I’ve got to write an article today. Three hundred words of “Christian Comment”, to be published in the local paper. Lots of local licensed ministers do it, so the task comes round twice a year.
I know this is a privilege, an opportunity to reach out, a way to speak to people about God. However, I dread it too. Odd really, because I’ll happily write a blog post here in 20 minutes flat, and you, you lovely reader, sometimes answer back. And to be honest, even though this isn’t the most read blog in the world, I suspect that there are more people reading this than are reading a small column in the local paper. But the real problem is that I mostly don’t read the local paper. The news is mainly for the local towns, not from our Benefice, and I pick up what’s going on by word of mouth. I haven’t bought a newspaper regularly since about 1992. So I’m not very sure who I’m writing for. I can take a guess, from the (very few) people who ask me “have you seen the Advertiser this week”, but it isn’t very scientific. I’ve just down a little research, and the “most read” pages of the paper on the internet are death announcements. Which makes me think that no-one looks at the “local news” at all, but just wants to know their friends are still going. Or which Crem chapel to show up at.
Here when I write on my blog the tone is set by me. But papers are different. And although I’m happy to contribute in my own tone (after all, if it’s to be “my” Christian Comment, who else’s tone would I adopt?) I am uncertain whether it’s a tone that the reader of the local paper can or wants to hear.
So my choice today – the Olympics – encouraging one another through the dull bits of life (training) as well as the important bits? Or Jesus’ question to his disciples – “Who do you say that I am?” I’m off to write both, and see which one I’d rather read later this week!
Who will you cheer on?
It’s not long now until the Olympic Games begin. You may not feel you have very much in common with world-class athletes (I know I don’t), but there are two things in particular that we all share – the ability to encourage other people, and the need for encouragement ourselves. No doubt cheering crowds will help inspire Olympic competitors to do their best. But in reality, their hard work has been done in the preparation, the training, the routine. That’s when they really needed the support and encouragement of their friends and families, on the days when they didn’t want to train, when the morning was too wet and cold, when the roar of the crowd was only a distant dream.
It is the same for the rest of us – we may not ever be cheered on by crowds, but the encouragement we receive from those around during difficult times is worth so much. Whether it’s a day with our family, a cup of tea with a friend, or even a chance exchange with a stranger, we have the opportunity to give and receive encouragement. Jesus told the crowd gathered on the mountain “Ask, and it shall be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7). These words serve as a reminder that others may not realize we need support – we may have to ask.
If you cheer on the athletes competing for gold medals, spare a thought for those people around you who may appreciate being supported by you. You may not feel you have strength to spare – in which case remember Jesus’ words. “Ask and it shall be given”.
So who will you encourage today, this week, this month?
Put on the spot
Have you ever been put on the spot by a teacher? My teachers always aimed their questions with unerring accuracy at me when I wasn’t sure what was going on.
There’s a great example of this in St Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus, teaching his disciples, asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Imagine the disciples shuffling their feet and looking at the floor until a brave soul answers – “some say you are John the Baptist” and when Jesus doesn’t say anything, the others join in with increasing courage – “ Elijah”, “Jeremiah” “one of the prophets” – the answers flow with increasing confidence.
But then Jesus asks “Who do you say that I am?” It is the ultimate on the spot question – what do you think? What do you feel? What do you believe about Jesus? It is Simon Peter who is brave enough, or impetuous enough to answer. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Imagine the others breathing again, thankful that someone else has said something. It isn’t a long answer, but it contains a lot of ideas. The Jews believed that the Messiah was the chosen one who would save them from oppression. They had been looking forward to the arrival of their Messiah for many hundreds of years. They didn’t necessarily realize that Jesus offers us saving from our sins. Simon Peter says more – “the Son of the living God”. This title was used by the Jews for their Kings in the Old Testament, but for Christians it is a key description of the identity of Jesus – completely human and completely God. Simon may have thought he was identifying Jesus as a warrior king, but actually he was telling Jesus the truth, that Jesus is our salvation and our God.
Not bad for a man who has been put on the spot.
Votes welcome – closing at 4pm Tuesday 3rd July 2012