Monday, June 29, 2009
Next Sunday's Gospel reading through the eyes of Wordle... It's interesting to see which words are used most often in the passage as they come out the largest. It's an interesting way of seeing a way into what the text might be saying to us... Enjoy!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Herewith a draft of this morning's sermon. It was tough to get to a point where I had something meaningful. Worth the wait though I though...
The king of pop is dead. Long live the king...There cannot be a person left unaware of the death of Michael Jackson in recent days. As someone never moved by his music, I have been left a little bemused by the outpourings from the media about the man, his life, his music and his legacy. The thing that has struck me has been the way that the press have not been circling looking for prey in this story so far. Instead, aside from the ongoing pictorial and musical tributes, we are left looking at 50 years of a very private individual, living in the limelight, and yet not knowing very much about this apparently very troubled man. A man who apparently longed for a childhood, a ‘normal’ relationship with anyone, and healing from things that clearly caused him enough emotional pain to seek relief in the form of prescription medication.
The media, life in public, more money than you can shake a stick at did not seem to provide the hope, stability, love and healing that he and indeed all of us crave for deep down. This morning, the encounters Jesus has with two groups of people go right to the heart our deepest longings.
Jesus crosses the lake with his disciples and they encounter a great crowd. Jairus comes by, he sees Jesus, falls at his feet and begs repeatedly for Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Now just hold the action there a second - it is all too easy to miss the scandal of what is going on here. All too often it is the leadership of the synagogues and their priests that give Jesus a hard time, and yet here, Jairus part of that leadership comes to Jesus. He is clearly a desperate man - so desperate that he will reach out across religious boundaries seeking healing that he has been unable to obtain through other channels for his daughter.
Whilst heading off with Jairus, his story is interupted by another one, that of the haemoraging woman. She has endured much physically, medically and financially over the years. She, like Jairus, was desperate - so desperate that she will reach out across the religious and social boundaries seeking healing that she has been unable to obtain through other channels. But...
Jairus came to Jesus as an equal - as a man. This woman approaches knowing that according to the religious and social rules of her day she could not even speak let alone touch another man. Jairus was first, this woman was most definately last.
The woman who touches Jesus has been bleeding for twelve years. Jairus’ daughter is twelve years of age. Although this is inserted in brackets in the text, it is no afterthought, but an absolutely deliberate dramatic irony. Here are two women – one whose life as a woman has apparently finished, and another whose life as a women is just starting. The woman has been bleeding for the lifetime of Jairus’ daughter. All the time the girl has been growing, the woman has had her life ebbing away. Two lives that should never meet. The woman is one of “the crowd” – one of the poor and socially outcast. She is doubly ostracised because of her menstrual bleeding. She has become one of the “untouchables”. Jairus’ daughter, by contrast, comes from wealth and privilege. Yet they are destined to meet in Jesus. Here is a sign of the new community: the barriers between rich and poor, between those at the social centre and those on the periphery, are removed in Christ. Ironically, the woman is restored to life at the very moment at which the girl dies. Do you see how socially loaded this story is? For one woman, the social ostracism of the past twelve years is ending; for the other, the wealth, privilege of the past twelve years is also ending.
Two powerful stories. But take another look at the small details of the stories as they have as much to teach us as the main events themselves.
In both cases there was a crowd - people clearly expected Jesus to demonstrate the power of God in word or action. In both cases, both Jairus and the woman had an urgency about them, they know that Jesus could do want they wanted, needed, longed for. In both cases, touch was seen as central to the act of healing - lay your hand on her - touch the hem or edge of his robe - there is something quite physical going on here.
One thing we could learn fro this story is that healing is to be expected with the power of God at work in Jesus. We should expect it, even if it doesn’t seem to work out the way that we thought or hoped. The danger is we live in an instant world and expect instant results and when one desperate prayer is not answered we shake our fist at God and walk off. And yet physical healing falls into place as a small piece of God’s healing plan for Jairus, this woman, Michael Jackson and us.
In these two encounters, Jesus begins to heal the social and religious rifts of his day and offers healing through the creation of a new social order where no one dies and no one is excluded. Here is a sign of the new community: the barriers between rich and poor, between those at the social centre and those on the periphery, are removed in Christ. And if you think that sounds pie in the sky, look at what Jesus says to the haemoraging woman - your faith has made you well, go in peace and be healed of your disease.
A really strange way of saying - be healed but there is something more to what Jesus offerers that woman, Jairus and his daughter, Michael Jackson and you and me. Jesus assures that woman that it is her faith that has healed her from her disease. There is another whole sermon on what that might mean, it is the words - go in peace that sit staring us in the face this morning.
Peace - shalom - is the presence of the good ness of God, of wholeness, completedness. To go in peace is to have the blessing of God on all of her, not just her physical body - but God’s presence on and in her whole being.
Peace and salvation - restoration with God and living in harmony with him and each other.
What did Jairus and the woman really want from Jesus? What did Michael Jackson crave? And us, what do we really want? Quick fix answers from an instant god in an instant world?
This is where my notes peter out and the Holy Spirit took over. Make of it what you will...
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Here's tomorrow's Gospel reading through the wonder of Wordle. Notice that the commonest words come out the biggest - therefore meaning that 'crowd', 'Jesus and 'came' feature very often. Closely following that are the words 'touched', 'synagogue', 'immediately', 'made' and 'daughter.'
Doing this exercise has made me wonder about the stories from the point of view of the crowd watching what happened. Notice also that the stories happened somewhere else, Jesus went to them so to speak. It is also worth noting the physical nature of what took place - not just physical healing, but Jesus touched and healed. The outcome was immediate - no mention of in God's timing.
The passage makes us ask hard questions about healing today - outside that of conventional medicine. Also, to continue to ask - who is this man?
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Just thought that I'd give you a heads up... One of the readings on Sunday is from Mark 5:21-43 and it deals with two amazing events in Jesus' early ministry.
Firstly a woman who has suffered from severe haemorrhages for many many years came to Jesus to seek healing - healing that the doctors of the day could not provide. And she was healed.
Secondly, the story of the rasing to life of Jairus' daughter, who had died.
Both passages speak powerfully of who Jesus is. He is not just another Rabbi, not just another religious teach, not just some other messianic nut job. The power of God that brought all things into being at the first moment of creation, is clearly at work in the man Jesus of Nazareth.
The question the crowds are left asking is - who is this man? *Really*, who is he?
It's the same question that we will be exploring in our services on Sunday. At 10am, as we are talking of healing, the opportunity to receive prayer for yourself or others as you ask the same question, or to receive the ministry of laying on of hands and annointing with holy oil for healing will be on offer for you or others known to you.
It should be a special time. Come and join us. Come expecting to meet with God. Come with your hopes and fears, your doubts and yearnings and come with open hands and an open heart to meet with each other and with the same God who was at work in Jesus.
See you Sunday!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I have been to the first of 2 upcoming Indie screenings of the arresting 'The Age of Stupid' tonight. The next one is in Bennetts End on 16th July.
Even though I saw the film first on it's world premiere on March 15th I was still moved by the central message of the film and the data that unfolds as part of the central story. If anythings, having seen it again tonight I feel more convinced that it is my vocation to act on making people more aware of the reality of peak oil and climate change...
I believe it is my human vocation, but I believe that it is also my vocation as a Christian. Much damage has been done in the name of '...And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth...' (Genesis 1:28.)
Having dominion over... Wikipedia tells us, '...In English common law, the dominions of the Crown referred to all the realms and territories under the sovereignty of the Crown, e.g. the Order-in-Council annexing Cyprus in 1914 provided that "... the said Island shall be annexed to and form part of His Majesty's Dominions and the said Island is annexed accordingly...' Dominion implies being a subject of the Empire.
When God tells human beings to have dominion over the fish and so on, are human beings not being asked to treat everything that lives as being under the authority of the King - namely God? It is therefore not our dominion that we are being asked to exercise - but God's.
Therefore, we need to ask, how does God view the whole created order? How does He treat it? In short we need to turn to words of Jesus to guide us. Jesus said, '... For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life...' (John 3:16.)
God loves the world. All that is. Not just Christians. Not even all people. God says He loves every thing indeed in Genesis 1, He is described as seeing all that He has made as good. God loves everything, and therefore, as as we are made in His image, we must act as He would. We are called love all that there is as God does. This implies are respect and a reverence as everything has the fingerprints of the Creator on it.
It is our God given vocation to treat everything that is with respect God gives it - both now and for the future. It is our God given vocation to act to reduce the impact of our modern ways of life on the world so that less and less do we see our footprints stamped everywhere, but so that we too still see the fingerprints of the Creator.
Go and see the film. Change your life. Fly less. Reduce your emissions. Drive less. Cycle more. Check out the website. It is your vocation to act
Monday, June 22, 2009
... I am excited. I have spent this evening with a group of lay people from the church community beginning to get a sense of the bigger picture that God is revealing of His purposes amongst us. It allows the group to get s sense of the diversity of new work that we are focusing on together. We also looked to the future together too. It was a hugely rewarding evening and one that begins to build friendship and trust between the members of the group too for mutual support and prayer, but also allows us to see the pattern of God's work and how each of the new Key groups can work together with each other and with God to bring that about.
... I am encouraged at all that God is doing amongst us. I am well aware of what lies ahead though too. This includes of course all the preparations for the inauguration of the new benefice, and all that goes with that. How are we church together? How do we continue to seek the purposes of God? How and where and when do we provide opportunities for people to gather for worship with resources that we have.
... I am hopeful. Hopeful that all will be well. I don't mean, basically a grasping at straws, but 'a sure an certain hope' that God will sort it all out. We need to be listening and watching and waiting and following.
... I am a child of God and loved by him through it all.
At the end of the day... I don't think it get's much better than this...
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Herewith a version of what Is aid at 8am... Karen, our Curate, prached at 10am and did a fantastic job with the Prodigal Son and Fathers Day...
Your actions say a lot about you... I was listening to the radio as I prepared to come to church this morning and heard a report on the radio about an Orthodox Jewish couple, who are suing their neighbours because they are effectively housebound for 25 hours once a week, as the automatic lights that come on when they open the door to their apartment, infringe Sabbath laws. Surely this is the sort of simple dispute that could and should be rectified through talking... Like I said, your actions say a lot about you.
What did the actions in the boat of Jesus say about who he is? What did the actions of the disciples say about who they are?
How Jesus can sleep through a storm is beyond me! I have reasonable sea legs, but sleeping a in what would have been a smallish fishing vessel seems a little unlikely. We also need to remember that amongst the dispels were some experienced fishermen so they would have handled all sorts of weather out on the lake before - they were concerned for their safety and that of the boat so it must have been very rough. They wake Jesus and instead of helping steer the boat, or maybe even bail it out, instead he commands the winds and the waves to stop and they obey - this sort of mastery of the elements is something that only a god could do - who is this man? Prior to this event, the disciples had been experiencing the profoundest mystery - Jesus the teacher, Jesus the healer, Jesus the miracle worker - whilst a man, Jesus also clearly possesses something of the creator God about him. It strikes me that the disciples had every right to be frightened whether Jesus was awake or asleep!
The disciples needed Jesus when faced with danger and the limits of their mortality. They, like so many people cry out to God in Jesus, when in danger. They recognised that the only person or thing that could save them was God. Once awake and all is calm, Jesus asks the disciples - where is your faith? Did they really think that God would let them and Jesus die like this? Did they really think that this was it? Even though God was with them, agreed asleep, in fear of their lives they forgot that he was there and they assumed that they were alone.
Your actions define who you are. Jesus’ actions and words reveal him to be the friend of fishermen, but also creator of the universe with power to control the physical world for good and the will of God. The disciples’ actions and words reveal their lack of understanding of the great love story of God and humanity running from the moment of creation and reaching it’s high point in Jesus. Their actions and words also reveal a very real understanding that the only person who can help them when confronted with danger, uncertainty and ultimately death is God himself in Jesus.
Your actions define who you are. This is true of us. We say and pray and sing that we are following Jesus, listening to him teach, and trying to live it out, and yet all too often we leave all of that however good intentioned, at the church door. As we re-emerge from church into the storm of Monday to Saturday we assume that Jesus is still sleeping on the cushion in the boat. We like those disciples forget all too easily that here we have spent quality time with a friend of fishermen but also with creator of the universe with power to control the physical world for good and the will of God. All too easily we forget that from Monday to Saturday we live no differently to anyone else - only calling on God is crisis situations. We all too easily forget Jesus words, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’, ‘I am with you always till the end of time’ and ‘the kingdom of God is among you...’
Your actions define who you are. Mark says the disciples took Jesus out in the the boat just as he was. I guess that means they took Jesus out onto the lake in the boat where he had spent most of the day teaching. But, it’s a strange phrase ‘just as he was.’ Yet Jesus teaches in parables from this boat just as he was, telling stories about birds, seeds and trees and most people went home scratching their heads wondering when they would see a miracle
The disciples took this man who is God just as he was into the storm and their actions defined who they were in terms of their faith, and his actions revealed that there was more to him that met the eye. But they took him out just as he was nonetheless. Our continued challenge is to do one better than those disciples - to look at this man and nevertheless see God on Sunday and take him out ‘just as he was’ with into a world filled with storms. We need to trust that he is with us always and his kingdom is among us, so when we are faced with crisis we let our actions as disciples define who we are. Amen.
The image above is the sermon as a Wordle - interesting to see which words are used the most and helpful perhaps to see the text as a visual... Enjoy!
Monday, June 15, 2009
So far they seem to me to be the sort of band that break all the musical rules and yet in another way they very much play by them. On the one hand they break all the rules - in the sense that they transgress the confines of what might be considered 'jazz' and break into other musical genres - classical through to alternative and everything in between. And yet, they maintain that great jazz tradition of steppig outside the box and taking influences from all sorts of musical styles. They also conform to the rules in the sense that as a live outfit they do something and go somewhere else, yet recorded - they come across a bit clinical and angular...
I am finding that I am turning into my Dad in so many ways, and musically we seem to be meeting in the middle more and more. I am finally 'getting' jazz in a big way. I have been exposed to it all my life so it was innevitable I suppose! For me (he says that!!!), I find the free form nature of the music a spiritul thing.
John Coltrane understood the link between jazz and God. His 'A Love Supreme' is offered, as indicated by the liner notes, which Coltrane penned, is spiritually informed, a prayer offered to God. Similarly so, with the late great Erroll Garner.
Jazz reminds me of God is some ways. It can be hard to understand. Hard to fathom, with the main players often doing different and yet complementary things in a song. And yet, when you step back and experience the music as a whole... I find it so easy to get caught up in the moment and emotion of what is happening. It's almost organic.
It's like that with God. Sometimes hard to fathom, with the church and the Holy Spirit sometimes seemingly pulling in different directions (women bishops anyone?), and yet when we step back and experience God for ourselves, let our gaurd down and stop trying to make sense of Him, we can get caught up in the duet that God longs to sing and play with us. It is organic. Just the way he intended.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Spotted this on a friend's blog and traced it back to the Third Way website... Contraversial and interesting in a multi-faith world...
The Jesus Mosque
A new mosque in the town of Madaba in Jordan has been dedicated to one of the more controversial prophets of Islam, Jesus.
The dedication is an attempt by local Muslims to encourage dialogue with Christians, according to the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi. ‘Calling Madaba’s new mosque after the son of the Virgin Mary’ says the local Muslim worshipper Osama Abu al-Walid, ‘is an important initiative to improve dialogue in our town, whose Christian and Muslim population coexists.’
The Christian community of Madaba dates back to the early centuries, and the town’s great tourist attraction is its Christian mosaics, especially a map of the Holy Land in the floor of St George’s.The Jesus mosque, which neighbours a church, is decorated with relevant texts from the Qu’ran, such as: ‘God would have you think of Jesus as you think of Adam, created by God from the dust, saying to him “Be”, and into being he came’.
The local imam Jamal Safarati explains, ‘In this way, we want to emphasise that Jesus is also our prophet and is loved by all Muslims’.
In a converse phenomenon, the US Center for World Mission among others has reported the existence of ‘Jesus mosques’, where Christian converts in Islamic countries worship Christ under the guise of traditional Islamic worship.
Some, says the Center, are old mosques taken over by Christian communities. Others have been started by missionaries, such as Alejandro and Bertha Ortiz in Benin. ‘They leave their shoes at the door, and ritually wash their hands, feet and heads. They kneel on mats in unison and bow their heads to the ground,’ reports the Center.
‘They worship the God of the Bible [and] believe Jesus is the Messiah and only source of salvation.’
Here is a draft of today's offering... I have some thoughts about the nature of community in today's world. I'll post those later...
In recent weeks the corridors and committee rooms of the Palace of Westminster, I suspect, have been filled with hushed whispers - who’s next? There seems, quite rightly, a real watching over ones political shoulder. Even amongst those who hold power on our behalf, there has been a realisation, following the expenses scandal, that whether we believe it or not, even in politics, the electorate still have the power. Despite the agricultural imagery, i was shocked to discover my friends, that these parables have more in common with creeping political dissent than growing potatoes with my children in our garden.
Jesus is the past master of using images from the world around him to make his point. In a post-industrial age, these parables can seem rather quaint and whimsical, but they used the language and images of a local and agricultural world. Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a man scattering seed. Now I don't know whether I am reading the passage wrongly, but in my mind at least there is definitely a difference between scattering and sowing. Sowing to me implies a careful, deliberate, placing of a seed or seeds in soil that has been prepared. It is about maximising the potential yield of an expensive commodity - the seed.
Jesus here though tells us that the man scatters the seed on the ground. He goes to bed and wakes up in the morning to find the seed sprouting. The man is clearly astonished. He does not understand the biology of what has gone on - he doesn't understand how these seeds have grown.
Then we seems to get a bit of a gardening textbook, '...The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come...’ The man scattering seed may not understand how the seed grows but he does know when to harvest - only when the grain is ripe and full.
What is Jesus trying to say? Jesus talks of God's Kingdom - God had been worshiped as king by Jews for millennia. Talk of a coming Kingdom would normally carry with it images of political and military power. Yet Jesus seems to say that God's kingdom comes with no pomp or power. Rather it appears, almost surprisingly, as if from nothing - something as insignificant as some seeds scattered randomly on the ground. The when the kingdom starts to grow - the outcome, the results are visible and tangible for all to see.
Jesus goes on... the kingdom is like a mustard seed - the smallest of seeds which grows into a bush big enough for the birds to nest in. Mustard seeds are not the smallest seed nor do they grow to be the biggest trees. Jesus isn’t being literal here, but he is trying to make a point, the question is what?
The parable is probably loaded with symbolic imagery - the birds nesting in the tree might symbolise a powerful nation gathering other people under it's sway - as in Daniel 4:10-12.
Upon my bed this is what I saw;
there was a tree at the centre of the earth,
and its height was great.
11The tree grew great and strong,
its top reached to heaven,
and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth.
12Its foliage was beautiful,
its fruit abundant,
and it provided food for all.
The animals of the field found shade under it,
the birds of the air nested in its branches,
and from it all living beings were fed.
There will come a time when the nations will gather under the wing of a renewed Israel.
Alternatively, there is the ‘traditional’ interpretation which says something like - Jesus' ministry doesn't seem to amount to much at this stage, but looking at his ministry with a God’s eye view of history, there will be a time when it will have a huge universal following.
Another alternative - Jesus could be referring to what we would call wild mustard. This is a persistent weed that is almost impossible to eradicate once it has infested a field. It is not a tree, but at it’s most dynamic, it is a small shrub. The parable takes on a new meaning because all of a sudden Jesus is talking about politics.
Fields were generally owned by the wealthy and the poor worked on them for the benefit of the wealthy. It was hot, hard, demanding and poorly paid. The workers did not benefit from the fruit of their labours. If wild mustard stated to grown in your field you would need to get rid of it as it is a persistent weed and will take over if left unchecked. It will threaten the livelihood of the wealthy landowner who only make their money from the poorly paid field hand.
The Kingdom of God is like persistent wild mustard. It is so virulent that it will grown to become something that in reality it cannot be - a huge tree offering shelter.
The kingdom of God is powerfully coming, but almost as if from nothing. As it does so, it will turn on it's head the usual enconomy of power in the world. It will work against the wealthy and powerful to the benefit of the poor - it will do the seemingly impossible. It will begin small, but will ultimately draw all people in.
How does this impact us here, today? These parables have more in common with the creeping, quiet dissent in the corridors of the Palace of Westminster right now than gardening. It's almost like, whatever we do, almost perhaps in spite of and our faith, God will bring His kingdom to fruition where He wills it - not just in suburban Apseley or leafy Leverstock Green. As He does, he will actively work against those abusing power and liberate those oppressed by ‘the system.’ Or perhaps put another way, we in the church so often try to control God - we say things like ‘we don't do 'that' we're Anglican/traditonal/Broad church/ whatever...’ In the parables this morning, Jesus reminds us that God will quietly and powerfully work amongst us, growing the Kingdom by the power of His Spirit. This morning Jesus reminds us that God will bring the kingdom and it will grow where we do not want it - like a weed - transforming lives outside the church community, challenge structures and authorities and power in society. Not very seemly at all... The question is, who are we in these stories? Are we the landowner with an infested field - dismayed to see God at work in ways and in places that He shouldn’t be, or are we the liberated farm hands waiting for the harvest, longing for freedom and change?
Secular fundamentalists are the new totalitarians
There's an aspiring totalitarianism in Britain which is brilliantly disguised. It's disguised because the would-be dictators - and there are many of them - all pretend to be more tolerant than thou. They hide alongside the anti-racists, the anti-homophobes and anti-sexists. But what they are really against is something very different. They - call them secular fundamentalists - are anti-God, and what they really want is the eradication of religion, and all believers, from the face of the earth.
In recent years these unpleasant people have had a strategy of exploiting Britain's innate politeness. They realised that for a decade overly sensitive souls (normally called the PC brigade) had bent over backwards to avoid giving offence. Trying not to give offence was, despite the excesses, a noble courtesy.
But the fundamentalists saw an opening. Because we live in a multiconfessional society, they fostered the falsehood that wearing a crucifix or a veil or a turban was deeply offensive to other faiths. They pretended to be protecting religious sensibilities as a pretext to strip us of all religious expressions. In 2006 Jack Straw and BA fell into the fundamentalists' trap.
But Britons are actually laissez-faire about such things. And so the fundamentalists deployed an opposite tactic. Instead of pretending to protect religious sensibilities, they went on the offensive and sought to give offence. The subsequent reactions to the play Behzti in Birmingham, to Jerry Springer the Opera and to the Danish cartoons were wheeled out as examples of why religious groups are unable to live with our cherished freedom and tolerance.
In recent years the nastier side of this totalitarianism has become blatantly apparent. It emerged with the hijab issue in France. With the hijab ban in French schools, a state was banishing religion not only from its corridors, but also from its citizens.
It was an assertion that after centuries of the naked public square (denuded of religion referents) the public now too had to go naked. The former had been true tolerance, something exceptional and laudable. It allowed everyone to bring their own cosmic testimony to the square. But this new form of "tolerance" changed things. From everyone being welcome, it had become everyone but.
There's a background to all this. Since 2001, lazy intellectuals have been allowed to get away with repeating the nonsense that terrorism and war are the consequences of belief in God. Believers are ridiculed for being, in contrast to the stupendously brainy atheists, very dim. Listen to Richard Dawkins' comment on Nadia Eweida (the BA employee who refused to take off her cross): "she had one of the most stupid faces I've ever seen." Nice.
There's also the fact that we live in a cultural milieu dominated by postmodernism. Broadly speaking, it attempts to deconstruct power and its narratives. It tries to rescue the marginalised. A noble intent, but because it doesn't believe in truth, anything goes. The tyranny of orthodoxy has been replaced by the tyranny of relativism. You're supposed to believe in nothing, and hence nihilists and atheists are suddenly rather chic. Postmodernism has taken tolerance to the extremes, where extremists thrive. It's a dangerous form of appeasement.
The greatest appeasers, however, have been the believers. Until recently many hid their religion in the closet. They conceded that it was something private. Until a few years ago religion was similar to soft drugs: a blind eye was turned to private use but woe betide you if you were caught dealing. Only recently have believers realised that religion is certainly personal, but it can never be private.
The reasons for that "outing" of believers are complex. But what is certain is that wise agnostics pleaded with believers to take a public lead again, because the point about believers is that they are obeying (and disobeying) all sorts of commandments that the state doesn't see or understand. Because they are able to differentiate sin from crime, they have a moral register more nuanced than most. Even a wise atheist (and I've met a few of them in church, as they desperately try to get their kids into the local C of E school) knows that believers can deal with social anarchy much better than the state ever can.
That is why these fundamentalists are so in evidence. They're not only needled by their own hypocrisy; they are also furious that believers have broken the old pact to stay out of public debate. Witness, for example, Mary Riddell's astonishing sentence in the Observer last month (try replacing "religion" with "homosexuality" to get the point): "secularists do not wish to harm religion or deny its great cultural influence. They simply want it to know its place." In other words: get back in the closet.
Christians feel particularly aggrieved because we believe that Jesus invented secularism. Jesus's teachings desacralised the state: no authority, not even Caesar's, was comparable to God's. As Nick Spencer writes in Doing God, "the secular was Christianity's gift to the world, denoting a public space in which authorities should be respected, but could be legitimately challenged and could never accord to themselves absolute or ultimate significance". Christianity, far from creating an absolutist state, initiated dissent from state absolutism.
And so for centuries a combination of British agnosticism and pragmatism meant that believers were judged not by the causes of their belief, but by its consequences. Everyone could taste the fruits, even those who couldn't believe in a sustaining, invisible root. These new militants, however, believe themselves to be the only arbiters of taste; they want to eradicate the root and cause. They will dictate what you can wear and what you can say. That, after all, is what totalitarians do.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
On Saturday afternoon I was at our church school for the Summer Fair. The weather was brilliant! I even caught the sun! I spent a wonderful hour on the gate with the deputy head and I hae really valued spending the time getting to know her better. What was wonderful was that between us we spoke to everyone who came into the fair today - fab. Lots of people, lots of fun, building community.
Today has made me think more about what community is. Wikipedia tells me '...Communis comes from a combination of the Latin prefix com- (which means "together") and the word munis probably originally derived from the Etruscan word munis- (meaning "to have the charge of...'
Community must be about bringing people together. It must be about shared hopes, values, and ideals. But how often do we think of our communities being in charge of anything?
That said any community we may well be part of must be about a shared perspective or ideal, but they must also be about a group of people being in charge of at least their destiny. Despite another low turn out, that is one brilliant thing about elections - communities in charge of their own destinies!
Some time ago now I read, enjoyed and empathised with, 'Utopian Dreams' by Tobias Jones. He searches for a 'perfect community.' He starts his search in Damanhar, a village 30 miles north of Turin, where a messianic figure called Falcon has founded a New Age community based on what he experienced when he travelled 6,000 years back in time. They have their own currency, their own flag, their own shops and factories, and each of the residents is given their own silly name (Goat, Crab, Vulture). They believe in alchemy. At the annual sports day, there's a telepathy competition.
From there, he soon flees south to Tuscany and then Sicily, before leaping back to England. He visits Quaker bungalows, Catholic foster parents and farms built on confiscated Mafia land where recovering drug addicts press premium olive oil.
Everywhere, he finds elements to admire or condemn, but he doesn't feel passionately about any particular place until he reaches Pilsdon in Dorset, a Christian community which welcomes "wayfarers" - tramps and drifters - alongside anyone trying to put their life back together and overcome addiction or trauma.
Bells ring throughout the day, announcing meals and services. Priests and nuns form the backbone of the staff. There's no need to be a believer, although an atmosphere of "undercover Christianity" fills the place. Here, he finds a community that he admires, even loves, and where he can be happy.
Contentment does come at a price: he also discovers the real cost of living with others. "At the beginning of this trip I thought living in community would be tough because you're living cheek by jowl with people you might have little in common with, people who you wouldn't necessarily choose as friends ... But the true difficulty of living here is that there's nowhere to hide. The place holds a mirror up to yourself and shows you what you're really like."
When he offers his own definition of a perfect community, he describes a place which sounds pretty much like Pilsdon. It will be a group of between 15 and 25 people. They will be self-sufficient and often silent. They'll have to have "a full-size snooker table, a chess set, a library, a football pitch and a piano". Most importantly, they will share a common belief, a shared purpose, one faith - "something for which one is prepared to give one's heart".Hmmm a common purpose and belief, something for which one will be able to give one's heart... A place that hold's a mirror up to oneself so that we can see what we're really like...
I wonder if those are words that we could use to describe the church? There is certainly a common belief but would members of any our churches say that they would be prepared to give (or had given) their heart for Christ and His church?
There's a lot of "heart imagery" in the Bible. One example, '...That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved...' (Romans 10:8-9).
Belief in our hearts. The seat of the emotions. The place where the world engages with us in love and pain. And yet this is what the church is and how that community is as Tobias Jones suggests, a mirror in which we see ourselves. For the church is a disparate group of people gathered to engage with each other, with God and with the love and pain of the world.
By the end of the book, Jones has finally decided what he's been looking for. It's not a house, a plot of land or a group of people. It's just a place where he can express his faith and live according to his beliefs. He and his wife decide to stop travelling - "rather a daft decision for a travel writer" - and settle in Bristol. On a map, they draw a circle with a radius of one mile, the bullseye being their own red front door. "We were, in some way, responsible for everything inside that tiny community."
Community - together, to have charge of. If only we took the Jones model and saw our parish like that. That somehow, with each other and with God engaging with us, we are responsible, in charge of things within that imagined boundary. It becomes a place to where we can express our faith in God and actively live out those beliefs.
I am reading Rob Bell's 'Velvet Elvis' at the moment. He talks about actively living out what Jesus teaches. He reminds us that Christianity was orignally known as the Way. It was about living a certain way, the way that Jesus teaches us. He writes:
"... [T] kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.
This isn't irrational or primitive or 'blind faith.' It is merely being honest that we are all living 'a way.'
I'm convinced being generous is a better way to live.
I'm convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live.
I'm convinced having compassion is a better way to live.
I'm convinced pursuing peace in every situation is a better way to live.
I'm convinced listening to the wisdom of others is a better way to live.
I'm convinced being honest with people is a better way to live...'
This is Jesus' way to live and it is as challenging and enthralling as it always was. It is as compelling and community-building as it always was. If only we opted to actively live it...
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The passage is from Mark 4:26-34. Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom of God. Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a man scattering seed. Now I don't know whether I am reading the passage wrongly, but in my mind at least there is definately a difference between scattering and sowing. Sowing to me implies a careful, deliberate, placing of a seed or seeds in soil that has been prepared. It is about maximising the potential yield of an expensive commodity - the seed.
Jesus here though tells us that the man scatters the seed on the ground. He goes to bed and wakes up in the morning to find the seed sprouting. The man is clearly astonished. He does not understand the biology of what has gone on - he doesn't understand how these seeds have grown.
The we seems to get a bit of a gardening textbook, '...The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come...’ The man scattering seed may not understand how the seed grows but he does know when to harvest - only when the grain is ripe and full.
What is Jesus trying to say? Jesus talks of God's Kingdom - God had been worshiped as king by Jews for millennia. Talk of a coming Kingdom would normally carry with it images of political and military power. Yet Jesus seems to say that God's kingdom comes with no pomp or power. Rather it appears, almost surprisingly, as if from nothing - something as insignificant as some seeds scattered randomly on the ground.
The when the kingdom starts to grow - the outcome, the results are visible and tangible for all to see.
Jesus goes on... the kingdom is like a mustard seed - the smallest of seeds which grows into a bush big enough for the birds to nest in. Mustard seeds are not the smallest nor do they grow to be the biggest trees. Although Jesus' ministry doesn't seem to amount to much at this stage, there will be a time when it would have a huge universal following.
The parable might be loaded with symbolic imigary - the birds nesting in the tree might symbolise a powerful nation gathering other people under it's sway - as in Daniel 4:10-12. There will come a time when the nations will gather under the wing of a renewed Israel.
Alternatively, Jesus could be meaning wild mustard - a persistant weed that is impossible to erradicate once it has infested a field - so is the strength of the faith of the persecuted. Similarly, like wild mustard can infest a field and threaten the livlihood of the wealthy who live off the work of the poor cultivators. The weedlike reign of God pose a real challenge to modern living and those who benefit most from them.
The kingdom of God is powerfully coming, but almost as if from nothing. As it does so, it will turn on it's head the usual enconomy of power in the world. It will work against the wealthy and powerful to the benefit of the poor and needy in society. It will begin small, but will ultimately draw all people in.
How does this impact us here, today? it has more in common with the creeping, quiet dissent in the corridors of the Palace of Westminster right now. It's almost like, whatever we do, almost perhaps in spite of and our faith (or lack of it) God will bring His kingdom to fruition where He wills it - not just in Pancake Lane. Or perhaps put another way, we so often try to control God - we don't do 'that' we're Anglican/traditonal/Broad church/ whatever... God will quietly and powerfully work amongst us by the power of His Spirit, unsettling us, challenging us to grow in faith to fruition.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I had a descreet conversation with someone today about the whole situation and I feel reassured. God is indeed good. I still feel like I am being ignored, but then I have been a bit quiet too. Oh well.
On another note, happier note, I have been having a lot of fun with Spotify in recent days. It has given me the chance to listen a whole bunch of music that I do not own (any more) for free and legally too! I am listening to Soweto Kinch as I write ... another CD in the offing!!!
I thought I'd also include this picture too. ->>>
It comes from a study day that I went on at the Orthodox Centre in Stevenage. The basketball court is part of the complex. The icon is the same one that features behind the altar in church itself. It is sure one way of scaring the opposition!
Other highlights that day were seeing the most beautiful and yet simple Basptistry, and the place where the knuckle of St George is kept and venerated... poor chap!
So what lies ahead? Tomorrow - toddlers, a challenging pastoral meeting at lunchtime. No collective worship tomorrow having led it on Monday. Sermon prep to try to complete in the evening.
So that's me tonight. Feeling more realistic. More chilled. At peace - shalom - knowing that God is in charge.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Unintentionally, I have upset someone, who it seems was already in a fragile state. My activity or inactivity seem to have made them question their faith in me. No matter what I say to them right now, they have drawn conclusions that are at best half true.
Couple that with the feeling that I am being ignored by someone else right now, makes me feel very vulnerable.
I wear round my wrist a prayer bracelet called 'The Pearls of Life.' Created by Martin Lönnebo, Lutheran emeritus bishop in Sweden, writing about what drove him to make the first 'Pearls of Life', he writes'
'...The history is a long one, but the story is short.
While on the Mediterranean, I found myself on a fishing boat, which had been refitted for passenger use. An extremely early fall storm began to play with us and I thought of Paul, as he sailed on the Sea of Galilee. We finally safely got to the shore of an island with 47 souls, the priest of the village included.
As I sat, freezing, in a rented room with a notebook in my hands, I found myself drawing a rosary. I was longing for prayer, meditation and silence without words.
Perhaps it was that "wordlessness" which spoke to me most clearly. I knew that I could get some help obtaining silence by breathing deeply and listening to my own breathing, and I somehow managed to do that. But meditation also includes an inner picture and prayer also includes words. And, as usual, that's where I got some difficulties. I couldn't get help from my heartbeat as the Russian pilgrim had. The "prayer that doesn't cease" was far away--but longing was present.
And so, I found myself sitting, drawing a rosary. Accompanied by the wind whistling around every corner, many pages were filled with my scribbles. I was pondering what is most important for a person when approaching The Creator. What is truly human in a human life? What is most important for a Christian, when approaching The Savior? How does a genuine Christian life look in our global and mistrusting age?
At first the rosary grew very long, and at last I felt it was like a trap full of demands. Then I decided to remove beads, one after another. Finally, there was only one left, and it was no longer a rosary. But the most important was there.
What was left was a large golden bead, an icon of the extreme worth and goal of existence - God. I considered it most important to have an absolute faith in God's existence and that "in him we live and move and have our being." It was no easy task to accomplish such an insight.
Now the rosary began to grow again. It is possible that we - hurt and broken wanderers - are unable to reach awareness of The Wholeness because of our own awareness about ourselves. So often we see ourselves as the opposite of The Wholeness. We are individuals. Each one of us has withdrawn into ourselves--frightened, cold, thirsting for tenderness. When we look in the eyes of our neighbor, we may for a moment, have a feeling of a lonely soul, who like us, thinks: "Don't you see how lonely I am? Do I dare to trust you?"
A lonely one meets a lonely one.
That's why I wanted the smallest bead to describe a poet's view of a soul. The bead along with the golden bead, also needed to be especially beautiful. It was to be a bead of mother-of-pearl, because of the reflections that could be seen in it. I was thinking about a genuine silver-glossed pearl from the depths of the ocean, carrying secrets of the deep up to the light.
In the pearl you can see yourself, the light and the sky. It carries the message that you, a human being, transcend boundaries. You are a mirror of infinite endlessness, and that is why you are enormously precious. Don't undervalue yourself. Look at yourself with love. You are a genuine pearl among others. Treat yourself and others with respect. You have a right to live willingly, bravely, lovingly and responsibly.
The icon of a human being in this rosary is not money (the current symbol of a successful person), nor a DNA molecule (a biological being), nor an onion which has many layers, but no core (a symbol of a postmodern individual), nor a black bead (a symbol of a desperate human being without hope, sin without forgiveness, a fallen human being, who does not believe in reconciliation, because God is dead). The pearl is an icon of a unique and precious image of God.
But we critical, complaining, desperate people, who undervalue human life, need special help to see and claim our dignity. We of little faith and broken hope need a guide in whom we can place our trust. And only the best can do. In our tradition there is nobody else but Christ himself, the persecuted master of life itself. Therefore, the other beads of the rosary carry the mysteries of Christ's life and the foundation of every human life. The rosary relates to each one of us.
The Wreath of Christ
Tonight I hold the brown pearl - feeling as though I am in a very barren place right now. The brown bead is a sign of the Desert in ones life, difficulties, trials, hard choices. It is hot and unpleasant in the desert. There is nobody whom to ask, nobody to advice what to do, no guide to tell where to go. And in spite of that you have to make decisions. Jesus had temptations too in the desert. He challenged them by trusting in God. Jesus stays with us in the desert of our life.
'...Everything is ‘post’ these days. Or it was.
When I was studying theology back in the 90’s things post-modern were all the rage. That was at the same time that post-Evangelical Christians arrived on the scene. Then everyone got in on the act, from post-feminists to post-punks. There is even a post-modern theorist called Neil Postman. New Labour were very ‘post’, but not any more. Post was new. Post was trendy. Post was cool. Just about everybody was ‘post’ something. Because ‘post’ simply means ‘after’ or ‘later than’. And its true, just about everbody is after or later than someone else.
I am feeling a bit ‘post’ right now to be honest. Maybe I have finally got round to becoming a post-Evangelical. I’ve been fighting it for years. I like labels – they make me feel safe. But then ‘post-Evangelical’ is just another label. A label I don’t want. I am certainly post-Christendom, because I don’t like religious empires of any hue or description. ’Post-Christian’ appeals to me because most people I meet outside the Christian community don’t like ‘Christians’ or ‘Christianity’. They don’t like what they see, because what they see is labels and a bunch of people who want to stick a lable (sic) on them.
I like labels. Correction: I used to like labels. The trouble with labels is that they stick. People were constantly trying to stick a label on Jesus, but he was having none of it. You can’t pin Jesus down this way. You can try, but he has this habit of shaking free.
The thing about labels is that once labelled (sic) we can be safely categorised and filed away.
I am no longer post anything. In this sense I am post-post.
I don’t want any more labels.
So lets reclaim the…
Evangel from Evangelical
Charisma from Charismatic
Protest from Protestant
Pentecost from Pentecostal
Baptism from Baptist
Method from Methodist
Congregation from Congregationalist
Unity before United Reformed
Salvation from Salvationist
and Christ from Christianity...'
(With thanks to Keith Hitchman)
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Herewith a version of what I will preach this morning... came together a bit at the last minute - thanks be to God! Anyway you be the judge...
This last week, a mother who said her son was kidnapped by his Hungarian father more than a quarter of a century ago was reunited with him after he was located on Facebook.
Avril Grube claimed that in 1982, when her son Gavin Paros was aged three, his father took him to Hungary for what should have been a weekend away. Her marriage had broken down and, after her son failed to return, Grube contacted the authorities and made repeated attempts to locate Gavin.
But her younger sister, Beryl Wilson, never gave up hope and continued to search for him. One day she searched for his name on Google and discovered his Facebook page on which he had written his mother's name. It transpired that he had been using the website to try and find his English family following the death of his father four years ago. He only replied to his aunt's Facebook message several weeks after she posted it, explaining he rarely checked the website.
This led to eleation for the family and eventually a reuinion of mother and son. Avril Grube’s sister later said said, "It was the happiest day of her life when she met her son. She said there were no words to describe it...”
I can only begin to imagine the sheer, overwhelming, life-affirming joy of that mother and son. All of us know how precious relationships are whether friendships or blood ties as they get stretched by work or lack of it, time and distance, the pressure of modern living. People move around much more than they ever used to - it is quite unusual to find parents, grandparents, and other close family living in the same locality. Yet only a couple of generations ago, it was the norm. On the other hand, through media and the internet, we know more about what is happening every second of every day in the once unknown other side of the world. We have never been more close as global citizens, aware of each other’s activity, and yet we have never been further emotionally removed from each other, and craving understand of who we are, where we come from and what makes us the people we are.
This longing for rootedness, for identity, for self-discovery, feels like a very modern predicament in our all too fractured world. Yet St Augustine understood our longing to find our place in the world and within God’s grand scheme of things when he famously said, ‘...Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you...’ The ‘you’ to which he refers is of course God, and today - Trinity Sunday - reminds us the answers to our individual quests for meaning, lie in the duet sung between God and humanity.
At the heart of what we celebrate this Trinity Sunday is the idea that it is love that defines us and makes us what and who we are. Without the questing love of a mother, Avril Grube and Gavin Paros would not have been reunited as mother and son. WIthout the careful shaping love and encouragement of my parents and wider family I would not be the man I am today. Nicodemus recognised the love of God at work in Jesus and came to discover more for himself.
You cannot fully know the love of God, Jesus says to Nicodemus, without being born again, for experiencing God for yourself is like starting life all over again and being born anew. If you want to know your place with God, in life and in God’s presence and plan - in his kingdom, then this must be. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a religious teacher of his day, a learned man, splutters ‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus seems caught up on the biology of the image Jesus uses and on the idea that this is something that you might voluntarily choose. And yet the starting again in response to God’s love, that Jesus refers to, is as involuntary as the birth of a baby - we do not choose to be loved by God - he just loves us - unendingly, unconditionally, undeservedly, unreservedly.
At the heart of our world’s fractured relationships is a longing to be loved, to be understood, to be accepted for who we are, and to know that that is ok. At the heart of what we hear with Nicodemus today is God loves in a sweeping, expansive way, He loves all things and all people - He always has and always will - but that sweeping and expansive love comes personally and intimately to me - and that love will transform my life so that I may be born of he spirit, be born anew and to find myself rooted, a life with an identity and purpose, as St Paul reminds us this morning, as a child of God himself, a brother or sister of Jesus, with God as our Abba, our daddy.
I often wonder why our Church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. I like to speculate that our founders had in mind that the church should be somewhere that brick maker, tile maker, farmer, and their families alike to meet together. Today that aspiration is no different - we gather as retired, professional, manager and labourer just as they did. Then as now, we gather, not as some sort of social experiment, but because we are called into friendship with each other because we are each loved by God.
The love of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit that we recall this Trinity Sunday is not some sort of test tube love - tried out on Christians first to see if the formula is right and at the correct transforming strength. God’s love is a spontaneous reaction - not a planned campaign. God cannot help himself. It is a love that is utterly transforming, that births us anew by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is a love that defines us, that makes us the people that we and our Father long for us to be - not the glossy media bodies - although I could do with one of those please! - but the sort of people that they long to be in the revealing exclusives - at peace, forgiven, free from guilt and knowing that we are loved. Amen
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Tomorrow so far has the Eucharist in the morning, and a meeting with some parishioners in the evening. In the afternoon there is more of the sermon to write... one thing I hadn't clocked (thnks John for the heads up) is that Sunday is also World Environment Day...
Pray now, act now
The Archbishop of Canterbury is urging churches to use Environment Sunday (June 7) to pray for the planet and campaign for climate change in the run up to the important UN talks later this year in Copenhagen.
Dr Williams said it was vital for Christians and people of all faiths to take a lead in praying and campaigning for action. A new deal at the UN summit could directly improve the lives of the world’s poor whose living conditions are affected by climate change. (see full text below)
World Environment Day marks the third anniversary of the Church of England’s environmental campaign Shrinking the Footprint which is being marked by a national event at Lambeth Palace on June 11 where new toolkits and other resources will be unveiled to help churches, cathedrals and other buildings reduce their energy footprint. The next phase of the campaign focusing on water and biodiversity will also be unveiled.
Nearly all dioceses now have an environment officer with many promoting their own green policies to cut the carbon in every parish. The Archbishop will be in St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese this Friday (June 5) to officially launch its new environment policy. A range of green projects are already supported by local churches across the Suffolk area from a bicycle and rickshaw scheme to solar panels on a medieval church building.
The Bishop of London the Rt Revd Richard Chartres Chair of Shrinking the Footprint said: "Climate change is a global challenge, the impact of which is being felt first by some of the most vulnerable communities on our planet. Loving our neighbour in the 21st Century demands that we should be involved in the effort to mitigate climate change and to help our neighbours to adapt.
“Environment Sunday is a time for us to reflect on the challenges ahead and to look forward to the Shrinking the Footprint event on the 11th June 2009. This will both provide an opportunity to deepen our own commitment and to engage with our politicians".
Prayer for creation (taken from Common Worship: Seasons and Festivals of the Agricultural Year )
God said, ‘Let the waters be gathered together,
and let dry land appear.’
We thank you for the beauty of the earth,
for the diversity of land and sea,
for the resources of the earth.
Give us the will to cherish this planet
and to use its riches for the good and welfare of all.
God of life:
hear our prayer.
Full text of Archbishop’s statement
“This year the theme of the United Nation’s World Environment Day is 'Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change'. Whilst it will be for governments meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree a successor to the Kyoto regime for global reductions in carbon emissions - and we all want those to be both ambitious and deliverable - we have a part to play. Governments need to know that people want them to be ambitious. They need a mandate. So what can we do? I think there are two things we can do. We can, and we should, pray. Climate change is not only an environmental issue - probably the most important we face; it is also an issue of justice. As usual the poorest are likely to suffer the most though the richest have contributed most to pollute the atmosphere and accelerate global warming. So we can pray that a proper sense of responsibility (not least to the generations who will follow us) and of justice guides the hearts and the minds of the politicians who will meet in Copenhagen.
This Sunday - Environment Sunday - is an obvious opportunity for us to focus our own hearts and minds on this issue.
The second thing we can do is get involved in the preparations for Copenhagen. Between now and December there will be activity, lobbying and hard thinking going on in civil society as well as government in preparation for the Climate Summit. Many faith groups and civil society organizations, (and that includes the Church of England), will be organising events to heighten awareness of the issues and the opportunities which the summit brings. I shall be going to Copenhagen to support those and to emphasise the strength of the concern that people of faith have for the future well-being of our planet. Please include in your prayers this Environment Sunday all whose efforts in the months to come could make a real difference for the sustainability of our planet and we who live in it - it is God's creation that we are striving to care for and as God's children that we pray and act.”
Some of that might well feature in some form - or at least the idea that God is a perfect community of love, how do we live that out as individuals in the wider community, and as a church to the whole of the created order...
I also have more admin to do to get things up to speed before the Archdeacon's Inspection.
Much to do... Family Guy now and then bed...
It's been great fun and helped the admin pass with ease!
So what do I have in store - a meeting followed by an afternoon of planning, and then meeting this evening for a bit. I hope I might get Sunday's service resolved today too.
Feeling relaxed, awake, happy and blessed... despite the hay fever!
Monday, June 01, 2009
Been a good day I think. Had a staff meeting this morning. It is worth saying that the staff team seems to be functioning better and better as a unit than ever before. In the past the meetings have been business like and informative but that is where it stops. Increasingly though now they are fun, informative, challenging, constructive, affirming and worthwhile.
Now might be thinking, why is that? Well I think it is alot to do with new staff - especially Lauretta and John. But there is something else - we trust each other enough to open up and share good and bad alike. Collegiality - a horrible word - but it describes the friendship, trust and risk that binds our working relationship together for God and His kingdom.
This morning we touched base on things like the formation of the new benefice, worship, the environment and the churches response to environmental crisis plus a whole load of in-house stuff that needed attention. It was great.
This evening I have met with my church wardens Matt and Gill. A good meeting on the whole and I feel that we dealt with some interesting and worthwhile stuff too - a very interesting conversation about monitoring and evaluating the worship provision of the community. But then came the curve ball - a good number of people are concerned with the length of the services...
I agree that a number of services recently have stretched beyond the one hour marker. This last Sunday was especially long, but that has made me reflect more on what or who is the worship for?
Our worship is about God and directed towards Him. There will be preferences in terms of style that will tick the boxes of some/many in the church community - but that is to do with style and not intent. Why is it that length is such an issue for some?
Is it to do with engagement? Are some not finding time in the pressence of God edifying and uplifting? I am aware that we are trying to squeeze a lot into each act of worship, and that too might be an issue - hymns/songs. the eucharist, taking seriously the presence of children, notices and communicating information and good news... all of this takes time.
I am aware that time is something that has become a very precious commodity for people today. We talk of free time, leisure time, me time, and yet when the rubber hits the road, many people will tell you that they have no or very little time.
I agree that there is something to be said for trying to streamline what we do in the worship that is surpless to maximise time in worship, but again who is the worship for? Entertainment before the real business of the day - Sunday lunch - gets underway or an opportunity to gather with our brothers and sisters in faith and spend some quality time together before the Lord of Time and Space, and hopefully find ourselves enriched and inspired in the process?
The irony is, that I have heard just as many positive comments about our recent worship - the use of words, of space, of silence, of engagement and involvement.
I guess you cannot please all of the people all of the time, but I hope and pray that what we offer pleases God...