Monday, November 29, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front...

Well, all is quiet here at least during Advent...

You'll find me still blogging daily on my Advent blog until Christmas Eve with hopefully some helpful meanderings to provoke, to ponder and to find peace with during this holy season.

My Advent blog, Five Minutes Space, can be found here...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent Sunday - The Word as a Wordle

Here is the gospel reading for Advent Sunday from Matthew 24:36-44, as a seasonally coloured Wordle...

‘...But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour...'

It is interesting to note that the Wordle highlights the words son, man, one and coming. The Son of Man is one who is coming.

Who or what is the Son of Man? It seems that the phrase over the centuries has meant different things. In the very earliest times it referred most probably to a human being or one's self. For example in the Old Testament in Numbers 23:19
לא אישׁ אל ויכזב ובן־אדם ויתנחם ההוא אמר ולא יעשׂה ודבר ולא יקימנה
God is not a human being (איש : ['iysh]), that he should lie,
or a mortal/son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]), that he should change his mind:
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Ben-adam. The son of Adam. The son of a man.

Later in the Book of Ezekiel in chapter 2:

He said to me, Son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), stand on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 The Spirit entered into me when he spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard him who spoke to me. 3 He said to me, Son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), I send you to the children of Israel, to nations that are rebellious, which have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me even to this very day. 4 The children are impudent and stiff-hearted: I do send you to them; and you shall tell them, Thus says the Lord YHWH. 5 They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6 You, son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), don’t be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you, and you do dwell among scorpions: don’t be afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear; for they are most rebellious. 8 But you, son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), hear what I tell you; don’t be you rebellious like that rebellious house: open your mouth, and eat that which I give you. 9 When I looked, behold, a hand was put forth to me; and, behold, a scroll of a book was therein; 10 He spread it before me: and it was written within and without; and there were written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

Son of man here appears to be a title referring to the humanity of the author, much how the word "human" may suffice in English. It is not a respectful appellation, but a humbling one (in some cases, an arguably abject one), and this use is a consistent pattern throughout Ezekiel.

In other words, the son of man, is a downtrodden figure that the prophet Daniel then links with a divine figure, the coming Messiah, a theological link that was strengthened during the time before New Testament.

In the New Testament, Jesus uses the term in similar ways, but some think he might just be referring to humanity generally.

How do we deal with this this Advent? The Son of Man is coming - that's what Advent is about. Getting ready for the arrival of the Messiah figure - God's chosen leader who would forge a new relationship between humanity and God and free humanity from the oppressive regime that they were bound by. Then it was a longing for a Divine King freeing people from the rule of the Romans. Today it might be a longing to be freed from debt, from habit forming behaviours and led to a better way of living. Or if the Son of Man refers to the whole of humanity, then a longing that a better 'version' of humanity is coming, is made possible by God. Either way it is a hopeful vision indeed... God's take on things, is that He longs to free us and enable us to be the people that He and we (however deep down we may need to look) long to be...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Fest of Christ the King - A Royal Wedding

Everyone loves a good wedding and this week we got news of a biggie! Finally sections of the nation cry... Prince William and Kate Middleton have announced their engagement and are planning to marry next year.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones one of many of the Church’s leaders to congratulate the couple, said that “one of the first sources of tension” for an engaged couple was “the invitation list. . . Don’t imagine that the royal couple will be immune to this, however big the church they choose.” It may be a royal wedding, but it is just a wedding with all of the joy and stress that you would expect.

Cynics are already queuing up to see an alternative benefit for the announcement. Lord Sugar, of The Apprentice fame, encouraged companies to use the announcement to bury bad news. it would seem, whether intended or not, that is what has happened.

Because of the Royal announcement the story about former Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving payments from the government (in return for dropping claims that British secret agents knew they were being tortured) struggled to be reported as did other stories including the loss of up to 3000 police jobs.

Weddings are normally a source of good news and rejoicing. Ours certainly was. It was stressful to organise and if we did it all over again we might do parts of the day differently, but would we get married in the first place. I love Alex and I wanted nothing more to show her that by making public commitments before our families and friends and in the sight of God.

Now whilst the detail of the wedding day begins to fade into the mists of history - nearly 10 years now - the fact that I am married is not in any doubt. How do I know that? I could show you our marriage certificate. certificate - my name is there, so’s Alex’s and it has been witnessed by our fathers’. How else could I and you be sure that I am married? Well, I have a memory of an event at a certain date, place and time with family and friends in a church and then a reception venue in Somerset. How else though can you be sure that you are married - I could reflect on nearly 10 years experience of married life with all it’s many highs and mercifully not so many lows.

Today, on this Feast of Christ the King, we recollect a royal wedding, where earth is wedded to heaven and heaven wedded to earth; where Jesus, God’s appointed King of the universe marries His bride - us. For today we celebrate the completing of God’s work in Christ, offering the world a chance of a lasting relationship with Him and knowledge that all that holds us back from being the people He and we long for us to be - our guilt, our shame, our sin - are taken from us. This royal wedding isn’t a chance to bury bad news. It is the best news in the universe and is shared in joy every time we accept Christ’s kingship of our hearts and lives and of our world.

How do I know that Christ is King in my life? Emily will be able to show you her baptism certificate. The day that she was committed to Christ. Her baptism in itself, doesn’t make her a Christian any more than being born in MacDonalds makes you a hamburger. For Christ to be King of her and our lives begins with an event - for some of us that will be our baptisms. For some of us it may be the day that we made a concious decision to discover more for ourselves. For my marriage to Alex to work though we need to continue to work at our relationship; spending time together. The same is true for Emily’s and our relationship with Jesus - spending time with him in prayer and worship and in reading the scriptures, and in spending time together, seeing her love for him grow and her ability to live and love like him to flourish.

How do I know that Christ is King in my life? Emily will be able, with some help, to recall her baptism day and the people she shared it with - especially her parents and Godparents. For Christ to be King of her and our lives involves recalling not just today, but another event in history where earth was wedded to heaven at the foot of the cross of Christ. How the crucifixon of Jesus offers us a new opportunity of a relation of God is a theological debate we could have, but but that event some 2000 years ago changed the course of history for Emily and for you and me, for through it, we can know God for ourselves and invite Christ to direct and shape our lives and actions. To become what the Bible calls Christlike - not being a holy goodfornothing, but being more loving, joyful, peacefilled, more patient, more kind more good, more faithful in friendships and relationshps, more gentle spirited, and more self-controlled. Sound good?

How do I know that Christ is King in my life? Emily will be able, with some help, to recall her baptism. But baptism is not the end of something, rather the beginning of it. For Christ to be King of her and our lives involves not just the events of today, but the actions of tomorrow. If we long to see our lives changed and transformed and to become the sort of people He and we long to be deep down, it will take Emily and each of us time to live each day the way that Christ would want us to. That is hard, but it is is the experience of Christ’s promise to be with us always, every day every where we are, which gives us the resources we need to try to follow Him, to live and act and speak like Him, to constantly be asking ourselves - what would Jesus do in this situation?

A wedding, however royal, must have as it’s foundation - contract of love between two people - for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health. On this Feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the contract of love between God and Emily revealed afresh in her baptism, and God and you, and me, and all of us; God loves us through good and bad times, whether we know it or not. Unlike the wedding day, this love of God costs us nothing and is available at all times and in all places, but it cost him everything in one time and place. To enter into that love relationship - all you have to do is ask. As of today, with the help and support and prayer of many, Emily will begin to know Christ as King of her life. Would you? Pray...


That was a version of the sermon I preached this morning on the feast of Christ the King. At the Eucharist, we also baptised a beautiful baby called Emily

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Advent draws near...

Which must mean that my Advent blog, Five Minutes Space, needs to be taken out of it's wrappings from last year and spruced up.

Why not head on over to have a look at three online resources I have made available to help you get the most out of this holy season.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Word as a Wordle

A wordle of the Gospel reading for the Fest of Christ the King (Luke 23:33-43:

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This is an amazing song by an amazing, underrated band. Health warning though, the video might, note might, unsettle some of you.

Enjoy the song. It's from their superb new album "Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up."

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Saw this excellent post on the Vernacular Curate's blog...


"When you see that old man walking a little bent, just think he was once a proud young matloe [the nickname for a sailor] swinging along, head held high. When you sit next to him in church and see tears in his eyes when he sings “oh hear us when we pray to thee, for those in peril on the sea” – his thoughts go out to the night he was torpedoed and still hears those cries for help – he survived, but he will always remember those cries.

The man down the road who tells you about his army days ay “Cassino” and the day he went back to the scene of the “battle” [otherwise known as the Battle of Rome, 1944] many years later – he remembers the shattered monastery rebuilt, how lovely it looks, how peaceful; now the organ playing; a place for prayer and outside just the song of the birds. He looks around at the hills and sees the Polish cemetery now so serene and peaceful and then he goes down the hill and sees the German cemetery – he says a prayer for them. They were only lads like himself doing their duty for their country. Then on to the British and Commonwealth cemetery where he sees a headstone that bears a name he knows. He stops to says ‘hello’ and on and on to see many more names and thinks what a lovely cemetery this is, we have done these boys proud – but with tears in his eyes – he thinks of his son and daughter, his grandchildren and then of the families of those boys and what might have been.

Perhaps, when you are walking the dog near that old airfield, you saw a man standing looking at the old ‘dispersal bay’ and then towards the old billets, now derelict. He thinks to himself ‘that was once my home’; he thinks of the good times and the sad times and of the empty beds (usually seven); he looks towards the control tower and can still hear the WAAFs voice calling them home. Now his eyes look to the skies, he is thinking of his old “Lanc” can hear the sound of the Merlins and a feeling of tense fear and excitement runs though his body – he is now on his way to Germany and now back again, sitting down to hot tea, egg and bacon. But he thinks of the last night he saw the dispersal bay – the night he lost six of his best friends. The target was Karlsruhe. One moment they were a crew – a team – and then fate stepped in and the Lancaster was just a ball of fire hurtling earthwards. He still can’t believe how, with his parachute still intact, he was thrown into the air. He is now thinking how lucky he was to be a P.O.W. as now he can come back and look at the old airfield, but now his thoughts go back again to Germany and the boys in that row of graves, and although he had known them only a short time, what a privilege it was to claim them as friends.

Let’s also think of the S.O.E. agents [Special Operations Executive], Odette, Violette Szabo and many more, the Special Duties Squadrons that took them into enemy territory. Theirs was a very silent war and so often forgotten.

As we remember of servicemen let’s not forget the man down the road. When asked what he did, he says “well, I was a firemen”: he didn’t tell you of the days and nights he spent away from home, fire-fighting in London, Portsmouth, Coventry etc. – the smell of death, the bombs still falling; the same goes for so many more unsung heroes who gave so much – the police, ARP, Home Guard, WVS, nurses, doctors, ambulance crews, Salvation Army, Church Army, the clergy, all transport workers, munitions, parachute and clothing workers, the Land Army and so many more. Let us also not forget the brave Merchant Seamen, the evacuees and those who took them in – so many brave people, so many more names. Not forgetting the people who were bombed out of their homes but still kept cheerful, the people who took them in, the refugees from Europe.

At remembrance time let us think of those men and women of all wars, past and present, the people maimed by war and still suffering to this day. Think of the widows and families, especially those too old to visit the graves of their loved ones. Also think of those people who work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who tend those graves so lovingly.

So, when some old “codger” takes a little longer to get on the bus, or pack his trolley in the supermarket, let’s not say, “come on granny or grandad”, but think: these were the same men and women who, when their country called said ‘here we are!’

...instead let us say “thank you, granny and grandad”

This piece was written in the 1980s by Ricky Dyson and his wife Mavis. Ricky was a rear-gunner on the Lancaster Bombers during the Second World War, and was one of a very few who survived. He was decorated with the George Cross for his bravery. Ricky died some time after writing this piece, though Mavis is still a member of our church family. Ricky was a true hero of the War, and I dedicate this post to him, his friends, and all the fallen in our World Wars.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Bad Plus...

For the last decade progressive jazz trio The Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King) have been stirring up a musical stew that defies easy description. Drawing on classical, jazz, rock, pop and beyond, they force their listeners to rethink notions of what differentiates one style of music from another. The London Jazz Festival returns to Kings Place to celebrate their 10th birthday.

"We really care about classical music, and we also care about the more improvisational forms like rock, pop and jazz," says Iverson. "I believe that we can pay composers like Ligeti and Stravinsky and Babbitt the respect they deserve, and we can also recognize composers like Kurt Cobain and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and David Gilmour as poets at the same time." King agrees: "We consider the whole spectrum to be worthy of our detailed attention and worthy of the same respect."

Looking forward to seeing them live again real soon!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Signs of the Kingdom...

A copy of this morning's sermon from one of our Lay Readers, Tim...


This time before Advent is called Kingdom season, and in it we think about the Kingdom - but which Kingdom?

Multiple meanings in the Bible
Kingdom of Heaven - where God reigns, angels, etc.
The future Kingdom on earth - the Second Coming of Jesus
The Kingdom now, Jesus reigning in the present.
We'll look at each of them.

The Kingdom of Heaven
Our gospel reading today is one of the rare places where, before his own death, Jesus talks about resurrection, and leaves no room for doubt about it. We have a sort of folk lore picture of Heaven as a wonderful place with pearly gates guarded by St Peter, but behind that is a vision of a life beyond death, when none of our earthly problems trouble us, and everything is perfect. Most religions, even primitive ones, have this sort of idea, and it's an attractive one. The picture we have in the Bible, for example in the book of Revelation, is rather different.

The Kingdom of the Second Coming
In parts of the New Testament, particularly Paul's letters, we can see a belief that Jesus would come back to earth soon. It wasn't worth worrying about things, because they wouldn't last long anyway.

Throughout the ages since then there have always been people holding this same view. Some of them have claimed to know the exact date; others have just said it would be "soon", and have claimed to see signs in events on earth that point to "the end". Jesus himself said that no-one could know how or when he would return, so there's not much point in speculating about that. He also said, more importantly, that because we couldn't know when, we should always be ready.

I saw fliers recently advertising a meeting in our Village Hall at which someone was going to provide "proof" that we are near the end. Don't hold your breath!

The Kingdom is now - Jesus
When Jesus spoke about the Kingdom, he was almost always referring to the present. He chided the people for not recognising the signs of the Kingdom around them - and for not playing their part in making God's kingdom a reality.

Signs of the Kingdom
People sometimes talk about "The signs of the Kingdom". These are things in which we can recognise God's hand at work, through the Holy Spirit guiding people, ordinary people like us, to follow Jesus, and to do what he would do.
"a real church" - when moving to Manchester

These signs are the equivalent in our time of Jesus himself living and working among his people.

Let's look at some of them:
1. Let's start with the presence of Jesus himself in the midst of his people, visible in the form of joy, peace, and a sense of celebration. We are "Jesus people", and it should show!
2. Next comes is the preaching of the gospel. There was no gospel of the Kingdom to proclaim until Christ arrived. Now that he has come, the Good News of the Kingdom must be preached to all. The preaching of the Kingdom points people to the Kingdom itself. Remember, though, that preaching doesn't have to be in words!
3. Another sign of the Kingdom is healing - Jesus made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the sick whole, raised the dead. These were not only signs pointing to the reality of the Kingdom’s arrival, but also anticipations of God's final Kingdom from which all disease, hunger, disorder, and death will be banished forever. God is still free and powerful and performs miracles today, though we may not all experience them directly.
4. Another sign of the Kingdom is the miracle of conversion, when someone's life takes a dramatic turn towards God. We don't all experience that, but some do, and we've heard of some examples in the Just Ten series and elsewhere.
5. One of the more visible signs of the Kingdom is, or should be, the people of the Kingdom in whom the world can see those Christlike qualities that Paul called ‘the fruits of the Spirit’. We're called to show God's love, and that love inevitably leads to what we sometimes call "good works". So if the gospel is Good News of the Kingdom, good works are signs of the Kingdom. We can't separate what we believe and how we behave.

That isn't either an official or complete list, but perhaps it gives us some idea of what people outside may be looking for when assessing our faith. If those things are not happening, and seen to be happening, where is the Kingdom?

Last night's fireworks certainly lit up the village, and provided a clear beacon for anyone looking for Leverstock Green. Let us pray that Holy Trinity may also be sending out clear signals that God's Kingdom is here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

PORCUPINE TREE - The start of something beautiful

After yesterday's addition, I had to add this as I think this is my favourite PT track of all time...