Friday, 28 August 2009

They, you or we?

Hands up those who're glad they were not in Kenny MacAskill's shoes last week? I'm certainly glad that I didn't have to make the decision about Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Gordon Brown demonstrated his desire to keep the decision at arm's length from his desk. 'They' made that decision; it was someone else's responsibility.

Who decided that trams would be a good idea for Edinburgh? Again, we pass the buck; it was 'their' decisions and we're not even sure at times who 'they' are. All we know is that it was not our decision and is we had been in charge it would have been done differently!

Who got us into the financial mess that the world is in? We point the finger at some faceless group of individuals and blame them for the choices they made that put us into the situation in which we now find ourselves.

The people of Kilmarnock are pointing the finger at the moment at the management of Diageo for 'their' decision to remove funding from the Johnnie Walker plant in the town, except they know where to go to stick the blame.

But this becomes personal - it is 'your' decision. If you were given the chance to talk to Kenny MacAskill about his last week, we would talk to him about 'your' decision and if we think he was wrong, that becomes an accusation. "Why did you make your decision?" We know where the blame/responsibility lies and we make it obvious. It is not our responsibility, but we blame you for the way in which you exercised yours!

"We" is a group word. It says something about shared responsibility. The people of Juniper Green and Baberton Mains will have the opportunity, in the next few weeks, to exercise something of that shared responsibility for our community with the proposal to form a community council. It would be a real shame if this were to founder for a lack of support, that we are not prepared to take on some responsibility for our community.

"They", "You" or "we"? All of these are found in Church. There are lots of people who blame 'the Church' for things they don't like in the Church - it is 'their' fault, but they are never quite sure who 'they' are. I've had people talk to me about things in church and say 'you' did this or that and for them it is my responsibility or fault. The Church is meant to be a community of people who belong together and who share some sense of responsibility for the health and well-being of the Church - for church like that, the best word to use is "we".

"We" is a word that suggests we are in this together, that we share the responsibility for Church or the community, or the world. 'They' passes the buck; 'you' makes it an accusation; 'we' speaks of community and togetherness and shared responsibility. I know which I prefer!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Showstoppers - the blog!

Ooh! Ouch! It's Friday afternoon at the end of mission week. My legs are just about giving up after running about all week.

We've had a great week; here are some of the highlights:
  • 48 children altogether have passed through our doors, most of them with us every day of the week.
  • 30 children came to the parents' night and brought their parents along to watch and take part.
  • A team of 3o people from the Church, some of them teenagers, some slightly older, have been in the hall from 9am till 12 noon every day, Monday to Friday, to make Showstoppers work. Some are old hands at this, having been part of the team for a few years now, but for others this was an entirely new experience and they have all been brilliant.
  • We have told the children the stories of creation, David and Goliath, Daniel, the birth of Jesus and His death and resurrection: they have watched the stories on DVD and have taken home something each day to work on as a reminder of the story.
  • We did some new things this year: the children had to build a tower with 20 plastic cups - how high could they go and still have a structure that stood up and 13 was the record; as a team challenge, we had each team draw a cartoon story-board of the story of Daniel and some of the art-work was first class - there were some brilliant lions.
  • We learned some new songs that will become part of our repertoire for future use.

All in all it was a high-energy week and one that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

We will never really know the impact of something like this. Immediately, the children had a fun week and so they go away seeing that Church is fun! They heard some fantastic Bible stories and we hope they remember them. But beyond that, we will never know what impact our work has had; we sow seeds in the hope and confidence that God will make these seeds grow into lasting fruit of faith and Christian character. Continue to water these seeds with your praying.

Here's my hope: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. " (Isaiah 55:10,11)

Power and responsibility

Tram alert!! I'm going back to the trams for a moment. There's a newspaper report today that hints at the possibility of yet more delays because one of the companies wants to renegotiate their deal. The track-laying company seems to want more money to finish the job because they think they have the Council over a barrel. It may or may not be the case, but here is a business trying to use its muscle to get its own way at the expense of others, trying to use the power it thinks it has to its own advantage.

I heard a story recently (a true story) of a minister new to his or her charge, a first charge, and at some point in the first couple of weeks there was a conversation with the Session Clerk which went something like this. Session Clerk: "as long as you do what you are told, you'll be fine; but step out of line ...." The rest is not recorded and neither is the minister's reply, but the impression is clear. "Do what I tell you and you'll be fine; cross me and I'll make your life a misery!" Needless to say, the minister was advised to resist such an abuse of power.

On another scale altogether, the world has had to sit back and watch as Robert Mugabe has abused his political power time and time again. He has amassed a huge personal fortune that is probably squirrelled away in a Swiss bank while his people in Zimbabwe have grown poorer and poorer; inflation reached a massive 2 million per cent at some point last year; the people were suffering from a cholera epidemic because the water supply is needing huge investment; the elections were far from fairly conducted so that Mugabe could hold on to power.

These are obvious abuses of power; there are far more subtle ways of abusing power, either at home or in church or in other groups. we co-operate only as long as we get our own way; we make it clear what we want and will find only that option acceptable.

The other side of power is responsibility. None of the people in these examples would seem to have any sense of responsibility for their situations. Christians should live with a sense of responsibility:
  • for the world, to pray and work for its salvation and for the growth of God's kingdom,
  • for other people, to love and care for others,
  • for the Church, to seek its best rather than simply to get our own way,
  • for our family and people we love the best, people whom so often we take for granted,
  • for our own sense of well-being.

We have to work out for ourselves in which order we put these responsibilities; Jesus lived with all of these and more; He is our model-citizen!