Posts Tagged ‘God’

Christmas is all about family. About celebrating together, about eating as much as will fit inside, about drinking a lot and about having fun together. Silly games are optional. You hear the stories of the harassed mother who has to cook for thirty on Christmas Day and then another twenty on Boxing Day, but the dishwasher is on the blink. You hear people complaining that they are just so busy as they travel around from pillar to post. But quite frankly, sometimes I just get a little jealous.

I love cooking and entertaining and having fun with friends, but Christmas is a family time. And so often it feels just like I don’t fit. Sometimes, even the events scream out “you need to have children” or those who have come by themselves have to move from the best seats with a view so that others who have come together can sit together. It’s fine. It’s a season for everyone, and yet, there is a lie right at the bottom of it. That lie says we are measured by who we’re with and what we can cook for them. That it isn’t Christmas if it isn’t fun.

Last night I watched a programme about Christmas No. 1 singles, and they started with a comment about Christmastime in post-war Britain. Apparently things were tough, and no one had any money, and it took music from the US to come and cheer things up a bit. That seems so distant now from the excesses we see all around us all the time today – even in times of great poverty and austerity.

Being with friends and family isn’t what makes Christmas. It is still Christmas when we’re lonely and on our own. When the family have fallen out and we’ve been dumped by another half. It’s still Christmas whether we’re rich or poor, young or old, ill or well, whoever and wherever we are.

Because Christmas is about God coming to earth, to live with his people and to be one of us. It’s about God taking a humungous risk in order to save us from the things we’ve done wrong. It’s about celebrating the incarnation of the Messiah, God’s special saving king, not about celebrating who we are and what we have and who we know.

That’s what’s going to keep me going through all the family services and the awkward dinner and the bad tv. That’s what I’m going to be celebrating this year.Ho Ho Ho

Tree TripletsA couple of weeks ago, I landed the lucky task of preaching on Mark 1:29-45. Healing ministry is something that I have personally struggled with a fair amount – especially the idea that some people have their prayers answered and some don’t, and some don’t even have people around them to pray. But a few people said that this had been helpful for them, so I thought I might post it, and try and improve my recent average of one post a year…


Changing Lanes video clip Dodgy Steering

Do you ever feel like there is something lacking? Like there is something wrong with the world? Like things aren’t as they should be? Do you every sense there’s something more or long for something better?

This is the beginning of an episode of a course we have been participating in at our youth group called Changing Lanes – it’s all about what it means to be a Christian, it’s a bit like Alpha. This session is all about sin in the world and the fact that things aren’t as God planned them to be. We’re going to be talking about Jesus’ response to the world around him – the way that he dealt with the problems immediately facing him. We’re going to see his power and his compassion in helping those in such great need, and also his total reliance on prayer to fuel his actions throughout. Is there something lacking in your world at the moment? Is there an area that needs God’s healing touch? How will you respond when that healing comes?

Is there something lacking, something needing healing for you? I remember once when I was at school, the teacher who ran the Christian Union decided to invite the whole CU over to his house for a BBQ  but failed to ask his wife first. Needless to say, the event did not happen! Simon and Andrew had invited Jesus and James and John for lunch after they had been to the synagogue together earlier in the day. I imagine in might have been a last minute invitation that may well have created some tension when they arrived to find Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. But this was no problem for Jesus who helped her out of bed, healing her in the process. Her immediate response is one of gratitude, and lunch is served after all. I’m sure it helped Simon’s relationship with his mother in law no end!

But this healing sparks off the crowds – something new and exciting is happening here. People want to know more, and they want solutions and help for all their own brokenness. The whole town gathered at Simon’s house in hope of healing and of deliverance.

Early in the morning, Jesus slips off alone to pray and escape the crowds in the process. The disciples find him and they decide to go through lots of Galilean villages to cast out more demons, to preach and to heal. One particular incident is described – that of a man with leprosy. He asks Jesus if he is willing to make him clean – to help him to be rehabilitated in a society that was terrified of the infection of wasting skin disease. Of course Jesus is willing – he is even willing enough to touch him and the man becomes clean – almost like a positive infection of cleanliness from Jesus. Jesus sends him on to the proper channels – probably so that people could know that he was really healed as otherwise they wouldn’t go near him. But instead the man tells everyone who Jesus is and what he had done for him, and so everyone wanted a bit of the action – everyone wanted something healed, something changed. For everyone, there was something lacking. Then the crowds became a problem, as they surrounded Jesus. There was no more privacy to be had! The full flow of Jesus’ ministry had begun.

Let’s take a quick look at what healing is and involves here. Jesus simply touches the man, having reached out his hand. Literally, it seems like the healing flows from Jesus into the man, allowing him to be clean or healed. (Leprosy was a defiling skin disease, not only making sufferers ill but also making them unclean. Ultimately it was a killer, and inspired great fear – not unlike ebola today.)

Healing is an awkward topic because, quite honestly, we’re working in the dark. We know that some people are healed in fantastic and marvellous ways, and quite frankly, some aren’t. We’ve all heard the stories of cancerous tumours receding, or broken backs being mended, and even in some cases, of the dead coming back to life. But then we all know people who haven’t been healed, and every funeral marks an unanswered prayer. There often isn’t any rhyme or reason to it either – sometimes it seems that the worst things happen to the best people.

Sometimes healing can be dramatic and almost theatrical, sometimes it happens through the skill of medical professionals. There is absolutely no reason why an all powerful God can’t do either and both. And it’s in passages like these ones where we see God’s heart for healing. We see the compassion Jesus has for those in need – healing even when he is himself exhausted and is seeking peace and quiet. We even see his indignation – some versions of the original even say that Jesus was angry here. It’s likely that people copying the original manuscripts changed the word because they didn’t want to think Jesus could be angry. But he was angry at the brokenness displayed in front of him. He was angry that people suffer from illnesses such as leprosy. He was angry because there was something lacking.

Some of the people Jesus touched had been suffering from demons. Now, this is quite hard to explain, because when we think of demons, often the first thought to come to mind is of a little cartoon devil, complete with pitchfork and horns. We probably don’t have many of them living inside of us. Or alternatively something rather like a lot of weird creatures living in us and feasting on us.  Another common assumption is that the language of demons is a way to express mental health issues, which people two thousand years ago did not properly understand. Although there are some elements of that, I’m not sure that that is the full story. I believe that a better explanation lies in the fact that there are forces of darkness in this world, and those forces have had an impact on many of us in negative ways, leaving behind them marks. Those marks are the “demons” we have to face. Some of them might scream louder than others and affect us more or less. Some of them may well manifest through mental struggles and difficulties. But the most important thing to remember is that the battle has already been won – and not by those forces of darkness. When we welcome Jesus into our hearts, he starts the process of transformation, gradually putting to death each of our demons.

I don’t know if anyone saw Newsnight the other night, where Katherine Welby-Roberts, the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about mental illness and the affect it has had on her life? She also mentioned how the church can be behind on these issues and in offering support for anyone affected. She said that we are quick to point to verses and demon possession, and we’re slow to walk alongside people as they recover. I found an online blog – an article about World Mental Health Day written by someone called Helen. She starts with a tweet:

“‘My name is Helen. I have PTSD & struggle with depression. I am not a freak and I am not demon possessed. #WorldMentalHealthDay #EndTheStigma’ Why? Because I am not a freak. And because my experience over the years has been of being told if I just prayed more, had more faith, or trusted God then I would not struggle with depression, or the issues surrounding the PTSD. I’ve been told many times that I have demons. I’ve been told I am demon possessed. I’ve been told if I honoured God more/was more in love with Him then He would ‘take away’ the blackness. I’ve been told by a Pastor that if I was truly a Christian my story would be erased from my mind, and I would not suffer because of it, therefor depression should not be a part of my life. I’ve been told by another one that I was too much for him, their church, and probably God because the ‘Devil’ really had hold of me. I’ve been told many things. And we wonder why people fear being open and honest about mental health issues they face. We wonder why the last place a person would think about going when in mental health distress is a church. And we wonder why people end up more hurt and damaged by the responses of people, who not only misunderstand but who are often wilfully ignorant of the wider issues.”

Let’s not be a church like that.

Some healing happens fast, some happens slow, and we, as the church, as the Body of Christ, really should be ready to walk alongside people and help them through their struggles, whether improvement happens fast or slow. But what about you? Is there something in your life that needs to see God’s healing touch? Is there a part of your life that needs mending? That feels damaged and abused and hidden away? Why not bring it before God today in prayer.

It goes without saying that someone who offers healing becomes immensely popular, and Jesus certainly was no exception there. Crowds followed him everywhere and it seems that they invaded his personal space. And the same happens here – we know that ministries offering healing to the world are immensely popular, even if people are only going along because in their minds they don’t really quite believe it can really happen. But inside of people there is a desperation, a need to see thing put right in the world and in our lives. Because we can all see that there is something lacking, and something wrong with the way things are at the moment.

There is something wrong though, when people are only interested in Jesus because of his healing power – because as he says himself, he has come to preach a message of hope to the people. Healing physical ailments is only a small part of that message of hope, which encompasses every aspect of our lives in the past, the present and the future. Because when people are attracted to Jesus only because of the healing he has given them, there is something lacking – they are missing out on the bigger picture.

Part of this can be linked with some issues and difficulties with healing ministry in itself. Firstly, however dramatic the healing, ultimately even Lazarus died again. Physical healing in this world is only temporary. Secondly, if we struggle with the decay and ageing symptoms of our bodies, we start struggling with the identity of a whole cross section of our society – what are we saying about the elderly, if everyone’s health has to be perfect all the time? Finally, what about those whose ailment is an intrinsic part of them? I know a young girl with Asperger’s syndrome, which makes her less aware of others and their sensibilities – but that is part of who she is. Can she be healed from that?

Healing is a foreshadowing of the kingdom of God – it is temporary hope of a permanent reality. It isn’t the be all and end all, but it is an amazing gift when it happens – and God works in many fantastic ways and brings healing in places we can only imagine.

How will you respond? Something is lacking but there is great hope. In this passage, we see two different responses to that great hope – firstly Simon’s mother-in-law gets up and waits on Jesus and his disciples. Her response is to give all she can in that instant in worship. She is overwhelmingly grateful for what has happened. And Jesus and the disciples get a free lunch.

The man who Jesus cures of leprosy is a bit different. Jesus told him to go through the proper channels of healing and cleansing in the Temple, part of which involved offering a sacrifice, saying thanks to God for the healing and marking the fact that God had done this. But instead, the man tells everyone that Jesus healed him. In some ways, it is perfectly understandable – it is rather exciting, and I know that I’m not exactly good at keeping secrets myself. His response is excited , but there is something lacking – his response doesn’t especially honour God.

Throughout this passage, we have seen contrasts between light and darkness, public and private and hiddenness and openness. It underlines the brokenness of the world and the hope of the Light of the World coming in Jesus to mend things, to cast out the demons and to announce the message of hope.

Which response will you choose to the healing Jesus has done in your life? Will you give him the honour and glory or does that get a bit lost in all the excitement? Do you immediately seek to worship in a public way, or does everything remain hidden?

Light shining through the darkness is what transforms us. Where is the transformation happening in your life? Light shining into the darkness that sin leaves behind brings healing and makes us new, casting out the demons our past may have left behind.

Of course Jesus is willing to bring healing and transformation. But are we willing to come to him and seek it? Are we willing to be vulnerable and bring the darker parts of our lives into the light? It may not be easy, and it might take work and prayer. But it will always be worth it.

And we know that many things in our world are totally broken. That there is something wrong and something missing. Something lacking. There are hundreds and hundreds of children who will never grow up because of hunger and disease. There are hundreds and hundreds of girls who will be forced into prostitution. There are women who are subject to domestic abuse. There are people who genuinely believe that they have to send their partner pictures of themselves naked because otherwise their partner will look at porn. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There are long queues at the food banks. The world is suffering from ebola. There are wars. The list goes on.

But what are we going to do about it? We worship a God who brings healing into a broken world, and we know that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. When we know that those are true, we know that the world is waiting for us to stir into action – to do something to try to help. We might not be able to change much, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to change something. To what part of God’s creation is he calling us to do those good works? What change can we seek to bring about in his power? It might be physical healing or it might be some other part of the hope we have in Christ.

Fuelling healing by prayer We heard how Jesus spent lots of time by himself in prayer. He withdrew to spend time with his Heavenly Father, even when it was still dark. He spent time being fuelled and re-fuelled through prayer, building up his relationship with God.

Needless to say, that any healing we seek after, whether in doing or having it done to us should be totally wrapped up in prayer. Because the only one to bring healing is God – we are merely his instruments. Nothing happens without prayer.

And that is why we offer prayer ministry support here. We offer people to pray with, whether about something specific or something that remains completely private. We offer people who can prayerfully take your concerns to our Heavenly Father, just as Jesus did. We offer people who can walk alongside throughout the whole journey of being healed in body, mind and spirit. And I think that that sounds like a great offer which can sometimes be a bit underused really!

So if there is anything, big or small, ingrowing toenail or world shattering reality (and I did once hear a testimony about how God healed someone’s veruccas) come and have some prayer. Nothing is to large or too small. It’s an open invitation, so come!

Conclusion Jesus is the answer to all that is lacking in our world. As the guy in the video was saying earlier, it might feel sometimes that there is something wrong, something broken and something lacking. But Jesus makes up for it and shines his light into the darkness and binds up the brokenhearted. Don’t you just want some of that in your life?

But is that all we want? Let’s not miss out on the bigger picture – the one that mends not only our physical reality but also all our inner brokenness, and the permanent reality of the world with no more sadness, no more death and no more tears. Lets not miss who Jesus is in our enthusiasm for the healing he brings. And lets respond to him with service, and with worship. And around all of that, let’s be fuelled by prayer, without which we are nothing at all.

I have a patchwork quilt I made a couple of years ago. A patchwork quilt is supposed to tell a story. It is supposed to be made of all the special and beautiful and significant fabric that you can find. They are supposed to be carefully and exquisitely designed. Some families have passed quilts down for centuries. Some are made with baby dresses or bits from other blankets. Mine wasn’t.

In some places, prisoners have made patchwork quilts as something to do, and something to teach them the art of sewing. There is a link between captivity and creativity. And those quilts began to restore those prisoners into human beings with purpose and imagination. They now had something to do with the hours of solitude that their confinement gave them. Those quilts also told a story.

Now, I’m not so sure about mine. I used odd bits of fabric that I had, some I bought especially. But I didn’t really believe that I could do it. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to invest lots of money into a project I wasn’t sure I could finish. I didn’t really have lots of money anyway.

Somehow though, that quilt charts a difficult story in my own life. It charts the time  of rejection by my mother (and loss of sewing machine, so needed to be finished by hand). It charts the subsequent year and descent into depression and the dark places. It charts God meeting me there at the bottom of the pit and gradually showing his light into the hole and bringing me to the surface gradually and surely. It charts eventual reconciliation and restoration of a broken relationship, even if it will never be completely perfect. And it looks good on my bed and keeps me warm.

It may not be the finest fabric or a complex design, but my quilt does its job. It tells a story. It reminds me that even when I feel like a prisoner in the darkest place there is hope and creativity and imagination possible. It shows me that I can do it – maybe it isn’t perfect but I made a quilt of my own, and that is a great place to start.

Finally, it demonstrates that even in the darkest places, even at our most hopeless, we still have a story to tell. We still matter. We are made in the image of God, and so we are born to create, elegant or exquisite things or not. And even in the darkest places, we can still believe and trust in the God of hope.

Blah blah blah

Posted: September 21, 2013 in Welcome
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You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet recently. In fact, for lots longer than I intended really. To be completely honest, I wasn’t planning to go silent really. It was just there were a lot of other words going on.

There were words to write, words to think and words to shape. There were powerful words, hurtful words, new words, meaningful words and words from God. There were words to share with others and words that were intimately personal. In short, there were a lot of words happening around me, and I didn’t want to add any more into the mix.

But now things have calmed down a bit, and I want to start again. I may have a new job and a new home as well as a new context and new friends to go with it, but I’d like a fresh go at this blog too. I’d like to keep on writing, but maybe take it to some new places. I want to keep on putting words into the great silence that can descend so easily when I’m not paying attention. I want to put into words the amazing things that God is doing in my life.

So, let’s do this thing. I don’t yet know what it will look like or be like, or how much time there will be in amongst all the other words, but I will attempt to carve some space in amongst them. Because all words matter.

(image from Gaudenscor)

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told his disciples when they asked (bet they regretted that one) that they had to be prepared to forgive someone who sinned against them seventy times seven (sometimes put seventy-seven times. Not sure which is more correct, but it doesn’t really matter – it’s A LOT).

There are lots of other verses about forgiveness spattered throughout Matthew and the rest of the Bible. You get the impression that it seems to be a good idea. It brings with it the idea of reconciliation and shalom (peace and wholeness) and joy and renewal and mercy and the general topsy-turvy nature of the kingdom of God.

Wonderful. Sounds like such a good theory, doesn’t it? Forgiveness seems to bring benefit to all, even the person who has to get out there and do it. And they all live happily ever after.

Only, I’m just not sure that that is always the case. What if the pain from the hurt is constant and ongoing? What if the person doesn’t recognise that they have done anything wrong? What if they act like you and your hurt don’t exist?

It seems that the jury’s out on whether you need someone to repent before you forgive them. I’m not sure either way. Certainly, it’s not a great idea to carry round a heavy burden of pain which could be laid to rest, but without any acknowledgement from the other party, sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is anywhere safe to put it. As sinners, we need God to forgive us, but the Bible is pretty clear that in order to turn to Christ, we need to repent of all the things we have done wrong.

But then if you look back into recent African history, you soon discover that the people there are good at this. They seem to recognise the value of laying down the burden which some see as being “trapped in a prison of hatred”. (see Rwandan forgiveness article) Terrible things have happened in Rwanda, to name just one country, but people have been prepared to be able to move on. So challenging for us.

Forgiveness hurts. It isn’t easy. It isn’t glamourous. It isn’t fun. And you might never gain recognition for it, because the person who sinned against you may never admit it either to you or to anyone else. They may never demonstrate any sort of remorse. Are you prepared to forgive, even without repentance?

Somehow the cross has to be central. Our burden of hurt is something we can lay down at the foot of the cross, knowing that our sins and those of the other can be met and dealt with there. Jesus died for me and also for the person who abused me. He died for me and those who have rejected me. He died for me, just as he died for everyone.

Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. And it never should. Forgiveness is just that. It means giving up our resentment against someone. It means we don’t harbour a grievance against them.

I think that the seventy times seven reflects the difficulty of this challenge. We have the choice as we wake up each day, as to whether we will forgive so-and-so or not. Seventy times seven. Surely, that’s the number of times we have to forgive each offence, seventy times seven different ones? (Though in some cases, maybe it is more than just one wrong.) It requires continual effort and grace.

It might be painful. It might feel (and quite frankly often does) totally crap. But it is somehow necessary. And the God who does not remain silent, the God who forgives us our sin, and who sent his Spirit upon us is there throughout, our Rock and our Redeemer.

Am I there yet? No. Do I want to be there? Maybe. On a good day. But I do have to keep on trusting in the goodness of God, in and through everything.

A warning

Posted: March 24, 2013 in Hope, Turning away from God
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I don’t know if you noticed much this winter, but there were a lot of severe weather warnings, and some even continue today. In all its wisdom, the MET office issued “Yellow Snow Warnings”, to warn people that they might get stuck.

I’m not sure if you know this, but yellow snow is definitely something to be worried about. It means that a passing dog has done his business. Basically. So something that we should avoid.

It’s funny really, because snow is so like us, and the yellow bits (or dark grey muddy bits if it is on the edge of a road) are like our sins. We begin as white as snow, but then we screw things up somewhat. What began as pure is totally ruined. And only God can make it better. (Yes, I know, we could argue for days about whether we really did begin as pure, but here I’m mostly thinking Eden days…)

Sin is one of those big bad words which I’m not always convinced we really understand. It feels like one of those “Christian” words that belongs to a bygone age back when people drove around in carriages and said thee and thou. It makes us feel like miserable offenders who can never get anything right or like we need to try to be perfect and never get anything wrong.

But, actually, I am a sinner. And, although I don’t know you, I think it is likely that you are too. How many times have I wandered away from God’s purposes for my life? How many times have I thought horrible things about people? How many times have I decided that I know best (and there is a story of when I was 3 and decided I could swim by myself and jumped into the swimming pool without any armbands…and of course I sank…) How many times have I simply tried to ignore God and pretend he isn’t there?

But because Jesus offers us the hope of forgiveness through the cross and resurrection, I (and you) can be forgiven for this. It is amazing. We can live in hope of grace that we don’t deserve but God gives us anyway. However far we have fallen, or whatever we have done, we can know God’s forgiveness.

However, this does mean I try my best not to screw up, otherwise the grace offered by the cross becomes a joke – I mean, Jesus died so that I could go free. That means that the yellow snow warning comes as a warning to me, to seek after purity and holiness and good. Not to give into the desires that I know will lead me into bad places. And to give sin and all patches of yellow in the snow a very wide berth.

charlie peacock


Going down to Mystic, Louisiana
Looking for the meaning in the dirt
This is my story, my story is my glory
My shame, my comfort, my hurt


Is your story your glory? How has God been working in your life? How is the bad stuff being redeemed by the God who sees our shame and hurt and gives us comfort?

Deuteronomy 30:11-20, John 8:1-11.

Choose Life


Father God, we thank you for giving us your word. We pray that we might be faithful to it as we listen to your voice. May our thoughts and desires be pleasing to you. Amen.


Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that?

I’m sure you have heard that before, at least in part, from the film Trainspotting – an iconic film, which actually I have never seen.  But like all good students, I have a healthy reliance on Wikipedia to bring me swiftly up to speed with all the necessary facts.

Tonight we are going to look closely at both the passages we heard read to us, from Deuteronomy and John and find out about the life and hope that God offers to us through Jesus. We’ll look first about the matter of life and death, then how Jesus offers us a new way and finally what that might mean for us and for our lives.

A Matter of Life or Death

Somehow, a film about drug addicts in 1980s Edinburgh is very similar to tonight’s passage from Deuteronomy, where God speaks through Moses to the Israelites, telling them that they have a choice between death and destruction or life and prosperity. They have the freedom to choose for themselves which way to take. One way leads to destruction, curses and death, the other to prosperity, blessings, and life. Seems like a no brainer to me really, when you put it like that, doesn’t it?


Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career.

But is it actually that simple? What does choosing life involve? If it was that easy, surely everyone would be a Christian, wouldn’t they? Equally, if it was that simple, no one would be a drug addict either. Everyone would live to a ripe old age and be rich and happy. And that doesn’t happen, does it?

What’s more, the commandment we heard was to ‘Love God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws.’ There were 613 commandments spread across Torah, the first five books of the Bible. That’s quite a lot of rules to obey, about what you wear, what you eat, how you work and how you pray. In seems a bit of a death sentence, doesn’t it?

And that is why Israel failed to keep up. Other ways of life appeared so much more attractive to them. They chased the gods of the surrounding nations. They trusted in those nations to protect them from invasion, rather than relying on God. And the prophet Amos tells us how the people were abusing the poor and how they couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could get back to their dodgy dealing and corrupt trading. Ultimately Israel was divided into two countries and each was invaded before eventually being scattered for rebelling against the Romans. They were headed for destruction.

But God intervened, despite all of this, through Jesus. Thankfully, we do not have to worry about not preventing a third-generation Egyptian convert from marrying into the Jewish people, not cooking meat and milk together or not eating fruit from a tree less than 3 years old, because, through Jesus, God has offered us a new covenant; a new way of living with all the sins of our past paid for.

A New Way

This comes out in our story from John’s Gospel about a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Imagine the scene. It was early in the morning, but the quiet hum of Jesus teaching in the temple was disturbed by the shouts of accusation, a dishevelled woman facing the consequences of her actions, and the expectation that Jesus would be shocked and horrified and instantly call for her execution, in accordance with the law of Moses. It is a three-way trap for Jesus, caught between the demands of Torah, the popular support for his ministry from the masses who would welcome compassion and the potential wrath of the Roman authorities for advocating stoning someone. It may also be a trap for the woman, as there is no mention of any man being punished. And it takes two to have an affair.

But instead the scene plays out very differently. Jesus ignores the accusers, and is apparently captivated in writing something in the sand. The tension of the scene mounts until he says “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”.

He doesn’t look any one in the eye. He doesn’t need to. Everyone knows that they have done things wrong. These Pharisees and teachers of the law know that they haven’t always kept to the commandments all the time. We know that we do things that displease God and go against his standards. Sin is a reality.

People slip away, gradually, one by one, until it is only Jesus and the woman left. No one has condemned her. She is given a fresh chance at life, and the opportunity to make things right. Jesus does call her to leave her life of sin though. He isn’t condoning her behaviour and letting her continue in the hurtful pattern of the path of adultery. But he doesn’t condemn her, and he gives her the opportunity to leave her sin behind.

Choose life. Choose obedience. Choose a new way.

And Jesus does the same for us. We can be free from the things that we do wrong, because Jesus died on our behalf. The book of Romans tells us that “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”


I’m sure most people here have seen the new film of Les Mis? Jean Valjean is set free from a certain death sentence of being unable to find work and shelter as a convict. He meets a Bishop who invites him into his house for the night. Valjean succumbs to temptation and steals from him. Caught by the police the Bishop lies on his behalf and says the stolen candlesticks were a gift. He even gives Valjean more valuables to take and sell, and give himself a new start in life. And as a result of this grace, Valjean changes the lives of many others.


Choose life. Choose forgiveness. Choose grace.

So What?

As Christians today, we don’t keep to the Mosiac Commandments. We no longer have a set of laws to guide our ethics, morals and choices. Instead, we have the example of Jesus. We choose to live as his disciples, and follow his teaching. He calls us to love God with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

It means that when I woke up grumpy the other morning and took it out on someone I live with, that was bad. It means that when I chose to get distracted in worship a few days ago, it was bad. When I thought unpleasant thoughts…or whatever. Even when I thought nasty things about the taxi driver who cut me up the other day.

But I don’t try to obey Jesus because I have to. I obey and try to let him transform me because I want to. The life and hope he has given me through his grace has totally and utterly changed my life. I have been forgiven much. I try to love Jesus with all that I am because without him, quite frankly, I was headed for death and destruction.

As a teenager I found life very difficult. I wasn’t at all happy with the way that I looked. I came from a broken home and didn’t want to become anything like my parents. I struggled to find friends who liked the same things as me. I started to withdraw from others, and had problems with eating. Then I began to turn even more on myself and started to cut myself to try to feel better. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I spiralled deeper down into a dark hole where I was in danger of throwing my life away along with everything I had hoped and dreamed for. A friend helped me see that that wasn’t the only way and that Jesus gives us life, hope and a future, whoever we are and whatever we have done. It hasn’t been an easy path, but it is definitely worth it.

Life is shorter than we expect. As you get older, the years go faster and faster. Someone told me the other day that now I have reached 28, I am now at the age I will always feel inside, even when I’m ninety and can’t get out of a chair. Even in my group of friends recently we had a stark reminder of the brevity of life as my friend was diagnosed with and eventually succumbed to bowel cancer. At her funeral, there was no doubt that even in her short life, she had embraced everything to the full. We will never be the same again.

Choose life. Choose hope. Choose freedom. Choose before it is too late.

The life that Jesus gives us is eternal. It is a life of fullness and joy. It is full of God’s peace, expressed in the Old Testament by the word shalom, meaning wholeness and an inherent peacefulness and prosperity. It isn’t a financial prosperity but something more than that.

Our Deuteronomy passage is open ended. We don’t know that the Israelites thought when they heard it. But that also leaves it open as an invitation for us, made even more urgent through the repetition of “today”.

What might it mean for you to choose life today? Maybe you want to find out more about the life that Jesus can offer us all. Or maybe you have been following Jesus for years and it all feels like a bit of a chore. Maybe some patterns of behaviour seem so tempting or so easy and they have been taking you away from the life Jesus offers. Or maybe everything just feels very dark at the moment.

Sometimes it might mean making a choice each day to walk in the path Jesus has set us. I know someone who has told me that they remind themselves each day as they reach out to turn on the shower that their life is a gift from God and that they are choosing to give their life to him each day anew. Someone else told me that every time they are driving and see an overhead gantry on the motorway saying there is a jam ahead, they treat it as a reminder to pray for others. Others I know have people they talk to and pray with for accountability for the old patterns and habits of sinful behaviour so they don’t keep on falling into the same traps. Ask God what he wants you to do, and how you can live in response to the life he offers.

Wherever you stand, God knows and understands. Like the woman caught in adultery, we can know life and freedom, even from things that, as humans, we might find hard to forgive. Why would anyone want to choose life? Because grace changes everything. When we choose life, God shines a light even into the darkest places inside us. That’s why we want to choose life.

Choose friends. Choose a family. Choose a future. Choose life.

About a week ago, I decided to go for a run. It was a bit on the windy side, but a good battle, until I was on the home straight, and suddenly, the ground was no longer beneath me. I fell over a stone. It hurt. A lot.

A semi-helpful passer-by who was out with his family on a walk, stuck out his hand to help me up, said “You’ve probably twisted your ankle” then walked off. It still hurt. In fact, I was so breathless that I couldn’t really say the ground felt like the most comfortable place at the time or even ask him if he could help some more.

So I hobbled home before I got cold, and hoped that the wind would hide the tears of pain. As my ankle swelled up, it became obvious that I would be condemned to lots of sofa time in the next few days and all my wonderful plans to travel the country and do lots of work would completely fail. And I’m not a very good patient.

By the weekend, it was obviously not improving as fast as it should, and so I decided it might be a plan to have it checked over properly, and got a lift with my Dad to the local treatment centre, where after about an hour, I was heading back home with some painkillers and some slightly conflicting and confusing advice. Although it was a minor injury, it was no big deal (ok, so no sympathy there then), I should sit with it up but still do minor exercise and even run if I wanted to, in fact I should (er? really?) and there was absolutely no committal about whether I should drive or not.

Understandably, I was a bit hacked off. I mean, really? I had gone wanting a set of answers as to how long I had to mope about the house for and came out with nothing.

And I said as much to my Dad. He pointed out though, that part of the reason I had gone was to check it wasn’t broken and get advice on treatment. Which I got. And some painkillers to boot. Was I really just complaining because they didn’t make enough fuss about it?

And the short answer is yes. Not everything is about me. The overworked nurses were doing their best and dealing with crap along the way. And I have had a lot of sympathy and allowances made elsewhere. So I think one of my prayers for the new year will be for some proper humility. Of the godly, and patient sort, that puts me in right relation to my Creator and to the rest of the world. And that stops me getting stroppy because people don’t do exactly what I want them to do. Hmmm.





words fail

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Oh dear
Tags: , , ,

A few days ago I had a phonecall from a friend to say an old housemate of mine, a good friend had died. We had known she had cancer, and that things were deteriorating, but she was only just 26 and somehow, we were hoping in something. It was a shock, but not a surprise.

It is just generally rubbish. Sometimes there is nothing to say. Things don’t happen as they should. L shouldn’t have died.

Another friend reminded me yesterday that no one should die. None of this is God’s plan. But I’m not sure that is helping right now.

There are no glib answers to this. I can only imagine what her parents and brother and boyfriend are going through, have been going through and will go through in the weeks, months and years to come. And pray, not only for them, but also that God’s kingdom may come and put an end to this. Soon.