Tag Archives: Israel

God’s Attitude Should Be Ours


Rainbow Through the Trees

Our attitudes to God and each other should be the same as his attitude to us. A sermon for Evensong based on Jeremiah 7:1-16 and Romans 9:14-26

May I speak and may you hear though the grace of our Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I want us to reflect this evening on our attitude to God and our attitude to each other as Christians. How our differences can be a stumbling block not only to our relationship with God but also to those who see us a stumbling block to any sort of belief in God or the Christian Faith. By ‘us’ I am not necessarily referring to individual Christians here at St James’ church, but a more general broader identity, but it does us no harm to consider what our own attitudes might be in some of these situations.

First though, we have to go back to the pre-Christian ‘church’ where Jeremiah’s radical and hard hitting words proclaim God’s judgement on a nation that believed they were unassailable in their right to God’s protection and salvation. Their interpretation of the scriptures, the laws that protected their faith and their judgement of others was predestined and incontestable. However, they were in for a shock – there was no way that God was going to let them treat the temple in a mindless, shallow way by assuming that forgiveness was automatic simply by walking through the doors.

As Jeremiah stresses quite forcibly – ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’ – a triple, Trinitarian reminder, that even though Christ was yet to live on earth, that here was Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Here was the simple statement that if you want to be true believers then you have to stop abusing foreigners and the weakest members of society, the easy targets. Neither could you disregard the most basic of commandments nor cherry pick those that have more in common with your way of thinking or lifestyle. If you mistreat your holy places, turning them in to a ‘den of robbers’ – a sentiment echoed by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel – then you should know that God will not protect them, they will be abandoned and eventually destroyed – there was and is no automatic security of God being with you… A self-righteous attitude will not save you.

The people’s disobedience of God’s commandments, brings what would appear be a harsh response and directive to Jeremiah, ‘do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.’

For the people in Rome, whom Paul was addressing, they were struggling with their identity, attempting to understand what the term ‘Israel’ meant in regard to being chosen people. Paul explains that God hasn’t broken his covenant to original people of Israel, as this was never intended to just apply to the race who shared Abraham’s blood group, but, as he states earlier in his letter as well, those who shared in his faith. Moreover, here was a God who would not be contained by people’s views and attitudes, here was a God who sprung surprises even on the most faithful, choosing Jacob over Esau, demonstrating his sovereign right to do so. Hardening Pharaoh’s heart to highlight his greater power

God does what he wants, as evidenced in the metaphor of the potter’s right to create from the same lump of clay whatever objects he chooses. He has a purpose for of his creations, and the fact that some are chosen and some are not is not the same as pre-destination, this is amazing grace.

God's Amazing Grace

The belief in the omnipotence of the one true God may lead to the conviction that God exerts control over every human action, but God is not only powerful but just.  It is not an injustice to be merciful, to apparently treat some people better than they deserve. To be chosen by God is a gracious gift, not an achievable reward. He can be trusted because he had done what he promised, calling people regardless of their faith; their gender, their sexuality.

We may question why, as Paul says, ‘Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’’. That conversation though is between God and us as individuals, others have no right to ask the same of a person.

There is an arrogant complacency within the Church of England that breaks my heart for it as an institution. An arrogance among Christians today who feed their own theologies into the media, which then labels divisive and exclusive views as representative of all Christians. It is not our job to decide who is unworthy and it certainly isn’t for us to link unworthiness to those who disagree with our theology based on limited fragments of scripture.

John Barton in his commentary, describes God as ‘an untamed deity, a wild thing not reducible to theological formulae.’

As Paul quotes from the prophet Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”, and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’ ‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”, there they shall be called children of the living God.’

As Christians, representative of the one, true God we do well to make this our own attitude. Amen


Day Four – A Little Night Relief


Twilight over Jerusalem at Yad Vashem

The last couple of blogs have been particularly heavy in content and theology, and there is more to come. However to bring a little bit of relief it was decided that we should venture out into the big, bright city and do a little exploration of our own.


Kiryat Moshe Station

Over the last few days we have been leaving Yad Vashem as the sun is setting, the skies are still clear and the weather warm. The hotel is near to the Jerusalem Light Railway that stretches from Pisgat Ze’ev in the North to Mount Herzl in the West,. However, the first challenge is to cross the busy road. Yes, there are pedestrian crossing, but the traffic barely stops to pause and the language of the street is the honking of horns.

A ticket cost 5.90 NIS for a single trip (about £1.27) and the trains come along every ten minutes or so.


We decided to alight at the Jaffa Road stop and spend some time looking around the gift and ‘tat’ shops. For those of you unfamiliar with the latter expression it refers to those tacky souvenirs that are mass-produced usually with words like ‘I love ….’ or ‘I visited… and only got this lousy t-shirt’ for example. However, they are great fun to browse around and I managed to come away with at least one piece to add to our ‘tat’ cabinet at home.


There are some quirks in the shop signs that remind you that you are in a country that takes the Sabbath seriously, and as we were to find out later on in the week, it is indeed observed by the majority of Jews, whether orthodox, ultra-orthodox, liberal or secular

There is also some amazing street art

‘Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak’
Genesis 32:22-32


‘God wrestling with Jacob’ – Jerusalem Street Art

This image painted on a door shutter depicts Jacob wrestling with a ‘man’ who appears to be in the guise of an angel but who later turns out to be God. The man is certainly depicted as an incredibly strong, muscular being, but Jacob, though the smaller opponent, seems to be giving as good as he gets and is even resorting to a spot of eye-gouging. There is no clear winner in this contest, although Jacob comes out of it with his hip bone out of joint and a new name – Israel

IMG_7371Like many cities around the world, in Jerusalem there are a lot of ice-cream and frozen yoghurt cafes and it’s certainly nice to sit outside enjoying the local ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ selection of ices,  as well as taking the time to get to know the others. Alex, Angie, Anna,  Fran and I certainly enjoyed doing both.

The following evening we decided that we would perhaps venture a little further and travelled to the Old Walled City of Jerusalem. We knew that when we went later in the week it would be completely different, but it would be a chance to at least orientate ourselves. Back on the train but this time we got off at the Damascus Gate.


The Damascus Gate – one of the main entrances into the Old City of Jerusalem


The entrance to the souk by the Damascus gate

The souks or marketplaces were nearly all closed or closing, but it made the narrow paved streets seem like a series of tunnels, twisting and turning one way and then another; dropping down one minute and then climbing the next.

I can see the frankincense, but where’s the myrrh?


Even so there were some interesting shops still open, including a spice and incense shop selling, no doubt the obligatory, frankincense.


Spices both colourful and pungent





Eventually, we found ourselves outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, almost deserted, with the doors locked. The claim to this most holy of places is made by Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic denominations, and to a lesser degree the Coptic Orthodox, Syriacs Orthodox and Ethiopians Tewahedo.

However, none of these groups appear to be able to trust the other as the keys to the church are held by their Muslim neighbours at the Mosque of Omar


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – closed and deserted

However, there were still plenty of devotees down by the Western Wall.  This remnant of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans around 70AD has become a sacred place where people can offer their prayers. Some people stand, gently rocking, with their faces or hands pressed against the wall, while others sit on chairs, with man and women separated. Whatever position you choose to take it is customary to walk backwards away from the wall, always facing it until you get to the exit – something that is trickier than you think


The men’s section of the Western Wall

A walk back through the Jewish section of the Old City reveals its Roman history as well


The Cardo in the Jewish quarter of the Old City

Finally, we caught the train back to the hotel. This time, however, we were packed liked sardines, and I found myself surrounded by young orthodox teenage boys returning from the synagogue, an Israeli solider including his gun, Muslim ladies in headscarves and Jewish families with babies in pushchairs and arms. It was to be remembered that Thursday night in Jerusalem is like our Friday night at home – everyone is out celebrating the weekend.