Aftermath

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We have all been shaken by the tragic events in Manchester, a few days ago. The nearer death gets to us – the more real it becomes. We seem still vaguely immune to the distant tragedies of other places in the world, where similar events occur weekly – remember this?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-39613313

The combination of the young age of the victims, the immediacy, the senseless damage done by one individual and the long-term effect on families and communities – all bring a huge emotional turmoil to all of us.

What can we do with all of this? How do we react? How do we process this mentally? How do we address our feelings?

Here are some of my humble suggestions:

  • we stay silent: social media is such a frustrating place at times like this. People went their hatred and scapegoat indiscriminately or parade simplistic naive solutions. Better to stop and follow Job’s action: ‘I put my hand over my mouth.’ (40:4)
  • we lament: we take the time to feel the sadness, share in the pain of loss and internally express the righteous anger against injustice like David did (Psalm 55:1-30): God, listen to my prayer and do not hide from my plea for help. Pay attention to me and answer me. I am restless and in turmoil with my complaint, because of the enemy’s words,[abecause of the pressure[b] of the wicked. For they bring down disaster on me and harass me in anger. 
  • we love – at times like this people use the ‘all religions are the same – they are the cause of trouble in the world’. This is the perfect time to ‘say and show’ that Christ-followers are about love (not a naive and condoning one but gracious love that doesn’t perpetuate hatred): Matthew 5:43-44 (CSB): 43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies[b] and pray for those who[c] persecute you.
  • we pray – we don’t broadcast boastfully about it, but we take our tearful grief to God and ask for His extraordinary comfort for those affected and for our empowering to be His messengers of hope, healing and forgiveness.
  • we reach – each action of senseless evil in our community is a silent commentary on our ineffective influence for transformation. The message of Christ can change broken lives, seduced by lies and deceit. We need to speak and show – as living adverts – about the transformation God wants to bring to in our hearts, homes and ‘hoods’. This is a picture of it: Galatians 5:22: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, and self-control.

Lord of all compassion
We pray for all of those caught up in the midst of tragedy or disaster.
For those who have lost life and those working to save life
For those who are worried for people they love
For those who will see their loved ones no longer
Lord Have Mercy.
For those in need of the peace that passes all understanding
For all who turn to you in the midst of turmoil
For those who cry out to you in fear and in love
Lord Have Mercy.
For those in confusion and those in despair
For those whose tears are yet to dry
For those in need of your unending love
Lord Have Mercy
Amen.

(Church of England Prayer)

Timely Reminder

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It’s ever so interesting how some special days become part of the celebrated church calendar and others not. Today, the Christian world celebrates Ascension Day – when we remember Jesus ascending into heaven. While, this day does not have the same popularity as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Good Friday, Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday – I feel it ought to be a cause for celebration.

Here are my reasons:

Acts 1:6-11 (NLT):
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

  • we received a gift: Jesus had finished his earthly ministry with a sense of unexpected turn-around.  The ever-changing trajectory seemed to head towards failure at Golgotha but became the final triumph at the empty grave. He became one of us – God who moved in our neighbourhood – loving to the uttermost and inviting us to embrace salvation and sanctification. All done!
  • we have a confidence: The Ascension marks Jesus’ return to the full place of authority at the right hand of the Father – and how we need that reassuring knowledge of His powerful divine involvement in our affairs. In a world that is breaking apart – He is still King. This is a timely truth and a comforting reassurance.
  • we have a calling: His final words to an emotionally fearful question about His return – was a call to mission. When the disciples looked inwardly, He showed them an outward-looking perspective. The vision was outrageously inclusive and epic in scale. It was an invitation to continue what He had started (enabled by His authority and empowering).

PS – Maybe it’s a bargain basement Christian holiday because most of the other ones have become some hijacked by our consumer culture and became a comfortable shadow of their former selves. Maybe even more reason to celebrate an authentic Christian feast.

Hail the day that sees him rise
(Charles Wesley)

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia!
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia!
enters now the highest heaven! Alleluia!

There for him high triumph waits; Alleluia!
lift your heads, eternal gates! Alleluia!
he hath conquered death and sin; Alleluia!
take the King of glory in! Alleluia!

Lo! the heaven its Lord receives, Alleluia!
yet he loves the earth he leaves; Alleluia!
though returning to his throne, Alleluia!
still he calls mankind his own. Alleluia!

See! he lifts his hands above; Alleluia!
See! he shows the prints of love: Alleluia!
Hark! his gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
blessings on his Church below. Alleluia!

Still for us he intercedes, Alleluia!
his prevailing death he pleads, Alleluia!
near himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
he the first fruits of our race. Alleluia!

Lord, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
far above the starry height, Alleluia!
grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
seeking thee above the skies. Alleluia!

There we shall with thee remain, Alleluia!
partners of thy eternal reign, Alleluia!
there thy face forever see, Alleluia!
find our heaven of heavens in thee, Alleluia!