Strangers

We have heard it said “beware of strangers” – usually because of what they are liable to take – our jobs, our women, our money.

The Bible encourages us to welcome the stranger. Many are mentioned in the Bible as people who are welcomed as gifts from God (like Melchizedek, Pharoah, Ruth, Queen of Sheba, the Canaanite woman – and many others). Jesus himself is seen as a stranger and sees himself as a stranger – he sees himself in the outsider, the poor, the prisoner and the sick and teaches his disciples to recognise him in the stranger and outsider. (Matthew 25)

We have much to learn about entertaining strangers. Here’s one story which Sam Wells tells in his book, God’s Companions. It is about a couple who go on holiday and take a lift to a scenic viewpoint. They had a Muslim guide. They rushed off to take some photographs, and then realised that they had not seen their guide for some time. Walking around a corner they saw him, semi-prostrate, praying to God. They were humbled realising how they and he had spent the last 15 minutes. They talked about this when they got home and shared this prayer with their congregation:

“If I love thee for hope of heaven, then deny me heaven;
If I love thee for fear of hell, then deny me hell;
But if I love thee for thyself alone, then give me thyself alone.”

People were confused when they discovered it was a Muslim prayer, but the couple who had been on the holiday pointed out that just as the guide had been a gift to them in jolting their spiritual complacency, so this prayer could also be a gift – perhaps dispelling some ignorance and prejudice about Islam.

>Awards

>For a bit of fun, every month we publish the “Editor’s Award” in our parish magazine. I am puzzled this month and can’t decide. I think I will spray the awards round.
So – drum roll –

The prize goes to all those who are highly regarded in their communities – for all the integrity and service of their lives, because rarely is such regard given for nothing.

But the more than equal first prize goes to those who in spite of great integrity and service are dis-regarded and unnoticed. Their communities and families would be much the poorer without them.

 
And the prize for creative prayer goes to friend Jenny – who rarely attends public worship – for her presentation of bouquets to brothers and sisters at a recent healing service. By binding sprigs of lavender (for healing) and rosemary (for remembrance) she captured the essence of intercessory prayer with one simple twist of rafia binding.

Posted by Picasa

>Blessing

>It is easy to believe we are ‘cursed’ – naturally, not supernaturally, I mean.

The media messages pick on our personal, social and institutional points of vulnerability. All these voices leave us with a deep sense of unease.

If we feel cursed ourselves the likelihood is that we will curse others.
However, if we know we are blessed the likelihood is that we will bless others. I know how much I curse others, and I know how much I bless others – and can draw my own conclusion that I haven’t been doing enough listening to the voices that call me blessed. I know I am not alone in finding it hard to accept blessing and to treasure the blessings people give.

Blessing comes from the Latin word “benediction” meaning “speaking well”. Jesus has a warning for us when too many speak well of us (Luke 6:26) that means we might have become too powerful, boastful and corruptible – but all of us need to be affirmed.

Nouwen points out that this is the way to “a sense of well-being and true belonging” and was moved by the blessing given to a 13 year old at his bar-mitzvah by his parents: “Son, whatever will happen to you in your life, whether you will have success or not, become important or not, will be healthy or not, always remember how much your mother and I love you.”

For Nouwen, prayer is about listening to that voice of blessing – to hear with the “ear of faith” the persistent voice of love saying “You are my beloved child – on you my favour rests.”

The blessings are there for us to receive.

“the blessings of the poor who stop us on the road, the blessings of the blossoming trees and fresh flowers that tell us about new life, the blessings of music, painting sculpture, and architecture – all of that – but most of all the blessings that come to us through words of gratitude, encouragement, affection and love. These many blessings do not have to be invented. They are there, surrounding us on all sides. But we have to be present to them and receive them. They don’t force themselves on us. They are gentle reminders of that beautiful, strong, but hidden voice of the one who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.”

Christian Aid

Lord Jesus, you were anointed to bring good news to those who felt no good news, to proclaim freedom to those imprisoned by injustice, and recover health and wholeness to all the world.You took up the cause of the oppressed.You proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favour.At the heart of your ministry was action.Remind us of the unlikely group of people you gathered around you to perform your work of love, and empower us to bring your good news so your kingdom will come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen
From Walthamstow Parish Magazine