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  • Fourth Week in Advent: Friday

    So, as most Bible readings schemes shift gear and offer us the run up to Christmas day, Northumbria Community stoically carry on with their scripture cycle.  I would have to say, there was a time when this would have annoyed me, I have been known to abandon Bible reading notes in the last week of Advent because I wanted to read the Christmas story rather than continue a worthy, but gloomy, series on some scary prophet or uncomfortable bit of an epistle.  Today, I am actually content to have something 'un-Christmassy'... which goes to show you can never please your readers!!

    Today's verses are:

    Psalm 88:13 - 14

    Genesis 8:22

    Romans 8: 38-39

    The Psalm is a bit violent really - God shooting arrows and casting thunderbolts at people, so I'll skip that, thanks all the same.  The Genesis is a reassuring promise - so long as earth remains there will be seed time and harvest - but it doess't quite do it for me today.  Instead it is Paul at his most poetic (Paul poetic?!) in Romans that seems to carry the hopeful message of love...

    For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    In recent days the world news has included the destructive power of tropical storms in the Philippines and earthquakes in New Zealand, as well as the ongoing violence in Iraq, to name but three.  Financial crises in Europe, unemployment in Britain, and phones calls or emails to alert me to people who are sick or dying... the festive season always has a shadow side.  A pernicious kind of darkness creeps around the margins trying to swamp the flickering candles of hope, peace, joy and love.



    Absolutely NOTHING

    Can defeat God's love manifest in Christ.

    Love loiters on the battlefield, arms outstretched to embrace each combatant

    And each civilian trapped by human inhumanity

    Love lingers at the beside, tenderly taking the hand of sick and dying

    And each anxious loved one who waits and watches

    Love lurks in the ruins, hands sifting the rubble to touch each victim

    And strengthen each rescuer who listens and lifts

    Love, loitering, lingering, lurking...

    Ever present




    Wrap all creation in yourself again


  • Jesus Mother Roots

    Today was our final Advent reflection based on Helen Bruch Pearson's book.

    The last thing we did was for five of us to light a taper from the red candles representing each of the women, naming her aloud, and then together to light the gold 'Jesus candle'.

    For me there was something very moving about the coming together of these five stories in the united act of 'birthing' the Light of the World






    Jesus' mother-roots

    Our advent journey nears its conclusion... the scarlet threads draw together to weave a shawl in which to wrap the infant Christ, son of Tamar, son of Rahab, son of Ruth, son of Bathsheba, son of Mary, son of God.

  • Fourth Week in Advent: Thursday

    Today's readings:

    Psalm 1: 1- 3

    Jeremiah 17:7-8

    Matthew 13: 3 - 6

    Spookily, after I opted yesterday to go with the mustard seed parable, each of today's verses has a bit of a tree theme!  Both the psalm and the Jeremiah have the righteous person compared to a tree growing by a stream, where it flourishes.  The Matthew gives us a bit of the parable of the sower/soils/seed, stopping hsort with the seed that falls on the rocky places and is parched.

    So, if today I stay with the part parable, we get this:

    Then Jesus told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”

    Rather than love being the seed or the plant/shrub/tree, what about love as that which is necesaary for the healthy growth of the said vegetation?  Love as a the stream that provides water, the soil that offers nutrients and cover, the sun that warms the shoots and enables photosynthesis?  What about love in many guises (water, food, shelter, warmth, etc) that enables us to reach our potential?  And if some of that is absent - physical or metaphorical hunger, cold, exposure - how is our gorwth stunted or destroyed?

    A quick gander in HymnQuest (not finding the contemporary song for which I was looking, shows there are a fair few which speak of the 'stream(s) of God's love' of which this one seemed to stirke a chord depsite its antiquated language and idiom:

    Make channels for the streams of love,
    Where they may broadly run;
    For love has overflowing streams
    To fill them every one.

    But if at any time we cease
    Such channels to provide,
    They very founts of love for us
    Will soon be parched and dried.

    For we must share if we would keep
    That blessing from above;
    Ceasing to give we cease to have-
    This is the law of love.

    Richard C Trench (1807-1886)

    And so to my own response...


    God of love

    Living water, flowing like an endless stream

    Let me dip my feet into its coolness

    Let me gulp in mouthfulness of its refreshing

    Let me splash delightedly in its shallows

    Let me swim in its depths

    Let it wash away my faitgue

    My dryness

    Let it fill my heart, mind and soul

    My emptiness

    Let me fill a bucket and carry it,

    Spilling over the rim

    To share with others



    Needing their own




    God, source of love

    God, love incarnate

    God, let us drink from you again



  • Goodwill...

    Neil Brighton rightly posts in appreciation of the hard work of the people who are directly employed by BUGB.  Reading his words has prompted me to very briefly express my own appreciation of them and of those in the BUS.  The BUS has had a year of immense change: the head of ministries and the head of mission returned to pastoral ministry, a new finance director, a new youth coordinator, a new mission adviser and a new BMS-BUS joint appointment were made, the Union moved to new offices, and several tough issues were faced with courage. 

    For my own part, both Unions have continued to be very supportive both through the latter stages of my medical treatment, and in the various challenges the year has brought.  I love both 'my' Unions very much... they may annoy me sometimes, but overall I am SO glad I'm a Baptist and not any other flavour of Christian!

    Happy Christmas BMS, BUS and BUGB, may God bless you with love and hope for 2012

  • Fourth Week in Advent: Wednesday

    Today's verses:

    Psalm 40:1,5

    Hosea 2:14 - 15

    Matthew 13: 31-32, 44

    So, we leave Song of Sex Solomon and move on to Hosea... who is busy 'alluring' his unfaithful wife... just who is it that is eros-obsessed?!  The psalm speaks of God's faithful response to the writer's cry, whilst Matthew offers two itty bitty parables.

    If a key characteristic of the Kingdom or Heaven/God/Shalom is love, be that agape or philadelphia (cos if JC is to be believed methinks eros is of this world... no marriage in heaven evidently) then maybe I can substitute 'kingdom' with 'love' in the parables and read then afresh?

    Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” ... “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

    Love like a mustard seed, then, tiny, dark and seemingly lifeless, buried in the fertile earth of a human heart and left to grow (but that's another parable about active waiting).  Full grown love likened to a shrub big enough to offer shelter, to provide rest for the weary, and, presumably, to feed or to season life itself.

    Love like a hidden treasure so valuable a person would sell everything to acquire it?  But, as the song says 'money can't buy me love', so that cannot be right.  Love as the most precious thing, not something that can be bought and sold (like a diamond ring, my friend) but the quality for which kings abandon their thrones (I vaguely recall a book on love that reflected on the abdication of Edward VIII as this depth of love).

    Love, God, you are love:

    Love wide as the ocean...

    Love that will not let me go...

    Perfect love, all human loves transcending...

    The hymn-writers revel in speaking of it

    And its language is so familiar we no longer consider

    What love






    Love came down at Christmas...

    As this Advent season draws towards its end

    As we prepare to expend out energies

    In services of worship

    In service of others

    In family celebration

    May love





    Be ours