So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1st Corinthians 10:31 NIVUK)
The question, “why?” is an important one.
It is often one of the most basic questions a person can ask. Children will ask things like, “why is the sky blue?”. The question, “why?” is frequently an attempt by one person to understand something. Granted, frequently asking the question over and over can become annoying (again, I am thinking of children), but it is nonetheless an attempt to gain understanding.
How we respond to the question, “why?” is also important.
We could respond dismissively; “because this is just the way it is!” That may well end the line of questioning, but it will often leave the questioner dissatisfied. Indeed, if we think about it, we haven’t really answered the question at all!
As Christians, I believe the question “why?” is one we should continually ask: of ourselves, and of the Church. Why do be believe what we do, or behave in the way we do? Why does the Church do certain things in worship and in service?
Equally, how we answer these questions truly matters. If the answer is, “because it’s always been this way”… well, that’s not good enough! We are not called to be unthinking automatons who mindlessly follow: we are the People of God, redeemed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and we should know why we do what we do – seen as we are meant to be doing it in His name!
I, therefore, encourage the question of “why?”. By reflecting on why we believe or do certain things, we will either reinforce that we are doing the right thing, or challenge ourselves to move toward the right thing. It is for this reason that our over-arching theme of 2019 is that question: Why? It is an invitation for us all to reflect on our Christian living, and on the life of our congregation, and to ensure we are doing the right things for God.
Because, ultimately, that is what matters. As we ask, “why” and reflect on the answer, we should eventually reach the foundational answer: we do this for the glory of God. It is the glory of God alone which should matter most to us as Christians, and it is His glory we should seek in all we do.
If we are confident that what we say/do/believe glorifies God, then let us do it all the more. If what we say/do/believe does not glorify God, then we would do well to set it aside, so we can concentrate more on the things which do bring Him glory.
I pray God’s blessing upon you as we begin this new year of reflection, asking the question, “why?”.
The Clincarthill Church Puppet team will be presenting ‘Camel 4 News’ from 7-8pm on Wednesday 19th December at Clincarthill Church, giving a fresh take on the Christmas story, with songs and sketches. Entry is free. See the attached leaflet. Hope to see you there.
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:1-5 NIVUK)
As you might know, history is one of my hobbies. I enjoyed learning about history in school, and while I haven’t taken my study of history any further in an academic sense, I do enjoy reading about it in my own time. I am particularly interested in the time of the Roman Empire, and the Napoleonic Wars/Victorian Era Britain (just to let you know a little more about my interests!).
Because I enjoy learning about history so much, I get frustrated when I perceive others failing to learn from history. This can be on a global scale: for example, the frightening rise of far-right groups in Europe in the last few years (did we learn nothing from the 1939-1945 war against such powers?!). This frustration can also be more personal, and aimed at myself as much as anyone else: I can’t be the only person who sometimes fails to learn from my own past mistakes!
History and remembrance are important. It’s why we have an annual service of remembrance on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day. This year, Remembrance Sunday is particularly significant: it will be exactly 100 years since, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent, and the war which was supposed to end all wars finally concluded (another frustration: if we had truly learned the lessons of World War 1, it would have been the war to end all wars. Sadly, war and conflict continue to engulf our world).
The Christian faith is, in part, a faith of remembrance. We are invited, every time we open the Bible, to look back, read and remember the experiences of those faithful people who lived hundreds or thousands of years before us: such as Isaiah, who is quoted above. Yet, this quotation, and the Bible as a whole, also encourage us to look forward in hope: trusting and believing in the work of God to put our world right.
This work peaked with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and will peak again when Christ returns. We trust that, when He does come back, God will do as He promised through Isaiah: that the weapons of war will be destroyed, that peace will reign, and we will live eternally and harmoniously with God and all His faithful. It will be the world God always intended; free from the sin which we have allowed to spoil this world.
And so it is that, when we gather on Sunday 11th November, we are not there to glorify war, or celebrate that “our side” won: we are there to look back, remembering those on all sides who died in conflict, giving thanks for those times when wars end and peace returns; but we also look forward, declaring that we, as the people of God, will pursue the cause of peace wherever we can, and trusting in the assured hope that, one day, God will ensure that peace will reign in our world for all eternity.
May God bless you,
Today has been marked with a time of remembrance; planting poppy crosses in our garden for people we know who died at war; the laying of a wreath at our war memorial; and reflections on the past, the present and the future. We followed this with an old-fashioned tea party celebrating peace.
We hold a special Armistice Centenary service this Sunday 11th November, starting at 10.45am (note the earlier than usual start time). We mark 100 years since the end of the Great War, so join us to remember those who sacrificed their lives for country and for peace. The service will be followed by an indoor street party (as would have happened at the end of the war) in the hall. All are welcome.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (1st Corinthians 5: 18-21 NIVUK)
One of the most difficult parts of my recent trip to Rwanda was learning of the country’s recent history: specifically, the events leading up to and during the 1994 genocide. The events of that time were appalling: 800,000 people were murdered over a period of 100 days. The death and destruction brought the country to its knees: lives were lost, infrastructure destroyed, and the ability to function ruined.
If you visit Rwanda today, it is impossible to tell that these horrific events took place, 24 years ago. Homes have been rebuilt, roads re-surfaced, and the country functions once again, just like any other. Given the level of destruction, this was achieved in record time. And it could only be achieved if the whole country united and worked together in the rebuilding process. The question is this: how could such a divided population be brought together? How could there be reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi, after the pain and suffering caused by one on the other?
On the one hand, the government which took over in 1994 led a huge campaign of reconciliation. The new leadership understood that the only way for the country to move forward was to bring people back together. Yet, with the best will in the world, governments cannot manufacture the kind of deep healing and reconciliation which was required for Rwanda to move forward.
During the genocide, the Church did not give herself a good name. While in some places, the Church worked to help those being killed, in others she stood by and did nothing; in others still, the Church was complicit in the killings! After the genocide, and despite the poor reputation of the Church, the message of the Gospel rang out through Rwanda: a message of the deep reconciliation Jesus achieved between us and God. If Jesus can reconcile us, horrid sinners, to God, perhaps He could also reconcile the Hutu and Tutsi?
Today, 94% of Rwandans identify as Christians. While this figure may be inflated by those who identify because it’s the cultural thing to do, the fact that the country has been, and continues to be, reconciled after such a dark period suggests to me that a majority do seriously believe this Gospel, and have allowed it to shape their lives and their actions.
The Gospel of reconciliation is so powerful, it can re-unite a country divided by ethnicity and genocide. I wonder: what could this same Gospel achieve here, if we took the same approach, sharing it believing and being confident in its power?
Some food for your thoughts. God bless, Stuart