By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

- Page 4

  • The Patron Saint of Decrepit Buildings

    You will probably only understand this if you have read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy stories but I am beginning to wonder if I am the incarnate patron saint of decrepit buildings...  (I could not be their goddess as that would be an even bigger theological hurdle!).

    When I lived in Manchester the roof collapsed in part, and my neighbours and I were plagued with mice, mildew and many other pestilences.

    When I moved to Dibley the church building failed its gas, electrical and just about everything else inspections - wet rot, dry rot, rising damp, penetrating damp you name it, it had it

    Today the people came to treat the woodworm in the manse roof - and the ceiling fell in...

    I rest my case, St Catherine de Crepit (aka Catriona of Dibley) must be patron saint of, well, kn*ered buildings!!

  • Beauty and Brokenness

    I am just home from the EMB ministers' conference tired but content, refreshed, enthused, humbled, inspired - it has been a good event, worth the work of printing name badges, handling questions, chasing extra towels for moaning ministers and being left to clear and lock up when everyone else had gone.

    When I began to work on the closing worship about a month ago, the theme 'beauty and brokenness' came to me along with some ideas about using pots to reflect the preacher's key texts from 2 Corinthians 4:7 - treasure in clay pots.

    As the various sessions passed, with input from Juliet Kilpin (Urban Expression) Peter Hobson (St Philip's centre for interfaith studies, Leicester) and Richard Kidd (Northern Baptist College), some of the themes that seemed to emerge over and over again were about vulnerability, risk-taking, honesty, our own frailty, sinfulness and struggle, our own brokenness - and the God who through all this muddle makes beauty.  Wow!

    I enjoyed leading the closing worship, enjoyed arranging the chapel to try to help others engage in something that embodied and incarnated some of what we'd shared as we returned our focus to God, and sought sustenance for our own days ahead.

    Not everyone will have enjoyed or appreciated what was offered, some were probably troubled by my clay pots, my friend's dramatisation of Jeremiah at the potter's house, the interactive intercessions with pieces of broken pottery built into a mosaic cross, coming forward for communion or the odd word change to the hymns to make them more inclusive.  But then worship isn't about pleasing people, but about encountering God whose beauty is revealed in the clumsy and hesitant offerings of God's people.

    I can't 'do art' as Richard does, but I can delight in his delight; I would not be able to minister as Juliet does, but I am humbled by her humility and tentative theology; I may never pray with people of other faiths as Peter does, but I am embraced by his inclusivity.  I am but one clay pot, chipped, cracked and often broken - but, and here is the real mystery, every now and then the beauty of God can be glimpsed in my relationships, my ministry, my life!

    medium_beauty_brokennness_2.jpgI found this picture on a Google Images search with the phrase 'beauty in brokeness.'  It is stolen from another blogger who in turn pinched it from an African blog.

    A simple clay pot is decorated with a mosaic of broken pottery, different sizes, shapes and colours.  The end reuslt is something simply beautiful - and beautiful in its simplicity.

    It is for me a powerful symbol of God's Kingdom where all our fractured, distorted, muddled lives are transformed as together they make a thing of beauty.  The Johannine feeding of the five thousand with its note that the fractured pieces were collected up 'that nothing be wasted' find new meaning as the broken bits of pot are gathered into an expression of the fragile, indestrcutible, gentle, powerful, comforting, dangerous beauty of God.

    Good conference?  Daft question!

  • Chronos, Kairos and Agrarian Parables

    That's a nice theologically erudite sounding title for some waffle on my recent sermon series!

    In a few lines of text, the gospel writers give us a story that represents several months or years in the lives of the (fictitious) characters and told by Jesus to crowds whose response is unknown.  As I have worked with these stories, read what the clever Biblical scholars have said and hopefully allowed God a look in too, the 'time' factor in all of them has really struck me. 

    In each story there is a chronos element - usually a long one - between planting and harvest (or lack thereof).  This seems to speak to me, and to us, about the fact that there are no quick answers, that everything does take time (perhaps even has a natural lifespan?).  To churches who look for 'results' from their programmes and/or ministers is a reminder that it won't be instant - indeed the fig tree suggests that we could expect three years of nothing before any fruit is borne (discuss!).  In 2006 when instant everything is allegedly the norm, it is good to be reminded of the need for long slogs, not recorded in dispatches with no outward "results" before we reach a harvest.

    In each story there is a kairos element - a seasonal aspect when 'this is the moment' that the outcome happens.  Harvest or bonfire - it seems to recur through several of the stories but with the wheat and weeds is also the mystery of unknowingness.  Only at the kairos can we be sure what the 'harvest' will be.  Too much energy devoted to weeding out what we perceive as bad and we grub up the good too.  How much time and effort do we put into doctrinal purity and the 'right living' of others when God actually says 'leave it with me'?

    I have enjoyed - is that the right word?  - revisiting these parables and have been both challenged and encouraged by them.  The creative tension (apologies to my URC minister-in-training sister who hates that phrase with a vengeance) between the chronos and kairos aspects intrigues me and also grounds my thoughts back into the reality of Dibley.

    In our discussions with D+1, I find myself slipping into a judging mentality about what is essential and what is "froth" in an almost 'wheat/weeds' distinction.  Perhaps I/we need to allow the 'weeds' to stay in the garden while we tend the 'wheat'?  Perhaps while there is a distinction to be drawn between important/unimportant I/we need to beware value judgements on other grounds? 

    There seems to be an interesting tension between the sower parable, where the weeds choked the plants, and the wheat and weeds, where they were allowed to remain: are there maybe different types of weeds to consider, or am I stretching the analogies too far?  Answers on a post card to the usual address.

    After a free Sunday (hurrah!) and One World Week united service, we will move to a series looking at the four women in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus.  What do you know about Tamar, Rahab, Ruth or Mary? I am looking forward to a very different pre-Advent focus as we discover some of the skeletons in Jesus' family tree!  But maybe it's 'time' for a change?!

  • Unexpected Acts of Generosity

    In this cynical old world of ours there are, it seems, still people who can stun us with their generosity.

    With the demise of my old Rover 100 (Metro by any other name) I advertised her (it to the cynics) on Ebay and was amazed by the price she fetched.  Today the buyer sent me an email returning her to me with a request that I sell her for charity.  Having checked out that the buyer's account had not been hacked into, I have accepted my little car backand will be advertising her again in a day or two.

    I doubt the buyer will read this unless he/she happens to spend time trawling around miscellaneous blogs.

    Out of my selling price I had alreay decided to give a proprotion to charity and sent a day's tractor hire overseas via World Vision.  Alex, when your name comes up in the great hereafter I feel sure your Ebay generosity will be recalled (Matt 25) and as for me, well you've brightened my day and offered hope to people neither of us will ever know.  Thank you

  • The Spice of Life

    Well, for those faithful readers who read last week's stuff, you were right, I escaped unlinched after today's service.  One person thought it was a good service - and had found the agricultural stuff interesting!!!  Someone else decided to announce he had loads of cooking apples free to good home.... ah me.

    It has been a varied weekend.

    Yesterday I was in Nuneaton at an induction service with a very lively and enthusiastic sermon based on Matthew's version of the beattitudes.  It was good stuff, and whilst I'm not sure I can recall all four "legs" of the sermon, it seemed a very encouraging message for minister and church.  Although I missed some of the more usual aspects of such services (where were greetings and endless folk to shake hands with the new minister?) it was a good experinece and I was glad to be part of this celebration of a new beginning.

    After dropping off my passenger in Anthracite-juxta-Dibley (or Charcoal-cum-Dibley, or any other weird and wonderful code name for the adjacent town) I headed to Loughborough where I was stewarding for the Riding Lights production of 'Pipe Dreams.'  With their usual aplomb, the cast of four young actors held the audience's attention for a two hour show (with a short interval) which took us backward and forward in time and around the globe in support of the charity Water Aid.  For those who think Christian drama must be explicitly Biblical, polite and twee, well perhaps it was a bit of a surprise; certainly one of my fellow stewards bemoaned the move away from "the text," perhaps missing the faith-in-action message.  If it's in your area, it's worth a look and at £9/head not too dear.

    This week I am due to be interviewed over the phone for the BUGB prayer guide 2007 and then am off to Swanwick with another fifty or so Baptist ministers for our annual conference at which I am involved in leading the closing worship.  I think I am sort of looking forward to both of these: the first is quite encouraging and the second feels like a privilege; both are a little scary.

    In between times there's a sermon on "wheat and tares" to write, some reading to do (when I get told what it is) ready for my first college 'weekend' in Manchester and the church junior games group to visit...  So plenty of variety, if not much time to actually stand backand think about things.