It’s ANZAC Day here in Aotearoa New Zealand - a day during which we remember the service and sacrifice of others that we may live the lives we live today. For us, it has been a quiet day. I got up early to bake some crusty and tasty pane rustico, drink fresh coffee and spend a little time in thought about how blessed a life I lead.
While I was baking, I listened to former Kiwi soldier and filmmaker David Strong‘s memories of serving as peacekeeper in Bosnia and East Timor, as part of Radio New Zealand National ANZAC Day programming. Strong recounted how, while acting as an observer watching the sectarian violence play out on the streets of Bosnia, he couldn’t shake U2′s ‘We’re one but we’re not the same‘ lyric from his head. It struck me that the same applies in many contexts – church, faith, politics, neighbourliness, the workplace – and it is up to each of us to challenge ourselves to bridge the gaps every time we find one.
Last night, we attended a Compassion/Tear Fund event at the local church to hear the sponsored child-to-child sponsor life story of the delightful and charming Ester Azariah. Amongst other things, Ester spoke about the poverty that can cripple a family like hers as a result of gender inequality and punitive dowries in India. This particularly moved me as a colleague has in recent weeks suffered bereavement and family trauma as a result of these very issues.
Ester’s story reinforced how much a comparatively small sum can do to transform the life of a child who has none of the basics, let alone benefits, that we take for granted in the developed world. We have been blessed to be able to sponsor, through World Vision, a young boy in Uganda for some years so it perhapsunsurprising that we returned home as sponsors of a young girl in the Dominican Republic.
In my web wanderings today, I found, via Fred Clark who found it via Rachel Held Evans, the Two Friars and a Fool’s list of 95 Tweets Against Hell. For those of an open or at least conservatively curious mind, the tweets and the comments make for an interesting conversation – as does Fred Clark’s post on the same.
Again, I find myself I appreciating guest blogger Scott Miller’s open and frank sharing about his faith on Tony Jones blog. He articulates much that I can empathise with in a clear and simple manner.
If I could talk to my 17-year-old self, I would say that I still believe that God is at work in my life, but maybe not in the same way that a 17-year-old understands. I would tell him that I still experience the authority of scripture, but I don’t find that authority in the words of scripture, but in the Event to whom scripture testifies. And I would say that I have not substituted human reason for revelation, but realize that I can only understand the revelation in human, fallible, finite ways, and that it is a mistake to think that anyone’s theology is every entirely adequate to express the revelation of the Infinite.
But above all, I would tell my gnostic-leaning 17-year-old self, it’s more important to be a true follower of Christ and actually act in Christlike ways than it is to have what you think is the correct theology. Ideas matter, but real, living human beings matter more. Don’t forget Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 13:1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love I gain nothing.
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do”.
- Ann Lamott, quoting her priest friend Tom, in ‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life‘.
Reading this a few moments ago pulled me up short; a more succinct reality-check statement would be hard to conceive. I always appreciate Ann Lamott’s writing; when I read her stuff, it’s like I’m listening to a sister who has seen a lot more and done a lot more than me – and cares enough to share the lessons.
Seeing her quoted always makes me sit up and pay more attention as she invariably polarises folk and provokes debate. In this case, the quote appeared in a open letter about LGBT and faith issues at play in the current US political race, itself quoted in Scott Miller’s guest post on Donald Miller’s blog.
Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn.
There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!
When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them. The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.
Contemporary yet scriptural, dear reader, I give you TyTe and The Beatbox Nativity.
and, for those who like their greatest story ever told live and unplugged, the Nativity Rap live and on location.
TyTe (aka The Reverend Tyte) is a vicar at Uplyme Church in England and was a professional beatboxer before being ordained seven years ago.
“Simply arrange with God ahead of time that when you recite the prayer macro, it will be understood as a recitation of the longer prayer in full.”
A great morning coffee splutter from the funny if not quite scriptural Achieving spiritual efficiency through prayer macros.
(Hat tip to Tony Jones.)
For all my friends - especially those celebrating Thanksgiving today – I’m blessed to know you.
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks;
For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends, as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;
For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;
And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;
And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter.
For all these we give thanks.
A Harvest Of People by Max Coots