Singapore Skyline from the Sea, and Social Justice

On an Indonesian island, I asked some teenaged girls what they thought the biggest problems were, in the world.
“No money!”
“No job, no money!”
“No wisdom for victory!”
“No marriage!”
“No peace in family…”

I suspect their answers were partly a reflection of their own cares and concerns, yet also astutely, what the world thinks its problems are: poverty, employment rates, lack of expert opinion, no sex or marriage, domestic conflict.

Singapore skyline from the seaYet, God says there is a far larger problem:

23 …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

and if all have sinned, with no exceptions, Western or Eastern, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, and

23a…the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)

then everyone, whether in first world or third, in developed country or developing, oppressor or oppressed, exploiter or exploited, has the same problem – we all face the certainty of death in this lifetime, and the prospect of eternal death thereafter.
Singapore skyline from the sea

…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b)

This is the gospel (good news) that Christians are so eager to proclaim to the world. This is why that proclamation is ultimately more important than merely attempting, unsuccessfully, to alleviate poverty now or to put right perceived injustices.

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“Yes, Oxford!”

Have been watching The Boat Raceslive” on the Beeb from abroad.

Fantastic showing by Oxford, the Dark Blues cleaning up the Women’s and Men’s winners’ trophies. Clare Balding was at hand on this historic day of women on the Tideway to interview the winners. Champagne was sprayed. Coxes, Jennifer Ehr and William Hakim, were thrown into the Thames by their mates.

Months of practice for the races, and years of lead-up to this day. And lasting glory or shame decided in just minutes.

In times like this, sporting competitions seem a small picture of the human condition – the lack of clear cause and effect, the striving that may not result in a favourable outcome, the uncertainty about the future, the inability to predict illness and accidents and the rate of healing from illness and accidents, etc.

But what must save Cambridge from any existential angst and Oxford from any ultimate self-congratulation are the words of the wise Preacher in Ecclesiastes:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12)

Screen shots of The Boat Races 2015

Screen shots of The Boat Races 2015Look at that lead!

Screen shots of The Boat Races 2015

Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm’s Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) ->

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500pxAt Stockholm’s Frihamnen, ignoring the many signs insisting that passengers were to follow a coloured line, boarded the Tallink Silja M/s Isabelle just in time.

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
In a scene reminiscent of the Titanic, I had the cheapest ticket for a shared 4-bunk compartment in third-class, which was the lowest level of all, even below the cars. The other 3 compartment-mates were Latvian older ladies, who eyed me suspiciously as I greeted them. This was a harbinger of the wariness of strangers I would encounter throughout the old Soviet bloc.

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Some of the best sleeps in my life have been aboard ships and boats. The rhythmic pounding of the waves, the knowledge that I am on a tin can in the middle of a vast body of water, should make me nervous, but instead I find this calming. Perhaps a relationship with him who stills the winds and the waves (Mark 4:41) is the reason.

Photograph boar meat and bear meat, Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
The grocery shop onboard the ship sold cans of boar meat and pate and bear meat. Prudence won rabid curiousity – I already had a full load on my back.

Photograph reindeer sausage and moose sausage, Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
Part of that load, happily, were sausages of reindeer and moose.