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 Mystery of Preaching

    After Sunday's service I was chatting to someone about the sermon (something I haven't really done for many years) who commented to the effect that 'your said this, well you didn't but you did.'  I knew what she meant.  Part of the mystery of preaching is that we carefully (or carelessly!) prepare something and hope that somehow through it God will speak to people.  What they hear may or may not be what we think we are saying, but often what is heard is pertinent for them.  When I was a student, I used sometimes to ask for feedback from members of the congregation including 'what do you think the sermon was about?' I would usually get one fairly accurate precis of what I'd said along with three or four interesting, intriguing synopses of something else, conected to what I intended but not what I thought I was saying.  This is the mystery of preaching, I think.  And it is part of what makes it both privlege and responsibility to do it the best I can.

    This week I think I'm preaching on being a prophetic community - but afterwards I'll find out what it really was!!

  • May Contain Nuts

    No, not a review of the amusing little novel of this name, nor yet a health warning, just a description of a church - any church - that seeks to be inclusive, the theme we are playing with this morning (and anyone who reads blogs before worship will get a few clues as to some of the thoughts in my mind this week!)

    Part of our service will involve some 'pick 'n' mix' type sweets as a way in to thinking about inclusion, exclusion, preferences, prejudices, necessities and niceties (well at least that's the sermon I might have written if I'd had six months to prepare it!).  So, I have some sweets that suitable for veggies and some that aren't (they contain gelatine); some that I can eat and some I can't (they contain paprika extract); some with nuts, some without; some diabetics could probably get away with, some they can't; some I like and some I don't.  But that's kind of the point really - there are chocies to be made and nothing can suit absolutely everyone but can we find a way to accommodate most without losing the heart of what we are about?

    A week or two back I was pondering the possibility of using a biscuit assortment for this purpose, and asking people what kinds of biscuit you never find in a selection box and why.  I think the answer is a ginger nut, because it taints all the others.  But what if church was like a box of biscuits and Jesus was the ginger nut who manages to taint all the others with something of God's love, mercy and grace?  I guess I can only be sacked once for blasphemy, so it's worth posting my rather odd analogy I think!  What if we, too, were the nuts (ginger or otherwise) who tainted the world around us with the love of God in Christ?  Might that be not too far away from being salt, yeast or light?

  • Looking About

    In the gospel of Mark, uniquely so far as I can tell, the evening after the triumphal entry to Jerusalem Jesus walks into the city and goes to the Temple, looking around at everything.  I have always imagined that he looked around not just inside the Temple about around him at the streets as he walked along.  This week as I have walked to and from work each day, I have been looking around me, at sights that are, for now, new and different, but will all too soon become essentially wallpaper.  There are interesting and intriguing shops just waiting to be explored (especially those that sell books!), there are closed shops waiting to be turned into yet another supermarket.  Then there are the people I begin to recognise: the girl in the pancake shop preparing surfaces for the day ahead, the man in the coffee shop waiting for early customers... and the beggars.

    This is what has surprised me most - there are lots of beggars along the road I walk each day.  An older, eastern European (?) woman with a mouth organ who sits in the bus shelter, a younger man who poses with one copy of the big issues only yards from where the official Big Issue vendor stands, an elderly man who sits close to the ATM silently holding out his paper cup.  And here am I, on my way to prepare worship, to think fine thoughts in a warm, dry office.  I wonder what Jesus would do on my situation?

    I was reminded of a verse of a hymn written by Alison Micklem when she was a student in Manchester, which reflects some of this tension:

    As I pass you on the pavement

    I avoid your stricken eyes;

    Jesus tells me your my sister,

    But you're hard to recognise.

    I can love you in the abstract,

    Face to face it's hard to do:

    Jesus bids me love my neighbour,

    Do I have to start with you?

    It isn't so easy, is it, practising what we preach?  But then Jesus never said it would be.  I hope that my eyes will stay open enough to see what God needs to show me.


  • Trust and Obey?

    Well, it has just taken me about an hour to order a new driving licence online - what a palaver!  Of the filling of forms and the proving of identity there is, it seems, no end.  I understand about fraud and identity theft (though surely no one in their right mind would choose to steal an identity so uncommon as mine - there are to my knowledge only one other person with my first/last name combination in the UK and she is less than ten years old!) but what a lot of numbers and juggling and passwords (at least three were entered along the way).  Whatever happened to trust?

    While I was at it I thought I'd pay my tax online too - except I didn't have the requisite paperwork with me to prove I was indeed the person who owed just shy of £20, due by 31 Jan 2010.  How nutty is that?!

    So, I have obediently bisected both parts of my driving licence and put them in an envelope to send back to DVLA along with the car logbook (which is still only doable the old fashioned way and retains a sense of trust about it) and will pay my tax another day when I have the requisite forms with me.  Progress...?!

  • Absolute Flexibility?

    Last night I had a short 'welcome' meeting with the leadership team (for want of a better expression) of my new church.  Among the things we talked about was how best to handle the situations that arise when people knock on the church door requesting financial help.  I asked about keeping a supply of tins/packets that could be offered to folk who claim to have no food and shared my intended practice of going with people to buy tickets for trains or to top up key-cards for fuel etc.  We agreed that, as a general rule, giving people money is not a good idea, but that there does need to be a bit of flexibility and room for discretion.  It is important that we all know where we are in this, and other potentially complex issues.

    All of which got me thinking a bit about the balance of rules and responsibility.  Someone once said 'God gave us ten commandments not ten suggestions' (actually there are 14 in the Decalogue if I recall correctly!) which all sounds fine until you try to define them.  'Thou shalt not kill, except when I the Lord thy God command it of thee.'  'Thou shalt not commit adultery but I the Lord thy God shalt not define exactly what constitutes said offence.'  Hardly surprising that by Jesus' time there were hundreds of 'traditions' to go alongside Torah as the poor old Pharisees tried to work out how the Law could be kept.  Easy for us to say they went about it the wrong way - confusing letter (which kills according to the apostle) with spirit (which gives life).

    Principles, policies and practices (another advance hint of Sunday if you're checking!) are important for the healthy life of faith communities.  Too many 'thou shalt (not)' statements seem self defeating.  Too much licence and we lose the very thing we try to create.  Responsible, flexible, principled guidance seems to me a good way forward - if a challenge to discern and live with.

    So, if you arrive on the doorstep of my (our) church cold and hungry and I'm there, I'll give you a warm, listen to your tale and, with the permission and blessing of the church, may even buy you a skinny latte and a bacon butty at one of the local coffee houses!