Follow the Signs

‘Political correctness’ means not using words or actions that exclude or demean people by reinforcing some form of negative stereotyping or bigotry. It is sometimes a shallow attempt to appear more fair-minded and caring than we really are, but over time, it can in fact move us in that direction.
Stereotyping and prejudice are lazy habits, so taking care to use words that maintain a proper respect for others can feel pedantic or artificial. With repetition, though, it increases our awareness of people or disadvantage that haven’t previously mattered to us. This awareness makes it more likely that they will come to matter to us, and we will be more likely to support justice where it is lacking.
Being pushed to use the right words won’t change everyone, of course. Some people still harbour inner ignorance or hostility. The value of public political correctness is that it prevents us from taking up or reinforcing thoughtless ways simply by default. It acts like a guide or a sign-post, showing up a hazard we might choose to avoid.
In Galatians, Paul says that the Law was intended for the same purpose, to be a guide or guardian, to steer us away from wrong behaviour until we are mature enough to choose wisely for ourselves. In our knowledge and commitment to Christ, he says, we come to maturity and no longer need the Law. Bless his optimism and faith in us! Still, there’s no doubt that the world is changing. Self- interest and vices persist, but I am constantly cheered by learning of the efforts of good and godly people working for marginalised and disadvantaged people everywhere. Human hearts, when shown the options, turn so readily towards what is good, fair and kind.
Thank God, who made us that way.
Thank God for all that keeps us on the right track,
Go well,

Ascension: rising to a higher level

We often give only token acknowledgement of the event of Jesus’ ascension to heaven; yet every event in the gospels is worth attention and reflection.

Consider this:
Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus was carried into heaven. This isn’t an action that Jesus does to himself: it was something that God did to him and for him. Yet he was not a passive participant. He withdrew from them – a combination of action and surrender. It is what Jesus invites the disciples to do: wait to be clothed with power from on high. The power we can expect to receive from the Holy Spirit is not something inside of us, like super willpower. It is something outside of us that works in such a way that it transforms us.
Even while blessing the disciples, Jesus chose to leave it to them. The same ones who were capable of making inspired declarations of faith in one breath, and messing up badly in the next breath. Jesus chose to trust his mission to these disciples—just as he chooses us: this church that is capable of great acts of faith in one moment and messing it up badly in the next. Jesus trusts us with his mission.
Two thousand years later, we haven’t destroyed the church yet. And we won’t. Because God is God and we are not. We are trusted with a part of the mission, enabled by God’s blessing and power from on high. It is enough for us to bless God in return through the way we live our lives.
Encouraging words! May they encourage and reassure you,
Based on Rev. Ann Dieterle’s article on her website, “Modern Metanoia”.

We’re all in this together

I expect we will hear again on ANZAC Day:
Greater love has no one than this; that they lay down their life for their friends.
(John 15:13)
This is used mainly with reference to the courage, tenacity and integrity with which people live up to the terrible demands placed on them in times of war.
This is not limited to wartime, of course. In any situation of danger and need, ordinary people demon-strate a capacity for extraordinary compassion and self-sacrifice towards friends and strangers alike. Extreme situations highlight our vulnerability, and the survival instinct surfaces. The sense of fighting and struggling to protect not just ourselves, but life itself becomes paramount.
Recognising that there are active forces – in literal terms – against all that is life-giving, some people contest those forces in literal and physical ways. War takes a toll on the spirits as well as the bodies of those involved. Accepting that, our Defence Forces are also sometimes the very people who are in a position not just to defend life, but to demonstrate the common humanity that is the foundation of hope for life beyond the battle. They are warriors, peace-keepers, teachers, rescue workers and much more.
If you ‘google’ the above address, you can see Australian singers recording a tribute song to Australian Defence Force personnel. It is not maudlin or clichéd, and it honours the men and women of our pre-sent Defence Forces as well as those who have served in our name over the past century.
The singers in their safe recording studio seem very different from the soldiers, but their song affirms that we all protect and nurture each other – and life itself – according to the gifts God has given us.
May you be blessed, and a blessing to others

Standing on the promises

I’ve been reading the story of Irene Gleeson, a NSW woman who felt led to begin a mission to orphans in Uganda in 1991. Surrounded by the savage terrorism of the rebel ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ Irene set up a school and shelter for the many orphans of a remote area. Supported by her home church, it was still an isolated, harsh and dangerous venture.
Irene relied on the promises of Scripture to sustain her courage and cried out to God many times in distress. God never failed her, for practical and emotional needs. Calling on the name of Jesus protected her from armed invaders. In spite of betrayal and obstruction, the mission grew, and thousands of Ugandans accepted Christ as their Lord.
Do you have a place in your understanding for accounts like this of God’s response in ways that are dramatic and miraculous compared to our own? Or do you simply not know what to make of them?
My own response is that God will interact with us in terms of our different cultures and settings. We don’t have the same needs as Irene and the children of Uganda, but we do still encounter or observe people and actions which could well be called ‘of the devil’ rather than ‘of God.’ They are less violent and dramatic, but meanness and small-mindedness still afflict the lives of many. People are fearful and reluctant to trust the words of hope and encouragement we speak to them.
Irene’s book provokes me to learn more of the promises of Scripture. I hope they will sharpen my discernment of the dynamics of our world, clarify the obstacles to harmony and prosperity that I should denounce, & make me bolder in my prayer life.
What do you do with stories of people who trust in the Word like Irene did?
‘… whoever listens to me shall live securely,
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.’ Proverbs 1:33
May you be at ease from the dread of evil , Morag