Thursday, 28 January 2010

King of the Road

What surprises me about people we might call tramps, bagladies, hobos and other terms is how much stuff they carry around. Dispensing with the commitments of family, jobs, mortgages ( or maybe having had these taken away ) they still toke around large burdens. I suppose we are defined to a certain extent by the things we have built up and the familiar possessions.

The other night I went to the South Bank to see a concert. I was surrounded by the well fed and well dressed. Tickets to concerts are not cheap. The eateries were filled with diners. In amongst the rich and cultured were little piles of clothes and humanity begging. Though I am not naive about those who beg, some chose it as a career option, I am also aware how easy it is to fall off the 'cliff of comfort.' We are all so fragile. A period of illness, the death of one we were dependent on, the end of a job, a marriage break up can suddenly wrench us from our comfort zone. I know because I have been there. One minute I was going along nicely thank you and then a string of unforeseen events changed my situation totally.

In the excellent film, The Game, the friends of Nicholas Van Orton, played by Michael Douglas, a cold and ruthless financier, decide it would good for him to be humbled and contrive to take away all his props: job, money, possessions and status to see if it will change him into a better human being. The ease with which these things are taken away is disquieting.

What I have always liked about Catholics is that they stress the idea of seeing Christ in everyone. When we look at even the most miserable wretch we should still see Christ. It is a biblical truth. Spend some time with Matthew 25 31- 46. See how the King, Jesus, is enshrined in the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger. Perhaps when we see someone in reduced circumstances we should see them as the king who will return to sit on a glorious throne to judge us. The role reversal in this passage is arresting.

Perhaps the bags this man is carrying contains a list of those he has encountered and how they have treated him. Maybe he will pass this list on to our King.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


I was recently walking around Hatton Gardens which is the diamond district of London. One can tell by the skull caps that many of the people who work here are Jewish. I once asked a Jewish friend why many Jews had great skills in business. 'Insecurity' was his answer and inferred that when you have been expelled from countries and persecuted you try and find something like land or money to give security.

We know that Zacchaeus was Jewish. Our Lord refers to him as 'a son of Abraham.' We know that he was rich. Maybe he was made insecure by the invasion of the Romans. Maybe he had been persecuted or lost his former status and now looked to find security in riches. It does not seem that it gave him true satisfaction. We have to assume a certain amount. Read the story in Luke 19 1-10. What comes over to me is the sheer joy that Zacchaeus had for the new life that Christ was offering. He rushes to the tree to see Jesus and he immediately offers to make restitution. He receives Him joyfully ( verse 6 ) He was lost but is now found. The security of his riches now have less meaning.

We are all lost. But our Saviour seeks us. He is inviting Himself today to our house, though we be sinners. Let us give ourselves to the needy - to Christ. Atheistic governments have prevented us. Yet under governments of freedom we have prevented ourselves by indolence and by the delusions of busy worldly pursuits. Johanna Manley

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Not another festival!!

Around now probably the last thing you need is another festival. However, today is the feast of Theophany. Falling just after Christmas and before Epiphany it is little wonder it is not celebrated much- bit like having your birthday at Christmas.
However Theophany concerns God becoming man. The story of the early Christian Church is partly one of the struggle to establish a true theology. Preachers could build up huge followings by espousing variations of the gospel that they thought were the truth. Bishops and archbishops held what we would now call seriously heretical views. We are not talking here about minor points of theology but big shifts away from what we would now consider orthodox.
The Arians, who held sway in large parts of Germany, believed that Jesus was not God by nature while in the east Nestorians ( who are still very much around today ) believed there were two forms of Jesus, not two natures, and one form was really just a prophet. This the Moslems still believe.
Some may say the struggles of the early Church to defeat heresy were destructive. However, to believe in the wrong Jesus is dangerous. Negation His humanity can
have serious consequences for us. If God was not fully human then He can not understand our weaknesses and temptations. It is important that we have a Jesus who knows what temptation is. He knows first hand how the Devil is trying to pull us of course. He knew how seductive he could be. Rememer Christ's dialogues with the Devil in the desert?
If He was not fully human it suggests He did not suffer fully; His divinity acting as a sort of anaesthetic. This idea seriously demeans what Christ did at Calvary.
There was even a belief going around in the early Church that God put another person on the cross to suffer. A sort of CIA dirty trick. There were some pretty wacky heresies floating about.
Now thankfully we have the printed scriptures and church catechisms to turn to.
Happy Theophany!!