flood

How do you act when the world is ending?

I imagine that when the flood comes, we all, one way or another, like to see ourselves as Noah. We stand tall, we have the answers.We have the bigass boat. We’re Kipling’s man in the storm, we’ll weather it while everyone else loses their minds. Continue reading “flood”

on our Father Jacob

Are you greater than our father Jacob?

He was the cleverest man alive. He was father to many. He grasped his fathers’ inheritance when it looked to slip through his fingers. He wrestled with God himself.

Are you greater than our father Jacob?

He was a liar and a miser. He was a coward and a hypocrite. He had assets, not friends and family. He failed his little girl when she needed him most.

Are you greater than our father Jacob?

Yes, says the strange, haggard man by the well.

And because he says yes, somehow I can say that too.

on tough laws

“I respect tough laws. Back home if you steal they’ll cut off your hand. So nobody steals.”

So a Palestinian coffee shop owner (perhaps rather stereotypically) vented his frustration to me. A homeless lady had come into his establishment earlier in the day, she’d pretended to look at the menu, and when his back was turned she’d grabbed some muesli bars and drinks and made a run for it. He caught her, but much to his shock the police refused to do anything about it. Less than ten quid meant no charges apparently. So the lady was let off (having pocketed some of the food) and the owner was told to go back to his business. Continue reading “on tough laws”

on glory

I’ve seen glory in Berlin. They keep their streets clean there despite the odd graffiti. They speak English there because why not. They remember their past because leaflets line the streetlamps saying Fuck The AFD. They remember their past because ruins grab rudely toward the sky alongside chrome towers, because the fruits of war need to be seen as much as the fruits of peace. Continue reading “on glory”

on the ditch at Dachau

On the edge of Dachau concentration camp is a concrete ditch, about 6 feet across and 6 deep, steeply angled. Two barbed wire fences separate this ditch (which in turn separated the rest of the camp) from the outside world. One imagines a fearful night where a prisoner, desperate for escape or wanting it all to just end (or both), hurls himself across the ditch, scrambling up, only to entangle himself on the wire. Then comes the alarm’s banshee wail, angry shouts, frantic barking, then the crack of rifles, then nothing.

And while it seems some of the prisoners did this just to end it all, clearly the vast majority of prisoners didn’t. I can’t presume to know why, but I would say this at least affirms human life, even if one is forced to live it in hell on earth. Even living through daily torture, suffering, and humiliation, the prisoners treated life as if it were the most important thing. One more bite of stale bread. One more attempt not to get another beating. One more resigned but brave climbing into the cramped bunks at night, ready for the next day. Despite it all, life was treated by the prisoners as precious. And given that this is how most people in most places at most times treat life, it is probably true.

So it really boggles the mind when any ideology, any group, or any system treats life, or certain people’s lives, as if it weren’t precious.

on the truth in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, my home, has seen better days. Protests, demonstrations, street violence, bomb plots, conspiracy theories of all shapes and colours, have shaken us all.

One side claims to fight for human rights and freedom, the other claims to fight for stability and order. I haven’t committed myself to either side despite the horrors of the last month or so, but here is what I make of it all:

We are, all of us, focusing on the wrong fight. Continue reading “on the truth in Hong Kong”

on the centrality of Jesus

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”
And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” — 1 Peter 2:1-10

“Rid yourselves, then, of all evil; no more lying or hypocrisy or jealousy or insulting language. Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved.” I know these words don’t seem very inspiring. They’re probably not what you want to hear first thing in the morning, on your first day back to school. Continue reading “on the centrality of Jesus”

on Isaiah 40

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”
A voice said,
“Shout!”
I asked,
“What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. — Isaiah 40:1-11

“Dear Granddaughter

It’s strange writing this to you right now, because you’re just a little kid. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll probably be gone. But I want you to remember what I’m now telling you. Continue reading “on Isaiah 40”

on the progress of the gospel

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit said to Philip,
“Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip,
“Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said,
“Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea. — Acts 8:26-40

Growing up in church, I watched quite a lot of Jesus movies. They were alright, they were pretty cheesy but they were earnest and well-meaning, and they told the story of Jesus as best they could. As I grew a bit older, I couldn’t help but notice how Jesus was always a white guy with dirty blonde hair and a gleaming smile. And then came the late 90s and the early 2000s, and almost always you’d get one or two black actors inserted into these movies and TV shows. One TV show had the apostle John played by a black actor, and I clearly remember thinking “Well that seems a bit forced – John was Jewish, definitely not black.” But then again Jesus wasn’t white either. And I would then think about today’s passage; I would say “This story already shows that the gospel is for all people – Jewish, black, white, everyone – there’s no need to play around with racial equality when this passage already deals with that.” Continue reading “on the progress of the gospel”

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