How To Vote

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 11 May 2019.

Vote4You’ve had people telling you this for weeks now. You might even have received a personal telephone call from the Prime Minister. So I figured I would just pile on.

Some will tell you which candidate you should vote for. Some will tell you which candidate you should not vote for. They may wave brightly coloured pieces of paper at you. Fortunately, we don’t allow children to vote, so you can freely ignore anyone who treats you like a child!

Some will give you instructions about how to vote - how many numbers to place on each ballot, and what different choices you have about how you can fill yours in. Well, that’s helpful, but perhaps not enough.

Some will tell you which candidate’s success will make your life better the most. But if that’s not true for other people’s lives as well, it’s not much help - because we’re meant to love our neighbour as ourself.

Some will tell you which issues you should consider as you weigh up your vote. I’ve done that myself. And that can be helpful in raising things you haven’t considered - like how to weigh environmental vs humanitarian factors, or social justice against fairness in taxation policy, or foreign aid compared to refugee conditions. If only there were a clear cut leader on all of these...

So I will tell you something that will help: vote prayerfully, and trust God with the outcome. For he is the only individual who can determine the winner, and thankfully he selects governments for our good. Let’s pray before we vote, and then pray some more once the votes are tallied, for our leaders make such difficult choices every single day, and need God’s aid.

Believe, Love, Remain - KYCK 2019

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 05 May 2019.

KYCK 19Kyck is the highlight of our SPY calendar. We love the sessions. Being encouraged to stand firm in our faith at school, connecting with God’s people, and being reminded again and again that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus! Last weekend, 20 of us set out for Katoomba to sit under God’s word, sing praises to our great God and help each other to stand firm in the love of God in all circumstances… with 2500 other youth and leaders.

Some headlines from the talks on John 14-17 were:
•  You have to have both feet on the skateboard that is Jesus
•  School won’t be waiting to cheer you on when you get back for being a Christian, so how do you remain… Write ‘Pray’ on your pencil case to remind you to pray for those around you. When you put on your uniform, you are not just representing your school, remember you are also representing Jesus.
• What relationship do you want with a plane? You want to be onboard the plane, not behind, not beside. It is the same with Jesus.

While the talks are great, for us leaders, the best parts of the weekend are all those little moments we share with the youth: laughing together as we play the story game, telling jokes as we walk up that annoying hill, bonding over freezing in the tent, singing to pop songs in the cars and the bus, drinking tea at a café, playing soccer as a team. We love these moments because they are the ones that build up our group. They are the moments that we share and show God’s love for each other.

If you want to know more about Kyck, ask a youth! Let them encourage you as you encourage them.

Vengeance?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 25 April 2019.

St AnthonyThe horror in Sri Lanka has rightly dominated the news this week. Such barbarism is a blight on our world, and sadly one to which we are all too accustomed. You’d think, given our sad depth of experience, that the human race would have figured out the best way to deal with these crimes. But Colombo demonstrates clearly how we have not: it was claimed that this was a revenge attack in response to the massacre in Christchurch.

Naturally, we cry out for justice against the perpetrators, or at least those who remain alive. Yet even here we are lost, uncertain who is really involved and how they might be brought to trial.

That’s before we even get to the news that the Sri Lankan authorities have admitted to having credible warning that this attack was coming - and did nothing about it. How much guilt should be assigned to the security forces?

We rush to judgment all the time, convinced that our vengeance is fine, that we know what we’re doing. Yet our ignorance is plainly seen in the way the world has acknowledged the cruelty of the choice of Easter Sunday as the date. Those who would show Christians sympathy seem to think that the terrorists have desecrated the day somehow; the truth is that it is the one day of the year when we find it easiest to be comforted by the hope of resurrection.

And by the knowledge that Jesus’ resurrection is our assurance that he will judge the nations with justice. Vengeance is mine, says God, at the very moment when humanity’s vengeance against his Son was shown to fail.

It is not just the dead about whom the world should be concerned, but all those still living in ignorance.

My Fair Lady

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 18 April 2019.

Notre DameI was struck this week by a strange coincidence: as the spire of Notre Dame (“our lady” in French) fell, the lyrics for ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ popped into my mind, with the way the refrain finishes ‘my fair lady’. Two symbols of the cities they are found in, and both loved by their citizens. The grief of London Bridge falling centuries ago has been seen again in the tears of Paris this week.

We love our landmarks, and rightly so. They capture the essence of home in a special way, and the honour we give in recognising their status is a way of paying tribute to the place God has given us to live and love in.

Yet this is nothing in comparison to how the people of Jerusalem felt about their Temple in the first century. It was a wonder, an extraordinary building that had seen no expense spared. Tourists from Rome - from Rome at its peak, even - would say that it was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen.

And then Jesus foretold its destruction. Even the suggestion was seen as blasphemy, and it was for this that he was charged and convicted on that first Good Friday. Nobody should be allowed to speak against the place where it was possible to meet with God, they believed.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt, given enough years and at enormous expense. Jesus claimed he would rebuild the Temple in three days. And so it proved; on the third day he rose to life again, the true Temple, and once more, it was possible to meet with God by coming to his Son. And, praise God, he will never fall again!

Branch Churches

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 13 April 2019.

Palm SundayMany Christians mark the Sunday before Easter as Palm Sunday, and around the world and in various denominations, there are a range of ways the day is celebrated. My first encounter was the common craft activity of weaving a flat reed into the shape of a cross.

An interesting fact: while all four gospels record the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, they each have a different take on the whole ‘palm’ thing. Matthew and Mark both record the crowds cutting branches from trees and laying them in Jesus’ path, but the words they use don’t really fit with palm foliage. Luke isn’t interested in his greens, mentioning only the cloaks laid by the crowd. John is the only one to mention palm branches, but the crowd carry them rather than laying them on the road. It’s not quite our mental picture, is it?

So why Palm Sunday, as opposed to Cloak Sunday, or Donkey Sunday? What was it that led the church in ancient times to pick the palm branch as the reminder of the beginning of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem? There’s a hint in my tortured prose in the last sentence, where I took care to avoid the words ‘triumphal entry’. It’s thought that palm branches were associated with victory, and suited the arrival of Jesus, God’s King, to proclaim peace to the city.

While I don’t mind Palm Sunday as a tradition, it would be wise to be on our guard. For we could equally call it False Friends Sunday, if we recall that the fickle crowd was baying for Jesus’ blood only a few days later. They were in for the victory, but not for a cross and the shame that went with it.

Let’s make sure that we hold fast to the Jesus who died and rose, and that we are branches who remain in the true vine, not just the palm tree.

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