Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The kind of blogger I am

I did another blogthing yesterday, one of these little quiz thingies which tell you something often inconsequential and can raise a smile. I like them cos they take about two minutes and often provide a post when i am stuck for ideas - i genuinely enjoyed doing the 'which muppet are you', found 'what movie genre are you?' diverting, also liked 'how sinful are you?'! I have done a couple of quizfarm, slightly weightier things too, which have been fun including 'what theologian I am' and whether i am chalcedon compliant. All good fun.

The blogthing yesterday was 'what kind of blogger are you', which i decided not to post just because i thought i would actually say something about it. For a two minute questionnaire it was surprisingly accurate. The phrase that stood out was 'you are friendly but don't give too much of yourself away'. I guess that reflects a bit of how i feel about blogging - i like sharing, not keen on offending folk, try to keep this blog going and sharing a bit of me without going into too much detail. I guess the post on flaw and disorder that talked about what it was appropriate to blog as a Christian made me think about not just what it is appropriate to blog as a Christian but as a minister and because i don't want to say too much about my family because it is not their blog and Clergy spouses and kids already have enough scrutiny! The other thing is, to be realistic, that this blog could be read by a potential parish i might want to move to and I wouldn't want to scare them too much!

Not sure what i am saying really, but if you find me surly and unfriendly do let me know and i will try to rectify that.

Oh, and enjoy the blogthings...Here's another one i found especially for today, inspired by Dr John's posting on words and the comments that ensued.

Your Vocabulary Score: A

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

Lost in translation?

Had a thought, actually I had a thought as I posted it, but when i put as the header of my sermon for Sunday 'Christianity is pants' this may well have been a slightly odd saying for anyone outside of UK youth culture...

'pants'= rubbish, crap, worthless and a whole other host of words which have a generally negative vibe. Now, this obviously isn't my opinion of Christian faith, but a reflection of how some Christians can feel about faith when the rubber hits the road, the wotsit hits the speedy swirly bladed thing, or generally life gets tough. Jesus talked about this in the parable we call the 'parable of the sower' (though it might more accurately be called the parable of the seed, or the parable of the soil) as he talks about the soil which is shallow and rocky where there is no depth of faith - people just say 'it's too much like hard work' and spiritually wilt. Or the soil which is full of weeds where the seed sprouts but is choked (in his explanation he talks of 'the cares of the world' being too much).

Anyway, not to preach the same sermon again, that's what i meant. Christianity is tough, not the easy option. I am surprised to have only had one reaction to it, whether people agree or disagree. Go figure.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to add long posts and not bore the pants off everyone

Actually, that post heading should be framed as a question...

I've seen on some blogs that long posts are split with a good deal of the post hidden away until someone clicks 'more' - is there a bit of code that i could add to get blogger to do that? If it were possible then I would be tempted to post that long talk I did yesterday! It went down quite well, so you might like it....

Oh, and yes I did notice how many errors there were in last night's blogposting, but it was late and I feel no compulsion to edit it. This is about as gritty as my blog gets, unlike Jenny Haha talking about wolf crotch! Which gave rise to some discussion about what Christians might feel appropriate to blog. If you do follow the link to Jenny's site, then make sure you read the comments, funny and thoughtful! And if you are in the mood to surf then pop over to Dr John's blog, always worth a read - particularly as he encourages you to comment (hopefully with more success than me)

The Perfect Pastor

A great post from 'Standing under the Sky' which is well worth reading and probably sums up the thoughts of many of us called to ministry can be found here.

Obviously I fit in to the perfect pastor section at the top of the page. Ahem.

Thanks to Dr John for link to this

Monday, February 26, 2007

A quick thought for Monday

I spent much of the weekend either in prayer (good thing) or preparing for worship (sermons, prayers etc) or writing a pretty weighty talk for this evening's 'Lent Talk' series (the talk is 3,500 words long and i think it might be a bit much to post - unless there is some demand! This is obviously a sort of blackmail and I will see if anyone comments in response to this before I will publish it. It is about 'what it means to believe' in the context of our series of talks about the Apostle's Creed). All of today has been spent in meetings, visits and services, so i have not really had time to blog. My only thought for today is

Actually, I don't have a thought for today, go and see Dr John, or Jenny haha Cflaw and disorder) or The Old Fart, or Moog, or one of the other very worthwhile folk on my 'recommended blogs;list for something to make you laugh, cry, think, groan or whatever (depending on which one you choose, in fact you may do all at once.)

See you sometime soon when my brain is functioning...

God bless! And don't forget to say if you want me to post my very long posting about belief...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Christianity is 'pants'!!!!???

It took a while to get the sermon together today. 2am, now I must go to bed, so i leave you with my thoughts for the week

Lent 1 (2007) Year C RCL Principal

Deuteronomy 26.1-11
Psalm 91.1-11
Romans 10.8-13
Luke 4.1-13

Christianity is 'Pants'

Christianity is 'pants' – at least that’s how someone (who shall remain nameless) started their testimony yesterday as part of our Team Prayer Day! It’s quite an opener – nearly as good as the one on the morning of Jo and I’s wedding day, when we had a service of Communion before our Wedding service and the preacher began with the words ‘One in three marriages ends in divorce…’ and then topped that with the words ‘some statistics suggest that it is nearer two in three’.

Of course in both cases what followed was much more encouraging and engaging and these great opening line’s served only to grab our attention so that we actually listened to what came next. Hopefully this introduction has served a similar purpose. I bet you’ve never heard the words ‘Christianity is 'pants'’ from a Vicar before! And it’s not that I’ve been in youth work too long. Sometimes the boldest and simplest statements manage to say something that we might feel, but not feel we are able to admit.

But let’s be honest, it is not easy being a Christian. Those who think that we live in some kind of fantasy world with mindless hopes of somewhere nice to go when we die really haven’t heard or understood the message of Jesus.

Jesus himself in Luke Chapter 14 verses 25 to 31 likened the decision to follow him to a king considering the armies he might have to send into battle, or builders putting up a building – a decision not to be taken lightly. Or in Matthew 16 verse 24 we have the stark reminder that if anyone wants to follow Christ we have to take up our cross and follow him.

Discipleship is not an easy option.

I remember hearing as a young man that Christian Faith is not a crutch, it is a stretcher – because without Jesus we can’t even limp into the fullness of life he promises. But at the same time, following Jesus is not the easy route to anything.

One of the few things that makes me angry (because I am not an angry person by inclination) is those who take the gospel and distort it to say that anything we want – healing, money, a life of comfort – is available if we just have enough faith. This doesn’t reflect Jesus’ teaching, or his life, or his death. Things were not easy for him.

Our choice of songs this morning particularly reminds us that Jesus took on our lives, and went through all that we went through. He didn’t live a life cushioned from the pain and difficulties we face, he wasn’t wealthy or comfortable or in a position of privilege due to his faith and his relationship with God the Father – nor should we expect to be.

On the contrary, he suffered, both in life and in the manner of his death, because of his faithfulness to the Gospel, to the message of God. It is through his life and death that we can enter the gate of glory – as it says in the prayer we use after Holy Communion:
Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.

Our Gospel reading for today talks of a time when Jesus felt the full weight of his humanity. At the start of our own Lenten observance we call to mind the struggle that he underwent in the story of his fasting and temptations in the wilderness.

There is one crucial statement that it is easy to miss if we concentrate just on the temptation story in this passage.

If we look at the start of the reading for today we read in verse 4 of chapter 4 of the Gospel of St Luke
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness…”
It wasn’t a random co-incidence that Jesus went into the desert, nor was he lost and wandering around. He was responding to God’s call and, we are told, was full of the Spirit.

It was the Spirit that took Jesus to this time of trial, to the deprivation of fasting and loneliness, to the struggle with who he was and who he was called to be. We are told that he wrestled with the temptation to take shortcuts in the ministry he was called to, and to rely on his own power and to misuse the promises of scripture. In all of this there was the possibility of circumventing the suffering which his ministry would entail. But he did not make that choice.

In a few weeks we will hear that Jesus wrestled again with the temptation to go around God’s will as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane that the cup of suffering would be taken from him yet offered himself to God saying ‘not my will, but yours be done’.

Taking the way of faith is not the easy route, and what Jesus did in opening himself completely to God’s will achieved our salvation.

Faith is not about escaping the realities of this world but about grappling with them, and struggling with the harshness of this world. It is about abandoning our own desires and opening ourselves to God’s desire to give us himself and to change this world.

Being open to God means that we may find ourselves being led to places which are not comfortable, it doesn’t make us immune to the struggles and difficulties of this world, on the contrary for those of us who see with eyes of faith the brokenness and pain of this world and the evidence of the ongoing effect of sin is all the more apparent.

And there are times in our lives when the Spirit will lead us into the wilderness, when God will break us in order that he may remake us again. It’s a hard message, but allowing God to work in our lives means that life will be hard, there will be times that our prayers feel meaningless, that the pain of life is all too real. It will mean that we too find ourselves tempted and struggling with what God’s will really means.

And this is the where we realize that faith needs to be held to even when we don’t feel very full of faith, even when God feel’s distant we are called to be faithful. We must keep praying even when it feels like we are hitting a brick wall, keep in fellowship with one another, continue to wrestle with scripture, be faithful – no matter what.

And the promise we have is simply this – God is with us. Whatever, whenever, whether we feel it or not. God is with us. Romans 10 reminds us
10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

the incredible disappearing Vicar

have been moving so fast I've been a blur lately (with a person my size that's quite an achievement) this has left me pretty tired and when I've had energy to blog I've not had the time, and when I've had the time - well, you get the picture. Apologies to those of you who do make the effort to check things out here regularly and have had the same thought since Ash Wednesday.

It is now 4pm here and I have spent most of the day at a 'team prayer day' where we spent some time in worship and prayer and listening to the teaching of a Ugandan preacher called John Mulinde - challenging and thought provoking. It was a good day day and reminded me of a little card i picked up years ago about the Lord's prayer (much of the talk was structured around Matthew 6 and the version of Jesus' prayer found there), the content of which follows:

Can I say the Lord's Prayer?

I cannot say OUR if I live in a water-tight spiritual compartment
or if I think a special place is reserved for my denomination alone
I cannot say FATHER if I do not demonstrate this
relationship in my daily life
I cannot say WHO ART IN HEAVEN if I am so occupied with
earthly things that I am laying up treasure there
I cannot say HALLOWED BE THY NAME if I,
who am called by his name, am not holy
I cannot say THY KINGDOM COME if I am not
doing all in my power to hasten its coming
I cannot say THY WILL BE DONE if I am questioning of,
resentful of, or disobedient to God’s will for me
i cannot say ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN if I am not
prepared to devote my life here to his service
I am living on past experience
harbour a grudge against anyone
I cannot say DELIVER US FROM EVIL if I am not
prepared to fight evil in my life and in my prayer
I cannot say THINE IS THE KINGDOM if I do not
give the ruler the obedience of a loyal subject
I cannot say THINE IS THE POWER if I fear
what people might do to me or what my neighbours might think
if I am seeking glory for myself
I cannot say FOR EVER AND EVER
if my horizon is bounded by the things of time
I cannot say AMEN, if I do not add
"cost what it may', For to' say this, prayer properly
will cost everything

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Remember you are dust

and to dust you shall return. Turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

An unusually serious thought for Ash Wednesday, taken from the Common Worship provision for the day.

Enough said for today, i think


I don't think I've ever been called campy before - as described in the blogthing I posted yesterday. thanks for the comments by the way, i agree that Showgirls isn't a cult classic, but have now changed it!

today is ash wednesday - the least campy day of the year. having started with a eucharist (with imposition of ashes) at 7.30am I am allowing my brain to wake up, between the appointments which are filling my day, and may post later.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

If my life was a movie

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Msr Heulot's Holiday, Dogma, The Big Lebowski

Intimidating, moi?

Having had two comments about my scary picture on the profile here at blogger, I have reverted to my older picture which doesn't really have me at all, only my handsome son with me sideways with a squishy nose....

Hope this one doesn't upset anyone ;-)

Really enjoying reading

...a book by Sally Vickers called 'Miss Garnett's Angel' - not the kind of novel i would normally read, but a sensitive, thoughtful book about an older woman who travels to Venice after the death of a life-long friend in order to think through life and ends up finding out much more about life, death, faith and love than she expected. It is wonderfully written, and contains just enough suspense to keep the reader hanging on - i am about half way through and savouring the book, though I am tempted to keep reading even when I don't have the time to!

Things that may or may not be true

Following up the query about 'peas pudding hot' I looked up an email sent me a while ago about interesting historical facts, and somewhere in the middle of this is something about that particular rhyme. I have no idea how much of this is accurate... Comments by the author of the email are in green, the important bit is in red...

the one that I am pretty unsure about is the 'saved by the bell' which i thought had a pretty straightforward link to boxing....

You couldn't make these up so I think they must be true ?

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

These are interesting...

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water..

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying . It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway to stop it. Hence the saying a thresh hold.

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old..

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat..

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up Hence the custom of holding a wake. ( So mind what you drink from)

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a ...dead ringer..

And that's the truth...Now, whoever said History was boring ! ! !

Educate someone. Share these facts with a friend

Monday, February 19, 2007

Responding to comments - and a sermon

I am reaping what I have sewn, having mentioned porridge in a previous post I now need to try and explain to Jenny Ha Ha (flaw and disorder) the nursery rhyme 'peas porridge hot' - I did recently read something about that, so I will get back to you on that when i can find exactly what it means - the simple explanation is that peas porridge is a simple fare of mushed up peas... yum

Also, sorry, I don't know who nutty mummy is, sorry, I do have a sister - well, actually I have eight, and eight brothers, but not one who blogs, at least not one who is a mum.... Actually, going over the comments on your blog I realised that she addresses me and talks about her brother in Scotland (which isn't me)... Confused everyone, you should be - go to Flaw and disorder to try and unravel this...

Um, jeff, enjoyed a trip round your blog after a week's absence (on my part, not yours, obviously - and tried to offer some response to your Ask an Anglican question!
Betty, thank you for the comment...

On the other part of the heading for today, i didn't prepare a sermon for this week, at least not a full sermon, just did a quick thought for the family at the baptism of my nephew, Drew. So here is a sermon from another year! Same Sunday, same readings, different year... See if anything is relevant still!

Sunday before Lent Year C (2004)

Exodus 34: 29 -35
2 Corinthians 3:12 - 4: 2
Luke 9: 28 - 36

The Transfiguration

God’s glory shines - or at least that is the way that it is described in our readings for today. Moses, having stood in the presence of God shone with the reflection of God’s glory, St Paul refers to the same event, talking of the veil that Moses wore because his face shone and it terrified the people. Jesus himself reflects God’s glory in the passage we heard in today’s Gospel, the event that we call ‘The Transfiguration’, due to the fact that Jesus was transfigured, changed, as he encountered God on the mountain and talked with Moses and Elijah.

And throughout the Bible we have accounts of the glory of God being a light that is too much to behold, the Glory of God overwhelms and inspires, it leaves those who glimpse it awe-struck, speechless and feeling only too aware of their own sinfulness, weakness and insignificance.

Our God is a God of glory, majesty, power, strength and holiness. Our God is beyond thought, beyond reason, beyond imagination. Immortal, invisible, God only wise - to quote a well known hymn. But our God is also a God of love and intimacy, closeness and even vulnerability. Our God knows what it is like to feel hunger, pain, weakness, loneliness and fear - because our God has made himself human in Jesus Christ his only Son.

And it is both sides of God that we see in St Luke’s account of the transfiguration. Though we may focus on the glory that shines all around as Christ talks to the two great figures of the Old Testament. Though we might be awed by the fact that Jesus is conversing with the two who represent the law, Moses, and the Prophets, Elijah. Though we might be overwhelmed by the splendour of the picture - we should not be distracted from what these three were discussing. v31 “They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

In the midst of all this glory there is the very real, very painful knowledge of what Jesus is to go on to in Jerusalem. They were talking about all that Jesus was to suffer, all the anguish, the brutality and the agony. In the midst of this miraculous event the cold, hard truth of Jesus’ destiny in Jerusalem was more than apparent.

And this is the paradox of the Incarnation, the topsy-turvy way that God does business, that God’s glory is revealed not just in lights and smoke, not in a booming voice or hosts of angels, but in the very real, very ordinary, very human, Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus in his life, teaching and ministry, in his death, resurrection and ascension reveals what God is like, he is as one writer said ‘the human face of God.’ It is this Jesus who talks in terms of loving God and our neighbour, and of doing to him what we do to the least of our fellow human beings. It is this Jesus who touches the untouchable, loves the unlovable and speaks the unspeakable. It is this Jesus who is fully God and fully human whose glory is revealed just as much in the touching of a leper, in his weeping at the death of a friend, in the agony of the cross as in the glory of the transfiguration.

The transfiguration is a distillation of the glory of all of Jesus life and work, it is a moment in which God reveals himself through Jesus is a visible and glorious way. But God reveals himself constantly through all of the records we have of Jesus, and shows us how we may also show the glory and life of God through our lives. In God’s way of doing things the ordinary, such as Jesus the ordinary human being, is transformed into the extraordinary through faith. The faith of Jesus is what made his ministry, death and new life possible. Because of his faith and total obedience God was able to work in and through him, and even raise him to life again.

And God longs to change the ordinary into the special in our lives. He does it already in the sacraments, where ordinary water becomes the water of life in baptism, or ordinary men and women become one flesh in marriage, or in the sacrament of Holy Communion that we celebrate this morning. In this sacrament bread and wine become our spiritual food and drink, and represent and become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through our re-enactment of the last supper of our Lord these ordinary things become special, and enable us to live and grow in God.

And God changes us, us ordinary people, into his body in the Church. As we live in Christ, as we seek to follow Christ and serve God through faith we are drawn closer to him and, by the working of the Holy Spirit, become more like him. In the 3rd Chapter of the 2nd letter to the Corinthians that is another reading offered for this Sunday St Paul says (v18) “ And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

God is both glorious and intimate, both loving and awesome. It is this God that we occasionally really do have a glimpse of, and that glimpse transforms our understanding, and makes it possible for us to show God’s light to the world in the everyday, through loving and serving God and our neighbour, through faith and devotion in our own prayer and worship and through becoming, with the Spirit’s help, more like Christ.

So our reaction to all of this should be to serve, to follow Christ and pray. We learn and grow and as we do we see the glory of God in the everyday, and we can then give thanks for the God who makes the ordinary special through faith. When we realise that this glory can be seen in the most unexpected places, even in me and you, then we don’t make inappropriate attempts to hold on to this glory and contain it - as Peter did. Peter offers to build three tabernacles in order to house the glory of God, seen in Christ, Moses and Elijah, in that place.

We too often seek to contain God’s glory in our Churches, our liturgy, vestments, our doctrine, our worship, our particular tradition or experience. When our eyes are open we will learn to see how Jesus is present in others, how the Kingdom of God is a part of the world already and is being brought in by those who are faithful, who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

And when life gets hard, when things seem darkest and most fearful. It is then that we can return to the mountain, to the Altar, to Church in order to pray for a glimpse of God in the ordinary made special in our worship. We worship the God who can fill the temple with his presence, but who longs to be the still small voice that whispers his love and strength in our ear. It is this God whose glory we celebrate in this Eucharist, and in our lives. God is glorious, but not always in the ways we expect, may we all learn to keep our hearts and minds open to the glory of God in all aspects of life.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Back for a moment

Had my week off and now am preparing to go back to work tomorrow.

The problem with this ministry lark is that you are never really off, in the middle of the week i had a moment where i was anxious about a couple of parishioners so i was contacting colleagues to make sure they were visited whilst I was away. I did go away to Devon to see my family, but was down there to baptise my latest nephew, Drew, who is completely gorgeous! Lovely day, fun service (in an ice cold country church) great to see family, but still work to a certain degree...

i guess car mechanics who go to visit friends get asked to look under the bonnet (or hood for US readers) of their friends and family cars, or doctors get a 'could you have a look at this and should i get it lanced' query at supper time when visiting - so there's not much to complain about.

Actually, not complaining, just observing. It's a great privilege to baptise at any time, even more so when it is one of the family. A good day, in fact a very good few days away.

The Car exhaust did blow up whilst we were away and we had to get it fixed, though. £200 (about US$350) - but the kwik-fit we went to were brilliant and had it all done very quickly (as the name suggests) and were very helpful. Shout out to Exeter Kwik-Fit - hooray!

More blogging soon, I am sure there is more I could say but am quite tired after a long drive. See you - and thanks for all the comments.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Going to be a quiet week...

I'm officially on holiday this week, and making the most of time with family, so I expect my blogging will drop down the 'to do' list - if I don't get any posting done in the next couple of days please feel free to amble around and see what else is here - or follow some of the links in the sidebar, or just chill, put your feet up and relax, use this as an opportunity to take a two minute break from your busy schedule and just stare vacantly at the screen for a bit.

On the other hand, if I do have some time in the next few days I might feel inspired and blog like crazy. Who knows?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Stealing stuff from other blogs

Well, that's what the blogsphere is for, isn't it? As long as you let them know you've swiped it. Here's a meme I half-inched from The Old Fart (thanks for the comment on the last post!) who filched it from Dr John (thanks for the comment on my last post, and mention in today's post on your blog) who had taken it from Margaret (thanks for the comment on my last post) and who had mentioned this meme (Old Fart that is) in a post on plagiarism.

I had great difficulty thinking of synonyms for stealing in that short paragraph above as well as trying to get the syntax right so that you realised the end of the sentence after all those parentheses was again about The Old Fart, in the end i had to give up, as you can tell.

Definitely time for bed, once I've done this meme...

1.Four jobs I have had in my life:
Spare rib ribcage cutter upper (yeuchhhh - but fun at the time)
telephone market researcher (NOT sales!)
Dishwasher at Wimbledon tennis tournament and (that same summer) dishwasher at movie studio

2.Four Movies I have watched over and over:
The Matrix
Galaxy Quest
Taxi (the French version - though I've seen the US remake a couple of times too)
Pink Panther (various, couldn't narrow it down to any one)

3. Four places I have lived:
South Kensington, London
Honiton, Devon
Middlesbrough, Cleveland
Cambridge, Cambridgshire

4. Four TV shows I love to watch:
Star Trek (scary isn't it)
CSI - all of them
Battlestar Galactica (new version)

5. Four places I have been on vacation:
Amsterdam (actually, lots of the Netherlands, on a motorbike)
Bergerac, France
New England (best bit - Boston, Mass)
New York (wow)

6. Four of my favorite foods:
Steak (sorry, unrepentant meat eater here)

7. Four places I would rather be right now:
In bed (shortly to be the case)
In Bergerac (we have a share in a house there that I love)
New York
Playing guitar (too late for that)

Another glimpse into the strange world that is mine...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sermon for 2nd before Lent

Yes here it is, all new and shiny, the sermon for tomorrow...

Don't tell any of my parishioners, they are all, obviously, desperate to know what i have to say....

ha ha ha ha ha

2 Before Lent Year C RCL principal

Genesis 2: 4b - 9, 15 - 25
Revelation 4
Luke 8: 22 - 25

Be Still

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure the world seems to be getting faster and busier and more frantic as the years go by. It’s not just a case of time passing quickly, which I am told seems to happen more and more as one gets older, and makes me worry that by the time I am in my fifties I will be missing whole weeks if I blink! I do think that western society is obsessed with haste and with just ‘doing’ things all of the time. There’s not very much space in our world for relaxation, rest and stillness. There are not many places where we can enjoy silence any more. There is not much time for the spiritual and emotional part of our lives to be dwelt on and reflected.

Our lives our so full and so busy – travel, visiting friends and family, work and even play – it all needs to fit into an already full schedule.

Stillness is not considered an important part of many people’s lives.

But it is for us. And it is in the life of Jesus.

Today’s story, of the calming of the storm is, like many parables, charged with meaning beyond the simple miraculous event of Jesus causing the wind and the waves to cease. There is much to reflect on and to offer us food for thought beyond the initial story.

First of all, we must consider the reason that Luke includes this story in his Gospel and where it is placed. It comes immediately after Jesus proclamation that his mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and obey it, and before the account of the man possessed by demons who calls himself ‘legion’ – when the demons are cast out into a herd of pigs and proceed to drown themselves in the sea.

It is a story about Jesus authority and about who he is – the last words of this passage are ‘who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him.’ We are challenged to answer that question for ourselves – do we consider him to be a miracle worker and a teacher, or do we consider him Lord, who holds all power and authority. Authority that comes from him speaking the word of God, and indeed being the Word of God, an authority that enables him to have power even over nature and over the forces of evil.

This story serves to remind us that if we claim to follow him then we must allow him to have authority over our lives and we who read these accounts two thousand years later are challenged by that authority who asks ‘where is your faith?’. Is our faith in Jesus Christ – and if so, what does that mean to us.

And part of that challenge is asking us what are we doing with our faith? And it is a very real challenge for the Church today. How are we living out our faith?

In the busy, wild world in which we live, it is easy for each of us as Christians, and as the Church, to be caught up in the rush of the world. Our services and the way the Church presents itself can become increasingly slick and modern – which is why I am glad that we have an Archbishop that is neither slick nor particularly modern – someone who seems to me to have very little ‘spin’ as they call it about him.

If we do respond to the frantic activity of the world by our own frantic activity then we are sucked into the way the world does things and we can so easily lose site of the riches of heritage and tradition that the Church has inherited. We, like the world, become more about style than substance, more about image than content. Christ has every right to challenge a church like that with the question ‘where is your faith?’.

It seems to me that to some degree, the Church is called to be ‘counter cultural’ – a prophetic voice which offers the alternative to the superficial, materialistic, often vacuous culture that surrounds us. And part of that calling is reflected in the deeper meaning of the Gospel – the calling to stillness.

For in our reading for today it is not just the wind and the waves who are called to be still – it is the disciples in the boat. In the midst of the storm Jesus sleeps – probably due to the exhaustion of the ministry he performs, but also secure in the protection his heavenly Father has given him. He is not brought to panic by the world around him. The disciples, however, are another story – they are terrified, and wake Jesus in a panic – ‘Master, Master – we are perishing’ they cry as they rouse Jesus.

It is a very natural reaction, of course – it does say in the story that the water was flooding the boat and they were in danger – and we must remember that these, or at least some of these, are fishermen – used to the unpredictable nature of the Sea of Galilee, it would have take something serious to cause them to feel in danger. They finally snap and call on Jesus, who rebukes them for their fear and goes on to perform the miraculous stilling of the storm.

In many ways we could see this as a parable for our times. The Church seems to be flooded with pressures from outside and within, struggling with issues that some think may split or swamp it. We are caught up in the busy-ness of life, trying to respond to every wind of change and the waves of challenges from without and within. Even with the years of experience that many of us have, there are plenty of things which seem to threaten to engulf us. Many of those in the Church are crying out ‘Master, Master we are perishing.’

And Jesus asks – where is your faith?

We are called to stillness in a world of noise and rush. To rest in Christ and trust him.

Of course we are not called to inaction or apathy, we are called to engage with the world around us – but not on its own terms, on Christ’s terms. And that means that we are called to offer a haven from this world.

There are many ways in which we can do this. I want to consider three:
Firstly, through our wonderful buildings – which so many consider to be a burden – are prayers in stone. They are often the only place in a village where people can go for some genuine peace, and a chance to reflect and to pray – and perhaps we should encourage that more.

Secondly, our services too need to reflect the depth of our faith. There are plenty of good reasons to have ‘all age services’ which are perhaps less formal and more lively. There are good reasons to have more lively ‘praise’ events. But there are many reasons too to hold on to the traditional liturgical worship of the Church and the space that allows us to pray and consider in ourselves the God who is often the ‘still, small voice’. We can also explore other traditions, such as those of the Taize Community or Iona Community. These type of services offer much more time for reflection and contemplation than many other types of service.

Thirdly and finally each one of us has a responsibility to resist the busy-ness which can be, quite literally, soul-destroying. We need as Christians to know that peace which passes understanding and to know the Christ who calls us to be still. Much of this comes down to the fact that we need to pray.

May God equip us, and the whole Church, to bring his peace to a world which is so in need of it. Amen.

Not going anywhere

My car has conked out, and the repair services are so busy at the moment i have to wait until at least 3pm until they arrive, so i have four hours to fill, or rather I have to rearrange my plans for today in order that i still get done what i need to get done...

Plans for today were hospital visiting, then service planning and sermon writing (I have a complete block on doing sermons before Saturday, maybe because my first Vicar was so good at getting things done early in the week and wanted me too as well.) So it I am taking the time to do the service planning and sermons now. This is unusually organised and may take me out of my usual 1am to bed pattern as i will have the usually frantic late night put together taken away from me!

Better stop blogging and get on with it then...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who we are...

Reading Quilldancer's blog she say 'Inside me is a thin person trying to get out'.

My take on that would be 'Inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out, but i keep mine pacified with cake'.


We've got real snow today, and the kids have had great fun playing in it (whilst I was inside keeping warm and my wife was running around after them)

Don't think the snow will last for longer than a day or two, though, and none forecast beyond today. It doesn't seem to have curtailed much activity today except prayers with the other ministers in the area this morning as the roads were blocked by accidents. I did get to the funeral I needed to this afternoon and I still, i believe, have a meeting this evening in one of my local villages.

Perhaps if i get my act together there will be some photos later (of the snow, not the funeral or the meeting...)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How to complicate things...

This morning saw me going into the local school, where I am a governor and my daughter is a pupil, to help out one of the teachers with a lesson on 'The Bible' as part of their Religious Studies series on 'sacred texts'. The kids were 9 years old or so (Year 4/5) and I was there just to give a general overview as to why the Bible is so important, a bit about what is in it, and a bit of where it came from.

What struck me as i spoke to these interested, enthusiastic, thoughtful children was how complicated it is to try and explain things in simple terms when one has been 'theologically educated'. I knew that it would be a waste of time, and totally irrelevant, if I started talking about 'sources' or 'form criticism' or 'redaction' - things which so easily trip off my tongue when I talk to other Christians about Scriptural matters. In the end these things didn't matter, they wanted to know why I believe that the Bible is 'God's word' and why the Bible is important. All the other stuff is just fluff in that kind of context!

It made me think how even simplicity is complicated. I know there is so much more to the Bible than the simple statement 'it is God's word'. I couldn't talk about the councils that spent so much time putting together the canon of Scripture, or the scraps and scrolls from a multiplicity of sources compiled over hundreds of years, or the complications of translation from one thought process in one language (or two, Hebrew and Greek) to another. All I could do was do an 'unplugged' version of what is important about this amazing, challenging book upon which Christian life and faith is built.

This was immediately followed with a conversation about faith, life and (again) the Bible with someone else. Another excellent conversation, but one which made me realise my presuppositions and the background of Biblical criticism which inform my own viewpoint - and how unnecessary it is to go into those kind of details when someone just wants to read the Bible and see what is in it.

This isn't a rant against theological reflection, or an attempt to pretend that there isn't a lot more to looking at the Bible than just picking it up - just a reminder to self that getting back to basics is sometimes the only way to really get to grips with the serious stuff in scripture.

Warm and fluffy feelings

It's great to come into contact on the blogosphere with those who you know in this 'oh, too solid flesh' world, or meet those who also blog (see Dr John for some thoughts on that, particularly in the comments - its also a theme which has run through a few blogs i have visited lately). Jem is one of those who I know in the real world beyond cyberspace - though his personal blogging has kind of dwindled into nothingness lately (work blogs are apparently v busy, but i need to search those out) and now here is another - Twisted Shadows of Naughtiness - fellow cleric in the Ely Diocese who I can't find anywhere on the net and whose profile is blocked - thanks Ed!

Anyway, it is good to know that real people are out there - I know you are all real, but sometimes I need reassurance. With Ed's comments - gladly received - I now have an appropriate warm fluffy feeling inside...

Monday, February 05, 2007


Considering Dave Walker's reflections on Giles Fraser's reflections on bloggers, or rather (as Dave points out) on blog commentators, perhaps I will stop encouraging comments on my blogs - its a very scary blogsphere out there! Populated by very scary people...

Go on, prove me wrong :-)

How frustrating...

The day i don't have time to blog, or even to check out my fave blogs on the sidebar, is the day that my sitemeter tells me i have most visitors! Sorry if you popped by yesterday and were hoping for something new, i hope the chance to amble around the archives was enjoyable.

It was a very busy day yesterday, but quite rewarding - early service was small but perfectly formed with a good response from the congregation. My main service at 10.30am was slightly disappointing attendance wise (after the time put into preparation) but the lack of numbers was more than made up for by the atmosphere of worship and the participation of those who were there - God is good, no matter how many get together to remember that! My very traditional Evening service, from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, on the other hand was well supported (for a trad service on a dark and cold night with freezing fog in one of the smallest villages in our team, less than 100 population) and was a joyful, prayerful, worshipping celebration where the congregation were open to the word of God and responding to God's life. Renewal through the prayer book - now that's unusual! Again, it doesn't matter what you do or how many are there, God still turns up and makes things happen.

Today has already seen our weekly Clergy prayer meeting and business, which was lacking in the laughter of last week (we're all tired) but still has a sense of shared support and a feeling that we are doing OK! I then spent an hour being available to anyone who wanted to pop in and share a coffee with me at our local coffee house, but no one came and i spent the time reading. Since i got back home I have been writing emails and on the phone and catching up with admin, not much joy, but quite productive.

Got to get ready to take an assembly at one of the local schools now. may write more later.

Oh, and if you've not been here before 'welcome' and if you have 'welcome back' - don't forget to comment (nearly five hundred visitors yesterday and no comments, was it something I said?)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dr. John's Fortress: Why such a rush?

Dr. John's Fortress: Why such a rush?

Here's a great reflection on the lemming like rush to Windows Vista... And for those taking notes, I know I am posting it a day late, but i never really thought about it until today. Today's post from Dr John is good too.

Preparing for Sunday

Another busy week nearly over, but today needs some time taking into preparing services for tomorrow and the start of another week. I guess most people think that because Anglican services are liturgically based that everything just happens like some kind of 'holy sausage factory' churning out the same stuff week by week, but we try to offer something that is within a framework yet reflects the freedom that comes from the life of Christ which we share.

I have a traditional service to start and end the day, but our main morning service is an act of all age worship which involves making our time together meaningful and at the same time accessible. I think I've managed to get something together which works - I just need to print it out now.

Also, I am just working on a sermon for tomorrow, and having looked through my old sermons I thought i might talk again about our own calling to serve God - a calling that is not just for Clergy or lay ministers or those who work for the Church. So, here is a copy of my previous sermon, whilst i think about what I will say tomorrow you are welcome to read this...


Heeding the call

I am often asked – ‘how did you become a priest’, or ‘why did you become a priest’ or – more pertinently, by those who have faith of their own usually – ‘how did you receive your call to the ministry’.

When I’m feeling rather flippant I tend to respond that I used to say that I would only be ordained when I was old and rather useless – which was my own prejudice at the time. On other occasions I would say that God called me despite the fact that I didn’t want to know… That’s probably nearer the truth. When I was 24 I felt a sense, a very strong sense, that I was being drawn into ordained ministry. I had felt this before as an undergraduate, and I explored the possibilities with what was called a ‘vocational advisor’ but came to no conclusion. When my calling finally came I cannot quite say what that felt like – or even how I knew – but at the time I was acting as lay chaplain to Imperial College in South Kensington, and I did know that God wanted me to continue in my pastoral and teaching ministry beyond my time as lay chaplain, and so I followed that call.

Like all those who feel called to ministry I went to explore my vocation with a Diocesan Director of Ordinands, or DDO who, after discussion recommended me to the Bishop, I then was sent to a Bishop’s selection Conference, recommended for training which I did in Cambridge at Westcott House, was offered a curacy in the Diocese of London and Ordained in St Paul’s Cathedral on June 29th 1996. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, you’ve learned more than you probably want about me, you might be wondering quite why I chose to share all of this information with you today.

That’s an easy question to answer – easier than the one we began with – I felt compelled to share this with you because today’s readings so obviously remind us of the calling of God upon all of our lives, and draw us back to the reason for Christian faith, and the fact that every calling is different – yet the same.

I feel I should make myself clear, though. When I talk about calling I am not talking about the calling to become a minister. When people talk about vocation they often add ‘to the priesthood’ – but ordained ministry is not the only calling we receive from the Lord.

We are all called to follow Christ – but just as we are all made differently, so the calling comes to us differently and we all take it up in different ways. We are all called to follow our vocation – the vocation to be a Christian who is a teacher, a farmer, an accountant, a housewife, a mother, a father, a friend – dare I even say – a Churchwarden. We are called to follow Christ in our everyday lives. Being a priest is not a higher calling than any other, it is just a different calling. On this day, which is also known as ‘education Sunday’ we remember the calling of those who are led to work in and who are gifted to work with our young people, teaching and training them. But again vocation is about finding who God has called us to be, whatever our occupation is. St Paul says in the letter to the Romans ‘whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as though you do it not for men but for the Lord himself’.

We all have different callings – but the calling to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, is that which unites us –as the well known hymn says
‘in simple trust, like those who heard
beside the Syrian Sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee’.

This is the essence of our vocation. And there are common threads which we see in our biblical passages for today which bind our calling together.

The first thing we see in being called by God is that God meets us in some way – we may not have a vision of God as Isaiah did in the temple – something awesome and overwhelming; we may not have an encounter with Jesus like Peter in the boat as we heard in the Gospel – where the massive draught of fishes was equally overwhelming; but we all have our encounter with God. Mine was in my youth, when I saw the lives of other Christians and I was drawn by their faith. Yours might be in your own observance Sunday by Sunday in childhood, reading the prayer book, singing familiar hymns. It may even stretch back before you can remember, even all the way to your baptism as a child. In some way God meets us and encounters us all. And as an adult, if we are open to him, God will continue to meet us and to surprise us, in our reading of the Bible, in our worship, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. And this is the root of our calling – that God calls us to him, to be those who respond to his love.

Of course, in meeting God we see a common reaction in both of our stories. In the face of God’s love and perfection we can only feel unworthy. Isaiah said ‘depart from me O Lord, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips’. Peter’s response was ‘depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.’ None of us feel worthy of being loved and wanted by God, none of us can truly feel worthy.

Many people respond with a feeling that God wouldn’t really want them. But God does. That familiar verse says that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.’ That’s the world, not everyone in the world except me. We may not be worthy but through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ our sins are taken away – in the same way that the burning coal that touched the prophet’s lips took away his sin. We simply have to confess our sins and they will be taken from us.

The next response to God’s calling which is shared in these accounts and in all of our lives is the fact that a response is demanded of us. For Isaiah he was sent out to do God’s work amongst his people, to speak the word of God to the society around him. For Peter he was called to be a disciple of Christ ‘fear not, for I will make you a fisher of men.’

And that is the challenge for us – how is our calling being lived out in our lives. It won’t be the same for all of us – we are not all called to proclaim in the way that the prophet Isaiah did. Sometimes, like Peter, we will sit at the feet of Christ and learn from him, perhaps to be sent out later as was he.

Our calling is not all to be evangelists, teachers, preachers, apostles – or even Priests. Our truest calling to be faithful, to do as Christ commands, to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, to love our neighbour as ourselves. To be the Christians God wants for us to be.

And if we do respond to our calling, then God will lead us to new places, he will bless us and help us to be truly the people we were made to be.

We may not have had a blinding flash, a revelation. We may not feel at all worthy, we may not feel God wants to do anything with us – but he does. God offers to meet us here, to change us. It just remains up to us to respond to his calling.


Friday, February 02, 2007

For lovers of 'Father Ted'

If you've not been there before, the only search engine you will ever need is Doogle...

Family Friday

It's friday, no really, so I am going to spend time with my family today. I was hoping to go the MCN motorcycle show but my wife is afflicted with a very heavy cold/infection thing which has now kept her off work for a couple of weeks and shows no sign of going. The bike will be repaired today so I may well get to ride it at some point in the next day or two - hooray!

So I may or may not see you later...

In case you read comments

You may have seen in the last post where I got all deep and meaningful for a mo, a comment from flawed and disorderly in which she undergoes some deep mental struggle before saying what she really wanted to say...

Go here to understand what that was all about....


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Death in/of the community?

In villages the size of the ones I minister funerals are not exactly rare, nor are they frequent. We've a had a couple of really tragic funerals lately, and in the time I have been ministering in this area we've seen a number of such funerals. The bereavement ministry we offer on the whole, though, is what most would consider 'natural' deaths - often at the end of a long life. On the whole these funerals aren't considered in the same way to be tragic, though every death is heartbreaking and - to quote the Revd Ken Howard of Curb your Dogma - 'death sucks'. However, there is a kind of creeping tragedy coming over many of our rural communities - with a number of deaths over the past couple of years we have lost some real village 'characters' - people who had in their time significant influence on these communities.

We've lost old time poachers, and those who worked on the land, members of our Church communities, even a few of the much loved village oddballs. Taken individually these may not seem anything unusual and all a part of the natural cycle of birth, life and death, but in total these deaths are part of a loss of character in these communities. There aren't quite the same characters coming up through the younger generations, and perhaps its an ironic reflection of our so-called 'individualistic' age that there is a sense of homogeneity creeping over our villages.

Part of the explanation is financial - those moving into our communities are, on the most part, better off, often dual earning 'middle class' families. The only way anyone can afford to live in most of the properties is to have a certain level of income and many of those born and raised in the villages are having to move to the estates of nearby towns in order to afford housing. Part of the explanation is that people expect a certain type of 'rural idyll' which often involves being a spectator rather than a participant in village life. I am sure that changing social structures are a part of it too, as people no longer communicate and become friends with neighbours, or affiliate themselves with local clubs and organisations, or with churches to the same degree. There are very few local shops or amenities so people get into their cars and drive everywhere. People go on line, or watch TV, or invite a few carefully chosen friends for 'dinner parties' - the pubs are struggling and local groups find fewer and fewer people participating.

This paints a pretty bleak picture of village life and that wasn't my intention when i started. I do feel we are losing a generation who made our communities alive and vibrant, without seeing them being replaced and it feels in many ways that this is a symptom of a certain community malaise. There are signs of hope, and where people are drawn into our churches we are finding a vibrancy and a life which is having a positive effect on many of our villages. I myself try to offer my own particular brand of 'being me' which involves me being unlike many people's stereotypical expectations of a clergyperson!

It does strike me that if we are to keep our communities alive as communities then people need to actually make an effort to be a part of the life of our villages, to be open to one another, to support local events. There are glimmers of this starting to happen, and the Church in all but two of my villages is an important part of this - but that's another story.

Lack of motivation

Having one of those days where blogging seems to have dropped off of the mental 'things to do' list due to brain being full. Have got that previously mentioned document about 'What God is doing' (which I keep misremembering as 'What is God doing in our team....?') to finish, and before it gets dark i need to remove the battery from my motorbike in order that i can put in the new one tomorrow and get to the motorbike show in London.

If you are there, i will be the fat, hairy one in leathers... That'll help ;-)