing him to act in his ways and perhaps change the prayer we pray.

Somehow, some way, one day it will all make sense – but as we see God’s sense and not necessarily as we get our own way.

So many questions.  So many ways of Gods working.  A fair bit of heart-searching.  Maybe a struggle.  Ultimately allowing God to work, and being open to his possibilities.