This week Open Doors,

the charity which serves the persecuted church across the globe, launched its 26th annual World Watch Report.

It identified the 50 countries where it is most, how shall I put this, problematic, difficult, dangerous to be a Christian.

North Korea remains #1 on the list, with an estimated 300,000 living under the most intense ‘Smash and Squeeze’ persecution. ‘Smash’ in that if believers are discovered they are subject to prison camps, beatings and even death. ‘Squeeze’ in that the rights and freedoms of believers are increasingly limited.

However, we also hear remarkable stories of generosity and witness. Where rations of daily food are tightly controlled, Christians in North Korea have adopted a practice of sharing 10% of their meagre rations with their neighbours. This has come to be known as the ‘holy rice’.

 


To quote the old poem,

today we stand at the gate of the year – the point where one year ends and another opens up before us. Years are important in Christian faith, for the references of times, seasons and years in the scriptures show us that God chooses to accommodate and locate his activity in the schedule of human history.

So what of the year ahead?

Today we shall be defining and describing the idea and reality of shalom which, as our quotation tells us, is the way things ought to be. And we shall ask the question, ‘What would it mean for ABC to fully experience shalom?’

 


Each weekday morning . . .

. . . the staff team meet to read the Bible and pray for the coming day.

This week, as Christmas and final shopping days approached, we were struck when our readings took us to sixteenth century writer John of the Cross. He wrote, ‘The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly.’

 


We Remember and we Look Forward

So its Advent – hooray! (I think).

Advent which means coming and we look back and celebrate and thank God that he came in human form to this old world. And it is an Advent which changes everything, (just re-read today’s quotation.)

But we also speak of a Second Advent, the day when Christ will return again. So all our celebrating is also a straining forward and anticipation of His return.

And tonight, we share communion together. We know that we do this ‘in remembrance’ but we also do it in anticipation. Sharing the bread and wine is a foretaste of that which we will experience when fully united with Christ and as such, that is definitely worth celebrating.

 


When I first read the tweet . . .

. . . which forms today’s ‘Quote of the Week’, I thought that Justin Welby was expressing his sadness at a Christian attack on a Muslim mosque in Nigeria which had killed more than 50 people. I had assumed that he was expressing his sadness at a misguided act which denied the calling of being Christ’s disciples and was about hate for neighbour rather than love.

But reading the newspaper the following day I discovered it is believed that the attack in Mubi was likely to have been enacted by Muslim terrorists Boko Harem on their own Islamic people. This puts a different slant on Welby’s tweet.

In expressing his sadness and his own prayers Welby was demonstrating a big vision of a big God. The God who is Lord of all people whether they acknowledge him or not. Let’s not keep God to ourselves, but follow the Archbishop’s example and share him with the world.