Monday, October 29, 2007

Did it!

I did get a sermon written, thanks for your help and suggestions folks! And thanks to Quilly for being very helpful with her 'build a Quilly sermon v.1.0' feature that may find itself in use sometime soon!

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

Searching for Something for Sunday

It's Bible Sunday tomorrow and I thought I should preach on the Bible...

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!


Shouldn't make statements like 'I might not leave it a week before I post again' when I'm going away for five days with no internet access!

Will post more later...

Maybe that wasn't such a smart thing to write

Friday, October 19, 2007

Saving myself

Might be shooting myself in the foot by putting off all those of you who are kind enough to pop by here on a relatively regular basis, but i've not been blogging because I plan to do lots of it in November! With all the usual busy-ness of life it seemed easier to let the blog slide for a bit before the mad spate of writing in a couple of weeks.

It's been a very good few weeks. I'm in the midst of taking stock of where I am and what I'm doing here... The kind of thing a minister should do on an almost daily basis, but we often career headlong through life trying to keep up with ourselves and don't reflect and contemplate anything like as much as we should.

There is an Irony in this, because I seem to spend so much time telling people to chill out - encouraging prayerful reflection on life, whilst at the same time finding myself living at high speed. The circumstances of the last year or so haven't helped, with one colleague on long term sick leave and another taking maternity leave, whilst lots of (often very good) things have been happening which have needed time and nurture from me.

In my defence, I do still take time to read and to pray, its not that I am a complete hypocrite! We all need some stillness, no matter how gregarious and energetic we are by nature. I'm struck by Elijah whose experience of God in 1 KIngs 19 was not that God was found in the whirlwind or earthquake or storm, but in the 'still, small voice'. Though we believe that God is present in all things, even in the storm, there are times when we need to stop and listen for that whisper of God amidst the maelstrom of life...

So, having recently received from my Bishop a license to minister in these parishes for another seven years, i have been wondering whether that's what I should be doing! Not just because I am bloody-minded, but because it is easy to become complacent, comfortable in the familiar, even though life can be hard and the work almost constant! I love these parishes I serve, my wife and family love living here, but as part of my process of reflection I need to ask whether this place is the right place, and whether I am the right person to minister to these parishes at this time.

Hence a lack of blogging. Most of my musing at this stage is an internal thing, not an 'out there' thing, and so much of it is not really for public consumption. Perhaps some of the thoughts of this past few weeks will come out during my NaBloPoMo, perhaps not...

I'll try not to leave it a week before I post again, though.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stretching myself

I've done it again, I've signed up again with NaNoWriMo in an effort to kickstart my writing by trying to put together a novel in a month, now how that fits with everything else is a bit of a mystery to me at the moment, but it might happen!

Alongside that, as November is obviously going to be some kind of miraculous time-stretching kind of month I've also committed to post daily in November. NaBloPoMo is the name of this new experiment I've been daft enough to sign up on the button on the right hand side to see what that's about...

And in December I plan to have a nice lie down, though something tells me it might not be the quietest month to try that....

Oh, having messed up the Cindra competition I have submitted another entry - though I'm not going to say which one this time! They're all here, read through and vote for one, go on, you know you want to...

And now for one last set of full stops...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Converstation starter

This week's blog talkers question

Tell us:

List three things you did this past week. Out of those three: what was the most fun? What made it fun?

Well, this week has been slightly overshadowed with me feeling muzzy headed and grim with a cold, and unusually I had to spend an afternoon in bed (on my day off! Why can't I feel ill on a work day?) so that's one of three.

Yesterday we had our annual 'safari supper' in one of the villages I serve - you know the form, starter in one house, main course in another, pudding in another, coffee another. It's one of the highlights of the year, which reading again looks like we have very empty lives - not so! It's a time when lots of people who don't necessarily join in other stuff, and rarely join in Church events, come and socialise, laugh, consume a fair amount of wine and generally have a good time. The hosts work incredibly hard to provide good nosh and the company is excellent. Definitely the best of my three choices!

Third, I kind of started blogging again - as you may have noticed. I've put up more posts in this last week than i have over the past couple of months, and I've enjoyed it. There's no one particular post that I've really enjoyed doing, just getting back into the swing of things here in the blogosphere has been enjoyable, alongside catching up with blog pals (I've visited most of the links on the right, plus many of the blog carnival posts at Naomi's. It's not been great for my sleep, as I often read blogs after all my other work is done, so rarely before midnight, but it has been fun.

That's my two cents worth, now pop over to blog talkers and sign up and I can read what you've enjoyed in the past week!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Took a test that made me think

Most of these online tests that are available are pretty useless, but this one seemed to make some sense.

I did wonder whether I really do have 'slightly low masculinity' and 'slightly high femininity' - or rather, I wonder what that means. If being sensitive and trying to think of others are feminine qualities, then i have no worries about being like that!

It was an interesting bit of self reflection going through the test, though

Scroll over the colours to see some detail, and see if my blog reflects what's said here....

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Read the darn instructions!!!

Didn't really grasp the concept of anonymous entry into Cindra's competition, not to be plugged into blog until after the competition in order that it doesn't become a popularity contest!!! I was meant to submit my (ahem) work of creative genius to Cindra by email and then it would be judged through the votes of various visitors to her blog and then prize awarded, then I guess we would be free to share it...

eejit that I am, this concept hadn't sunk into my brain...

ah well, it was fun to practise and I got the chance to tell you all a bit about my little girl...

Thanks to Cindra for being so gracious in her response to my erroneous entry!

The great quill driving competition

Perhaps time to try my hand at something different! A quick trip via Dr John to Cindra's newly revitalised and renewed, re-invigorated and not particularly re-invented competition to get 18 words of her choosing into a post. So here goes:

Take up thy
quill and walk

An exciting part of our family life is the new experience of having our baby girl (baby no longer, aged six) learning to write. I am amazed at the speed with which her letters and numbers have come along since she started year 1 of school last month. She's been in reception for a year and got the basics of word sounds and reading, now comes the hard work of learning to create, composes and generally get up to spec on the whole writing gig.

It's a real learning process for us oldies too! Moments ago, it feels, we were up to our elbows in
goo , poo and various bodily substances as nappies were changed, sick cleared up, creams and potions were applied (all eco and child-friendly we're led to believe). It does amaze me how newborn nappies can fill with something that seems like a cross between velcro, toxic waste and guac! These were the things that the grandiose concept of 'starting a family' didn't really take into account, and one of those things which no-one tells you about, though you kind of know, before it happens. I guess if people made it too obvious the whole human race would fizzle out as people rejected the whole thing due to lack of stamina.

Anyway, this whole school thing is now something we all have an investment in as we take responsibility, along with our daughter, for the start of an adventure in life-long learning. A far cry from the days of par-tay, and margaritas before we took on the whole grown up thing of raising kids. To think how our lives changed on that October day six years ago when Katherine was born. Now I wouldn't want to be without our little darlings, they have made a wonderful difference in our lives, and pretty much for the better! Anyway, I'm rambling and wanted to get on with telling you about our baby girl's first steps with a pencil, sitting with brow furrowed and look of extreme concentration she is a picture of industriousness as she writes out the words for her spelling test every Thursday - no prizes , but a certain sense of competition with the other children in the class. I did note last week that one of the words she is learning to spell is 'Laptop' - a far cry from the 'ball', 'hoop' and 'stick' of my childhood!

At risk of leaving much unsaid, this parenting business is fun - hard work but fun - I wouldn't want to change it for all the nachos in Mexico (or wherever they come from) and am amazed that in telling you something about my little girl I have managed also to fit in all the words Cindra provided. Go over to the TGQDC for more details.

You have a good day now...

Sunday's sermon

I didn't get around to posting this on Sunday, so here's some thoughts from last week...

As always, taster here, full text on my 'New Kid Deep Stuff' blog, follow the link to see more!

Year C Proper 21 (2007) RCL Principal

Nervous Church..

In reports in the news media, from comments I hear at Church meetings and around the place I get the feeling that we are a very nervous Church at the moment. We are told our congregations are dwindling, there are competing ‘entertainments’ which distract people from involving themselves in Church life, people are interested in ‘spirituality’ (whatever that means) but not in ‘institutional religion’ – except, it seems, for various forms of fundamentalism which offers a safe haven in a rapidly changing world. Within the Church ongoing rows bubble away over the ordination of women, now concerned with consecrating women as Bishops, and over the ordination of openly gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex marriages, and to top it all every now and then up pops a conspiracy theory aimed at taking away the little authority the Church has – whether the Gospel of Judas, the DaVinci code or any other fashionable excuse for dismissing the Church.

And some of this is true. There are a lot of things which are stripping away the authority and influence the Church has built up over many centuries. People are less afraid to criticise the Church, and we find ourselves ridiculed or, more often than not, ignored in our present day society. Many people lament the fact that we no longer have the respect we once had, or that people no longer consider Churchgoing a duty as they once did. As if somehow we deserve to have our Churches full, and for people to listen and take note of our every pronouncement. [more]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A quick plug

Thanks to Tomas and Dr John for your comments on what was quite a personal post - having read the comments I went, as I often do, off to Dr John's site and enjoyed his wry observations on life and the surreal yet addictive stories of Pigeon Falls then I visited Tomas' art site - a riot of colour and feeling, I loved the pictures and found much of it truly moving. I love abstract art that communications with form, shape and colour, and Tomas site does that. If you prefer pictures of landscapes or dogs playing poker, this isn't the site for you, otherwise check it out.

Why I am who I am

Bit of a high fallutin' title to this post, but a discussion this evening with the couple of lads that turned up to my youth group made me think a bit more about how I got caught up in this Christianity business and why, coming from a non-believing background in many respects, i ended up here, serving the Church and my local community as a Clergyperson.

The easy, and perhaps way too pat, answer would be 'God' - somehow God sorted all this out so I am doing what I am doing here, there's a plan etc etc etc. This may well be the case, but I think that 'God is in the detail' (rather than the Devil!) so its worth a bit of reflection...

I grew up in a little town in Devon, nothing spectacular, i felt loved and affirmed by my family (though it's a hugely complicated story) and I did quite well at school, which I loved. My father, by upbringing and conviction in early life, was a Roman Catholic who had left the Church behind when his first wife died. My mum was, and is, a member of the Church of England who never forced any kind of belief on any of us, or forced us into going to Church.

At the age of 8, or so, I found myself (along with my brothers and sisters who lived at home at the time) packed off to Sunday School at the local 'Congregational Church'. This wasn't because of any great religious conviction on the part of my parents (as far as I know) but because they wanted a couple of hours peace on a Sunday morning (there were 8 kids at home at the time, I think). There was no compulsion, but it was a fun place to be and children were well catered for in terms of keeping us active and involved in the Sunday school there. As my brothers and sisters got older they dropped off and found other things to do - and as long as we gave our parents the peace they craved that was fine! I stayed, though. And I stayed not because of any great spiritual experience, or because I had to, but because of the example of those who ran the Sunday School and the church.

They were genuine.

By that I mean they lived out values of compassion, faith, justice, love and truth with no pretension, no sense of 'this is what we must or should do' but because living out the ideals of their Christian faith came naturally to them. I know now that this takes some discipline, and they would, and do I'm sure sure, work at this - but at the time their caring, thoughtful, prayerful approach to life impressed and inspired me. As I went through the Sunday School and became part of the Youth Group I grew to see more and more the Christian faith made real through the words and actions of my leaders - particularly through the 'Halse' family who I have mentioned before some months ago. I saw that there was a quality of life that I was lacking, eith a peace, hope and self-giving love that challenged my often self-centered and self-absorbed attitude. At the age of 11 I realised that this was due to their commitment to Christ, so I took the step of dedicating my own life to the journey of faith. In the words I used at the time 'I gave my life to Christ'.

It wasn't due to clever arguments, nor to indoctrination, but to a humble, loving faith that was made real in front of me. I was never pressured into this decision, it was something that I decided for myself, and something that after 27 years I don't regret a bit.

And now, all these years later, I want to play a part in inspiring that same kind of faith. I long to be someone who can be seen just to be trying to live out this faith, not to impress others, nor to gain any kind of reward, just to be the kind of person who tries to be a Christian. I may not always succeed in living up to my ideals, I may not be a great example, but I hope to life with integrity, and with faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.