A Lament From Zac’s Place

On Tuesday evenings as a ‘church for ragamuffins’ community we gather together to study, discuss and grapple with the Bible. They’re often very frank and refreshingly honest times of faith and struggle. Quite often we methodically work through a book of the bible. When Sean suggested we looked at the book of Lamentations there were a few raised eyebrows!

However at the end of the series, which demonstrated a language for pain and suffering and finding God in it, each was invited to contribute to writing our own Lament. Liz patiently and skilfully compiled everyone’s contributions into what you read below. Enjoy.


Zac’s Lament

God, I feel worn out, frustrated.
I am too busy being busy to notice what people need yet I judge them because I feel I am the one who has to do all the work.
I am a let-down, embarrassed at the state I sometimes find myself in and crushed when those close to me see me like that.
My heart is heavy because my words have caused hurt to others;
I have brought disharmony to my family.
My parents have seen their hopes fade and they – and I – have seen the effects of addiction on those we love.
I see those who suffer from illness and those who mourn with grief so deep at the loss of their parents.
And with eyes that can no longer cry I give the word for my beautiful dog to be put to sleep.
My stupidity, naivety, fear and anxiety get in the way
and stop me helping others.
I’ve been taking God for granted,
missing out on the freshness of his love.
I wish time could be reversed; what if I had done things differently?

The city has a heavy spirit of despair, where is hope?
It has never recovered from past hurts;
many great shops have closed down
and money has been wasted on foolish projects.
Greed and materialism have taken up residence.
We’ve given up on our dreams and our passions.
Nobody cares about our environment or government,
because we believe we are powerless to change anything.
We experience a lack of community, concern and love
where the homeless are treated like nobodies,
people are rejected instead of embraced
and a huge amount of food is wasted.
An offer of friendship is seen as weakness
and there is no appreciation for those who help others.
Only the gossips, who find pleasure in reminding us of our past failings, thrive.

The world is round like the lives people lead, always coming back to the same conclusion:
where is hope?
We have the society we deserve, a throwaway society where racism, violence and rubbish abound, where it’s every man for himself. Self, self, self.
Governments everywhere act out of selfish interests
instead of for the common good.
Migrants, child soldiers, Syria, cruelty to animals, torture, rape, degradation of women, Palestine, injustice, fear, refugees, hatred, sorrow.
We have lost our passion for justice; we have lost respect for all living creatures.
Where is hope?

All who hope make hope.
Hope is finding a purpose, putting an idea in place when there is nothing left to salvage – and believing that it will come to pass.
Hope is in places like Zac’s where people talk to each other and treat each other with respect.
Hope is in drug agencies and churches beginning to work together for people instead of preaching at them.
Hope is seen in surprising places, in street children who should have none.
Hope is in people who care, people like us, people who will work 100% for God.
I believe God has a wider plan,
one that will use people’s gifts to help put things right,
one that through prayer, community and action will produce fruit.
When we love each other, when we allow ourselves to be the wild sacred beings God created,
we are powerful beyond measure.
With God’s help
we can be the change we want to see in the world.
God’s love and grace are overwhelming,
his forgiveness never-ending.

“A Hell Of A Weekend” – Easter Thoughts – Part 3

Imagine how different it would have been when the girls rocked up at the tomb, where Jesus’ body lay, to discover the tomb wasn’t empty. And also to discover that neither was it closed up, with a couple of bouncers at the entrance. There’s a third option; I sometimes wonder what the reaction would have been if they’d showed up, saw the stone rolled away and as they peered in; saw Jesus sat on a stone bench. Maybe he would be picking his scabs and making mention of having had ‘a hell of a weekend’ and could they ‘nip down the Seven Eleven to get some paracetamol’. Fully alive, but still sat in the tomb, not daring to venture back out into the world.

As bizarre as this thought may be, the reality is that for many Jesus followers, the tomb, is as far as we dare to live out our faith, naval gazing and scab picking. For many and varied reasons it becomes all too easy to live in a Christian ghetto where life becomes stifled, beige, bland and disconnected with reality. The resurrected Christ walked out of the tomb, back into a kaleidoscope of colours, contradictions and questions – back in the company of his mates and their ‘warts and all’ world – not just watching it walk past his narrow window on the outside. Just as well really.

Got a life? Get walking.

Cheers and God bless ya this Easter time!

Luke 24:1-12

Originally written for my personal blog, Sean Stillman

Don’t Forget To Pull The Curtains and Put The Lights Out – Easter Thoughts – Part 2

In the recorded stories of Christ’s crucifixion the ripping from top to bottom of the 60 foot curtain veil in the heart of the temple is more than a bit of a gust blowing through. This massive curtain was only to be ventured behind by the most devout and on very few select occasions – access was seriously restricted, and denied to 99.9% of people, but it was all part of Israel getting it’s house in order with God and the limited access was understood and respected.
 
 When Jesus breathed his last all kinds of wierd stuff happened – including this curtain tearing in two. The way was now blown wide open as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death. Access into the presence of God was no longer for a select few on a particular date and time in a designated holy place. Intimacy with God – the seeking and granting of his gifts of forgiveness, grace, mercy, hope, justice, peace – came out of the confines of the temple and into a wounded world for real.
 
 The story of Easter – of Jesus the Nazarene – is not just for a religious few that have got it all together – it’s the stuff of revolution as the ‘temple courts’ are filled with the most unlikely. Bob Dylan picked up on a similar vein:
 
 “Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an worse An for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe An we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.”
 Bob Dylan – Chimes of Freedom, 1964

 
 Freedom had a price. Freedom is a gift.
 
 Luke 23:44-46
 
 Originally written for my personal blog, Sean Stillman
 
 
 
 

Easter Thoughts – Part 1

I’ve always been quite impressed with the response that G. K. Chesterton gave to the question posed by The Times newspaper, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ – the reply came simply as; “Dear Sirs, I am.”

To a greater or lesser degree throughout the history of humanity we have been unbelievably successful at defacing so much of what is beautiful, sacred and cohesive. The decay of a physical world and the prevalence of the law of the jungle extinguishes all but the most stubborn flickers of light.

But in the embers the Easter message continues to burn as ‘The prophet in rags gives hope to a fearful world’. Amid best mates’ betrayals for cash incentives, desertion and denials, kangaroo courts, and dodgy dealings the death of Christ was surrounded by people like us. Human frailty meets the eternal. Truth and justice collide with catastrophic and miraculous consequences in equal measure as Christ wrestles, prior to his arrest, with the question; ‘is this a road I have to go down – a cup I have to drink?’

At the heart of the Easter story there remains an ember that burns in the darkness – sparks of hope, flickers of light, shelter from the cold for ‘problems in the world’ like you and me.

Previously written on my personal blog, Sean Stillman

A film that needs to be made

After the success of the initial crowd funding campaign to see the start of John Smith documentary film made, a second phase is currently running to see its completion. If you didn’t get chance to support it before – then please do read on…..Sean
 
 Video Excerpt on YouTube
 
 There’s no doubt in my mind about it, this is a film that must be made. If evidence were needed as proof of this man and the associated movement’s influence, you’ll not find it in glass cathedrals and huge congregations of mega churches in fancy suburbs. You’ll find in the countless numbers of individuals who were blown apart by Smithy’s exposition of the scriptures that called us to the margins.
 
 You’ll find the evidence, yes in the likes of many musicians and artists, but also in the lives of pioneers in quiet mission projects all around the world; in slums and in the gutter, in jails, among addicts and among fleeing refugees. You’ll find it in the evidence of people who were challenged to take the words of Jesus seriously and put them into practice believing that you can change the world. Many of them will have been afforded time to talk with John, at festivals and in bars, well into the night long after other speakers had retired to bed.
 
 He’s a peace loving tree hugging hippy and a nightmare to travel with, but also a man who has sought to live by what he preaches and take an uncompromising risk of faith for the cause of the Gospel. I count myself privileged to call him a travelling companion and tribal elder of 25 years. I know there will be many others, who’s stories you won’t read in the media, will say exactly the same.
 
 I think this film needs doing – not just because I want to support a mate – but because I deeply believe the story will resonate with and challenge another generation to come. It will remind this current one of what our responsibility is and why we should not let the fire go out.
 
 Of course, the reality is most of Smithy’s mates have listened to what he said and therefore haven’t got any money! So, it’s just going to mean that we’re all going to have to chip in as best we can! Feel free to join in and just a reminder that if this crowd funding support hits the target, it will help secure the bulk of the grant to make it happen. Read all the blurb on the Pozible Site for more info.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Sean writes from Ukraine

Visits to the Ukraine have always been rich experiences for me. There’s always an air of unpredictability about them.
 
 Back in 2006, I found myself locked in a police station, saw the A&E hospital department after a travelling companion was mowed down by a drunk driver and thought I was eating rat soup!
 I go there to encourage others, primarily my God’s Squad mates and their connected mission church community, (God’s Garage in Zhytomir), but I always return home richly blessed by them and their community. Their generosity, fortitude, resourcefulness, creativity and faith shine. Even more so on this visit with the dark shadow of what is happening on their borders with Russia. I spoke with guys fresh from the frontline, (still with ringing in their ears from blasts), others whose homes had been obliterated, heading west to safety and many more with a deep fear for what may come.
 This place and its people have crept into my heart over the years. I continue to pray for them and their nation and also be deeply moved by the work of God’s grace among them.


Here’s a pic with some of our friends there after a gathering at God’s Garage on Sunday. It’s a mission work significantly influenced by our efforts over the years and one that you as friends and supporters of the trust have had a part to play in.

Guardian Feature

A couple of months back the Guardian were looking for photos of church congregations to be sent in for a web feature. Liz sent the one below in and it made their main feature and prompted a follow up interview along with a couple of other churches covering several topical issues.


… here’s an excerpt from Sean’s interview.

“Often when you peel back all the layers, a lot of what people struggle with is not Christianity but church culture. A lot of the folks I spend my time with say that when they sit in church and look at the front it reminds them of a school assembly or going to court. When they realise what the Christian faith actually is, they discover that it’s not all that monster-like and much closer to what they’ve been looking for the whole time.”

You can find the full article here:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/06/christianity-church-congregations-readers-stories