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- Page 5

  • Mountain Views

    I rather like this photo of me on my way up Ben Nevis last month, with the Half Way Lochan in the background, so for no better reason than that, I am posting it:

    Ben Nevis 2012 008.JPG

    The angle of the photo belies the slope of the incline!

    My sponsorship is now at a little over £1750 which is absolutely amazing!  Huge thanks to all who have donated, including a few people who I know only online.

    I recently heard of another woman minister who has a probable cancer diagnosis (different part of the anatomy altogether), so as she climbs her own metaphorical mountain, I hold her in my prayers.

  • Book Hunt

    I am trying to track down a book I read somewhere between eight and ten years ago, and about which I recall almost nothing except that it had a chapter/essay/section on how the biblical narratives of Christ's birth have been interpreted/received with reference to portrayal in art.  In this account rather than deriding the Victorian Christmas card images, the author seemed to feel that they added new layers of meaning.  Alas even the fount-of-all-knowledge who was my tutor at the time cannot recall the book either (it was a long time ago, perhaps unfair to think he might).  I think it might be one on hermeneutics, he thinks it could be on reception history - either or both is plausible, or it could be something else (pretty confident it's not Barth's Church Dogmatics or Green's take on the Pastoral Cycle though!!!).

    Should it ring any bells for you can let me know?  Commenting on this blog platform is unpredictable but *usually* something as short as a book title will post...

  • I Love Bible Study!

    We have two very different Bible Study groups, each exploring the same material - The Big-hearted Lyfe from the Bible Society, prepared by Chris Duffett.  Whilst I had some reservations after the first study with the first group, I am now more comfortable with the material, not least as we have some brilliant people taking a turn at facilitating.

    One group meets fortnightly on a Thursday afternoon, and we are now half way through the series.  We have had some wonderful discussions and shared some profound thoughts.  Those who come along are older than me and numbers range from 4 - 8 but usually around half a dozen.  We have grown a little since last year and now have one very brave man attending!  Each week ends, after prayer, with tea and home-baking or posh-shop bought cakes!  Laughter and love permeate the meeting, and it is always a delight to be there.

    The other group meets monthly on a Monday evening and has now completed two studies.  Discussions are wide-ranging and complex, enquiring minds refusing simplistic answers or trivial explorations.  It is a large group of around 10-14 and ages range from early twenties through to folk who are long retired.  We begin with tea and snacks and engage in a variety of approaches - private reflection, talking in twos and plenary work.  This group has a very different feel to the afternoon one, largely because it is new and still working itself out, and is every bit as enjoyable, just in a different way.

    I've never really been a fan of attending Bible studies as "the minister" because I feel it skews the dynamic and can undermine the leader(s) but I do love these two groups.  And they serve as a wonderful illustration of communal reading and reflecting in an authentically Baptist way of being 'at liberty under Christ'.

    Sadly I will miss the next couple of afternoon studies due to prior commitments, but know they will be well guided and enjoyed by those taking part.

  • Living by the Law or living by Faith

    Today's PAYG was very timely in terms of my sermon preparation, as Psalm 90 is needing a bit of wrestling into submission!  Or at least it is if I don't want to expend my energy on ancient cause-effect worldviews and why it is (imo) utter nonsense to correlate the floods in southern Scotland and large chunks of England, or the poor UK harvest this year with divine retribution for the UK governments considering legislative changes on topics of equality.  Think about it... UK government contemplates changes in marriage law, so God smites parts of Britain leaving devout Christians and the poorest of the poor (by UK standards) homeless and/or penniless...  Tosh, gibberish and nonsense, as the saying goes.  I know where I want to go with the psalm, just not quite worked out what the route plan look like!

    Galatians 3, and Paul at his tactless best: "are you Galatians mad?"  And then a consideration of life under law and life directed by faith.  The commentator on PAYG observed how much easier and less risky is life under law compared with the vulnerability and uncertainty of life by faith.  Legalism negates the need to think or understand, life becomes formulaic, do this, don't do that, and all will be well.  Faith is scary, it leaves us with questions and doubts, sometimes God seems silent or even absent, the route ahead is shrouded in mist, there are no easy answers... bad things happen to good people, people we thought were good turn out to be bad, cheats do prosper... faith accepts that we live with a degree of uncertainty; for all our best endeavours, and even if we keep every rule that we know of, it could yet all fall apart...

    To live by faith is, in a worldly sense, bonkers.  When I left a well-paid career to follow God's call to ordained ministry, which meant four years of living by faith (in the financial sense) with no guarantee of a job at the end of it, people thought I was nuts.  Yes, I probably was, and yet it was incredibly fulfilling and liberating.  Set free to re-explore my faith, to recover aspects of my spirituality that had been suppressed by various kinds of conformity, and above all to lean more on God rather than my own resources.  I am really glad I had that experience, it taught me a lot about myself and about God.  And now, when I try to distill a message out of a psalm that is anything but trivial, that past experience becomes part of the riches to which I return.  Good to be reminded of that at a time when I am materially secure, and life risks becoming rather comfortable.

  • Prayer...

    Today's PAYG was centred on Luke's account of the giving of the Lord's prayer.  Looking through the eyes of the person making the request 'teach us to pray' we noted that:

    • prayer was seen as important
    • prayer was something difficult
    • prayer was something other people seemed to be able to do (reference to John the Baptist teaching his followers how to pray)

    I think that this is one of those things that never changes... we all think prayer is important, we all find it difficult and we can all be convinced that some other person or group of people have it sussed.

    Sometimes I suspect we over-think it all - we recognise that there is nothing we can tell God that is not already known, so we wonder what we can say; we have moved beyond formulaic prayer and fear really, just, yes 'n' Lord, using cliches and holyfied waffle.  We have been taught to offer praise, thanks, confession and intercession, but, if we are honest, it's not so easy.

    The Roots material we are using over the next few weeks is looking at prayer through the lens of some of the Psalms (90, 91 and 126) as set by the lectionary.  It is good to force ourselves to dig a little deeper into these psalms, some of which are less comfortable than others!

    Sermon is progressing slowly.  Hopefully by close of play today I'll have a first draft.