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Archive for October, 2005

LICC – Word for the Week – Wrestling with God

LICC – word for the week – wrestling with God

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to
you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? There is strife and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. Habakkuk 1:1-4

Habakkuk was inspired to write a psalm. (Not all the psalms in the Old Testament are in the book of psalms.) His praise psalm of deep faith and trust in the Lord God forms the third and final chapter of the ‘oracle’ he received. But chapters one and two show us how he came to write it through an honest dialogue with God, asking the questions he wanted sorted before hecommitted himself to true and trusting worship.

His psalm, his prayer, came from an active, on-going debate in which he tried to come to terms with what he knew of God’s character and sovereignty – and the state of the world around him. He faced the enormity of disintegrating societies, caused, perhaps in part by natural calamities, drought, famine, hurricane and earthquake, but also made worse by human failure and wickedness, inefficiency and apathy. Habakkuk echoed the personal despair felt by some of the psalmists – ‘Will you forget me for ever?’ (Psalm 13:1) – and the outrage of the prophets at the injustice and discrimination meted out to the poor by the rich and powerful within thecovenant people of God.

Some of us are tempted to retreat into a spiritual comfort zone and to turn our backs on unpleasant realities, so that ‘the things of earth grow strangely dim’. When questioned, we are sometimes driven to produce glib responses about God’s timing, God’s love and God’s judgment instead of facing up to what can happen to faith and trust in the midst of suffering and gross injustice. But Habakkuk shows us that a passionate debate – a cry
of protest and complaint – is also part of a legitimate life of prayer. We should not be ‘otherworldly’ when we pray, for we are deeply embedded in this world and need to carry the indignation and confusion of that involvement to the Lord. How could it be otherwise? Jesus, in the midst of bloody and noisy injustice, also cried out ‘Must I call for help, but you do not listen?’- but in the words of another psalm.

Margaret Killingray

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LICC – Connecting with Culture – National Giving Week

I used to cross the road to avoid beggars. These days, however, with ‘charity muggers’ (those hardy folk with clipboards and a permanent smile who ask, “Sir, do you have a moment to help starving children?”) clogging our streets, I’d rather risk having to buy a cup of tea for a tramp. All of which persuades me that I’ve still some way to go to live up to the immortal words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Here’s a question for the next charity fund-raising quiz night: Which Gospel recordsJesus saying this? A: None. Paul cites the words in Acts 20.35.)

Jesus’ dictum implies that there is blessing in both giving and receiving, and some of us, perhaps, need to learn the art of receiving graciously, as well as giving abundantly. But giving remains the priority in a world of such obvious need. The Bible exhorts us at almost every turn to be generous to the poor, and reminds us that if we give to those who need our help, then we’re giving to the Lord. How generous are we – really – towards the God who gave us so much in the first place, and forgave us the greatest of debts? Charitable giving has, perhaps surprisingly in our buoyant economy, fallen over the last 10 years by a staggering 25 per cent. That’s why, presumably, the Charities Aid Foundation has declared next week ‘National Giving Week’ – to encourage us to give more, to plan our giving more carefully and to makeit more tax-efficient.

Giving to charity can be like trying to heal cancer with a sticking plaster. We still have to fight the systems that perpetuate the gap between rich and poor. But if we’re not careful, we can end up neither giving nor fighting, leaving it all instead to the few who, through their generosity of spirit, can truly be bothered. Next week is a chance to re-consider how much we give, to whom and how regularly. We might also think about what else we can offer – such as our time or our talent. But as we seek, daily, to turn our faith into action, we cannot let the charity mugger be our sole inspiration for crossing to the other side of the road. God loves a cheerful giver. Freely we have received; freely, then, we should give it a try.

Brian Draper

LICC – Word for the Week – Love is…

LICC – Word for the Week – Love is…

The fruit of the Spirit is love. Galatians 5:22

Everybody, it seems, is searching for love – longing to be loved, longing to find someone to love. But what a muddle we get into when we try to pin down what we mean by love. It all springs out of our human need for relationship – for acceptance, for affection, for companionship, as well as for that most elusive thing, the experience of being “in love”.

C.S.Lewis, in his useful book The Four Loves, distinguishes affection, friendship and eros (romantic sexual love) from the love that is the essence of the character of God (1 John 4:8). This is the love that Paul describes as patient and kind, not envious, boastful, proud, rude or self-seeking, not easily angered and keeping no record of wrongs (1 Cor.13: 4-5).

Sadly, in our increasingly fragmented society, there are many Christians who miss out on eros – the love that will ideally lead to marriage. It is deeply unhelpful to tell single members of our churches that all they need is Jesus. The whole Bible speaks of the importance of living, human community, and, for those who cannot find, or cannot fulfil, eros, the need for affection and friendship is crucial. In fact, we all yearn for the helping hand, the friendly hug, the eye to eye communication, the shared joke, the sociable meal.

But somehow we just don’t have it in us to love everyone equally, either in our churches or in our workplaces. We have such different personalities, backgrounds and ways of doing things. The love that is the fruit of the Spirit, however, transcends our human likes and dislikes, and also transcends the affection and friendship we have for particular people: it both embraces these and goes far beyond them. For, Jesus said, this love can extend even to our enemies
So in the church there is no excuse for some people feeling excluded and unloved. We must plead with the Holy Spirit who lives in us to give us Jesus’ love for everyone. And this includes our colleagues at work and everyone else we meet in our everyday lives. Some people may seem to us unlovely, but nobody is unlovable.

Helen Parry

LICC – Word for the Week – Love is forgiveness

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love’, Galatians 5:22.

‘Love covers over a multitude of sins’, 1 Peter 4:8

We all know that love is to be the distinctive mark of the Christian living. But how can we bring ourselves to love people who have deeply hurt or abused us? Or, indeed, people who continue to hurt or abuse us? Perhaps this is the hardest thing that God ever asks us to do.

Jesus’ teaching is clear – that we should love our enemies, bless those who curse us and pray for those who ill-treat us (Luke 6:27-28). But before we consider how we can do this, we should perhaps ask Why? Why should I, the one who has been wronged, who has been damaged or diminished, love the person who has done this to me?

Well, first, because Jesus, whom we humans wronged and spurned, loved us first. So we cannot grow close to him while resentment and bitterness stops up in us the spring of love for others. And second, because resentment and bitterness eats us up. It haunts our waking, disturbs our sleeping, and lurks round corners jumping out on us suddenly when we least expect it. It distorts our judgment, hinders our spontaneity and impregnates us with those most unattractive twins – self-righteousness and self-pity.

But how can we bridge the chasm between bitterness and love? The first step is forgiveness. Martin Luther King wrote: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. Whoever is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love”. Part of forgiveness is the will to forgive – the resolve to banish the sense of injured innocence that we may secretly cherish. Even to articulate the words “I forgive her” through clenched teeth is a start. But the forgiveness that truly liberates, and makes way for love, is only the fruit of the Spirit.

Whether the person who has wronged me belongs to my distant past, or daily sits beside me in the office or opposite me at the breakfast table, please,Holy Spirit, nurture in my life that love that covers a multitude of sins.

Helen Parry

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