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  • Defining our heritage...

    This morning I had an email regarding an act of worship I am to lead, requesting that it reflect a theme of 'Baptistic worship through the centuries.'  Thankfully I get 20th century rather than 17th, although singing the odd Benjamin Keach hymn might be very funny.  As I'd already put some work into it, not knowing the theme, I am hoping to define my offering as 'late 20th century British' but I am finding it intriguing trying to think what might be quintessential C20 Baptistic worship - at least without resorting to (a) Blessed be the tie that binds (which I can't stand because I find it mawkish) (b) Kendrick (and him crucified, as my sister would say) (c) Payne & Winward and/or Patterns and Prayers.  So, gentle readers, what for you might define C20 baptistic worship - in a good, bad or indifferent way!

    For the record, my current intention is to use a responsive psalm (as in back of BHB and BPW), a couple of scripture readings, some images and music for reflection (that's the late C20 bit!)and some 'prepared extempore' prayers.  No hymns/songs if I can avoid them (because the whole thing is limited to 15 mins), but if I must then probably something from BPW written by a real live Baptist during C20.

  • Limping in the light of the LORD

    I have been re-reading the accounts of Jacob's two dreams/visions/encounters with God in readiness for the act of worship I'm due to lead next week.  What struck me was the end of the encounter at Peniel where Jacob-Israel walked into the future with a permanent limp a reminder that he had wrestled with God.  I found this unexpectedly helpful! 

    To wrestle with God - if not literally - seems to me to be a fairly normal part of Christian dicipleship: what is God saying?  Must it really mean this or that, am I strong enough to face this or that challenge, and so  on and so on.  Jacob emerged from his encounter both stronger and weaker: as a person he grew (let's face it, he probably needed to!) yet he was permanently weakened by his injury.  There have been times when I've argued with God a lot, and times when I've thought 'hey, you'll win anyway, I'll just give in now."  Both can, at times, be the right response, I think.  But I am attracted by the image of the wounded disiciple, the person whose encounter with God leaves them with a limp.  I'm not quite sure what to do with this image, but it does seem a helpful one as I think about the various challenges facing my little congregation at this time.  


  • Just Fair trade?

    d632d57cef8a5214d7522cf13bdcf421.jpgIn Leicester is a really excellent Fairtrade shop called Just (their banner image reproduced here).  Long gone is the hippy-image: good lighting and state of the art shelving coupled with a wide range of gifts, clothes and food makes it a place worth browsing.  Being housed nextdoor to the former SPCK bookshop is a plus, allowing me to JUSTify (groan) visiting it quite often.

    Yesterday I had a letter from them telling me that trade is down and their own future is less secure.  In part this is because many of the major retailers have caught on to the commerical side of Fairtrade with M&S and Sainsbury's selling a lot of Traidcraft products, and all the supermarkets stocking a lot of Fairtrade goods.  This they applaud, but point out the implications it has for them, the small, independent Fairtrade retailer who source their products far more widely then 'just' Traidcraft/Tearcraft.  It made me think quite hard - as I've done in the past when preparing services for Fairtrade fortnight - about what really fair trade might look like.  There aren't any easy answers - it seems important to buy the Fairtrade products in the big shops because the impact of them ceasing to sell them would be horrendous; at the same time, if we don't support local independents (whether the Fairtrade shop, pick-your-own fruit farm, butcher, baker or post office) they will disappear with massive consequences for people on our own doorsteps.

    Tricky questions to ponder, and I don't know any good answers, but I might take up the invitation of the people at Just to have a Fairtrade party in the autumn...


  • Wait and see

    When I was a child, one of the things that really annoyed me was if my parents answered a question with 'wait and see.'  If I asked a question I usually wanted to know the answer now!  'Wait and see' required patience and trust - not always easy.

    On Sunday evening service No 3 is for the Penties in Dibley.  This time they've chosen the text as part of a series they're doing on Habakkuk. Rather than simply cribbing the sermon I wrote for my own congregation last year - which was tempting, I read it over and it was one of my better ones - I decided to be good and start afresh.  As I revisited the text (Hab 1:12 - 2:1) and the commentaries, I was struck by the final verse of the passage which was Habakkuk deciding to 'wait and see.'  The answer might not come immediately, but Habakkuk would make a conscious effort to wait and look out to see what it might be.

    I think this is all the more remarkable because he is dealing with tough stuff - the perennial problems of a good God and the reality of evil, the truth that bad things happen to good people, that innocent bystanders get caught up in war.  There are really big questions about how God metes justice on structural or corporate sin, about whether war, occupation or exile are God's punishment, about what it means to be part of a fallen/disordered world but the answers just don't come - or at least not ina neat knock-down proof text kind of a way.  Like Habakkuk, we have to wait and see, not in an idle, fatalistic way - the call to righteous living precludes that, but accepting that, as the Corinthians were told 'we see only in part.'

    I'm not good at 'waiting and seeing,' I am happier when things are in my control, when I can sort problems out, deal with issues, find answers, dot the i's and cross the t's (with or without apostrophes, I'm not sure which is right in this context!).  But 'wait and see' seems to be the theme of the moment, the 'word' to share on Sunday, the only answer I'm going to get when, like Habakkuk, I ask God hard questions.

  • BMS

    If you're a British Baptist (BUGB, BUS or BUW variety) you will know that BMS has had significant shortfalls in income over the last few years and now faces the possibility of staff cuts.  A phone call this morning from someone directly affected by this made it all very real.  Please pray for those who lives are affected by the very real possibility of redundancy and upheaval.  Please also pray for those who face the responsibilties of making these tough and painful decisions.

    If you happen to be a Baptist, please also consider carefully and prayerfully your financial giving to BMS (and for that matter HMF which directly affects me!) - we are all responsible in some measure for this situation.