Monthly Archives: September 2015

And can it be!

Today we will sing “And Can it Be” in church.  It has been and remains one of my favourite hymns even though some of the imagery is foreign in our contemporary world.

The first two lines are very much at the heart of my faith:

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?Died he for me who caused his pain – for me, who him to death pursued.

When I was younger and my faith seemed to be more about what happened when I died I would only associate my ‘pursuit of Jesus to death on the cross’ with my personal demons and the struggles of the relationships that I had with those around me. The hymn provided a moralistic release from guilt.

Whilst not inappropriate to think in these terms when I sing these words today I consider more carefully the consequences of my pursuit of Jesus to the cross in terms of a bigger picture.  Jesus death confronts us not only with what we are prepared to do God but even more poignantly to each other.

Like so many who may have stood at the foot of Jesus cross so long ago we too have become spectators to the macabre and disturbing images that assault us each and every day.  We are implicated in the suffering and death of others even on distant shores and from distant times though we do not even know it.

Our choices pursue Jesus to the cross and put others alongside him: our choice to speak or stay silent on matters of justice: of child labour, of exploitation of workforces, of refugee and asylum issues, of sexism and racism, of bullying and domestic violence, of climate and ecological violence; our choice to participate in the consumerist culture; our choice to preference our own group over others; our choice for generosity or greed with regard to those who are in need.

Where do we understand the suffering of the world? How is it dealt with?  So often my answer to this is to say that Jesus takes all this into himself as he dies for us.  Yet in saying this I must recognise the lives of others who have suffered, hidden in Christ, that often have contributed to the privileged in way in which I live. I am left asking “whom else to have I to death pursued?”

My only sense of hope is that Jesus bled for the whole of Adam’s helpless race: people of every nation, of every religion, or every culture, of every age and of every gender. Though I cannot see it, though I cannot contain these problems in the hollow limits of my compassion, the good news of the risen Christ is that there is release for the suffering we have caused God and each other and hope for all: release for the perpetrators and victims alike who share the bond of being God’s loved creatures.

“Tis mercy all, immense and free!”

The Goal Cannot be as Short Sighted as to Stop the Boats

Today I heard that the response of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the images of the 3 year old boy Aylan Kurdi’s body being retrieved from the beach in Turkey was a tragic reminder that we need to ‘stop the boats’.

Sadly this naive view of stopping the boats seems incredibly short-sighted and misdirected. Is this all we can say?

Maybe stopping the boats will stop such innocence lives being lost at sea.

But let us not think for one moment that it stops the barrel bombs and the guided missiles, let us not think that it stops the bitterness and the hatred, let us not think that it makes us more compassionate and more caring, let us not think it ends the suffering and the terror, let us not think it gives safety and security for those who are seeking out the people smugglers, let us not think that it will make the refugee camps any better at providing for the millions in need.

With the constant daily news of refugees dying at sea, or in trucks and shipping containers, or being placed in mandatory detention, or trapped on the borders of countries or at railways stations people are still choosing these potentially deadly options rather than stay where they are.  There need is dire and desperate.

No this is not just a tragic reminder that we need to stop the boats.  It is a reminder that we are one humanity, that our divisions destroy us, that war is evil, and that we need to learn the ways of justice and mercy and peace and compassion.

And more than that it is a reminder that when we watch on from a distance as these events unfold our place is on our knees praying and crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy and for comfort.  Comfort for Abudllah Kurdi whose wife and two children are now dead; mercy for the millions who are displaced and seeking safety no matter the risk; forgiveness for our inhumanity as a whole human race.

I long for peace in my time and as I approach Father’s day my thoughts are with this man who now faces his future without these beautiful children who were every bit as precious as mine.