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  • On Not Choosing...

    ... or choosing differently!

    The new Commonwealth Games mega store (read, huge tent-like thingy) is now open in central Glasgow.  I popped in for a browse and emerged over a hundred pounds lighter!  Unlike Manchester, where you could buy kit for all four home nations, for some reason this time it's only Scotland and England - that disappoints me, but that's for another day.

    Instinctively I wanted a 'team England' key-ring but I also felt bad because my home is in Scotland and I wanted a 'team Scotland' one too.  Both? Neither?

    I settled on both.  I will gladly cheer on both these teams (and always would have, as it happens)... and I will also cheer on the underdogs, the back marker in the marathon, the cyclist who struggles along, the athlete in borrowed or outdated kit whose personal best would barely make club class here.

    The Commonwealth Games Federation asserts that this is not a competition between nations but between athelets... which maybe means I'm actually closer to the intent in refusing to choose just one nation to support.

    Anyhow, if you happen to spot someone with 'We are England' (stupid phrase, imo) and 'Team Scotland' keyrings on her bag, it's probably me!!  Maybe what I actually need is a keyring for Team Fence-dwellers!!


  • Extempore Preaching

    ... a bit more than 'just' preaching without notes

    This week I ended up with two 'sermonettes' each lasting around ten minutes which emerged from the same passages and which were alternatives for the service.  One began by exploring the idea that God gives people athletic and other not obviously 'useful' gifts and how that might work out,;the other used the 'forming, storming, norming, performing' model for team 'evolution'.  I'm sure either would have been fine, and I knew which one I favoured using, then this morning I woke up feeling that neither really did what I felt I wanted/needed/was led/any-or-all-of-the-above to do.  So, on my walk to church (roughly a mile and a quarter) I played around with a few ideas and then decided to take a punt and speak/preach extempore.

    This was no small undertaking - nearly four years since I started chemo, I still have moments when my mind becomes a void, the ideas fall out and I can't find them no matter how hard I try.  Also, we I have heard many dire extempore preaches - I know how easy it is to degenerate into waffle, or a rant, or really just pious platitudes that end up with an altar call and/or a banal reminder that Jesus loves you.  And it's risky because I didn't quite know how it would end.

    So I went for it.

    I placed a chair in the middle of the open space, explained that first century rabbis preached sitting down, that Jesus was a rabbi so he probably preached sitting down, so I would too.  I played around with wondering what actually lay behind the minimalist accounts of the calls of some of the disicples and the naming of the twelve.  Then I speculated what the first meeting of the twelve might have been like - testoterone driven with posturing and preening, with squabbles and disagreements - and Jesus reminding them to become like children.  The core team - the twelve drawn from dozens, the mis-matshed, frail and failing blokes, hand-picked by Jesus... each one had something to contribute.  Then I stood up, asked what might happen if Jesus came into our church today, walked round and more or less at random named a few people 'I want you to be in my team [name] because...' of your gifts, your life experience, your youth, your potential...

    It was about ten minutes, a short sermon, but long enough to do extempore.  I hope it worked.

  • Slam Dunk! Great Poems and a Worthy Winner

    This afternoon was a first for me - an 'open mike' (no mike but you get the idea) poetry slam... a gathering of people who write and share their poetry from novices to established and published via competent and professionally trained plus a lot more besides.  Alliteration, adjectives, free form, sonnet, rhyming and rhythm... you name it, they shared it.

    So being asked to occupy the seat of 'Judge 3' was pretty scary - what do I know about poetry, how to judge it technically or performancely (my invented word of the day) or anything else.  Thank goodness for Judges 1 and 2 who at least have a background in English beyond 'O' level (even if Mrs B did teach us to 'A' level standard at the time).

    It was a wonderful afternoon, and a very worthy winner, someone fairly new to writing poetry who was genuinely gob-smacked when his name was called.  Two wonderful poems, one skillfully interwining the singing - yes singing - lines from 'Hail Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea' with deeply moving reflections of standing in a (fisherman's?) chapel;the second a short, vulnerable, beautiful reflection on a child born by caesarean section.  Wonderful!

    The diversity and quality of the poetry was outstanding, the vulnerbality of most readers touching and palpable, the subjects intriguing (though one or two I didn't 'get').  I love listening to poetry, and enjoy the odd dabble in writing freefrom stuff or bits of humorous doggerel, but this was way out of my league!

    Great fun.

  • If necessary use words...

    According to tradition this was what St Francis said about preaching the gospe: use words only if there is no alternativel.  Easier said than done, I suspect.  For all that, I couldn't help feeling it happened last Sunday morning as we listened to a paraphrase of part of Mark's gospel and a small child, overseen by her mother spontaneously began to play quietly with some upturned paper cups on a low table that had been used for an activity taking place a few minutes eaelier.

    Here's the paraphrase of Mark 9: 33-37 (wot I wrote, someone else read it)

    Jesus and his friends had been walking to a place called Capernaum.  On the way the friends had been squabbling, so when they got inside the house where they were staying, Jesus asked them “what were you squabbling about?”

    They all looked at each other and felt very silly, because they’d been squabbling about which one of them was the best and most important – who was ‘first’, top of the list of good disciples.  So they didn’t say anything.

    Jesus sat down – I wonder if he was feeling a bit cross or a bit sad about how they were behaving? 

    In the house was a little child, so Jesus called her over and sat her on his knee; then he called his friends over.  ‘Look,’ he said, ‘you are all squabbling about who is the best disciple and none of you is!  See this little child, who knows they aren’t big or important?  Who knows there is lots to learn and an exciting world to explore?  That’s what you should be like!  If you want to be first then you have to put yourself last and help other people.  If you welcome little children and unimportant people, then you are also welcoming me and, even welcoming God.’ 

    The disciples were ashamed and tried to change the subject...


    For me, and maybe only for me, it was a very beautiful moment, a visual sermon that could never have been prepared, a work of the Spirit perhaps.  A little girl in the middle of the grown-up disicples being a little girl, exploring, having fun, learning, being...

    Preach the gospel - if necessary use words... but we like words, we like to listen to someone else's thoughts and weigh them up, so, on the whole that's what we do.

    Jesus said 'unless you become like little chidlren you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" - these words are scary not comforting, at least for those of us who, like me, so easily lose contact with our inner children.


  • Churches and Bike Races...

    The Tour de France is in Yorkshire this Sunday and many churches are doing just what we have planned for the Commonwelth Games - great minds 'n' all that.