Saturday, December 22, 2007
In the run up to Christmas thing are always busy but this year has been incredibly so - a couple of weddings and some unexpected funerals (well, most funerals are unexpected!) along with all the school and church events of the past few weeks, combined with a flu-ey type bug I am trying to shake off and my daughter being poorly for a couple of weeks has meant a busy life has just gone from busy to slightly bonkers for a few weeks...
I am sure that at some time I will get some more time to engage in my usual blogging activities and visit all my bloggy buddies....
In case I don't get to write anything before - Happy Christmas to you all! Peace on earth and goodwill to all...someday...
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
8.30am was a Book of Common Prayer (1662) Holy Communion, a quiet start to the day, well attended and a gentle start to quite a manic day. Over my years in ministry I've come to love the traditional services we offer, so beautifully constructed all those years ago, yet still with a depth and even a freshness to the liturgy.
10.30am was a Contemporary Language Holy Communion service, from the Common Worship prayer book which is the mainstay of the C of E. Having come from a 'free form' tradition, in the 'Charismatic renewal' branch of the Church, I found the structure of Liturgical worship was quite liberating. In fact, this was one of the reasons I joined the Church of England in the late 1980s and was confirmed at University. There is something about the discipline of following certain readings through a three year cycle, of using set prayers which are full of scripture, of keeping a certain order in liturgy that I have grown to appreciate and enjoy. The music in this service is a mix of traditional and contemporary worship songs and the balance of older and newer styles is one which has a richness and depth which my early experience in the Church didn't offer.
3.00pm was a Christingle service, a certain amount of organised chaos! We filled one of our smaller village Churches with people of all ages, including lots of children. The 'Festival of the Flaming Oranges' as it's known (by me) follows a vaguely liturgical shape but has lots of songs, some of which I played on the guitar, and movement, joy, informality and, of course, oranges stuck in candles which we give to the younger members of the congregation and light, and endeavour to stop them setting each other, and themselves, on fire. Fun!
6.00pm was our completely informal service, known as 'Team Evening Worship' which has a regular core of people, not a large group, but enough to make it worth the effort, even at the end of a long day! Again a mix of hymns and worship songs, with me leading on the guitar and our excellent music director assisting in the worship leading. We prayed, quite a lot, in small groups, and read some Scripture, and I shared a thought about waiting and the meaning of Advent which I might get around to summarising in another post!
Now spending five or six hours in Church may not seem terribly onerous (although to some it might seem like purgatory) and you might wonder why this seems so tiring! I find as a minister, though, that it takes a lot of emotional and spiritual energy to lead for this amount of time. It's not so much the 'being up front' aspect, ie putting this all together and trying to keep it together for the congregation, but the engagement with people, with the Worship itself and with the meaning behind what we are doing which can be both energising and draining at the same time. As a worship leader, or more accurately a 'lead worshipper' (happy to discuss that one if anyone wants to) there is a certain amount of investment in the whole process of preparing and officiating at worship, I want to lead well, to facilitate worship for the people in the Church, and at the same time to participate in the worship of a God who is both awesome and intimate. To consciously be in God's presence and bring others to the same place. My experience of twenty years of this as a 'leader' is that it's a responsibility and a calling to be taken seriously, as well as a deeply rewarding part of ministry.
But it is tiring, and along with a load of other things which have happened in the last week or so, I'm suffering from a bit of exhaustion - not aided by my daughter having a fever and not sleeping well last night!
As and when I get some time, I will post more. Now I need to prepare a funeral.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Thanks to Quilly for the very encouraging comment on my last post! I will aim to pepper my blog liberally with profound thoughts! And if I get some time over the next few days I will endeavour to tell you a little of what's gone on in my universe for the past month...
Friday, November 30, 2007
Made it! OK, so you're sick of seeing all the books in my library and I'm kind of out of ideas, so its pretty much a good thing that NaBloPoMo is over!
The best is saved for last
It's a bit of a cheat saying the Bible really - not so much a book as a library. Also having this as my book of the day might make me look a bit of a holier-than- thou type - but please let me assure you that I am holier than nobody!
The amazing thing about the Bible, well one of the amazing things about the Bible, is that there's no end to it. By that I mean you could read it again and again and see new stuff all the time. I do believe God speaks through the Bible, sometimes as much through the stuff that is all mixed up in culture and misunderstanding (I'm pretty sure there's a fair amount of that in there) as the stuff which is clearer and more obvious. It's a lifetiime study, and the meaning only really comes out when we do the reading in partnership with God. But that's been the subject of a whole load of my sermons so you can read back through the last few years of this blog and find some of that!
In putting my little link thingy above this I did choose one particular translation quite deliberately. The New Revised Standard Version is probably one of the best translations available of the original Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible, along with a wealth of scholarly input as to what various words now obscure might mean. For word for word accuracy the forerunner of this translation, the Revised Standard Version, might well be the winner, but for accessibility and accuracy combined with an inclusivity to the choice of words in English, this one is top notch. Perhaps sometime I will get around to talking about different translations in a bit more depth, but for now this is the recommendation du jour... And for me its the high point of the month.
Now I've got to start thinking of stuff to say that might be interesting.
Don't hold your breath, folks.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The story of the quest for truth and meaning, as seen through the eyes of a supermarket trolley - Scepticism inc is a funny, thoughtful, satirical look at philosophy, institutional religion and ultimate truth. Bo Fowler takes us throught the development of 'metaphysical betting shops' with a funny and intelligent look at the nature of belief, of not believing, of wanting and not wanting to believe - most of the angles covered in the belief department there!
It's fun to read and contains lots of food for thought (a sort of metaphysical shopping trolley then) - it does make you ask lots of questions but at the same time you can just lose yourself in the surreality and enjoyability of it all. There is a profundity here that can only come from comedy!
With a satirical take on many of our cherished institutions - religion, shopping, technology and betting shops - this seemingly random yet uncannily well constructed book takes some thinking about. It's 'bitty' style won't appeal to everyone, but as far as I'm concerned that's all part of the fun of it all.
The key to it all is in the Author's Note that is the last thing in the book, in fact the very last sentence made, for me, the whole journey worthwhile and left me thinking about what Bo had written long after I'd put the book down. Scepticism Inc is probably one of the books that would make it in to my top five books I've enjoyed most in my life, but that doesn't tell you anything about the book, it just lets you know a bit about me, I supposeOf course, i'm not going to tell you what the last sentence is, now see if you can resist it if you read the book!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
We're on the home stretch! I have really enjoyed revisiting these books over the past four weeks, and resolved to look out a few again, including today's offering
Poems on the Underground is a very simple idea, put a selection of poetry throughout the London Underground system and let people read poetry as they travel around. When I was a student in London I used to love seeing new poems and encountering old favourites as I zipped (or crawled, depending on the time of day) around the capital. The version of this shown on the left here is not the one I own, so I don't know the exact contents, but the previous editions such as the one on the right have combined modern and classic poetry in an inspired selection. In fact it was on the tube, as we call the Underground, that I encountered for the first time Walt Whitman's poem, possibly my favourite poem but then I'm still finding out more, 'What am I after all?' which was in previous editions of poems on the underground.
What am I, After All?
I suspect that there are many other equally good poems in this selection, I will look at my edition again later and let some poetry wash over me!
Oh and click here for the London Underground random poem of the day.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Still NaBlo posting, i have surprised myself really this month!
A fun offering which I have used lots of times to tell the Christmas story in a different way! It's not one which can be reviewed at length, which is probably a good thing as I am prone to waffle. It tells the nativity story, with very bright, cheerful and funny illustrations, from the perspective of a grumpy inkeeper, with a surprise ending.. It is a delightful book, and though 'Jesus's Christmas Party' is meant to be a children's book, it will appeal to most people who read it. Not all, there are always some grumps :-)
Monday, November 26, 2007
I haven't had time to post today, so with about ten minutes to go to make the deadline here's a quick thought for a book which you might like...
Though best known for his Narnia Chronicles, C.S. Lewis was also concerned to try and explain something of what it means to be a Christian and of his own experience of faith. Into the midst of his writings on faith comes Mere Christianity which is a classic of modern apologetics. By which I mean that C.S. Lewis does a good job of explaining in a relatively straightforward way what Christian faith is about. The drawback is that it is dated and it is written in a particular style and reflects particular social norms of the time, ie the late 1950s and some of the timeless truths of Christian faith seem to be obscured, or at least not as clearly stated, because they become linked with a certain time and place.
Despite that, there is a certain longevity about this book, purely because Lewis writes so well!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
So here I am getting ready to have some supper and thought that in order to keep up this post a day lark I would get back to basics today.
Lots of people ask me about prayer, and it seems to have been a theme at a lot of meetings and in a number of encounters I have had lately. So Christian Prayer for dummies seems a good book to recommend. Of course, as most people probably know, its not really for dummies, in the sense that much of the information in the series is well researched, well written and well presented - at least the ones I've read. This is no different, it actually gives a very good broad brush picture of the variety, nature and purpose of Christian Prayer. It is easy to read, with some good cartoons in! The content is very good and it gets you thinking about prayer in lots of different ways. Its also practical and offers suggestions to enhance your daily prayer life.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Keeping up the posting, only a week more to do for NaBloPoMo.
I've just got back a couple of hours ago from 36 hours away in North Wales at the Rural Theology Association conference, it was a good time of chatting, learning, thinking and praying about issues pertinent to those in rural ministry and the ways in which the Church can and should respond to the challenges of life in the countryside at this time.
So today's book, Theological but not exclusively Rural!
In many ways this was a book that profoundly affected many Christians in the UK and could even been seen as part of the birth of the 'emergent' Church in the UK ( Although 'emergent' is usually used to describe a particular movement in the US Church). Dave explores and offers his own contribution to the debate about where the Church is going in the late 20th (when it was written) and early 21st Century. It's a book about the roots of the church and the confusion between Church tradition and Christian Faith, particularly in the Evangelical wing of the Church. Dave encourages the reader to try and disentangle these two things and to see the value in the wider traditions of the Church. He seeks to offer help on the journey for those who are dissatisfied with many of the doctrinal suppositions of the Evangelical movement in the UK who feel they want to take some of the values and ideas from that tradition and move forward in their exploration of Christian life without being weighed down by the 'baggage' associated with that particular way of being Church.
It's a sensitive book, and doesn't preach negatively about Evangelicalism, but seeks to offer some balance to particular doctrinal stances which are sometimes confused with being Scriptural, when they are more a particular interpretation of Scripture. In the 1990s when this book appeared there wasn't anyone giving voice to an alternative way of being Church to either being 'liberal' or 'conservative' - Dave does a good job of expressing a 'third way' and offering the reader the opportunity to take on board new ways of thinking about what it means to be Christian and to be 'church'.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Another post for NaBloPoMo
A deeply passionate and sometimes disturbing book
De Berniers has a way of weaving the comic with the tragic which seems to hit the spot every time. Amidst the gentle life of a greek village he weaves stories of love, hate, pain, despair, joy, hope and some of the most stomach churning atrocities committed in war. This is a powerful novel, and not an easy read, I found some of the descriptions of tortures and mutilations committed in the Greek-Turkish war extremely disturbing, yet I am really pleased to have read this novel. It makes you think about what makes us human, and indeed what makes us inhuman. Read it, it is worth the effort.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Here's a light hearted offering for today.
Have you ever felt frustrated that there are no words to describe everyday occurences which we all go through? For instance, who has not felt the need for a phrase to describe the feeling of sitting on a warm toilet seat? Or the emotions felt when first riding off on a new motorbike? Or the guilt felt when caught pulling hairs from one's nose and secreting them in one's pocket?
Well all this and more can be found in ' The Meaning of Liff' - a wonderful companion that uses place names from the most obscure parts of the United Kingdom, and indeed all over the world, to give us the vocabulary we really need. Often imitated, never bettered, The Meaning of Liff is wonderful! And I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but I do love this book, and think every home should have one.
though some of the ruder ones might need to be kept from the children!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Whispering a prayer
Very tired today after a late night coming back from London. This morning had lots to say but have lost energy to say it due to meetings and assembly at the local school, i also have a meeting tonight so I might leave what I was going to say until another day.
So I thought I would go ahead and post my book for today, its another of the ones that have been hanging around in the sidebar for ages, and by the end of the month i do plan to change them all! But even though it has had a tacit plug by being in my sidebar, I think I'll say a bit more about it because it is the book that we have chosen next for our 'book club'.
Brian McLaren infuriates some, and works others into an almost idolatrous frenzy. I happily fall between the two. I do like his style, and I think he is saying some valuable things to the Church and about Christian faith in general. In a society where any kind of spirituality seems valid, or at least that's the impression that is given, McLaren is actually unafraid to say 'this is what Christian's believe' - though his interpretation of how that works out into everyday Christian life may be different from both Conservative and Liberal critics...
The Secret Message of Jesus sounds a bit like a sequel to the DaVinci code, and in a way the title is perhaps trying to grab the attention of the kind of audience who go for that kind of thing. The whole secret of the secret message is that it's not a secret! There's no taking every third letter from every twenty sentences of the Gospel of Luke and making up a message like 'I am very clever and send me all your money' as previous writers have done.... The reason McLaren talks of the secret message is that the Church (and by this he doesn't single out any one denomination or tradition or theological persuasion) is quite good, exceptional even, at hiding the message of Jesus, a message of the Kingdom of God, a message which is disturbing, exciting, confusing, simple and complex all at once. Though not a perfect writer or theologian (and as an equally or even more imperfect writer and theologian I am allowed to say that) McLaren points the reader in the right direction and encourages us all to think again about what Jesus actually said and did and why we are so good at avoiding the sometimes uncomfortable truth of Jesus message even as we claim to follow him.
Even if you don't agree with any of it, this book is a good read in order to get you thinking about Jesus and the core values of Christian faith. A faith founded not on doctrine or church or tradition, or even on the Bible, but a faith founded on and rooted in Jesus Christ himself.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Book club last night went well. We talked through and around John Ortberg's 'God is closer than you think' which is a great book. I have previously recommended this as part of my post a day for November, so I am going to move on and recommend a book i should be reading TODAY because I want to use it as a basis for some thoughts tonight....
Prayer is perhaps one of the most difficult things for many of us to get a handle on, particularly when we feel prayers aren't answered, or that we aren't quite sure what the purpose of prayer is. In fact, this is what I am meant to be talking about at Holy Joes this evening, so when I have some thoughts together perhaps I will get back to you on that. From what I have read of this book so far, it has some very good thoughts on the subject. Interestingly it relates to a lot of what Ortberg says in God Is Closer Than You Think, when he talks about when God feels absent and what our prayers do and don't or may or may not achieve.
It looks like being a goody, so I am looking forward to grappling with it on the train to London later today...
Monday, November 19, 2007
Today's post for NaBloPoMo - or GloBloPoMo as some are keen to call it, because it does seem pretty widespread...
I realise that my usual wit and wisdom, or rather the trivia interspersed with occasional deep thoughts, have been absent as I've focused on NaBloPoMo but I hope a few of these books may strike a chord with you, gentle readers. We have a book group tonight, so I'll tell you a bit about that tomorrow. I can't remember if I've already mentioned the book so before posting tomorrow I will check!
Anyway, today's book is funny, clever, and worth a look.
If you've ever felt that the world has gone even more crazy for strange ways of talking and thinking over the past few years, this one is for you. Taking to bits our strange western culture in a humourous and thought provoking way, Wheen's style is clever, but not too smug, and well informed without being intellectually snobby. It might be easy at first glance to dismiss the book as the grumblings of an old curmudgeon (I love that word) but it is not that at all. It offers an antidote to all of the euphemistic, annoying, and frankly untrue language and thinking employed to try and get us to avoid the realities of this world ('friendly fire', anyone?). A good book from a great thinker. Not just for grumpy old men like me!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
As it's Sunday, another bit of Theology for today's post. It also chimes with the sermon that I might post later...
Richard Burridge's 'Four Gospels, One Jesus' is a great introduction to thinking about the 'agenda' behind the Canonical Gospels. By that I mean it offers and overview of each of the Gospels and the particular concerns of each Gospel writer. It's easy to think of the Christian Gospels as all one lump of the same type of writing but Burridge talks of the distinctive nature and flavour of each Gospel in easily understood, well explained ways.
As theological books go, I found it very exciting, it made me look again at why the Gospel writers constructed their books in the way they did, and it reminded me how rewarding it can be to spend a little time in study to really get more perspective and more of an understanding of these amazing books in our Bible. Very highly recommended indeed
Saturday, November 17, 2007
has certainly kept me thinking and writing, and revisiting a few books which I am really enjoying thinking about again, and today's is no exception
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger is a great book, a wonderfully written novel with a huge scope. I love books with big imagination, and this is biiiiiiiiiiiig imagination. A man with a kind of genetic time-travelling disorder flits back and forth through time without being able to control these journeys. It could have descended into a kind of farce with him nearly meeting himself over and over, but it doesn't - there's lots of touching and thought-provoking encounters with the woman who becomes his wife, and lots of reflection on the nature of time, life and who we are. It's a very striking and powerful book, though some of the language in it will upset those of a delicate constitution, it is a great novel.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Sixteen days straight without missing a post, some kind of record, except when I had that blog madness a year or so ago and posted lots and lots and lots and lots etc
Not that I'm getting a huge number of comments on this series of books - obviously not firing the popular imagination....
But, this is what I've committed myself to and I am nothing if not stupid, I mean, committed.
Today's choice is a bit of heavy theology
Actually 'truth is stranger than it used to be' is more philosophy than theology, I think, and if someone wants to pick me up on that definition, then the comments section is open for business anytime! But this book looks at cultural shift and the features of the societal change and 'world view' often termed 'postmodernity'. About which I did a whole load of posts starting here.
I do enjoy thinking about this subject, though I realise that some disagree with the very concept of 'the postmodern', but I don't think we can deny that Western culture (using that word in the broadest sense) is changing the basis of the way that people relate to the world, to each other and indeed to the very concept of 'truth'. Middleton and Walsh do a very good job of deconstructing the component parts of this change and offer the start of a process by which the Church can seek to engage with a changing culture. It is very much a starting point, apart from the fact that the book is over thirteen years old and was the beginning of the process, there are no attempts to sew up the argument but encourage Christians to think again about what we proclaim and how we might share our story with the world. More like a text book than simple reading, but worth the slog.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Still going, and haven't got to any books I want to read yet...
until now, that is, so I can't review it, so any comments, thoughts on this would be welcome...
I like Adrian Plass, faithful, funny and fairly thought provoking (couldn't think of any more alliterations there). So is his take on the Bible going to be worth reading? He tends to retain a fairly conservative theology whilst being willing to take a few risks with what he says, so perhaps this book will be challenging, or perhaps it will be a way of trying to explain bits of the Bible that don't fit with retaining a conservative viewpoint. I wonder...
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Hey, in stark contrast to my NaMoWriMo progress, I've managed at least one post a day for my NaBloPoMo! So here's another one...
Definitely a modern fave for today's choice
Donald Miller, though some of what he says seems much more conservative than the central premise of the book, offers a broad and thoughtful look at the state of Christian Faith today. It's all about looking at 'spirituality' in a new way. Whilst holding on to the core values of following Jesus, with plenty of illustrations from his own spiritual journey, he seeks to question lots of the baggage that we put on faith in the name of the Church. It's a personal reflection, and doesn't claim perfection, and as such is a glimpse into the search for meaning in our present generation. It's a very easy read, with no taxing theological verbage, and at the same time is filled with the presence of Jesus walking alongside this guy in his search for meaning. It's a good book.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Terry Pratchett has a great style, a seriously funny attitude and a turn of phrase that can have you aching with laughter. His mythological, mystical realm of 'discworld' is full of wit and wisdom, and reflects the absurdity of our own world whilst being totally enclosed in a world of his own. This is a world of magic, dragons, monsters and mayhem, with wizards in the 'unseen university' who have little clue of what the world is about, witches who are basically purveyors of common sense and a small group of people who do have a clue desperately trying to keep things together. The Colour of Magic is the first in the series, of which there are lots now, and the beginning of a long and very funny journey. As you can see it has been reprinted with a different cover, so I thought i should include that above as well as the excellent Josh Kirby original cover...
Monday, November 12, 2007
Today's NaBloPoMo post is a spiritual classic
God of Surprises is one of those books I can't say much about, you need to read it for yourself. It's about spirituality always having the ability to surprise, and the book does too. It's not a high-fallutin' kind of spirituality, but accessible, easy to grasp (though hard to practice) and full of depth and riches.
A book to come back to again and again.
One of the things that I have learnt to appreciate over the past few years is that two minutes of silence to mark the importance of the occasion, to pray or reflect or just to stand. I think when words are inadequate silence is the best response, despite the fact we often resort to words to fill the gap...
Which leads me on to one of the things that has profoundly affected me over the past couple of weeks. I spent a week meeting daily with a 'prayer guide' with whom I discussed my own life of prayer, and it came out - much to my surprise - that I find a growing attraction to silence. Perhaps its because my life seems to have got busier over the past few years, perhaps its just getting older, perhaps its recognising that when it comes to God our words are nothing but inadequate (great thing for a writer to say!). Anyway, we spent most of the week discussing the importance of silence or, as would seem appropriate, sitting silently in prayer.
It was nothing short of life changing.
One thing my guide, Ann, shared with me was a poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins which talked, in Hopkins usual powerful way, of the choice for silence and stillness within which we can encounter the God beyond words. I'm not sure about copyright, this is from the 1918 edition of his works so it might be in the public domain - if anyone knows otherwise please let me know - I thought I'd share it here:
The Habit of Perfection
Ironically, this week's question isn't one which I can give such a great answer to, but I'll use it to tell you a little about myself
How did your parents’ careers impact your plans for a future career?Well, my parents didn't make career choices, they did what they did to feed and keep the family. Before I was born my mother was a military policewoman first in the air force and then in the army. My 'biological' father was killed but whilst I was still too young to remember my mum got together with a man from Ireland who became, to all intents and purposes, my dad. Dad was a gruff, hard, Northern Irishman. Roman Catholic and Republican to the core (note to US readers, 'republican' here means against Northern Ireland being a part of the United Kingdom). He came across to England to work as a 'Navvy' - heavy construction, road building, utilities building etc etc. He was somewhat older than my mother and had 13 children of his own, many of which had grown up and started families of their own (some of my step-siblings are older than my mum!). They were together for 25 years, until his death in the mid 1990s and had three children of their own, so at one point there were 10 children living in a 4 bedroom council house in a market town in Devon. The family was quite renowned in the area.
So, with so many kids, mum stayed at home with a more-than-full-time job of being mum, and dad found work wherever possible to keep the family afloat. I remember him working on road building and electricity pylon building in the area, also some factory work, general building work and, for a short while, running a roofing company. He also liked a flutter on the gee-gees, and was sometimes successful on that!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Today is 'Armistice Day' - Remembrance Sunday - the anniversary of the Armistice which ended the 1914-18 'Great War' (11th of the 11th at 11am). It is, I believe, roughly equivalent to 'Veteran's Day' in the States. Today we have given thanks for the sacrifice made by those who have fought for freedom in times of war. We have grieved at the bloodshed of wartime. We have prayed for those who serve in our Armed forces. We have committed ourself to peace.
Today's book is a slight departure from previous days
Joanne Harris' masterful 'magical realism' is tied up with folklore, history and evocative descriptions of France, as most of her novels are set in different parts of la republique... This is a powerful description of an island divided against itself, with traditions and attitudes which bind and blind the people. On returning to the island the main character sets about disturbing the status quo, and the whole island finds itself changed, include the protagonist, by the events which occur through the story.
I can't put into words how descriptive Harris' prose is, and how it seems to get beyond the mind into the heart, filling the imagination, and creating a powerful sense of yearning to be a part of this world, whilst being grateful one is apart from it. All of her books are good, I've not read her last couple of novels, but everyone I have read I found to be rich, rewarding and most enjoyable. With some deeper truths lurking just below the surface.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Today's book of note is another from the sidebar
I warm to much of McLaren's content, though I find his style a bit grating sometimes. There are certain points in this book where you want to say 'stop telling us you don't have the answers and just keep telling us what you believe!' Having said that, the book genuinely feels like a humble attempt to get us to look again at believing and the church and the life of faith - asking questions 'why' with regards to what we do, how we do it, what we expect of church.
Its an honest book, and one which is very personal, whilst at the same time one that is obviously written by someone who is well read, thoughtful, committed to Christ and genuinely seeking to grapple with the complications of faith and the burdens often placed on us by different traditions of the church. McLaren isn't anti-Church, and certainly not the anti-Christ that some wings of the church make him out to be, but he actually says things which disturb a settled (sedentary?stagnant?) Church, and isn't afraid to ask the tough questions about what is genuinely Christian faith, what is genuinely biblical in origin, and what is claimed to be biblical yet is really a matter of (usually post-19th century) interpretation...
It's upset folks, so on that count its worth reading anyway - we all need a bit of challenge. It's also, compassionate, warm, and faith-filled.
Friday, November 09, 2007
So for today
A book I reviewed for Christian Marketplace Magazine a few months back...
Presenting a theological reflection on the understanding of Christian life and transformation this book is a challenging, well researched, thought provoking piece resounding with depth and creativity. Written by an accomplished theologian and drawing on Church history, liturgy, poetry, art and hymnody this is not a book to be taken lightly, but one which rewards careful study. Though firmly rooted in liturgical tradition – something that is more pronounced as the book progresses – there is an exploration of the nature of worship and the way that God changes us as we encounter Him in prayer and praise which offers material for Christians of any tradition. Irving explores deep theological concepts with a deftness and clarity which makes it well worth the time and effort it takes to read this properly. Well worth reading if someone wants to begin exploring Christian tradition, theology, worship or liturgy in some depth. Highly recommended.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Keeping up the daily posting with a classic book which is worth reading
What can I say about this book? The master of surreal sci-fi and humourous observation's most famous book, taken from the radio series of the same name and followed by a TV series and movie which are all equally funny. Arthur Dent is about to have his house demolished to make way for a bypass when his friend Ford Prefect takes him off to the pub and reveals that he (Ford) is an alien who is writing for the Galaxy's most popular publication 'The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy' and has discovered that there is a fleet of Vogon Constructor ships on the way to demolish earth for a hyperspace bypass. Getting off the planet by stowing away on one of the ships with the aid of an electronic 'thumb' Arthur and Ford get through a number of increasingly strange adventures as they seek the meaning of life and basically try to stay alive in order that Arthur doesn't have to go to heaven with a headache ('I'd be all cross and wouldn't enjoy it...').
Odd, funny, some very wry observations on life, death, and just about everything, this is an epic search for meaning through meaninglessness with lots of laughs on the way. All written in Adam's inimitable style.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Had a long day today, so this is posted later than usual, perhaps more about that another time...
For now its
And the book for today is
I love Terry Pratchett, and you may well get a recommendation from his Discworld collection later on in the month, but for now this funny novel co-written by Neil Gaiman is a great one to read if you like stuff that has eternal battles between good and evil, the four other horsemen of the apocalypse and a race to the finish sports car chase along with your wit, wisdom and surreality.
Basically the story of an Angel and a Demon who are trying to avert the apocalypse because they are quite happy with things as they are, thank you very much. It has lots of improbable events, along with the real reason the M25 is the world's largest car park. Pratchett is his usual witty self, and Gaiman injects a bit (or a lot) of dark humour too! Not your standard fantasy fare, nor as obsessed with the occult (in a funny way, surprisingly) as Robert Rankin, but an easy to read, laugh out loud, kind of a novel.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I may get around to telling you about my life, but first a book I am currently reading, and getting a lot from
I don't know how he does it, but Ortberg seems to hit the mark again and again, his book The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (terrible title, sounds like self-help rubbish, better understood by its subtitle 'Spiritual Disciplines for ordinary people') is one of the best 'everyday Christian' books which I've read - by which I mean he takes some quite difficult ideas, and ancient spiritual practises, and makes them accessible and usable in our everyday walk of faith.
God Is Closer Than You Think is nothing short of excellent, at least what I have read so far is. As always, it is written in an engaging and accessible style, which is entertaining and amusing enough to make me laugh out loud in the coffee shop this morning (I do get some down time!) and yet at the same time doesn't shy from asking difficult questions and addressing tricky issues, and doesn't try to give easy, pat or trivial answers to some of the tough questions. Nor does he give the impression that he has the answers to everything, or that he has things sewn up nicely, on the contrary you get the impression that he is fully tied up in the messy and often complicated business of just trying to get on with life whilst staying faithful to Jesus.
In this book, again explained well by its subtitle 'If God is always with us why is he so hard to find', Ortberg tries to give us something of a handle on the idea of God's presence being everywhere, whilst sometimes feeling like he's nowhere. He offers ways of reflecting on life which can help us see more of the depth and resonance of the reality of God being a part of the ordinary as well as the special. As in so many of his books he takes practices which have been a part of the life of Christians through the ages and translates them into today-speak, offering pointers as to how we can integrate these ideas into our daily life of faith.
A good companion to have on the journey.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Continuing my NaBloPoMo trek through a few faves, or ones I want to read, here is today's offering:
Prolific as he is, Coupland seems to sum up current 20/30 something mentality perfectly. I started reading his stuff as part of my 'Postmodernity' module on my MA and have picked up a number of his novels which I have enjoyed and which give some insight into contemporary culture. Generation X is a good one to start with in terms of getting to grips with cultural shift whilst still being entertained, but JPod is one of his latest - slightly more surreal than other ones I've read, and more self-referential (perhaps this is a postmodern thing) he even appears frequently as one of the protagonists, weaving himself into the story by meeting the main character in some unlikely settings and variously stealing information from the main character by taking his laptop and personal files as the story progresses.
It's all based around a group of games programmers who work together, by strange chance, in a department in a large software firm and all have various character quirks which make for entertaining reading. It might be a bit bizarre for some, and pages and pages of random text, code and stream of consciousness stuff might not appeal to all, but I thought it was a great story, with an amoral protagonist which shows a lot of how many people view the world and some of the strange connections that this mixed up, cyber-savvy culture of ours can make. If you've not read Coupland before this is as good as any other way to start.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Sometimes I like to lose myself in a good thriller, and this is one, though Dan Brown gets a lot of stick, especially from those who take his writing too seriously (a la DaVinci Code) he does seem to have the hang of writing a good page-turner. i read this one on holiday and it was a ripping yarn and most enjoyable...
I won't give any of the plot away, but like most of Brown's books, it is full of twists and turns with real characters and lots going on. Even if I said what the premise was it would give away one of the early twists so you'll have to take my word for it that it's a good story and well put together.
4 before Advent (2007) RCL Year A Principal
Out on a Limb…(pun intended)
Zaccheus is a very attractive figure from scripture, or rather the quaint story that we associate with him being a little man who shins up a tree to see Jesus is attractive to us. From the Sunday school song ‘Zaccheus was a very little man’ which I remember from ‘days of yore’ (whatever that means) to the wonderful transformation that sees him giving back what he took from others and following Jesus.
But I doubt he was a very attractive figure to those who knew him. We all know, I’m sure, that tax collectors like Zaccheus became rich by adding to the burden of tax demanded by the Roman authorities. Not only were they collaborators with an occupying power, but they were – more often than not – dishonest and greedy. They were not popular – so much so that one of the greatest insults hurled against Jesus was that he ‘ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners’.
Yet Jesus called him, invited himself to eat at Zaccheus house and changed his life. And in order for this to happen Zaccheus made the first move. He literally went out on a limb to see Jesus, and Jesus responded to that longing and met him where he was, giving Zaccheus a new purpose, a dignity and showing compassion and the grace of God to him.
There’s a lot of risk in this story [more]
nearly time for bed but first
Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Albus Dumbledore|
Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
So here's my responses to the Dr John version
38 things I know that you want to know...
1. Name one person who made you laugh last night? My son, Jack, he's got a great sense of humour for a toddler
2. What were you doing at 0800? In bed feeling grumpy with a stomach ache. Seems to have calmed down a bit and I am now in my study trying to get a sermon written
3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Thinking about writing a sermon
4. What happened to you in 2006? I bought a lovely new motorbike
5. What was the last thing you said out loud? Night (to my mother in law who is staying and likes to go to bed early)
6. How many beverages did you have today? Not as many as usual
7. What color is your hairbrush? I use a comb, usually a blue one, though I have a black one too.
8. What was the last thing you paid for? Some serviettes for my daughter's sixth birthday party tomorrow
9. Where were you last night? In bed feeling sorry for myself, and nauseous.
10. What color is your front door? Light green, it was repainted a couple of weeks ago, and I think i preferred the dark green it used to be.
11. Where do you keep your change? In my pockets.
12. What’s the weather like today? Perfect, sunny and cool.
13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? Clotted cream (must be tried to be believed)
14. What excites you? Teaching other people about Faith.
15. Do you want to cut your hair? No, but I will probably have to listen to my wife in the near future and get a trim!
16. Are you over the age of 25? By a few years, but not too many
17. Do you talk a lot? Some people have expressed the opinion that I do.
18. Do you watch the O.C.? Life is too short for crappy TV, good TV on the other hand...
19. Do you know anyone named Steven? Yes, a few people, though not all of them spell it that way.
20. Do you make up your own words? Absolutificately.
21. Are you a jealous person? No
22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘E’. Edward
23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘R’. Rick
24. Who’s the first person on your received call list? Nick
25. What does the last text message you received say? 'Oh Yes' (in response to the question - shall we meet at the pub at 9.45pm)
26. Do you chew on your straw? No.
27. Do you have curly hair? No
28. Where’s the next place you’re going to? My house (my study is in a separate building to the house)
29. Who’s the rudest person in your life? My daughter, but she's only six, and its funny most of the time, and her little brother is catching up quickly
30. What was the last thing you ate? Stir Fried pork
31. Will you get married in the future? No but I will be marrying a few people in the coming weeks
32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks? I was surprised that I enjoyed 'The Guardian' as much as I did
33. Is there anyone you like right now? Yes, lots of people, in fact there are very few (if any) I don't
34. When was the last time you did the dishes? Yesterday
35. Are you currently depressed? I don't tend to get depressed, stroppy sometimes, but depressed not so much .
36. Did you cry today? Nearly, when I was praying this morning
37. Why did you answer and post this? because I am looking for distractions.
38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey. No, don't do tags
It's quite fun looking at some of the bloggers who have signed up to NaBloPoMo. You can always click the randomiser below if you want to see a few, meanwhile here's a groovy badge which I thought i would share with you...
Before, like one NaBlo commentator, you start making comments about the spelling, have a look at Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog and see where the idea seems to come from!
And here's a randomiser (or randomizer as our US cousins spell it)
My next book is one which has sat on my sidebar for ages...
actually they all have, about time to change them I think
Anyway a deep, moving, grace filled book which I would say comes high up my top ten Christian books of all time, it's called 'Free of Charge' by Miroslav Volf
Volf's exploration of 'Giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of Grace' as the subtitle describes it is rooted in everyday life, yet is an expansive vision of God's love and Grace and the understanding of God as the ultimate giver. It challenges us to consider again our attitude to all that we have, and to consider the very foundation of our faith. In between these mind-blowing concepts are some very personal stories which he shares to illustrate his thesis.
There is a lot of theology in this book, but it is neither overly dense nor over abstract. It is a book that I found gripping, though others in the book group that I shared this with said it took some effort to read but was worth it. If you don't buy any other piece of contemporary theological reflection this year, get this one. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Uplifting, challenging, stirring, moving. It's all this and more
Friday, November 02, 2007
not a bad thing, really!
I'm good at talking things through, I can intellectualise, theorise, spiritualise and ...ise generally over many things, including some of the deeper things of life!
But words can also be a defence against truly engaging with some deeper meanings too.
This week I am engaged on a prayer pilgrimage arranged by one of our local clergy. I went along with the idea partly because, in theory, it seemed like a good idea, and not having seen my spiritual director for far too long I thought the opportunity to reflect with someone about prayer in general and my own spiritual life would not be a bad idea. I should say that this prayer pilgrimage is not actually a physical pilgrimage, except travelling to the venue to meet with a prayer guide. It's setting aside half an hour a day for a week to meet with a prayer guide and to talk, reflect, listen, learn.
So I had my first meeting today.
As I said, the initial impetus for joining in with this was a very general 'seems like a good idea' vibe, but as it grew closer I wondered what I was letting myself in for and what I was doing signing up for this, I mean its not like my life is terribly unbusy at the moment, really.
So I went to see this guide, and the first twenty minutes or so were me talking about my background, some of my recent experience, some of the obstacles I feel in my prayer life etc etc, lots of words. I'm good at words. I won't go into the content as it was, firstly, confidential, and secondly not completely relevant. What is relevant, though, is that my guide said something which was really quite simple, and all of a sudden there was this amazing sense of God in that room, and we were both stunned into silence. What she had said chimed with a half remembered dream from last night, not something we had been talking about, and it suddenly hit us both that God was trying to say something.
And we sat in silence for just a minute or two. But in that silence something happened which was profound and powerful and moving, and amazing and gracefilled
So I'll stop there, except to say it's one of the most amazing silences of my life
Theissen does a great job of writing a book about Jesus, without actually having Jesus in it. All the stories are told from the periphery of events in Jesus life, and the result is an intriguing and thought provoking book.
Theissen himself is a Biblical scholar and theologian, so has a very broad understanding of the 'source material' and context of the Gospel stories.
I should also say, it's entertaining and a good read.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Not got to my NaMoWriMo start yet, in fact am drawing a total blank over that, but here is my first posting for NaBloPoMo
I thought I might try a book a day for November, these will be books I've read, or am reading, or even want to read, so you might find a combination of heresay, (hopefully not heresy!), opinion, critique, misunderstanding and perhaps even some useful information in this lot!
A strange choice, perhaps, for the first day - as being a Christian Minister, some might wonder at why am I promoting someone who is so blatantly anti-religion - but lets start with something different
Yes, Richard Dawkin's 'The God Delusion' is one of the books I've read very recently, in fact I've mentioned it before in these postings. It isn't a bad book, really! I quite like Dawkin's style, and despite the fact he is very misinformed, one sided, and has very little understanding of faith as opposed to religion this book is full of stuff that should make any Christian, indeed anyone with half a brain, think. He has plenty of valid points about the misapplication of religion, there are plenty of things that over the ages different religious groups have done, and still do, that we/they should be ashamed of.
though he does miss the point
and he doesn't really come up with any satisfying arguments for not believing.
Now I didn't come to this book determined to dismiss it and all that was in it!... Despite what Dawkins says most believers I know are intelligent people who are willing to question faith, and even to question the existence of God. Who hasn't struggled with the evil in this world or seen the suffering that so many undergo, or heard of the aftermath of a terrible disaster and asked 'where is God in all this?' And I know of many devoted Christians who struggle constantly with the nature of God and what all this faith business means.
Dawkins doesn't give credit to believers for thinking, often quite radically and very critically, about faith. As if we were all passive recipients of a faith forced upon us, usually in childhood according to him. I for one am someone who made the decision to follow Christ in my teens, coming from a non-religious background with higher than average academic ability (that isn't a boast, just to say that despite what many detractors say, faith is not for the stupid!). I have had plenty of times in my life where I could happily have jettisoned faith, but I've not - or perhaps more accurately i would say that God hasn't let me go, even when I've let go of God!
Anyway, the book is worth reading, even if only to say 'nahhhh', some of what he says is very good indeed, and offers a challenge to religious structures and the way in which 'religion' is applied. I do think that had he presented a compelling argument, I would have been willing to consider again my faith and what it means. But he doesn't.
Monday, October 29, 2007
So, I preached on the Bible, though not 'from' the Bible, normally I am careful to link what I say with the Lections for the Day, but this time I let them speak for themselves and did a little bit about how we approach scripture. I think many of us have a very limited approach to scripture and just see it all as one big lump of inspired 'stuff' without thinking or learning about what actually makes up our Bibles. But rather than launch into sermon mark II I will do my usual of giving you the opening bit and then letting you follow that up at New Kid Deep Stuff by clicking on the [more] at the end.
As for how I ended up with this sermon, I actually used the basis of an old sermon and extensively rewrote and added to it! For those who are used to the 40 minute (or more) mega-message every Sunday this is a short sermon, for those used to Anglican sermons this is a long one (about 15 minutes!). I usually say that if you can't say it in 10 minutes then you're wasting your time as people never remember much more than that, and very few people take notes (I'm not sure I want people to note what I say anyway!) so 15 minutes was a bit way out for me :-)
So here goes. Oh, and the readings link straight to the Oremus Bible Browser (NRSV) so you can see what the background to my talk was...
Bible Sunday (2007) Year C RCL Principal
Today is the Last Sunday after Trinity, it is also the Feast day of the Apostles St Simon and St Jude, and on top of that it is ‘Bible Sunday’ – so our thoughts this morning are focussed around the idea of the feast of God’s word that is our Bible. And I have only minutes to get to grips with the subject. So here goes, oh and for those who were at Team Evening Worship last week who recognise any of this, my apologies, some of this had to be said again!
How would you describe the Bible? (Few suggestions?) Word of God is the usual one. It is a title we need to be careful of, though – JESUS IS THE WORD OF GOD (John 1.1 ‘In the beginning was the Word’) I have a high regard for the Bible, it is foundational in my faith, it guides me, leads me, tells me the roots of the Christian story and invites me to join in. But I do not worship the Bible, I worship Jesus Christ. [more]
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Pretty simple, you might think, but thirty years of being in the Church (yes I was eight when I started) and twenty years of more formal study make it a huge subject and I am having real problems narrowing it down. What makes it more difficult is that the theme given by the Bible Society is 'a feast of God's word' which is essentially what I have been saying over the past few weeks as we have been studying the Bible at our teaching evenings. I know that most of the people who will be coming to my main service tomorrow haven't been at our evening sessions, but some have, and i wonder whether I am selling them short, as it were, by re-using material I've used before.
Some Clergy reuse sermons all the time, we have a three year cycle of readings, so three years down the road it is possible to pretty much preach the same thing - I know of one minister in a University who did exactly that, because most of the students were on three year degree course, and when he found himself in a parish where his congregation stayed pretty much the same over years he had to start again and write a whole load of sermons as people started recognising what he had said before!
I've tried to avoid that.
Sure, there have been times when I've reused stuff, but normally I have rewritten a sermon even if I know the congregation haven't heard it before, mainly because I think (as far as possible in a multi parish setting) things need to be aimed at the present congregation in their present context rather than rehashed for our convenience. So most Sundays I try and say something new, even if some of the stuff is recycled!
Sometimes its hard to think of something 'new' - although by new I mean restating old truths, and digging into the meaning of Bible passages, not necessarily saying something completely original but re-interpreting for present context. Though for Christmas and Easter, for instance, there is only so much one can say to what is often an unchurched congregation, or with a theme which is rather limited!
So I am pondering what to say in twelve or so hours for a group of people coming to Church with some expectation of a preach on the Bible. I'll let you know how I get on!