Reflections and resources regarding Gaza and Israel

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As the war in Gaza and Israel continues to dominate our TV screens and our thoughts, I feel it is appropriate to share my own thoughts and some resources that might help you think Christianly about the subject.

Firstly, I am aware that some Christians have very strong views on the subject. This can cause some people to ignore the subject, others to engage in heated argument. I would encourage everyone to engage in prayerful, informed reflection.

Secondly, let us avoid an overly simplistic view of what is going on. This is not a war between Jews and Muslims. Christians are heavily involved on both sides. There are Christians and Christian churches in Gaza. Many Christians have lost their lives in the Israeli bombing and many churches have been destroyed. There are also many Christians and churches in Israel; some amongst the Arab community, others within the Jewish community, others with members from both communities. Christians have a long history in the area and have been at the forefront of seeking reconciliation in the region.

Thirdly, the current situation needs to be understood in its historical context which starts with events that are described in Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible; includes decisions made after WW1 and WW2; as well as more recent events.

I have found the following resources have helped me as I have sought to understand and pray into what is going on.

The perspective of Christians on the ground is important. Their views need to be heard; they are there rather than just watching from a far. However, we do not hear from them in our western media. They have strong views which you may not agree with, but we need to listen to them. They are also constructive about what a just solution might look like.

  1. This is an open letter from many Christians in the area seeking to challenge what they perceive as the unhelpful views and actions of some western Christians.

  1. This podcast includes an interview with Dr Harry Hagopian – a former Assistant General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches as well as former Executive Director of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee where he played a role in peace negotiations in the region. What’s the role of the churches there in bringing an end to fighting and what about us – what can we be doing?

  1. Then finally my friend Andrew Wilson, who is teaching pastor at a church in London, shares the historical and biblical context as well as some reflections on how we can pray.

I commend all these resources to you.

With love,







Living the Christian Life

I recently came across this stimulating quote in a book I am reading. Thought it was worth sharing.

N.T. Wright offers an especially helpful analogy for dealing with the question of how we apply the biblical texts to our lives. Frequently, the ultra-conservatives take texts and slap them on to the present situation without any concern for the original or current cultures and how the differences between them might affect how we apply the Scriptures at least two thousand years after they were written. Extreme liberals, on the other hand, often react by insisting that the Bible has nothing specific to say directly to this culture, that we can only abstract some sort of ethereal principles out of the text. As a creative and yet faithful alternative beyond both sides, Tom Wright suggests a brilliant comparison.

Suppose we found an incomplete play by William Shakespeare. How could we produce it? If we discovered the first five acts and the last bit of the seventh, we could try to write the missing parts — but who could ever write as well as Shakespeare? Besides, Shakespeare is no longer alive for us to check out our attempts with him.

Instead, we could go to Ashland, Oregon, which has one of the finest Shakespeare festivals in the world, and there we would secure the best Shakespearean actors we could find — people who have performed lots of his plays, who know his ways, his idiosyncrasies, his twists of language. They would immerse themselves in the acts that we do have, and then we’d let them improvise the parts that are missing. Since the audience would be different every time the play was performed, it would be improvised differently every day according to who is there and what is happening. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Similarly, the Christian community has passed on the unfinished drama of God. Act I of the play, the creation, teaches us that we are all created equally to bear the image of God, that we are responsible to care for each other and the cosmos. Act II, the fall, enables us to understand the world’s brokenness and destruction. Acts III and V present the stories of Israel and of the early Christians, respectively, to offer us examples of both disobedience and trust and to demonstrate the consequences of our rebellions and our following. Act IV gives an account of the life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus as the culmination of all God’s promises to Israel in Act III and the foundation for all the Holy Spirit’s work through the saints of Act V. Those five acts are complete, but Act VI is missing, and we have only a fragment of the drama’s end (Act VII) from the book of Revelation. What we know of the grand denouement of the world, when Christ comes again and destroys evil and death forever, is only a sketch meant to encourage us in the struggles and sufferings of the present.

How do we apply the Scriptures? We immerse ourselves in the first five and partial last acts of the drama, in all the texts passed on as the grand biblical story of God and his people. By means of the commandments, speeches, narratives, poetry, warnings, promises, and songs of the entire Revelation, we are formed with the character of God’s people to imitate the virtues and deeds of God himself. All over the world Christians are improvising the biblical story — differently in each place because of the surrounding audience and circumstances. And we have a great advantage over the Shakespearean actors, for, as we improvise Act VI in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the drama, we can regularly check out our attempts with the Author, who is still alive!

Dawn, Marva J.; Peterson, Eugene. The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call (pp. 42-43). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Statement on the situation in Gaza and Palestine

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20 October 2023


Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God.


The land where Jesus made this incredible statement is now defiled with the blood of Palestinians and Jews. The places where his commands to love neighbour and to love enemy were heard now resound with the tormented cries of children, women, men, people suffering the most horrific deaths, mourning loved ones, held hostage by cruel captors, witnessing the destruction of everything around them.  In the land, as well as around the world, the agonies of those face to face with such evil are played out on our screens and media and provoke us to respond with yet more passionate support for Israel or Gaza.


In the face of such violence on all sides – violence of action and violence of words – to be a peacemaker is to first choose to be still in the face of such provocation.  It is to not follow through with quick reaction, to not quickly drive the cycle of violence through yet one more rotation. It is not our natural response to be still, to step aside from our instinctual responses, and to think again. But it is the way that builds justice and sustainable peace for all.


Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God.


At such times when under enormous pressure to act, it may seem the obvious thing for us who are bystanders to encourage those we identify with in the conflict to fight on, to widen and strengthen their support base.  But often our greatest gift will be to urge restraint and reflection, to weigh the impact of our support.  We believe this is just such a time.


Around Luton as well as the nation there is much anger. People are dividing, both in support of Israel or of Gaza and the Palestinians, and in how we respond to the events of the past two weeks. It is totally understandable.  But we do not believe it will help our town, or Israelis or Palestinians, the people of the Holy Land.


We know the complexity of the conflict that has torn the Holy Land apart for decades is considerable.  Its resolution in the land is made harder by the extensive networks of kinship and support internationally.  The deep disparity of power between sides both in the nature of the conflict and its resolution cannot be overstated. And strongly held views on the Holy Land have very deep roots.


As Christian leaders in Luton we would call first for churches and church leaders to join together at this time and unite in calling for a sustainable and enduring justice and peace in the Holy Land. As Christians we acknowledge we hold different views on the nation of Israel, on the Palestinian cause, and on what a solution should look like. We consequently differ on what a Just Peace might look like.  However we must seek to stand in unity as we pray for the people of the Holy Land themselves to consider what that looks like.


To Palestinians and Jews in our Luton community we extend our prayers for your loved ones in the Holy Land. We cannot imagine the pain you feel at this time.


For our Muslim friends and neighbours we hold you in our deepest prayers.  We understand deeply and identify with your support for the ummah, your extended community of faith. When our fellow Christians suffer we grieve in just the same way.  We want to walk with you in this quest for a Just Peace.


To our community leaders and especially our politicians, locally and nationally, you too are in our prayers.  We urge you, for the sake of our own community to stand together for a Just Peace in this 75 year long conflict.  We sincerely call you to remember the impact of your words, your policies and your actions here in Luton, in our nation – as well as around the world. In recent years we have stood together in the face of international events that would divides us, and especially previous events in the Holy Land. And we have stood together in the face of those in our town and nation who would stir up hatred and division. We have stood together for the peace of Luton.  That was the call of Luton Council of Faiths last week and we want to repeat it again here.


To all in our community who are angry we understand your anger. We too are angry at what we see. We would ask you to join us in our call for a Just Peace. It is our deep hope that once again we can show our nation that we do things differently in Luton.  And that people might say of us as Lutonians:


Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God.



Tony Thompson, Hope Church and Chair, Churches Together in Luton

Michael Singleton, Vice Chair of Churches Together in Luton

Rev Mike Jones, Vicar of St Marys, Luton and Chair, St Marys Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

Mgr Kevin McGinnell VF Holy Ghost Catholic Parish

Revd Canon David Kesterton Vicar All Saints with St Peter’s., Luton Area Dean of Luton

Rev Patrick Gbanie Kandeh MA, BA (Hons), CTM, CTPS Superintendent Minister South Bedfordshire Circuit

Revd Heather Whyte, United Reformed Church minister to Newland Church (Luton and Dunstable Cluster), Heartland Local Area Group.

Rev Josias De Souza, Vicar of St. Francis, Luton

Peter Adams    St Marys Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

Cathy Nobles.  St Marys Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

Sue Penn, member of Churches Together in Luton Executive




The mystery of God

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I have been thinking about the mystery of God. One aspect of the mystery of God is that we can never really comprehend fully who he is and the complexity of all his characteristics. But I’ve been thinking about something different, about how God chooses to establish and then work out his plans without us necessarily knowing or understanding His goals or the reasons.

One of my observations is from the book of Exodus which we’ve been studying as a church family. This observation is that the full revelation of who God is, his presence, he’s plans and word for us, is something which is only revealed (both to Moses and the people of Israel) after they have left the slavery of Egypt. I don’t want to draw any concrete theology out of this, but isn’t it fascinating that when I look at that story (or when I look at different stages in my own life,) that we are often called to take a step of faith when actually we don’t understand the fullness of what He wants to do, or why he wants to do it.   Sometimes we start to understand later down the line, sometimes not!

I have also been looking at the last verses of the book of Romans, (chapter 16 verses 25 to 27.)   It brings a different lens to the mystery of God. The Apostle Paul is writing to the Roman church and says:  ‘in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings, by the command of the eternal God.’    Several things strike me here. (1) It is the command of God is what is what sets events of History. (2)  When setting the commands of history God includes a degree of mystery which is hidden in there. God doesn’t do this all of the time, and he certainly not trying to frustrate us, but often times God chooses to include mystery in there for us. (3) The gift of Prophecy.  In this context Paul is talking about prophetic writings of Old Testament scripture, but for us as we seek to discern Gods will it could equally be prophetic words, pictures, or simply a sense that the Holy Spirit has given us.  This blesses us because we have something to aim for and have a sense of direction, and also we are assured that God is in control, He is speaking, and somehow this will glorify him later on.  (4) God brings revelation. Having set the commands of History, included mystery and the prophetic, God will ultimately bring His revelation. One of the difficult things that the Bible demonstrates is that Gods revelation can take weeks, months, years, or many generations. For example, Moses and the Israelites would have loved, treasured, and been in awe of the Tabernacle of God, but the increased revelation of the tabernacle and temple would only 1500 years later with the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross.

None of us will ever understand the mystery of God.  He’s God, and we’ll never understand the full complexity of his being, nor understand the unfolding of his plans and purposes in human history.  This passage reassures us that it’s good to seek and discern his will, and it’s good to value the prophetic input of word and spirit…. but still, we shouldn’t expect to understand what God is doing all the time!!  God loves a bit of mystery, and he loves leading us through it!!!

Romans 11: 33 ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!’

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