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Archive for April, 2005

LICC – Word for the Week – How are you?

word for the week

how are you?

I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well, 3 John:2.

‘How are you?’ we ask. And ‘Fine’ comes the reply. But what are we really asking? And do we actually want to know, anyway? Some years ago, I said ‘How are you?’ to a mentally disturbed man at church. With rare honestly, he responded, ‘You don’t want to know’. ‘But I do,’ I protested (perhaps less honestly). ‘Well, look at your feet’, he replied; and I realised that I was walking past him even as I mouthed my automatic question. Many languages have formulae for greeting, with questions about one’s neighbour’s family, animals, work, travel, sleep, eliciting standard responses. But at least people spend time acknowledging each other, face to face.

What kind of interest in others might we convey in those short exchanges in the bus, on arrival at work, at the school gate, in the check-out queue or at the back of church after the service? The apostle John, writing to his ‘dear friend Gaius’, expressed three heart-felt wishes. First, that his friend should have good health; second, that everything in his life should go well; and third, that his spiritual life should continue to thrive – wishes on the physical, circumstantial and spiritual planes. We appear to think almost entirely about people’s health when we ask ‘how are you?’ And we scarcely wait for the expected answer.

But that little answer ‘fine’ may veil a newly diagnosed cancer or a marriage on the rocks. ‘Fine’ may veil a lost faith or a broken heart. If we genuinely care for others, we must be interested in their lives, in the issues they are facing in their families and in their work. And do we have courage, with our close Christian friends, to ask ‘And how is your relationship with God?’

We need to pray for people on all these three planes; and, like John, when we write to people, to ask after all these aspects of their lives. But in our everyday greetings, too, may we try to find ways of encouraging others by expressing a genuine concern for things that are going on in the deeper recesses of their hearts and minds.

Helen Parry

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LICC – connecting with culture – downfall

word for the week – so, how do we love our neighbour?

You neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone. Luke 11:42

On Thursday we are exercising a hard won freedom. We are practising justice and love. That all should have an equal right to democratic participation in government is justice and justice hard won, because battle after battle had to be fought over the exclusions – commoners, the poor, and women. We should remember that even here in the UK we have not yet reached the centenary of universal adult suffrage.

Yet as we listen to the media-orchestrated election campaign, it seems very easy to lose sight of what justice really means. Instead of social good for all, the emphasis is too often on my individual right to choose what suits me best. We are asked to vote for those who will allow us to keep more of our money; who will save our hospital; who will build new homes, but away from our back yard.

Love and justice are together the foundation of moral community, the command of God, the ‘givens’ of the way we are called to steward this world and all its systems. In voting we are obeying the command to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We are choosing the best way on offer to create the conditions for all human flourishing. We are asking those we elect to tax us, so that we can provide communally the resources to give others, as well as ourselves, the bases for a reasonable life.

The command to love our neighbour would be far easier to obey if it did simply mean being nice to the people next door. But, as a summary of the whole law, it places on us all a personal and communal responsibility to fulfil a duty of care to all six billion human beings and their descendants. Justice and love are involved in all good government, in progressive taxation, in a generous aid and development budget, in the protection of the environment, and therefore we should welcome even uncomfortable measures that serve the good of all.

Margaret Killingray

LICC – Word for the Week – Humility and wisdom

word for the week – humility and wisdom

Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Mockers resent correction; they will not consult the wise.
(Proverbs 9:8, 15:12)
There are two sorts of people described in the book of Proverbs – those who seek wisdom, and those who are fools and mockers. Pope John Paul II has often been the target of mockers. Authoritarian, rigid, conservative, out of touch, promoting cruel and destructive ethical doctrines – these terms have been used to describe him and Catholic teaching. But, to the surprise of many, including the mockers, his dying, lying in state and funeral have brought out the millions in prayerful respect.

John Paul has, through the long years of his papacy, rebuked and chided Catholics, other Christians and all humanity. He has rebuked us for the cheapening of sex, for making it simply personal pleasure and not part of larger, longer and more important commitments to marriage and to children. He has rebuked us for seeking easy ways out of uncomfortable burdens through abortion and euthanasia. He has demonstrated the acceptance of disciplines, such as celibacy, for a greater good. He has spoken for the world’s poor and opposed the war against Iraq. He has accepted the terrible handicaps and public distress of Parkinson’s and the ravages of old age with dignity, and probably without changing his mind about embryo stem cell research.

Personally I have deep disagreements at several points, and would take issue on the nature of authority, the theology of church, and the ambivalent view of sex demonstrated in the imposition of celibacy, and the opposition to birth control, and the attitude to women. The Pope was, like the rest of us, a flawed human being both ex and ad cathedra. But I do not want to be a mocker, who assumes all those who support a conservative agenda are being deliberately obtuse and ignorant. I will listen to his rebukes and consider whether I, along with many Catholic and non-Catholic Christians, may have sometimes thrown out part of the baby with the bathwater.

Margaret Killingray

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LICC – connecting with culture – The Funeral of the Pope

the funeral of the Pope

Few, today, can stop the world when they want to get off. But Pope John Paul II has done just that. His lingering curtain call gripped a mass audience – unused, as we are, to seeing physical degeneration modelled publicly in such style. The eulogies that sprang from a myriad sources flowed like an overwhelming river of praise to the See of Peter. Surely, an incomparable icon for the i-Pod generation.
John Paul had, after all, been seen ‘live’ by more people than anyone else in history. He helped, in Europe, to topple Communism, while making the world think hard about the consequences of its alternative, capitalism. And he displayed a moral and ethical consistency which puts most of us, one way or another, to shame.
Yet, there remains something unsettling about the nature of today’s funeral, as we all squeeze through a lens and into the Square to pay our last respects. You could be forgiven, reading the papers this week, for thinking that our world is the church, and the church, our world. You could also be forgiven, watching the news, for believing that Western culture holds its religious leaders in the highest esteem, and that institutional religion plays a crucial, on-going role in our lives.
Yet who, beyond the faithful Catholic remnant, has read the Pope’s words? And who, even among them, lives accordingly? As Deborah Orr wrote in the Independent, ‘it’s a sobering thought that this quarter century of galloping materialism, increasing inequality, continual war. and paralysing self-regard, has managed to be what it is, wven with a towering spiritual and moral presence among us.’
So what do we do, as we say goodbye? We all, of course, blur the lines, in our TV world, between voyeurism and participation, and will do so today in the greatest act of collective mourning the world has ever seen. Many, surely, will end up simply slowing down to gawp at the biggest roadside shrine in history before speeding off again, untouched. But others, yet, may be inspired, despite the religiosity and pomp, to pull over and reflect on the value of one life lived (and died) so well for the sake of Christ.
And that’s a legacy to which all Christians can aspire. John Paul travelled, so famously, at a different pace; a pilgrim who tried, to the last, to lead the world in a different Way.

Brian Draper

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LICC – Connecting with Culture – Tattoos

connecting with culture – tattoos 1/4/2005

David Beckham has revealed another tattoo to the world, and you don’t have to be a genius to know that it’s the name of his third son. ‘Cruz’ lines up at number three along the back, along with Brooklyn and Romeo, and their guardian angel – a human figure with arms and wings outstretched. The England captain also bears the name of his wife, Victoria, on one forearm and the Roman numeral VII on the other (his England number), along with the words ‘Perectio in Spiritu’ – ‘spiritual perfection’. Add another angel (to protect his marriage) and a cross at the top of his neck, and the footballer is beginning to look more like a Maori warrior (or former Spice Girl Mel C) than a footballer.
But why does he – and many others besides – sport tattoos? Beckham displays a number of classic reasons – expressing love for his partner, loyalty to his children, superstition over their welfare and a penchant for spirituality. There’s also the aesthetics (if you like that sort of thing)
and a hint of the rebel spirit. Some foolhardy punters act on impulse, or to mark a rite of passage (especially, today, from childhood to adulthood); others to mourn and remember a loved one. Then, there’s the postmodern tribal consumers, human billboards for their brand fetishes. The Nike swoosh is the most popular corporate logo requested in the US, along with – get this – Budweiser, Adidas, Corona, Apple Computers, Ford, Chevy and Volkswagen .
While some Christians baulk at the idea of a permanent mark – citing Leviticus 19 as their proof text (or the morbid phrase, as I found on one website, ‘love lasts forever, but a tattoo lasts six months longer); others proudly go under the needle to display their allegiance to a Higher Power.
Paul speaks of bearing the ‘marks of Christ’ in his letter to the Galatians, and while he probably received them not from a tattooist but an angry mob who disliked his hermeneutics, he infers that he is ‘branded’ for Christ on the outside and the in. It certainly makes me think: if I were to have a tattoo, to express something of the ‘me of me’ – what would it be? What would it say about who I really am? And if I chose, in the end, to remain unblemished, then how would I show I’m branded for life in an all-together different way?

Brian Draper

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