Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who is my neighbour?

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 
He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’                   (Matthew 22:36-40) 

This leaves the question "Who exactly is my neighbour?"

I found this great sermon by Canon Stephen Hance at Southwark Cathedral, exploring this question further.
And telling this wonderful story from Tony Campolo, who is an American preacher and sociologist:

Tony was travelling, jetlagged, and awake in the middle of the night, so he went down to a local diner in the early hours where, it turned out, many of the local prostitutes also went to hang out after their night was over. He overheard a conversation between two of them. One, named Agnes, told her friend, “You know, tomorrow’s my birthday. I’ll be 39.” Her friend snapped back, “So? What do you want? A birthday party?” Agnes replied, “Don’t be mean, of course not. I’ve never had a birthday party before. Why should I expect one now? I’m just saying it’s my birthday tomorrow.”

After they left, Tony had an idea. He asked the diner owner if Agnes came in every night, and when he said that she did, Tony said, “Why don’t we throw Agnes a surprise birthday party tomorrow night?” And that’s exactly what they did. Next morning, 3.30am, Agnes walked in. The diner had been decorated, there was a cake and candles, and all the other prostitutes sang happy birthday. When Agnes saw it she almost bucked. Agnes blew out the candles through streams of tears, and then someone suggested she cut the cake. Agnes didn’t want to do that. She’d never had a birthday cake before. She ended up taking the cake home. After she left, clutching the precious cake, Tony ended up leading everyone left in the diner in a prayer for Agnes.

When the prayer was finished, the diner owner leaned over to Tony and said, “You never told me you were a preacher! What kind of church do you belong to?” Tony says, “In one of those rare moments when just the right words came, I answered ‘I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3.30 in the morning.’” The owner sneered and said, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it.”

Wouldn’t we all? But that’s the church Jesus came to found. A church that makes all people our neighbours by the simple method of treating them as such, welcoming them, including them, and celebrating with them. May God give us the grace to be such a church.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Christian Ramadan

Oh dear, it's a long time since I have blogged and much has happened since.

Our daughter went to Bangladesh and is back later this week.
We have spent much of the last weeks with harvesting fruit and vegetables, foraging and food-processing. The freezer is full of frozen  berries, hubby has made several batches of jam (causing a debate whether strawberry jam or blackcurrant jam is the better one!) and several litres of elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne is done, with two gallons of sparkling elderflower wine on the go.

But there is time to blog about all that another time ...

Ramadan started on 8th July this year and, as in previous years, I am joining my Muslim friends in their Ramadan - well, after a fashion, that is.
Last year I adapted the Muslim prayer routine to fit verses from the Bible.
I found that so beneficial that I am doing it again this year. Except, I am veering even further from the Islamic practice (Please forgive me, my Muslim friends!) by not praying five times a day at set times, but by trying to go through the prayer routine once every hour.
Where that's not possible, I catch up with the missed prayers at a later time (for example, if I wake up at 6 am, I pray for the six hours which have already passed since midnight) - but I aim to pray hourly as much as possible and add my prayers to 24 times per day.

I have found this extremely calming and soothing.
Depending on your own belief system or world view, you might have different explanations for this.
Is it God at work in me?
Or Satan trying to deceive into straying from the right path?
Or simply my mind benefitting from taking regular time out from my daily routine and focus within?

I have my own thoughts and you probably have yours.

My Ramadan charity this year will be the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which aims to provide a spiritual home, medical care and humanitarian relief as well as promoting reconciliation amongst different religious groups in Iraq in the face of great difficulties and hardship.

Wishing you a blessed Ramadan! May God work in us all and draw us closet to himself - whoever and wherever we are.