It’s Father Dave back with you again, and I confess that I’m kicking back a bit tonight.
I’m taking it easy, as I feel rather tired.
I’m not sure why I feel tired but I’ve abandoned my weekly half-marathon run tonight and am enjoying a glass of wine instead.
I feel a bit bad about the fact that my running partner, Solomon ‘Mr Jones’ Egberime, won’t have me to push him along, but the truth is that when he runs with me he has to slow himself down so much that he runs backwards for about a third of the journey and at other times literally runs rings around me!
I think he’ll manage just fine without me!
Now … I’ve had some exciting news since last we spoke.
I’m off to Syria! (God willing)
I mentioned last week that I’ve been invited to be a part of a peace delegation in Syria, but I wasn’t sure last week whether I was going to be able to commit to the trip.
My main concern was being back in time for our Confirmation service that’s being held in the second half of February. It appears though that Mother Agnes and the team have shuffled things around a little to make it possible for me to get back in time. Indeed I am humbled by their efforts.
Since making the decision to go I’ve received all sorts of news – both positive and negative – that has increased my level of excitement and anticipation!
On the one hand I’ve heard that my old friend Bishop Riah Abu el-Assal is going to be joining the international delegation! Riah was Bishop of Jerusalem when I made my one and only visit there in 2004 to be reunited with dear Morde Vanunu when he completed his 18-year sentence in Ashkelon Prison.
Bishop Riah was the man who gave Morde sanctuary in the guest house of the Cathedral, and he was gracious enough then to let me spend a week in his own flat in that guest-house so that I had time to catch up with Morde!
The pic below of me and Riah and my dear friend Sheikh Mansour is from when the Bishop visited Sydney two years later. We hosted a dinner for him here in Dulwich Hill. What a great night that was!
Anyway, not only will dear Bishop Riah be there, along with the great Mairead Maguire and dear Mother Agnes, but I’m told that Rev. Stephen Sizer from Surrey in England will be joining the delegation too!
The Reverend Sizer is another man I have long admired for his fearless social justice advocacy and he’s been the feature of a number of articles lately on israelandpalestine.org – mainly concerning complaints that have been made about him to his Bishop!
Anyway … all this is very exciting. On the other hand though, all the news coming out of Syria is scary at the moment. It seems that the heaviest fighting is in the very areas we are planning on visiting. Apparently we’ll be traveling into areas controlled by both government and rebel troops.
I uploaded this video concerning a recent massacre in Homs to the Fighting Fathers Member site. The report well reflects the conflicting narratives about what is taking place in Syria. The rebels claim that the government troops are responsible for the atrocities, but the survivors of this massacre disagree, blaming instead masked rebels who had the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is great’) printed on their headbands!
I personally can’t imagine anything more demonic than a group of men proclaiming ‘God is great’ while they slaughter women and children. It seems the height of blasphemy to me!
Mind you, it’s not as if Islamic fundamentalism has a monopoly on such atrocities. I hate to think of the terror once wrought by the Crusaders, each proudly bearing the symbol of the cross on their shields as they butchered people mercilessly in the name of Christ! And those knights of old have plenty of modern counterparts – fiery preachers who mix Christian jargon with mindless nationalism.
I’m personally suspicious of any church that hangs its national flag at the centre of its place of worship. I’m not opposed to patriotism. I just don’t understand it. It seems to be a way of saying that my country is better than yours, or at the very least that my pride in human achievement should stop at my nation’s borders.
It seems to me that if we are serious about calling Jesus Christ our Lord then all other Kings and Kaisers and Presidents and Prime Ministers need to take their proper place, and our human family should be of far greater concern to us than any sub-group within that family with whom we share a common language or skin-colour or country of birth!
… sorry … I’ve slipped into pulpit-mode, haven’t I, and I do try to restrict myself to just one sermon per week?
Anyway … hopefully I’m off to Syria in a few weeks and if there are genuine dangers to be faced, I’ll be facing them in excellent company!
The Hot and the Holy
I did want to share a sermon with you this week, though it’s not the one from last Sunday.
It’s a sermon that I gave last December, and I think it was probably the best sermon I gave last year. It was a sermon on the book (and the character) of Ruth.
I find Ruth to be one of the most inspiring characters in the entire Biblical drama, though I appreciate that she is rarely extolled as one of the heroes of the faith, as her exploits can seem trivial in comparison with some of the more colourful Biblical women and men.
But it’s Ruth’s ordinariness that really captures my imagination! I am inspired by her for the same reason that Joe Frazier always inspired me as a boxer!
Frazier, to my mind, may have been the World Heavyweight champion with the least natural ability of all time! He was a very one-dimensional fighter. He wasn’t super-fast or super-strong or super-anything. He was just a damn hard worker, and he made up for his lack of natural ability with a deep and passionate commitment to his art!
Ruth is a heavyweight champion of the same ilk! She wasn’t a powerful person (in worldy terms). She had no great role or significant job. She had no education nor any obvious special ability. She had one thing going or her – she was drop-dead gorgeous – and she made that work for her! Indeed, she used her body to secure a future for herself and for the elderly woman who was more dear to her than life itself!
I suspect that the good religious folk of Ruth’s day always looked down on her as someone who was willing to prostitute herself for the sake of her mother-in-law. I see her as a genuine Christ-figure in that regard – as one who sacrificed her body for the sake of those she loved!
However we decide on Ruth, she is indeed a powerful combination of principle and passion, of the erotic and the domestic, of the hot and the holy.
(and if you can’t see the video because you’re on your iPhone, click here)
That’s enough from me for one day, fighter.
I’ll keep you in touch with my progress as I prepare for the trip to Syria, though you’ll appreciate that we are trying not to publish the details of the trip too broadly.
Keep me in your prayers as I do you.
Your brother in the Good Fight,
P.S. As I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!