Merry Christmas from the Cross clan. As ever this year has been a mixture of blessings and trials, as I am sure it has been for you as well. To be honest the blessings far outweigh the trials, and certainly our trials fade away as we watch our TV’s and read the press.
As ever it’s been a busy year full of change. Becky lived away from home for most of this year,as she completes her final year of her degree. Jessie returned from her gap year too, then started her degree in Bath. Then there was Jack who made it into adulthood just a couple of weeks ago, meaning that we are now a household of adults! Well at least numerically anyway. Suzy is doing great, and continues to work as a pre-schools worker for the Church as well as nanny for three young girls. I was ordained a priest in July, and have continued to love this role as curate at St. Mary Magdalen. I just can’t believe that we are eighteen months into curacy, but that is the truth. Suzy and I managed to sneak a trip abroad a few weeks ago, largely due to some generous gifts. It made us feel humble, and extremely grateful and was just what we needed to re-charge. It was during this time that we came up with an insane idea of seventy goals before seventy. Seventy things that we want to do before both of us reach the age of seventy. Twenty for Suzy, twenty for me, and thirty shared. The goals are beginning to form, some simple, but many outlandish, and crazy. More to come on that in the future.
Just a brief rundown on our year, and I hope that we can catch up in person, perhaps over the celebrations. Talking of celebrations as ever the money we would have spent on your Christmas card has gone to one of our favourite charities. This year, as as a nod towards Jessies gap year the cash has gone to Stop the Traffik (http://www.stopthetraffik.org). It’s a charity that campaigns to raise awareness about the world wide trafficking issue. As a family we have had a long relationship with Stop The Traffik and it was part of Jessie’s journey to do the degree she is doing.
So celebrate the Main Mans birthday, and have a great time doing so. He loves fun, just as much as we do.
It’s Monday morning and the UK awakes to a new work week. It’s just over two days ago that news began to seep through about the horrible attacks in Paris and the deaths caused. The immediate response was sorrow and compassion for those caught up in the terror attack. A good response, a response that echoes the love we have for our fellow humans. Then fear raised it’s head. Fear that this could happen again in the UK, fear that the London 7/7 attacks would be repeated. If “perfect love drives out fear”, then it is also true that perfect fear does appear to drive out love. Social media has become the heart that we wear on our sleeves over the last few years, and if what we have seen on social media the last two days is our heart then we need a transplant. Whilst many have been showing their alliance with France by adding the French national flag to their profile picture in some fashion, others have been crying, ‘close the borders’ or ‘bomb the @£$%.’ These are just a couple of the irrational, poorly conceived and fearful responses we have seen, from what at other times I am sure are perfectly compassionate reasonable humans.
So for the last forty eight hours my heart has been sinking every time I read from someone I know these or some other similar response to the attacks. My own personal initial response was to pray for those who we caught up in the attack, and keep my head down and my thoughts away from any form of social media. Then I awoke this morning and understood that saying nothing is not an option. My leader and saviour Jesus spoke out about injustices in this world, he is my model. So let me be clear these attacks are intolerable, unacceptable and evil. We should do what we can to bring anyone connected to them to account. However where does all the hate being propagated on social media at the moment take us? In living rooms around the country as young ears hear the hate filled responses, what are we creating for our future? As some of our fellow humans are are spat at on our streets, what dark corners are we driving them to? I am not suggesting that the answer is easy, actually the answer provided by the Teacher is radical.
43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven… (Matthew 5:43-45a NIVUK)
So for me I will be praying for enemies of love, who perpetuate this hate, as they seek to plot and attack. I’ll be praying for my neighbours in my country who spread hate via social media misrepresenting and apportioning blame. I will also be praying for the victims of such attacks in France and across the world. Please come join me in my prayers.
Journal: Tuesday 13 January 2015 15:23
We are sitting in a traffic jam on the way back from Bethlehem to the hotel. Why? Because an abandoned vehicle was blown up in case it was a security threat, and is now being removed. It perhaps sums up the extreme reaction to day-to-day life in Jerusalem. But life goes on. The last 48 hours have been a lesson in how life goes on even amongst the evil that we humans are willing to impart on one another. Yesterday we visited the holocaust remembrance museum, Yad VaShem, a experience I will never forget. A story, no a remembrance of the evil nations have imparted onto the Jewish people. Yes focussed mostly on the 20th century holocaust, but also remembering that this was and is not the only time evil has raised its head against the Jewish people. But what impacted me was that the evil was made worse, if that is possible, by the abandonment of the Jewish people by other nations. For a nation to turn away the individuals of that nation must turn away as well. I jotted down some words on the bus journey home. I’m not sure that they amount to anything other then how my heart felt as we left that place.
Cain beats Abel, you stand by.
We kill you Son, you standby.
Hitler kill the Jews, we stand by.
When will you respond?
When is enough evil done?
When will you send your Son?
I of course don’t believe God abandons anyone, but sometimes the tool he uses to intervene seems blunt, as we His people look the other way. Then today we crossed into Bethlehem, across the wall that divides this land. The irony of a nation that has been persecuted and placed in ghettos throughout its history, segregating people is not lost on me. The politics of it all are so very complex, and I’m not entirely sure I even begin to understand them, but I do wonder if individuals continue to turn away from this land and its people what might happen here and elsewhere. What I have decided is that ignorance is no excuse, and that we should be informed and be ready to take a stance. As we exited Yad VaShem Yesterday, there was a sign on the wall from Imre Bathory, a Hungarian who put his own life at risk by helping to save Jews from the concentration camps. “I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain: ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood was crying out to God?’” As I leave the Holy Land, I take away with me the same desire.
Journal: Sunday 11 January 2015 17:56
What to say of the last couple of days and our arrival in the Holy City of Jerusalem. I guess the mosh obvious feeling is one of confusion. Here in a city of religion there are many who would profess to worship a just and loving God, yet there is a clambering to hold territory to stake a claim on their particular version of God and his land. It is easy to see how those who choose to be agnostic or atheistic look on perplexed. With recent events in Paris one wonders just what we have learnt from the last few thousand years of religious conflict. Although I sit here a committed Christian, this city makes me aware that Christians are far from innocent in this history. Yet we must be aware that there are many around the world who listen to their scriptures and try and bring Gods love into this world. My bible says:
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27).
I have seen and heard of pure religion here in the Holy Land, and it is not amidst the pomp, and the glitter. I have seen pure religion or pure love enacted by many people. Here in Israel we visited a children’s home, supported by the operator of this tour. Love is enacted in that place on a daily bases. Today we worshiped with other Anglicans at St George’s, and heard of love that is enacted ever day both here in Jerusalem and also in Gaza. Sick are healed in hospitals supported by those of that Church, and people are fed. Boys are raised and given a chance to be the men God would have them be, supported by travellers. Perhaps that is pure religion, perhaps that is pure love. Perhaps that is God in the Holy Land. Perhaps that should be headline news.
Journal: Friday 09 January 2015 17:21
A day around Galilee today. I headed into the day somewhat desperate to experience Jesus in his homeland. After yesterday it was a joy to share communion with my friends on the shores of Galilee. In sharing communion it dawned upon me that of course I would meet God on this pilgrimage not in the rocks of the temples and churches but in His people. Here in this divided land of synagogues, temples, mosques and churches walk a diverse group of Christians united in the desire to meet their God. Perhaps I was looking in all the wrong places. Church of the Loaves and Fishes and, Convent of Beatitudes’ church and garden, commemorating the Sermon on the Mount. We had or fish lunch at the Beatitudes convent and then sailed around the Sea of Galilee.
Once on the Disney trail again we visited a number of places. A period of quite time on the lake brought home the second communion of the day for me. Perhaps naturally hearing the waters lapping at the boat as the owner killed the engine, brought to mind a couple of Gospel passages. Matthew 4:19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” A reminder of all our call to speak of Jesus to those who do not know him. It’s a call that we all have, but I guess for me in particular is something that I was reminded about today. Then as the doubts arose the second Matthew passage came to mind. Matthew 14:29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. As we sat there becalmed on the lake looking into the water, I could feel the faith needed by Peter to follow Jesus and get out of the boat. How often do I truly risk my life for something I feel is so important? communion with my God once more, and message received and understood. The day concluded with a bit of fun as Rona, Garry, Mark and I swam in the lake. A chance of a lifetime not to be missed even if the temperature in January is similar to that of England in January. Ok I didn’t walk on the water, but more communion with friends was had, and Jesus was experienced.