Monday, 21 December 2009

More Big Bangs

I was using my exploding crackers story (last post) as an illustration in last night's carol service ... how the glory of the lord shining all around the shepherds is anything but quiet and peaceful when all of a sudden our occasionally visiting teenagers slipped round the side of the church and kicked the emergency exit door an almighty Whack! The huge noise it made came just as I said 'angels are loud and scary" and before the next line in the sermon went: 'That's why God reminds us over and over, not to be Afraid!

I was going to reference Ireneaus, 'the glory of God is a human fully alive' and how sometimes our greatest fears are about being fully alive to who we are' but we had to give it a minute for the shock to die down. Funnily enough there were some seasoned church folk who were wondering if I'd actually planned it to happen. Wish I had now!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Have an explosive Christmas

The other day I wanted to give out Christmas Crackers as part of the responses in a worship time. I went to the local supermarket to purchase the crackers and seeing the large queue took the self service option for payment. The machine scanned in the boxes but refused to let me pay, it said 'Assistance Required!'
So I sought assistance and it came from a young man who with due respect to him looked about twelve years old. He told me that he had to confirm my age to make the purchase, as i was buying a potentially explosive product.

So having looked me up and down and coming to conclusion that my 18th birthday had indeed been and gone some years ago he presented me with my ticking Yule Tide time bomb. I have no intention of terrorising anyone this Christmas but it did remind me that so many people in the story were terrified ... Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and the Shepherds all at some time had to reminded: Do not be afraid!

So however it is God wishes to explode his glory in us or through us this Christmas may none of us be afraid.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

12 Days of Christmas

There's a lot of talk (and rightly so) about what Christians might do through Advent to make Christmas more meaningful, closer to the purpose of celebrating incarnation etc. But at a recent Renovare gathering we began to think about how we might reclaim something of the truths of Christmas by taking seriously the twelve days of the season and sharing through them some common acts of discipleship and mission. We haven't come up with a plan just yet but I wonder what others would do / or are planning to do this year?

In the meantime the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has a new poem on the 12 days which is worth the reading ... it is published in the Christmas Radio Times... verse twelve (usually the 12 drummers drumming) reads:
Did they hear the drums in Copenhagen
banging out their warning
On the twelth day in Copenhagen
was global warming stopped in its tracks
By Brown and Barak and Hu Jintao
by Meles Zenawi and Al Sabban
by Yvo de Boer and Hedegaard
Did they strike a match
or strike a bargain
the politicos in Copenhagen
Did they twiddle their thumbs
Or hear the drums
and hear the drums
and hear the drums?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Earth remains our mother

These were my thoughts on radio Wales this afternoon.

My two year old daughter has reached another milestone in her life. She's sorted out the walking and kind of got to grips with talking, so we reckon that she's ready for the next big challenge:
it's time for potty training.

But if that's a daunting prospect for my household it's nothing to what the Davies family from North Wales have had to cope with on the BBC One programme, Changing Lives.

For those who may have missed it this family of four are part of the Green Wales project, an initiative that's tested the nation to see how environmentally sustainable our lifestyles are. I now that Roy (Noble) and other presenters at the BBC have been doing their bit for this, but as world leaders gather in Copenhagen to discuss the changes in our global climate, it's been the eco-skeptical Davies folk that I have warmed to, swapping their energy guzzling home to live amongst a green community in Powys. There they're learning to generate their own energy, recycle everything and live off the land. Recycling everything has included the challenge of re-using the very stuff my daughter is leaving in her potty.

Meredith and I once spent a week living with twenty other people on a similar project in Scotland. The toilets there were composted too ... the food was mostly home grown and the power sources mainly were sustainable. After seven days there was just one bag of rubbish to remove. On the wall there hung an ancient Celtic prayer reminding us that the whole earth proclaims God's glory ... that there's nothing in the sea, the air, the land that doesn't' contain and reveal God's goodness.

That is not reducing God to nothing more than nature, but it is acknowledging that traces of the Creator can be found in every part of the Creation. It's recognising as St Paul once said, that all things hold together in Christ. And that must means that every thing we see and touch is connected to God, each part deserves our respect, our care and our devotion.

The old prayer on the wall reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who once commented

The earth remains our mother just as God remains our father
and our mother only lays in the father's arms
those who remain true to her

Whether we are leaders of the world in Copenhagen
or families in Wales hoping there's a future for our kids
remaining true to the earth is a challenge none of us can avoid.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fasting and Feasting in Advent

There will (I hope) be plenty of feasting tor me to enjoy this Christmas, but what about this Advent time, this space for preparation, ought I to be fasting now in anticipation of what is to come?

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.