The Silence of Silas

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 16 August 2012.

SilasAmbassador for Jerusalem, messenger to Antioch, beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, evangelising in Thessalonica and Corinth: who was Silas?
Acts 15 describes him as a leader among the brothers in the church at Jerusalem, and we find him accompanying Paul on his missionary journeys, adding his name to some of the letters Paul sent to various churches, and copping almost as much as Paul himself as they proclaimed the gospel. But again, who wa Silas?
How is it that a man can have had such an impact in the beginnings of the church, and yet remain unknown? Aren’t there records of our great ones?
Yet Silas remains a silent mystery to us. We have no word from his lips or his pen, no description of his origins or fate. He is a reminder to us of the nature of Christian ministry.
Like Silas, we serve for years, and will likely never be recognised for our labours. Like Silas, what matters is not our fame, but our Lord’s. Like Silas, we take up the opportunities to do God’s work as he presents them to us.
Like Silas, we have an audience of one, the One who will one day welcome us home with words of praise for faithful service. ‘Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’ (Matthew 6)

Goaled

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 09 August 2012.

Once upon a time, competitors at the Olympic Games just turned up and had a go. Entry was restricted to amateurs, which meant that their opportunity to train was restricted to when they weren’t working for their living. It was much more a test of an individual’s natural talent than it is today.
Athletes now are professionals, paid to train, provided with a posse of coaching staff, and the beneficiaries of all sorts of sports science and nutritional understanding. Their whole lives are dedicated to shaping their physique for the sole purpose of performing in their sport. They make sacrifices, limiting their education and reducing their career options, increasing the pressure on relationships, and, well, just not getting out so much. We tend to applaud them for their dedication and see a medal as a reward for the years of hard work they’ve put into it.
Gold medalExcept we’re a bit uncomfortable with the Chinese approach: taking children from their families and hothousing them from a frighteningly young age - say, 6 or 7 - in order to find the best talent and develop it. Seems like that’s valuing a medal too much.
But what would justify that kind of commitment? What goal could matter so much? ‘Run in such a way as to get the prize.Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Don’t miss your shot at glory!

Extreme Sports

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 27 July 2012.

No doubt the London Olympics will provide us with an abundance of highlights, tales of hard-won glory, epic tragedies, and sleepless nights. By and large, we’re a nation that enjoys sport, loves competing, and thrives on every victory. There’s something to be said for the value of promoting the kind of ideals that are wrapped up in the Olympic movement.

But.

MascotsPictured here are the official mascots for the London Games, Wenlock and Mandeville. I think we can agree that they match in both name and appearance, reaching the very highest levels of ridiculousness. They lift Syd, Millie and Ollie into the stratosphere when it comes to classiness.

But.

They might look silly, but the names are meaningful. Wenlock is the English town which inspired the modern Olympic movement: they created their games to improve the health of the working class, who were so unfit they were dying of it. And Mandeville recalls the town that initiated paralympic competition.

That’s the Olympics in a nutshell: it highlights the extremes. The greatest of human ability; human folly; human virtue; human pride. When you’re watching, make sure you have both eyes open!

An Odd Number

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 21 June 2012.

During the week I saw a great film called The Way. Written and made by Emilio Estevez, it starred his father, Martin Sheen, playing a father whose son dies in an accident during a pilgrimage through France and northern Spain known as El Camino de Santiago. Sheen’s character decides to complete the journey, carrying his son’s ashes, as a kind of tribute to him. Along the way, he encounters a number of other travellers, all walking the Camino for different reasons, and the film explores their relationships as they travel along together.

Except that they’re not together. The point is made, over and over again, that this particular journey is intensely personal. Although initially a religious pilgrimage, it has become a choose-your-own-reason pilgrimage that is still somehow seen as highly spiritual.
The Way

What struck me as odd is the presumption that ‘spiritual’ necessarily means private, personal, and individual. When Jesus came to claim a whole new people for himself, ‘one’ seems somewhat contrary to his plans and therefore pretty unspiritual.

That’s our society for you though: each of us endlessly obsessed with ourselves. And a great film, beautifully acted, superbly crafted, can still sadly numb us to the truth -  that ‘many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.”’

Where is the God of Justice?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 17 June 2012.

chamberlain-creightonThe story of Azaria Chamberlain has been part of my entire life. This week, after a period of 31 years, that story finally came to a close. For decades, two bereaved parents have fought to clear their names of the most devastating slur - two parents who profess the name of Christ and claim to trust in a god who is just.

Over the many years that this tragedy has dragged on, it must have been hugely tempting for them to echo the whine of the people, as expressed in Malachi 2:17. As the rankest criminals have escaped prosecution and the most horrific crimes have gone unsolved, the Chamberlains would have had many opportunities to cry out, ‘Why me?!’ To their credit, it appears they have not, and their words are remarkably free of bitterness.

Lindy Chamberlain spent a number of years in jail, and would still be there, were it not for David Brett. He was an English tourist who fell to his death while climbing Uluru, and it was in the recovery of his body that by chance, police recovered a small matinee jacket that Azaria had been wearing at the time she was taken. It was the key to the exoneration of the Chamberlains.

One man died, so that justice could be done. I suspect the Chamberlains appreciate the symbolism.

Where is the God of justice? Look to the cross: there he is, dying in order that we might go free.

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