Monday, 21 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
I'm thinking about this as I prepare a series on fasting for the New Year (or maybe Lent 2010) I've been reading, among others, Scot McKnight's new book 'Fasting', where he speaks of fasting as a whole body response to a 'serious or grievous sacred moment in life.' This is not fasting to cajole something out of God but as a response to something in life that iwe perceive to be amiss, some moment or period of what Walter Brueggemann would call our 'disorientation.'
In the midst of the reading comes a quotation that seemed so right for Advent: its from Thomas Ryan's book The Sacred Art of Fasting.
Fasting is one of the ways the servants of Jesus keep themselves alert in this future-orientated waiting until the bridegroom returns. To what could you liken their discreet, mysterious joy as they wait? you could say it is like the quiet humming or whistling of a choir member earlier in the day of a concert. it's like a mother and father cleaning the house and making up the beds in anticipation of the kids coming home home at Thanksgiving or Christmas, it's like standing at the airport terminal or train station, waiting for your loved one to appear. its' like a fiancee patiently addressing the wedding invitations. The long awaited event is not here yet, but it will come, and this is necessary preparation, In each case the energy is upbeat, forward looking and marked by the quiet joy of anticipation.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Although clearly these issues are of great importance for many (including the creator of this display in a Vancouver,) that is not what i want to engage with on this coming Friday evening.
As with Lent I try to do less rather than more in these traditionally penitential periods ... but it is very hard
(especially if you are a religious professional).
There is, for better or worse, a lot more to be doing around this time of year and much of it does not help me actually prepare for the depths of the Christmas experience. I'll try and do some more pruning over the next four weeks but i wonder what gets in the way on the way back to the manger?
Friday, 13 November 2009
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Sunday, 8 November 2009
"My friends are my estate.
Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them.
They tell me those who were poor early have different views of gold.
I don't know how that is.
God is not so wary as we,
else He would give us no friends,
lest we forget Him."
Saturday, 7 November 2009
Matthew Maynard is the man of the moment, helping the Police with their enquires but from a distance! The cheeky bit is the fact that he sent the newspaper a replacement photo of himself standing in front of a police van.
Friday, 6 November 2009
But really carol singing, at that time of night and Guy Fawkes hardly turned to a crisp.
Its enough to make you go 'bah humbug'.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Except that's not how it panned out. I was impressed with our welcome stewards ... they didn't panic ... they were indeed welcoming ... they invited the young people to come in (with or without bikes) ... many of them did ... and in fairness the boys were fairly respectful of what was going on (I was adding my welcome from the table, explaining what was happening and hastily editing the usual religious speak out of the liturgy). I took a certain 'theological risk' by letting them know that it was not my table or the church's table, I had no right to say who could come or not (some in church may not agree) it was the table of Jesus so if they wanted to participate they could. But it was the girls who were for messing about ... by which I don't mean surpressed giggles adn embarrassed shuffling of feet, it was deliberate disruption of the remainder of the service ... shouting ... mickey taking ... running around the balcony.
Now don't get me wrong ... there was no malicious damage ... no threatening behaviour ... just a lot of high spirits and disruptive messing about. What to do? We want to be welcoming and inclusive ... we want to be a missionary people who reach young people just like these for Christ ... you could pray for years before 15 young people would darken the door of a church today. I am not so dedicated a liturgist to think that the Communion must be preserved at all costs ... indeed in many ways it is the most effective symbolism we have for mission and it may have been that for some a connection there was made. I am also conscious that they may have been the Spirit's gift to us ... breaking our comfortable familiarity as surely as bread was lying broken on the table ... they may have been the gift we failed to unwrap or accept ... but in such a scenario ... when disruption is seemingly the only intent what is the right response?
The temptation of course is to focus on the ones causing disruption ... asking for some respect / (ie compliance with our norms), but surely the danger there is that we miss the one or two quieter people who were perhaps genuinely intrigued by what was going on. What to do? As they said in the 90s what would Jesus do?
What would you have done?
Saturday, 31 October 2009
no healthful ease,
It’s not the whole of the poem, just the first and last stanzas, (I love the version recorded by the Art of Noise) but the verses in between offers up a similarly desolate view of the next 30 days.
How many common things are trodden under foot
So mind how you go this month,
For who can tell what glories might slip past us,
what moments of astonishment lie left asleep beneath us
if all we know of November is ‘no!’
Monday, 26 October 2009
We ended with the thorny question of personal reconciliation too: as having introduced his sons to Jesus when he stayed in the village, the boys then want to go and bring the Christ to their mother, my ex wife ... and they want to bring Betty along.
What would Jesus do!
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
And in the words of the Brian Wren hymn: Praise God for the Harvest:
Praise God for the harvest of orchard and field,
praise God for the people who gather their yield,
the long hours of labour, the skills of a team,
the patience of science, the power of machine.
Praise God for the harvest that comes from afar,
from market and harbour, the sea and the shore:
foods packed and transported, and gathered and grown
by God-given neighbours, unseen and unknown.
Praise God for the harvest that's quarried and mined,
then sifted, and smelted, or shaped and refined:
for oil and for iron, for copper and coal,
praise God, who in love has provided them all.
Praise God for the harvest of science and skill,
the urge to discover, create and fulfil:
for dreams and inventions that promise to gain
a future more hopeful, a world more humane.
Praise God for the harvest of mercy and love
from leaders and peoples who struggle and serve
for patience and kindness, that all may be led
to freedom and justice, and all may be fed.
Friday, 2 October 2009
Thursday, 1 October 2009
But this visit was different, this time I was asked: ‘on a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with the appearance of your teeth.’
The question kind of threw me even though I knew where it was going. If I answered less than the average 5, then no doubt there was a range of cosmetic adjustments to be offered, but no doubt also at a price. Coming from a very practical approach to dentistry (if it ain’t broke then don’t poke about in there) I didn’t want any such work undertaken, but I felt duty bound to be truthful and the present pearly whites didn’t quite meet the 50% mark: maybe 3.5, possibly 4 by a dim light.
Now I like my dentist very much so I kind of fudged the issue saying, ‘once upon a time the image might have been important, but I’m married now and she loves me 3.5 and all!’
But all the same, the powers of insecurity had begun to work their dark magic. Would a little work up here and there do wonders for my photos, my image and my self-esteem? How much would it cost to raise my dental profile to a 5 or 6? Of course what I am worth is not down to pearly whiteness of my teeth or a body that is tanned and toned to within an inch of perfection: and it’s just as well. Neither is it down to the size of my bank account or the heights of my IQ. Again we say, it’s just as well. Instead, each one of us is beautiful simply because we are created and loved by God. Each one of us is priceless because of the rich inheritance we have in Jesus Christ.
So often fears and insecurities over what we look like, what we’ve done, how we’ve failed to be the person that we’d like to be, can undermine our belief in this good news of God’s unconditional love, but for all that heaven wishes to transform us, still God accepts us as we are. As the song says, we can come no other way. And so again, we might all say that’s just as well. And if you don’t believe me then print and pin this to the bathroom mirror.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
Like going to Assembly, some of the greatest benefits are in catching up with friends now flung far and wide across the country, but there has obviously been a rich array of studies and reflections this year which has left participants sufficiently enthused to blog on them. I ma sure this has happened in the past as well, but this year i was paying attention. Of course nothing beats being there, (even a second rate gig will trump a CD /i tune download) but it seems that there was so much to which a wider audience might listen that's its a shame to not share it all around.
So I am wondering if anyone thought to record the Bible Studies and Lectures and if so do they or BUGB have the technology to post them somewhere for us all to have a listen. I know the team from BMS had down loads of Tony Campollo on line within a day of his talks at the Joint Welsh Baptist Assembly which helped me capture a flavour of the time even though I could not be there. It too was a great refreshment.
I suspect that no-one did it this time but here's an appeal for next year
could we all share in more of the refreshments please?
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Monday, 21 September 2009
Friday, 18 September 2009
But this national exhibition managed to get personal as well. I was fascinated by the reconstructed faces of four ancient Welsh skulls. Who were these people? In another life would we have been friends ... might we even have been relatives? Of course they say, go back to your roots in any family tree and it is not long before you uncover criminality, madness and even worse.
Searching for truth in our origins, in the family or the nation is always risky, especially when its personal and if it gets spiritual.
So I left the exhibition wondering what might happen if this weekend I did some archaeology on my Soul, what if you or I dug down through the layers of who we are what might any of us uncover half hidden in our hearts?
Of course we’d all find some unsavory aspects to our character ...
There’s none of us without such flaws ...
But a great truth of the Christian faith is that if we dare dig deep enough, we will discover that far back in our origins, each one of us has been fashioned to life in the Image of God. Heaven's love and goodness are planted more deeply in us than any hurt or sin or wrong.
We need to rediscover this vital truth about our origins, we need to believe this truth about ourselves no matter how beautiful we discover that we are.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Monday, 24 August 2009
Some of these have undoubtedly come from nations like Libya who whether or not it was al Megrahi in person, as a nation have effectively admitted that they lay behind the deaths of 270 at Locherbie. But a few years before Locherbie the American Navy shot down Iran flight 655 with 290 on board. If it were an accident, even one where the crew got sucked in to what they call ‘scenario fulfilment’, then it seems to me that it due to some pretty reckless military behaviour. Yet the crew were subsequently decorated (along with all those who served in the Gulf at that time) and the captain awarded the Legion of Merit. Although 62 million dollars of compensation was later paid, America offered no apology and admitted no responsibility. In fact the then vice-president George Bush went on air to say: "I'll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are."
We already know that Britain is far from immune in all this. Our actions here and overseas have often been no better. The conviction of corporal Donald Payne for war crimes in Iraq seems to be only the tip of a huge and troublesome iceberg of systemic and racist torture in the military. It would surely be naïve in the extreme to presume that Iraq was the first and only theatre of conflict in which this kind of thing has ever happened.
I am not seeking to condemn men and women who go to places and face dangers that I do not and could not and in the process protect my freedom. I have much respect for them. But war is hell and those responsible for such acts of violence have often faced horrors themselves. War dehumanises everybody. Military personnel may well have gone through more than we can ever imagine before they snapped and did things that they would never have imagined doing. It is not just them and their commanders who are responsible … it is the governments who send them and the people who elected them and then did nothing to protest.
Ask not for whom this bell tolls it tolls for us all.
Just as no child is born a terrorist or with that hatred in their hearts. They become so by the horrors they experience in life. Their bell tolls for us all as well.
And we could pick on any country round the world and ask the same question: Who can come to God and demand judgment or plea for mercy with clean hands? Which nation is good enough to demand judgment from God? Which is sinless enough to expect mercy.
Or if we got personal again: What person thinks they can come to God and think they are on a par with the wisdom of the Almighty and so can demand judgement on another? Who is sinless enough to think they are good enough to expect mercy?
Seems to me we don’t know … and we’re not supposed to. The story is supposed to hang around in mid air .It invites us to write our own response … our own chapter 5. In doing so however we will need to ask how do we feel about a God who really loves the world as much as he loves the Church? How do I feel about a God who loves Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi as much as he loves me? How do we feel about a God who loves mercy as much as he loves judgment?