Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Retune your life

Every so often this week my television has reminded me that if I've got a Freeview Box I need to retune it tomorrow in order to ensure ongoing good reception. I don't know much about the digital revolution in television and I'm sure this side effect is not intended by the nice folks who send me the information, but every time the messages come on the screen I am reminded that so often its my Spirit that most needs retuning, if I am going to continue with good reception. Just a thought.

Monday, 28 September 2009

More refreshments please.

I have been catching up on the various blogs of ministers taken away for a few days of R and R courtesy of the most highly beneficent BUGB Refresher scheme. I have received such a time in the middle of my NAMS and another since then too i think (too many conferences) and I am looking forward to more of the same in the future. I think it is a vital part of our nurturing mature (and I don't mean old) pastors.

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?

So I say 'Thank you for the Music'

What a great day of Jazz in Worship we had on Saturday with Scott Stroman. Scott is a composer. musician /conductor at the Guildhall School of Music and came to Cardiff this weekend at the invitation of Kelvin Thomas and Cambrensis Ministries. It was a privilege to host the day in our church building. Scott brought with him the gift of music, he had us all singing and playing for hours on end ... not only enjoying every minute of it, but encountering it as a rich time of worship to God. High point for me was probably the fantastic Benedictus from his Jazz Mass and a setting of Psalm 65 that captured all the mystery of the Psalmist's prayer, but we also did wonderful arrangements of more popular songs like 'Is it Well With your Soul' and 'Happy Day.' You can listen to some of this at http://www.scottstroman.com/

But what will stick with me most is how Scott came enthused and passionate about what gave him meaning and joy in life (music and faith) and passed in on to us by getting us to join in. He didn't teach us very much that we were not actively doing ourselves within a matter of a few minutes. Although most of us could read music, he didn't distract us with black dots on pages instead he we caught the music from him, learning one another's lines by ear, watching for cues that led into improvisation, knowing how to listen to what others were doing ... even on occasion swapping parts around (some worried sopranos at the this point) so that we knew how to carry the music of one another.

This wasn't just music or worship (although it was all of the best in that) this was a whole lesson in mission and discipleship just waiting to be performed.
If he's not already coming, invite him to a church near you!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Free the dream

A few days ago I mentioned the naming ceremony I had attended (albeit late cos I was leading a service at church at the same time as the celebrations began). Although I may have missed many of the wonderful words that were shared by parents and mentor parents, I did get there to see a parable in action.

Guests were invited to write down their hopes and dreams for Phoebe and tie them to helium filled balloons which would then be symbolically released to fly free. The imagery is powerful ... but all the more so when it doesn't work .... when your child's dreams barely get off the ground because the balloons have got tangled in a tree. But greater love hath no dad but that he risk life and limb to ensure his baby's dreams will fly. So we watched as Pete climbed over a high wooden fence, located and borrowed both a a ladder and a big stick after which he balanced said ladder against said tree and precariously perched upon its top rung poked at the branches with the big stick. Eventually the balloons and dreams were freed and Pete returned to the family safe and sound.

It was what dads do after all, risk themselves to see the dreams for their children come true. I may have missed the promises made by mum and dad at the ceremony but this spoke loud and clear as to the vocation parents have and indeed we all have as human beings to help release and realise the dreams of others.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Name the baby competition

Choosing the name for a baby is an awesome responsibility. I always like to know what a person's name means. I was at a naming ceremony yesterday afternoon for Phoebe, a lovely name (it means radiant) for a lovely girl. It was followed by a lovely lunch as well (thanks Mel and Pete)

But then last night I continued the preaching on the Minor Prophets, this week it was Hosea. Many of you will know the story: God commands Hosea to marry a whore called Gomer because Heaven thinks it will make a good illustration of Israel's unfaithfulness to their covenant with God. There is no indication that Gomer is reluctantly 'on the game' because life has left her with little option, no hint that she would get out if she could, the whole idea of the illustration is that she voluntarily embraces her wanton lifestyle in parallel with the idols and false Gods to which Israel has given their devotion. Gomer has three children, the later two of which God tells Hosea to name Lo Rahamah which means 'No Mercy' and Lo Ammi which means 'No-body': in other words God has run out of compassion for the people and he will now treat them as nobodies to Him.

Which led to a discussion time in the sermon slot: who are the partners with whom the church has had illicit affairs?

And if God struck in the same way twice, what names would God suggest for our babies today?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Origins of Species

My 'Weekend Word' Reflection for Radio Wales this morning went something like this:

Yesterday I visited the National Museum in Cardiff for their exhibition on the Origins of Wales. It's a captivating journey that takes you through the land of our fathers and our mothers, beginning with the bones of one family who are now 230,000 years old. Walking through the years from then 'til now, I was struck not so much by the differences between us, as the similarities. People in every age have struggled for the same basic things: food and shelter for their families, trade and security for their tribe, art and other symbols created as reflections on their patterns of living and indeed their spiritual beliefs: these things appear again and again in the origins of any nation and Wales is no different.

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

Life After Festivals

So, the summer is over and the canvas festival season of Leading Edge, Keswick, Greenbelt and others is done and dusted for another year. But what is it that we come back to and have our trips away helped us any with what is to come?

I'm reading George MacDonald's Fairy Tales at the moment and in the one called The Shadows, a mortal has returned from a mysterious journey to the Shadow Church, and he reflects on what he's seen with this;
This made it more likely that he had seen a true vision; for instead of making common things look common place, as a false vision would have done, it had made common things disclose the wonderful that was in them.
May you have a wonder full day and may all your vision be beauty full too.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

I will believe the truth about myself ... no matter how beautiful it is.

I always enjoy keeping up to date with the life of my friend at Stuart's Nicaraguan Blog. On a recent post he mentioned reading Macrina Wiederkehr's book, Seven Sacred Pauses. Book recommendations from blogs is costing me a fortune, but this purchase was well worth it, for within its pages is this most wonderful and challenging prayer. I have been using it for several days now and it pulls me to new depths every time I try to say it.

I will believe the truth about myself
no matter how beautiful it is:

I believe in my power
to transform indifference into love
I believe I have an amazing gift
to keep hope alive in the face of despair.
I believe I have the remarkable skill
of deleting bitterness from my life.
I believe in my budding potential
to live with a nonviolent heart.
I believe in my passion to speak the Truth
even when it isn't popular.
I believe I have the strength of will
to be peace in a world of violence.
I believe in my miraculous capacity
for unconditional love.

I believe the truth about myself
no matter how beautiful it is.

Universalism Unmasked

Robin Parry has finally revealed himself to be the hitherto anonymous author of the book, Evangelical Universalist. It makes no difference to the stimulating arguments he makes of course, and although he has gifted the evangelical churches with much to think about, I kind of liked it when we went by the pseudonym of Gregory MacDonald. He reminded me of that old rabbi sent to tell the disheartened monastery that the Messiah was living among their monks. Every monk then spent so much time thinking that it might be brother So-and-So or Abbot Whatshisname, that every monk in the community was afforded the respect due to the Christ that really dwelt within them and the life of the monastery was thus enriched and restored. Now we all know that Gregory is really Robin, I hope the monastery of universalist conversation will survive.