Monday, 22 September 2008

Be Still

I have been reading a book called Finding Sanctuary by Abbot Christopher Jamison. He is the Abbot of Worth Abbey, where they filmed the TV series The Monastery, broadcast in May 2005. The book is not about the TV series, but refers to it for examples as he explains how to find sanctuary.

The first point he makes is that we are all too busy, caused especially by this consumerist society. We are all encouraged to buy more things and want more things, and we have to work harder and longer to get them. Some people are really too busy and some only think they are. It has the same effect.

'Sanctuary' has two meanings: a sacred space, and a place of refuge. Many of us take time out, go on holiday etc., as a place of refuge, but it doesn't work because we have to go back to work and our busy lives. Sanctuary only works when it is also a sacred space. Once you find it, you carry it with you always.

Psalm 46 in the Bible, is full of turmoil and chaos. It talks about mountains falling, nations in uproar, desolation and war. Then suddenly, in verse 10, it says, "Be still, and know that I am God."

This is the beginning of finding sanctuary. You need to stop in the middle of your rushing about, and think about God. If you are not a Christian, you need to find out who He is and what He is like, then you need to be still and think about it. If you are a Christian, you should know these things, but we all get busy and need to be reminded. We still need to be still and think about what we know.

Thinking about God can take a lot of time and have a lot of consequences, but the place to start is just to pause, whatever you are doing, be still, and know that He is God. Try it now, and don't dodge the results.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Arrival of the Torch

The Olympics is over, the Paralympics has just begun. In preparation, over many months, the torch has been carried through many nations of the world. Although it is a great honour, the individuals who carried the torch were not important. The torch, the flame, representing the ideals of the Olympics, is the focus of attention, as it calls people of all nations to prepare for the coming Games.

However spectacular the Opening Ceremony, the key point that everyone is waiting for is the arrival of the torch and the lighting of the Olympic flame. This is the signal for the beginning of the Games.

Just as the carrying of the torch over many months signals preparation for the Games, so through history we can see the preparation from God for the coming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God's kingdom. In people's lives, the torch was not always important, not always paid attention to. But it went on. In history, key events were not always obvious to people at the time, but as we look back we can see the overarching plan, the development of God's purposes to restore His kingdom among men.

In the Old Testament we learn of Abraham, Moses and Israel. God raised them up and made promises to them and to the people of Israel. He gave them Judges and Kings to rule over them. It is when we get to the Gospels in the New Testament that 'the torch arrives'. John the Baptist was the final bearer of the torch, the one who lit the flame when he baptised Jesus, thus launching his ministry.

The great news for us today is that, unlike the Olympic Games, God's kingdom is not only for the elite to participate and the rest to spectate. The kingdom is for everyone to "press on towards the goal to win the prize" (Philippians 3 v14). There is no qualification standard, because no one can reach God's standard on their own. We have to recognise that and turn and accept the gift which Jesus Christ died for, which is free to all.

Also, unlike the Olympic Games, there is no end after a few weeks, and all look forward to the next one in four years. The 'Games' go on, everyone is invited, and the Good News is continually being spread around the world.