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  • A Sower Went Out to Sow...

    Getting going now on our four week parable series called 'Harvest Tales' and busy re-writing the parable of the sower to give a clearer sense of time scale to a 21st century audience.  It's a good story (in the orignal, not my retelling!) of 'people like us' here in Dibley, and maybe the church in general, who find ourselves powerless in a land we once thought was ours.  Having no building, and no real prospect of one, we are forced to 'sow' in any bit of land we can find - even if a path runs through it, brickbats or rocks protrude through the soil and the weeds from next door threaten to choke whatever we plant.

    It is a story of commitment - it takes several months from sowing to harvest

    It is a story of risk taking - how much, if any, of the seed will actually grow?  Will there be a harvest?

    It is a story of hope and a future - despite all the uncertainty and mishaps along the way there is a superb harvest.  Enough that the sower can make the required offering to God, feed the family, maybe sell some and leave some for the gleaners and after all this has been done, still have the seed to plant for next year.

    The familiar gospel interpretation of the parable used in Sunday School is not without its mysteries - the private sharing with the 12 and the sudden change of metaphor part way through - trying to read/hear the story from the viewpoint of the first century peasant audience has allowed me to see more readily how it speaks to our situation.  As the old song says, 'the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from God's word'

  • The End of an Era (Updated)

    There is a stereotype of the vicar who pootles about the country lanes in a clapped out Morris Minor.  I have for the last 21 years had my own stereotype driving around 250,000 miles in one or other of my two blue Metros.  Today that era ends as my current Metro failed its MOT spectacularly (the first one it has failed in the ten years of its 'life') and now must face the inevitable last journey...  Yes, I'm a sad individual who first names and then gets attached to lumps of metal with four wheels attached, but my little Metros have served me well and I will miss the teasing about driving them!

    So, a new era begins, and with the demise of Rover, I must begin to learn about a new make of car.  Any suggestions for dark blue, five door hatchbacks..?!

    PS (added 10/9/06) can anyone explain why the indicator bulbs were fine two months ago when it was serviced and at the MOT suddenly became 'the wrong colour'? 

    Updated 11/9/2006: Today I became the owner of three-year-old, dark blue, five door Saxo... plus ca change, plus le meme chose!

  • Now Here's a Useful Website!

    Today my One World Week pack arrived complete with service outline (we are hosting the Churches Together service this year) and its usual blend of familiar and less well known hymns.  Trying to track down the one I do not have, and would like to use, on the web I came across this 'really useful,' as Thomas the tank engine would say, website: hymns.uk.com (also here).  It provides words, and sometimes music, for hymns relating to seasonal and special services, often reflecting the distinctive Stainer and Bell style, with a lot of Fred Pratt Green and Brian Wren lyrics.  Not all to my taste and some with a bit of a poet laureate mass produced feel (sorry writers, I don't envy your task) but none the less a useful site to find hymns that can be sung to familiar tunes and may not be in regularly used hymnals or song books.


  • Refreshingly Different

    Autumn in Dibley, and I am planning a short series of sermons using some of the agrarian parables of Jesus.  We will be revisiting the perenially popular 'Sower', the enigmatic 'Fig Tree' (story not enacted version!) and the scary 'Wheat and Tares.'  In between we have to fit in our harvest festival using BMS material.

    I have being buying and reading books on the parables, and among them found one which was refeshingly different, cutting through the Sunday School interpretations that I am so familiar with and giving me a new way of seeing/hearing the stories.

    'Tales Jesus Told: An Introduction to the Narrative Parables of Jesus' by Stephen Wright, Paternoster, 2002, is very accessible and draws on a reconstruction of life in first century Palestine to explore how the 'crowds' might have heard and understood the stories.  Expect to be surprised by what may seem a very different take on the parables - and then to enjoy them afresh in the light of what you discover.

    Oh, and if you can suggest anything else that has surprised/delighted you, let me know!

  • Can two walk together?

    This phrase from Amos was the chosen text of the preacher last night at our most recent 'courtship service' with D+1 and for the first time saw us hearing a sermon that spoke directly into the issue of potential merger.  It was gently done, there was no mention of either of our churches at all, and an awful lot of anecdotes and wider references to ecumencial and interfaith relationships along the way.

    I think, though, that the timing was absolutely right - the next few months are critical in this process as we either make the decision to walk together into a future that may outlast us, or agree to go our separate ways - with, I fear, inevitable consequences.

    Over the next couple of weeks, each congregation is tasked with identifying the topics we wish to raise at the joint members' meeting at the end of the month.  I fear that this will centre on hymnals, buildings and service times and miss the real issues of 'why do we exist?' and 'what shape might our future mission take?'  I'd love to be proved wrong, but I do not intend to hold my breath!  Maybe it was the choice of hymns last night that I found so demoralising, or the lady from D+1 who spoke of how her daughter who moved away over 40 years ago is still a member there, or even the person from Dibley who said 'I suppose I really should do x that I have committed to but I don't feel like it.'  Whatever it was, despite a well attended service and a timely message, I was left a bit uncertain of the future here.

    Many children's hymns and songs use a journey metpahor and have the honesty to admit to struggles and uncertainty whilst keeping faith in a certain God.  This is not unlike the message we saw in the psalms over the last few weeks.  Can two walk together?  Right now I don't know, but at least wherever the journey ends up, God walks with us.  I don't think that this is denial, wishful thinking or shallow optimism, rather it is the rugged determined faith of the psalmist or of Isaiah speaking of God's servant who 'will not be discouraged' - something I read as a decision not to let the so-and-sos get you down, not an unruffled rising above it all.