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  • A Good Day...

    So today I began my new improved work pattern, and what a difference already!  I have done loads of stuff and am feeling really energised and upbeat.  I'm not saying this is the cure for all the world's woes, or that I'll always feel this cheery about it, but it has definitely been a good day.

    I have:

    • Done some admin stuff
    • Begun some more serious planning for my sabbatical
    • Done some reading of commentaries on Ezra-Nehemiah and got some ideas mulling nicely for my sermon
    • Done some reading on Matthew's Mission Paradigm
    • Done some pastoral work

    Now I have an hour to do more odds and ends and then the pleasure of this evening's prayers, led by someone else, and then I have a day off tomorrow.

    How good is that?  Pretty darned good in my book!


  • Chalke and Talk

    Last week there was a minor flurry of interest going on in Christian circles following an article published by Steve Chalke.  Among the responses that I read were those of Steve Holmes and David Kerrigan each of which was gracious, thoughtful and thought provoking.  There have also been a couple of interesting /pertinent Baptist Times articles here and here.  What I am especially encouraged by, thus far, is that these contributors (all Baptists) are engaged in a proper, grown-up conversation, even a proper, grown-up, Baptist conversation.

    You may agree with Steve Chalke or you may not, but I, for one, am glad that his article seems to have precipitated open, thoughtful and public conversation on this topic which is not going to go away just because we ignore it.  I am pleased and privileged to count among my friends gay people in relationships (legally recognised or not) and gay people who are committed to celibacy; Baptist ministers who support, cautiously or whole-heartedly, committed same sex relationships (some using the term marriage, some not) and Baptist ministers who cannot in good conscience affirm anything other than celibacy or heterosexual monogamy.

    When Baptists get it right, we can live graciously with difference and disagreement without resorting to mud-slinging or cheap attacks.  I really hope that now we can begin to talk about this topic and move forward together as a reconciled diversity.


    [Since this is a controversial topic, can I remind readers that opinions expressed here are mine, and will not necessarily accord with those of my church, the BUS or the BUGB]

  • Finding Middle Ground

    This morning I preached my sermon that set alongside each other Luke 4: 1 - 13 and John 2: 1 - 11.  I was intrigued to explore the interplay between abstinence and abundance.  I'm not sure that the sermon ever quite got itself honed enough to do the job, but it was fun to try, and it certainly raised some interesting questions as I revisited the beginnings of all four gospels.

    Mark, generally deemed the oldest gospel, starts with Jesus' baptism, then devotes a whole two sentences to the temptation of Jesus, without any elaboration whatsoever on what they may have been.  He then moves into a series of exorcisms and healings.

    Matthew begins with a genealogy a birth story, and a Baptism before giving an expanded account of Jesus temptations.  He then moves fairly quickly into the extended teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, pausing briefly for a few disciples to be called.

    Luke, having outlined his intentions, has an alternative birth story, and an account of the Baptism followed by an alternative genealogy, before his account of the temptations, in a different order from Matthew, before moving into the start of Jesus' ministry with the Nazareth manifesto.  Luke alone hints at temptation as a recurrent factor in Jesus' life.

    Clearly, these three writers consider it important to describe a Jesus who is vulnerable to temptation, maybe as much as anyone else.  This seems to be concerned with demonstrating his humanity.

    John seems totally uninterested in any of this.  After his poetic prologue and an account of John the Baptist which hints  at Jesus being baptised (though never says so), we find some disciples choosing to go with him (sent by John and/or sitting under trees being told by friends, contra synoptic accounts) and then we have the 'fist sign', the wedding at Cana.  This story, rich in symbolism and layers in meaning, speaks of exuberance rather than temperance, abundance not abstinence, and so paints a very different picture.  Religiously important water jars used as containers for ludicrous quantities of fine wine (120-180 gallons) - is Jesus some kind of a lush then?  Face saved for a bridegroom who faced social embarrassment and shame if the wine ran out.  This seems as far from the temptations as it is possible to be!

    In my sermon, I suggested that the temptations seemed to operate in in three spheres, the personal and materialistic (bread from stones), the 'worldly' and corrupt (bowing to the devil/Satan/evil) and the religious (supernatural conjuring tricks as signs of power).  I suggested that the same three spheres could be detected in the Cana story - religious ritual (both the wedding itself, and the water jars symbolising purification), societal attitudes (the risk of shame and disgrace if the wine ran out, with ongoing consequences for the bridegroom (who clearly couldn't organise the proverbial...), and personal, material (the physical thirst of the guests, their desire for a good time).

    Maybe I was overstretching the connections, but I was left pondering where the middle ground is that avoids us being so fearful of sin that we become boring, self-righteous prigs at one extreme, and so centred on the immeasurable, inexhaustible love, grace and mercy of God that we become laissez faire or licentious at the other.  Where is the middle ground that holds together creatively the reality of temptation and the freedom to rejoice and celebrate?

    No proper answer, but we ended our service by pushing back some of the chairs and a number of adults and children sharing in a simple circle dance while we sang Sydney Carter's 'Lord of the Dance' set to a Shaker folk tune.  I think we got that bit right anyway!!

  • Snow News...

    The news is, there is no snow.  Glasgow is basking in glorious winter sunshine.  Social media seem to be swamped with photos of snow (mostly very idyllic it has to be said) and people smugly recording how they are tucked up safe and warm watching trashy TV.

    Firstly then, the light and funny:

    snow news.jpg

    The 'ticker' says


    Mass panic as snow falls, many people don't know what to do



    My advice: move to Glasgow!


    Secondly the more serious.  In areas affected by snow there will be people who ill or in need of medical treatment and unable to get out, there are people whose employment is essential to the continued infrastructure of national life (e.g. the utilities, hospitals, supermarkets, etc.).  There are rough sleepers who may freeze to death, there are people vulnerably housed or with very low incomes at risk of hypothermia.  And so on, and so forth. 

    We can delight in the beuaty of nature.

    We can have our fun. 

    Maybe we also need to bear in mind that there is a dark side to the white stuff...

  • Re-Establishing Rhythms

    Last autumn I changed my working pattern in response to some of the new initiatives we were establishing at church.  It was absolutely the right thing to do, but I have never really felt comfortable with the change... as a 'morning person' I seemed to end up with a lot of late starts which don't really suit me, and never really got to sit down with the Bible passages for Sunday until at least Wednesday afternoon and sometimes Thursday.  It has felt as if I have been chasing my tail, running hard to stand still, and never really achieving what I hope for... even the to do' list approach which usually serves me well has failed to get things done.

    So now I have spent a month standing back and observing myself (clever, huh) with a view to establishing, or re-establishing, rhythms and routines that will work for me.  This does mean potentially working one very long day (I really hate 'split shifts' and they never work for me anyway) and it does necessitate me making better use of 'cloud' storage for documents so that I can make better use of the time where I work from home one morning a week, but already it feels better, and, I feel better.

    I am fortunate to be able to determine, by and large, my own work patterns, and appreciate the privileges that arise from not having fixed hours.  My hope is that I will end up more energised and more effective, rather than the recent experience of "aaargh it's Friday and the first draft of the sermon is so not where I want it to go..."