Tag Archives: Trust


How many times did David kill Goliath?

There’s a curious double killing in 1 Samuel 17:50-51.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.  51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

1 Samuel 17:50-51

At first this looks like clumsy editing (the ignorant refactor blunders again, in his obsessive need to keep sources he wrecks the narrative flow, once again – fortunately Altar and others have taught us to credit the reactor with a little more sense).

Instead, the careful reader is faced with a question – why did Goliath get killed twice?  Surely once is enough.  

There are a few theories.  The first is that the blow from the stone merely stunned Goliath, the second blow was the one that really killed him.  That seems to be the sense of verse 49.  The the first blow caused him to fall.  But verse 50 seems to stop us going down this route.  It’s there to say “no, that one stone was enough; that was all he needed to prevail, and by the way he didn’t need a sword.”  There is a whole anti-sword thing going on in this chapter – it’s most prominent in verse 38, where David refuses Saul’s sword.  The whole point of the chapter is that the world of armies, and kingly posturing, and armour isn’t going to work for Israel.  She’s already tried this with Saul and it’s not been going well.  If Israel wants to play the human power game, the game of militarism and weapon acquisition then it’s going to fail.  It will fail because it will always meet a Goliath, and it will fail because an over-reliance on technology creates an army of cowards, who don’t know how to trust in God because all they know is the power of technology.  There is a quote from a French General which I can’t source who I am sure said of the Americans during the Bosnian war (when the Americans could kill from a distance through their technology) “what kind of soldiers are these who no longer look upon the eyes of their enemy” (similar points are made here).

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The idea of “enough” is strongly linked to the idea of “vulnerability” and scarcity



We have to have a deep sense of

–          I am enough (worthiness versus shame)

–          I’ve had enough (boundaries, versus one-uping and comparison)

–          Showing up, taking risks and letting myself being seen is enough (engagement versus disengagement)


To protect ourselves against these forms of vulnerability, we adopt three common strategies:

–          Foreboding joy – the paradoxical dread which clamps down on joy

–          Perfectionism – believing that doing everything perfectly means that we will never feel shame

–          Numbing- the embrace of whatever deadens the discomfort or pain.

(page 116-117)

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The Celtic Heart

Go on your way

Key Words Travel Discipleship Evil Devil
Source The Celtic Heart
Author Robson, Pat
Page 104
Quote From St. Anthony

“Go on your way trusting in God and making the demons look silly.”

Heaven is big and small

Key Words Heaven
Source The Celtic Heart
Author Robson, Pat
Page 85
Quote From the Celtic Psalter, attributed to Oengus the Caldee, on heaven:

“It is huge, ten times the size of earth, so that every creature ever born can find a place.

It is small, no bigger than a village, where all are friends, and none is a stranger.”

How Long? Not Long


Truth crushed to earth will rise again.


How long?  Not Long!  Because no life can live forever.


How long?  Not long! Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.  Yet that scaffold sways the future and behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch over his own.


How long?  Not Long!  Because the arc of the mortal universe is long but bends towards justice.  (Martin Luther King Jr, July 29th)


Those with whom Jesus identifies himself are regarded by society as misfits.  And yet Jesus is that person who is hungry; Jesus is that woman who is confused and naked.  Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if we all discovered that?  The face of the world would be changed.  We would then no longer want to compete in going up the ladder to meet God in the light, in the sun and in beauty, to be honoured because of our theological knowledge.  Or if we did want knowledge, it would be because we believe that our knowledge and theology are important only so long as they are used to serve and honour the poor.  (from August 3rd, Jean Vanier)

Isidore The Farmer

From May 10th –

In March 1622, Rome surprised many people by recognising Isidore as a saint.  He founded no order, nor did he write a single book.  He was a simple farmworker who spent his life tilling the land, mostly for the same wealthy landowner.  With his wife, Maria, he bore a son who died in childhood.  Isidore knew the hardship, toil and sorrow that are very familiar to many.  He went to worship daily and prayed continuously in the fields, displaying the simple and profound faith shared by campesinos around the globe.  It was said that angels could be seen assisting Isidore in the fields as he ploughed.  Though he had very little wealth, he became known for generosity and hospitality, especially to the stranger or the lonely.  He died on May 15, 1130.

Whoever Lives Beside The Lord

Four Moves

This ancient song, on of the psalms,  has always been one of my favourites.

It has around it four moves:

  1. The Questions
  2. The Shadow
  3. The Names
  4. The Endorsement

The Questions

The first move is before the psalm happens.

It is a series of intense questions that have been given to God in the previous two psalms.

In recent weeks I have spoken to you about a period of intense questioning that I have experienced in my faith.  The most recent a few months ago. And yet even when I was getting into that time of questions, part of my was anxious, but another part of me, was excited.

Because it is always in questions that we encounter deep faith.

If you have ever meet anyone who has great depth in their faith, there will inevitably be a period of deep questioning going on there.

Marvin Jacobs who was with us a couple of weeks ago

And who read for us in that most magnificent way, and who was just such a joy to have with us

Was back with us in later in the afternoon, and he spoke to us of the his life and of his youngest son Daniel, who has the most profound autism.

And he said to us that a moment of revelation came when Daniel was four year old, he said, that is when we said “He is a blessing for us.”  “He is blessing”

Perhaps when Daniel was a small baby, “He is blessing to us”

Perhaps when Daniel was one and there were no obvious symptoms

Perhaps through some strained thoughts when Daniel was two, and a few niggling questions, the statement is harder to say

Perhaps when Daniel is three and it is so difficult to live and to plan and to communicate with this boy, the questions “Why us?  What is happening here?  Is this our fault here?  Is this always going to be like this?”

But one day, when Daniel is four, after many many questions

The realisation, not new, but said with new strength, “Daniel is a blessing to us.”

After the questions.

The first move are the questions.  Listen to these words from Psalm 89”

“How long O Lord?  Will you hide yourself forever?

How long will your wrath burn like fire?”

“Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,

Which by your faithfulness you swore to David?”

Psalm 90

“Turn O Lord, How long?

Have compassion on your servants

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love

So that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us.”

Do you hear the agony

The agony of the parent with the autistic child, wondering what future can be enjoyed here

The agony of the person recovering in hospital from the operation that hasn’t gone according to plan

The man who discovers within himself that she is gay, and must wonder how she must reveal that most intimate of things about herself, and what kind of life she is called to live?

The child who watches their mother come in drunk again, and desperately wants them to stop

The child who has been abused by a leader in the Church

The child who prays desperately for their Mum and Dad to stay together, and then one day Dad is packing the car, and he holds on to him “Don’t leave, don’t go, I’ll do anything, please just stay”.  And after Dad has cast him off, drives off.

Its those questions, those sorts of questions that are your lead in to Psalm 91.

The Shadow

The next move is a one liner.

“Whoever lives in the shelter of Elyon, in the shadow of Shaddai he will stay.”

Now some translations miss this, but the tense at the start is different from the tense at the beginning here.

The one who lives in the shelter of Elyon, in the shadow of the Shaddai, he will stay.

There is a sense that one move, living in the shelter of Elyon

Will cause the second thing to happen

In the shadow of Shaddai he will stay.”

This is the move.

There is a move to dwell in the shelter of Elyon

And this makes things different

Because the shadow of Shaddai will hover over that one.

You who have come to dwell in the shelter of the Elyon

There is a kind of checking in going on here,

And then there is a kind of deal,

Okay, you have checked in.

Then there will be a shadow over you.

And this is such a key move.

Everything is different because of this move.  He will stay in the shadow.

It is not that the person who checks into the hotel Elyon will have an easy life

Everybody knows this

But it will be different from the one who does not check into the hotel

No shadow for them.

You are wondering about Elyon, and Shaddai

They are ancient words for God

Elyon is the very highest that can be imagined

Shaddai means the all powerful one.

Life is different now.

It is somehow guarded



Gripped onto

Will have some kind of meaning

Will be allowed to count

Not that the life will avoid suffering, but that nothing will be wasted

There is something fundamentally different about the kind of life where that checking in has occurred.

This week I was with someone who had been in an operation, in a lot of pain, a drip being held all the time.  And she held my hand, and said, God is with me.

She checked in.  Still the drip.  Still the uncertain future, but something different

The shadow of Shaddai.

Third Move – The Names

The third move is this

It is a kind of naming of God, of all that God is

The names for God are in verse 2



My God

In whom I trust

A shield and a buckler

God is our buckler

He does our buckles for us

I don’t know what that means.

And then this ability to name the calamities

This is a dangerous world that the people live in here.

The snare of the fowler

Deadly pestilence

The terror of night

The arrows of day time

Or the pestilence that stalks in darkness

Or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

You know that thing that you get in Harry Potter, when in the first book no one can say the name of Voldermort

But her the psalmist just names them

Yes there is an arrow that flies during the day time

Yes there is a pestilence that stalks at night time

–        I was reading this week of the great plague that hit London in 1665, and what they used to do, the people, if there was plague found in the house, then the house would be boarded up, they would not be allowed out. What kind of fear must that be, and yet the psalmist says

–        Do this accounting – refuge, fortress, the one under whose wings you are

–        And you will learn not to fear this stuff – the pestilence at night, the destruction of noonday.

I realise that too often I live with the second reality, the arrow at noonday, the plague at night, the pestilence at noonday.  And you move from one to another

You have just left the snare of the fowler, the terror of night

You have just escaped the terror of night-time, and then oh, no the arrow of daytime

You have just the arrow of daytime, oh not the pestilence that stalks in darkness

Oh I have just escaped that stalks in darkness, Oh no the destruction of noon-day

But other words, – refuge, fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

Now that does not make things easy.

About fifteen years ago I was in a group called the Wild Goose Worship Group, one of our number had just written that hymn that we learned at the start and are going to sing at the end, “Whoever lives beside the Lord” – a setting of Psalm 91.

And we came to the verse that says “A thousand may fall at your side, thousands more fall close at hand”

And one of our number said, “I cannot sing this”.  “I think particularly of all that my Mum is going through at the moment, and she is a woman of faith, and there are certainly not a thousand falling at her side, whilst she is left standing.”  She might have added, it feels the other way, a thousand still standing, but its me that keeps getting it here.

So I wrote to her this week, and said, “What do you think?  Do you still think this?”

I hoped she say something reassuring like, “Well things turned out well for my Mum in the end, its about taking a long view”.  But she didn’t.  Instead she said, a few things:

“I really wonder if these are triumphal words of assurance, or humble words to each other in the middle of the rubbish – she didn’t use the word “rubbish”- The words of the South African song “Bambalela” which means never give up, or more literally “hold on” come to mind, sung in the battle against apartheid or in the battle against AIDS.

On reading the news it sometimes feels the powerful are more protected than the poor… the floods in Pakistan, folk having lost family in massacres in Eastern Europe a decade or so ago.  I wonder what these words would feel like for them?

She says of these words

I’d be worried not to make them feel trite or empty or make them feel like a quick fix, unreal or irrelevant.– I am reminded that in the New Testament, the devil quotes Psalm 91, and it is in this kind of way.

Personally I often feel battered about by life and this definitely affects one sense of identity, self and personhood, Especially when there is emotional turmoil (Damned hormones) maybe it is only when you look back in hindsight that you can know if you have remained “whole” or emerged relatively unscathed from the big battles of life.  If you ever stop fighting them that is, This stuff bends your mind does it not???”

The Fourth Move – The Endorsement

The fourth move is the move of God

It is the one of God owning us

It is so important to catch a whisper of God saying this.

When Jesus is baptised, he hears the voice “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”

You have to get used to the idea that God loves

If you God had a wallet, someone once said, he would keep a photo of you in it.

This is the voice of God for us:

“Those who love me, I will deliver I will protect them, those who know my name

“When they call to me I will answer them

I will be with them in trouble

I will rescue them and honour them

With long life I will satisfy them

And show them my salvation.

The challenge of all of life is in a sense to learn to live that truth

It is not to learn the explanations for everything that is

It is to learn to live from that truth ““Those who love me, I will deliver.”

So this morning:

  1. The questions
  2. The Shadow
  3. The Names Elyon, Shaddai, Fortress, Refuge
  4. The Endorsement

Two Stories

There are many stories of triumphant martyrs in the Church, there is even a fancy word for such a story, it is called a hagiography. But I am always struck by a story that Ian Fraser tells, a professor of theology who was a minister in Fife after the war, and then after travelled the world in different parts of the world Church.

Ian Fraser once travelled to the Philippines, during the reign of Ferdinand Marcos.  And he wrote of the regime, critical of its human rights records, something especially important since his regime was at that time being feted by Ronald Reagan.

Then in 1982, upon his retirement, he went back.  He arrived at the airport in the Philippines.  Extra care was being taken to vet those entering the Philippines at that time.  There was a queue at security.  When it was Ian’s turn, he handed over his passport.  As the guard was checking Ian Fraser slipped round the side, to see what was going on.  The guard reached for a black book, names of undesirables, looked up the letter F, and there was Ian Fraser’s name in all its glory.

Ian Fraser, slipped round to the front of the guard, the guard handed him the passport, his face cleared, and waved him and his wife Margaret, back through.

It was only on return to Britain that Ian told Margaret what had happened.  In the black book, under the letter F, it said “Rev. Dr. Ian M Fraser, MA, BD, PhD, Dean and Head of the Department of Mission, Selley Oak Colleges, Birmingham.”  On his passport it said Ian M Fraser, Educationalist, Gargunnock.”

And that is a story of God’s protection, the type that we might tell often, and those are great stories, and they are true.  But there is another kind of true story that must be told alongside the story of Passport control, and it is a story that happened to Ian Fraser, later on in that trip to the Philippines.

However later on that trip he met a woman called Mrs Trining Herrera, President of the Tondo community of shanty town dwellers on the foreshore of Manila, who was reduced by torture to a state which different witnesses described as “vegetable”, or “animal”.

She showed Ian the palms of her hands, where the electrodes had been attached, they were like nail marks.  It was not only to her hands that the electrode had been attached.  Her nervous system had been severely assaulted.

A friend of Ian, Ed De La Torre, had managed to find her in a jail, and visit her.  She was in this unresponsive state.  He suspected that she had named colleagues under torture, or was worried that she had unwittingly in the nightmare world into which she had been thrown.  So he spent the whole time speaking about God’s forgiveness with her, that comes first he kept insisting, a bit like that endorsement at the end of the psalm.  If you have something to repent of, you can do that later, but God’s love and forgiveness come out to meet and hold you where you are now.  He had to go away, without any sign that those words had penetrated her subconscious.

Ian Fraser later went to see Trining Herrera, she was not telling her story again to people, so her deputy told her story instead.  But she got impatient with the way it was being told, so she started to talk to Ian.  He asked her “Had God remained real to you in it all?”

“Nothing remained real in that nightmare world.”  No relationships of any kind mattered.  She completely lost her grip on God.  But just once or twice there came a break in the clouds.  Then she knew God was reaching down and holding her.  Even though that realisation was again lost in the world of unreality, which engulfed her, she came through convinced of this saving thing, God kept a grip on her.

There are the questions

There is the shadow

There are the names

And there is the endorsement.

We are followers of Jesus, and this calls us to lose much, as he lose everything.  Lose everything.

We may lose our credit rating

We may lose our jobs

We may lose our physical health

We may lose our mental health

We may lose our pep, our vim, our bounce, our zest, our va-va-voom, our je ne sais quoi,

We may our fondest hopes

We may lose our families

We may even lose, as Jesus did when he cried “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

What we think is our faith.

But our hope as the Easter people, the baptism people of God’s good news,

Is that in it all

God does, God does still keep us

And show us our salvation.


Inscribing The Text

The jazz theme of scripture

Key Words Gospel Yearning Confidence
Source Inscribing the text
Author Brueggemann, Walter
Page 165
Quote Brueggemann considers the relentless theme of the text of scripture, based on Miriam’s song about the riders being thrown into the sea.

His metaphor for all of this is jazz, about which he knows three things
1. Jazz arises among the disadvantaged who cannot afford to have things settled
2. Jazz consists in a theme which keeps on recurring
3. That theme is played out with endless variations, enormous freedom, but under discipline to the core theme, to which reference is endlessly made, return to which always matters decisively

A memorable line about the domestication of God’s people
– We nickel and dime
– We settle for committees
– We pester to balance races
– We doubt, and in doubt grow weary and in weariness become fearful and anxious and ambitious

If you think you are smart enough to have it your own way – consider your call
If you think you know how to muscle your way ahead of all the others – consider your call
If you think you have the privilege because you come from somewhere special – consider your call

References Sing to the Lord (Exodus 15:21)
The Lord kills and brings to life (1 Samuel 2:6-8)
By you I can crush a troop (2 Samuel 22:29-31)
The Lord will save me (Isaiah 38:19-20)
He will tread our iniquities (Micah 7:19-20)
Though the fig tree

Bragging about the city

Key Words Steadfast City Love Justice Righteousness Wisdom Power Might Wealth
Source Inscribing the text
Author Brueggemann, Walter
Page 189
Quote Looks the bragging rights of a city, and how traditional bragging (particulary with Solomon) is in wisdom, might and wealth, but Jeremiah causes us to look at a different triad: steadfast love, justice and righteousness.

Closes with echoes of Jeremiah in Paul in 1 Corinthians 1

References Boasting in Zion (Psalms 48:12-14)
The boasts of Solomon (1 Kings 4)
Boasting in the right things (Jeremiah 9:24)
Boasting in the right things (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

For the rest of your life

1st June 2010

Great this from Ortberg.  A good illustration at the start, about the type A driven personality, discovered by the upholsterer in a cardiologist’s surgery noticing the way that the sides of the chair were picked away, people were literally living on the edge of their seats.  Talks about the way that we are always in a hurry.

Nice work on the way that sheep live, and the way that they ruminate. “Sheep do not just take care of themselves. They require more
attention and meticulous care than any other class of livestock because sheep in our day have gone a little crazy.” Lots of great exegesis of sheep.

Also on the need to ruthlessly elimate hurry from your life, and to trust like sheep who ruminate well when they know they are being looked after by a good shepherd.

What Do I Do With My Doubts?

Some of the things that make me question my faith is the Church.  He once thought about writing a book called “How my faith survived the Church.”  Someone responded to this by suggesting writing a book about Yancey “How the Church survived your faith.”

There has been a history of lies that the Church has told, and Yancey grew up in a Church that told him lies: that people of colour were inferior, and they misrepresented the nature of God.

There is a special place in God’s heart for people who didn’t get it: Jacob, Job, Thomas.

6 mins Yancey went to a Christian college where he didn’t fit in, and when he speaks in Christian colleges he tries to address the 10% who don’t fit in.

8 mins There is not a single argument against God, from the philosophers – Voltaire, Hume, Bernard Shaw, which is not the scriptures.  It impresses me about God, that he lets these things into the scriptures.  God not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use against him in sacred scripture.

9mins 50 Sometimes faith gets harder rather than easier.  Most Christians, when they have been at it long enough, they go through this phase when they wonder if it is true.

Things learned about doubt:

          sometimes the Christian life gets harder than easier.  Your prayers are more likely to be answered if you have been a Christian for 3 months rather than 3 years.

          There is a spiritual principle, which isn’t in the Bible, but which Yancey believes, and it goes like this “God is nicer to newcomers.” (10’26”)

A friend did a research on the saints, and every one of them seemed to find it harder, the longer that they were at it.

Look at the experience of Teresa, who privately hadn’t felt God’s presence in decades.

Takes an illustration from Frank Schaeffer, who talks about some military missions which need the troops to undercover for months, without any resupply or contact with head quarters.

John Claypole, who had a daughter who died of Leukaemia, and who wrote about Isaiah 40:31, which talks about rising up on wings, running, and then walking.  Claypole used to think that the order in this was wrong, but then realised that this is how things are in faith, that we begin by rising, and end up walking.

Pilgrims Progress is a good illustration of the Christian life.  Christian always goes for the bad fork in the road, and Christian faith is about falling down, we all fall down, and it is about learning to get back up.

There is an important thing though, that we need “stick-to-it-ness”

Talk to the oldest person you know, and ask them the question “What is the most meaningful time in their life.”  They will probably mention a time of hardship and of struggle.

Londoners talk about the most important time in their life, blitz.  These are the times that give meaning.  Marriages fall apart when people fall apart too soon.

Ways to cope with doubt:

1. 21 mins Keep Jesus at the centre.

Talks about reading a very small Oxford English Dictionary and having to read it through a magnifying glass.  You only can read it if you keep a small area focussed in the middle of the lens.  You have to keep Jesus focussed, and at the middle of the lens.

How did Jesus deal with pain – he cried, he moves to heal them

Look at the answers to Jesus prayers:

          12 disciples, and look at who he got

          I pray that they may be one – 34,000 denominations in the world;

          Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

          Let this cup be taken away from me.

When we are flummoxed by our own unanswered prayers, we can take comfort from the fact that Jesus had the same experience

Bishop Ramsay “In God there is no unchristlikeness at all”

“If you want to know what God is like, then look at Jesus.”

You need to point that magnifying glass at Jesus.  If your magnifying glass is not pointing at Jesus, then you need to clean it up.

2. 27mins To find doubt companions.

The Church is often not too good at this – if you have doubts then you might be looked down upon.

The Church doesn’t seem to have nearly so much tolerance for doubters as God does.

Find someone who will reward you for your doubts.

Jesus was not resurrected as an American, he’s not a very good marketer.  He only appears to people that already believe in him.  He would be back on Pilates porch on the Monday morning, “Remember me.  I’m back”

Jesus only goes to people who already believe.

The experience of Thomas.  It is interesting that they do not keep Thomas out the room.  Church is a safe place for doubters.  They wouldn’t have let Thomas back in the room, if he had been part of the Church down the ages.  Church can sometimes be a safe place for those waiting for more light.

It is also interesting with Thomas, that the only time that he is addressed as God is when Thomas does this.

31 mins Acts as if it is true.

Behavioural therapy; AA – act like a soberperson.

Athletes the last thing I want to do is train, but I do it.

Augustine on time – To live in the present, sometimes you have to live in the past.

“Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light.”

Or look into the future, believe that there will be a future.

Talked about praying through a book of prayers, a book of the hours.

Talks about difference of experiencing grief if you loose a child – it still really hurts, but if you have a faith, there can be a hope that you will be a future.

Think about heaven, 1 Corinthians 15, if we don’t believe in the resurrection, then there is really no reason to be a Christian.

Unamono – had a deistic belief, that there would be no heaven, he met a peasant

“This God you believe in, has not heaven”, “No”,said Unamuno

“then what good is he” said the peasant.

If this life is all there is, then God is not the God of the Bible

He’s not a God of justice, not a God of fairness, because this world is not just, this world is not fair

This God justifying himself.

42 mins Ernest Gordon was a Scot, a naval officer who found himself sailing around Singapore in 1942.  This was not a good place to be in 1942 and he was captured by the Japanese.

Ernest Gordon was put into a prison camp, it turned out to be one of the worst prison camps that the Japanese had.

The Japanese were trying to build a railroad, so they could invade India,

And it meant building a railway through Thailand, and Burma, and meant going through this terrible swamp, which had these terrible diseases.

And so they flooded this swamp with prisoners, because it was dirty hard labour.

Ernest Gordon estimated that 80,000 men died in the building of that railway, 393 men per mile.

He was an officer, and was not meant to be used for manual labour, but they had not signed the Geneva convention, the Japanese, so he was made to work.  He caught malaria and dyptheria, and dyssentria.

The dyptheria was so bad that it burned away the back of his throat.  When he tried to eat rice it would come back up his nose, his legs were paralysed,  so they took him down to the death hut, where they lined up men who had only a few days to live, head to toe in this area.  Several hundred men were in the area, waiting to die.

At this time, something very strange happened in the camp.

The healthier soldiers and sailors went out to dig, and every day they would come back in to the camp, and they would counted back, and all the spades that they had used, they too would be counted back.

You did not want an unaccounted shovel in a prison camp.

On this day, there were only nine shovels, when there should have 10 shovels.

The officer started shouting at the men, but the men said nothing.

If you don’t tell me who stole this shovel, I will kill everyone of you.

He cocked his rifle and pointed it the first man in the line.  At this, another officer stepped forward and said “it was me who stole the shovel.”  At this the guard went berserk and took his rifle butt and hit him with the butt, and he stabbed him with his bayonet, and kicked him, long after he had died.

Then the men went back to the camp, and they found the missing shovel.  This officer hadn’t taken the shovel at all, he had given his life to safe that first man, and possibly more of them.

That night the men were talking and one of the soldiers said, “I remember this verse from Sunday School, greater love have no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

And the Japanese have won, because we have become like animals.  If there is a gristly piece of meat floating in the soup, then we all fight to take it,  so that you don’t get it.  It’s beast against beast.  We’re not like that, we can’t let them win.  We have got to change.

So they said, “There’s a chap here who has studied philosophy at Cambridge University, perhaps we should appoint him chaplain.  What’s his name?”

“It’s Ernest Gordon”

“Oh, I’m sorry he’s already in the death hut.”

So they went down, and they found Ernest Gordon in the death hut, waiting to die, and they said to him “Is it true that you studied philosophy at Cambridge University”

“Well, yes.”

“Well we wondered if you would be our chaplain”

“Well, I’m not sure if I really believe in God.”

“Well, that’s okay but will you be our chaplain.”

So they took him out of the death hut, and they built a special bamboo hut for him, and a Methodist and a Catholic came each day, and they massaged his legs, and they found ways to force food down him, and they brought him back to health.

And in the meantime, as he is resurrected,  he starts reading the Bible from cover to cover, beginning at Genesis, and he becomes a believer.

And the first thing he does is he says “We’ve got to have a proper chapel”

So they build a chapel at the highest point at the swamp.

And they say we’ve got to have a proper burial for each man who dies, because when they die we just throw them in a pit.  And when they die, we must give them a proper burial, because it has to be made known that when they leave they create a hole in this place, they leave a hole in the universe, they matter.

And as he started doing these things, the whole moral of the camp changed.

This was in the 1940s (when people did these things at school) and they discovered that there was a knowledge of nine different languages amongst the men in the camp: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, Russian, Spanish, French…

And they started this camp university, and the men would go out and work in the railway, and then the would come back and study.  And they would take classes.  At first the Japanese thought this was crazy, and they were alarmed by it, but they saw that the men were happier and better workers.

There was a soldier there who had served as the libriarian for the London Symphony Orchestra, and he had photographic memory, and he wrote out every note of every symphony by Beethoven and Schubert and most of Mozart, and they carved instruments out of bamboo and they had a prison orchestra and they started giving concerts and they had a theatre troop, and every one of these men said

“We hope that this is not all that there is.

“We hope that we do not spend the rest of our lives in this place which is like Dante’s inferno

“I hope that I can get back to the heather covered hills of Scotland

“I hope that I can get back to the parks of London

“I hope that that’s where I spend the rest of my life

But as long as I am here, I will act like a Scot, I will live like an Englishmen,

I will live out by the values of my world, even in this hellhole.

As it turned out, Ernest Gordon enjoyed being a chaplain, soon the allies came and liberated the camp.

The prisoners pled for the lives of the guards who had so brutalised them – don’t kill them, don’t murder them, treat them justly.

And Ernest Gordon came to America, he served there as chaplain until the year 2002 when he died.

This is a good image of the Church.  We are called to live in the present, to live in the future, to live on earth as it would in heaven.

God’s will will never be done in our lifetime, as it is in heaven.  But we are called to establish little pockets of the kingdom, even in the middle of a swamp, and to trust that one day we will be back in those places, in the park, on the hills.

50 mins When you boil it down, the only way to combat doubt is to learn to trust.

My wife and I do pretty well on co-ordinated time schedules.  She has a 5-10 minute range after the time which doesn’t count as being late.

There is always a time, that Philip is looking at his watch, and she is 10 minutes late then he does not worry.

If she is an hour late, Yancey’s response is not “What an irresponsible wife, she doesn’t care about me, I will never trust her again.”

Yancey knows that if she is an hour late, then there must be a good reason.  She will be a lot more upset about it than I am.  Yancey has learned to trust her.

It is important that we learn to have the image of God, in whom there is not unchristlikeness at all.

52 mins A man who stood up in Church and said, “I get so tired of all these people who say after a plane crash, I missed the flight and I was spared,”

What about the people who died?

Why do we always give God credit for the good things, and not the bad things?

But as we get to know God, we learn to do that more.

There are also power streams of evil, which oppose everything God stands for, he doesn’t smash them in unsubtle ways, but deals with them through people like us.

54 mins There is a saying from Jeremiah – there are places in the world which does not have rain, and has sun and heat.

“There is a bush planted by the desert soil, and only the bushes which have roots which go down way deep will survive the drought times.”

If you have a beautiful lush bush during good rains, it will look great.  But the next year it will shrivel it up.

But you will have bush which has roots which reach down to the water table, and it will survive during the drought.

Bill in Chicago went through a time of burn out.  I have nothing left to give.  I feel like a pump.  Everytime someone comes along they pump, and I have nothing left.  And he went to the spiritual director and he thought he was going to get some nice sympathy.

But the director, well Bill, you know what to do when a well goes dry don’t you, you dig deeper.

Talks about the well at his house that has been filtered through 640 feet of granite.

If the well goes deep enough, the bush flourish even during dry times.


Hypocrisy rattles me

KermodeMark Lawson has been interviewing Mark Kermode in the Guardian, and Kermode is saying more than usual about faith (although he doesn’t want to be drawn too far “I’m just a guy who likes the exorcist” he responds when asked about “God’s role in the world”).

I love what Kermode says about trust being fundamental, “I believe in trust above all things.” says the Exorcist’s most renowned fan.

For me, “trust” is the best translation of the Greek word (“pistis”) which is normally translated “faith”.  Talking about “trust” takes us away from faith being about ticking the right boxes and makes it more about an act of commitment.  This is true to the New Testament.  Jesus heals the man lowered through his roof when he sees the “trust” of his friends (not because they can recite the Nicene Creed), when the disciples panic on the stormbound boat he asks them “where is your trust?”.  When Paul heralds the new age in Romans 3 he proclaims “the righteousness of God through trust in Jesus Christ”.

Anyway, here is an excerpt with some closing words from the wonderful Dr. Kermode:

His faith, though, clearly does shape him as a film critic. As well as evincing a tendency to over-praise horror movies, he is also prone to underestimating movies about adultery, from which he will tend to emerge saying the silly idiots should just have their heads banged together and be told to go back to their spouses.

“Yes, I’m moralistic. I have a very small circle of close friends, who I’ve known for a very long time. And I’ve been married for a long time. And that’s how I like it. I am who I am because of who I’m married to. And – this is getting a bit philosophical – I believe in trust above all things. I believe in saying what you mean and doing what you say you mean. I’m sure that I am as guilty of hypocrisy as the next person, but hypocrisy rattles me.”