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  • Teaser for Sunday...

    This Sunday the lectionary departs from Luke and dips into John; indeed it leapfrogs the start of Luke 4, deferring it until Lent 1 (for fairly obvious reasons).  Because I'm awkward, I am setting the two readings alongside each other (not least because in Lent I am not following the lectionary at all) and seeing where that might take us. 

    Here is a little question for you to ponder: why do you think that John has no 'temptation' story in his gospel?  And what does your answer to that question suggest for your own discipleship?

  • Dangers of Txt Spk... and Other Cultural Faux Pas

    On Monday evening at the Bible study, I invited people to recall, if they could, examples in their own experience of encountering cultural differences that had caused shock, bewilderment or upset.  As a flippant example, I noted that on the Tube in London no-one speaks to anyone (such conversations as do take place tend to be in very hushed tones) and how shock and confusion can be engendered when some unsuspecting tourist tries to start a conversation.  I noted, too, that in a self-service cafe, we would never think of going and sitting at a table where other people were already sat, and how shocking and confusing it would be if someone did (I have known it happen very occasionally in very busy, small cafes, usually leading to everyone wolfing down their food and leaving!).

    We didn't have too much success, but one person shared an example she had experienced whereby a Japanese person arrived for a meeting with her bearing a beautifully wrapped gift.  She duly opened the parcel and expressed her thanks, then noticed a look of utter horror on the face of the giver... it transpired that in Japanese culture the norm was to acknowledge receipt of the gift with a bow, and then set it aside to open later in private.  The communal aspect of gift opening that (most) Brits enjoy is not after all universal.

    Yesterday I had lunch with a German student who has been worshipping with us for the last few months whilst she has been on an exchange programme.  She has been staying with an oriental family who have a very strict 'shoes off' policy and provide a large pair of slippers for guests to wear.  This she had found bewildering when she arrived, since most Germans like most Brits, wear shoes indoors.  As we chatted she asked me if I could help her understand a text message she had received from a friend of hers, which said "sorry hun...."  What, she asked did 'hun' mean?  AH, I said, it is the way some people writ 'honey' in short when they are using it as friendly term... then I froze... calling a German 'hun'.... She told me she had googled the word and discovered the (correct, phew) description of a hun as a nomadic warrior people... but how easily she could have heard it as a derogatory allusion to her nationality...

    The story of Jesus' encounter with a woman at Jacob's Well is so familiar we no longer grasp the impact of what was going on.  Perhpas these little encounters with cultures that confuse us, our won ability to inadvertently cause offence or hurt, help remind us that there are always lessons to learn about cultural boundaries...

    "Hey hun, can you give me a drink of water...."

    "Who are you calling a Hun?  We don't talk to you lot, never mind share mugs..."

  • Looking for Something Fresh

    Tonight I am leading a Bible Study on John 4 (Jesus' encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well) based somewhat loosely on the Big-hearted Lyfe guide.  This group meets monthly and enjoys what might be described as 'problematising' passages.  Most of the folk who come along are very well read, many have forgotten more than I ever knew about literary matters, and it is not easy to find a new angle, a new approach or whatever.  It probably doesn't help that I have preached on this passage oodles of times and heard oodles of other people preach on it too.

    So, in the end I have decided to extend the range of verses beyond those in the guide book, and split the story into four parts.  I have conjured up some discussion starters which I'm not going to post here in case any of the group members happen to read this between now and 7:30.

    For anyone else who might be interested, can I suggest you take some time to look at the first seven verses and see how they set the scene for what comes next... what do we learn about the embryonic Jesus' movement?  Why did Jesus et al take the quick route north?  And how did taking that road 'make all the difference' to plagiarise the well loved poem "The Road Less Travelled", though in this case it was possibly the road more travelled...

  • Interesting Imagery and/or Dastardly Doggerel?

    The theme that Roots invited us to explore this morning was repentance and to do so via the Greek etymological root of 'metanoia' which can be expressed 'think again'.  A good idea.  A helpful idea.

    As I prepared the sermon I found myself recalling some of Benjamin Keach's worst doggerel - the stuff that makes you wonder how it ever was that Baptists came to sing hymns...


    Repentance like a bucket is

    To pump the water out

    For leaky is our little ship

    Which makes us look about.


    If you want to find yourself unable to get this out of your brain for a week, you can sing it to the tune of 'Our God, our help in ages past' the author which was contemporaneous (roughly anyway) with Keach.

    It is dire as hymnody, but as a metaphor I quite like it - repentance as an ongoing process of baling water out of a ship that perhaps leaks or risks being overwhelmed by the rough seas of life... the sense of being all in it together (plural pronouns throughout).  Repentance not as turning round through 180 degrees (never quite 'got' that as it implies oging back whence you came) but as a process that never ends.

    If you wanted to link it to some newer doggerel (we didn't) then how about


    With Jesus in the vessel you can smile at the storm

    Smile at the storm, smile at the storm

    With Jesus in the vessel you can smile at the storm

    As we go sailing home...


    Again rubbish poetry but there is some merit in the idea of Jesus riding with us through the storms of life, not miraculously calming the sea, but sharing the experience.  Not so sure about smiling at the storms, more likely to grimace, but even so, plural language and life that is not all sunshine and absolutes.

    So, repentance as a bucket, or maybe an act of baling, that goes on and on, and in which Christ participates... from the doggerel a germ of a helpful illustration, I think.

  • Challenges...

    Our Thursday afternoon Bible study group has just begun a series using the BMS 'Discover your Shape in Mission' resource, something I used a long time ago, but remains valuable and relevant almost a decade later.  One of the suggested exercises for the first study was that we each identified something we'd like to do that is pleasurable by the time we reached the end of the series.  Some found it more difficult than others to accept the val;idity of choosing a leisure/pleasure activity but we pretty much managed it.  No names, no pack drill (whatever that really means!) but here are the things we identified...

    • Walk the Clyde footpath
    • Take up baking again
    • Practice playing hymns
    • Learn a new piano piece
    • Decorate a room
    • Try to be more appreciative of others

    We will hold one another accountable and hopefully our last meeting before Easter will include some musical and gastronomic fruits of our labours!!