Monday, April 30, 2007
Or rather, as usual, the start, with more if you wish to follow the link at the end...
Easter 4 (2007) Year C RCL Principal
In the songs that we sing in Sunday club and in our all-age services we sing a lot about animals, and a lot about what kind of Animals we’d like to be. There’s lots to do with ‘strong as a lion’ or ‘graceful as a bird’. There’s the great chorus ‘If I were a butterfly’ which contains the wonderful line ‘if I were a fuzzy-wuzzy bear, I’d thank you Lord for my Fuzzy-wuzzy hair’.
Anyway, the natural world has often inspired Christians to write hymns or poems that use images of animals to describe our human characteristics. But no-one, as far as I know, has ever written a song called ‘if I were a fluffy sheep’. Sheep are not the most inspiring of creatures, in lots of ways, for most people, but they remain an enduring image in the Bible, and are particularly used to talk about the believer, the one who seeks to follow God, as a sheep follows a shepherd. [more]
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Thank you to the gracious bloggers who said not to worry about posting. And to Jennyhaha for the nomination for a thinking blogger award - I may well do the same thing again when i get around to having time to link to five more bloggers!
Thanks too to Quilly for the comments on this morning's post - I did notice the typo but decided to ignore it and not edit the post in the hope that some clever person would think of something to say about Easter Europe! Quilly gets the unofficial award for smartest blogger on a Saturday Morning, a round of applause everyone, please!
So we bought a new car
I went down to London yesterday to a massive 'car supermarket' called Cargiant which spreads over 23 Acres in West London and chose, then bought, a Skoda Octavia 1.9 Elegance TDi - not a car most folk outside of Europe would be familiar with, but built in Easter Europe by a company wholly owned by VolksWagen. It's a mix of a family Estate (Stationwagon) with a bit of sexy engineering which makes it efficient, low emission, pleasant looking, and quite speedy. Armed with scuds of information from my mate Nick who is the guru of all things mechanical, and runs the same model as an ambulance car for his private ambulance business, I checked out this car, and after the formalities (which involved parting with a large proportion of our inheritance from Jo's gramps) I drove it home.
Even with the great joy (ironic statement) of London's rush hour on a Friday, it was a good drive, and for the short stretch of the A1 out of London where there was chance to put my foot down and it went in a manner akin to the proverbial faecal matter from a digging implement. All good fun. It has also taken away that niggling 'will she? won't she?' feeling I had every time I put my key in the ignition of my old car.
It looks a bit like this...
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Who knows, I might even have something to say...
Sunday, April 22, 2007
et voila, c'est ici... (well, the full text is, a taster below so you can decide whether or not it is worth the effort of clicking to go to my 'new kid deep stuff' page to read the whole thing.)
A quick note, though, to say that this is a very contextual sermon, I wrote it (I think with some help from God) for my service this morning with something of our vision and calling in this fellowship in mind. From the feedback I got, I'm pretty sure it was the sermon I was meant to preach this morning - and it's not always that i can say that!
‘Do you love me’
There are two ways in which we could interpret Jesus’ question to Peter from our Gospel this morning ‘Do you love me more than these?’
Firstly Jesus might be asking Peter, as many translations seem to suggest. ‘Peter, do you love me more than the others here do?’ Perhaps asking him if he is able to bear the responsibility placed on him when Jesus said ‘You will be called Peter (which means ‘rock’) and on this rock I will build my Church’.
Secondly Jesus might be asking ‘do you love me more than these other things in your life’ – following on from the fishing (which had been Simon Peter’s livelihood before following Jesus) and in which much of his life would have been invested. In this way Jesus might well be asking ‘do you love me more than security, peace, a safe living, home, perhaps even family and friends – do you love me more than any of these things?’
Both translations are valid. The Greek word is not terribly clear. And I think, in the way that scripture often does, there is a point to this. I think it is a question that is meant to mean both things. Is your love for me greater than anything else? Does your love for me strive to be greater than anyone else’s love for me, and greater than your love for any thing else in the world?’ More here
Out of context that might seem a bit rude, so read the post and the comments here...
Actually, just go and read the blog, it's great. I really enjoyed his most recent post, and felt very affirmed in my vocation with his comments on 'laymen, pastors and the great unwashed masses' (Is that last one some kind of Holy Communion for Roman Catholics who don't bathe?
Hope a whole post dedicated to the kudos laden being that is Tom makes up for skipping him in an almost inexcusable way from my list of Thinking Bloggers...
Friday, April 20, 2007
Nick, of Nick's Sanctuary has nominated me for a thinking blogger award. Despite not getting a shiny trophy or financial reward I am very pleased to have been nominated. It's a kind of compliment wrapped up in a meme, the origins of which can be found here.
In return for being nominated I am expected to link to five other blogs which are deserving of the award. As anyone who reads regularly will know i hold a number of bloggers in very high regard, even if I might not agree with them! I believe Dr John and Jenny haha have been nominated before so from my regular links and from the world of blogging generally here are five blogs that make me think
Brian comes in first, despite the fact that he told me he's already feeling bored of blogging... Or doesn't want to get sucked into it too much. I still like what he writes and there's plenty to think about in his posts.
Next is Jeff, who may think this a dubious nomination, but i love reading his blog, even when i don't grasp what he's saying, or don't agree!
Third in this list of illustrious thinkers is Annie - who is a real live published author, as her most recent post tells us. I've read the first of her books and really enjoyed it. She also regularly publishes articles in various newspapers and on websites, many of which she reproduces on her blog. Good, challenging, often uncomfortable reading.
Penultimately, Quilly's blog has probably been nominated before, but a quick browse didn't reveal anything there, funny, irreverent and with links to her other blog 'the grownups wanted us dead' which are more often than not hilarious and/or thought provoking.
Last, but not least (this list is not in order of merit) Nick Page is a witty wordsmith with a whole string of books under his belt. Again funny, again thought provoking, and well worth a visit anytime.
I will get around to going to these blogs and letting them know they've been tagged, if any of you pop around here please follow the link to find out what to do if you wish to follow this up!
Everyone else, go read and get some good thinking done, enjoy!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Hooray, blog talkers for the week it was intended...
Do you think it’s the government’s responsibility to take care of the people? Why or why not?Hmmmm, this is obviously posted with whatever is going on in the USA election wise at the moment in mind, though we will be having local elections in a month or so.
As far as I'm concerned it's everyone's responsibility to take care of everyone else! I believe this to be not only a biblical imperative but a human one. We live in community, or we should, and we separate ourselves from others to our own detriment. Obviously Jesus said we should love our neighbours and in the famous parable of the good Samaritan extended that beyond religious and racial grounds - the same parable has a very practical side to it, as the Samaritan actually takes care of the injured traveller and pays for his rest and respite.
I have a left wing streak that compels me to say that those who have money have a responsibility to use it to care for those who don't alongside a right wing streak that says this care also comes with a responsibility on the part of the needy to do whatever possible to get out of their situation, and not take help for granted! In the UK we have a free (or almost free) health care system that actually, as they say in the literature, 'offers care for all free at the point of need'. This care isn't free as such, but all of us contribute a percentage of our income as 'national insurance' which seems right and fair to me - even if the richest wish to opt out and go private for their health care they are still responsible for supporting our National Insurance scheme - which also funds the state pension and social security provision.
For me, as someone who has grown up with this, (and seen the right wing's attempts to dismantle as much as possible over the years) it just makes sense - we are all responsible for one another and our care for the lowliest in our society is probably the best judge of our attitude to one another.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
So, thank you to Andrew, and to Nick, and to Tom for comments, and for the opportunity to think a bit more about what we believe. I'm not sure it is a theological hair-splitting, but perhaps says something more about our approach to God - though obviously when it comes down to it God is unknowable, unsearchable and beyond definition! Fortunate that God has been good enough to share something of himself through Scripture, really, and made manifest for us in the person of Jesus Christ!
It is three in the afternoon here in blighty and i am certainly back at work! The morning was spent in a meeting with colleagues trying to sort out exactly what needs to be done over the next week or so, until our next meeting when we do the same thing... At least, as I've mentioned before, i have great colleagues who are all very humourous...
Favourite joke of the morning is 'why are churches like helicopters - because people keep away in case they get sucked into the rotors' (rotas, geddit) What made it even more amusing was that in a fit of not being connected to reality I said 'because people keep away in case they get sucked in to the the blades....' that did cause great amusement amongst my workmates.
Since the meeting ended i seem to have been on the phone or sending/receiving emails constantly. I now have another funeral, and bereavement visits, to sort out. I've managed to get the marriages for this summer sorted, at least the ones i am responsible for, i've sorted out graveyard queries (there are lots of regulations governing English graveyards), I've called the Bishop's office, written some notes, checked some letters which need sending out.
Now i need to have a cup of tea, followed by getting out for a couple of visits.
May well say something else later...
just read on another blog that due to agreeing with Jeffrey John I am a dodgy liberal...
it's a new one on me, my nickname at theological college was 'the evangelical'. I may have a broader understanding of the nature and shape of scripture than some, but i do try to keep things biblical!
Well, in times of persecution (tongue in cheek, I thought Andrew's words were a well expressed counter to my post and certainly wouldn't want to condemn them, it's a view I held for many years and one i am in the process of thinking through biblically, I may yet come back to the same place as him) I remember the words of Karl Barth (my favourite theologian) who, when asked to sum up all of his great works over many years in the Reformed Evangelical Church, said 'Jesus loves me this I know, 'cos the Bible tells me so'. Amen to that brother!
Until God sorts me out, i will continue to 'preach Christ, and him crucified'.
Monday, April 16, 2007
...harder to live by.
What three main rules, standards, or morals do you live by?Well my answer is straightforward and comes straight from Jesus! This is not to try and sound all 'high-fallutin'' but because as one of the first Bible verses i ever learnt off by heart this has had a profound effect on my life for as long as I can remember.
29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’
This was Jesus' response to the question 'what is the greatest commandment' but i do think it breaks down into three parts (rather handily)
Love God - with everything you are, no limits - heart, soul, mind and strength. Some people seem to major on one thing or the other - an emotional engagment (heart) at the expense of encountering God in the dark and difficult places (soul) or without turning on their brain (mind) or only to the extent that they can be bothered (strength) or on a 'spiritual' level, again without engaging brain, or whatever (you can work out all the combinations!) Faith is about engaging God, encountering God, experiencing God, thinking about God, loving and serving God with everything we are.
Love neighbour - Faith cannot turn inwards, it's not just about getting what I want out of God or church or whatever, but about drawing others into the love of God. This might mean spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in preaching, sharing faith, practical ways, listening, talking, praying with and for people. In proclaiming this Jesus makes clear that faith is about engaging with the real world, in spiritual, social, real life ways.
Love self - often neglected within the church, probably as a reaction to the 'me' culture we inhabit. God, though, thinks we are worth dying for. God loves us as we are, warts and all, and we need to love ourselves in order that we can know that love which makes it possible to truly love others. We are too often guilty of a 'worm that I am' mentality which actually seems to go against what God thinks of us. Knowing our unworthiness and sinfulness is not that same as self-hatred. Denying self, as Jesus called us to do, is about denying self-centredness, not about denying self worth.
So that's my three, a mini sermon - free of charge!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
So that's why I've not been blogging. thanks for those of you who have been visiting anyway and reading some of my previous posts. I have lots to say, but as I've only just got back will not be saying it for a few days. Will catch up with you later!
On thing worth mentioning is that I am reading this excellent book...
Lots I want to say about it, it was the ABofC's lent book 2006 (that's the kind of up to date guy I am) and is very good indeed. I'm not going to go into details now, maybe later. Check it out, though, it is well worth it.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
The question for discussion, a week late, but Holy Week was too busy and I really like this question...
Tell us something significant (either a memory, something learned from that time period, a person who made an impact on you, an event, etc) about your teenage years.
It has to be a person, a guy called Peter Halse. This man wasn't a superhero or anything, he was a normal chap, a successful businessman, a family man and a member of the Church I grew up in, Honiton Congregational Church. Peter took on the youth and children's work with his father, John Halse. By the time I started attending Sunday School John was quite old, though continued with his ministry until he was very old! Peter took on the mantle from his father, and took on the older 'lads group' - the Covenanters. This was an 11-16s group and took place alongside the usual Sunday Church services with a social evening during the week.
Peter was a shining example of a normal Christian - someone deeply dedicated to Christ, and willing to give lots and lots of his time to drawing in young people (such as myself) who had no natural Church affiliation. He was unembarassed about his faith, dedicated in his service and didn't seek to brainwash or intimidate us into believing, but shared his faith with compassion and grace. I can honestly say that without him my own faith would not have been kindled in the way it was, his integrity, generosity of spirit, his love and his friendship made me the follower of Christ I am today. All the faults and failings are my own invention, Peter showed me Jesus. It's just a shame that he'll probably never see this, as i expect he doesn't trawl the blogosphere...
There are some people who are shining examples of what St Paul meant when he wrote 'I thank my God every time I remember you' (Philippians 1 verse 3) .
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
And it is there that the crunch comes, when wings of the Church cannot accept that there is any other way of looking at the Scriptural material that we have been blessed with. It is a mixed blessing, because there are so many that say 'my way' or 'my tradition's way' or 'the founder of our denomination's way' is the only way to see Scripture...
I believe that Jesus paid the price for sin, but i don't believe it was a punishment from God, but the consequence of the brokenness and evil that sin creates. Jesus took upon himself the reality of sin despite his sinlessness, and therefore took away the ultimate consequence of sin - death. It wasn't, as far as I understand, because God demanded a punishment, or to deflect the wrath of a vengeful God, but because God was, in Christ, taking the consequences of sin in our place.
Jeffrey John say it better here. But one quote that really stood out for me was
The cross, then, is not about Jesus reconciling an angry God to us; it's almost the opposite. It's about a totally loving God, incarnate in Christ, reconciling us to him. On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God. As St paul says, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.And as my mate Jem says (though not on his blog, i just thought i should link there), there has been some 'mild controversy' about it and you can read about that here. It's a fantastic misrepresentation of the actual words in the talk, and the response from so called 'Conservative Evangelicals' also shows a lack of reading of the actual text, or listening to what he said!
The reason I felt compelled to write about it was because some nutty woman called into our national Radio station 'Radio 4' and went on about how unbiblical Jeffrey John was and how he called God a psychopath... I wonder which broadcast she was listening to? And by Biblical she probably means we should all be wiping out races that 'don't worship the one true God', and having multiple marriages, and concubinage, and slavery, and not suffering a witch to live and... oh you get the idea.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Jem said something about the service this morning reflecting a commitment to everyday faith, filled with joy but recognising the hardships of serving these communities, but still showing a commitment to ministry in these places. What a great reflection of what we try to do, from someone who's wisdom i respect and value. Affirmation indeed.
I hope the reality of the risen life of Christ is yours today and always.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Friday, April 06, 2007
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
Almighty and everlasting God, grant to us, thy servants, with such deep reverence and enlightened understanding to follow the passion of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, that entering into the fellowship of his sufferings we may obtain the help of his all-sufficient grace, and the pardon of our sins which were the cause of those sufferings; for his sake, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
It is Holy Week, in case anyone was in any doubt about that, and it is the time of year when deep thoughts should be thunk and spiritual things should be dwelled upon, but I've not got time to think about that as my HW observances mean that I'm taking a service every night alongside the usual meetings and visits which I am trying to keep up. Oh, and a funeral which i finished a couple of hours ago (hence previous thoughts).
It's all going well, but there hasn't been the time for meditation and stillness such as we encourage our congregations to indulge in over this time. The service last night (a Holy Communion with prayers for Penitence) was moving and powerful, tonight's Holy Communion with prayers for healing is always a valuable and thoughtful service, so I am feeling spiritually well nourished, but as for quiet and devotional time that's lacking a bit, so if you want some deep thoughts for Holy Week you'll have to go elsewhere, I'm afraid. If I have a mo I will seek out some links...
Have a blessed week!
Enough speculation. Back to the question at the head of this post. It's not an entirely rhetorical question so comments are invited! My answer will follow below.
I'm not going to go into much detail, as the bereavement ministry us ministers offer is a very personal one (or should be) and it's enough to say that I've had a run of funerals lately, some of which have been easier than others to put together and to lead, all of which have taken a fair amount of time and energy - but have been worth that time and energy.
But as far as I understand, the most important thing about funerals is to proclaim the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. To be reminded that we are all children of God and loved completely by him and to remember our calling to follow Christ in the time we have here. So our choice of readings is both comforting and challenging, as our the prayers and the talk. This is the bottom line. I take this as a given, as a minister of Christ's Church.
But perhaps more immediately to the family and to those who attend, is that this funeral is about a particular person, and must be personal. In England the Church of England must be willing to do the funeral of anyone who dies within the geographical boundary of the Ecclesiastical Parish. That is, anyone who dies in my villages is entitled to a funeral, and to the ministry that goes with it of visiting and prayer, whether or not they have ever set foot in our local (or indeed any) Church. I will take these funerals, depending on the family's wishes, at our Church or at the local Crematorium. The fact that I, as Vicar of these villages, may not have met the person means that sometimes, though less and less as I am part of these communities for longer, I know little about them. So on my visits I try, as well as offering some comfort and help in putting the service together, to pick up the essence of someone as their loved ones saw them. Interestingly, even for those people I have known very well, sometimes the way they are remembered by their family offers a whole new perspective which enables me to reflect their multifaceted characters more fully.
So I - and all the ministers I know - go to great lengths to try and offer a real opportunity to remember and say goodbye to a unique, loved, quirky individual (everyone is quirky!) as well as giving thanks to God for the good in their lives, and commending them to the love and care of God.
But it's not always easy, and sometimes families have no idea what to say, so we weave together what we can glean from friends around the village, from what we know of the individual who has died, and from just about any source available. All so that no-one ever thinks that we have a sausage-factory approach to these services, as if any of them were ever run-of-the-mill, 'there goes another one' mundane events. We are saying goodbye to someone who made an impact - for better or worse - on the lives around them, who changed the world, perhaps just a little. Who was, and is, a child of God, loved by God, and for whom Christ died.
Requiem in pacem.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Many expected Jesus to be a sort of religious Rambo, blasting into Jerusalem and ridding the nation of the hated Roman Occupiers. Jesus didn't satisfy their expectations at all - no riding on a warhorse, no shiny chariot, no rousing speeches.
Many expected him to be a miracle worker, with a trick for every occasion - but when there were no blind who could see again, or walking lame people, or revived dead folk, on the road into Jerusalem they too lost faith in him.
And it made me question our expectations of Jesus, and the role of Christian faith in our world today. Some people seem to think that Christian faith is a way of controlling and manipulating our society or our surroundings, either through exerting moral pressure on government or by claiming the health and wealth they consider to be their right. Others seem to think that their relationship should be characterised by miracles every five minutes, and that the only barrier to this is the faith they do or don't have.
How does this grimy, beaten Messiah, suffering and nailed to a cross present to them?
Surely the message of Christian faith is that we don't get to avoid suffering but that God is in the midst of all that we go through? There is no promise that we will have a position of privilege, or of having a hand in the lives of those who do not follow the way of Christ, except through our example and through living and proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ.
And the result of this kind of disappointment? Well some seem to reject the Christ of scripture, opting instead for a sanitised Jesus who simply backs up their own view on life. Or they replace Jesus of Nazareth preferring instead a kind of 'ubermessiah' who again backs up their own views, beating the opposition into silence.
In the end we crucify Christ again if we ignore the message of the cross. That everyone - whoever they are, no matter how undeserving - is loved by and forgiven by Jesus. Everyone is worth dying for. That being a Christian is not glamourous, or comfortable, or a kind of spiritual wish-fulfillment, but that it is about struggle, prayer, our need for forgiveness, about laughter and joy and hope and tears and faith and above all about love. All of this is mixed up and mashed together, not packaged neatly into boxes, or following a do x and y will result scheme.
Life is messy, so is faith. Following Jesus is tough, and worth everything it costs.