Thursday, 30 April 2009

Barack Obama at the Baptist Assembly

Well not quite!
but in the same way as I felt a little sorry for President Obama when he stepped into the White house at the beginning of this year I worry for the Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth this weekend. It really has little chance of delivering on all that everybody wants from it. The expectations placed upon its shoulders are probably unrealistic.

So expect lots of blog entries for the baptistosphere in the next few days saying what wasn't right or good ... arguments that such and such lacked an adequate theology ... debates over why there was no free coffee ... some will say that we heard too much about this and not enough about that ... its all too busy ... but we wanted more ... and to have it all over by Sunday night ... all of which may be justified criticisms that need to be genuinely listened to and reflected upon
but its not easy to please everyone all at once
even over a weekend
so let's not be too hasty to judge ...
lest we too ...
you know ...
perish the thought.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

lead lined swimming trunks

Yesterday the MOD sought to reassure us that their radioactive leaks into the waters of Western Scotland were of no significance and caused no danger.

Aye right!

Maybe its my inherent cynicism, maybe its because I and my family will be actually swimming in those waters next week off Iona, but it makes me rather nervous: its not just the warheads on board that make these submarines frightening. Or maybe its because I have been re-reading Henri Nouwen's 'Wounded Healer.'

Some of his examples are a little dated now but the insights remain startlingly fresh.

He says: Nuclear man (sic) is a man who has lost naive faith in the possibilities of technology and is painfully aware that the same powers that enable man to create new life styles carry the potential for self destruction.

Four royal sons were questioning what speciality they should master. They said to one another, 'Let us search the earth and learn a special science'. So they decided and after they had agreed up-on a place where they would meet again, the four brothers started off, each in a different direction. Time went by, and the brothers met again at the appointed meeting place, and they asked one another what they had learned.

'I have mastered a science,' said the first, 'which makes it possible for me, if I have nothing but a piece of bone of some creature, to create straightaway the flesh that goes with it.'

'I', said the second one,'know how to grow that creature's skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.

The third said, 'I am able to create its limbs if i have the flesh and skin and hair.

And I, concluded the fourth,'know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete with limbs'

Thereupon the four brothers went into the jungle to find a piece of bone so they could demonstrate their specialties. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion's. but they did not know that and picked it up. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its heavy mane, the ferocious beast arose with its menacing mouth, sharp teeth and merciless claws and jumped on his creators.

He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

Let those who have ears to hear etc
but where can i get lead lined swimming trunks

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Going back to The Word

Bouncing round the blogs the other day I came upon Jim Gordon's post on the poet Mary Oliver.

I mentioned that I had had some of her prose entitled The Word read at my ordination and regularly returned to it for inspiration. He suggested I post the full thing on the anniversary of my ordination ... but as that is not until October and I am most unlikely to remember it then i thought I'd do it now.

This comes from her book 'What Do We Know' (2002).
and everytime I read it, it seems prophetic!

The Word
How wonderful! I speak of the soul and seven people rise from their chairs and leave the room, seven others lean forward to listen. I speak of the body, the spirit, the mockingbird, the hollyhock, leave opening in the rain, music, faith, angels seen at dusk ... and seven more people leave the room and are seen running down the road. Seven more stay where they are but make numerous disruptive sounds. Another seven hang their heads, feigning disinterest though their hearts are open, their hope is high that they will hear the word even again. The word is already, for them, the song in the forest. They know already how everything is better - the dark trees less terrible, the ocean less hungry - when it comes forth, and looks around with its crisp and lovely eye, and begins to sing.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Busy Baptist Blessings

Last night I was present at the South Wales Baptist Association meeting and heard many encouraging stories of how God is working great things in individuals and fellowships and the Association itself. I am so glad that I was there. My heart was genuinely lifted up.

And today I spent all day helping to interview potential candidates for ministry hoping to study at the South Wales Baptist College ... and again I was inspired by the diversity of people God may be calling to work in this way and the fantastic testimonies they brought with them.

Tomorrow I am off to Didcot for the day to examine peer group support for pastors
I am praying for a triple whammy of blessing!

Waterboarding Jesus

Tonight I met with a small group of Muslims, Jews and Christians who get together every 6 weeks or so to reflect on a given scripture and how it impacts on our lives. Tonight the Christians were thinking about 'Be Alert for you do not know the hour ... which led to comments on our experience of Easter. As one person spoke of their Good Frdiay feelings, of the suffering of Jesus being tortured on a cross for our sin I had one of those spiritual collisions that might in time become an epiphany.

Because today Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney has urged the CIA to release memos which he says show harsh interrogation techniques such as water-boarding work. In other words the violence is justifed because it gets the desired result.

It suddenly struck me that that is many a Christian's view of the violence on the cross.
It's ok for God to pour out his wrath upon the Son
because in the end, the plan works.

Can it be that what we would condemn in Guantanamo Bay we would celebrate at Calvary's Hill?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

To whom shall we go?

Lord, to whom shall we go?
Good Friday evening was spent reflecting Peter's pre-Easter statement of commitment and how it might be then reinterrpeted in the aftermath of the crucifxion by various characters

'Lord to whom shall we go.' But what do the words of eternal life mean when their voice has been silenced by the cross and eternal life is buried in the grave.

As well as 7 minutes of Peter Gabriels' emotional 'Passion' taken from the score for The Last Temptation, we heard from a variety of characters including John, Peter, Mary and this from Joseph of Arimathea.

He can have my grave:
It is the least that I can do
now that he’s gone.

They’ll say I could’ve done much more to help the Galilean
They’ll say that when he needed friends in some high office
I was the one man who could’ve stood up
Who should’ve made a difference:
And they’ll be right.

Oh for sure I cast my vote against the Council
But did I really think that that would save him?

No doubt some kind folk will defend me
And say they don’t believe that anything I could’ve said or done
Would’ve changed the heart and mind of those intent upon his death
And they may be right as well.

To fight for him may well have made no difference to his death
But it would have changed my life.

I would know myself to be a man of courage and conviction
A man prepared to risk it all for what in faith he hoped was true.

Dear knows I’ve waited long enough
For the Kingdom of Heaven to come.
I’ve prayed to be alive in the reign of the Messiah.
I believed he was the one.
For all I hesitated,
For all I questioned,
For all I followed from a distance
He knew that I wanted to believe in him.

But now everything is over.
And I don’t want to believe that is done.
There should’ve been more time.
For him
For us.
For me.

To whom shall I go now?
In whom shall I place my hopes of heaven?

He can have my grave
Because there’s nowhere else for him to go now.

He can have my grave:
Because I could not take the risk of giving him my life.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Fools at the G20

This afternoon I was doing the 'Wednesday Word' Thought for the Day type slot with Roy Noble on BBC Wales.

And this is what was said:

Good afternoon Roy, I wonder if anyone managed to get you with an April Fool today? After all the BBC has a reputation for impressive hoaxes at this time of year. From that famous incident when Panorama fooled the nation with its footage of Spaghetti Trees, to last year’s video clip of flying penguins … a lot of us have been taken in.

Of course no-one likes to be shown up as foolish, but sometimes there’s a hidden wisdom in what seems to make no sense. In olden times the jester of the Royal Court, the one they often called A Fool, was actually the only man who might criticise the King and live to tell the tale. When other members of the regal entourage would end up in the Tower accused of treason, The Fool could satirise the King’s decisions … mock the pomp and circumstance of his policies … he could play to the gallery for laughs, but yet bring home his stinging criticism of the Ruling Power.

This week celebrates Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem with the crowd celebrating his arrival. And like the tradition of the Royal Fool, this event is a wonderful piece of satire. Popular opinion hailed Jesus as a King and expected him to overthrow the Romans … parading into the capital like a General on a mighty war-horse. But that was not his way … power and might and wealth were not the things he valued. So while people threw palm branches on the road in celebration, they were no doubt taken aback when their hero passed by riding a humble donkey.

But foolish as it must have looked it should’ve come as no surprise. All his life he’d said things that seemed irrational to the rich and powerful: he told them that ‘the first will be last and the last shall be first.’ He’d valued the sick and the poor, people those in Power would rather have forgotten. When a wealthy young man came to talk about religion, Jesus told him to get serious with God by selling everything he had.

All that sounds like a foolish strategy for life.
but it makes sense if we value what he valued.
A life where profit isn’t more important than people
where ecology is as urgent as economy.
Where it isn’t simply money that makes the world go round.

Maybe that still sounds foolish, but tomorrow, Roy, powerful leaders of the G20 nations meet to discuss the future of global economic growth.

And it strikes me that their conversation just might be the wiser
if they invited to the table at least one fool.