We Will Remember

He was a young man, still in the prime of life, strong, healthy, loved by his family and a wide circle of devoted friends. Although he was not married, as the eldest son, he had taken responsibility for helping his mother raise a family because his own father had died while he was still a teenager. Now he too was dying. As he bled and gasped for breath, he could see right into the eyes of the soldiers who had fatally wounded him. What goes through a dying man’s mind? Worries for his family? Concern for his friends? Thoughts about the purpose and meaning of his own life? Emotions towards the men who were killing him?

With the 11th November Remembrance events coming up soon, perhaps you thought this description was of one of  the fallen  from the 2 World Wars, or perhaps a  soldier who has been killed or maimed in the more recent conflicts in the Gulf and Afghanistan. It is good to remember with gratefulness those who have sacrificed their lives and their limbs for the freedom we enjoy in this country. It is good to offer comfort and support for family and friends who have been left behind. It is good to pray that wars and armed conflicts will cease and that there will be peace amongst all the nations on the earth. You are welcome to join us for our act of remembrance which starts at 10:30am in the Elizabeth Hall on Sunday 11th November, when we will do just that.

In fact when I wrote those opening words, I had in mind Jesus hanging on a cross. Jesus, who looked into the eyes of his executioners and said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. Jesus, who spoke to his best friend and his mother saying “Son behold your mother, mother behold your son”. Jesus, who as he breathed his last breath gasped “It is finished”. He said this not out of a sense of resignation, but out of the knowledge that in his death his whole life purpose was accomplished. Only hours before, he had instructed his friends to remember his death as the means by which we can receive forgiveness. This November 11th, as you recall the sacrifices made by British servicemen to preserve our present life, allow your thoughts to go back a further 2 thousand years and remember Christ who died so that you too can enjoy eternal life.

This blog post featured in the November 2012 edition of Hook Focus

Who is the message of the kingdom for?

That might seem a daft question, after all the answer is obvious – everyone! However, do we really believe that? Or do we have categories of people who we feel are beyond the gospel, people who are too hardened to respond to the grace of Christ? People we have given up on? What about people we might feel uncomfortable being with?

In Luke 14:12-24 Jesus told a parable to encourage us to believe that the gospel is for everyone who will hear it. He describes a great banquet, which a man throws for his invited guests. At the last minute the guests start making excuses and fail to turn up. The master is angry to be rejected in this way and sends his servants out into the streets to literally bring everyone they can find, the poor and crippled and blind and lame in to enjoy the feast which has been prepared. If his respectable friends won’t come, then he will fill the banquet with the outcasts of society.

I don’t think Jesus is saying we should give up on friends and family who have responded negatively to our efforts to share the good news of Jesus with them. Rather I think he is encouraging us to widen our circle and reach out to people who we might not naturally reach out to. The gospel is not only for people like us, or for people who like us, or even (dare I say it?) only people we like. The gospel really is for everyone! Will you rise to the challenge and pray for opportunities to share God’s love with anyone who will receive it? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone for the love of Jesus?

This blog post featured in the November 2012 edition of Lifelines