Some weeks ago, I was handed a parody that depicted a church service entirely taken over by technology. Here’s an extract, slightly altered, to give you a flavour:-

PASTOR: Praise the Lord!

CONGREGATION: Hallelujah!

PASTOR: Will everyone please switch on their tablet, I-pad, Smartphone or Kindle and turn to 1 Cor. 13. 13.

Pause…

Following my father's death in June, I have spent the last few months rummaging through boxes of old papers, cards and pictures that have been gathering dust since moving to the South West Hants Group five years ago. Among the papers I found a copy of Chandler's Ford URC's 'Chronicle' magazine from February 2008 reporting my successful calling to the Group the previous month. In the article is a 'tongue-in-cheek' piece called 'O Lord send us the perfect minster.' It goes something like this:
"Perfect Ministers preach for exactly 15 minutes; they condemn sin but never upset anyone. They work from 8.00am until midnight and are also good caretakers. They receive about £50 net a week, wear good clothes, drive new cars, entertain regularly and give at least £2,500 a year to the poor and to their congregations. They are between 28-30 years old and have 25-30 years parish experience. They have a burning desire to work with teenagers and spend all of their time with senior citizens. They make daily calls on congregational families, shut-ins and those in hospital, yet spend all their time evangelizing to the un-churched and are always available in the office when needed."

We’ve heard much in the news lately about how the Government wants to improve and speed-up the adoption process. Only last month the Prime Minister, ahead of the launch of the coalition’s ‘Adoption Action Plan’, once again vowed to tackle some of the barriers facing potential adoptees. Reassuringly, there seems to be renewed political and media interest in adoption and a realisation that adoptive relationships are hugely valuable in our society.

Adoption is a key theme in the Bible too, both theologically and in a practical sense as well. St. Paul uses the language of adoption to explain that when we choose to follow Christ, we become adopted children of God and joint heirs with Christ. This is significant in protestant theology as it represents the gracious activity of God who saves us and welcomes us into the life of the kingdom. It tells of a God who chooses to bestow the birth-right of his own Son onto those whom his Son now calls ‘friends’. (John 15.14f)

Practically speaking, we have one very well-known example of adoption in the Gospel. The Gospel narrative suggests that Joseph was not actually Jesus’ birth father, but that he chose to stand by Mary and raise Jesus as though he were his own flesh and blood. There is a certain poetic justice in this, Jesus alongside whom we are adopted by God into the kingdom, himself had to be adopted so that he could ‘dwell with us’ in the first place.

All of this points to how significant adoptive relationships are, alongside other forms of parental relationship, as a building block of a healthy and loving society. Indeed the Bible might challenge us to assess what is more ‘natural’: a blood-tie or a bond of love? I’ll leave you to ponder that one!

In Christ, Tim.

I write this letter in the wake of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend. Wow, what an extravaganza … and that was just for starters! By the time you read this we’ll be spinning headlong towards the main event, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The ratcheting up of Olympic fever may have paused momentarily for us to show our appreciation to the Queen, but the torch’s journey towards its final destination has continued nonetheless. Lofty promises of the Olympic spectacle abound, and I’m sure that if even half of it goes to plan, we’re in for quite a treat, brollies and pac-a-macs notwithstanding.

Herculean efforts will be displayed by both Olympians and Paralympians alike. Though they receive less coverage, I often find the latter even more compelling than the former. To reach such levels of fitness and performance is always amazing, but to do so whilst wrestling with a physical disability is truly inspiring. The Book of Hebrews (ch.12 v.1) exhorts us to run the race with endurance. For the athletes that race is clearly about going for gold, yet the rest of us must not think ourselves left out. Running the race with endurance is as much about continuing to stand against injustice and oppression as it is about excelling in a sporting activity.

As punters come rolling in and businesses deal with the influx, some, sadly, will be tempted to resort to unscrupulous means in order to maximise profits at the expense of human care and dignity. It is highly likely that instances of people-trafficking will have increased as a result of our packed summer calendar. Many of the victims of trafficking are young people taken from their families in developing countries and forced to work over here for nothing more than a space to sleep in the corner of a storeroom. A charity called ‘Stop the Traffik’ raise awareness of these abuses and actively campaign to make it harder for people to take advantage of the vulnerable in such a way. It’s a shame that amid the fun and festivity of the Games, some will suffer cruelty and hardship as a result. You can find out more, and how to add your voice to theirs at http://www.stopthetraffik.org/.

So let us run the race with endurance, wherever that may take us, but let us try not to do so at the expense of others. Have a great summer and enjoy the Games. God bless, Tim

‘Happy’ New Year?

 

Over the last month I have said ‘Happy New Year’ to a lot of people as,  I am sure,  you have too. But surely this phrase begs the question: what does it mean to be ‘happy’? Measuring happiness, or ‘well-being’ as it’s often referred to has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Governments try to measure the well-being of the nation, usually from a fiscal perspective. However, by their own admission the ONS (Office for National Statistics) ‘is exploring existing indicators and datasets that measure societal wellbeing beyond economic growth.’1 Companies, particularly with larger workforces, have to put resources into making sure the well-being of their employees is promoted, realising that this often boosts productivity.  Schools in recent years and at curriculum level have been encouraged to nurture physical, emotional and spiritual well-being in pupils. There seems to be an increasing awareness of the many components that go towards making us happy, yet has there been any discernible increase in happiness?