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Archive for July, 2005

LICC – Connecting with Culture- Movements and moments

Just before Paul McCartney sang Live 8’s memorable opening line – “It was 20 years ago today…” – the BBC’s Andrew Marr struck a different, subtle, pertinent chord. He was talking about the huge crowd, and their motivation for being there. Most of us today, he explained, don’t want to join a movement but a moment.

Live 8 was certainly a moment to be proud of, as were the Make Poverty History marches which brought so much hope before the bombs went off; but the challenge to us all, surely, is not to let such ‘moments’ be superseded by other, more fearsome events; nor simply to bide our time until the next big, hopeful thing rolls around for us to feel collectively part of.

Rather, the challenge is to learn how to live more fully within every moment we face; to try the sacred art of cultivating presence. We may not feel like we can change the world, but each of us can change the world around us through the choices we make and the lives we choose to lead.

The author Mike Riddell talks about the potential for us to choose between good or bad in the decisions we make day to day. They all happen, he says, within the present, on what he calls ‘the sharp blade of the moment’:

‘Here,’ he explains, ‘lie opportunities to create and to love. Equally present are the possibilities of abuse and cruelty. In the capsule of experience which is given to us each instant, we determine who we are and what is significant to us…’

It’s not always easy to know how to act within every situation we face. But if we keep in mind Jesus’ command – to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves – then we have a powerful compass with which to navigate through some of the trickier twists and turns along the road.

It may not mean that we join the movement. That’s our choice. And we may still find ourselves getting caught up and carried away in the big moments that punctuate our collective story. But if we choose to live on the sharp blade that dissects the past and the future, then our lives can surely gain a cutting edge as we help to bring God’s kingdom flickering into life – in the ‘now’, as well as the ‘not yet’.

Brian Draper


LICC – Word for the Week – The blessing of forgiveness

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7

Jesus tells us to forgive: easier said than done. We all assume that we understand forgiveness, but in practice it is sometimes very hard to know where it begins and ends. To forgive may involve battling with powerful emotions – resentment, deep hurt, a longing for justice and retribution.

Yet the desire for a fresh start with the slate wiped clean is very strong, and without forgiveness that is not possible. How do we live with the memory of some of the things we have done? How can we bear the burden of words we cannot withdraw, or change actions we have bitterly regretted for years? How do we deal with difficult ongoing relationships at work or in the family where everything that’s said is misunderstood?

Forgiveness between human beings is complicated because it involves pride, humility, and even sometimes humiliation and unbearable indebtedness. But forgiveness, Paul reminds us, begins as a blessing from God. We are free from all penalties and punishments, because he has redeemed us through the cross of Jesus. The Almighty God, supreme, perfectly holy, with all authority, is willing to forgive anyone for anything. So we are all in the place of guilt, all humbled by our need for forgiveness. When we know this, it is easier to forgive and be forgiven for our lesser debts and trespasses against each other.

But forgiveness is costly. When we understand, even in part, the cost to the Creator and the Saviour of the world, then the cost to pride and confidence as we face our own need to seek forgiveness from others seems a small price. Our acceptance of the cost of dealing with the consequences of what we have done, as well as that of forgiving those who have hurt and damaged us, begins the process that leads us into the full, joyous and blessed freedom of the children of God. Forgiveness offered and accepted is also an essential part of extending the Kingdom of God into a troubled world.

Margaret Killingray

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

LICC – Word for the week – Blessing God for blessing us

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

Bless you! It’s easy to say – an automatic response to a sneeze, although I haven’t the faintest idea why, or a slightly cheesy way of saying thanks. Some react with an even briefer exclamation – just ‘Bless!’ – when touched by ‘sweetness’.

The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a breathless outpouring of praise and prayer about being blessed. It has very few full stops and to get the full flavour you need to read it out loud very fast. It must have tested the abilities of the scribe taking down Paul’s passionate paragraphs.

Are you blessed? If so what do you count as your blessings? Health, wealth, family, a partner who loves you, children? A job you love, the opportunity to travel, a warm sunny day in summer? The freedom of technology – instant communication, instant music, instant film? And then, of course, there is food and wine, books and conversation…. Are you blessed?

Apart from the opportunity to travel, Paul would not, by these measures, be called blessed. He was in prison, having travelled hundreds of miles on foot, sometimes hungry, thrown out of villages with a mob howling at him, beaten up. Writing to small groups of believers, some of whom were slaves and most poor, he doesn’t begin this letter with the hard things, with an attempt to bring consolation and sympathy from one unfortunate to some others. He begins with praise, not just praise because God is God, but grateful passionate praise for all the blessings God has showered on him and on all Christians.

Absorbed with work, home, money, weather, anxieties about relationships, shopping, we forget that we are shining examples of the wholly blessed. We are chosen, adopted, loved, redeemed, forgiven, destined for heaven, marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Ten times in the first fourteen verses Paul uses the phrase, ‘in Christ’, or ‘in him’. In Christ, we are blessed beyond all human blessing, and blessed forever.

Margaret Killingray

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

LICC – connecting with culture – war of the worlds

Shortly after Jeff Wayne released his musical version of War of the Worlds (selling over 13 million copies), Steven Spielberg introduced us to the initially awe-inspiring but ultimately cuddly aliens of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They lit up the skies with Christmas lights, and used a five-note serenade to convey messages of peace, not war, to planet Earth.

Then came ET – Spielberg’s alien messiah who healed the sick before dying and being raised back to life; ET not only welcomed the little children, he chose to live among them. Spielberg’s science fiction, critics have often remarked, invites us to see the universe with awe and wonder through the eyes of a child – even if it’s a robot child, as in AI.

So, it’s unusual that Spielberg, through this adaptation of War of the Worlds, is now suggesting that there’s something out there to be feared rather than revered. The Christmas lights have been replaced with death rays, the alien serenade with a doom-laden, fog-horn blast issuing from the tripod machines of the invaders.

H G Wells’s original 1898 story attacked the ‘gun-boat diplomacy’ of the European empires which cowed less developed nations into submission through their superior technology. Spielberg echoes this theme in his film: “foreign occupations always fail,” declares Ogilvy (Tim Robbins), leaving commentators to deliberate about the parallels with Iraq and the so-called ‘war on terror’.

‘The point here,’ writes the Guardian’s John Patterson, ‘is that if Bush has lost Spielberg, who for all his shortcomings remains the presiding cinematic visionary of Middle America, he suddenly looks a lot like Lyndon Johnson in 1968, when CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, the reassuring uncle of the nation, turned publicly against the war in Vietnam.’

This is certainly a film against war, terrorism and violence of any kind. The depiction of the relentless onslaught of the Martians and the innocent victims caught in a struggle for survival serves to remind us of the kind of disregard for life we witnessed in London last week, and which is happening every day in Iraq and elsewhere.

The film ends, as it begins, by zooming in on the microbes that bring about the invaders’ downfall; Spielberg is still trying to invoke the awe and wonder of old, but this time it’s not just for the universe we live in – but for the miracle of life itself.

Jason Gardner


LICC – word for the week – Overcoming Evil

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.’ On the contrary: ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

Born in London before the Second World War, I remember, as a small child, staring down into the crater made by a bomb that fell 300 yards from my home. Then, in the early 1980s, I remember standing with hundreds of others outside Charing Cross Station while it was searched for explosives, after a bomb had gone off at Victoria. At home last Thursday, I waited to find out whether my husband had arrived safely at Senate House, just off Russell Square. As an elderly man said on his way to a Second World War reunion, ‘We’ve been here before’.

That is the blueprint for Christians who live in troubled and anxious times, however dire the circumstances, whatever the depths of evil, in the 1st or 21st century.

Of course, there is a place for righteous anger at the random destruction of life, and, of course, it is important that wrongdoers are brought to justice, by the proper authorities through due process of law, on the basis of adequate and attested evidence. But we are all challenged to live by a radical principle of love that forbids the use of evil to overcome evil and that will sometimes demand from us the highest levels of integrity, self-knowledge and sacrifice.

‘Overcome evil with good’ is a strong, proactive command. Looking back over 60 years we need to assess just how the struggles against different forms of evil have been fought and to recognise where we have compromised too much the law of love.

Margaret Killingray

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