Sunday, 17 August 2014

WWJD - What would Jesus Do?

I have never owned or worn a wrist-band or any other item carrying the letters WWJD. This is for two main reasons: firstly I don't wear logos from personal preference (apart from my cross), secondly I think the answer to WWJD? would most often be "I don't know for sure". It simply doesn't work to think that we can know what Jesus would do in every or any situation; even his closest friends often got it wrong when they tried to second guess him. Add to that all the complexities of textual analysis, historical literary criticism and reader response and WWJD doesn't work for me as a simple means of working out detailed response to specific situations.

Having said all that there have certainly been times when I have tried to work from the basis of WWJD when working out my own response. Let me give an example.

A few years ago a family friend asked me if I would be willing to conduct the funeral service for her husband. She said that they understood that I might not feel able to do so because he was a convinced atheist and though he would like me to preside I would not be able to talk about God or Jesus. As I made my decision I was conscious that I was asking myself what I thought Jesus would do. My conclusion was that Jesus would want to take the opportunity of being alongside people at a time of great sadness and would want to meet them where they were and minister to them there. I took the service. I didn't wear any clerical clothing but I did wear my cross, explaining that I was never without it and it expressed something about who I am. The family agreed that this was completely appropriate and when they produced the printed order of service I was named as Rev. Ruth Gee. I maintained my personal integrity, I spoke about the hope of resurrection but in words that were accessible and not overtly "religious" or Christian.  After the service those who were atheist commented that it had been very helpful and "not religious." Those who were Christian said they had clearly heard the Christian message of hope and love. I hope this meant that I had preached the gospel in an accessible way. Of course, it might just mean that I was sitting on the fence. I am still sure that offering to be with people and to meet their needs as far as I could was following the example of Jesus but I know and accept that others would say that following Jesus would lead to a different course of action.

Over recent weeks my facebook and twitter streams have been full of discussion about very significant world events - Gaza, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine. There has also been much discussion around human sexuality, the death of well-known people, the marking of the outbreak of war, political and social issues. Quite properly Christians have responded from the basis of their understanding of what our faith requires of us. It is not surprising that there are different conclusions drawn. It is not surprising that there are not always easy answers.

What would Jesus do?

I don't know, not in detail. I do know that he would value and love each person. I do know that he would seek peace and justice. I am also uncomfortably, fairly certain that he would challenge me and my pre-suppositions.

I am uneasy how often those who are in debate seem to know exactly what Jesus would do. How often the absolute answers are given. How quickly responses are made to media reports, assuming that the whole story is known. How often the absolute necessity to stand alongside people who are being victimised and abused closes our eyes to others who need us to stand alongside them and listen to them as they are victimised and abused too.

What would Jesus do? It is important for his followers to ask the question.

I think it is also important to realise that we don't always have an easy answer.

Jesus still surprises and challenges his disciples.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Remembering in August

In the week of August 4th people in the UK were remembering the outbreak of World War 1.
In that week I was in Austria and it was very moving to be there while those commemorations were taking place at home.

In this graveyard at the Catholic Church in Gosau I stopped and looked at a memorial. I don't read German but clearly it was for soldiers who had served in the war and are remembered here.

 Later in the week, we visited Salzburg and went to the fortress s.een here at the top of the hill
You can go up the hill the easy way, by funicular or the hard way - we chose.....(for the answer see the end of this blog).
The castle was well worth a visit, the views over the city were spectacular on a hot and sunny day.
 We went into the exhibiton area and there I found 10 rooms dedicated to the military history of the Salzburg Rainer Regiment, one concentrating on the first world war.
There were the uniforms of the Austria-Hungarian army and pictures of soldiers from Salzburg who had dies in brutal conditions in battles on the Italian front at Monte Cimone. Young men being comforted by colleagues and by a chaplain as they died in war.

And the fighting still continues in so many places around the world.
We will remember them.
And we will work for peace.

Yes, we took the hard way up - following others up the hill. This is the last section of the climb.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Thoughts from a mountain lake

It is such a beautiful place, this mountain lake. The day was hot and sunny and I could see the tops of the mountains. Walking on the shaded path I could see children, women and men swimming, sunbathing and enjoying time together. sailing boats, motor boats and pedaloes floated past. Some of the motor boats were towing passengers on water skis or suspended in the air above. All was idyllic.
I was with my husband and son and we were enjoying a holiday together, walking, visiting new and interesting places and sharing lots of laughter.

I found myself thinking about the water, the beautiful, clear alpine water - and thanking God for it. Water that is abundant and freely available for recreation and for drinking. Water in which children were playing freely and without fear. Water in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.

And then I thought of people on mountains around Sinjar, fleeing from persecution, and dying of thirst. I thought of people in Gaza with no access to water. I thought of people in many other parts of the world who have been and continue to be devastated by drought.

"The Lord is my shepherd...
he leads me beside still waters"

Dear God, let it be so.