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  • Scary Jesus!

    Today's PAYG used this parable-type thing from Luke 12:42 - 48

    The Lord answered: Who are faithful and wise servants? Who are the ones the master will put in charge of giving the other servants their food supplies at the proper time?  Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job.  A servant who is always faithful will surely be put in charge of everything the master owns.  But suppose one of the servants thinks that the master won't return until late.  Suppose that servant starts beating all the other servants and eats and drinks and gets drunk.  If that happens, the master will come on a day and at a time when the servant least expects him.  That servant will then be punished and thrown out with the servants who cannot be trusted.  If servants are not ready or willing to do what their master wants them to do, they will be beaten hard.  But servants who don't know what their master wants them to do will not be beaten so hard for doing wrong.  If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well.  But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better.

    Scary stuff!  A good one for those of us convinced God has called us as ministers to wrestle with periodically.  If I am a servant among servants, entrusted in some way to care for the others, how do I measure up?  I have a feeling this is about far more than material greed and physical violence.  Should Jesus walk in on my church, and see what I'm a-doing-of (or not), what would he think?  Hmm.

  • Biblical Examples?

    This week's service poses the question 'A Christian Family?' and will, I think, be an exploration of something around intergenerational relationships.  Whilst the topic doesn't feel quite as 'hairy' as last week's, it is not easy - since families come in many shapes, sizes and guises. I will start by debunking the myth of 'we four and no more' as some sort of Christian ideal, and do so by reference to historical and Biblical insights.

    Whilst walking to work this morning, I was pondering the, relatively few, Bible stories that are about families.  That is, stories that extend beyond the bland statement of their existence.  We have, for example the Abraham family, two women, two sons, and dysfunction.  Or the Isaac story, with a devious wife and squabbling sons; more dysfunction.  Or Jacob's family - two wives, two concubines, twelve sons and some daughters, with all manner of intrigue and awfulness; yup, dysfunction again.  Move to the New Testament and, I hate to say it, but we find more than hints of dysfunction in the 'Holy Family' itself, with Jesus' relatives on one occasion being reported as thinking he had gone mad.  And that's before we look at the things Jesus says about breaking up families!

    Rather than the Bible giving us family examples to aspire to, we find stories that make the average British Soap look tame!

    The Bible gives us household codes (e.g. Ephesians 5/6) that hint at a different set of attitudes but, I fear, fix the parent-child relationship as an adult-child one, at least as interpreted by any commentator or theologian I have read.  Over the last day or so, I have read stuff on theology of family that is essentially a (needed and laudable) attempt to develop a theology of childhood and of 'childness' (the childlike qualities advocated by Jesus) but nothing, not one jot about adult children and elderly parents, or grown-up siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren.  Easier by far to find Biblical examples of 'blended' families than to find something helpful to say, for example, to the overseas student thousands of miles from a blood relative or the elderly spinster who has no-one left apart from a distant cousin...

    I thought this one might be easier... more fool me!

  • Quotable Quote

    Recently someone sent me a quotation, which was attributed to Pope John Paul II.  When I googled it to try find out more, I discovered that the same quotation is attributed to such diverse people as Augustine and Wesley.  I think that's good, as an implied ecumenism is what it's about:

    In essentials, unity

    In non-essentials, liberty

    In all things, charity

    Whilst we may feel we want to 'unpack' or 'unpick' what we mean by 'essential' or 'non-essential', and that can be demanding and dangerous, if we focus on the third statement - the over-riding attitude of love, humility and compassion that inform 'charity' then maybe we are on the right road.

    Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself.... love is the greatest Spiritual gift.... God is love

    Words like this trip easily from the tongue; living them is a lifetime's endeavour, and then some.


    Apologies to Gatherers, you will see this quote again soon in church, but it seemed too useful to keep locally.

  • Crazy Hair!

    So, I've updated my sidebar photo yet again, as my hair gets longer and more bushy and I still can't quite bring myself to get it cut!  That it is crazy and increasingly untidy there is not doubt, but I'm still not sure how short I want to live with.  Anyway, I also took this photo of the back, which showed a mass of crazy curls - not even I could claim these were waves anymore!


    When it is wet, it will comb out quite straight and the top will lie fairly flat; the back is another story altogether, as fast as I comb it it recoils into its favoured formation.  The thing is, I don't yet know if the curls will 'grow out' leaving me with fine straight hair or if they are here for good - and unless/until they cut off that remains a mystery...

  • Layers of Authority and Rings of Responsibility

    When I was a minister in England, the structure of the Union was (and still is) such that churches for the most part belong to an Association, which employs one or more so-called Regional Ministers (RM).  The Associations then belong to the Union (as do the churches) with all its resources.  Ministers technically relate directly to the Union, but in practice, most of the time, relate to their Associations.  In one sense this can lead to a hierarchical view - that the Union is the top, the Association the next level down and the church at the bottom.  But I think what it endeavours to do is to provide rings of responsibility, a non-hierarchical relational support network.  It gets tricky - lots of churches emphasise their autonomy and vocally assert that 'they [the Union/Association] can't tell us what to do.'  And that's true.  But for ministers it's not, their covenant relationship with the Union requires them to accept the disicplines of the Union, even where they may be at odds with the local church.  So, for example, whilst a local church can refuse to allow women into its pulpit, an accredited minister accepts the ordination of women whether he likes it or not (I assume women ministers do also, but in this case gendered language seems appropriate!).

    One of the advantages of this model is that it provides mechanisms for ministers to seek advice and guidance at a local level, without having to go running to the Union every time something tricky crops up.  So, for example, when I was in Dibley and most of our deacons wanted to retire, I rang my RM to get advice on the minimum legal and practical requirements for us to still exist (if you don't have a secretary and a treasurer, techncially you don't exist).  Similarly, when we failed to fill one essential post, I sought advice on how long we could legitimately continue in that situation.  Once or twice I sought guidance on pastoral matters.

    Moving to Scotland, a much smaller Union, there is no interim level - no Association, no RM to whom I can turn for advice.  If I have a query or concern, there is only one port of call - the Union.  The upshot of this is that everything then becomes more significant, more 'official'.  I can ask an RM something 'off the record' or 'hypothetically';  I can't with the Union.  I can use an RM as a sounding board, or as a safe person to discuss something with; I can't with the Union.  I fully understand why the BUS is structured as it is, and I'm sure that it works well most of the time - just sometimes I miss having an RM I can ring up and say 'what do you think...'