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Archive for May, 2005

LICC – word for the week – called away

LICC – word for the week – called away

Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:27,28

People do get up and leave everything. They disappear leaving everyone behind and join the missing persons’ list. They walk away from responsibility, from having to be reliable and prudent, from careful risk assessment, from remembering to lock up the petty cash each evening. Many of us can probably understand why, feel the same way about weights and responsibilities, but most of us stick in there. It takes some kind of perverse courage to run away.

But Levi was called away. He was at work with the little piles of denarii in front of him. Then Jesus said, ‘Follow me’. He went when Jesus called him. But he didn’t turn his back on his workplace. He had a lot of friends among the tax collectors. I expect they tended to stick together. What did they think of his radical, rash, risky act? Levi gave them the chance to find out what had happened to him and why. He didn’t just wash his hands of them when he left. He gave a banquet so that they could meet Jesus.

Levi did not think he should leave the riff-raff behind now he was following Jesus, unlike the local religious leaders who wanted to know why Jesus was eating and drinking with ‘tainted’ people. Jesus knew where he was needed – knew that those who were battling with life and work would hear what he had to say. Respectable, comfortable people were less likely to hear him because they felt no need.

He may call us to walk away, but he is much more likely to call us to a new obedience just where we are and a new commitment to those we already know and work with, who may need us – and him.

Margaret Killingray

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LICC – word for the week – the drink problem

word for the week – the drink problem

Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. Proverbs 23:31

Alcohol is a problem. It is a problem today and it was a problem for the writer of Proverbs. It was a problem for Noah (Genesis 9:21) and for Lot (Genesis 19:30-33). It was a problem for the master of wedding ceremonies in Cana (John 2:1-11). It was a problem in 1st century Ephesus (Ephesians 5:18), and in Rome (Romans 13:13). But it gladdens the heart (Psalm 104:4), makes the Cana wedding go with a swing, and is better for a weak stomach than dodgy water (1 Timothy 5:18). It is also the central symbol of the redeeming poured out love of Jesus.

Noah’s sons tried to avoid looking at their father’s drunken debasement. But CCTV footage regularly reveals the grotesque loss of inhibition in binge drinking. It reveals the Catch 22 dilemma for many of the young – if you don’t join in you have lost out on friendship and peer esteem, and if you do join in, then loss of self-worth and physical and mental damage may result. We should be aware of the varied consequences of alcohol abuse – in crime, traffic accidents, domestic violence, homelessness, etc.

What can ordinary, moderate-drinking Christians do about all this? First we should be aware of the pressures of social conformity even in well-regulated middle-class Christian circles. Many of us feel we have been released from a repressive past when most non-conformists and evangelicals were, sometimes rather self-righteously, teetotal. But maybe where alcohol is concerned we need to recover a stronger communal sense of our need to care for weaker brothers and sisters – and to be role models for our young. We need sometimes to change our language – not indulge in the chummy light-hearted ‘bring out the bottles’ kind of talk. We need to encourage those Christians who are part of a drinking culture, to practise being the life and soul of the party without the help of alcohol

Being mature wise adults means being able to forgo pleasure and desire for the greater good of our communities and our relationships, and doing it with a light and loving heart.

Margaret Killingray

LICC – word for the week – abuse of authority

word for the week – the abuse of authority

For most of us, the name of Diotrephes does not ring many bells. But John, in his third letter, draws a cameo portrait of this church leader, almost as an object lesson in how not to do it.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church”, 3 John v.9-10.

What an indictment – “Diotrephes loves to be first”! But what a widespread tendency this is, not only in the church but in every area of life. Indeed, some people perceive being the boss essentially in terms of being first.

Diotrephes comes across not as a strong man but as an extremely insecure one. He clearly cannot countenance the possibility of rivalry or challenge to his authority. And so he refuses even to acknowledge John, the elder, who, as the rest of the letter shows, had been closely involved with that church, and had many friends there. To make things worse, he tries to turn others against John by gossiping maliciously about him.

It is not only the older, respected figure, however, who makes Diotrephes feel insecure. Whether he refuses to welcome the brothers because they had come from John is not clear, but he clearly does not want to share the limelight with them. Thus, by this refusal, he was depriving the church of the benefit of their ministry.
He even perceives threats from within the ranks of his own church, requiring absolute loyalty from the members, and excluding anyone who might seem to challenge his authority.
He sounds somewhat like a new Company Director who sidelines and ridicules the retiring Chairman, rejects the contribution of able people who might bring fresh ideas into the company, and sacks those who want to do things differently!
Don’t we all need to examine ourselves, to see whether a desire to be first in any area of our lives prevents us from learning from and working harmoniously with others, and encouraging them to develop their own potential?

Helen Parry

LICC – Word for the week – Being called…

word for the week – being called
(Originally receive 18 April 2005)

Yesterday (17th April 2005) was Anglican Vocation Sunday – designed to challenge us to see what we do and where we do it as our personal vocation, God’s special calling, to serve him. We constantly pray for you that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 1 Thessalonians 1:11

God calls us to serve him in the place where we can best fulfil every good purpose, use our gifts, contribute to the good running of our community, nation and world, acquire enough money to look after ourselves and our dependents, and where we can daily act in ways that are prompted by our faith.

In one way it is simply saying that God is in charge of our lives. But for most of us life is not as simple as that. Choices we make can send us in directions we never intended, into jobs we never particularly enjoyed. Choices by others can deny us the freedom to use the gifts we know God has given us and deny us ordinary fulfilments.

Knowing that we are called, that we have a vocation to serve him where we work, presents us with a twofold challenge. We are challenged to accept our calling this Monday morning, even if it is in some way not quite what we would have chosen. Yet that is where today we work out good purposes and act prompted by faith. It is where we learn to grow the fruit of the Spirit, maybe especially patience and self-control. This today is my calling.

The second challenge is to be ready for a fresh calling, for a new word from the Lord, to take a risk, to change direction. A sense that we are in the wrong place can be our call to patient endurance, but it can also be a call to move on.

Charles Wesley wrote –

Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labour to pursue;
Thee, only thee, resolved to know,
In all I think, or speak, or do.*
Making the Lord and his calling our first priority can transform an unhappy placement into a true vocation, and make the future a great adventure.

Margaret Killingray
London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Preach reflection – Ephesus

Felt very relaxed doing this one – too relaxed according to some coz I put my hands in my pockets – a no no as I am reminded. I knew I was doing it and when conscious of it, made some hand gestures before they went back in on their hand. Maybe I was subconciously stopping myself from banging the pulpit as I did during homiletics preach.

Some minor criticisms but nothing major, and as I have intimated to Bob – as long as the doctrine is BBD (Biblically Balanced Doctrine), then I am happy. I do understand the need for other parts to be endeavoured but Doctrine to me is more important than presentation. Am I alone in this?

Dave

LICC – Word for the Week – Open doors, open hands

Open doors, open hands

We ought to show hospitality to these men so that we may work together for the truth, 3 John v.8

Have we lost the true art of hospitality?

In many African societies, extra food is always cooked, so that there is something to offer the unexpected guest. Christian households frequently comprise not just the nuclear and the extended family but also a number of other needy people – AIDS orphans, cast-off widows, converts from Islam who have been thrown out of their homes. And there is still room for the visiting preacher!

The early church relied a great deal on visiting preachers. Not celebrities, with planned, advertised programmes, who might stay in a good hotel, but simple, unknown people, who arrived when they arrived, and stayed with whoever welcomed them.

Gaius, to whom John wrote his third letter, was one such person. We know nothing about him except that he lived out his faith by welcoming and caring for these itinerant teachers, who would bring with them simply a recommendation from John or another known leader. It was for the sake of Jesus’ name that they undertook these gruelling and dangerous trips; and those who welcomed them, John affirms, were joining in their ministry, working together for the truth.

How different our own circumstances are, in the West, today! And how easy, therefore, maybe, to dismiss as irrelevant the example of Gaius. But perhaps we can distinguish two separate principles, which we can learn from.

The first is spontaneous, flexible hospitality. Are our houses so immaculate, our routines so orderly, that there is no place for the unexpected guest, the neglected child or the needy neighbour or colleague? And what about the asylum seekers in the bed-sit in the run-down house round the corner? Arguments of prudence and responsibility, though they will alter the pattern of our involvement, should never stop up the well-spring of Jesus’ love in us.

Secondly, we can offer financial support to people who work for Christian ministries without drawing salaries. Whether they are members of our own churches or itinerant evangelists in Peru, there are innumerable Christians living on the breadline – who have turned their backs on security and prosperity for the sake of Christ.

Let us not be inhibited in well-doing.

Helen Parry

LICC – Word for the Week – So, how do we love our neighbour

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

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