At the time of writing our representatives in Parliament are debating the issue of what has become known as “Assisted Dying”. It is an emotive subject, no less for Christians than for those who speak from a humanist perspective.
None of us can bear the thought of watching the suffering of a loved one or friend when illness has overcome the power of medication, and death approaches.
It is a profound aspect of our human nature to want to alleviate the suffering of others, and those who would support the concept of “assisted dying” would argue that the logical extension of this compassion would be to allow an individual (within certain legal constraints) to be able, in his or her final days or weeks of life, to determine the time of departure.
However, this is a flawed argument and a dangerous path to follow. What, today, might be considered compassionate in the most exceptional circumstances, will almost inevitably become tomorrow’s norm. In an ageing population this will strike fear into many hearts. For others, the cost of care or the lure of inheritance will bring additional pressures to bear on the sick and vulnerable.
Life is too sacred a gift to cross this ultimately dehumanising line. However much anguish we may experience at the suffering of a loved one, my faith demands that we protect and care for the lives of vulnerable people to the very last breath.
If you have been away on holiday over the past few weeks, I hope you had an enjoyable time. If you’ve been holidaying in the UK, I certainly hope you have been able to make the best of our somewhat strange August weather!
In our family, though we all enjoy a good dose of sunshine and warmth, we have always taken the view that the unpredictability of our island weather will never spoil our holiday.
For me, especially, a change of scenery, the ability to lay responsibilities aside for a few days and perhaps take the opportunity to explore somewhere new, or even to walk along a windswept beach by a lively sea shore; these are some of the holiday gifts which refresh and rejuvenate me.
Such things are important for all of us, perhaps especially in the times in which we live.
We inhabit a 24/7 world where we don’t get the natural sabbatical time which our forebears often took for granted. Time to pause for breath, gather our thoughts, re-evaluate our priorities and reflect on the purpose of our lives; time for God; time to just enjoy being human again, and to remember that this life is God’s gift to us: these are the things which get squeezed out of our lives in the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Let’s remember that our holidays derive mostly from the ancient feast days and Holy Days of the Church, that days off should not be filled with frenetic activity from morning to night, and that spending time with God in the depths of our being can be the most inspiring of pastimes.
So I hope you enjoyed and were refreshed by your summer days. Perhaps this is a good time to decide to make that space for yourself and your Creator much more regularly in the weeks and months ahead. After all, it’s nearly Christmas!
What, precisely, is the mission of the Church? It’s an important question if we are to seek to serve God in the place where he has set us.
Think of it this way: armies divide their campaigns into strategy and tactics. Strategy is about the big picture, the overall aims and objectives; tactics are about how those objectives are achieved. Tactical actions need to be co-ordinated, led and based on the reality of the people and resources available; but fundamentally they should contribute to the overall strategy.
If we may lean on that analogy for a moment and consider the Church’s mission, we may come to the conclusion that we often start from the wrong place. In our focus on tactics, we may sometimes lose sight of the overall strategy – our mission. We may spend so much time dealing with the details that we forget to ask, “Why are we doing this?” or “Is this particular activity contributing to the overall mission of the Church?”
But how can we do that if we don’t know what that Mission is? We could be doing all kinds of things which, whilst good in themselves, may not contribute to the mission of the Church. Ultimately that can become a debilitating waste of time, energy and resources.
So here’s a suggestion: our mission is to share in God’s mission to transform the world through the proclamation of the Gospel of love, justice and salvation, in word and (significantly) in action; to draw people to the fire of God’s love in worship, prayer, celebration and praise; to empower them to love God and their neighbour; to grow disciples who will serve God and their community in their daily lives.
All our outreach, all our social action, all our evangelism, all our giving should contribute to that mission. In every activity we undertake we should be able to answer the question, with integrity, “How does this support the mission of the Church?”
Have a look at Luke 4: 16 – 21.
10th July 2015
Who are the real losers when political systems fail?
Leaving aside the significant numbers of failing states around our world at the moment – fuelling anarchy and extremism with all its vile consequences – spare a thought for another group of people: the ordinary men, women and children of Greece.
Whatever the failings of successive governments of that country, whatever the foolishness of a political correctness which drew an ill-equipped and fragile Greek economy into the Eurozone, in contravention of the economic doctrines of that system’s architects; whatever the unrealistic financial expectations of the mega-bankers who have tried to protect the status quo against a tsunami of indebtedness: let us remember that there will be real and substantial suffering amongst the Greek people for years to come.
As enlightened Christians that should concern us deeply. The very fabric of the Greek nation is under threat in a way which last manifested itself before most of us were born: in the Europe of the 1920s and 30s. It is a spectre which we should not be prepared to contemplate.
Please pray for the governments of Europe, for the international financiers and, most of all, for the people of Greece: that, in a wealthy and interconnected world, a civilized and compassionate solution may be found.
Perhaps Luke Ch 15: vv 11 – 32 might offer a model for reflection.
3rd July 2015