Sunday, 26 June 2011

Danish Pastries, Danish bacon, Sweden and of course Abba.

How different are these two countries and how close! 

I was amazed on crossing the ferry from Sweden that in a short 20 minutes we were in Denmark. Helsignor to be precise, or Elsinor as Shakespeare fans would know it.  Didn’t meet anyone called Yorrik, which is just as well as I am sure I would have made some dreadful puns. Not even a Gertrude or Ophelia but we did meet some great Danes and shared some great food all of a Danish variety. We even got to celebrate the mid summer festival warming ourselves by bonfires along the beach with crowds of people watching  the sun drop into the Kattegat until late into the evening.

The coastal path at Gillilije boasted some memorable spots including one favoured by Soren Kierkegaard who loved to sit and gaze out across the grey sea thinking great and deep thoughts. These mostly eluded me to be honest as I never was much good at philosophy, but we did sit at his bench and like him gaze, think and reflect. “The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about,  nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.”  Nice one Soren!

Then we came across a monument raised by a grateful nation of Israel, to the fishermen of Denmark who smuggled hundreds of Danish Jews to safety in Sweden a few miles across the water in 1943. A sobering moment.

In Sweden we had fun with Abba.  At a conference in Boras the translator was Agnetha and the keyboard player was Bjorn but there was no sign of Benny or Anni-Frid.  The whole weekend we talked about Abba, not the band but our real Abba who loves us with unfailing love.  It is amazing to see lives transformed when they realise that God is not some distant judge with a heavenly ledger weighing us in the scales of his wrath but a loving father who is totally interested in knowing me knowing you, is willing to take a chance on me and says I’ve been waiting for you.  He is a real Abba.

To quote Kierkegaard again, "God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners."

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Island Hopping in Paul's footsteps, in the Med

Visiting two Mediterranean islands, both separate countries, in two weeks is a form of island hopping that I hadn't planned on. But on this journey following in our Father's footsteps that is just what we have done. Cyprus and Malta. One in the east off the coast of Turkey and Syria which is Cyprus and the other Malta, smack bang in the middle, 65km off the coast of Sicily and close to Libya.  Both islands strategically placed between Europe and the Middle East.

Linda and I have never been to either place before but we had heard about both places.  The reason for going to these islands was to lead conferences and teach on the revelation of the Father's love.  We discovered that we were also staying in places that the Apostle Paul had visited nearly two thousand years ago.  We stayed in Paphos on the western end of Cyprus where Paul had preached and planted a church.  According to the legends and tourist books there is a ruined church where there is a stone pillar which reputedly Paul was tied to and whipped at. The fact that the stone was apparently brought to the island in the 3rd Century AD seems to have been overlooked.  But it was amazing to be sharing the love of the Father and quoting the writings of Paul in a place where he preached.  I was delighted to be able to preach the same message about the amazing love that the Father has for us and echo his prayer that we would know this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled to the full measure of the fullness of God.  Knowing this love is experiencing the Father loving us as a reality in the present not just intellectually.

On Malta we discovered that we were back with Paul at the tail end of his life when he was ship wrecked on the Island of Malta. There is a bay called St Paul's Bay where he reputedly came ashore. There are catacombs linked to Christians on Malta and named after Paul.  Interestingly both places, Paphos in Cyprus and Mdina in Malta, the chief men of the city where he visited, became Christians.

There is an ancient Christian heritage in these Island. In spite of this the contemporary churches in the islands have not had much of an encounter with Father's love in the way that we have seen this spreading around the world. So it was a wonderful privilege to be able to minister this to groups of hungry people longing for an encounter with God as their Father.

We are enjoying following in the footsteps of our Father, going where he goes and surprisingly like many tourists and pilgrims have enjoyed following in the steps of St Paul in the bargain.