Being a Pastor

“I only care about pastoral ministry as a servant of the gospel.

As human work it stinks.

On the level of positive and negative consequences, perseverance in this behaviour cannot be explained or justified.

As a tiny part of the mystery of God’s love in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, at work in the world today, I find it irresistible.”

 

Dave Hansen, The Art of Pastoring, p.213

Jesus says…. V’s Christian Zionism says….

Rainbow

Christian Zionism says “This is my land, we’re staying put!”

Jesus says, “Go in all the world and make disciples.”

Christian Zionism says “Abraham is our father!”

Jesus says “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.”

Christian Zionism says “We must help rebuild the Temple.”

Jesus says, “My body is the Temple.”

Christian Zionism says “Palestinian ethnic cleansing doesn’t really matter – it’s all part of the Plan.”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Christian Zionism says, “This land is ours by divine right.”

Jesus says “But I say to you, love your enemies.”

Christian Zionism says “To criticise the Jews/Israelis is anti-semitic.”

Jesus says “Take the plank out of your own eye first.”

wall

Christian Zionism says “Unqualified support for Israel is the most biblical thing we can do.”

Jesus says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Gal 3:28)

Christian Zionism says “God hasn’t finished with the Jews yet.”

Jesus says “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son…”

Christian Zionism says “The Jews are God’s people.”

Jesus says “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly , and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Rom 2:28-29)

Christian Zionism says “The Jews are God’s ethnic people.”

Jesus says “And many from the peoples of the country decalred themselves Jews…”  (Est 8:17c)

Christian Zionism says “This land was promised by God.”

Jesus says “If you disobey [the Law] you shall be plucked off this land…” (Deut 28:63)

Christian Zionism says “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

Jesus says “Repent.”

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Christian Zionism says “Israel is a way.”

Jesus says “I am the Way.”

Christian Zionism says “Jerusalem God’s people.”

Jesus says “Here, we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14)

Christian Zionism says “The coming of Jesus doesn’t appear to have had an impact on God’s plan for the Jews.”

Jesus says “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

Christian Zionism says “Become a Jew.”

Jesus says “Come to me.”

Christian Zionism says “Israel is doing the work of God.”

Jesus says “The work of God is to believe the One he has sent.”

Christian Zionism says “Palestinians don’t matter.”

Jesus says “I have come that they may have life.”

CROSS

A Room Called Gaza

We are a big family and we owned this beautiful house with stunning land all around.

We’ve had many neighbours from all over the world down the centuries, not all of them have been good to us, but most have.  Suddenly, one day, one violent day almost 70 years ago now, when I was a boy, we were having a wonderful family meal out in the garden when there appeared men and women from nowhere.  We’d never seen them before but they insisted the house was theirs.

They stopped us eating the food and they ate it themselves.  They even took food out of my baby brother’s mouth.  They insulted us and hurt us.  “This house belongs to us now!” they shouted.  My family were in shock and many were crying.  One or two tried to fight back, but the intruders were too strong.

They moved us all into the basement of the house.  I say all, but only 13 made it, we lost three of our family, my own father, his brother and my older cousin.  We never saw them again.

The basement room was small and dingy, it was dark and we only had one small window that let in sunlight, but even that was sometimes covered by those who took over our house.

They shut the basement door and locked it.  We couldn’t go anywhere and were told to be quiet lest we disturb the party that was going on above our heads, in our house!

The conditions were filthy and we heard them calling us dirty dogs.  We had little water, we ate scraps and we had no hope.  Over the years our family grew, there were by now over 300 of us, in the same space as the original 13.  Occasionally, the occupiers of my house would open the door, they said as a gesture of peace and good-will to let some fresh air come in.  The whole world congratulated them for doing this.  An “outstanding act of generosity” as one pompous Western government commented.

We were left filled with pain and confusion.  And in time this made us angry.  Very angry.  Some of our own growing family had never known it otherwise.  Born under occupation.  Living under occupation.  Dying in occupation.  Yes, we were very angry.

The sheer force of energy in the young was a wonder to behold.  For sure some were hot heads who just wanted to charge the enemy and keep charging until all are dead.  I understand the anger that can lead to these feelings.  Others would bang on the door relentlessly, crying out for freedom, for rights, for a return to our house.  Sometimes those in our house would retaliate by beating and killing some of us, other times they would come in to the basement room and really hurt us with a vast array of power and force.  We lived in fear.  Fear of the unexpected and fear of the expected and this made the younger men even more angry.

We heard those in the house telling visitors that the reason we were locked in the basement room was because we were angry and violent, that we wanted their destruction, that we were anti-Semitic.  But we are Semitic ourselves.  We are angry now because they took our house then.  But we don’t want their destruction, even though some of the hotheads say as much, it’s just our Arab way of exaggerating to make a point, we just want our house back!

We want to join the human race again.  We want to feel the sun on our face as free-men and women.  We want our children to grow up loving life not despising it.  We want to live.  We want our house back.

My house is called Palestine and the basement room we have called Gaza.

Help us.

St Athanasius said…

I have recently discovered a real treat from Athanasius (of Alexandria), from the Troparion of the Feast of the Annunciation within the Orthodox Liturgy.  There are more ‘daily devotions’ here enough for a lifetime. Enjoy…

“Today is the beginning of our salvation,

And the revelation of the eternal mystery!

The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin

As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.

Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

Meadow

 

 

Gaza: A UK Jewish Perspective

Robert Cohen has written are very helpful and personal account of what this current Gazan crisis means for him, as a Jew in the UK.  Below is the full copy of the article he wrote on Tikkun Daily.

Robert himself blogs at Micah’s Paradigm Shift and I recommend a look.

Like me, Robert went to Israel/Palestine with Amos Trust in 2011, though we went on separate trips as I don’t know him personally.  Here’s what he writes….

 

“For the last three years I’ve been writing monthly posts about Israel-Palestine from a UK Jewish perspective. At times like this, with the news from Gaza dominating world headlines, I feel an even greater responsibility to champion a Judaism that stands for more than a narrow nationalist ideology.

It took me about 25 years from the point of first engaging seriously with the subject as student in the 1980s to feeling confident enough to start saying anything in a public sphere. Like many other Jews, for years I felt increasingly uncomfortable with what was going on in Israel in the unchallengeable name of defense and security. I was the classic liberal Zionist, brought up on a diet of Jewish ethics and Western democratic values. It was an upbringing that left me in an ever increasing state of ‘angst’ over the actions of the Jewish State, a country that claimed to act in my name and in my interests. But whatever I was feeling, I avoided family discussions let alone public debate.

It was operation Cast Lead and the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008/9 that began my journey from an Israeli supporting peacenik to a marginalized Diaspora Jew, questioning the entire Zionist project. After watching children dying from Israeli missiles and bombs, my silent Jewish angst felt like so much useless self-indulgence. It was a feeling I wanted to avoid next time things kicked off in Gaza. And I suspected there would be a next time.

A visit in 2011 to Israel (my third) and to the West Bank (my first) finally completed the emotional and intellectual journey. Talking to Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line taught me that something had gone very wrong with the Jewish dream of self-determination. Whatever the questions raised by two thousand years of ‘exile’, this could not be the answer. A Sparta state, increasingly racist in its culture of Jewish ethnic privilege, had not resolved any of the issues Herzl and the early Zionists had set out to address. Instead it had created a truck-load of new problems and left another people homeless and oppressed.

But with support for Israel now fundamental to Jewish identity in the diaspora, and anti-Zionism considered a more serious communal offense than marrying-out, where could an individual still committed to their Jewish values, but at odds with Israel, find a place to stand and speak?

Well not in the synagogue nor at family simchas. Too many prayers for the IDF and too much singing of Hatikva to allow dissent. The blogosphere and the internet, with its ability to create virtual communities of interest, has become the only place big enough and open enough to allow me in. In cyberspace everyone can hear you scream…or choose to click you into silence.

And now, in 2014, the people of Gaza are being pummeled again. And with the sound of sirens still ringing in Israeli ears, who is willing to listen to a lecture on Jewish values when Jewish lives have been at stake?

I am reminded by members of my family that ‘our side’ drop leaflets and make phone calls before firing missiles. And, unlike ‘them’, we care about the safety of our children and put them in air raid shelters. So that makes our missiles moral and their dead children their own fault not ours. You should at least show some balance in your views, they say.

But I stopped seeing any ‘balance’ a long time ago. I don’t credit the phone calls or the leaflets or the ‘knock on the roof’ ballistic warnings. All I can see is the same old colossal lack of imagination, dressed up in clothes of self-righteousness and victim hood, that has driven both Israeli and Jewish communal politics into an ethical brick wall.

I pray that a ceasefire can be successfully negotiated (to the satisfaction of both sides) so that Palestinians will stop being killed and Israelis can stop living in fear….at least for a while. But it is at times like this, that ‘rescuing the Hebrew covenant’ becomes paramount.

Since I began, three years ago, I have attempted to remain true to the blog strap line I first adopted: Act justly, love kindness, walk humbly. Rescuing the Hebrew Covenant one blog post at a time.

The scripturally minded will recognize the abbreviated quote from the Hebrew Prophet Micah.

Justice. Kindness. Humility.

For me, this is what the Hebrew Covenant boils down to after 5,000 years of Jewish history. This, to answer the test question set by the prophet in the 8th century BCE, is what God requires of us.

The Micah based Covenant is the sacred understanding that we are created for the sake of others. And with so much emphasis in the Hebrew bible on the ‘stranger’ and ‘neighbour’ there is little doubt in my mind that the justice/kindness/humility ethical imperative must embrace all of humanity. Which, despite the remarks of some Knesset members in the last two weeks, must include Palestinians living in Gaza City and Khan Younis too.

If my reading of scripture is correct then Jewish territorial sovereignty didn’t work out so well the first two times. See Isaiah and Jeremiah for further reading. Third time around and we are making another ethical hash of things.

If the mainstream Jewish leadership in the UK, North America and the rest of the Diaspora, does not recognize such a description then I can only assume that they don’t have a problem with ethnic dispossession or military occupation or collective punishment, or institutional discrimination. All of which could be the case if they are still seriously wedded to the Land/Chosenness/Election reading of the Covenant. To me that’s an Iron Age religious understanding that is now well past its sell-buy date.

Our actions, both historical and contemporary, towards the Palestinians are the greatest challenge facing Judaism and the Jewish people today. We have to find a way through this that means more than defending a narrow nationalist ideology. In the long run, rescuing the Hebrew Covenant is the only sane, ethical and Jewish way forward.”

With thanks to Robert Cohen.

gaza-11

 

Picture Source Independent UK 

What We Need

“It is not a new theology we need so much as a renovated theology, in which orthodoxy is deepened against itself, and not pared away.

It is a new touch with our mind and, conscience on the moral nerve of the old faith.  We have had many new theologies in the last hundred years.  Theological enterprise has been turning them out freely.  But the vein of liberalism, which thus followed on the old Orthodoxy, has been worked out for the preacher’s purpose.

It is now exhausted of religious ore.  The spring has given out (to change the image), and the stream runs thin, and whispers softly among little pebbles, though once it roared among great boulders now left behind in the hills.

It is not sermons we need, but a Gospel, which sermons are killing.

forsyth-preaching-redeemed

We need to go behind and beneath all our common thought and talk.  What we require is not a race of more powerful preachers, but that which makes their capital – a new Gospel which is yet the old, the old moralised, and replaced in the conscience, and in the public conscience, from which it has been removed.

We need that the Gospel we offer be moralised at the centre from the Cross, and not rationalised at the surface by thin science.

We need that more people should be asking, “What must I do to be saved?” rather than “What should I rationally believe?”

We need power more than truth.

We need a new sense of the living God as the God whose eternal Redemption is as relevant and needful to this age’s conscience as to the first.

It is not a ministry we need, but a Gospel, which makes both ministry and Church.  The Church will not furnish the ministers the age requires unless it provides them with a Gospel which they will never get from the age, but only from the Bible for the age.

But it is from a Bible searched by regenerates for a Gospel, and not exploited for sermons by preachers anxious to succeed with the public.  It may be best to preach to the sinners and to the saints and never mind at present the public, who feel neither.

If we do that well the public will respect us.  If we think of the world, let us think chiefly of the world as the arena of an eternal Redemption, and not of a professional success, or of a social revolution.”

P. T. Forsyth, The Church and the Sacramentsp.20-21 (Lectures delivered in 1917)

Flower

Open Letter to the BBC

Dear BBC

Once again Gaza is under massive aerial bombardment from Israeli warplanes and drones, and, once again, the BBC’s reporting of these assaults is entirely devoid of context or background.

We would like to remind the BBC that Gaza is under Israeli occupation and siege.

We would like to remind you that Israel is bombing a refugee population – Palestinians who were made refugees when they were forced from their land in1948 in order to create Israel.

We would like to remind you that Gaza has no army, air force, or navy, while Israel possess one of the strongest militaries in the world.

When you portray Israel’s shelling of a civilian population as a ‘response’ or ‘retaliation’ to rocket strikes from Gaza, we would like to remind you that these events flow from the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people from their homes and communities, with millions now corralled as refugees in the Gaza Strip. That initial injustice was compounded and continues with the ongoing occupation and siege.

When you portray the occupier as the victim, and the occupied as the aggressor, we would like to remind you that resistance to occupation is a right under international law. And we would like you to remember that Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.

And, finally, we would like to remind BBC journalists, when interviewing Israel’s spokespeople over the coming days, to ask the one question they have all failed to ask: “If Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, and allows the people of Palestine to live in freedom from Israeli domination, would that bring peace?”

Yours sincerely

Gralefrit

 

NOTE:  This letter can be found here:  http://www.palestinecampaign.org/sign-open-letter-bbc/

Please sign your name and raise awareness of this escalating madness.

The picture below was taken by me recently.  It is a blade of grass growing out of concrete.  If grass can grow out of concrete, peace can be found between Israeli and Palestinian.

grassinconcrete