Thursday, June 28, 2007

Time travelling Vicar

Blog talkers this week is difficult to keep down to one thought, so I am going to waffle on a bit generally. Bit of a nostalgia fest, and a fair amount of what ifs...
If you could go back in time, what one piece advice would you give yourself?
It depends where I'm going to go in time! If I went back to my teens I would say 'go to the gym' - just because I enjoy it so much, and starting earlier would probably have meant I wasn't the large rotund type I am today, although I might have been one of those whose head became smaller than their neck.

Or perhaps in my late teens I would have said 'ride a motorbike'. There's no end to the possibilities of what might have happened if this had been the case when I was a student. I think much of what makes up my life now is probably formed by the fact that I had no transport when I was younger! I would perhaps have travelled a lot more over the weekends at College, whereas I stayed in and around London (no real need for own transport there, so i didn't bother). Though I have to say that this means I spent time with friends, got to be a part of a church, got myself a job which kept my student debt down, stuck with a girlfriend who kept dropping me, then starting again, then dropping etc etc etc - but because there wasn't any way to go elsewhere I just kept on with this - and we've now been married for 14 years with two fantastic kids and I am more in love now that ever. But, that notwithstanding, I would have perhaps seen more of the world, had very different networks of people, looked at things a different way, generally been very different.

Perhaps I would go back to my student days and say 'work harder at Drama' - the secondary part of my degree let down my overall scores and I ended up just missing a first class degree which might have meant I would have carried on with an academic career. I had a very good 2.1 degree which meant I could have pursued a further degree and one of my college lecturers was very keen on me doing a PhD in New York with a professor Chisholm, as my speciality was the nature of faith and religious language, but I also had a great interest in 'issues of Human Nature and the role of Grace'. Again, though, i stayed in London to be near my girlfriend (now wife) and after paying off my student debts I got a job at Imperial College Chaplaincy which led me to where I am now, so how much would I like to change? Well, as I am now looking at a PhD in pastoral ministry having a first would just make things slightly easier...

Perhaps I would go back to before I was married and offer a variety of advice to myself about listening, learning and appreciating - rather than having to learn the hard way!

Perhaps I would go back to just before I took my previous job before this and said 'no, don't go to South Kensington'. But then, would I have taken this job? rather than being desperate to leave my last one I might have been settled somewhere else.

So, as you can tell, indecisiveness rules in this situation. This one kept me awake a couple of nights ago when I first read it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Credible, moi?

A confession, in case you've not noticed it before I am a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy junkie, it's always been my favourite genre in books, movies & tv stuff, but over the last couple of years there have been some outstanding shows which I have enjoyed as much for the comment they make about today as the imagination and excitement of the setting and stories. Foremost amongst these are Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Babylon 5 and even that old chestnut 'Star Trek' in its many incarnations. Anyway, an interesting article in today's Guardian is all about this theme, find it here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Inactivity rules!

Actually, the only place I have been inactive is in the blogsphere, things have been busy for the past few weeks. I have had lots to do, have caught up on LOADS of admin stuff, done a number of visits, prayed a fair amount, read stuff, gone to meetings, tried to help some folks out with some wedding applications, dealt with some outstanding issues to do with marriage registers, married some people, been to a wedding in York and spent time with family and friends. In lots of ways its been a good few weeks, though I have spent much of those weeks tired and lacking inspiration to blog or to read too many blogs.

I particularly enjoyed my weekend, not only was it a chance to be with the family for a couple of days, but I went (as previously mentioned) to the beautiful city of York to attend the wedding of my closest friend Jem to the lovely Louise. I got to be a bit Vicar-ly on Friday evening when I was invited to take a part in the communion service put together by Visions, in York - a group that was once described as an 'alt.worship' group, but is now known as 'fresh expressions' or 'pioneer ministry' group (or 'emergent' in the US, I guess). Whatever the current nomenclature, they are a creative, innovative group of Christians who offer worship which is multimedia, inclusive, relaxed and profound (all at once, pretty good, eh?) If you ever get to go to York and you happen to be able to get to St Cuthbert's Church, Peasholme Green on a Sunday Evening I can highly recommend it.

The Wedding was great, a great service, with more clergy than you could shake a Mitre at and an opportunity to catch up with some 'old friends' whose friendship stretches back nearly twenty years. I also discovered that some of these folk read my blog - and weren't too rude about it! It was a great couple of days, though Jo, Katherine, Jack and I spent much of it shattered due to lack of sleep, especially the kids.

It was also an opportunity to reflect on how easy it is to lose touch with people, and realise just how special and important these friendships are. I have to say I felt somewhat sad that I had let a few of these aquaintances 'slide' and hadn't attended to these relationships over the past few years. One of the problems of ministry in the Church is that one gets caught up in the places and people one ministers to - no bad thing, but shouldn't be done at the expense of good friends. I hope that I will keep up contact with these folk now we've met up again. The non-contact thing is compounded, though, by the fact that so many of us are in some form of ministry in the Church and so find ourselves suffering from the 'caught up where we are' syndrome.

It's good to be back, though I've 'hit the ground running' and have done lots today. Tomorrow is another day and there's plenty to do then too!

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, I've finally managed to get myself sorted and join facebook, so search for my name and be my friend if you want, or at least poke me ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blog talkers for Father's day

I know I'm not posting this on Father's day, but here is this week's blog talkers...
Where did your father go to work every day and what did he do? How did his job affect your family?
My father (strictly speaking my step-father, but as much of a 'dad' as any biological father) was an Irish 'Navvy' - he worked in construction mainly, ran a roofing/asphalting business for a while, and filled in with factory work when there was nothing else available. He worked hard for as long as he was able, and was very much a man who felt he should 'bring home the bacon' for his family - and instilled by his example rather than by telling us that having a family was a responsibility that should be taken seriously. He did have a major family - 17 kids! - but worked hard and expected us all to work hard too at whatever we did in life. It means that even now the idea of being thought of as lazy is one of the things I fear most!

Dad had a work ethic that meant you grabbed your chances where you could, and if that meant doing something menial to plug a gap in employment then he would do it. We did have financial help from social services, and never had a massive income, but none of us went hungry, or lacked clothes, or really went without. We didn't always have what some of our richer neigbours had, and I wasn't exactly a style guru in my youth as the latest gear was beyond our resources (plus then, like now, I had terrible taste!) but we were never deprived, and life was full and fun.

My father's attitude to work and life and family was all mixed up together. He was a hard man who had seen some tough times, but he kept the care and protection of his family as his top priority.

Monday, June 18, 2007

lots to say again

but no energy to write it

so I'll just let you read, should you wish, this month's editorial for our local magazines...


As a blogger and regular contributor to and reader of various websites I am often surprised by how much people ‘give away’ about themselves to complete strangers on the Internet. Some of the people I read about are willing to reveal what are quite often intimate and deep secrets to a potential audience of thousands and more, and often say that they feel the internet is their community, where they make their friends and where they feel safe.

There is a myth that people who spend lots of time on the Web are lonely and pathetic individuals, or geeky types who are no good at relationships. My experience is that this isn’t the case, and that people do make lasting friendships online which they often carry on face to face at a later date. Just last year online I made a friend of a colleague in the USA whose family stayed in our Rectory whilst we were on holiday and who turned out to be funny, clever and a pleasure to meet. It does seem, though, that so many people, both online and in the non-virtual world have lost a sense of ‘community’ where they live and with neighbours, and are turning more and more to ‘interest groups’ or the World Wide Web for support, sometimes at the expense of ‘realtime relationships’ or friendships with those who live just next door to them.

One of the purposes of our Parish Churches is to be somewhere for people to meet together and put into practice Jesus’ command to ‘love one another’. It means dealing with the messy parts of relationships - disagreements, disputes, dislikes and the like - and working hard at tolerance, affection, support and trust. The Bible has high hopes of what it means to be Church, St Paul didn’t even consider buildings when he talked about ‘the Church’ - he was more concerned with what he called ‘the Body of Christ’, a group of people so close to one another, who lived in love and faith to such a degree that they were, like a human body, inseparable – with no one ‘part’ being more important than the other..

Today we are concerned with our buildings, many of them are precious and represent a fantastic legacy handed down through generations, a sacred space for us to use to serve our community, a place of safety and of hope. But when it comes down to it, the Church building is nothing without the true Church, the loving, faith-filled relationships that make up our Christian Community. We aren’t always successful at being that kind of community, but we are working at it. If you aren’t a part of it, there are no membership requirements, no entrance exams and no-one who considers themselves better than anybody else. All are welcome, and together we can build a community of friends who share a desire to live in the kind of love that Jesus commanded, who are seeking truth together and who recognise that human beings are made for one another.

Jesus said ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ John 13.34

Friday, June 15, 2007

I sometimes wonder

how I 'come across' in my blog posts, i can't really tell 'cos I'm reading them from the inside, as it were. This comes from Glen's response to my last post, i didn't want to give the impression that I was bitter about no longer traffic exchanging (well, only on exclusively blog exchanges) but that his comment had been an impetus to rethink. The time spent clicking and getting annoyed by the audio on many of the ads was disproportionate to any value it had, the decision was made anyway it just took a little nudge to make me really think about it.

I think I might stay on trafficpods until I reach level 10 by surfing enough to keep a pod going! I like the sense of achievement from reaching a certain goal! Those who are pod people will know what I'm talking about, but its too complicated to try and explain here!

Anyway, back to my initial statement. I hope I come across as good-natured rather than curmudgeonly and that my thoughts don't seem arrogant or closed, but open to question and ready to respond. if they don't come across like that then I am glad I've stated it so that you all know :-)

its my day off, so i'm leaviing the PC to go back to my tired and slightly fractious, but still gorgeous, family

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bookmark me now!

If you come from a traffic exchange (trafficpods, boostmystats, bionichits, teamhits, clickvoyager), and have a vague interest in coming back here every now and then, please bookmark me as I am gradually letting my credits run down and will be appearing less and less. This is, in part, because I have lost that sense of needing affirmation by having lots of visitors and, in part, not wanting to to spend time clicking for credits. Glen got me thinking and I've just moved on from there!

In an effort to make it easier for those with limited connectivity and 15 second timers I have cut down the number of pages displayed initially on this blog (see, I do listen and take note, and I do hope it helps), so until the credits disappear I will, I hope, not be slowing things up too much.

i have signed up for a couple of purely blog exchanges, but I find that I like surfing that way as I find out lots of interesting, obscure and generally weird things - and there are no ads, apart from banners on some pages!

As an aside, over the past couple of days I've seen a lot more blogs on some of the above exchanges, and it seems to be the done thing to put mySpace pages on ClickVoyager - it does make a nice break from the stream of adverts.

How many states of the USA can you name?

Whilst taking some time out this morning (between Morning Prayer and visiting) i had a go at the Guardian Quick crossword - which in my case is anything but quick, wot wiv being not so grate wiv wurds an all dat. I got stuck, though, on four questions which named State Capitals and asked for the State they belonged to. I then wrote down all the US states I could think of, and got 27, which I don't think is bad for a UK resident who has only ever visited New York, Maine, Mass (not even going to try and spell that) and New Hampshire. My biological father (who died before I was born) was a US Airman, but as I have no idea where he came from that doesn't give me a headstart. So, how many states can my US readers name? Perhaps you have to reel them off regularly at school from the age of four so can do the lot? Perhaps you don't know many at all?

oh, 28, I've just thought of another one, no, two. Illinois and Arkansas, so 29. There's lots of talk in the international media about how much, or little, US citizens know about the world, how much of their own Country to they know?

I should point out that if asked to name all the counties in England, let alone the rest of the UK, most brits would do very badly! I don't include myself in this, not because I am particularly clever, but because its the type of trivia I tend to remember...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

interview meme

Eric, from erichasissues, has provided me with a five question interview which I am to give answers for. It's my own fault for asking for them!

The idea is, if you want a go at this meme, to ask me to send you five questions to be answered on your blog - that's it. If this is the case comment and put 'interview me!' (along with your email address formatted x [at] so that the evil 'bots' can't pick it up)

OK here goes

1. On Music: You mention in your blog that you would bring your “Guitar” to the remote cabin. Being interested in music as I am, what kind of guitar is it, what kind of music do you play, and for how long?

I have a few guitars, a fender of indeterminate name which is an electro-acoustic steel 6 string. It tends to be the one I take around with me to Church meetings and services as it makes a lot of noise, good concert hall style body with lots of resonance, but i'm not happy with the action and some fault in it means I've got it as best I can, apparently, without stripping the whole thing down.

I recently bought an Ovation Applause, which I love, but which doesn't have the volume, v nice when plugged in!

I've got a strat copy by Ibenez, an Aria Semi-Acoustic Jazzer, a 12 string EKO and a bodyless electric which is set up to sound like an Acoustic called 'Skinny' though the technical name is a seisonido or something like that.

I mainly play worship music, a bit of folk, some rock stuff - but I'm a strummer not a picker! I can't read music so I play by ear and by chords. I will play for as long as I can whenever I can, so normally only about 30 mins at a time.

2. On Church: Do you associate socially with your parishioners? And is it hard for you to leave the robe at work, or are you always on as a minister?

Yes, love to spend time with parishioners, its hard to be off duty, though, because of the expectations they have rather than how I am! On the whole most people realise that I am pretty normal whether on or off duty. There are times when as a minister one needs to be seen to be different, and I don't join in some of the 'banter', there are times when I need to show a professional side (for want of a different phrase) when I've been asked for quite serious advice in the local pub or been told about someone or something about which I should be concerned.

3. On Church History: who would you say is the most influential “Brit” on the modern church? Be it any denomination.

There are too many strands within the British Church to name one person who has influenced the lot. There are some Christian speakers/thinkers/writers who I think have touched and do touch a lot of different traditions in the Church. I think the Wesleys, John and Charles, were very influential - both in forming the Methodist Church and in adding to the hymnody of the Church, including us Anglicans. John challenged the Church's idea of Evangelism and Mission and shook up the whole system. CS Lewis' influence lives on in his accessible and thought provoking fiction and non-fiction Christian writing. In the 'Conservative' theological world John Stott has been an longstanding influence, and in the Church world generally various Anglican writers and thinkers have had influence beyond the Church of England - John Henry Newman (though converted to Catholicism), Austin Farrer, Michael Ramsey, William Temple, Richard Hooker, and lots more. Personally I like Adrian Plass too, he makes me laugh.

Something that is impacting upon the whole Church scene in the UK at the moment is Alpha - a course in Christian belief which was put together and is still administered by Holy Trinity Brompton. The use of Alpha Courses is now international and it has diversified with 'Youth Alpha', 'Prison Alpha', 'Catholic Alpha' and more. It's a good course, though I do get wound up a bit by some of the publicity which has a bit of a 'life is great since i invited alpha into my heart' vibe about it.

4. On Lifestyle: How do you spend time with your family? Are there any local attractions that you frequent, and where do you go to get away from it all?

I make sure that I take my day off most weeks. As my daughter is at school it tends to be my gorgeous wife and I with our son going out somewhere for the day on Fridays, we have lots of stuff to see in the area, from Wildlife parks to butterfly farms, to 'soft play areas' - all child centred really. Sometimes we just go into Cambridge and mooch about, coffee shops, wife doing shopping and me ambling around with baby boy etc etc. Every now and then if I can wrangle a Saturday off, or the Children are off school, i'll take my daughter and/or son off for the day, maybe on the train to London - which is an hour away. Sometimes we visit the inlaws who live by the sea about 90 miles away. Basically, if its my day off, I get out of the area!

On a daily basis I do try to be home every evening to do supper and bed with the kids. It's such a great time to be with the family, at the end of the day when there's lots to talk about and for the children lots to process.

5. On Family: I’ll recycle the Sank Question… You know you’ve done your job as a parent when your kids…(fill in the blank)

aren't behind bars

that's too flippant. I guess I would say when your kids live their own lives, know they're loved for who they are, and try to do the right thing. As a Jesus Freak, i would also say that i hope they'll know and love Christ as I do (or better!)

Now, wasn't that fun?
Actually it was much harder than I expected - but thanks Eric for the brain food.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another blog talk - catch up time

I wish I'd done this last week! Short answer to last weeks' blog talkers.
If you had to spend one year living alone in a remote cabin, what would you spend your time doing?

(And let’s assume there is no access to Internet)

I would read, and read and read and read... Read through the whole Bible again, get lots of good novels, some sci-fi, probably a book to teach me music theory (which would mean taking my guitar, I guess) and some music books. I would read some of the Christian classics I've always meant to read but have only dipped into, St Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Cloud of Unknowing, Aquinas, and some more modern theologians, Barth, Rahner, Moltmann, and CS Lewis, Tozer Austin Farrar, All of Miroslav Volf's stuff, etc etc etc.

Reading and playing guitar, that would be a good year (as long as no one was around to hear the guitar playing, it wouldn't be a good year for them)

Probably have to take some music and DVDs too - but I'll stop before my fantasy life takes over.

If it was a year with my family now that would be amazing and fantastic and there would be no end of stuff we would do.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Been thinking about this all day

Before trundling off to bed I thought I would seek wiser and broader opinion than mine!

Following Glen's comment about this blog taking ages to load for a 15 second surf timer (not quite sure how that works, 15 seconds - as I said - is 15 seconds, and even on ASDL I find that blogs are loading as the timer is finished, it makes no difference to the timer itself), and holding up folk who are trying to gain credits to sell their highly valuable scheme for making money (that wasn't meant to sound sarcastic, but I guess it did). This brings me to the question that I want to encourage some response to -

Should blogs be allowed on traffic exchanges?

After all the nature of a blog is to get longer and longer (guilty as charged), though the content is time limited and disappears after a few weeks - a fact not grasped, it seems, in the comment made before about my blog getting longer, that may be the case, but it is all hidden away after about 15 postings or so.

(As an aside, I put my blog into these exchanges as a deliberate antidote to the latest get rich schemes that appear on these exchanges, something that I have been very pleased to be able to offer, but which I am now withdrawing from, due mainly to the fact that I can't be bothered.)

So, for all those I have uncharacteristically tried to wind up with this post let me know. Should a blog be allowed on a traffic exchange, or should, as Glen seems to imply, it be left to the experts?

Blog talkers returns

Been busy for a few weeks, but thought I would take up the mantle again!

This Week's blog talkers discussion starter:

Tell us …

What are your opinions on the subject of giving personal information out in your blog entries? Do you use the real names of the people you blog about? Have you ever had a bad experience with someone getting ‘too much information’? I’d like to know: Do the people that you blog about ever complain that you are blogging about them?

I've tackled this a few times over the past few years blogging - though I'm not sure I've ever talked about it online, I've thought lots about it.

Doing what I do, which involves lots of 'pastoral care' I avoid mentioning situations or names for much of what I do, because most people in this area would probably recognise what or who I am talking about, and because pastoral ministry is so strictly confidential.

As for personal information, most of my details are available publicly because I am a public figure - its the nature of ministry in the C of E! I don't tend to talk about where I am or what I'm doing in too much detail because mostly this blog is about thinking out loud! Also, my wife and family haven't chosen to blog, so I don't tend to go into great detail about them either. When I posted some pictures of the family on the net my wife asked me to take them down again, just because she felt the family was already exposed enough and often feels as though we are 'living in a goldfish bowl', as she says, anyway.

Never had a bad experience with regards to what I've posted, I did once talk about someone on this blog who emailed me to say 'was this me?' but I didn't carry that discussion on further as it didn't seem that it would help to do so. It did help me to let off steam about something that person had done, without naming any names or even going in to too much detail of the situation.

Blogging and stuff

Something written in the comments to my last post by lgglobal (top earner on the trafficpods click exchange) made me think, along with quilly's remark about quality rather than quantity of visitors being important when i reached the 100000 visitor mark.

I signed up to the traffic exchanges I did (list below in the 'milestone post') in order to get some profile, and so that it felt worth writing this blog knowing that some folk would actually read it! Having been at this a while I've considering dropping the exchanges and the need to surf to gain visitors (its amazing how much clicking you can do whilst on the phone!) - I suspect that over the coming weeks I will do so, and allow my built up credits to use up before deleting the accounts. When I started writing this blog someone left the comment 'don't let it take over' - and though I've not become obsessive about it, one can become concerned about how many visits one has each day or week (it works out at about 3500 weekly at the moment). It's been really good to have some very positive feedback from those who've chanced upon this blog through surfing, but maybe its time to let it drop back to the numbers I used to get, after all my hope was that i'd get to the 100000 I've already reached, just because its a nice round number.

Enjoy your surfing folks.

Sense of humour failure

One thing I've noticed about being as busy as I have been lately is that I don't laugh as much as usual! Nor do I seem to make people laugh as much as I normally do. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not the funniest person in the world, but normally my brain seems to see the funny in most things and every now and then, normally without thinking what I am saying, I will say something which can make people laugh about a situation. This has got me into hot water on a number of occasions (good job I have spell check, I can never spell that word) as the not thinking bit tends to bypass the 'this is a stupid moment at which to crack a funny' part of my brain - so perhaps this is a measure of my growth in maturity rather than a reflection on my busy lifestyle.

Nahhhhhh, maturity is overrated.

There are Oases of humour within my life, though, my family are fun to be with, so there's lots of laughter there. I fell in love with my wife because she is so quick and funny, and that's not changed (either the being in love or the wife being quick and funny). I'm amazed how funny my kids can be, not just laughing at the things that kids do or finding out how odd some of the things we adults consider to be appropriate and normal, but how quickly they pick up on words and ideas that are genuinely amusing and know when to drop a certain word into conversation to make us all laugh. Both my daughter, aged five and a half and son aged two have very good senses of humour (or should that be sense of humours???) and like most kids love to play up to get laughs.

I have friends with whom I laugh a lot, and try to get out to the pub at least once a week to share stories and generally have fun. Whilst this does have a certain 'ministerial' aspect (I go in my clerical clothes and often have quite deep conversations with folk who would rarely set foot in a Church) i appreciate the opportunity for friendship and laughter.

So its not that I inhabit a world devoid of good humour, its just that I don't laugh as often as I have done. Maybe as life settles down into new working patterns over the next few months, with changes going on in our ministerial team, I'll get to laugh more again.

Before ending this post, I'll give an example of when engaging brain before opening mouth might have been a good idea.

I was at a meeting of a methodist group where we were being told the story of John Wesley, the great founder of Methodism. In his early life John had a number of interesting experiences as the son of an Anglican Vicar. There was certainly one occasion, maybe two, where the Vicarage where John and his family lived caught fire, with a suspicion of Arson to which I responded 'So he felt his house strangely warmed'.

I suspect you have to be a methodist to understand why this line fell so very flat with the speaker at that point.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Just for a change

A shorter sermon than usual, more of a 'thought for the week' based on the two readings, so I think I will post the lot here, rather than sending it off to NewKidDeepStuff. I have to say that despite the fact I've already preached this, it feels very much like a work in progress, what's posted here is only the bones of what I said this morning, have fun...

Trinity 1 Proper 5 2007
Cosmik, man

I don’t know if you have ever seen the magic roundabout, a rather surreal children’s TV show from the 1970s that was made into a computer generated movie a couple of years back. It was a very strange show, but great fun, and even my children aged 2 and 5 enjoy reading the book about the picnic – which I am happy to go through in detail if anyone would like to later!

The most wonderful part of the magic roundabout was the characters, Ermintrude the cow who loved singing, Dougal the dog with a fondness for sugar lumps, Brian the snail, and Dylan the rabbit. Dylan is my favourite, he is, to say the least ‘laid back’ – a guitar strumming hippie with a fondness for words like ‘wow’ and ‘cosmic’. I have been accused before now of being the Dylan of ministry, and giving an impression of being laid back and generally spaced out – at the time it was meant as something of an insult, but looking back I’m not sure that, if it were true, it would be a bad thing to be the Dylan of ministry! For one thing, the frenetic pace that seems to have been part of our ministerial life here in the team would probably benefit from something of a more laid- back attitude. Though I don’t think that will be happening in the near future. And also I wish sometimes my attitude were a bit more ‘cosmic’.

Because, and this is the reason for the long preamble, today’s readings from Galatians chapter 1 and Luke chapter 7 offer a wider perspective on life, a cosmic perspective if you like, than those of us caught up in our day to day lives are wont to have.

Look at what St Paul writes, in Galatians – by far his most obviously passionate letter, and probably his first – he tells us in verse 15 of chapter 1 that God had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace – he saw the bigger picture. He could see something of God’s plan. How many of us would describe our Christian life as set apart by God? How many of us talk in terms of being chosen by God? Paul is in no doubt that this is the case, and sees himself and his role in relation to Jesus – he has a cosmic perspective. The opening words of today’s passage, starting at verse 11 say
11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
That gift of revelation is still the foundation of our faith. We see Christ through Scripture, through the sharing of bread and wine in our Holy Communion, in our worship and prayer together. The revelation hasn’t changed – for no one can conjur up the life of Christ in oneself, it comes only through the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Paul knew that, he saw his sense of calling in the light of the glorious life of God, promised to all those who believe and who are open to Christ living in them.

For Paul, all the authority he needed came from his own encounter with Jesus Christ, he didn’t need the blessing of the Church, though we see that he sought it later on in his ministry, he didn’t need clever arguments or tricks. Paul was certain of his calling, and his vision was straight from God above. It was this that gave him the confidence to proclaim Christ and to live the Gospel he was called to.

How different would our proclamation be if we were that bold, and had that sense of being called before the world began to God’s service? If we truly had the feeling of our worth and value before God.

In our Gospel reading for today we have another calling to have a cosmic perspective. We have the raising from the dead of the young man in the town of Nain. Like all of the stories know as ‘the miracle stories’ this short passage is here to inspire us and to inform our viewpoint, to give us a new vision and perspective!

Here we see the power of a God whose love is stronger than death. There is nothing that God cannot do, and as Jesus touches the bier and calls the dead boy to rise the young man indeed does rise from death. Not to the immortal resurrection which we will all one day share in, but he is returned to life again on this earth.

Again, this story shows us that God is bigger than our limited imaginations can conceive. We may not be bringing the dead back to life week by week – but we do have new life to live and to proclaim. Again, if the perspective of the Church was informed by an understanding of that compassion and power of God which comes from this story, how much would we be able to achieve? How much more value would we attach to our faith? How much more excitement would we have about this wonderful, amazing, cosmic faith of which we are a part?

I have no doubt it would do us no harm at all to have a somewhat more cosmic view of our faith. To have a sense of our calling coming straight from Christ – not just the calling of our ministers, but of all God’s people. Called to proclaim this God who can change the world, who can even bring the dead back to life, whose love is more than we can ever understand, and whose life is on offer to all.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A milestone

According to my sitemeter sometime today I passed 100,000 hits, hooray! Now this is in no small part due to being part of the free click exchange networks I belong to, including trafficpods, teamhits, boostmystats, bionichits and clickvoyager. I don't get to visit them every day, but they do add to my traffic and I am grateful to all of you who stop around whilst surfing!

Thanks to all of you who actually mean to come here too! You seem to leave most of the comments, and I really appreciate your contributions. Kudos 2 u all...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Just to be clear

I might have given a wrong impression about silence generally in my post on prayer! When i said i loathe silence, I was really talking about imposed silence from those who tell us that its the only way to pray. Silence is a good thing, and (I repeat) the older I get the more I appreciate it!

So thanks to those who have commented on my prayer posting, short and sweet from all blog spots, a very thoughtful response from sushil, encouragement from reformed cynic Tom, and wisdom (as always) from Quilly. I should also say thanks to those of you who have commented recently who I've not responded to, often its because I can't think of anything to say that I don't seem to respond, but I appreciate the responses and it does make me think! I don't always come out of the other end of the comments book with the same perspective I went in with! So thank you Dr John, Sank, Andrew, Nick, The Old Fart and others who I will now feel bad for missing.

I think its worth saying that although busy, I'm not the frenetic type. Apart from the fact that my body morphology (not sure quite what that means, but i read it in a newspaper) is the slow and steady type, my personality is relatively laid back. I agree with sushil that constant stimulation and busy-ness dehumanises, but I am not sure that this is a contemporary phenomenon, but more of a part of the human condition. As a person and as a priest I take time to be with God, to be with others and to be with myself, much as the third one can feel like boring company sometimes! I believe it is important to create space in our lives, but I don't think that this space needs to be quiet all of the time, and often my prayer life contains activity as well as stillness. Distraction is more of an issue for me, as i drift off, and singing as I pray, or playing my guitar to aid meditation and worship is one way in which i can keep my heart and mind set on God, enjoying the feeling of music and sound as part of my expression of prayer. Admittedly I don't think many would share in the idea that this is greatly inspirational if they heard me play and/or sing, but it works for me.

I love the quote which Tom gave 'even the desire to pray is a gift from God'. For me, the stillness and silence I need from time to time is a gift too, but then so is the noise and the activity. God is good, God lets me, no wants me, to be myself, and when I am truly myself I will be on the way to becoming Christ-like. But that's probably a subject for another post.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I did some thinking

A rare event these days, I've been so busy I've not really had time to go into depth about much - but this Sunday i had a longer talk to prepare on the book of Ruth, under the title 'Ruth and Redemption' so here it is, or at least here is the introduction and the rest can be read here

Ruth and Redemption
Context - starting with Ruth Chapter 1

You would think that with the theme of ‘kinsman redeemer’ that runs through the book of Ruth that there would be a fair amount on Redemption there, wouldn’t you? Well, there is, I guess, but it’s not terribly explicit in the text! Paul kindly sent me some notes on this thoughts for this evening’s talk and I have to say that i couldn’t really wrap my brain around them terribly easy. Apparently there are two words for ‘redemption’ that occur 23 times between them through the book of Ruth, but I couldn’t find most of them! I did find some wonderful websites of Jewish sermons – or ‘Midrash’ – that talk about this wonderful book of scripture, but I did struggle with putting things together for this evening. Though that’s probably as much a mark of how busy things are at the moment apart from anything else.

What I hope you have figured out, if you were at the last Team Evening Worship, is that there is a huge amount to think about in the book of Ruth. Coming as it does in the time between the judges and the kings of Israel it is, it seems, an historical book – this may seem like an obvious thing to say, but if we look closely at some parts of the Hebrew Scriptures some things which seem historical may well be allegorical, the book of Jonah, for instance, and of Job. These books may be seen as parables rather than being necessarily historical – though scholars differ about that. [more]

People come in all shapes and sizes - so do prayers!

With my 'lads group' last night, though only two turned up (!) we talked, or rather I talked and they got easily distracted, which is OK because I get easily distracted so it was fun too! Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the subject was prayer, and as I was preparing the evening and digging out some of my old notes (some of them up to 25 years old EEEK!) on prayer I realised how much my feeling about prayer has changed.

I was brought up in a tradition which said that praying in Church was good, praying in homegroups was good, but the impression given was that the best kind of prayer was alone either morning or evening as part of a 'quiet time'. Now I can see that a daily discipline of prayer is important, and I love to pray - but quiet times just aren't me. I don't do quiet very well. I like to read, I like to spend time just sitting and thinking, but an extended period of what feels like 'forced' silence just fills me with horror, and boredom, usually. When my bishop announced that we were going on a silent retreat before our ordination to the priesthood, my heart sank. I bought a bottle of whisky to take with me (it was a four day retreat), took lots of spare batteries for my walkman, and prepared to wander off to the shops a lot in the hope of conversations whilst buying lots of packets of gum. As it was, the talks given by the retreat leader were fantastic, as was the shared worship, but the rest of the time - especially meals - was pretty grim. A friend of mine who was also on retreat and who likes that quiet kind of thing, was gracious enough to take time out of his solitude and taught me to roll cigarettes! It's since then I've been a regular smoker. That's how much I loathe silence.

I guess it is because I am from a very big family, numerically big that is, not all of us are wobbly and wide like me. I very rarely had silence, and still get my energy from groups of people rather than solitude. When I work, or write, when I was doing my exam preparation at University, when I prepare sermons, I always have music, or the TV or the radio on as it helps me to concentrate.

Oops, distracted again, the plan was not to tell my life story. It's all relevant though.

As I prepared the talk on prayer, i reflected again how much i dislike the idea of silent prayer being the 'best' kind of prayer. Obviously as I've got older i value silence more, i can sit for long periods of time with no distractions, and things such as the three hour meditation for Good Friday are Oases of calm in a very busy life. But that's not my preference. One of the great liberations for me in my prayer life was when my Spiritual Director said to me 'pray your way - if you like noise, put on music, or shout your prayers, or sing them, or play your guitar, whatever.' This idea of praying in a way that matches our personality means that prayer, though it often requires discipline and focus, isn't a chore or a burden. It's true that praying can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be miserable because you feel miserable. Sometimes, often even, it will be challenging, as opening up to God serves to challenge us, praying for a broken world breaks us and acknowledging our own sinfulness pains us but we don't need to make prayer a painful thing to do.

One interesting book I have on this subject is called Pray Your Way and looks at how different personality types respond to different types of praying. Good book.

Anyway, all of this came about as I thought that now I love to pray, and i don't feel guilty when I don't pray, I feel as though I've missed out on something wonderful and good to do. And I don't get hung up about where and when and how I pray, I just pray. God wants to listen, and to speak to me, I want to listen and to speak to God, and just as I don't plan my relationship with my wife and kids, but we share things, we work things out together, we grow and love, so my prayer life should be.

So I wrote out some notes for the lads last night, I'll post them on the deep stuff blog here.

Time to go, i need to get some sorting out done in my life, or rather in my study. What a mess.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bringing it all together

Last week saw one of the most profound evenings of our course for training worship leaders. It was very enjoyable being able to listen to the speaker, rather than being one of the leaders, as we had a guest from the Diocese who came to talk about 'remembering'. Whilst much of it was focussed around how we structure services of remembrance - for important events, for Remembrance Sunday (the UK version of 'memorial day'), for those who have died etc etc there was a lot of deep thought went on about what it means to 'remember'.

I was struck again by how important 'remembering' is to us as human beings. As we re-member we integrate our history, both our personal history and our identity, and the 'big picture' - national identity and faith history into what it means to be ourselves. Remembering well is about bringing together all the disparate parts of our lives and making something whole.

So in our gathering week by week at Church we are re-membering the story of salvation, owning it, making it ours, telling our own story and inviting others to share in that story of what God has done. We bring it all together under God. In many ways that's what our faith is all about, about bringing wholeness, about integration and integrity, about not allowing any part of life to be beyond the touch of God in Christ.

Every time we share bread and wine we 'do this in remembrance of Christ' - we bring together the dis-membered body of Christ and proclaim the unity which faith should bring, until that day when we share the feast in Christ's kingdom.

And alongside this there are things to remember no more - to leave behind. The book of Isaiah shares the words of God 'remember not the former things of old, I am doing a new thing'. There are things which break us, hurts which damage us, fears which constrain us which need to be healed and 'got rid of'. God can do new things, move us on towards that healing and wholeness which is our goal. May we remember these things no more.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Trinity Sunday Sermon

This Sunday's sermon

It's the Sunday no one wants to preach, lots of theology! So here's how I get around it... to a certain degree.

How does the Trinity help?

Today is Trinity Sunday, so I am going to talk about the Trinity. But I am not going to try to explain the nature and meaning of ‘God in Trinity’. I am not going to tell you that God is like a Shamrock with three leaves, or explain one of the Church’s profoundest teachings using the image of a Triple Decker chocolate bar or of toothpaste with three stripes in - all of these things do not do justice to the depth and wealth of theological thought around what exactly it means to describe God as ‘The Holy Trinity’

Neither, you will be pleased to know, am I going to try and explain any of this theological discussion around themes such as ‘what is the trinity’ or ‘how do the persons of the trinity exist together’ nor will not be exploring the words ‘consubstantial’ and ‘co-eternal’.

The reason I won’t be looking at the doctrine of the Trinity is because, if we’re honest most of us, myself included, would say that the idea of the Trinity is somewhat confusing, that phrases describing God as ‘three in one and one in three’ leave us feeling a bit bemused. Many of us get by without ever really considering what it might mean to describe God as ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, or ‘Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer’ as some prefer to say. The doctrine of the ‘Trinity’ is not first and foremost in our minds when we turn up at Church to worship God, a God who we strive hard to understand even at the simplest level. [more]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Could blog all day

After lots of posts over the past couple of years asking again and again 'why do i do this?' and grappling with whether its an ego thing, or a publicity thing, or something altogether unhelpful I have, over the course of a busy few weeks, come to the conclusion that i blog for two reasons. Firstly I blog because i like to write, and with all that is going on in my life at the moment I don't have time to put together long treatise or anything of any length at all. I would love to write a book, and ideas are just stacking up for a book about faith, and about - as Dr John very generously said in a posting a few days ago - taking an old, old faith and making it new and fresh. Not that I think I have much to do with that, i believe that Christian Faith is as new and vibrant and exciting and transformational as it has ever been. I just like talking about it, and writing about it (obviously).

The second reason I blog is to think out loud. It may not seem terribly ordered to you, gentle reader, but this is often my way of putting things into context, of gaining some perspective, and of getting 'out there' lots of the stuff that bounces around my brain. Its noticable (to me) that alongside a general lull in blogging I've not added anything to my 'deep stuff' blog either (normally a sort of 'back page' to this blog, thanks to some help from the guys at Standing Under the Sky). That's where my sermons and longer talks go, and that's dropped way down the priority ladder over these busy - often rewarding, usually challenging, always tiring - weeks.

I could, indeed, blog all day, i have lots of thoughts cooking in my brain even as i write, but I am going to leave them to stew for a bit longer, maybe some more later today. Thanks to all of you who continue to check back, to those of you who leave comments, and to my mother and father for.... ahh, that's enough for now.