The Good Immigrant and my love/hate relationship with it. (Pt 1)

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla.

I loved this book and hated it, in about equal measure.

The various authors deal quite beautifully, sometimes wittily, with deeply painful experiences of immigrant life in Britain without, in most part, expressing any bitterness.

Boundaries appear to be broken between members of minority communities by the act of sharing stories of growing up as outsiders in a majority culture, when folk in that culture largely don’t get you or don’t want to get you.

The book creates understanding between communities because readers are left knowing “isn’t just me and people of my culture” who are feeling left out or hurt. The stories also partly educate the majority culture, for anyone who wants to learn by listening.

The reader is left hoping that cringe-worthy attempts to “welcome” or “accommodate” folk who grew up in the UK vanish. You can only feel slight pity for the white yoga lady who clasps prayerful hands together as she greets a complete, British born, stranger with an inappropriate “namaste”, or the white cafe owner who serves “pants chicken”. Who wants to avoid being like them?

The authors pick away at the stitches of racial (media) stereotypes. Individuality shines through, albeit in a liberal chattering class kind of way.

Erudite complaints are mixed with honesty and self-deprecating humour. This affords the authors deeply critical comment which doesn’t really offend but expects some nodding engagement, acceptance or coffee shop debate. The content and perspective of the essays are a sign, to me, of some serious cultural integration with dominant British media culture.

The stories in “The Good Immigrant” stir both empathy and frustration.

First, empathy.

I am a 6’6″ red haired Scotsman who has lived in two SE-Asian countries and now live in multi-ethnic West Bromwich.

My Anglicised Scottish accent and family culture still doesn’t fit in England, twenty six years after migrating.

The day I wrote this review I bumped into a fellow Church of England vicar on a campsite. I said to one of our campsite neighbours “what did you do to deserve having two clergy next door on holiday?” The vicar said “Are you Church of Scotland?” “No, I’m an Anglican.” I replied. “Are you a Scottish Episcopalian?”. “No, I am a Church of England vicar, like you”. “Sorry” he said “Your accent made me think you are from Scotland.” “I am AND I live in West Bromwich’.

Last week, up the market, an Asian market trader and I were chatting away about his business. We spoke bout helping the homeless, he said “You’re from somewhere far away, right?” I replied “No, I am a local. I live just up the high street”. “But you’re not from here. You’re from way up north, right? Your accent is not local like mine!”

True, but I am I not from West Bromwich?

Today, another Asian passer-by, who stopped to talk about my dog, said “You’re not local, are you?” “No I said, but you are.” “Yes, I grew up in Birmingham.” He replied.

West Bromwich is gloriously multi-ethinic. Yet I exist in an ethnic minority of only two Scots, as far as I know. The other Scot is second generation. So, no one gets my heritage.

Many folk will share fond stories of going to Edinburgh or the Isle of Skye on holiday, being stunned by the beauty of the mountains and surprised, contra stereotypes, by the hospitality and generosity of their hosts. The passer-by today had lived in Paisley, and enjoyed it.

But going on holiday doesn’t make anyone an expert on the history, narrative and culture which shapes the people in a nation. Being Scottish, like any other nationality, is caught not taught.

Like some of the contributors to “A Good Immigrant”, I was bullied for being different. Only 2-6% of northern Europeans are red heads. Add to that, I was skinny, gangly, tall, malco-ordinated, clumbsy. John Gordon Sinclair, Gregory’s Girl, was me, except I was ginger.

I was bullied at school, had footballs kicked in my face, was treated unkindly for being ginger and for blushing furiously.

I can’t imagine the added layers of trauma which stem from being different in a culture which your parents chose to live in but is not their own.

My parents lived in Scotland because their parents and their parents parents, as far back as we can know, lived there (although my maternal grandparents migrated to England for work and retired to Scotland). I get being singled out and abused for hair and skin colour, for being different.

It is really hard being different in a world where there are cruel or insecure people who get a rise by picking on people who don’t quite fit. I also know the experience of keeping quiet in front of my patents because of shame after being bullied.

I chose, as an adult, to migrate. First to England then overseas and back again.

Being 6’6″ I get really sick of the question “how tall are you?” or “what’s the weather like up there?”

I remember, with an alloy of sadness and amusement, the various times that complete strangers in the countries I lived in overseas remarked in public on my skin colour, hair colour and height. “Orang Putih/Mat Salleh tinggi, lah” Gyo lo/Ang mo… Gorah…

I am secure in my identity as an adult, but being red head carries childhood insecurity and memories with it.

It’s clear that people like to code and sort each other. To place origins and distinguish on appearance and accent. That, it seems, is just the way we humans operate. How we handle difference, it seems, is the key.

It’s tough being different, when growing up or living in a country where you look different.

I’ve been coded/sorted and bullied for being different. I empathise. So I love the book for the wit and pain.

The next post will reflect why I hate the book.

Hate is too strong, but love and frustrate don’t grab anyone’s attention. I am frustrated by “The Good Immigrant”.

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Dealing with disagreement, finding purpose in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

You might want to disagree with me, you might be right, but it seems Paul’s letter to the Philippians deals throughout with the difficult reality of disagreement between gospel partners.   I believe the pastoral purpose is found in its closing chapter.  Paul’s aim is to bring peace between Euodia and Syntyche following their disagreement.  His pastoral approach is to change the heart and focus on gospel priorities.  The more I have read the letter, the more I have come to appreciate Paul’s purpose is to get our hearts right when disagreement arises and to keep gospel partners working together.  I wonder if he learned these lessons after his bust up with Barnabas.

I now read the letter with this question in mind:  How does what Paul is saying here change my heart when I find myself in disagreement with a gospel partner?

Paul names two women in the church who have had a bust up, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2).  Paul’s purpose in writing is to bring peace between those who have disagreed.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7)

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:9)

My heart, when I disagree with another Christian, can be filled with self pity, fear, discouragement, a sense of injustice, anger, sadness about the situation, legalism, negative thoughts about the other person and a tendency to dig up the past. I can forget gospel priorities and make these issue about my being heard, understood and treated fairly. Paul addresses all of these heart issues in his letter.

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Learning to protect against abuse

One of my favourite songs of all time is 10,000 Maniacs’ “What’s the matter here?”

The song tells the story of a woman who witnesses the domestic abuse of a child who lives on her street and the woman cries “What’s the matter here?”

It is a deeply painful song.

Seen him run outside looking for a place to hide from his father,
the kid half naked and said to myself “O, what’s the matter here?”

As the story weaves along, day after day, there are screams, cussing and threats, including a leather belt, the woman muses “What’s the matter here?”

The song ends with these sobering words:

And I want to say “What’s the Matter here?”
But I don’t dare say.

I DON’T DARE SAY!

I don’t dare say that a vulnerable child is being threatened, beaten and screamed at, running naked from his home….and I DON’T DARE SAY!

Why not?  Why not say something? Anything? Why not speak out, get help, give the child a voice?

In the song, the reason the neighbours give is simple. He’s not your kid. He does not belong to you.  He’s not your responsibility.

There are, of course, all sorts of other reasons we don’t dare say:

“Don’t dare say, you’ll just get hurt yourself” (self protection).

“Don’t dare say because anyone with the authority to change things (police, social workers, judges, probation officers) won’t believe you, the parents will put on an act, the system will fail.  It’s pointless getting involved.” (defeatism and powerlessness).

“Don’t dare say, the kid will survive. It’s pretty bad but not that bad.” (minimising the horror of abuse and it’s long term effects).

“Don’t dare say, it’s better the family stays together (relativising).

None of these is good reasons to dare say nothing.  Abuse is wrong.  It needs to be stopped.  Better the dad suffers for the wrong being done, day after day, than the vulnerable child suffers.  Justice and  peace come first.

Rachael Denhollander uses a quote in her book about the abuse she suffered, the years of pain, the struggle for justice and her determination TO DARE SAY “What is a girl worth?”

She writes:

It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a village to enable an abuser.

The tension in “What’s the matter here?” is exactly that dreadful dynamic.  The neighbours, the village, witness the abuse but do not own the problem and the kid is abandoned to pain.

I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses, he’s their kid I stay out of it… he’s your kid do as you see fit…Oh these cold and lowly things that you do I suppose you do because he belongs to you…

This idea, that someone is the possession of another, or under the authority of someone else, excuses us, in our own minds, that it’s not our place to get involved.

But the truth is, that child is an image bearer of the living God.  The child belongs to God before he belongs to his dad.  God hates the abuse of his precious, dearly loved, image bearers.  God is justly indignant with abusers and will, on the last day, exercise perfect justice.  As image bearers of God ourselves, abuse should horrify us and move us to seek justice for the child.

It is not only kids who need justice. Replace the father’s kids with anyone under another’s authority or possession; the doctor’s patient, the coach’s athlete, the trainer’s gymnast, the boss’s secretary, the teacher’s pupil, the policeman’s charge, the pastor’s church member, the pimp’s prostitute.  The list goes on. And abuse can work in the opposite direction. The teenager to the parent is classic, but other relationships can reverse the power dynamic.

When power is being exerted to extort, wound, hurt, control, manipulate or damage and we find ourselves asking “What’s the matter here? But another voice in our head says “I DON’T DARE SAY.” It is then that we know it is time to ask questions, together, as a village.

It takes a village to enable an abuser.

It takes a village to protect the vulnerable against abuse.

What lessons need to be learned together when we ask “What’s the matter here?”

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Learning what it is like to live without control

One of my favourite songs of all time is Pulp’s Common People.

In the song, if you don’t know it, singer, Jarvis Cocker’s character is frustrated and angry with his new, wealthy Greek girlfriend. She wants to experience life with common people, but doesn’t get it.  When she finds the life of the poor funny, his anger becomes focused on her ability to escape poverty at any time.

If you called your dad, he could stop it all.

He becomes exasperated with his girlfriend’s attitude toward the poor. She’s like a tourist on safari.

So he brandishes a verbal dagger toward his wealthy, educated, middle class girlfriend…

You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.

I am middle class, from a mixed class background. Brought up in an idyllic rural Scottish village. I purchased shares when I was sixteen, Thatcher’s dream boy.  In my twenties, I stopped buying alcohol from the offie on the same day I was going to drink it.  I have two university degrees and chose to work overseas for six years. I reckon that makes me middle class. But more than that, I learned the attitude of self sufficiency and self dependency from a very young age.

When you have resources, it means that in every difficult situation in life, you believe you have been given the mentality, training and skill to analyse a problem, read about it, solve it, fix it.

I was trained to believe I could get myself out of any jam. And I did believe it.  I didn’t need God when he’d already given me skills and resources I needed to sort anything.

That was until 15 months ago.

A series of events beyond my control have beaten me. I can’t fix them this time. God has given me a taste what is like to live your life without control.

And so, I am only just beginning to get a personal sense of the real life issues behind poverty.

If you are in poverty, you can’t get out, without some help. When the justice system and economic policy favours those with resources, then there’s no control, no escape, just a miserable, fearful existence.

My experience has been unbelievably painful but very fruitful.

I live amongst loads of people I love, in one of Britain’s poorest communities.  I am not here on safari.  I have had that middle class mentality battered out of me. Now I am more like some of my beloved neighbours. Busted, beaten and without control.

Now I have had a taste of what it’s like a when your broken private-rented home is not fixed by a greedy landlord, who had just increased the rent to cover his loss on mortgage interest tax relief and the housing team at the council are too stretched and powerless to make the landlord fix your home.

When middle-class folk have problem with their home, they just call a joiner to come and fix it.

The list of powerless domestic situations include violence, universal credit rules, addiction and tit-for-tat reports to the police.

When people with resources don’t help, and you have none of your own, you are powerless.

The situations I have faced have been tough enough to make me think I have two ways out.

The first is death, but not suicide. I have had a strong but unhealthy desire to be with Christ.

The second, less morbid, is to leave this place. Start afresh. Live someone rural.  Bail out.  Move somewhere easier. Take control back.  Flee.  I have the resources to it, to leave, so why stay?

Why? Why stay?

This is all I have just now; I follow the king of the universe, who left the comfort and riches of glory to live with us.  To die in pain for the sins of his people and rise triumphant in eternal love.

He surrendered control, but never lost it.

I can’t control storms, disease, economies or unjust rule.  He can.

And I can stay here, as long as he is in the boat with me, healing diseases and ruling in my heart.

One day, he’ll judge us all with complete fairness.  He’ll take many humbled, trusting brothers and sisters to be with him in glory.  The wicked, unrepentant, godless and unbelieving will spend eternity without him.

He has promised that the lack of justice, legal and social, won’t last long.

See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Isaiah 32:1‭-‬2

He is the shelter from the storm and the stream of water in a dry land. He will do it. He is faithful. I can stay with him as my king. I can live with him and face my all my powerful enemies and help my powerless friends to trust and follow him.

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Broken (an advent lament) updated

Our A&E groans like a gangrenous laugh,
satisfaction now far from both patients and staff.

An NHS ward makes up the next bed,
as suffering souls become targets instead.

Consultants are drawn by satisfaction and pay, 
and the mind stretching challenge of curing Miss Hay.

Our nurses demob and chase agency stash,
a fraction of trouble for double the cash.

The budget expands with nowhere to turn,
As government cuts continue to burn.

The system is broken, the money is tight,
people are stressed, just turn off the light.



Our schools are no better, it has to be said,
results are what count if you want to stay Head.

The government calls for results to improve,
our children need grades if the country’s to move.

So Ofsted investigates every small crack,
and anyone lagging will soon face the sack.

The teachers are stressed and seek to implore,
our children to progress, just a few stages more.

Our children are pawns in political chess,
their results are required to keep voters impressed.

But the voters have children who need to see CAMHS,
They are under the pressure of endless exams.

So which will break first? The schools or the kids?
Something must change as our lives hit the skids.



Our debt grows each day by millions of pounds,
It’s 1.8 trillion and we’re still losing ground.

Our economy falters and refuses to grow,
we’re told to work harder with nothing to show.

The deficit shrinks, but not by enough,
and one more recession will finish it off.

The state will default or something much worse,
the banks will foreclose on our poor public purse.

Then what shall we do, with no money to pay,
for our schools and our hospitals on that very dark day?



Our lawmakers tinker with national policy,
unfettered by norms not matching their honesty.

The economy’s god, and has to be served,
adopt monetary law or face hardship deserved.

Competition is fierce and all must comply,
from banker to bin man to sly private eye.

And cameras stare into all open space,
There’s nowhere to hide from their all seeing gaze.

The state becomes nanny, policeman and judge,
with laws to control all those who won’t budge.

Dare anyone protest about all of this pain?
Any who differ face Twitter campaigns.

It’s an animal farm behind this ol’ barn door,
how did we all drift to Orwellian ‘4?



Our housing costs spiral up out of control,
As landlords benefit from those on the dole.

The rich quickly swoon at the value of property,
as the gap in our wealth lands millions in poverty.

It’s location, location, location, they say,
undesirable places soon urban decay.

The rich separate and the poor must then cluster,
As the sad urban landscape loses its lustre.

The people who gather in middle class cliques,
have no real idea about life on our streets.

Grandparents swim in the wealth they have gained,
Whilst grandchildren muse about their future sustained.



The cool Western nations suppose order’s a given,
human nature, they say, is the root of true livin’.

We pity poor countries where corruption is rife,
we can’t fathom out their bent way of life.

“British values” are best and they need to be taught,
or the nations which move here will bring us to naught.

Society believes that we Brits know what’s best,
Rule of law and good justice will make you all blessed.

But to live by which laws? And who did create,
the sad way of life which now we all hate?

These laws did not grow, as if from the soil,
But we must live in Great Britain, in a way not to spoil.



The threat from abroad is now threat from within,
an evil idea gains a following thin.

But then in our streets, and across many lands,
this trickle of followers slowly expands.

Their message is clear, their methods intense,
submit to our way or lose your defence.

We rely on our spies and then on the Met,
as GCHQ trawls the vast internet.

But these systems are creaking, there’s barely a plan,
our intelligence systems are dependent on man.

Our confidence wanes as we wake from the dream,
this world is in melt down, or so it would seem.

 

The United Kingdom has been rent asunder
By a Brexit debate which continues to thunder

In corridors powerful still held in check
By democratically fierce public debate

Our proud sovereign nation gave up the goose
As EU structures tightened the noose

The historical voice of the once great Great Britain
Now left like a sad and whimpering kitten

We beg and we plead as deal breakers rise
And the threat of collapse reaches the skies

So what will result from the daft referendum
A poor vassal state or complete isolation?

We just need to wait as the future unravels
And poor UK folk find new directions of travel

 


And where is the church in all of this mess,
The body of Christ, who came down to bless.

Her life is now hidden, tucked safely away,
by media moguls on vast corporate pay.

But the church has gone quiet, embarrassed to speak
the words of our Saviour, who honours the meek.

The voice of the prophets becomes a mere mumble,
as the servants of Christ continue to stumble.

Through internal wars, designed to divide,
the house of Jehovah, the Lord’s precious bride.

And so as predicted, the branch of Christ withers
The faithless are blown like snow in a blizzard.

The church has lost heart and sight of her Lord,
Congregations now age whilst the young are dead bored.

There needs to be change, a new way and direction,
The work of the Spirit, complete reformation.



The system is broken, and so then are we,
we collectively groan whilst longing to flee.

But to what shall we run and to where shall we go?
We can’t close Great Britain and move the whole show.

There’s one thing to alter, our god we must change.
Out with the targets and cold stock exchange.

We must usher in God, three persons in one,
Eternally loving, the bright morning Sun.

Creation gives value and true dignity,
To each human being, made by bless’d Trinity.

Our fall is complete, as we each went astray,
vast temples of Mammon trade on our Lord’s day.

What we desp’ratly need is a dose of real grace,
our sins washed away as to God we must face.

His laws they do bless and by wisdom he guides,
our burdens he carries, he heals our divides.



God refused to stay distant but came down instead,
to be born with his creatures in a poor cattle shed.

His words bring us life and his light he does shine,
in pits of our darkness, he says “you are mine.”

From the pain of the cross he calls “it is done!”
As God our great Father gave us his Son.

Christ’s life and his death were true sacrifice,
and he turns on it’s head, our fools’ paradise.

As our life finds meaning in the love of the Lord,
our reason for living now strikes a new chord.

God’s kingdom of love is a kingdom of peace,
our rest is then found and our battles will cease.



And so goals need to change from the bank to the Lord,
our desire is to please him, no longer to hoard.

The Lord is not stupid, he’s no crazy fool,
he let’s us chase others, till we go through his school.

His lessons are hard, his love can be tough,
we go our own way till we cry “that’s enough!”

“Have mercy on us, please turn the way back,
we were fools to chase targets, as one thing we lack.”

“We lack a real sense of what life is for,
the stress and the chaos shout, there has to be more!”

So when we will turn from the cruel god “economy”,
who drives us like slaves through lies of autonomy?

Let’s abandon this god, and his ways which bring strife,
and collectively turn to the God who brings life.

To lose our life now, in the King’s saving grace,
is to find our real self in the Lord’s resting place.



by Neil Robbie

(First published December 2015. Updated to include comment on Brexit and the state of the Western church)

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The Secular Lord’s Prayer

The Secular Lord’s Prayer

There’s no Father in heaven
No heavenly place
No king to respect
Just the vast human race.
What I own I deserve
I’ve no need for redress
But blame other people
When they make a mess.
I yield to temptation
I’m uncertain of evil
For mine is the kingdom
The power and the glory
Until I die.
Amen

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If my disciples stay quiet, the stones will cry out.

 ‘I tell you,’  Jesus replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ (Luke 19:40)

I have often been left wondering what this little phrase might mean.

It clearly means that the whole of creation, even rocks and stones, cry out that Jesus is King.  But what kind of king?

The phrase “the stones will cry out” is a prophetic phrase given to us by God through the prophet Habakkuk and it links Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem, his clearing of the temple of money lenders and his death.

Habakkuk 2:9-14

Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
    setting his nest on high
    to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
    shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
    and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 ‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
    and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
    that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire,
    that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 2 is a warning of judgement against people and cities which are built on unjust money and the abuse of power. When greed and injustice multiply, the stones of the houses in the city cry out to God’s king for justice.  When we see war torn cities in Syria, the buildings lying in heaps of rubble, those stones cry out to God’s king for justice. 

And we are left without doubt that this is what Jesus meant when he said the “stones will cry out”. Jesus approaches Jerusalem and laments, he weeps over the city (Luke 19:41). He weeps because judgement is on it’s way and the people could not see it coming. God’s house of prayer had become a den of robbers. Temple workers took money from the poor to keep the religious show on the road. The temple had become a kind of religious shopping centre it was never intended to be.  Jerusalem was going to fall, not one stone would be left on another (Luke 19:44), and those stones would cry out. Jesus could see it coming and he wept.  His city, God’s Holy city, was meant to be a place of generosity and justice. But it had become a place of unjust gain and bloodshed.

But the bloodshed in the city becomes God’s means of salvation for the ones to whom woe is coming.  Jesus sheds his blood to remove the woe.

Jesus is the king who builds a city by shedding his own blood, not the blood of others.
Jesus is the king who lays down his life for the good of others, not by corrupt or selfish practices.
Jesus is the king who gives generously, even giving his life, not by unjust gain.

This is how Jesus came to rule. And he rules by changing our hearts as people see what he did by dying for our sins.

Jesus did not come to rule for us, he came to rule in us.
Jesus is not the king we want, but the king we need.

Do we weep when we see Jesus on the cross?
Do we weep for our sins which held him there?
Do we weep with joy when we know we escape the woe of judgement, because of him?
Do we turn from unjust gain and bloodshed?
Do we shout the praise of Jesus, even when powerful people tell us to be quiet?
Or will the stones of our city cry out?

 

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May they be one as you, Father, and I are one: overcoming segregation in the church

God is using the changes in our parish to make us read the scriptures from a fresh perspective.  In the space of ten or fifteen years, people from all over the world have moved into our small, once settled community.  We are being made to ask what being “one” as a church looks like and we are beginning to see some answers in John’s gospel.

My prayer is…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one (John 17:22).

If we are to be one as the Father and Son are one, then we need to know some of the ways that the Father and Son are one. So far, there are four ways I have found in John’s gospel.

  1.  God the Father and God the Son are the same but different
  2.  God the Father and God the Son know each other perfectly
  3.  God the Father and God the Son love each other
  4.  God the Father and God the Son bring glory to each other

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When Jesus saw their faith. The healing of the paralytic, a physical expression of true faith.

In Mark’s gospel, physical healings and miracles, done by Jesus, parallel a spiritual reality in his followers.  For example, Jesus healed the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8) who could only partially see to begin with, and this parallels Peter’s growing but partial understanding of who the Christ is.  In chapter 10, the healing of blind Bartimaeus, comes between Jesus’ teaching on his coming to serve, by giving his life as a ransom for many, and his entrance into Jerusalem as King. Those with eyes could see.

I believe that a similar physical parallel exists in Mark 2, perfectly illustrating the nature of true faith.

As the four men lowered their paralysed friend from the roof, we are told “When Jesus saw their faith.”  The physical reality of this situation reveals a spiritual parallel.

First, the men were drawn to Jesus and their faith did not let obstacles get in their way of coming to him.  There was a packed room, an impenetrable crowd and the pressure of social etiquette (you don’t dig holes in the roof of other peoples’ homes) which stood in the way of the men, but none of those obstacles stopped them coming to Christ. There is an irresistible pull, draw, attraction when Christ is revealed to us and no obstacles can get in the way of our being drawn to him when true faith appears.

Second, the paralysed man dangled helplessly from the roof. His resting in the mat on which he was carried, secured by ropes and held by his friends, showed something physical about the nature of faith. He was helpless, paralysed.  He depended on his mat, the ropes and his friends.  We come to Christ as those who are helpless. We are spiritually paralysed by our sin, fear, anxiety, past failures, anger, resentment, self pity, pride, the list goes on.  True faith rests in Christ.  True faith depends on him.  He has an unbreakable hold of the rope, which stops us plunging into the fires of hell, and he will never let it/us go.

Third, true faith in Christ results in the forgiveness of sin, by faith alone, not by works.  “When Jesus saw their faith, he said “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  The paralysed man is like the man on the cross. He is unable to do any good works.  The paralysed man rests in his mat, unable to do anything except trust.

Fourth, true faith is like a jigsaw puzzle with no edge pieces.  The paralysed man came to Christ for healing he left with the forgiveness of sin and healing.  Christ added forgiveness of sin, like an extra puzzle piece.  When we come to Christ, we come with limited knowledge.  As our knowledge grows, true faith grows too. Christ adds piece after piece of the puzzle.  To healing and forgiveness, are added, in different orders for each of us, true knowledge of eternal life, adoption, redemption, sanctification, imputed righteousness, purity, love, holiness and so on (see 25 benefits of faith union with Christ and the 12 rare privileges of the children of God).  I have found that as the puzzle expands, the pieces get smaller, more nuanced, and just as I believe the puzzle is about to be completed, more pieces appear.  The paralysis of my fears, anxieties, past failures, sin, anger and so on find their corresponding and healing truth in Christ.

When Christ brings that healing, then I can go out with joy, giving him the glory.

 

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Advent according to Revelation chapter 6

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained10 They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer [Revelation chapter 6:9-11]

Christians in the West have lived in a bubble of privilege for several decades. No war, no famine, no deadly pestilence, no persecution. Waiting for Christ has been relatively easy for most western believers.  Much more “Merry Christmas” than not.

But this season has been exceptional in church history.  The normal experience of Christian believers down the ages has been to feel the weight of the four horsemen of Revelation 6; conquest by deception; war, economic imbalance and death, as God judges the earth for slaying his Son and rejecting his good and loving rule.  It is more normal for believers to cry with the martyrs “how long, Sovereign Lord?”

We watched two videos at church today to help us wait during advent according to Revelation 6.  Pastor Suta waits on the Lord as does Hannalie.  Their waiting is different but their commitment to Christ and their faithfulness to him in mission is not.

 

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