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  • Water Springing Up!

    No, nothing theological, just a burst water pipe in the road outside my house causing water to spray up out of the pavement. 

    Severn Trent emergency people said they'd send someone to look at it within the next 24 hours and asked if it was a large or small leak!  The answer, of course, depends on your definition of large/small.  By domestic standards it was pretty big, by industrial standards - well perhaps not.  Still, at least I met new people who knocked on my door to ask if I knew about it!

    Silly me, I thought we were short of water and needed to conserve it, not allow it to gush up through the path and be wasted for hours on end.  After around 8 hours it seems to have been sorted - but that's a heck of a lot of water wasted in the meantime.  In this meantime something like 2000 people in developing nations have died due to lack of access to clean water - sobering.

  • Remembrance Sunday Thoughts

    medium_poppyday.jpgMy Dad saw active service in the British army in World War II (he was a lot older than my Mum, though ironically nowadays would be a fairly typical age gap from me)

    My Dad's brother was a conscientious objector and spent World War II in jail somewhere round Birmingham, and was employed painting camoflage for buildings.

    My Mum's Mum was a Jew, and the family fled to Scotland at the outbreak of war, fearing for their safety.

    In my time, I have worked on defence contracts in the submarine industry and also on contracts concerning public safety due to military installations.  One of my brothers served briefly in the army, the other for a while worked at Bletchley Park, now one is a police officer and the other works to upgrade signalling on the railways.

    This year, a young lad who lived a few steets away was killed on active service in Iraq and several young men have died on the roads around here.

    All of these factors shape my views on Remembrance Sunday.  I have long since come to recognise the bravery of my Dad in going to war and of his brother in taking a costly stand against it.  I recognise the courage of my grandparents - and their fear - and know that had no action been taken I would not be here to type this.  My time spent on defence work was done in good conscience, as what that to assess public safety, and neither without careful forethought.

    I have from time to time been criticised for the decisions I've taken, because 'Christians don't' (or do), usually replying that I'd defend their right to disagree with me.

    War is far from good, and violence rarely justifiable, but I at least have to accept there are no simple answers.  Intuitively I believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, theologically I assert that love is stronger than death, practically I live with the tension of being part of a disordered world where both sin and finitude impact our experience.

    Today I will remember - and having remembered, will live.

  • Getting Cracking

    This morning a small group of us met to plan the first ever Dibley Churches joint Christmas Carol Event.  Not the first ever joint carol serivce - years ago there was one but it died the death - but the first of the new-style extended events, based on what my lot did last year.  It was a great meeting, and 'A Cracking Christmas' will take place in Dibley on Sunday 17th December.

    We will begin with a free tea for anything up to 100 wrinklies - two lunch clubs and three congregations worth - and then have a carol service which will include music from an Anglican organist, a Methodist worship group and an ad-hoc choir, three sketches, two poems, half a dozen Bible readings, a mini-talk by me and the distribution of a light bulb to everyone who attends (if you're a Baptist check out the latest BUGB magazine to see where we pinched this idea from; light bulbs can be bought in Sainsbury's (and I'm sure elsewhere) for 8p each!).  In parallel to the service there will crafts for children.  Afterwards there will be mince pies and drinks for - who knows, maybe 200 folk?

    This is exciting and demanding, but it should be a crackin' good event.

  • Saying Farewell

    This week we said 'farewell' to two members of our lunch club.  Peter and Sheila both died last week and their funerals occurred this week.  Each of them was a bit 'unlovely' and they had few friends but it had been a privilege to get to know them in the last year and to show them something of Christ's love.

    Sheila had shared with us some of her worries about her family while Peter had finally learned to smile after a life time of disappointment and emotional pain.

    I attended both funerals on behalf of the church and club - complete with dog-collar which clearly freaked out the humanist celebrant at Sheila's! 

    Sheila had a very clear faith, having grown up in a Methodist Church in Norfolk and had had links with us on and off for many years, I felt sad for her that at the end no one (openly) commended her to the care of God and wondered at the theology of my silent words of commendation as the curtains closed!  Ah well, it made me feel better.

    Peters' funeral was simple but beautiful, there was gentle honesty about a man whose life had seen countless disappointments and whose potential was never fulfilled.  The vicar and I had chatted in the minutes before the service and he managed to mention our lunch club as one of Peter's interests!  After the service the two of us from church (the only non family people there) were warmly greeted by his relatives, one even running after us to thank us for coming.  Peter was a lonely man, and it was good for both us and them to know that he was loved. 

    How little we hear about church with the older generations, how fixated we become with programmes and projects.  This week I was reminded that part of my call/ministry is located in the practical words of Matthew 25 - in a new paraphrase 'I was unlovely and you came to my funeral'.

    We commend Sheila and Peter to the mercy and grace of God in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

  • Rahab Revisited

    As part of my preparation for the sermon on Rahab (Jesus' genealogy part 2) I have been re-reading Joshua 2 (and chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6) and am struck by the matter-of-fact-ness of it all.  There seems to be no attempt to explain or justify anything, and I am, as ever, left with far more questions than answers.

    For example: Joshua 2: 1 "Go, look over the land,' [Joshua] said, 'especially Jericho.'  So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (NIV)

    So, why did they enter Rahab's house?  Is it a good thing they went there (well, it turned out to be, but I mean, morally, ethically, religiously)?  What did their wives say when they got home and said, 'Oh, and by the way, we stayed overnight in a brothel.'  'That's nice, dear.'  I wonder!

    How did the king's men discover the presence of the spies at Rahab's house, and why did she lie to them?  Why did they believe her?  And so it goes on.  Lots of 'why' questions coming to mind as I read on into the story.

    She was patient, I'll give her that - three days of hiding before the spies go home, another three days before the camp moves to the Jordan.  Crossing the Jordan, an interlude while all the blokes get circumcised, recover and get ready for the attack.  Then six days of parades and trumpet blowing before the wall is breached and she and her family are able to escape.  What was going on for her in that time?  Or for her family, waiting inside the house all that time?

    On the rare times this story ever appeared in church, it was centred on the gallant spies, sort of James Bond gets Religion, and sometimes the brothel became a hotel to spare the preacher's/teacher's blushes.  Rahab was just an incidental.  Fascinating, then, that she is the one woman commended for faith in Hebrews 11 (Sarah sort of gets mentioned in passing), and in James 2 (my favourite passage!) she appears as an example of righteousness. 

    Maybe this is the point - maybe this is where the 'belong-believe-behave' approach and the more traditional models begin to fall apart.  Rahab did not belong, but she did believe.  Rahab did not behave - indeed her blatant lies seem to have served God's purposes (hmm, tricky!) - but she put her faith into action.  Rahab was not a stalwart of community but James saw her as righteous because of what she did.

    I am still quite puzzled about where to the sermon might go - and this post probably makes very little sense - it could go in lots of directions, but not, on this occasion of the nice handsome, morally upright spies on an excting adventure in foreign lands.

    Oh, and as a footnote to the Tamar sermon, my people seemed totally oblivious to the significance of Onan in the church's moral muddles!  Bless.