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

- Page 2

  • Please Pray Politely

    Recently I have been thinking a bit about prayer, or more precisely praying, and how we do it.  Aside from the 'really just' stuff which we all do, though it drive us nutty, I have pondering the arrogance with which we approach God and make our demands.  You know the kind of thing I'm sure: 'Lord, send this....'  'God, grant that the other...'  'Jesus give us....'  'Come now, oh Spirit.'  It all sounds nice and pious but it's a bit rude isn't it?  As if God was ours to command, our servant/slave/genie meant to grant our wishes.

    So, I am trying to be a bit more polite when I talk to the Almighty!  'Please God would you....'  is not, I would assert, a lack of faith but actually an attempt to acknowledge where the authority lies.

    The planning application for redeveloping our site was submitted this week, and within a month or so we will know whether or not we can sell it with consent for housing.  I am asking God as politely as I can to guide the process to a positive outcome, whilst accepting that there is the potential for (a) Gods will to be otherwise and (b) the sin and finitude of the local council to obstruct God's will.  It's not that I have no faith in the application, the process, the council or the Almighty.  Just a recognition that (a) God is not mine to command and (b) free will means that God's voice can get ignored by any or all parties.

  • Unexpected Depths

    I have just had a nice day off reading a novel that I bought as a duty-purchase at a church bring-and-buy thing recently.  Kingdom.Com  by Thom Braun is described as a hilarious satire, but like the best of its genre, it has the odd profound moment mixed in.  There are some dire puns - an advertising agency called Angel, Fear and Tredwell; the heroes are Marianne Maddeley (a vicar) and Robin Angel; their child, Theo is born in a stable.  The plot is fairly predictable and seems to bypass some pretty basic facts about the Church of England within the wider Anglican Communion, but for all that a couple of times I found myself pausing to reflect on what it said...


    Pages 208/9, the heroes are at preview of a new theme park where Lambeth Palace once was...


    Robin put his arm around Marianne, conscious of how much she desperately wanted to the see spiritual positives in all of this.

    'That sounds like a cue for our next experience, ' he said.  'Do you think you can face The Virutal Last Supper?'

    Marianne looked distinctly concerned by the prospect.  The skin around her eyes was taut, and she was biting her lip.

    'I can't say I'm looking forward to it, ' she said, 'But I can't not do it.  It's just that ...' She paused, 'it's either going to be the future's answer to the Eucharist, or...'

    'Or what?'

    'Or its going to be a travesty.'  She breathed heavily.  'Or even a blasphemy.  Which ever way,' she continued, 'it's hardly something I'm able to feel comfortable about.'

    'Do you want to sit it out?' asked Robin as gently as he could.

    'I couldn't,' she replied.  'We have a duty.  I have a duty.  This place, this whole approach, has somehow come about because we tried to stop a small parish church from closing.  To some extent this place represents the future - or at least a future - that we and everyone else, it seems, have chosen.  Whatever else may have changed, I'm still an ordained church minister.  I have to go on hoping that the new way is a positive way.  So, no, I don't want to sit it out.  Until I've had the experience, I will not know.'

    'Will not know what exactly?'

    'Where God is in any of this.'



    Good questions to keep in mind in anything churches consider being part of, theme parks, pub congregations or even traditional Sunday services...


    On Page 247, in the closing paragraphs...

    In whatever else I do, I've got to remember that its not my ministry.  It's not even the Church's ministry.  It's really God's  ministry...



    Indeed it is.


    Kingdom.Com by Thom Braun was published by Canterbury Press 2003. 

  • Being a Sacrificial Community - a Toughie!

    I have just finished the third attempt at my sermon for Sunday on being a sacrificial community.  It has proved difficult to write and I'm still not over enamoured with what I've got.  Far easier was the study material on OT sacrifice and its relationship to atonement theology which I could basically lift out of books!

    The easy path is to do grumpy skint minister impressions (actually impression is not needed, I am both!)  and bang on about priorities, giving and so on.  But it doesn't really achieve anything helpful.  It is almost as easy to become a judgemental hypocrite and use the Amos passage 'I hate I despise your Mission Praise,' as one Methodist tutor I knew used to paraphrase it, to point out the disparity between Sunday and the rest of the week - but am I any better?

    In the end I have a rather unsatisfactory approach that says that since the end of the Jewish sacrifices in the first century, we have a choice whether or not to sacrifice (from Latin: sacer facere, to make holy, hence, to offer to God) but that the demand for quality and the 'cost' (loss of self-orientated potential it incurs) remain valid.  This probably works better at an individual level than communal, though it ought to apply to both.  I end up with Romans 12:1-3 'living sacrifices' which suggests both 'corporate' and 'embodied' stuff.

    It still feels rather 'shouty, shouty' as one local minister would put it, but hopefully H Sp will be active in weeding out my agenda to let people hear something apppropriate.  Roll on Missionary Community and Mr Bosch's 'mission in may modes' which is just so much more preachable (I think...).

  • Old Jokes

    This blog has been getting too heavy/serious of late and needs a little levity injected into it.  So, pinched from cyberspace, here is another old theology joke or two....

    Jesus asked the theologians, 'who do you say that I am?'   

    They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma of which we find the ultimate meaning in our interpersonal relationships.”

    And Jesus said, “Huh?”


    Or, in a more complex theologians' version...

    Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

    Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”

    Not prepared for Barth’s brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

    Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

    Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul’s shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

    And Jesus says, “What !?!”


    Or there's a Mormon version which goes thus...

    Jesus said, Whom do men say that I am? 

    And his disciples answered and said, Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias,  or other of the old prophets. 

    And Jesus answered and said, But whom do you say that I am? 

    Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple." 

    And Jesus answering, said, "What?" 

  • Tradition and Traditions

    A lot of stuff I read talks about 'Tradition' as if it is a univserally understood concept - for example the four-fold idea of 'Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience.'  But what is it?

    Is it shorthand for 'Creeds and Canon Law', in which case the Baptist assertion that we don't do tradition has some basis?  Or is it a more woolly term that embraces 'the way we do things around here' in which case Baptists are the prime example of lots of it.  The classic of course being the one Baptist tradition is we don't do Tradition.

    This is not just idle speculation, or even a bit of mischievious fun, it does seem that the word either gets used carelessly or everyone else understands better than I do what its referent is.

    The most common comment I encounter in the real world of church (if that is not an oxymoron) is that you must never do anything twice or it becomes a tradition, i.e. something that has to happen long after anyone remembers why it is done.  Breaking with tradition is fraught with danger and woe betide the minister who suggests that my congregation abandon the dire doggerel and tortured tunes of a Victorian farmer philanthropist who once was in membership here.

    I think perhaps there is a distinction to be drawn between 'Tradition' and 'traditions' but quite where that may be I do not know.  In the meantime, I am preparing to encounter the ire of some folk when we have a 'cafe style' service on Mothering Sunday and no 'cult of maternity' celebration at all.