Council on Retreat?! Wow, what can we do without them now they’re gone?!
Our Chaplaincy Council had a Retreat today – it was good! Led by Becky Stephen, (Author of India – Culture Smart! The essential guide to customs and culture – in Paperback or Kindle) we used her managment consultancy and cross-cultural training skills to open our eyes to each other and to God’s ways of working with us.
We spent the first half introducing ourselves more fully, learning about each other’s backgrounds a little and aspirations of character – we NEVER get time to do this at our monthly council meetings and it was interesting to hear what motivates us and how our family backgrounds have given us strength and direction so often. Then we found out who’s who with a questionnaire on character – ‘now all those who scored more on these questions stand here, while others face them here’ – ooh, here’s looking at YOU – it was surprising sometimes to see who was on my side and who was one of ‘the others’! But it made me realise why discussing things at Council can be such an uphill task sometimes – ‘them’ thinks differently from ‘us’, but in this exercise we could see the strengths of each approach and value it.
After a good lunch we settled down to some serious discussion as to how these things applied before getting into bible study – through 9 or 10 passages that refer to ‘one another’ we sorted out what traits God was looking for, what he wants to eradicate, and thought about how our council meetings would be different if we did the good stuff. Quite a lot of different things came out of that and it made us feel quite positive about the possibilities of what we could get up to.
Council meets in just over a week for Business. Retreat’s over, we’re back! Pray for us.
I had the first of what may be an interesting series of meetings of leaders from different faith communities at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding today.
A few of us from different religious backgrounds gathered to discuss whether we thought it useful to gather different religious leaders together in Dubai, firstly so we could get to know one another, and secondly to see if there was anything we could do, different religious groups together, for the good of Dubai, where doing it together would carry an extra message that would strengthen the society of Dubai.
I was a bit wary of getting into something that was going to turn into something I didn’t really want to be part of, but would be unable to back out once started without causing offence, but at the same time, if there’s an opportunity for Christians, Muslims and others to understand one another better and dispel any wrong stereotypes we have of each other, then I want to support it. We were meeting to understand one another, and to see if there’s useful things we could do together.
All sorts of vague thoughts swim through my mind.
We thought it would be useful to meet again next month.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Good grief! Are you sure?
…I’m not sure how I would react to being told this news for the first time all those years ago. I’d have seen Lazarus raised from the dead a little time before I suppose and so know that Jesus was something special. But I’d have also seen Jesus die on the cross and I’m not altogether sure which side of the crowd I’d have been on that day – cheering him on or jeering him off. Really not sure. As a disciple I’d have been gutted of course, and having seen where he was laid to rest, be all the more doubtful about his being risen. Full of grief perhaps for my failure to support him, full of grief for all those misunderstandings and ideals that simply were not the point that Jesus had been making, full of grief for having been so sure that Jesus was the one to save us, but now smashed. How could I believe what the first visitors to the tomb were proclaiming?!
‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’ they say, and we respond so easily and with Easter joy, ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’
…but I can’t imagine their feelings were so instantly positive. The grief they experienced was a good grief inasmuch as they needed to let go of so much failure and misunderstanding before they could take on board the good news. On Good Friday they thought they were letting go of their hopes and dreams as well as Jesus, but on Easter Day they had to come to terms with the thought that although they might not have to let go of Jesus, they did need to let go of the old hopes and dreams because Jesus was completely reinterpreting them. Jesus wasn’t smashing the Roman domination of their land, he was smashing Sin’s domination of our souls and bodies; He wasn’t making Israel the glorious ‘top nation’, he was bringing the victory of God’s kingdom on earth (where Death ruled) to be as full as it was in heaven; he wasn’t giving them all the top seats in the Ruler’s Court, he was giving them place at the Father’s side.
We might lament when our dreams are smashed, but to be forced to give up dreams that are not God’s intention and to work through that is a good grief!
God has a better dream.
Good Lord! Alleluia!
It’s Palm Sunday! Or Palm Friday here in the UAE. It’s something I’ve never really been able to accept. When I first came to the UAE I refused to do Palm Sunday on the Friday before because it’s such an important week that I wanted to keep the days with the rest of the world who celebrate it on the Sunday. I quickly realised that I was being a pain in the neck for all those families that I loved having in our congregation who couldn’t make it – Sunday’s a normal work day, and the evening’s too late for the kids. When I saw that everyone else was processing round their churches on a Friday I followed suit. I’m a humble guy after all and can take a hint sometimes.
But Good Friday, that’s different – we don’t celebrate Easter Day on the Friday before, but make an exception for that Sunday. You should come to it – both Friday and Sunday that week as they make a pair as it were. We have a service on Easter Day at 5.30am for those who could not get a day off work, a service at 9.30am for those who took the day or at least morning off work in honour of the wondrous intervention of God that day, and 7.30pm for those who’s alarm’s didn’t go off (they always book evening flights home too, just in case – LOL .
Anyway, Palm Sunday. Or Palm Friday. Did you forget to bring a palm branch again?!!! I KNEW IT! Lucky I cut a nice big one from my garden – poor tree – to supply all you guys. Did none of your friends have a branch you could borrow? Even a bit of Bougainvillea would have been fine. But no, you didn’t. You know I know who you are because I saw you here at church. You feel gutted now. You think you almost might come to church every night this week to hear our bishop teach each evening (it’s 7.30pm Sunday to Thursday) to make it up to me and my tree.
You’ve had a preview of how the disciples felt next Friday morning. You failed. God, who’d have you?! God, he’d have you! He really would. He was so keen to have you that he climbed all the way to Hades and back to come and get you.
Come on Good Friday (22nd at 9.30am) and Easter Day (see above) – they make a pair – and find out more.
Don’t tell anyone, but until this year I had never had a Holy Week!
I have had plenty of Easters of course with Good Fridays, Palm Sundays and whatnot, but never a Holy Week, a whole week set apart. Up until this year I’ve booked the diary as normal for Sunday to Wednesday and kept only Maundy Thursday to Easter Day completely devoid of appointments (apart from services of course!), but this year I decided ages ago that I would book out the whole week in the diary with ‘No bookings for Steve – Holy Week’. I also decided it would be nice to have a service every night that week to meditate on the readings for each day and invited the Bishop to come and lead the meditations each night – and he accepted!
This plan for that week has been a menace to couples wanting to get married while relatives are out here on holiday. It’s been a menace to my office staff who keep getting asked to make appointments for marriage preparation, baptism preparation and so on ‘while we’re off work for the week’. It’s been a menace for my family who had planned to do this and that each evening while the school was on holiday. But for me, as I get closer to it, I feel in my soul more and more, that this is a week set apart, a holy week, and I rather like it! I hate that I won’t be able to be with my family at home those nights, but like that I am giving God the priority for one week. I’m hoping they’ll join me of course!
I invite you to join me, bringing a palm (or other branch) to wave on Palm Sunday, and then come each night until Maundy Thursday for a short service – each night it’s at 7.30pm. Let us walk with Christ together. Listening for what God might have to say to us – through the Bishop’s messages, through the readings, the prayers, and the fellowship meal of holy communion.
Have a holy week, not just a morning or so squeezed into whatever time you can spare for the Easter!
See you soon.