Marie Colvin – a Witness for Truth

Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times war correspondent, died last week in the besieged Syrian city of Homs as she was trying to retrieve her shoes so she could escape a Syrian army bombardment. Marie was with 5 other journalists who went into a building housing a rebel press centre in the district of Babr Amr. Other journalists were injured and a French photojournalist, Remi Ochlik, was also killed.

Marie was a courageous war correspondent. During her 30 year career she reported from Iraq, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, Afghanistan and the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, where she lost one of her eyes. Her mission was to report the horrors of war, especially as it affects civilians, with accuracy and without prejudice. She said, “Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction and death, and trying to bear witness.”

Her work involved great personal cost. She spoke about the terror she experienced personally as she went on patrol with soldiers through the fields and villages of Afghanistan, “putting one step in front of the other, steeling yourself each step for the blast.” She saw some of her colleagues being severely injured and killed as they reported from war zones. Her last report was, “In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless …. Will keep trying to get out the information.” It was not long before her voice, the voice of truth, was silenced by a Syrian army rocket, probably targeted at her and other journalists reporting on the war. “In war, truth is the first casualty!”

2000 years ago men also tried to silence the voice of truth. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world to bear witness to the truth which sets us free. He spoke the truth without fear for his own safety. He faced constant hostility from religious and political leaders who tried to silence him by putting him to death on a cross. Their hatred and opposition to him was irrational and ultimately futile. On the third day he rose from the dead and today he is loved and followed by millions of people around the world. He comes alongside us in our sadness and need in order to help, strengthen and, ultimately, deliver us. One day he will bring the truth to light and judge the world in righteousness.

The Water of Life

Water is very precious and is vital to sustaining life. Our little planet is, as far as we know, unique in the universe because of the abundance of water. Yet the East of England is experiencing a serious drought. A record dry 18 months, with virtually no rain this winter, has left rivers and reservoirs at critically low levels. These are the worst shortages for more than 90 years.

Some countries in Africa are experiencing very severe drought so that people and animals are dying. Since July 2011, a severe drought, the worst in 60 years, has been affecting the entire East Africa region. More recently aid agencies have warned about serious problems, because of drought, in West Africa, including Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. We pray that rain will come and people’s needs will be met.

In John, chapter 4, we read of Jesus talking to a woman by a well in Samaria. She had come, in the heat of midday, to draw water from the well. Fetching and carrying water was hard work then, as it is today for many women in the world. The woman had experienced many problems in her life, including several broken marriages, which had really hurt her. Jesus spoke to her in a kindly way, even though her first response to him was negative. He revealed a real love for her and addressed her deepest needs.

Jesus knew that the water from the well could only satisfy the physical needs of the woman and her family for short time but, using the image of water, spoke of the deep and lasting satisfaction which comes from knowing him. He told her that she had only to ask him and he would give her “living water”. He went on to say, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

All of us want to find deep and lasting satisfaction. We want to know why we were created and the meaning of life. The answer cannot be found in religion, but is found in knowing Jesus. Many people, from all nations, have responded to his love, demonstrated in his death on the cross for our sins. As they have come to him they have experienced a deep peace and joy, as the woman did that day, which satisfies their deepest longings.

Truths by which to Live

In the Western world we are experiencing a moral revolution. There is now a new morality. What has, for hundreds of years, been regarded as wrong is now right. What was right is wrong. Positive words are used to give the impression that this is all for the better. Promoting the new morality is “progressive”. Politicians tell us they are doing “the right thing.” This is not a claim to be acting morally but that they believe they are adoping the right policy to deal with an issue.

The new morality involves key words and ideas: “freedom”, “choice”, “equality”, “discrimination”, “phobic”, and “human rights”. Armed with theses concepts we can justify almost any action and can present anyone who disagrees as bigoted, out of touch or opposed to the onward march of “progress”. The new morality is intolerant of anyone who disagrees. Anyone who disagrees is attacked, denied the right to express their views and, sometimes, even criminalised.

But morality is fundamental to the lives of every one of us and to any society. Being honest matters. Being faithful to our husbands and wives is vital to social stability. Respecting people who are different from us is really important.To disagree with people of another faith or of another sexual disorientation is not “phobic”, but arises from our moral convictions and spiritual beliefs.

A Muslim may fundamentally disagree with a Christian who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, but he isn’t Christian-phobic, which means being afraid of Christians or Christianity. He just disagrees with them. Normally such a disagreement does not lead to violence. I have Muslim friends. Love and respect for one another transcend differences of religious belief and practice.

The new morality has no place for God or for absolute moral principles which apply to us all. But God has given us two great commandments, which embrace all the important principles of true morality. We are to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Love for God involves worshipping him, honouring his Name and enjoying the weekly day of rest he has ordained. Loving our neighbour means honouring our parents, not killing our neighbour or taking his wife, not stealing his possessions or telling lies about him, and not being jealous of what he has. Any individual or society which abandons these moral principles is like a ship adrift on the ocean without power or compass.

The Servant Queen and the Servant King

King George VI died on 6 February 1952 and his daughter Elizabeth acceded to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. I was a young boy at the time and remember the day because normal radio programmes were cancelled, including Listen with Mother! That day I did not hear the familiar words, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”

Queen Elizabeth has now reigned for 60 years, the second longest reigning British monarch in history. She has won the love and respect of her own people and many people around the world. In 1999 Australians were offered a choice between Queen Elizabeth and becoming a Republic and voted for the Queen!

At the beginning of her Diamond Jubilee year the Queen thanked people for their wonderful support and encouragement and wrote a message to the nation. “In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope that we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign.” She said she was looking forward to the future “with a clear head and a warm heart.”

In the New Testament we are exhorted to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” This is remarkable when you remember that many Christians, including the apostle Paul who wrote those words, died at the command of the Roman Emperor! Paul taught that “the authorities that exist have been established by God” and are “God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Queen Elizabeth is an excellent example of a monarch who has whole-heartedly served her people. We thank God for her and pray that he will continue to bless her.

Even the best of earthly kings and queens reign only for a time, but Jesus Christ is the King of kings and reigns forever. He came into the world “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Living under his gracious reign brings true freedom and unmitigated blessings. His commands are always for our good. He loves us and protects us from all harm. We are glad to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen!”