a reflective response to the referendum result

make a dealI have been trying to work out in my mind how to respond to the EU Referendum result. I want to offer some disparate thoughts.

To those who voted ‘Remain’: You did not lose. We made a decision. Right now you may feel as if you have lost, I understand that. (I voted ‘Remain’ too). From the comments I have read and heard it sounds like many of us feel like the Israelite exiles in the Old Testament who had been taken against their will to a new land where they did not want to be. I think we have two choices in that context:

Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?

or

Jeremiah 29

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

We can either sit down, moaning, complaining, weeping and writing Boney M songs, or we can get on with it, be activists, make a positive difference, work for peace and prosperity and pray for the new place in which we find ourselves. If you want to do the latter, I heartily recommend Citizens UK as an organisation through which we can do this. But if not them then get involved somehow, make a difference.

To those who voted ‘Leave’: You did not win. We made a decision. I did not vote the same way that you did. A lot of positive possibilities were offered to us about a future outside the EU – possibilities that inspired a majority of those who voted to choose to leave. We all now need to work together for the benefit of all to try to make positive change a reality. You need those who voted ‘Remain’ to make this happen. So don’t alienate us.

These words from Philippians 4 were written in the context of Paul pleading for two people who were in violent disagreement to work out their differences:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Bringing the two themes together I am reminded that Jesus taught people to pray that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done on earth in the same way as it is in heaven. But praying is not merely words of hope or aspiration. It is also an attitude that motivates action, it is the fuel that powers God-inspired change. Let’s pray – yes, yes, yes, but let’s act in response to, and because of, those prayers. Let’s allow ourselves to be changed by those prayers so that we are acting in accordance with what God wants – the peace and prosperity of the world in which we now find ourselves.

The country had a choice on 23rd June 2016. We now have another one: we can either focus on our difference or make a difference.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

it’s only five letters long, but…

Forgiveness is always possible, God always allows U-turns!
Forgiveness is always possible, God always allows U-turns!

“Sorry” is such a small, simple word. It’s five letters long, but its impact can be incredible.

When small children (and sometimes adults) say ‘sorry’ to someone it’s often through gritted teeth and often under duress. But a heartfelt, humble apology is powerful. Today we heard the Prime Minister of Australia issue an apology to people affected by Australia’s forced adoption policy between the 1950s and 1970s. (See BBC website for more)

These are her powerful words:

“Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.”

“We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children.”

I can’t pretend to understand how it happened, or how it has felt to have been a victim of such a policy, but I know from reading news reports of how people have responded to the apology that it has been a powerful moment for those who have been affected and afflicted by this. ‘Sorry’ has the power to release people from resentment, anger and hurt.

Taking responsibility and apologising go hand in hand. When a child reluctantly utters the word ‘sorry’ they have not taken responsibility for what happened, they just want to avoid the consequences of not apologising (being sent to the naughty step).

Some people who are victims of the outrage may have been so scarred and traumatised by it that they find it very difficult to forgive. I understand that, and know that human forgiveness begins with a desire to forgive that sometimes has to germinate before it can begin to grow and flourish.

‘Sorry’ without taking responsibility is shallow. Taking responsibility without ‘sorry’ is heartless. When the two come together as one the process of reconciliation, healing and generous forgiveness can begin.

We all need to take responsibility for our actions and ask to be forgiven when we have hurt others or let them down. Sometimes we need to take responsibility for what someone else has done because the legacy of their actions remains long after they have left the scene, but if we belong to an institution that has been part of the problem we need to be the start of the solution.

I am grateful to God for the grace and example of the Australian PM. I pray for all those who were the victims of this heartless policy. I pray too for God to show me anyone to whom I need to apologise, taking responsibility for my actions.

God’s grace and forgiveness are always available to us. They are only restricted by our ability to ask for them and receive them. I am grateful that God offers complete forgiveness when I ask for it, having taken responsibility for what I say and do that falls short of his standards.

It’s available for you too.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A new soldier was on sentry duty at the main gate. His orders were clear. No car was to enter unless it had a special sticker on the windscreen. A big Army car came up with a general seated in the back. The sentry said, “Halt, who goes there?”

The chauffeur, a corporal, says, “General Wheeler.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t let you through. You’ve got to have a sticker on the windshield.”

The general said, “Drive on!”

The sentry said, “Hold it! I am really sorry. You really can’t come through. I have orders to arrest you if you try driving in without a sticker.”

The general repeated, “I’m telling you, son, drive on!”

The sentry walked up to the rear window and said, “General, I’m sorry but I am new at this. Do I arrest you or the the driver?”