Wednesday, July 29, 2009


This looks like a brilliant resource and worth building it into your daily routine. It seems that it is available on your mobile, via RSS and on the web. It could help us all to become a little more Bible literate... Go to:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Words on the Word

Just saw this on the news. I can see what the artist was trying do - to get people to interact with the Scriptures and to see them as something that is theirs and something that includes them and can affect their lives... Unfortunately...

The scriptures, through years of biblical scholarship and biblical criticism, have become something that can be criticized, compartmentalised, and personalised. The good news with this is folks that we now understand more about the bible and the biblical world and it's context and language than ever before.

The bad news is that placing the bible 'out there' as art, means that it becomes something that can be interacted with in ways that might not been seen as 'appropriate' or in ways that neither the church nor the artist intended.

The whole world has been privatised, courtesy of modern and post modern culture. This includes what might be considered to be 'true', including whether the Bible might be 'true', and what might be considered to be 'art' or not.

Now without sparking a whole debate on the Turner Prize et al, I think that the intentions of the artist were noble. She was asking contemporary Britain questions like: what is the Bible? How do we 'use' it? What, if anything, do these ancient stories say to me or about me?

Perhaps this art installation, has revealed something else, a real need for a renewed vocabulary for understanding the Scriptures in a post Biblical age, and serious lack of Biblical literacy within contemporary Britain.

This is surely a great task for the church. Jesus is God's Incarnate Word. How do we incarnate the great truths of God contained in the Big Story of the Bible in a post-Christian, post-biblical, and post-book era? We need to follow Jesus, become story tellers again. Trevor Hart once said that Christians should become familar with carrying the Bible in one hand and a a novel in the other.

His point was that that the language and images used in novels should inform how we 'translate' the Bible into contemporary living.

I would like to echo the thinking of Mark Brown and others at the recent Digital Symposium in Durham - that we should have novels, newspapers, and access to digital media such as the internet, tv and radio, DVDs, and social netowking tools like Twitter and Facebook...

... and tell our own parables in pixels and 140 characters.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Word as a Wordle - Trinity 8 & Trinity 9

Two Gospel readings from John's Gospel (6: 24-35 and 6:35, 41-51) - the words bread, heaven and Jesus feature very frequently in both readings.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Children in the 5000

Not been feeling well off and on over the last few days. That's nothing compared to Peter, our youngest son, who has been suffering with Swine flu. He has had an awful time of it - high temperatures, lack of appetite, a terrible cough. He's been on Tamiflu and to make matters worse hw now has a chest infection.

That said we have felt very supported by people all over the world praying for him and us. He is, thanks be to God, on the mend.

That has been the back drop to a fantastic week so far, especially including the joint holiday club with Adeyfeild Free Church. It's been well attended and lots and lots of fun. Well over 130 children each day - amazing.

Against this backdrop comes this Sunday's Gospel reading which eventually asks us some hard questions about the place of children within the life and worship of the church... Below is a version of what I suspect I will say (if my voice holds up) tomorrow.


At the heart of this morning’s gospel stands a boy. He seems to be on his own in the crowd - there is no mention of parents or extended family. John has been careful to record so much, almost excessive detail, that if the boy’s parents were there too, they would have got a mention. The reason I dwell on this boy is because John does. When this child left home with is packed lunch or, bearing in mind the amount of food that he has, was returning home with the shopping, he never expected the bread and fish that he was carrying to be taken from him and used by Jesus in this way.

John tries really hard to help the reader/hearer of this part of his Gospel place this story with real people in a real place. He names the sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberius (the contemporary Roman name.) John locates this story in time too - it was near to passover. The purpose, it seems to me of these 2 stories in the Gospel are to help us as readers and hearers to consider who Jesus really is.

At the outset, John reminds us that many people at this stage in Jesus’ ministry had already made up their minds as to who he is. We know this because John tells us that a crowd gathers where Jesus is because of the miraculous healings that he has been exercising. People assumed that Jesus is a healer and nothing more - wherever he is, there is a growing expectation that Jesus will heal people.
The crowd gathers near to Jesus. John says that it is near Passover - one question I wondered to myself was - how near? Is Jesus’ question to Philip about needing to feed the crowd, alluding to Jesus making assumptions that he would share a form of passover with this crowd there and then?

Then there is the sheer number of people - at least 5000 people John records. There is some discrepancy in the numbers present. The miracle is recorded in all 4 gospels. John says that there are about 5000 people in that crowd, but in the other Gospels there is talk of 5000 men not including women and children. Either way this is a large gathering of people - people who have come expecting something to happen; for Jesus to ‘perform.’ They are not disappointed - notice what happens to the crowd after the miracle has happened. They came expecting to see a miraculous healer at work, instead they become convinced that Jesus is far more - he is the prophet, the Messiah,that God would send as King of the Jews, to lead them into a new relationship with God and to free their land from foreign occupation. They rise up to lead a coup, placing Jesus on the throne as King. Jesus flees for his life - the crowd have
completely misunderstood what who and what Jesus is.

We should return to look at the miracle itself. 5 loaves and 2 fish brought by the boy are not going to go far, except in Jesus’ hands. He takes them, blesses God and them, he breaks them (must have even though it is not mentioned here) and they are shared. Those actions were all consistent with Grace at meal times, but especially at Passover. In doing this, and eating together in this fashion, will have taken the Jewish minds in the crowd back to the story of Moses sharing manna with the people of Israel in the wilderness, but also forwards looking toward the Messiah’s great banquet at the end of time. As contemporary witness to this miracle, our minds are taken, with his disciples at a later date to the Last Supper and later to the Eucharist. As all 5000+ eat enough to be filled and the equivalent of 12 baskets of scraps are left over, Jesus is clearly distancing himself from the image of being healer, to being the provider for basic needs like food - which is of course God’s job. This is man is no healer...

Later, the disciples take the boat back over the other side of the lake. Half way across a storm builds. In the midst of this, Jesus come to them, walking on he water. John is quite clear that it is no the intensity of the storm that frightens the disciples - many of whom were seasoned fishermen - it was the sight of their teacher and friend defying the laws of nature. This man is no miracle worker, rather there is something of God about him. Jesus tells them that though - as he nears the boat he says, ‘Do not be afraid, it is I’ which is the Greek translation of what God said to Moses at the burning bush - it is I or I am that I am... God is present with this man Jesus of Nazareth.

The action in this morning’s Gospel story begins with a child. In a society very concerned about the safety of our children, this morning we hear of a crowd of adults ensuring, indirectly the safety and wellbeing of this child. In return, it is through this child that Jesus ensures their wellbing. As a large crowd, our society is not good at looking after it’s children - their welfare seems to fall exclusively to their parents, rather than the large crowd of the community around them taking some responsibility. If children become antisocial, we are with the tabloids, all too quick to blame the parents and wash our hands of them, rather than as the offended party playing some pro-active part. This concern though it seems to me must go further than walking our kids to school, out as far as taking some responsibility and some action against what the global crowd does to children in Israel and Lebanon at the moment, or in the Sudan, or in the sweatshops in Thailand.

This Gospel also asks us to take a long hard look at the place of children in relation to our shared relationship with Jesus. Jesus the healer, the miracle worker respects and accepts this child as they are, and through them as bread and fish are shared, he blesses the crowd - not just with a future generation - but with food now. We too need to try to see all that we do as a church as if there was a child in our midst - asking us to think hard about what we do and say, how we live and worship with children in churches - for it speaks volumes of whether we try to follow Jesus. That may require a huge culture change for all of us.

Friends, let us not allow children to be the sole responsibility of their parents, but ensure that we a crowd, a community both here in church and outside are a safe place for children to live, learn and grow, but not leaving that as a vague hope, but actively taking action, because not only does the kingdom belong to such as these, but with their help, like the crowd, we can see Jesus for who he is.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Eucharist and the Swine Flu outbreak

Attached is a letter from Bishop Alan Smith, the new bishop of St. Albans Diocese, explaining to how churches in the diocese are to manage the risks of infection by the H1N1 strain of Swine flu, particularly in relation to sharing in the Eucharist.

I think it speaks for itself... Please read it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Word as a Wordle - Trinity 7B 2009

Gospel reading for this coming Sunday from Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56... as a beautiful Wordle. The more frequently used words come out bigger. It provides an interesting perspective on the words of the Gospel...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Prayers for those suffering with Swine Flu

General prayers from the CofE website...

General prayers for the developing situation regarding swine flu

Heavenly Father,

giver of life and health:

comfort and restore those who are sick,

that they may be strengthened in their weakness

and have confidence in your unfailing love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Creator and Father of all,

we pray for those who are ill.

Bless them, and those who serve their needs,

that they may put their whole trust in you

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Age of Stupid - Indie Screening in Bennetts End

I have been to see Age of Stupid again this week. It is the third time I have seen it. I have to say that it is no less arresting than the first time I did. In some ways the need to act, for me, becomes ever more urgent.

The other thing is that there were about 70 people there! Fantastic to see so many. Some familiar church faces, and many others.

The highlight of the evening was the chance to meet others over refreshments, and to share our reflections on the film. Words and phrases that were used were: angry, distressed, committed to action. We talked over what we might 'do.' Here was a chance to reference Hemel in Transition and the work that they are working toward. I also spoke of the need to look at public buildings, like churches, as places where recycling should happen, but where renewable energy sources should be used. I also talked about the need to act locally. Hemel has enough small communities who know each other well enough to mobilise support to ask our shop keepers to stop giving us plastic bags etc.

It was really productive. I enclose some photos of the event.

It was also a good chance to plug the Big Lunch on Sunday too...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Word as a Wordle - Trinity 6

The story of the Feeding of the 5000 and the healing at Gennesaret from Mark 6.30-34,53-56..

Christianity in the Digital Space

This morning, I have just 'attended' one address by Rev Mark Brown on 'The Bible in the Digital Space, streamed live over the net from Durham as part of the Christianity in the Digital Space Symposium.

Thought provoking stuff! At the heart of what he said, Mark challenged the church to not just be the institution but to continue to be like God, the incarnation of the Word; to present herself and the scriptures in fresh ways on the web. The address is below or available to download here.

This is challenging especially as Bible literacy is in serious decline in the UK according to a recent study - the National Bible Literacy Survey. BBC article here.

The study showed many still turn to the Bible at times of emotional stress.

The researchers said their findings showed the Church and politicians could no longer make assumptions about people's knowledge of the Bible, which in under 45s is in decline.

The study revealed that 62% of respondents did not know the parable of the Prodigal Son and 60% could not name anything about the story of the Good Samaritan.

One respondent said David and Goliath was the name of a ship, while another thought Daniel - who survived being thrown into the lions' den - was the Lion King.

Younger interviewees told researchers that the Bible was "old-fashioned", "irrelevant" and "for Dot Cottons"

How do we engage with the Bible? How does God, through the Bible engage with us?

Why not sign up to to The Bible facebook page and interact with the scriptures together with others?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Recession Intercession...

Tough times for many ahead... I found these helpful. I hope you might. They come from the Church of England's own website...

Prayer on being made redundant

‘Redundant’ – the word says it all -



without purpose,

surplus to requirements.’

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that in the middle of

the sadness,

the anger,

the uncertainty,

the pain,

I can talk to you.

Hear me as I cry out in confusion,

help me to think clearly,

and calm my soul.

As life carries on,

may I know your presence with me

each and every day.

And as I look to the future,

help me to look for fresh opportunities, for new directions.

Guide me by your Spirit,

and show me your path,

through Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. Amen.

Prayer for those remaining in the workplace

Life has changed:

colleagues have gone – redundant, out of work.

Suddenly, what seemed so secure is now so very fragile.

It’s hard to know what I feel:

sadness, certainly,

guilt, almost, at still having a job to go to,

and fear of the future:

who will be next?

how will I cope with the increased pressure of work?

Lord Jesus, in the midst of this uncertainty, help me to keep going:

to work to the best of my ability,

taking each day at a time,

and taking time each day to walk with you

for you are the way, the truth and the life. Amen.

Interesting local project

With a renewed interest in all things environmental, I saw this on friend's Facebook page and it made me think...

It's a local project and I think it should be getting our support...

What do others think?

What's it worth?

Hmmm, interesting post here. I wonder, what am I worth....?