Sunday, 21 June 2009

Evangelical Universalists

Following on from a previous (Chicken and Egg) post earlier this month, and thanks to all who commented, the conversation with some members of my church continues and has led me to this blogging spot of theological reflection:
and the book 'The Evangelical Universalist.'

I hate labels for people, so getting two for the price of one, even two so seemingly incongruous as the title of the book, has got my attention, if not yet my agreement. I haven't read the work of Mr Gregory MacDonald, (whoever he may be), it slipped past my radar when it came out a few years ago. Apologies to those for whom this will be old hat, but it's all on order now, along with some other recent publications which will have to fight for their place in the reading queue, but i guess my initial reaction is to the very fact that he felt he needed to publish under a 'pen name' ... surely says something (and it can't be good) about the character of our theological reflection within the evangelical movement?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Would You Adam and Eve it?

I don't normally put jokes up on the blog but I kind of liked this one and as I'm off the BUGB Racial Justice Training tomorrow, I thought I'd head off with a smile:

One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve called out to God...
"Lord, I have a problem!"

"What's the problem, Eve?"
"Lord, I know you've created me and have provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals, and that hilarious comedy snake, but I'm just not happy."

"Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.
"Lord, I am lonely. And I'm sick to death of apples."
"Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you."

"What's a 'man', Lord?"
"This man will be a flawed creature, with aggressive tendencies, an enormous ego and an inability to empathize or listen to you properly. All in all, he'll give you a hard time. But, he'll be bigger, faster and more muscular than you. He'll also need your advice to think properly. He'll be really good at fighting and kicking a ball about, hunting fleet-footed ruminants, and not altogether bad to look at and curl up beside."

"Sounds great," says Eve, with a raised eyebrow.
"What's the catch, Lord?"

"Yeah, well.... you can have him on one condition.

You'll have to let him think I made him first."

Valediction Day

Last night I attended the South Wales Baptist College Valedictory Service, held at Moriah Baptist Church, Risca. It's always a privilege to see students complete their studies and to hear of how God is continuing to work in their lives.
Since long before my time in the College (and that seems a long time ago now too) each student has been given the chance within this service to reflect on their time of learning and offer a passage from the bible that has inspired them on their journey so far. Some of this year's students are going into pastoral ministry, others are heading off in different, but no less challenging directions. As they did so, it was interesting to note that all five of them chose verses from the Hebrew Scriptures (with one Epistle exception from one person who sneakily got away with selecting two brief passages!)
I don't think Cardiff has become a Rabbi training college, but it offered a brief pause for thought.

Some things have changed over the years that I have been attending, (we never sang Oasis songs in my day!) and this is how it should be... I mean of course the changes not necessarily the Oasis riffs!)
At times last night I must confess I wondered what the former giants like Neville Clark (he of precious memory) and other Baptist Principals would make of all we do today, but in the end I do remain convinced that they would applaud the faithful dedication to Christ shown by all the staff and students, and that they would add their blessing to those who go and those who stay to live another year on Richmond Road.

May the Creator bless the earth beneath their feet
May the Saviour bless the path on which they walk
May the Spirit bless the people they will meet
May God bless the people they are called to be.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Baptists Assembling in Wales

It was with great regret that I decided not to attend Momentum: the Assembling of Baptists (BUGB and BUW) in Carmarthen this weekend but having the Fair Trade Fashion show at church on Friday night proved to be a great success. I was hoping to go down for the Saturday but having been on church activities the Saturday before, having BUGB Faith and Unity Exec in Manchester for two more days last week, and going away again for two more days of Racial Justice training next week I decided I needed to be at home and see my family.

But rejoice, rejoice, the clever techno wizards have already got the main talks from Tony Campolo and David Kerrigan on the net which you can download from

The folks who went from my church have claimed it was a great event so let's pray we go from strength to strength and I'll organise my diary better next year.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Fair Trade Fashion

One of the things I love about the building where my church meet is its location. On a busy main street and right round the corner from Cardiff's Fair Trade Shop, Fair Do's.
Makes it very easy to stock up on ethical chocolates!

Tonight is more than coffee and chocolate
its their annual Fashion Show,
and I am pleased that they will be holding it in our building.
(134 Cowbridge Road, Canton, Cardiff.)
7:30 start, tickets £4.
The whole world will be more pleased to know
that I am not doing any modelling
but who knows what new attire I may come away with!

Chickens, Eggs and Failing to be Quiet

Last night our house was the venue for a church housegroup. About ten of us squeezed into our front room to chat through the opening verses of Ephesians Chapter 2. I tend to move from one house group to another week by week and on each occasion try to keep well out of it, letting the group do their thing, working on the basis that I'll learn a lot more about how everything works for them (or not) if I shut up.

Last night I failed.

Maybe it was because it was in my front room but my tongue I did not hold.
Somehow the discussion came to repentance and forgiveness (not that unusual for a church housegroup) but here's the thing: which comes first.
Are we forgiven by God, an encoutner with whose grace then calls us to repent,
or is God's grace waiting for us to respond and we are unforgiven until we repent?

Needless to say I found myself in a different place from many of the others and so i wondered what any of you might think?
This is not a go at theology by democracy, I'm just curious.

Friday, 5 June 2009

To whom it may concern

I was struck by a comment this morning
I'll just leave it here for others:
Are you willing to surrender
what you are
for what you could become?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Pentecost, All Age Worship and thanks

The promise (threat?) of 'All age worship' can send the shivers down the collective spine of many a congregation, but it was a joy for me this week to worship in my church as part of my congregation beside my wife and child and enjoy every minute of what was going on as well.

There were lots of balloons and bright colours in the church and many people came (they had been primed the week before) dressed in liturgically appropriate red clothes. We had puppets exploring what the power of God might mean for us all, we had pass the parcel presents to unwrap, (and the chance to share the gift within) we had children with windmills rushing round the church making loud whooshing noises, and so enthusiastic were they that they actually managed to put out the 'unputoutable' candles there to represent the fire of Pentecostal Spirit. We're trying not to think too hard about the symbolism there!

But there was space too for prayer and scripture reading and an excellent reflection by Ian, our student from the South Wales Baptist College, He based it round the poem written on the Holy Spirit by Kim Fabricius in his book Propositions on Christian Theology. (He didn't know it at the time but a nice bridge to my reflections on poetry this Sunday)

The poem is copied below but all in all what a wonderful day to belong to a fellowship of people so inspired by the creative Spirit of God, so thanks to Sarah and Ian and Daniel, Louise and John, John, Paige and Peter and lots of other people, (sorry if I've missed your name out) including the musicians at Calvary Baptist Church who gave their pastor one of the best presents he can wish for ....
no not a Sunday where he doesn't have to do anything,
but a Sunday where worship was creative, provocative and inspiring.

Thank you

and the poem was this:

Holy Spirit, sudden gust
and darting tongue of flame
one whose presence is a must
or worship's limp and lame,
as we gather here to meet
come and sweep us off our feet
where we're cold, turn up the heat,
it's new creation time!

Holy Spirit, gentle dove
all animating breath
you bear fruit in peace and love,
you bring life out of death
draw together those apart
with your reconciling art,
stimulate the stony heart -
it's new creation time.

Holy Spirit, one of three,
the God who goes between,
you declared the Jubilee
through God the Nazarene,
through the Church communicate
words and deeds that liberate,
and the world will be a fete -
it's new creation time!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Skeletons in the Pulpit and Cadavers in the Pews

As I mentioned in an earlier post on poetry and preaching I am offering some reflections this weekend on the Eph 2:10 and about the poetry God works in and through us. The sermon doesn't break down easily into 3 points all beginning with P, (indeed very, very few of mine ever do, no matter how much i grew up with them and may wish to emualte them I just can't do it) ... they tend to work more in pictures that hope people will get a hold off, or more likely images that will get a hold of them. It seems to me that that is at the heart of Bruggemann's thing of poetic preaching.

I am not wishing to knocking good sermon outlines (Ii have been moved by many such sermons) but I was interested in this article with such a great title by Joe McKeever that came my way over the ether. I've put a big chunk of it here ( hope he doesn't mind) but the link for the full piece is

Have you ever read something that made all the bells go off inside you? You yell, "That's it! That's what I've been thinking!" because it seems the author has been reading your thoughts. It happened to me this weekend. Warren Wiersbe was the culprit, the reader of my mind. His book is titled Preaching and Teaching with Imagination. I notice that he autographed it to me, but I have no memory of the occasion when it happened. Mostly I wonder why I delayed reading this incredible book. Dr. Wiersbe put his insight in the form of a story. I suspect it's a parable, meaning he fictionalized it in order to make a point. (He has good precedent; our Lord did this.)

Briefly, the story he told was this:
Grandma Thatcher sits in church with a number of hurts and spiritual needs. Although she's lovingly known throughout the congregation as a saint, she gets nothing but harassment and trials at home for her faith. When she gets to church, she needs a word from God.

On this particular morning, the pastor stood at the pulpit and preached from Genesis chapter 9, the main thrust of which was his outline, with all the points beginning with the same letters. The outline was excellent, as those things go:
Creation Presented – Genesis 9:1-3
Capital Punishment – Genesis 9:4-7
Covenant Promised – Genesis 9:8-17
Carnality Practiced – Genesis 9:18-23
Consequences Prophesied – Genesis 9:24-29
As she departs the sanctuary, Grandma mutters to herself, "Last week it was all S's. Today it's all CP's." She walked out of the church that day with her hunger unabated and returned home to face a hostile husband and another week of trials.
Not long after, the pastor had to be out of town and invited a missionary to fill the pulpit. Oddly, the missionary preached from the same text, Genesis 9. But he took an entirely different approach. The speaker began his sermon by describing a rainstorm he'd experienced while on a missionary trip in the mountains. The congregation chuckled when he said, "I wish Noah had been with us. We could have used him!"

Then he started talking about the storms in human lives, and the compassion in his voice convinced the congregation that he'd been through more than one storm himself. "Storms are a part of life; God made it that way," he said. "But I've learned a secret that's helped me all these years, and it's still helping me: Always look for the rainbow. The world looks for the silver lining and sings 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' but we Christians have something far better than that. Did you ever meet the three men in the Bible who saw rainbows?"
His outline and the message that morning centered on Noah, who saw the rainbow AFTER the storm (Genesis 9); Ezekiel, who saw the rainbow IN THE MIDST of the storm (Ezekiel 1); and John, who saw the rainbow BEFORE the storm (Revelation 4:1-3).

He closed his Bible, smiling at the listening congregation, and said, "Dear friends, you and I will experience storms until we are called to heaven, and then all storms will cease. Expect the storms and don't be afraid of them, because God is always faithful. Just remember God's message to us today: Always look for the rainbows. Depend on the faithfulness of God. Sometimes He'll show you the rainbow after the storm, sometimes during the storm, and sometimes before the storm. But He will never fail you."

Now there, Grandma Thatcher thought, was a word from the Lord that nourished her soul.

What was the difference in the two sermons? I mean, other than the fact that one fed the spiritual needs of the congregation and the other lay there as lifeless as a pile of bones. Here is how Dr. Wiersbe analyzes the difference:

"In his preaching ministry, (the pastor) took skeletons into the pulpit and ended with cadavers in the pews—undernourished saints who had nothing to chew on but outlines. The guest missionary speaker took both concepts and images into the pulpit and wove them together in such a way that his listeners' ears became eyes, and they saw the truth.

In seeing the truth, their imagination was cleansed and nourished, and they were spiritually satisfied and encouraged within."