Reblog: ‘The Bible is a Refugee Narrative: The Church and Migration’

I have wanted to write something along these lines myself, but here it is done eloquently and succinctly. Thank you, Matt ūüôā

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

The Bible is the sweeping story of a refugee people.

It’s sometimes hard to see it as such, when bishops sit in the House of Lords and American evangelicals have access to the corridors of power. But without the stories of liberation from Egypt, and the Exile in Babylon, and the Roman oppression of Israel, the whole narrative of the Scriptures falls apart. Even the words in black and white come to us not from the rarefied atmosphere of some ancient theological powerhouse but from immigrant communities remembering the destruction of their cities, their journey into exile.

And so there’s a direct link across the ages between the antisemitic plots recorded in theBook of Estherand the refugees who arrived in the UK as part of theKindertransport; there’s a link betweenthose fleeing Aleppo and the Book of Lamentations; people looking for economic security and the

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Hope

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Oedipus at Colonus by Harriet Fulchran-Jean (Wikipedia)

A man desperate for many years of life, not content to live a moderate span, is… obviously a fool, for many feelings stored by lengthy years evoke more pain than joy, but when we live beyond those years that are appropriate, then our delights are nowhere to be found. The same deliverer visits all of us, and when our fate from Hades comes at last, there is no music, dance or wedding song. No, only the finality of death. The finest of all possibilities is never to be born.¬†

~ from Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, 401BC,

translated by Ian Johnston

Love never ends… we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end… For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NRSVA)

The last enemy to be destroyed is death…¬†

What is sown is perishable. What is raised is imperishable…

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

…thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:26, 42, 55, 57

What comfort comes from the sureness of God’s merciful compassion! What hope from the knowledge of His love! What thanks we can raise when all suffering is ended, when, as the Salvationists say, our loved one is ‘promoted to glory’. We are sad because we will never take Grandma out for lunch again. We won’t share a cheeky grin. We won’t share the fresh joy of new-burst daffodils, or the pleasant cure-all of a ‘nice cup of tea’. But we know that –

…the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more…

Revelation 21:3 – 4

Wisdom to Know the Difference

I went along to a wellness coach this morning for the first time. She has given me some very simple stretching and strengthening exercises to do and after about an hour of very gentle exercise I felt not tired but refreshed. Hurrah! So I will see her again. It helps to have someone who is both encouraging and to whom I am accountable on a regular basis. I hope my health will benefit and that I will be able to do more than my condition currently allows. ME (aka CFS) sucks.

Alongside the talk about gentle exercise and the importance of eating well, there was some unfortunate pseudo-science/waffy stuff. I am too polite to tell a stranger to her face that she’s spouting bollocks¬†nonsense, but it got me thinking. By apparently going along with it, am I dishonouring my faith? Am I opening myself to bad influences?

Not necessarily. I am willing to learn physical techniques that will be of benefit, even if they are couched in – er – terms I don’t agree with. I won’t be worrying about aligning my chakras, and I won’t concern myself with a pantheistic, New Agey, earth-worshipping approach that draws ‘energy from nature’ or whatever (you catch my drift).

I will use the breathing techniques and methods of exercise. I will praise God and thank Him for the wonders of creation, rather than seeing my redemption (?) within nature itself. If nature is sacred it is because it was made so by God. And I am not sure as to the argument that creation itself is sacred, but I am sure that we are supposed to exercise good stewardship over God’s creation. Anyway…

My faith is secure enough to be able to take hold of that which is right –

…I have [not] already obtained this, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own…

(Philippians 3:12 NRSVA)

¬†– and to¬†let go¬†of the rest. God has given me His Word with which to ‘align’ myself (or rather, for Him to align me with!), a brain to discern what is right, and a permanent Helper to guide me and to convict my conscience when I do wrong or am tempted to do wrong –

‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God… We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.’

(1 John 4:1,6)

He has told me what I need to focus on and how I should be, by grace –

‘…if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.’

(1 John 4:12)

And if I study His Word regularly and stay ‘connected’ in prayer I empower myself with the weapons I need to not worry about these sorts of questions.

‘If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.’

(James 1:5)

Incidentally, if I felt something was going too far I would have no compunction about saying so. Politely, of course.

Necessary Surrender

We each have our inner program for happiness, our plans by which we can be secure, esteemed and in control, and are blissfully unaware that these cannot work for us for the long haul – without our becoming more and more control freaks ourselves… what makes so much religion so innocuous, ineffective and even unexciting is that there has seldom been a concrete ‘decision to turn our lives over to the care of God’… wilfulness [runs] rampant… there are about the same percentage of people who have actually handed over their will to God in most church circles as there are people who I meet at many ‘secular’ gatherings.

 ~ from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

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from idpinthat.com

I find that this is a process that sometimes needs to be repeated, especially when I fall into the mire of comparison. Our culture thrives on comparisons, we judge one another and we judge ourselves. I grew up in a very judgemental family. God has been showing me the patterns of behaviour that I have inadvertently perpetuated, particularly those that my children see, whether towards myself or others.¬†Thinking myself better than others is a form of self-deceit. Thinking myself less than others is deceptive and equally destructive. As soon as I surrender my will to His, I begin to be capable of loving myself, and others, as God does – no more, no less. This is ‘through a glass darkly’. This is grace.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.

extract from 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NRSVA)

For the Sake of Flicking Strawberries

I used a wheelchair today in the supermarket. Although I used a mobility scooter when we were in the Peaks, this was the first time I have used an actual wheelchair during this phase of illness. The last time was 20 years ago, more or less.

I guess it’s good that they provide them for customers. And it was good to have such a helpful child pushing me round and doing all the physical stuff. What a blessing a helpful child can be! But I didn’t like it – the stares, the comments. Not rude comments, mind you, it’s just that people who might usually ignore you feel obliged to say something, at least I think that’s what is happening. I think they’re wondering why someone who doesn’t look particularly ill or infirm requires a wheelchair. It’s not everyone, of course, just a few perhaps ill-mannered folk who never learned that it’s rude to stare. But even if the vast majority ignore you, it’s the handful who don’t who make it awkward. I felt ashamed of my illness. Ashamed that my 11-year-old daughter is taking on the role, albeit temporarily, of caregiver. That’s my job. And if I don’t have the role of caregiver, what do I have?¬†I really don’t like to be the centre of attention, least of all when I’m feeling low. Which I was, by virtue of needing the bloody wheelchair in the first place. There’s no doubt about it: people look at you differently if you’re in a wheelchair :-/

I felt petty and childish when I asked God, later, when I will get to live my life. Illness has to be one of the loneliest ways to go through life. In my teens I spent a lot of time alone because of this illness and because I missed so much school. I was also depressed and very wary of pretty much everyone, so it was hard to maintain friendships. Then in my twenties, although physically I was healthy, I was deliberately isolated by my controlling, much older and abusive (so-called) husband. It’s one of the things that abusers do. They isolate their victims so that they can maintain the high level of control (and get away with it).

Eventually I divorced him and later met my dear Frank. Last year I went through EMDR and although it unlocked many barriers that trauma had created, I’m still unwell and probably worse, physically, than a year ago. I turn 40 next year and I am still waiting to be well enough to have a proper job, for the sake of flicking strawberries (tried to come up with something less rude than the usual…)

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A flickable strawberry. From idpinthat.com

Dear God, I know they say life begins at 40 but I never thought anyone meant it literally. I felt like crying earlier, which is progress, because usually I’m so detached I don’t feel much at all, but I still didn’t actually cry. How pathetic – to feel like crying but not even being able to do that.

If I were a twitterer I’d probably create a new hashtag: #effinguseless

Still, the great thing about reading your bible every day is that you can bring to mind appropriate verses. So here are a few words from the Psalms that remind us that struggle is universal, to some degree, and that we’re never alone, however much it feels like it (thank you, God, for Your Word):

These things I remember as I pour out my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my help and my God.

 From Psalm 42:4,5 (NRSVA)

 

Go Home

‚Ķa great many people… got together and asked Jesus to leave – too much change, too fast, and they were scared.¬†So Jesus got back in the boat and set off. The man whom he had delivered from the demons asked to go with him, but he sent him back, saying, “Go home and tell everything God did in you.” So he went back and preached all over town everything Jesus had done in him.

Luke. 8:38-39 (The Message)