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  • As I have loved you...

    On Sunday I took as the Bible readings Micah 6:8 (do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God) and John 13:31 - 14:4, focusing on 13:34-35 (love one another).  Having watched the Home Mission 'video' (at 25 minutes rather long) I wasn't about to preach, but wanted to allow these texts to speak into the idea of 'transforming communities' (with all its delicious ambiguity - are we communities in which personal transformation occurs (yes) communities which are transformed (yes) or communities which bring transformation to the communities of which they are part (yes)).

    As part of 'love one another' I mentioned that my friends and I from time to time lend each other our cars - we do, it is no big deal, if someone else needs a car and theirs is off the road, well they can use mine if I don't absolutely need it (and provided they are insured of course...).  The looks on people's faces were a picture - I might have been suggesting, oh, I don't know, wife swapping.  But surely this (lending cars, not swapping partners) is consistent with the 'love one another' mandate, isn't it something of the Acts 4 model - before Ananias and Sapphira messed it up?

    I don't think we are called to be some kind of holy commune, nor yet to be mugs or doormats, but if we can't actually get the 'love one another' at least to the point that it is more meaningful than being politely tolerant, then how can we ever be 'a light for the world'?  Only when our communities are transformed by this love can we hope to bring transformation...

  • Unleashing the inner Lynn Truss?!

    A wet Bank Holiday - a great excuse to curl up with some of the books that have sat on my 'light reading' heap, having been picked up in supermarkets and on charity book tables in recent weeks.  I enjoyed having the time to read these books - three over the course of the weekend - though none of them would really pass as literature: two were pretty much pulp fiction and the other - well I'm not sure really, ostensibly autobiography/social history it also had hints of theology, or at least spirituality.  The last one woke up the research corner of my brain making we wonder yet again just what constitutes history and how it may or may not be useful.

    There was one thing that really annoyed me with the last of the books, and is increasingly annoying me, which was the use of American English not only in the idiom (which just sounds daft when put into a middle England context with middle English characters) but the spellings - which are creeping more and more into the writing of people who, in my view, should know better.  Accounts of people 'waiting in line' for a bus in London (whatever happened to queueing?) or having 'gotten wet' irritate but don't infuriate.  It is 'smelt' for 'smelled' and 'spelt' for 'spelled' that really offend my sensibilities.  Smelt, as any purist knows is either (a) a small fish or (b) a product of melting metal ore - in the UK it has nothing to do with aromas or odours (however pongy the fish!).  Likewise 'spelt' is a cereal crop - having as much to do with the arrangement of letters in words as a alphabetti spaghetti.  So, my inner Lynn Truss has been awakened once more.

    Rant over!

  • Freely, freely...

    I was just reading Richard's report for YBA on his church's Hope 08 initiatives - FANTASTIC!  One of the central themes is doing things for free and turning away offers to pay for car washing etc.  This is a culture I have been advocating - and largely managing to achieve - in the initiatives of our little church too.  We give away stuff at our events which usually astounds people who then ask us why - though having said that at our last event someone objected to the fact that the Fairtrade Gift Stall was, as advertised, selling products.  We have hosted meals, given goody bags to children, painted faces, hired bouncy castles, given away butties in the pub and so on for one simple reason - God gives freely to us.

    Back in the 1980's (I think) the song 'freely, freely' was very popular.  Thinking back, it is probably one of those from which the message lodged somewhere deep in my psyche or soul or wherever things lodge.  When we used to sing it in GB in Warrington, local accents rendered it free-er-lee, free-er-lee and I guess that's how I still hear it - but the message is still valid: free-er-lee you have received, free-er-lee give to others.  The song is very dated, and it is not without its limitations, but I like its missional thrust.

    John 3:16 says 'God so loved the cosmos that he gave...' I think sometimes we get so hung upon the super holy aspects of this, so accustomed to the traditional interpretation as 'world' which we then hear as 'humanity,' that we miss the word 'gave.'  God didn't leave out a saucer for donations, rather the choice was do something that embarasses us in its open handed generosity - God gave.  Maybe if we can truly grasp the idea of giving away our love - in flowers, car washes, litter picks, lunches with lonely people, smiles on the faces of children, carols in the pub or whatever - it is we who will blessed as we begin to grasp a little more of the mystery who the God who gives free-er-lee to all...

  • Discerning God's Will...

    Is a lovely phrase and we all think we know what it means - until we try to do it.  But how do we really know if what we think is of God?  What clues are there to indicate that we might be wide of the mark?

    My little congregation is faced with this kind of question as we think about our future.  We have tried pushing various doors to see if they would open, and some did, a little bit, before slamming firmly in our faces.  So was it God who slammed them or other people not in tune with God?  Was it God who unlocked them or us who picked the locks?  How can we ever know for sure?

    Some people - quite a lot actually - honestly believe that we absolutely must have our own premises.  Others absolutely believe we must not, so who is in tune with God and who is listening to their own desires?  How do we know?  Who is qualified to judge?

    Some people believe that we are not praying enough (quantity) or adequately (in faith), others think we are doing OK.  Some people want to add more and more prayer meetings they won't attend, and others want to better resource those we do have.  But what does God think?

    Some people want to add more new initiatives, others want to consolidate what we have - but what of God?

    Sometimes I wish God wrote things on clouds in gold letters, because it would make life so much easier.  Sometimes I wish God did email or MSN or some such.  The truth is, I think, that discernment is blooming hard work and it is only restrospectively that we have any chance of having any clue whether we got it right. Whether God in fact opted for plan 77B because we just didn't get it is something I guess we will never know...

  • Heaven's Gain...

    Sometimes professionalism is hard.  It was hard half an hour ago when I received a phone call to let me know one of my old ladies had died suddenly this morning.  A routine operation for a knee replacement, which had all gone well, she'd expected to be home tomorrow, and then wham, an infection and she's gone.

    Joan - I've tried replacing her name for anonymity but there's no other name that works - had a wonderful smile, always sat on the second row, appreciated the provision of 15" screens at eye level, jioned in with my more crazy ideas, and i will miss her greatly.

    If heaven is a place rather than a state of being, and if it is now rather than at the end of time, then today it is the richer and brighter for having her.  Farewell loved friend, rest in peace.