Friday, March 30, 2007

Brian has a go

My mate Brian has decided to offer his own response to the widely revered/reviled (delete as appropriate) 'A Generous Orthodoxy'. I thought it was a great post, so go look at it here. Or see what the fuss is about and get a copy of the book

Friday Feelings

As regular visitors will know, Friday is normally the day I blog least, as it is my day off. Well, I seem to have given up time off for Lent (don't worry, I have been making time for family and getting some rest, it just hasn't been a whole day off for a few weeks). So here I am having spent the day in schools (both schools had 'end of term services' today) or in the car or visiting or -as I am doing now - preparing for Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

My greatest disappointment this year with all of our palm Sunday services is that there are no Donkeys! Usually we have little processions in our villages with slightly temperamental beast of burden to add a little excitement, colour and odour to the proceedings. these days there are fewer people, even in the countryside, who own animals and those who do are not willing to take the risk of having them take part in a public event, mainly because our society is getting more litigious and insurance for such events has skyrocketed!

So the joy of a 'nanny state' and a blame culture combining to put the dampers on what has been a longstanding and fun arrangement.

Bovvered? Oh yes I am. This isn't a rant about any particular political party, though, just against a mindset that is always seeking to make life 'super-safe' and a society that is too willing to spread blame and seek recompense therefore making everyone paranoid and insular.

I will stop now before i really get carried away with this post.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A false dichotomy

Having posted the video Christian vs Christ follower pt 1, I probably gave the impression that I agreed completely with the whole 'Christian no more' idea which says, it seems, that the word 'Christian' has become so debased that those who seek to follow Christ need to give up on it and find another way to describe ourselves.

Well, i agree that 'Christian' has been devalued, but I don't subscribe to a 'throwaway society' approach that says 'if something doesn't work then we dispose of it'. I think that the character in the video who is 'the Christian' is probably more of a 'Churchian' - of whom I have met many in my life. For them the culture of Church, particularly the Conservative Evangelical sub-culture, is where they find a sense of identity and even self-importance. This identity is built up with Christian books which re-enforce certain attitudes, with Christian music, with the way they dress, wit Christian media etc etc etc. But that does not apply to all those who seek to follow Christ and who proclaim themselves 'Christian'. Or rather I should say it doesn't apply to all of us who seek to follow Christ and proclaim ourselves Christian!

The history of the Church is filled with times when we have re-valued common currency. Not always for the better but often very effectively. Rebranding 'saturnalia' as 'Christimas' was a way in which the Church took the longing to express light and life in the darkest part of winter and brought it under the banner of Christ, reminding ourselves of the light of Christ that has come into the world. It involved meeting human need for spiritual and emotional comfort with a proclamation of what God had done. It took a pagan festival and 'redeemed' it.

We are called to redeem the world, to take those things which are alienated from Christ and to bring them back into the light and life of God. It strikes me that sometimes we need to do that within our own 'Christian culture' as well, to take back from certain expressions of Church the misrepresentation of faith. I find myself constantly having to explain to parents who want their child baptised that 'born again' (a phrase which crops up repeatedly in our Baptism liturgy) does not mean a sort of 'wearing dodgy ties, right wing, tele-evangelist' Christianity, but that Jesus said that all must be born again to see the kingdom of God. It is an inclusive statement, whereby Jesus invites us to share new life, rather than an exclusive statement which says 'we're in, you're out'.

Surely, as Christians we are called to redeem the culture, not condemn or despise it? Likewise I don't see a distinction between Christ followers and Christians, but all are one in Christ Jesus. What we need to do is to re-educate both the Church and the world as to the meaning of 'Christian', to re-state our faith in and commitment to Christ, and to resist creating another culture of exclusiveness, such as the 'we're in the Christ followers so we are more faithful and significantly cooler than you who call yourselves Christians' which the Church is so good at doing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Been meaning to blog

Very busy couple of days has left me with little time to think on blogging, but cos the stuff from the last couple of days has been very good I thought I would leave you to muse on that. By which I particularly mean the youtube video (by the way the others in the series are nothing like as good, but this one offers a bit of something to chew on which I will probably have something to say more on later)

Anyway, I was interested to read in yesterday's Guardian (one of the main national daily's here in the UK) that blogging is apparently on the wane. Apart from one missed day, i think that's a bit of a harsh judgement on me. I never realised i was so influential in the opinions of a nation.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why Fracme?

Following on from a comment on my last post (thanks Mandy) I thought I would explain why the fracme.blogspot.com url appeared and why my email contains the same {at}yahoo dot com...

Well, for a long time I used to sign my name acme, just an odd affectation of mine, not quite sure where it came from, except too many road runner cartoons as a kid. It fitted with my initials A C McCollum if I added esquire to the end (teenage humour, great stuff, eh?) So ACME it was. Then after my first Job as an ordained minister where I was just plain 'Alastair' or more formally 'Revd McCollum' (though strictly speaking it should be 'The Revd Mr McCollum') I went to a parish for my second Job where I was known as 'Father Alastair' - a very 'Anglo Catholic' kind of a parish. Whilst there I signed up for a yahoo account which conveniently combined my rather flippant teen name with my new status as Fr. so Fracme was born. An online persona consisting of, well, my real life persona with a flippant name.

And it sounds a little bit rude...

Christian vs Christ follower

Thanks to imago dei for blogging this, its good to see something 'Christian' that isn't a total Turkey! Unlike the film that Tom talks about in his latest post... I had a bit of a rant in the comments for that one, but you don't need to read that!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blog talkers this week


I am actually doing this on time! The question to get conversation going this week is:
Please tell us: What story is on the front page of your local newspaper? Do you think the event is worthy of front page coverage?
This was a bit difficult, as there is no piccy of the front page on the website for our local paper, the Cambridge Evening News, and there is lots of updated news on the site with no information as to what was the front page headline so I went to the local shop and checked out what was on yesterday's paper (there's no Sunday edition) and then looked up the story on the net..

It was this:

50 jobs axed by council

Worthy of being 'Front page news' ? Well local council services in the UK are in a bit of a mess in lots of ways with funding from central government a thorny issue at the moment. The reason given for this state of affairs was
The council is pushing forward with a complete revamp of its customer services in an attempt to simplify its own systems, giving better service and saving time and money in the process.

The council has already approved the plan, which will involve merging the customer contact centres in six different buildings around the city, and as many as 160 telephone numbers for different departments, into a single point of contact

It seems like a sensible rationalisation. The local paper seems, beyond the attention grabbing headline, to have recited a pretty good sales pitch for it! Perhaps they just printed the press release?

I could have gone for one of the other local weeklies for my patch, but thought I would go for the daily which seems to be very popular. I buy it on occasion, but most of the news is (appropriately) for the city and we live in the sticks. Although there are pages of 'village focus' - there's just not enough news to fill a paper.

It feels odd calling a Cambridge a city, it's pretty small, more like a large town. Over here in the tiny island of the UK cities on the whole have larger populations except for cities with historical importance like Cambridge.

Thoughts for today

Have already delivered this sermon, and am thinking about how I might adapt its central theme to a change of reading for this evening's service, as this evening we will have the Old Testament reading instead of the verses from Philippians...

Year C Lent 5 Passion Sunday (2007) RCL Principal

Isaiah 43.16-21
Philippians 3. 4b-14
John 12.1-8


Passionate

There are a number of things I am passionate about and over a pint and packet of peanuts will wax lyrical over all sorts of things – Motorcycles, guitars, Star Trek, philosophy, real ale, music, movies, children, marriage – the list goes on and on; and so I do, as many people will tell you.

A couple of weeks ago we had our marriage preparation day, which we offer to all couples soon to marry in the Parish Churches of our Papworth Team. It was a good day, and it is always invigorating to see young (and not so young) people setting out on the journey of discovery that is marriage. These people are passionate about each other, and want the world to know it too.

But there is one thing that I hold deeply, believe strongly, and claim of supreme importance, but many people might not think I’m passionate about – and, much as I am ashamed to say it – that is my faith. [more]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blog talkers


This week's doozy on the blogtalkers blog, though like last week I am doing this at the end rather than the start of the week...
What do you feel most guilty about?
Eeek, how much can i give away on a public blog like this....

Actually, the thing i do feel most guilty about is an ongoing thing, it is the way that I allow my time to be squeezed so that I often feel I don't do justice to anything. I don't make enough time for my wife, sometimes I hurry my work - especially planning for services - and I sometimes allow myself to get so overloaded that I start missing stuff, meetings and appointments and things like that.

It's not just about organisation, though that is part of it. I think that sometimes I try to please too many people and end up pleasing none.

That is significantly deeper than i planned to be. I think I will leave it there.

Norra lorra blogging

It has been a busy week, worthwhile and valuable in lots of ways, but a hard week. What has particularly overshadowed the week and used lots of mental/emotional/spiritual energy has been the death and funeral of one particularly special member of our local congregation. I'd known him since before I actually came here as he was a great friend of one of my colleagues and we'd first met a year or so before I moved to this village. When I got here I tried to visit every few weeks, but there were long stretches of time when I couldn't due to other pressures, though we would meet week by week as I led services here.

When he became very ill I visited as frequently as I could make it, and for the past month or so nearly every day. He was a man of great faith who missed his wife very much and longed to join her in death, in the arms of our eternal God. Above all, he trusted in Jesus, and just a few days before he died he said to me 'I know where I am going, I'm not afraid to die'. He was an inspiration, and a thoroughly good man. His funeral was very well attended, he had planned it himself! The readings were very well chosen, various members of his family took parts in the service and the local 'High Sheriff of Cambridge' who lives in the village (it is an honourary title given to various very worthy and socially minded folk for the course of a year)did a very good Eulogy, to which I added a reminder of the Gospel message of the promise of life through Christ.

It was a good funeral, as good as these things can be, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have officiated at it and drawn together the prayers of many faithful Christians in this and surrounding villages as we gave thanks to God for this man's life and commended him to God's loving keeping.

But it was hard work, and with various other demands has meant that I have spent very little time blogging, as you may have noticed. Am now preparing for services tomorrow. Need to think of a sermon. Will let you know if I have one ready before bed.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Different strokes, and all that

Quilly and Dr John's response to my last post made me think about the things we find funny or not and why.

The reason I loved it (and have watched it about a dozen times) is that I have a voice thing. I love the human voice in all its versatility, timbres, resonances, squeaks, noises. I have quite a powerful and versatile voice - for as long as I can remember I've been doing stuff with voice - including a degree in Drama. Sometimes when I read stories to my daughter I get so carried away that she tells me to 'stop doing the voices daddy' so she can get on with listening to the story (she obviously doesn't appreciate my talents!) Along with this I love dialects, and have a pretty good ear for them and being someone without a strong accent of any kind other than a pretty standard brit accent I'm intrigued by both the Devonshire burr of my home county and all the other many and various accents that people have.

So when someone comes along who can do a very good beatbox and puts it together in a funny way, I'm in seventh heaven.

thanks for the comments folks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A quizfarm thought provoker

Am amazed by how low down the scale I come out as reformed Evangelical on this quiz...

But please don't start stacking up the faggots for the fire yet, it is only a very general quiz.

Fun though!

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern


79%

Neo orthodox


71%

Roman Catholic


64%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


61%

Modern Liberal


43%

Charismatic/Pentecostal


39%

Reformed Evangelical


29%

Classical Liberal


25%

Fundamentalist


14%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Soooooooooo true

Another Dave Walker cartoon that seems to say exactly what I might want to say but better than I could say it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The other article

This one is for the local magazine for this village, part of a whole load of 'demystifying' articles I have done...

Perhaps I will post some of the others if things stay busy like they are for a bit.

More of the Easter Mystery

Last year, around this time, I tried to say a little bit about what happens in Church around Good Friday and Easter. Rather than going over the same ground again, this year I want to talk about Palm Sunday and the days which follow it, though it will be leading up to Easter Day again!

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter. On that day we remember that Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem not as a King would be expected to do, with an entourage, chariots and great white horses, but humbly and riding on a donkey. The people who knew who he was still proclaimed him to be a great person and laid their cloaks and branches from Palm trees down on the ground in front of him , as there was no ‘red carpet’ available, which is why we call it ‘Palm Sunday’.

And though the crowds showed their adoration, Jesus didn’t declare himself to be King – but remained humble and continued to teach and pray at the Temple. This theme of humility continues throughout Holy Week, as we come to Maundy Thursday a few days later, when Jesus washed the feet of his followers to show how we should serve and care for one another. We remember this in a special service called ‘The Maundy Thursday liturgy’ part of a Holy Communion service which also remembers ‘the Last Supper’ which Jesus shared with his friends.

Again, on Good Friday, Jesus having been arrested and tortured didn’t fight back, but knew that God’s love is shown in humility and forgiveness. As he was nailed the cross, which we remember in special services through the day, he even prayed for his killers ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ And on that first Easter Day, he didn’t appear with trumpets and fanfares but chose to appear first to Mary Magdalene, then to his closest friends, to show that he had been raised from the dead. Our greatest day, the most important celebration of our Church year, takes place on Easter Day – as we remember that God’s love is stronger even than death. Christ is Risen!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Not got a lot of time

Again, another 'between appointments' post, but have just had to write a couple of articles for local village magazines, so here is a sneak preview!

Newsletter Easter 2007

April sees the greatest celebration of the Church year. Forget Christmas, forget everything else, Easter is the day that makes Christians who we are! It is a joy filled party that reminds us of the great love of God which takes way the power of death and sin and causes us to shout ‘Alleluia! Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed, Alleluia’.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this for those who follow Jesus. His resurrection from the dead is what gives us hope, it is the meaning behind our faith, it is the greatest truth to which we hold. St Paul, probably the greatest teacher of the Christian faith, wrote ‘If Christ is not raised from the dead then all we believe is in vain.’

But, having said that, if that was all we believed and all that we were concerned about then those who claim that Christians are all ‘head in the clouds, pie in the sky’ religious nuts would be justified in their accusations. Though we believe that Jesus’ resurrection is the most important part of our faith, we remember also the events that led up to that great moment.

We remember a God who loves us so much that he sent His Son to be one of us, vulnerable and naked as a baby in the arms of His mother Mary, going through all the difficulties and struggles that we do, growing up as we do, seeking truth as we do.

We remember the teaching of Christ that to try and live to God’s standards involves loving God, loving each other and loving ourselves, and that we need God’s help to do that.

We remember that the Resurrection only happened following the betrayal, torture, humiliation and death that Jesus suffered.

We remember that it was through Jesus’ death on the cross that that sin which marks our lives can be taken away.

We remember that all of this can only really be a part of our lives when we are open to God’s Spirit living in our hearts, and changing us little by little, day by day.

In this past year there have been many painful times, tragedies in the lives of our villages. Our communities have struggled through many difficulties, as communities always do. Your Churches, the Clergy and members of the congregations, have often been in the thick of these events and sought, as best we can, to offer support, love and help to any in need.

But as we travel through the pain, as we struggle together, we hold on to that promise of abundant life, and of the help which God offer us in all situations. We hold on to the light and hope which our faith offers – not just ‘in heaven’ but in all of our lives. We hold on to the joy that came through the suffering and death of Jesus, and we continue to say, ‘Alleluia! Christ is Risen’

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mothering Sunday Thoughts

Remember that mad rush I was talking about with regards to Mothering Sunday, well, it's here - so I thought I would post my sermon, or at least a taster - it is continued elsewhere!
Mothering Sunday (2007) Year C RCL

Exodus 2.1-10
John 19.25-27

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday, which is today, always presents a few problems for those of us called to preach on this day. With the changing patterns of our world and society, the changes in the structure and nature of ‘family’, and the terrible misuse of power that has come from the concept of ‘Mother Church’ something which should be a relatively simple subject becomes something of a minefield for us humble preachers.

For we cannot pretend that families are what they were fifty, thirty or even ten years ago. Nor can we pretend that the Church has taken the responsibility it should have in caring for its members in the last few hundred years...[more]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Forgetting my heritage



St Patrick's day....

I have a mix of American, Irish, Indian and Devonshire blood in me, so I can sometimes loose track, but I am proud of my Collins ancestry so here's a God bless ya all on St Paddy's.

Not sure if it was very bad of me to do, but i took the image above from One Old Green Bus so go and visit and donate towards the bus if you can in return for my thievery, please.

Am trying to be a blog talker

have joined


Which offers a weekly post to talk about!

this Week:
If you had to spend a year on a deserted island with any five bloggers, who would you choose and why?
I thought this would be easy, but I don't want to offend anyone I leave out - if you're not here then just assume I really wanted you in but I was being kind by not stranding you on an island with me for a year....

For those I am including, please don't think I want to torture you for a year or anything.

I won't say too much, but here they are.

Firstly
Dr John. Wise, funny, likeable, witty. He could keep us all amused all year with stories of Pigeon Falls, and perhaps we could put together a whole train layout using coconuts.

Next
Jem. Bit of a cheat to include him, but have known him for years, he may not blog very much but he continues to be both one of the most sensible and one of the most completely crackers individuals I know.

Third
Brian. New to the blogosphere, but again an old pal, he may be rude and disrespectful but,
um...,
that's it...,
he's rude and disrespectful.

But hey ho, everyone needs a bit of that sometimes. (Though I did feel I had to tell him off for his post on dryer balls!!!)

Fourth
Jenny ha ha. Crazy name, crazy woman. Actually, that's not true - in fact considering all the stuff she goes through (a search for 'duct taping diapers' might yield a number of hits at flaw and disorder, Jenny's blog) she is astoundingly sane, and very funny. I am intrigued as to where she managed to get a picture of pooh saying 'I {heart} you'

Fifth
Now this is the most difficult, because by doing this I am excluding a load of people who i would love to take as well, but it comes down to Jeff because he is, funny (a recurring theme) but also clever and theological. We would probably disagree on loads of stuff, and agree on loads of stuff, but deciding which is which would be fun and educational (for me, at least).

I wish I could take pretty much everyone in my sidebar, but some of them I don't yet know well enough, others I like reading but I might drive them mad, or they might drive me mad. I need a bigger boat to get them all to this darned island with.

There is a new blog talk post tomorrow, but you can visit today and find out what it's all about. Also at the top of my blogging links in the sidebar (at the bottom) there is a new blogroll for the blogtalker types.

A quandry

Lovely wife has expressed unhappiness at me posting pictures of our young folk on the internet, so I have removed those postings. Sorry.

Having a good weekend?

I don't know what you have planned for your weekend (rather an obvious statement, as most people who read this blog are half a world away) but I hope it's a good 'un.

This is one of those weekends where being a minister really cuts into family time. In the UK it is Mothering Sunday (not Mother's Day, that's a card company invention...but i may well post from the vantage point of my high horse on that later) and I would really quite like to make a fuss of my lovely wife who does so much to keep our family together whilst i am running round like a blue-bottomed buzzy insect thingy. We both take as much of a share as possible in looking after our children, and I make sure that whenever possible I am around between 5-7pm to cook and/or feed and/or bathe and/or read stories at bedtime with Jack and Katherine. I also try to do my bit with housework etc because I am quite certain it's not a wife/mum's lot in life to be a housekeeper! (More often than we all contribute to the mess until one of us gives in and has a frantic clearup). Anyway, I like the idea of having a day where mum gets pampered just for being mum!

Unfortunately my Sunday starts at Church when i leave the house just after 8am when the kids are usually in the throes of breakfasting, then i go onto my next service usually with only a short (grab a coffee) moment between. I get back at between 12-15 and 1pm from the morning service and for a special Sunday such as this am off again for a service at 3pm.

This doesn't actually give much opportunity for pampering my gorgeous wife!

Perhaps I should shift Mothering Sunday to a friday in a kind of 'moveable feast' manner.

Actually, I did - albeit subconsiously. I did send lovely wife off yesterday with a friend to the 'country living' Spring fair in London - something definitely 'all for her'! handsome son and i went and looked at 'planes and 'bikes at a place called 'The Shuttleworth Collection' - a bit of manly bonding for the day! I now have to convince Jo in retrospect that this was a very well thought out treat in lieu of Mothering Sunday!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

He gets his own label

Brian has finally given in to the blog affliction that is sweeping our world. He takes pride of place in my blog links sidebar bit because either A) he is funny and worth reading or B) needs serious massage of the ego. You decide when you go and visit him here. And don't forget to bookmark. And do remark on the windswept and interesting photo of him in the about me section...

He also is the first person to have his own label category on this blog, because he was in the last posting too and we do a podcast thingy together.

We're not purpose driven

Well, this is it, the pointless drivel church website is up and running - or gently ambling in the case of me and Brian. It's basically a forum for us to air our views in a podcast format about, well, um, anything. But mainly Churchy, faithy stuff.

Visit it here, or in the link that will appear in my sidebar very soon...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Forgot to mention

Thanks to the old fart for pointing me towards the visual dna website which made the last post possible.

i tried to edit the post to include this but blogger wouldn't let me

My Visual DNA

Five very satisfying minutes thinking about who I am and why

pictures say more than words

Why I could never be a tele-evangelist

I don't have nice bouffant hair
...or good sound right-wing political agendas...
...or a certainty which brooks no doubt (except about important things)...
...or a narrowly defined theological agenda...
...or a great desire to be rich...
...or terrible taste in suits...
...or perfect teeth...
...or a desire to ask people to give me money to spread the gospel (don't remember Jesus mentioning a 'mission fund')...
...or a calling to ask for the assassination of foreign presidents...

I will have to stick with being an impoverished, not overly 'successful' country Vicar who just tries to get on with this loving, praying, ministering stuff.

Oh, the reason I mention this is a post on Dave Walker's blog here.

Time for something funny

Been way too serious round here lately...

Whilst trawling some of the aforementioned blogs I found, at Genesis blog (which is being moved to another site, but will change the link when i get my act together) some funny Jack Bauer stuff... Having got into this whole 24 thing quite late in the process (have watched five seasons worth in the last six months or so) I am just now catching up with the whole Bauer culture - and this made me laugh, quite a lot...

The Old Chestnut

Thinking about Kurt's comment again, and the responses (much appreciated) from Deb, Quilly (despite the misspelling ;-) ), Dr John and Tom I am revisiting this whole 'why do i blog' question. I've said before that (if I'm honest) there's an ego part of it that makes me think 'waheey, people are reading what I wrote', and there's simple self-expression - all the more enjoyable if people read and comment.

On deeper reflection, though, it ties in with my previous mention of 'integrity' or perhaps more accurately 'integration'. One of the things i really value on this blog is being able to think out loud, and to explore stuff via this nice shiny screen which otherwise might bounce about my head and get nowhere. It does mean that pretty much everything is a work in progress, and makes me think of that rather twee fridge magnet 'be patient, God isn't finished with me yet'. But it's enjoyable, and I really do appreciate the feedback i get.

Another pleasant surprise has been the feeling of community and friendship which has come about with blogging. I love going to the blogs in my link, and was well chuffed to be referred to on Jeff's blog as 'my Anglican pal'... I know there's a certain artificial sense to the contacts we make on line and all of us, to a certain degree, put on a certain character for our blogs, but I do value the opinions of those who visit here and whose blogs I visit. All of the blogs on my sidebar are there because i like to read them, some make me think very seriously, some make me laugh, some i agree with, some not so much - but I do enjoy the sense of connection to them. I used to be pretty snarky about those who claimed they were part of an online community, and though I recognise the limitations of internet contact, I quite like being part of what feels like a friendly online neigbourhood. So take a mo, look around, and enjoy the visit. Go and see some of my friends too.

As well as the links above honourable mentions should go to Jenny, Annie, Moog, Genesis, Old Fart, Dave Walker, Nick Page, Ken Howard and Jem (who doesn't blog that much, but is a great bloke and an old friend in the real world as well as the e-world). All worth visiting, some real people that i know, others entirely e-constructs whose external reality it is very worthwhile engaging with...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Response to comment...

Before i go off to bed I feel have i to respond to Kurt's comment on my last posting. He says 'the way you write about your faith confuses me. It's like you're trying to analyse a smile'

I'm grateful for the comment, thanks Kurt, but I'm not sure I agree. Well, I agree that the way I write about faith is confusing, mainly because I am, like most theologians, sorting this out in my head as I go along. On the other hand i think that if we leave faith unexamined then we leave ourselves open to the manipulation of any convincing idiot that comes along and we become liable to drift about following any wind of doctrine that takes our fancy.

When i talk about compartmentalising faith what i mean is that some people turn their brains off when it comes to faith, others don't live out the values they proclaim on Sundays in the rest of the week, others don't allow themselves to feel God in their lives and keep God as more of an intellectual concept than a friend. This and more can be the result of not taking faith seriously enough to grapple with it. So my apologies for the confusion, I don't claim to have all the answers, but I'm going to keep struggling, even when the words don't work so well.

Thanks again for the comment. My kids will be awake in about 5 hours. I must go.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Too busy to blog

Busy day today, and realised again that I am trying to do too much when i missed a meeting this morning because i forgot! At least I missed some of it, until i got a call saying 'you're meant to be here.' My mind was filled with funerals, (other) meetings, memorial stones, prayer (good thing), Annual meetings (have six of them to do for my parishes over the next few weeks), Mothering Sunday (this coming Sunday in the UK) and lots of other pastoral, theological and generally churchy things. Alongside this my little man (aged 2) got walloped with a hoover yesterday (his big sister trying hard to play cleaning up) this has split his front tooth and he is obviously in some discomfort, he didn't sleep so well, so neither did we.

And the dog puked very nastily too in the kid's playroom...

My mind was on other things.

The biggest difficulty in ministry, perhaps in any kind of living these days, is the number of pressures which come from every direction. In my job there are admin tasks (my weakness), pastoral (good and bad, from weddings and baptisms to funerals and sickness visits), teaching/preaching preparation (did a long and convoluted talk this evening which took a fair amount of preparation and may be posted sometime soon), worship/event co-ordination, prayer, and generally 'being nice' and getting out and about to see folk. In all of these roles my gifts (or lack of them) manifest themselves in different ways.

As a minister my concern is for the wellbeing and wholeness of others. I believe that Christian faith is a holistic faith - ie it is concerned with every part of life - and therefore i believe that integrity and bringing our faith to life in everything we do, think and say is crucial. Integrity is overused in Christian circles, in that it has become loaded with a variety of meanings, but put simply it is about keeping all the parts together, not compartmentalising our faith or having any part of our lives separate from our faith.

That is the goal of Christian living or as i put in my last sermon, 2 Corinthians 10.5 talks of 'bringing every thought captive to Christ'.

I think all Christians are in danger of dis-integration when we fail to bring the pieces of our lives together in faith, for instance when a certain relationship or our job or anything falls outside of the dominance of Christ. In ministerial terms i think the difficulties of holding all the parts of our ministry together, some of which may not actually be our gifts, is another way in which we can fragment, or dis-integrate.

I see this as my greatest potential danger, that i will just fall to bits and not be able to get all these things together again. When i am this busy i know my memory fails, i get tired and run down and I don't perform to the best of my abilities. It's not that i feel, at present, that it is all too much or that I am in danger of breakdown - but i can see that parts of my ministry are suffering because the whole isn't quite together due to overload. Not sure why I feel I want to write this, at present it feels relatively academic - maybe it's good to reflect on this things before the brown smelly stuff hits the speedy swirling bladey thing. or whatever.

Taking baby boy to the dentist tomorrow - or rather lovely wife is as I am doing another funeral... Will let you know what happens. I mean, how can they do anything with a 2 year old at the dentist?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Three word meme

I've seen this on Dr John's blog and on the old fart's blog, so with such illustrious companions on the journey i couldn't resist this meme, only rule is that each statement must be answered with three words only...

here goes

01. Where is your cell phone? Its behind me..
02. Boyfriend/girlfriend? not since marrying
03. Hair? way too much
04. Your mother? short and fun
05. Your father? beyond this world
06. Your favorite item(s)? slightly battered motorbike
07. Your dream last night? really can't remember
08. Your favorite drink? strong real ale
09. Your dream guy/girl? my lovely wife
10. The room you are in? my messy study
11. Your fear? old and alone
12. What do you want to be in 10 years? wiser, thinner, breathing
13. Who did you hang out with last night? my gorgeous family
14. What are you not? boring old git
15. Are you in love? very much so
16. One of your wish list items? new acoustic guitar
17. What time is it? just after midnight
18. The last thing you did? wrote a sermon
19. What are you wearing? clergy dog collar
20. Your favorite book? any well written
21. The last thing you ate? last night's leftovers
22. Your life? way too busy
23. Your mood? tired but OK
24. Your friends? best in world
25. What are you thinking about right now? time for bed
26. Your car? crappy old volvo
27. What are you doing at this moment? listening to music
28. Your summer? away in france
29. Your relationship status? married and grateful
30. What is on your TV screen? dark and blank
31. When is the last time you laughed? not long ago
32. Last time you cried? yesterday morning - nearly
33. School? good, happy memories

Saturday, March 10, 2007

This week's sermon - Lent 3

Trying again to use my new system of keeping longer posts off of this blog I thought I would post a taster of this week's thought and leave you to decide if you want to follow the link and see the rest! I have to say that p'raps I should have done it with a better sermon... but don't let that put you off. Let me know what you think of a) the sermon and b) the split posting!

Lent 3 (2007) Year C RCL Principal

Readings

It doesn’t stop with being saved!

People have some pretty strange ideas about what it means to be a Christian… Quite often I hear the words ‘well, I don’t go to Church, but I try to be a good person’. Or ‘I’m a Christian, I’m interested in spiritual things’.

I’ve said it before, but trying to be good, or even coming to Church or reading the Bible doesn’t actually make a person a Christian – any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car. There is something more to the way we live, the way we are, when we are followers of Jesus Christ. (more)

Back and blogging

Not likely to be a long post, due to things to plan for tomorrow. Maybe when planning is finished I'll write some more.

Thanks for sticking with me over the past few ropey days! When I blogged last night I felt rather like i was at the end of my resources so didn't really say that much. It was a tough day with little man being potentially very ill and perhaps needing an I.V. drip, but all that worked out in the end. It was made all the more tiring by spending lots of time in the car, taking little man and lovely wife to hospital, getting back to pick up gorgeous girl (daughter) from primary school, getting stuff to a local shop for the end of fairtrade fortnight, which my wife was involved in organising for the village, getting daughter sorted out and looked after by friends a couple of villages away, getting back to hospital, and then having to make sure everything was in order for the Marriage Prep day today before getting food sorted and kids to bed etc etc. It was a long day at the end of a long week.

Today saw a return to form for little man, he's very lively again - it is amazing how quickly kids bounce back. The complications of getting kids to various things were sorted amazingly by gorgeous wife today, along with her helping at the fairtrade day. The Marriage day went very well, and I think I even managed to make sense for it, then on returning home I found some friends had arrived who I was very pleased to see and though they had to leave quite quickly after I got back, it was good to see them and have a quick chinwag with my partner in crime over at the pointless drivel podcast... (more on that another time).

Now am putting together stuff for services tomorrow, have sorted hymn sheet for family service and am thinking about a talk for the early service, and an all age friendly talk for the mid morning service. hence my now speedy exit with perhaps a thought later...

Friday, March 09, 2007

a word of explanation

Apart from busy-ness i have had good and bad reasons for not blogging over the past few days...

Good reason -- my birthday on Weds meant that the evening which i might have used to blog in, was used in a nice meal out with wife and a couple of friends. Thanks Jem for birthday wishes

Bad reasons - very very busy, lots going on, foremost of which has been ongoing poorly-ness of my beautiful baby man - his bug meant that he got quite dehydrated, which meant that we have had to go to the Doctor a few times and actually ended up spending much of today in the local hospital. Fortunately he's not 'clinically dehydrated' and it looks like the bug is on the way out, so they let him come home tonight and we are just giving him lots and lots and lots to drink.

Thanks for the good wishes. Sorry I've not been blogging, and sorry to the folks i normally visit regularly on the blog scene who i've neglected. Am now almost keeling over on the keyboard due to fatigue so will try and write more soon. See you!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Have I mentioned how busy I am?

Not a complaint, but by way of apology to those of you who do make the effort to come and check out the New Kid blog every now and then (still not sure about keeping the name, but no one responded to my question as to whether after 2 and a half years i am entitled to still call myself the New Kid on the Blog). There is so much going on, much of it good, all of it important - and i don't list all the busy-ness in order to make myself look important but as part of my ongoing campaign to let folk know what it actually is that we do, us strange breed known as 'Clergy'.

Yesterday, for instance, as well as trying to support my wife, as our little boy is still poorly! I had a meeting with my fellow foundation Governors (ie those appointed by the Church) for the local school which is having its 'Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools' today. Following which a long meeting at which the Clergy discussed planning for our 'wedding preparation day' on Saturday - a day where we gather as many of the couples getting married in our Churches as possible and discuss the ways in which they can customise their services, what they need to decide about what goes into the services, the legalities and technicalities of a Church wedding in England, and what the significance is of Christian Marriage - all in a day! After the planning meeting for that I did a bereavement visit, then a visit to someone who is very ill and I prayed with them, then i got home, had something to eat and for the evening had a small group of boys visit for our 'Youth Bible Study'.

So a pretty busy day, and today is no quieter.

Again, this is not to impress you (or try to) but to reflect the diversity of this ministry I'm called to. It can be a strain, but is more often a rewarding and worthwhile calling. I may post something about integrity and dis-integration sometime if i can get my brain up to speed! Have a good day all.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Another Dave Walker classic

And so very British....

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I believe

Last week I mentioned i had spoken on the theme of faith and belief as the opening talk in a series of Lent thoughts about the Apostle's creed. So here it is

Congratulations on making it to the first of our talks for this Lenten period as we grapple with the Apostle’s Creed. As it was my suggestion that we follow this series over these five weeks it is also my responsibility to say why this is a good idea, and what we hope will happen, before I get on with talking about what we are doing when we say ‘I believe…’ particularly when we consider this creed that we will be looking and saying together over the coming weeks…

I’ll come clean and say that the reason we are looking at this document over the coming weeks is because I think that on the whole very few of us really think about what we are doing when we stand up together and say the Creeds. Week by week we reel off either the Apostle’s Creed – our subject of study and the version used in morning and evening prayer; or the Nicene Creed – a longer document used at Holy Communion started with the early Church council of Nicea in 325 a.d. The Creed was formally adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 a.d...more

Wow, tomorrow already

Another late post, my sleep has been all over the place lately and i don't seem to get into any kind of rhythm with it. Monday (now yesterday) was really busy, with meetings, visits, school, Lent course (a great talk from one of my colleagues on 'I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth'). So much so that (as you may have guessed) there was no time to blog at a sociable hour (UK time, i guess as i post this its about 6pm on the East of the USA).

Am still processing the talk this evening, may relate some things about it when my brain gets up and running sometime tomorrow (if i have time). I thought i would also mention that i never did get around to posting that long talk which i did to introduce us to the Apostle's Creed last week, though I might follow advice from standing under the sky and try to split the post.

ttfn

Sunday, March 04, 2007

It's OK, we've got both ends covered

Got up this morning to discover that our little two year old man had been sick in the night, so having run a bath for him and got wifely person to sort him out I found myself turning up very last minute to Church at 8.30am (though the service started on time, which i am very pleased with). Between services I found he had been sick again whilst i was out and that stuff was coming out the other way too (hence the title of the post). Remarkably he wasn't complaining, though was obviously not at his best, and though he was sick on and off all day and unable to keep food down he seems to have got through the day well. I looked after him for a couple of hours this afternoon whilst Jo and Katherine (baby girl) went out for a walk with the dogs and generally splashed about and got messy in the soggy Cambridgeshire Countryside.

The two Church services I took part in today went very well, considering that at the start of both my mind was elsewhere! there was a real sense of the Spirit of God at work. Now this is not a phrase I use lightly or frequently, nor do i claim any credit, but there was an atmosphere of warmth and fellowship over and above our usual 'friendly church' vibe, and a number of people commented on it. Hooray!

Now am planning to wind down, watch this new series called 'heroes' which i've taped off the box over the past couple of weeks, and hopefully get to talk to my wife without the sound of toddler vomiting every few minutes. who knew kids could hold so much stuff even when they've not eaten!!!!!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

This week's sermon

Year C Lent 2

Readings

Genesis 15.1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3.17-4.1
Luke 13.31-end


Honesty and Trust

If someone came to the Rectory telling me that they hear the voice of God, I must admit that I would think the worst. Just as if someone approached you telling you that they had conversations with the almighty then we might feel a little disturbed. This is not the kind of person we want to sit next to on the bus….

BUT - imagine what it would be like if we could talk to God freely and hear his voice! Imagine how it would be if we shared such an intimate relationship with God that we were able to sit and chat and be chatted to in return.

That’s the kind of relationship that we are told Abram (he’s not yet Abraham in the passage we heard this morning, his change of name by divine deed poll comes later on) had with God. It’s almost chatty, and at times is quite forthright and perhaps even a little bit cheeky. If we know the story of Sodom and Gomorra we would know that Abram negotiated with God that the Lord would spare the city if a certain number of righteous people could be found – and Abraham pushes his luck – and he knocks God down, we can imagine with a bit of a glint in his eye, and with God responding with a kind of humorous exasperation – to one righteous man.

That is not to say that Abraham forgets his place: when God seems to ask for the sacrifice of Isaac, on whom all the fulfilment of God’s promises hangs, Abraham prepares the altar. But the ability to whinge at God, or even to question God, is one that Christian piety has rather bred out of us. And this is the relationship that Abram had with God – a freedom, and openness, a relaxed attitude. It didn’t distract from the worship, the awe and the respect he showed to God, but there was an ease about it that is inspiring and wonderful.

And this relationship is made possible by Abram’s honesty, by the fact that when God promises a reward to Abram in a vision Abram doesn’t grovel, he doesn’t worship, he doesn’t fall down – he responds to God with complete candour. “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue to be childless…”

Abram tells God what really matters – he doesn’t beat around the bush (that doesn’t come until Moses!). Abram let’s God know his deepest longing – no fluff, no diversions, straight to the point. I don’t know about you but when I pray I sometimes fall into the trap of ‘O Lord you are so great and wonderful, and if you could just do this or this…’ Worship becomes a way of twisting God’s arm. Sometimes prayer becomes a shopping list, or a bargaining session – well Lord if you’ll just do this then I promise I will do this, and if you’ll just do this then I will etc etc’;

And God responds to Abram’s honesty by making a promise, that if Abram will trust then this deepest desire will be fulfilled – more than that, Abram’s descendents will be as numerous as the stars in the sky… And Abrams’ response – this is perhaps the most amazing part of the story – verse 6 of Chapter 15 of Genesis ‘…he believed the Lord: and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.’ The enormous compassion of God in responding to what Abram desperately wants is matched only by Abram’s trust that God will deliver it. God sees his trust and “reckons it to him as righteousness”

This relationship is one of mutual trust, one of giving, of listening, of responding. And to show just how solemn this trust is we have a ritual that was considered one of the most binding and important symbols of a contract that was possible in those days. By cutting animals in half and walking between them a person was saying that they would keep their half of a contract, they would be bound to their promise, or allow themselves to be slaughtered like the animals they walked between.

And God passes through these carcasses in the form of a flaming torch and a smoking fire pot. God is the one who makes this binding agreement, to give Abram the land which was to become Israel. God responds to Abram’s trust and to his faith and to his honesty by piling on love, by graciously giving to Abram all he could long for.

This is one of the Covenants that God makes with his people throughout scripture. And covenants or Testaments as some old translations call them, are solemn and binding agreements of trust and loyalty.

We don’t use the term covenant very often these days – and the power of the word has become dimmed. We cannot, however, overestimate the power of the seriousness of God’s covenants with human beings though – in fact, as you may have noticed the Christian Bible is divided into two broad ‘Covenants’ – the Old Testament and the New. As Christians we believe that God has made a promise to us – a promise of love and care – His covenant with humanity.

A little while ago I went away with a couple of members of the Bourn congregation to Belfast, we went to a Conference about worship – within it we were reminded that the first covenant (which is summed up in the Jewish faith) was a two way covenant – that in return for God’s blessing, human beings were to act in a way that returned God’s faithfulness, which was epitomised by the law. Of course, we are told in the writings of Paul and much of what Jesus says, that this law was too difficult to keep and was instead fulfilled and superceeded by Christ – when through the breaking of his body shedding of his blood he brought in a New Covenant. This Covenant was and is a one way covenant, one in which God offers forgiveness freely and openly through the death of Christ, and all we need to is to accept it. There are no conditions upon this promise, it is freely given and freely to be received. The New Covenant is one of grace and mercy and love and forgiveness and blessing – promised by God to any who ask. We need to be honest about our own sin and ask God’s forgiveness, that’s it.

But that honesty is the basis for a relationship of trust with God. If we trust God enough to confess our own sinfulness and lack of faith God will respond to that trust. Apparently, this willingness on the part of God to accept our trust in him as the equivalent of actual goodness is an abiding characteristic of God. We see it over and over again, not least in Jesus’ response to the penitent thief on the cross.

So we have these themes of trust and of honesty. In our relationship with God one begets the other. If we will be open with God then God can be open with us. God will not turn his back on us; he will always give us the benefit of the doubt, no matter how inadequate our trust feels.

And God will respond – we may not hear his voice, or see visions, or feel led to cut up animals – but our faith will grown and our closeness to God and to other Christians will grow. And if we learn to listen we will hear the voice of God – through the Bible, in the traditions of the Church, through the teaching and words of fellow Christians, and sometimes in the blinding insight that seems to come from out of nowhere. God will speak to us in so many little ways – and as we grow in faith we will learn to hear him more and more.

And so let’s begin by being honest with God about what we long for, and by being honest about our lack of faith and our need for God’s help. Just as God does not laugh at Abram’s longing for an heir, so he does not laugh at our needs and desires. But their fulfilment will be his doing, not ours. Abram has the extraordinary and terrifying privilege of seeing the signs of God as he commits himself to his promise.

Now if we ask if God is still willing to keep his promises to us, we only have to remember that we have seen the Son of God allow himself to be slaughtered like Abram’s animals to fulfil that promise. May we all learn to trust in that promise more and more.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Day off

Terri said
I didn't know preachers had days off

Well obviously I can't stop being holy and beatific for the day, but i can hang up the halo for a few hours and stop glowing in the dark for a while

Tho' that second bit may be more due to swimming in the sea near sizewell 'b' nuclear station, plus a couple of trips (in Wales and Northern England) on nuclear power station tours (what can i say, I'm a weird kind of tourist, or a weird kind of anything come to that)

Oh, and being off means i can do even more meaningless blog postings than usual

It's Friday

But Sunday's coming....Amen, preach it....

Sorry, got carried away for a moment there. What i meant to say is Friday is my day off, as best i can keep it free, so i may not be blogging again here today. Whatever you're doing have fun today, even if you're at work

toodles

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Not subtle or humourous

My attempt at subtle humour obviously failed, as my attempt to gain a huge amount of self-affirmation whilst at the same time taking a wry look at Quilly's comment on my post about 'what kind of blogger I am' drew very little response at all... Except for Quilldancer being very caring and reassuring me that i wasn't as 'pants' as she thought my post alluded that I thought i was (see, subtle and humourous just don't work, and don't tell me my spelling is wrong, I know that humourous is meant to be spelled humourous)

Talking of pants, thanks Tom for the comment, I hope that I am at the forefront of spreading the 'pants' concept to the world! If you find yourself using obscure UK youth culture phrases in your everyday life then my work is done.

Probably also worth mentioning that 'pants' in the UK means underwear, not trousers...

Also, apologies Quilldancer that I've not added you to my blogroll, I have been meaning to as I do enjoy my visits to your blog... I will endeavour to rectify that very soon.

Also, Quilly has a moan in a post yesterday about not being able to get a word verification to post comments on blogs, I have just had the same problem with Tom's blog - I am glad i turned off word verification, I read a really good post about how annoying it was and how it didn't really seem to weed out spam so I removed it a few weeks ago. Anyway, come on blogger folk, help us out here, we want to say things to other bloggers...

I'm not sure this is a compliment!

Thanks for all the comments over the past few posts folks! I'm just nipping through but reading Quilldancer's comment on 'the kind of blogger i am' made me think 'does this make me anodyne and rather uninteresting?'

She wrote
You say plenty without saying anything at all. And without offending anybody. That's an essential skill for a pastor.

I am toooooooo busy

I know when i am trying to fit too much into my days when i can't fit what's happening into my brain - so loosing my diary (or mislaying it, i hope) meant that i missed an appointment yesterday which I should have remembered. I now have someone (rightly) hacked off at me who waited for me to turn up and i never came.

I hate being 'diary bound' because i am used to remembering stuff, but at the moment without it I am lost.

Tooooooo busy.