God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Archive for December 13th, 2006

Talkin’ bout a resolution

Posted by Martin on December 13, 2006

Planning to make any New Year’s resolutions come January 1st? Giving up smoking? Committing to become a community volunteer? No longer going to read The Guardian?

I used to think resolutions were a waste of time – once the fireworks have fizzled out and sobriety has returned, we very rarely stick to the promise. This year however, I’ve made a pretty good fist of things. I made two New Year’s resolutions on 1st Jan 2006, and with a bit of work, I could well keep them both… well, sort of.

The first resolution seemed the most daunting – lose two stone in weight by December 31st. Thanks to a couple of all-you-can-eat trips across the Atlantic, my body was beginning to resemble Mr Stay Puft from Ghostbusters. I think I realised that I had hit that point where there were only two ways to go – become a fat bloke for the rest of time, or buy some smaller pants and get on a treadmill.

The second resolution seemed infinitely more possible – read through the Bible in one year. That’s just four pages a day – especially easy when you’ve been given a lovely (floral-themed) Bible-in-a-year book for Christmas.

Well, resolution no.1 has fared the best. As I write, I’m a tantalising 3lbs short of my target, with around two weeks to go. Unfortunately, there’s a fairly calorific religious festival between now and then which might scupper me. But even 3lbs short is about 4st better than I was expecting.

Resolution no.2 had to lower it’s ambitions halfway through the year. As anyone who’s ever tried to use dated readings will know, the biggest demotivator is finding out you’ve fallen ten days behind, and since you haven’t time to catch up, you throw in the towel instead. Well, my boss is a wiser man than I, and suggested that I revise my aim to ‘read the Bible in two years’. Since then I’ve been on track  – and am now just 12 readings away from the halfway point, with a few more days than that left.

So despite my failure to so far achieve the final aims, I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m now on the lookout for a new resolution to try out in 2007, because it’s a good thing to have aims for your year. I feel like 2006 was actually a year in which I quantifiably achieved something.

Suggestions on a comment postcard please – or let me know how you got on with your 2006 resolutions.

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Gettin’ Stoned – Part 2

Posted by Martin on December 13, 2006

Before you read the post below, read this one.

I deliberately posted this thought in two parts, but, uncomfortable as the second section is, I really want to say something about it. An even shorter reading from John 8, this time verses 7-11:
 
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said. 
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

As I’ve already written, Jesus treats the woman caught in adultery with the kind of grace that sometimes only He could. He disarms a stone-wielding mob with just a few words, and leaves a lasting message about hypocrisy that unfortunately a lot of us seem to have conveniently forgotten.
 
Those words ‘he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’ hangs in history as one of the greatest pieces of wisdom ever spoken. We hear it quoted in movies; we see it frequently referenced whenever another group of Pharisees gathers to once again administer a modern-day stoning.

But it’s not the end of the story. He says something else – something which I guess the Pharisees would have loved, had any of them stuck around to hear it:

‘Go now, and leave your life of sin.’

To suggest that Jesus saved this woman, no-strings attached, just because He Is Love, is a naïve reading of the words. He also tells her to step away from the adulterous affair – NOW – and not to begin another. In other words, when we are the beneficiaries of the grace of God, there is then an immediate forward step for us to take. If this woman was in love, or was embedded in a deeply sexual lifestyle (both of which are likely), then this would have been an extremely painful step. She possibly wished at that point that the Pharisees had finished the job.
 
Jesus knew exactly how difficult his command was to hear, and yet he still gave it. And though he’s saved her life and told her that he doesn’t condemn her, I doubt if she went from that place leaping with joy.
 
This is an extremely difficult passage, because whatever our theological standpoint, it presents a huge challenge. Some of us who talk about ‘living under grace’, like to conveniently forget about the sting in the tale that I’ve just described. And conversely, there are plenty of us who use this last line as a justification for some level of Puritanism, and miss the radical moment of love and grace earlier on.

 So what does it mean for us? My reading – as I attempt to avoid both the pitfalls that I’ve described – is that God’s grace is something we should strive to emulate as we interact with the people around us. If we want to be like Jesus, then the paedophiles, prostitutes and drug dealers in our communities need the same treatment from us as this woman received from Jesus. At the same time however, we can’t condone and licence the wrong that they do, and we need to be prepared, like Jesus, to offer a difficult challenge.

It’s not easy, but Jesus isn’t. If he was easy to get his head around, perhaps he wouldn’t be widely acknowledged as one of the great wise masters of human history. But we mustn’t settle for a simplified understanding of His character as we seek to follow and become like him. The longer you know Him, the more you realise: Jesus is difficult.

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‘Kate Winslet lives in Narnia’

Posted by Martin on December 13, 2006

There was another World Class rant from Britain’s finest film critic, Mark Kermode, on BBC Radio Five Live last Friday – once again I wholeheartedly recommend that you sign up to his podcast, even if you don’t like movies. His tirades against bottom-end commercial cinema are legenday – so much so that the BBC website has a special Kermode Ad-Rant Calendar, counting down to Christmas with a different outburst each day.

This week’s victim was The Holiday – the film in which, as Mark put it: ‘Cameron Diaz lives in LA; Kate Winslet has a tiny job at The Daily Telegraph, but appears to earn enough money to live in Narnia, in a cottage sprinkled with fairy dust, in what is supposed to be Surrey but is clearly on another planet. [and they swap homes for Christmas]’

And then: ‘It’s so putrefyingly awful that you find your life force ebbing away into your seat, and your mind starts to turn to evil thoughts.’

Bet you they don’t stick that on the poster.

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