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  • Mission and Mark

    Our current sermon series is based, loosely, on the current Lectionary readings and has a mission theme, based (again loosely) on the Iona hymn 'Will You Come and Follow Me.'  Yesterday was 'will you kiss the leper clean?' using Mark 1: 40-45.

    It's a reading so familiar that I wondered how we would find new depths in it.  I guessed that most people would have heard countless sermons on it (they are all older than me!) so what could I add?

    In the end I found myself drawn to an almost old fashioned expository approach, working sentence by sentence (and sometimes word by word) through the story and reflecting on each.  We reminded ourselves briefly of the Law on diagnosis and 'treatment' for dreaded skin diseases, we noted that the man was begging on his knees, we reviewed the original meaning of com-passion and sym-pathy, we noted that Jesus chose to get involved, the consequences for him of touching the untouchable and so on - all pretty standard stuff.  Lastly we noted the final sentence - and given Mark's economy of words it must be relevant.  The consequence for Jesus was that he was now forced to live in the lonely places, away from the community, not because he was 'unclean' but because the impact of his mission was so contagious.  I guess we all like mission to be something we can do without too much disruption, something we fit in before going home to the comfort of family and friends - for Jesus it cost even the potential for a quiet night in...

    Next week we look at the old favourite of the 'four friends' whose petty vandalism brought their friend to Jesus' feet under the heading 'will you risk the hostile stare' before a slight diversion to look at Syro-Phoenician women and deaf-mutes as we reflect a little on crossing cultural boundaries.

  • DTI Energy Review - Have Your Say

    Some of my loyal readers have accused me of ranting about a certain type of electricity generation of which I suspect they disapprove.  Well, we are all entitled to our opinions and I respect yours.

    More importantly there is an opportunity for anyone and everyone to have their say by completing an online questionnaire at the DTI website by clicking here: - http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review/ and then using the button to choose the questionnaire.  Whatever your opinions, if the future of electricity provision in the UK or the health of the planet are really important to you, then take a few minutes to have your say. 

    See, I can be reasonable sometimes ;-)

  • Alternative Worship Songs (for fun, not for fundies)

    It seems this is the season for alternative worship songs to be blogged and for Biblical studies tutors to reveal their true colours (and the lack of hard work certain Baptist colleges south of, well Manchester really, clearly impose upon their students ;o)) with some entertaining and thought provoking stuff - lots of 'lol' as my texting officiandos would say; me, I just had a good giggle!  Should you wish to find them, try looking at http://www.christilling.de/blog/2006/02/winds-of-worship-4.html (also items 1, 2, 3) of basically the same format. 

    For a slightly more serious look at exactly this stuff - though still with lots of laughs and some Sean-like 'scripture in song' try the little paperback 'And Now Let's Move into a Time of Nonsense: Why Worship Songs are Failing the Church' by Nick Page, published by Authentic Media in 2004 and available from Amazon secondhand for as little as £3.40 + p&p.

    My own modest contribution is a version of 'Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty' altered to remove all vestiges of power langauge and gender specificity, making it suitable for worship in a certain context in a certain (now hopefully past!) era.

    Our God is so [ ] so [ ] and so [ ] there's nothing that [ ] cannot do

    The mountains are [ ] the rivers are [ ]  the stars are [ ] handiwork too

    Our God is so [ ] so [ ] and so [ ] ther'es nothing that [ ] cannot do


    Our God is so-so and so there's nothing - that cannot do!

    The moutains are, the rivers are, the stars are handy works too but

    Our God is so-so and so there's nothing - that really won't do! 

  • New Perspectives

    Since Sunday I have gained a lot of new perspectives - some more useful than others no doubt.

    On Sunday we had our first official "date" with "Dibley + 1 mile" Baptist Church, joining their 6 p.m. service.  It made for an odd kind of a day - as I was 'working' but not taking an active role in service leading, it was remarkably relaxing!  After >30 years of regular church attendance always once, often twice, sometimes thrice, it was odd to experience a Sunday that would be 'normal' for >90% Brits in 2006.  It was very pleasant to get up late, spend the morning reading a novel and taking a stroll in the afternoon.  I began to see why people would need some convincing to give this up in favour of sitting in a draughty building for an hour or two listening to me waffle on about things like mission or God.  Alas several years of fitting meals around church service times meant I didn't ever quite know when to eat - the inverse problem it seems of some of my church folk who think service times should fit around their 12:30 roast and 5:00 high tea!

    The service itself was interesting - not least as I had preached there one week ago.  The order I had chosen to ignore was back in place (so the reading was at least two hymns before the sermon and the intercessions somewhere in  between!).  A couple of my folk tentatively suggested to me that 'it was like going back two years'  and a way of seeing 'how far we've actually come'- I think that was a compliment!  The place was freezing but the welcome was warm and three of my people got 'mixing points' for deliberately sitting with people from the other congregation.  The after service cup of tea - something new for both congregations (revolutions in Dibley!) - saw a good level of mixing by folk from both congregations and the atmospehere was encouraging.

    Within a couple of hours of getting home I fell victim to the latest Leicestershire lurgy and undoubtedly raised the revenue of Bowater-Scott whilst discovering a viable alternative to Atkins or the Tesco diets!  Having to leave a funeral (which thankfully I was not leading) to avoid keeling over was embarrassing - but better than the alternative!  However, I gained new insights into why ministers are never ill and why it has, in the past, been the right decision to preach dosed to the eyeballs with Beechams etc.!  My people very thoughtfully kept ringing to see if I was OK and offering pots of soup!  Aaaaaargh!  Good job I have learned to do 'gracious minister' responses.  When I had a "real job", being ill was a nice, private affair, meetings could go ahead without me, even if I was due to chair them.  Now I was expected to decide (from my sickbed!) whether a meeting I attend as a co-opted adviser should go ahead without me.  Hmm.  Minister as indispensible?  I hope not.  Now I am back at work I have a stream of emails and answerphone messages to attend to (more soup offers!) and wonder why I took the time off!

    The time off, however, gave me a glimspe of day time TV (what else is there to do when you feel rough and reading a novel is too much like hard work?).  I now know that the three pyramids at Giza are aligned like the stars in Orion's belt, that the Spanish Inquisition lasted about 600 years and that the most popular word associated with pizza is 'mozarella.'  Apparently people north of the Trent in South Derbyshire are more friendly than those south of it in North Leicestershire (matter of opinion!) and a 1960's boat shaped bar thing fetched more at aution than a Troika vase.  Many of these programmes were repeats and some as much as 10 years old, so if you've been ill in the last decade you may have seen them too.  Is this really where life is at for those who don't work?  Is this the diet our senior citizens and those unable to find employment are fed?  Wow!  It certainly is a wakeup call for the churches to open our tired edifices, spruce them up and offer something better.  Maybe we could do cookery classes/demonstrations, host antique fairs or history talks?!  Perhaps people might even fancy a church service rather than the worn out cliches and puns of 'Bargain Hunt,' 'Car Booty' or 'To Buy or Not to Buy?'. 

    I don't think I'll do 'ill' again  for a while - the catching up outweighs the benefits of recovery time - but it has certainly been an interesting experience with some new perspectives on life!