Nigel asks us to share with our neighbour what we have been learning at the conference so far. I share with my neighbour that the centrality of Christ has been a huge challenge to me and a great joy but also deeply wounding: there is little more challenging to our sense of the importance of ourselves than the importance of Jesus, who defies our sense of self-sufficiency. He is the Lamb who was slain to win humanity for eternity - His wounds speak of our utter helplessness. Yet, He who shows us our great need is the One who meets our EVERY need. My friend shares how seeing the great potential for the work to grow, particularly in engaging with Scripture, around the world is a huge encouragement to her as she takes up a global responsibility for resourcing and encouraging movements, staff and students to find their anchor in God's Word.
Our voices are raised in worship - again, singing of and to the glory of our loving God lifts the veil of tiredness from the delegates.
The stage is darkened, a sound like grinding grain comes over the sound system, noises of train and work and life, the voiceover read s the Shama - Love the Lord your God... there is no command greater than these - a trumpet call symbolises the passage. We see two people on a train, a believer (a businessman) sits, hears the call but does not allow a pregnant worman to sit. We now see a street beggar and a well to do woman, the woman shops and ignores the call. Now a father watching football while his daughter tries to get his attention, he accidentally destroys her art in his anger and then ignores the call but sends her to her room. Now the shopping woman from earlier comes home and is eating and trying to on her new purchases - she ignores the call and then kneels to vomit out the food she has just eaten. The shopper is the wife of the father/businessman - an argument erupts over the daughters sadness and domestic violence breaks out. Now a Cantor's voice cries out the Shama - the couple turn to their daughter, bend to show her love and comfort. They come to the edge of the stage and confront us. Staring at us. It is a powerful moment. We have not been watching a drama. We have been confronted with sin; our sin. Ignoring the call to love God.
The music group come again: "let us pause for a moment and reflect on how we have failed to hear and obey." We sing
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
I recently came across some writing from Richard Hughes, a US writer. Hughes lived close by the major events of the civil rights movement during his university years. He writes that he missed the details of what was happening - in part due to the church educative environment he was in.
Teachers engage with Jesus. One scribe is impressed and asks which is the chief command. The Torah contains 613 commandments - many of the scholars ranked them and became - not in priority but in category.
Jesus is asked which of the commands takes the first rank. Jesus answers with the Shama - recited daily. It speaks of God's absolute Lordship over His people - the whole person and the whole community. There is no hidden psychology here: it just means 'entire being' - everything we are, within our world. Every thing is to be focussed on and attend to loving God for who He is and then in turn, loving the things that he loves.
In Loving God we do not then turn away from the world - we turn TO the world in order to find the context in which we love the Lord. Jesus invited people, demanded even, that people orient their absolutely loyalty to Him as the way in which they demonstrate their love for God. God who loves and judges all nations with perfect justice. Richard Hughes... 'should have my professors... have encouraged my classmates and me.... could it have been their rightful role to encourage us to just the culture we were living in by the gospel'
Are we discussing the great social issues, engaging with them and demanding thinking through them. We face a huge challenge to apply the call to love God with force into the areas of every reality and this requires us to LOVE our neighbour.
To love God, to truly love God, is to love our neighbours - the vulnerable and the weak. To link love for God with solidarity with the weak and the lowly is unique in the world, loving the other as an expression of (correct) love of self is a real anchoring of truth. Every parent longs for their own child the best that is possible. But to ask if EVERY CHILD should have the same access as our children is sometimes cast as a 'social gospel'. Is there any other gospel than a social one - impacting our societies? There is no other - it impacts our social relationships and social communities.
Jesus engages with these issues of justice and equality, society and social justice in the parable of the Samaritan. Auschwitz represents the pinnacle of wickedness - medieval Europe had a sweep of pogroms and persecutions; the church did not help and infact contributed to the fire of hatred: Luther included. It is hard to ignore a connection between Luther's writings and the conduct of the Third Reich people and government in 1930s Germany. I think Vinoth draws too much of a direct line here - it is a complex story and too neat lines are wounding especially for the central europeans, but it is not ill meant. WE must be self-critical in our admiration of heroes and to examine ourselves. We are here to learn from one another. When we hear a speaker which shocks and offends - we must engage.
It is often said that the early Christians out-thought and out-loved their early opponents. Today that is a real challenge. We need to examine the shallow-beliefs of our people - we are a university movement. If we are not loving God with our minds then we fail the church and we fail in our calling - becoming a stumbling block to the people looking for intellectual rigour. We also need to out-love the people who oppose us, to lay down our hypocrisy and take up our integrity: we need to hear the call to integrity even where it is disturbing and can look extreme because it will impact our ordinary living.
"We saw more in the cross than Gandhi and put it into operation less, Gandhi saw less in the cross than we and put it into practice more. We left the cross a doctrine, Gandhi left it a deed." E Stanley Jones, "Mahatma Gandhi: An interpretation". Full book hereVinoth closes with a Franciscan blessing which invites God to disturb us
May God bless you with a restless about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough to believe that you really can make a difference in this world,
so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
We sing a song I've not sung for nearly 20 years
Thumina Mina - Lead me Jesus - Fill me Jesus - Send me Jesus
Nigel and Daniel come to the paltform. The discussion this morning centres on what it means to obey and love God. Daniel speaks of being shaken - about how he, his wife, their children are challenged to live differently. He speaks warmly of the challenge and how easy it is to react and pretend in the face of this challenge. We need to come to the Lord and acknowledge that we need help - rescue in this. We cannot force ourselves naturally, we need to come close to Him and ask for our hearts to be open - so that we can start reflect the light, His Love. As Daniel as listening to the talk he thought of Muslim friends, these friends told him they trust Daniel more than their friends - asking for Daniel and his family to look after their daughter. We try to protect ourselves because we are not able to do it. Daniel encourages us to be open in our hearts and our lives to start to deeply reflect.
Nigel asks what would Daniel say to those who are struggling with feeling that they have lost or feel distant from God's love. Daniel speaks and invites us to come to the Living Stone for life afresh. Ask for renewel. We need to be open to ourself, honest with ourself, to listen to ourself in order to be present to God. God is welcoming to us - we will remain closed if we do not come to him. When you know openly someone wants to kill you - are you able to love them: this is the love of Christ.
I love this man - he is a great saint. Daniel Bourdanne speaks with such love for Christ and such love for the work of Christ in the people of God. His deep bass voice echoes with the tones of grace.
Heavenly Father, first I want to repent for not being always to be able to reflect who you are. Often I claim that you are my Lord, and I say no to the things that you call me to do and I know in my heart that it is impossible to say Lord and no at the same time. If you are my Lord, Lord, I should always say yes to you. I pray you will forgive us all for not always obeying you. I ask you Lord, to give us the strength. I pray Lord that you will continue to build you character in us, because you want us to grow more and more and become like you. When we fail Lord, help us to recover by your compassion and love. We need you, we recognise that we cannot do it. Even our heroes fail - help us not to be down because of our failure but to wake up again with you and continue on our journey. help us to love our neighbours. I pray for places of conflict: ethnic, racial - help the believers in those place to demonstrate that they are a new people because of your love. Bless us together in this journey.
We are going to excursions today... no more live blogging until this evening.