Tag Archives: race

Called to Love

Brussels_Love One Another

Love One Another, As I Have Loved You

 On Maundy Thursday we are explicitly called to love one another. Sometimes though it’s not as easy as you think. This reflection was preached as a sermon at St James’ Church at the Maundy Thursday evening service and is shared with you now.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and John 13:1-17, 31b-35

‘That you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’

This week has for me been a week of great sorrow. In a week when we are following in the footsteps of Jesus to the cross, his words to his disciples have a great poignancy. A week in which we have once again witnessed the total disregard for the value of human life.

‘That you love one another’

On Monday we heard of the devastating effect that one person can have on one family, the Philip’s family, we heard of the anger and hatred that is justifiably felt as raw emotions are still very much on the surface.  Then on Tuesday, the indiscriminate attack on innocent victims in Brussels, as they went about their ordinary business; treated not as individual human beings but an in-distinguishable mass target.Still each of those who died or were wounded will be connected in a myriad of ways to others: wives, husbands, fathers, mothers , sons, daughters, friends. Connected to people who love them.

Brussels - Tintin

Herge’s Tintin weeps for Belgium

Far too frequently we think of ourselves as just individuals, separated from one another by race, culture and faith, yet we share a common humanity. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, when having to deal with the aftermath of apartheid in South Africa, choose to walk the way of love rather than retaliation. Tutu explained that one of the sayings in his country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human, and that it speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.

Our common connection means that what we do as individuals affects the whole world. When we love each other and recognise that common humanity and things go well, it spreads out and shows what the power of love can do; but when we disregard it we act in fear, creating hatred and violence.

 ‘That you love one another’

 That you love one another. Just as I have loved you’

If we want to know what that love should look like then we only have to look at Jesus. Love is never straightforward but he managed to show us the different sorts of love that are needed to unite us rather than divide us.

Love can be tough – we only have to think of the rich young man who when told that he had to give up all that he owned went away grieved.. Yet Jesus didn’t give him a get out clause. He looked at him and he loved him even though he knew how hard that would be

Love enables forgiveness as well as  demanding a change of heart. Like the woman caught in adultery, who was judged and condemned by those who were blinded to their own sinful natures. ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. She was sent away with the instruction to sin no more, knowing that love enables us to forgive.

Love gives us a servant heart. What better demonstration of Jesus’ love for us that he stoops to wash our feet, not as master but as a servant and asks us to do the same. Amongst his disciple he was aware that one was going to hand him over, to be part of his inevitable death and yet he still washed his feet.

And that brings us to the greatest love of all, that he would offer up his own life in order to give us ours. A love that we celebrate each time we come to share at the communion table, and taste the bread and wine.  A sacrificial love that didn’t distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy but was poured out to encompass all of humanity.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’

You also should love one another’

There is one more love that he calls us to emulate – to love our enemies. Jesus tells us that if we only love those who love us back then love has no real value. But to try and love those who perpetrate violence, surely this is the hardest love of all.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t hate the crime and that punishment must follow according to the agreed judicial system, and let’s be clear that in the case of the ISIS attacks in Belgium this has nothing to do with the Muslim faith in general, but is caused by a perverted religion of hate.

Even so we are called to show mercy and offer grace. We are called to look at each individual and imagine what has happened in their lives to make them turn to such hatred, to make them so blind that they forget their common humanity with their victims, to espouse causes that deny the power of love, and despite this to love them­­­­­­. How hard that is.

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples’

What has also been demonstrated, is that evil and hatred were not allowed to get the upper hand in Brussels, as Christian throughout the city offered practical help and prayers and the Belgian people rallied defiantly in the an open square to write chalk messages of love and hope.

The Archbishop of Brussels, Josef de Kesel, also announced that he had received messages from around the world, as signs of fraternity, and which he said, ‘let us feel how we are united in faith and humanity. He added that “We must stay faithful to our message of peace and go on promoting a discourse which appeals for acceptance, unity and coexistence’

So, as we continue to commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ this Holy Week, let us all remember that God is the source of love and life, and ask him to bring peace to our troubled world.


Servanthood image

© ‘Servanthood’ by Debbie Saenz.

Running The Race

Run in such a way that you may win the prize

Run in such a way that you may win the prize

Sometimes phrases just seem to get stuck in your head for no apparent reason. Over the last few days it has been a quote from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it.
1 Corinthians 9:24

For those whose know me well, they would agree that I have a very competitive streak – I play to win. Whether it is board games or quizzes I will look for strategies that will give me an advantage; but that doesn’t mean I cheat. On the contrary, I’m the one checking the rules to ensure that we are playing the game fairly. I suspect that can make me a bit of a pain to those who simply want to play the game for a bit of fun and even worse when I come up against another person whose aim is to do exactly the same. Self-control can sometimes go out of the window and the sulks can follow it!

The fact is that I was brought up to make sure that whatever I chose to do, it should be given the same amount of care and attention, so that you always do it to the best of your ability. As my father used to say, ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well

The same should be true of our faith life. Over the last few weeks I have been learning and putting into practice new techniques for Christian meditation. I have been learning to control my breathing so that it falls into rhythm with a prayer mantra – Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus – at the same time trying to lay aside the thoughts that immediately fill your mind and run parallel to the prayer, such as ‘I don’t think I’m doing this right, because I’m thinking about the fact that I’m not doing this right!’. It has got better as I’ve practised more, but the problem is not the technique, it’s the discipline to make sure I do it at least once a day that is the hard part and ultimately the most important.

A person can’t watch the Olympics on television and suddenly get up and run a marathon in record-breaking time – It’s more likely that they’ll break themselves. Athletes require discipline to train their bodies so that they can achieve their personal best. In the same way we have to train our hearts and minds to have the strength and control to stay faithful to our beliefs – whether it’s in prayer, meditation, reading the bible or the way we live our everyday lives according to the rules

Being constant and always striving to do your best is never going to be easy, and there will be days when we just want to collapse in a heap by the side of the road and say ‘I give up,’ but failure is not falling down, but staying down. By keeping the prize in mind and reaching for our goals we can force ourselves to get up and carry on so that we might be the eventual winner of the race we have been set.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27

In the meantime, anyone for a game of Monopoly… but be aware I will be going for hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane!

Competitiveness in a box

Competitiveness in a box

One Race

I have a dream - Martin Luther King

I have a dream – Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I have dream speech’ was delivered on the 28th August 1963 in Washington, D.C. at the height of tensions surrounding racial discrimination and the freedom movement in America. His vision was that one day all people would be united regardless of the colour of their skin or their religion – that there would be one race.

How often do we regard ‘race’ as the basis for discrimination, as we try to define it through skin colour, stature, physical attributes…”You don’t look the same as me therefore you cannot be the same as me!”… Things get even worse when we make comparisons based on wealth, education and perceived intelligence. We end up with a system of categorising people into ever smaller sub-groups, concentrating on the minute differences rather than the broader similarities, and using these as an excuse for our behaviour.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend
Martin Luther King Jr.

The trouble is that we all do it to some degree or other, however non-judgemental we consider ourselves to be. Which is why it was refreshing to hear Bev Thomas talk about Race Relations this week. Bev was born in the Black Country, an area in the West Midlands of England and has Jamaican ancestry. She belongs to a Black-Majority church in London (a description she wishes was less proscriptive) and loves doing family research.

Now, I also like doing family research and have managed to trace over 18,382 ‘relatives’ on my tree. Bev has also done lots of research, some of it including DNA testing. This has thrown up some interesting connections from all around the world and involving people of every hue and colour imaginable – none of which should really be all that surprising. After all our genetic make-up is dependent on an almost infinite number of historical relationships

How many ‘races’ are included in these ancestors? Actually only one……

For those who cite biblical creation texts, then we are all descended from one man and one woman, Adam and Eve via their descendent Noah. For evolutionists, the genetic proof is linked to one common DNA ancestor, Mitochondrial Eve and her counterpart Y-chromosome Adam*. Whichever way you look at it, human beings are part of creation.

Of course I’m not so naive not to notice that there are very clearly differences between people, and that some people’s attitudes and characters are not always in tune with our own; but it helps us understand that racial discrimination shouldn’t exist simply because we continue to highlight those differences through fear and hatred but that we should seek instead to recognise the common inner spirit at the core of humanity.

By doing this we are able to be reconciled to each other and as Christians to be reconciled to God; but more importantly if we don’t do this then how, as Bev reminded us, are we ever going to bring about what we pray for each time we say the Lord’s Prayer – that is for God’s Kingdom to come? That is, a kingdom not of different peoples, different nations or different races but one kingdom of one people, one nation, one race.

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.
Revelations 7:9

We pray for it, but I wonder, do we have the will-power, the vision, the capacity to dare to believe that this might be possible on a global scale?  Surely it’s too big an ask to consider such an incredible occurrence? But why not believe it can be so. It just needs to start by what you ‘see’ when you walk down the street, browse the shops, go to work, meet someone new. Is this a total stranger or is this a not so distant relative? Do I discriminate against them because they ‘seem’ different to me or do I rejoice in our diversity.

After all, It’s a fact that it would be impossible for racism to exist if we were simply to acknowledge that we really do all belong to the same, one unique race…… that is the human race

*Scientific discoveries are an ongoing fact of life. Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam are the scientifically-proven theories that every man alive today is descended from a single man and every man and woman alive today is descended from a single woman.