Thursday, 22 September 2011

Prayers for a Day of Myers Briggs

Leader Each of us is different
All but in Christ we are all one

Leader We are extrovert and introvert
We live by sense and intuition
All Each of us is different
but in Christ we are all one

Leader We live by thought and feeling
Through judgement and perception
All Each of us is different
but in Christ we are all one

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Coming back

There are alot of reasons why I've been away from blogging: sabbaticals (from church and sitting in front of a computer), a new job, looking for a new house, discovering facebook(!) oh and this little guy: Euan. But here is my intention to return ... maybe not today, or even tomorrow, but I do hope to be back soon.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Breast-feeding in Church

The other evening I attended a talk by Mark Greene, it was organised by the Cymru Institute for Contemporary Christianity was entitled: 'Of Logic, Logos and Me Plc’. It was a look at what powers and forces help shape our culture today.

I like Mark Greene and have enjoyed listening to him and reading his stuff before: so it was no surprise that the quality of insight and humour was all there (although there were a number of points with which i would want to have taken issue along the way). Perhaps it all stopped a little short and a little early ... because I had one burning question about breastfeeding in church that never got asked.

In one of his illustrations Mark spoke of how a favourite teddy or toy is often introduced by a mother when weening the child off breast milk. The idea is that an object is introduced as a temporary substitute for the relationship that is being broken. Mark argued persuasively that this is often what happens in the contemporary advertising industry ... it seeks to offer us (sell us) objects that substitute themselves as the antidote to our longings for love, affirmation purpose and contentment when really these are only discovered through an encounter with God and grace. Thus the industry keep us in a perpetual infantile stage of life ... always seeking a quick superficial satisfaction to perceived needs rather than attending to what is of greatest worth in us.

All this I agree with ... except it seems to me that so much of church life seems to mimic the advertising agencies ... substituting themselves, their programmes and their busyness, their celebrities and their products along with their often over-simplistic systems of theology as the ready made antidote to our deepest longings ... stifling the space and time that might otherwise be used to enable a real encounter with God.

So it was I wanted to ask:
Are our churches keeping us perpeutually infantile?
Is there too much breast feeding of disciples?
When are we ever going to come-of-age
and what will church look like if we do?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Have we tested and tasted too much already?

With the numerous Christmas parties and activities well under way (including many of those organised by the church) it is easy to forget that Advent is supposed to prepare us for the feasting of Christ’s nativity by leading us, like Lent, through a period of fasting and penance. Given how easily the word ‘austerity’ has been recast as the universal bogey-man of western living in the last twelve months there seems little prospect of the High Street embracing a more penitential or self-denying Advent, but we might expect more of those who claim to follow the child who will be born with the government of the world upon his shoulders.

The hopeful imagination on which we reflect in this Advent blog is rarely nurtured at the table where people have already ‘tested and tasted too much.’ Knowing so much and being materially so satiated many lives can turn stale and cynical, bereft of hope or imagination. Tipped into the perpetual activity of tinselled light and jingling sound that so infects this time of year it can be difficult to anticipate the deep mysteries of Christmas or appreciate it when it finally comes, because ‘through a chink too wide there comes no wonder.’ But the virtue of a hopeful imagination is commonly found among those who inhabit the disciplined rhythms of fasting and feasting, silence and speaking, lament and celebration.

Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘Advent’ offers us the possibility of a wonder restored and indeed an innocence reclaimed … in these lines below he shares his own hopeful imagination for life lived not only in the spirit of Christmas but through the disciplines of Advent: Four weeks of reading will not exhaust its treasure or curb its challenge:

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

Here is a truly hopeful piece of imagining worthy of the prophets and of our attention: that after Christmas, wherever life ‘pours ordinary plenty’ there will a new richness in our lives so that we might bin the ‘clay-minted-wages of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour’ and truly welcome the Christ who comes ‘with a January flower.’ In the mean-time we might try to test and taste with some restraint and let the wonder in.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Odd Shoes for Austerity

My reflections with Roy Noble on BBC Radio Wales this week began with the very true story of my trip up North the other week. I had to go to Newcastle for a meeting It meant catching a flight from Bristol at seven in the morning. Of course that meant being there by six, which involved leaving Cardiff by 5 so the alarm was set for half past four. Being considerate I got dressed in the spare room so as not to wake my wife, but I had forgotten to leave out some shoes. So I crept back into our room and under the cover of darkness slipped on my trainers and made my way down stairs.

Ninety minutes later I was in the queue at Bristol Airport. Security was tight. Laptops out of the bag, belts removed from trousers and shoes off, if you please. And that’s when I realised my mistake: in the darkness I had managed to put on two very different shoes.

Suddenly I felt sure that everyone was laughing at the fool with the odd footwear. I tried to hide my feet beneath my bag but even though my mistake seemed glaringly obvious to me no-one said anything … not even the security guard who then asked me to remove both trainers. On the way back people were too preoccupied with talking into their mobiles to notice what was wrong with me or no-one thought it was their place to mention it.

That’s an amusing story for the pub but of course it’s trivial when compared with all that goes wrong in the world, particularly the economic cuts that have been announced this week. But my escapade reminded me that as austerity begins to really bite there will be much that may go seriously wrong in the lives of those around us. And whatever the politics involved in all this, the harsh reality will be that jobs will go, bills will lie unpaid, homes may go without heat and tables will be empty of food.

And the temptation for many will be to say or do nothing. Some of us who really need the help will be too embarrassed to say anything about what has gone so wrong. We may try to cover it up even though it may be through little fault of our own. And people who are better off may be too busy with their lives to see what has gone wrong for others, or feel it’s not their place to do anything about it.

The world’s religions have always argued that we should care for the weak and the vulnerable in our midst. The Psalms speak of God as father of the fatherless, defender of the widows. Jesus spoke of bringing good news to the poor. On a day that announces so many economic difficulties we should remember that the quality of our lives in these times of austerity will be measured not by how we survive but on how we care for one another.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Nice rocks?

Just can't help thinking that the President of Chile must have had some other pressies already wrapped before he came to the UK giving everyone rocks from the ill fated mine. Can't help thinking the Queen and the Primeminister are wishing it had been a diamond mine.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Imagine all the people?

When in October 1971 John Lennon released his most popular solo album 'Imagine' the single of the same name quickly became his signature song and remains an enduring plea for a world of harmony and peace. In the chorus Lennon assumes that people will say he’s a dreamer and perhaps he is quite right, because it’s hard to imagine a world where there’s no countries or possessions.
But in Lennon’s dream there is no place for religion either. This is an understandable perspective when we look at the harm brought to the world by men and women acting in the name of religion. Wars have been fought, truth has been suppressed, ideas of Heaven and Hell have been used to manipulate social control: all this and worse may have been perpetrated by those who profess belief in God.

But to my mind religion, or better, faith in God, has also been a force for good in the world because believers could imagine a better way of living than that which they saw around them. When the ancient prophets spoke of a time when the wolf and the lamb would lie down together they were encouraging people to imagine just that: and to live with one another as if such alternative realities were actually possible. When Jesus brought all their hopes to life, bringing good news to the poor, the sick and the oppressed, it was not just a dream he had, the reality of what he did so upset the Powers that Be that they killed him for it. Some things are still worth dying for, John.

So while I want to live with no need of greed or hunger

With all the people sharing all the world as one

if it is to happen then I must not just dream about it

I must act and live not out of fear but in love

And maybe you will join me

Dear God help us to imagine a world

Where we do on earth

as it is done in heaven

And help us to believe

that such a world can be here today


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Prayer is like a telephone ... or not

Another prayer from Radio 4 this week

On my desk is a cartoon of a man talking on his mobile telephone.

The caption reads:

I am just calling to make sure you got my e-mail following the letter I faxed this morning.’

For many of us calls like that will be all too familiar. Technology seems to drive our life at a pace that few people want but equally now we are communicating with such momentum that hardly anyone can resist or stop it. And amidst all this is a myriad of changing social protocols.

We wonder how long it is reasonable to wait for an email to be answered

If it is appropriate to text a partner telling them the relationship is over

And should we accept our boss’s invitation to be a friend on a social network site

In an age where we assume an eager audience is instantly interested with our status updates, where seemingly every emotional response to life is a matter of public record, and others are encouraged to add their comment, are there changing protocols on prayer?

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he began by telling them to go into their room and close the door and pray in private … for God who sees what is done in secret would then reward them. No-one else need know what they told their maker or what their Creator had said to them. Anticipating our lack of patience in such an endeavour, he quickly followed the words of the Lord’s Prayer with a parable on persistence … assuring us that if we ask, then it will be given and if we seek then we shall find.

Jesus does not confirm a timescale for heaven’s answer

Nor indeed the method by which it may be communicated

But he leaves us with the promise - that if we knock upon his door then it will be opened for us.

Dear God

In this fast moving world of ours

Give us patience and persistence in our prayers

Open our hearts that we may hear you clearly speak today.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Happy (belated) Birthday Charlie Brown

Sorry the blog has been silent for so long ... lots of interesting things have been happening, going to worship with the Pope in Westminster Abbey, Stuart Murray and Roy Searle on Celts, Anabaptists and New Monasticism, and flying to Newcastle with odd shoes on, but so often away from my computer that i've not blogged them later. Some of this will out in due course no doubt. Anyway if you are up early or like the radio 4 shipping forecast then you will have heard these prayers for the day already ... I am doing this week's prayers ... so playing catch up a bit ... here's the one from 2nd Oct.

Today is the 60th birthday of Peanuts, the celebrated cartoon strip penned for so many years by Charles Schultz.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy may be the stars, but I love an episode that featured two other characters, Lucy and Linus.

They were talking about a baby called Sally.

She is pictured crawling slowly round the room and Lucy, frustrated at the baby’s lack of progress, asks ‘When will Sally start walking?

Linus replies,‘Let her crawl;

once you’ve started walking

you’re committed for a lifetime.’

There are not many things that people will commit to for a life time now.

We might give a year or two to this hobby or that job,

we may devote time to living in a certain city

or even to a particular religion,

but so much these days seems subject to the

possibility of moving on to something else.

We are often reluctant to dedicate ourselves like this because we fear if we do so

then we might be loosing out on something else

maybe something better.

But this is exactly what is needed if we are to make a difference in the world ...

if we are to see any real change in ourselves.

Many people liked Jesus when it was easy and exciting, but he needed disciples who would still be loyal when things got tough. When a would-be disciple asked to go and say good-bye to his family before signing up for good, Jesus told him straight: No-one who starts following me and then looks back is ready for where I am going.

Tough words, I know, But in a world of seemingly infinite choices, we need the courage to make tough decisions and know that we will remain steadfast for a life time.

Dear God, all of us are tempted to look over our shoulder

To wonder with regret at what might have been

Give us the courage today

To start walking towards the future you have prepared for us

Help us to be faithful for the life-time of that journey. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The First Victory of Peace

This post is A bit after the fact I know but I was doing Radio 2 Pause for Thought on VJ Day, Sunday.

When I was a child my dad used to let me stay up late to watch the war-time programme Secret Army. It was a lot more serious than the hilarious Dad’s Army, much more like the classic Colditz, for which I had the Action Man figures and the Board Game.

Even though it won Seven Oscars, one war movie that was not for viewing in our house was The Bridge over the River Kwai. It carried painful associations for members of our family and it was always switched off. The film tells the story of Allied Prisoners of War forced to build a bridge by their brutal (and brutalised) Japanese Guards.

Years later, when I was actually working in Japan, we were talking about the national stereo types we have of one another. I was amazed to discover that they thought that British people lived in the dangerous and foggy streets of Sherlock Holmes and they were taken-a-back to realise how much war time movies had shaped what I thought of them. It’s always a bit of a shock to see ourselves as other people see us, to hear what others say of us.

I’ve been thinking of those conversations recently and of the cultural clich├ęs we exposed and left behind, because today Britain will commemorate VJ Day: It’s 65 years ago that the war against Japan was finally brought to an end. I have huge admiration for those who gave their lives back then, but I hope we’ve come a long way since, especially in understanding one another better.

Because if the first casualty in war is truth, if propaganda encourages us to see the other people as being somehow less human than we are, then the first victory of peace should be for us to see each others as equal partners in a shared and redeemed humanity.

And maybe that’s why Jesus told us to love our enemies.

I think it was a challenge even in the midst of conflict

for us to see ourselves in others,

to value in them the identical image of God that lives in every one

And so for all we humans are different,

we’re really just the same

And I hope onm VJ Day we don’t remember just the victory of some

and the defeat of others

I hope we celebrate the chance for peace to overcome in the hearts of everyone.