Jerusalem Day Rally: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

View my short presentation at the Jerusalem Day Rally held in Whitehall, London, here. The text is below.

What does the word Jeru-salem mean? It means “city of peace” In the Psalms we are told to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Why are we told to pray for the peace of the city of peace? Perhaps because God knew people would interpret the word “peace” in contradictory ways. That is why the prophet Jeremiah warned “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14).

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Southampton Peace Rally for Gaza and Palestine

Do you remember the film Miss Congeniality staring Sandra Bullock who plays a police officer. There’s a scene in which she enters the Miss USA beauty pageant. Each contestant steps up to the microphone to answer the question, “What’s the most important thing our society needs?” They each smile and give the same cliched answer – “world peace“. All except Sandra Bullock who replies, “Harsher punishment for parole violators”. The crowd goes silent and Sandra Bullock realises they don’t share her enthusiasm for justice, so she adds, “And world peace” and the crowd goes wild.

Although the scene makes light of ‘world peace’, Sandra Bullock is making a point, “If we all believe in ‘world peace’, if we all want ‘world peace’ why, oh why, is it so elusive? Because peace begins, for exampole, by holding parole violators accountable. That is why the prophet Jeremiah warned “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14). 

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Turning our World Upside Down (John 20)

It is confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper. 

“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.

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Palestine and Global Peace

I wonder if you can remember the comedy film Miss Congeniality staring Sandra Bullock. There’s a scene in which she appears in  the Miss USA beauty pageant. Each contestant steps up to the microphone to answer the question, “What’s the most important thing our society needs?” They each smile and give the same cliched answer – “world peace”. All except Sandra Bullock who replies, “Harsher punishment for parole violators”. When the crowd goes silent and Sandra Bullock realises they don’t share her enthusiasm for justice, she adds, “And world peace” and then the crowd goes wild.

Although the humorous scene makes light of ‘world peace’, implicitly, it raises the question, “If we all believe in ‘world peace’, if we all want ‘world peace’ why, oh why, is it so elusive? I suggest the clue lies in Sandra Bullock’s unpopular reply, but lets leave that for now and come back to it later.

When we turn our attention from fiction to reality, and in particular to Gaza, we recognise peace is a serious, urgent, vital, not just need, but demand. There are people living and breathing in Gaza today who will be dead by tonight, or who will die tomorrow or on Thursday and on Friday.. In a very real sense, Palestine is the litmus test, or as Revd Dr Munther Isaac said this week, “Gaza is the moral compass” of the world order. If the international community cannot, or will not, apply international law and binding UN resolutions, and stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, if the highest court in the world, the ICJ will not hold Israel accountable for genocide, then there is no hope for peace anywhere else in the world. All we have is anarchy, the law of the jungle, the survival of the strongest. Ironically Sandra Bullock was right in Miss Congeniality. World peace begins by holding parole violators accountable because there will be no peace without justice.

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Jesus Christ is Risen! 

Do you realise the very first person to see the risen Lord Jesus, the first person to respond to him and the first person to tell the good news to others, was not one of the Apostles, but Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene appears in all four Gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

From these we learn that Mary Magdalene became a friend and follower of Jesus after he cast out seven demons from her. She was present during Jesus’ trial (Matthew 27:45). She was there at the Crucifixion (John 19:25).She watched Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (Luke 23:56).

And on Easter Sunday she and some other women were the first to discover the stone had been rolled away (John 20:1), first to meet the risen Lord Jesus (John 20:15-16) first to tell the disbelieving disciples the good news (John 20:18).

Surprisingly, it was also Mary and some other women who supported Jesus financially from their income. This tells us something about the value Jesus placed on women. Jesus recruited and traveled with both men and women followers. That was unheard of. When we think of the disciples we tend to imagine the 12 male Apostles, but Jesus drew around him both men and women, into one extended family of sisters and brothers. In this Jesus was very radical. It was the custom that women would only travel with their families. In the Easter story, the Apostle John gives us the fullest account of Mary’s role. As we read John 20 together I want to make three observations about Mary: About her heart, about her mind and about her will.

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Why Good Friday? Because Jesus is our Passover Lamb

The Book of Isaiah, written around 700 years before the coming of Jesus Christ, is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Why is that? 754 of Isaiah’s 1292 verses are predicting the future. That means 59% of Isaiah is prophecy.  Isaiah contains 11 direct prophecies concerning Jesus and it is cited or alluded to in at least 50 NT passages. Why? Why? Lets find out. With the eyes of faith we see Isaiah 53 so explicitly refers to the Lord Jesus it doesn’t need much by way of explanation. Indeed it became so obvious that Isaiah was referring to Jesus after he was crucified and rose again from the dead, that, as the Church separated from the Synagogue, Isaiah 53 was no longer read as part of the Jewish lectionary.  There are five paragraphs, each of three verses, and it begins in chapter 52:13. 

1. The Predicted Saviour: The Servant’s Role (52:13-15)
2. The Rejected Saviour: The Servant’s Life (53:1-3)
3. The Representative Saviour: The Servant’s Suffering (53:4-6)
4. The Crucified Saviour: The Servant’s Death (53:7-9)
5. The Glorious Saviour: The Servant’s Resurrection (53:10-12)

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Maundy Thursday: When Time and Eternity Meet

Beat the clock. Around the clock. Against the clock. Clock in. Carry the day. Once in a blue moon. From now on. In the long run Come of age. A day in the sun. The crack of dawn. Year in, year out. A month of Sundays. Hour of need. Full of the joys of spring. Now or never. The moment of truth. Better late than never. Make my day. Here today and gone tomorrow. A blink of the eye. Days are numbered. What do they all have in common? Time. We say, long time no see. Killing time. Wasting time. Behind the times. On time. Just in time. As time goes by. The nick of time. Do time. Serve time. A whale of a time. Save time. Good time. Ahead of time. No time to lose. The big time. High time. Time is money. Times flies. Crunch time. Out of time. Time for a change. Times up. I counted over 100 expressions for time. They all refer to chronological or sequential time.

In our gospel reading  Jesus teaches us a new one. Kairos time.[i] The word kairos is Greek for “opportunity” or “the right time”, the “fullness of time” or the “supreme moment”. In the Bible Kairos refers to God’s timing. In his first sermon, Jesus said, “The time has come… The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). This was a kairos moment for those who heard Jesus. And for the Christ follower, as for Jesus, chronos time and kairos time intersect every moment or every day because we live in two worlds – in time and in eternity, in heaven and on earth. The evening of Maundy Thursday was one of those kairos moments for Jesus and the disciples. Please turn with me to John 13 and let us discover what Jesus knew, what Jesus did and what Jesus expects.

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This is our God, the Servant King (Mark 11)

The Road from Jericho to Jerusalem is just 14 miles.  A half-day’s journey, uphill all the way. Bethany is just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. A natural place to stop and rest before the final ascent and panoramic view of all Jerusalem.  But it is not the road that should capture our attention.   Dusty roads through dramatic scenery were as common then as now, indeed little has changed.  Israeli checkpoints, barbed wire, military settlements and the Separation Barrier have replaced the Roman garrisons but it is still Occupied Territory.  It is ironic that if Jesus were born in Blackpool he would have no problem getting from Jericho to Jerusalem today. But because he was born in Bethlehem he would not be able to make the journey to the Mount of Olives, let alone join the Palm Sunday procession into the Old City.   Like thousands of West Bank Christians he would be unable to visit Jerusalem today. He would be turned back at a military checkpoint – because he was born in Bethlehem.  Pray for your brothers and sisters today in the Holy Land who are denied the most basic of human rights – freedom of movement, freedom to worship, freedom to live in the land of their birth.

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