Archive for July, 2006

kids on the bible

We’ve had kids for Hope at the Centre for 12 days. They’re Palestinian youngsters, aged 12-15, identified as potential future leaders in their communities and they’ve spent the time here getting away from the war zone, experiencing freedom, making friends and undergoing Leadership Training & Personal Development. It’s been a great time with them. We’ve certainly got as much – if not more – out of having them than they have out of being here.

I did s bible study on forgiveness with them, using the parable of the prodigal. Of course, one of the main things is that it ought to be called “The Parable of the Lost Son”, coming as it does as the climax of a 3-parable section on the theme of losing and finding. Re-read it if that surprises you. The important implication of the fact that we generally mis-title the parable is that we miss the principal character: God! It’s a parable about the lovesick father, not the wasteful son!

The kids got that one straight away. We read the parable (in Arabic and English) and I then asked them to identify the principal characters. Then I divided them into three groups, each taking one character: the father, the son and the older brother. They each had 2 questions to explore, identifying with their character.

I took the group on the father. The first question was, “How did this parable strike you?” A 12-year old boy answered “Shocking!” I asked why. A 15-year old girl answered, “because the boy told his father he wanted him dead!” And she’s right! You see what happens? Youngsters “get it” straight away, because they come to it unencumbered by years of reading it and hearing it expounded in a church context. It’s a parable whose main offence isn’t the actions of the son in the far country, but in the son’s deliberate rejection of any relationship whatsoever with the father. He wishes the father dead so that he can get his hands on the money.

The surprise of the parable is grace – the joy of the loving father who won’t hear of the son coming back as a servant. The son doesn’t repent, of course! He comes home to negotiate a new relationship, not to restore the old! he knows he’s turned his back fully and finally upon his father. It’s about grace because the father doesn’t take this “last word” of the son on the subject as the Last Word. His Last Word is of love and acceptance. He welcomes the son back – as a son who was lost and is found, was dead and is alive.

The point of the parable, in the words of Philip Yancey, is that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less. That’s not the conclusion most church groups come to – but the kids got it in one!

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30 July, 2006 at 9:49 pm Leave a comment

bombs and blankets

Isn’t it ironic? On the one hand, the US is arming the Israelis to bomb the hell out of Lebanon. On the other, they’re flying in huge plane-loads of blankets as part of the relief operation to care for the victims of the bombings! Lebanese civilains are dying because of American ordinance and White House support for Israel’s deadly aggression, and they expect brownie points for being feely-caring about the victims! A further irony: the single most decisive factor in the continuing carnage in Beirut is the American refusal to call for a ceasefire! And on what grounds? As far as I can detremine, sifting through the reports, it boils down to “We’ll let it go on a little while longer until the death toll becomes too high. At the moment, it’s acceptable!” Please will someone tell me there’s some more noble – or even strategic – reason, and that I’ve got this all wrong?

And here’s the thing: we have a born-again President in the White House! Hey George – wake up! It’s the Prince of Peace you allegedly follow, asshole! Isn’t it tragic that Christian faith can be so misplaced? Under this most vehemently Christian President, the American Christian Right provides massive funding to Israel to deprive the indigenous Palestinian Christianpopulation of their homes and livelihoods. And they back Israel turning the West Bank and Gaza Strip into a humanitarian disaster zone, with massive unemployment, poverty, no electricity and intermittent drinking water. In whose name, George? The God of Jesus Christ? No way!

Alarmingly, the Christian population of Palestine has dwindled from 47% to less than 2% during the Intifada. The Christian voice is a moderate voice, and it is being lost. It’s time the Christians stood up and were counted, because one of the powers that we so desperately need liberation from is US foreign policy in the Middle East. It is deadly. Let’s call a spade a spade: this is serious, serious sin. It is blatant oppoition to the kingdom of Peace that Jesus lived and died for. Do what you do, George, but for God’s sake be honest and stop making out that it has anything whatsoever to do with good, truth and the Gospel!

29 July, 2006 at 7:10 pm 2 comments


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