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  • The Curious World of Social Media

    Over the last couple of days over a million pounds has been donated to cancer charities, initially unsolicited, though they soon spotted, and capitalised upon, this spontaneous movement.  The whole thing began as one of those really annoying FaceBook meme thingies 'post a no makeup selfie and raise awareness of (usually breast) cancer'.  No-one had tagged me - no surprise I don't do make-up - but I had spotted a few photos over the last couple of weeks.  Then a few people who have had (mostly breast) cancer broke ranks and started posting bald photo or scar photos along with messages to check 'bits 'n' bobs' do the screening and maybe donate to your favourite cancer charity.  And yes, I was one of those who posted a baldy picture, one of my 'favourite' ones with just such a message.  Just in case you feel aggrieved not to have seen that selfie (why?) and incase you need a nudge to do the checking, screening or donating, here it is again...


    17 December 2010

    As an example of meme-evolution and viral-media it is fascinating.  I donated to CRUK - in the end it is research that will reap rewards, however imporant support and palliative care charities may be (and they are very important).


    Then today something totally different, a FaceBook group interacting with BUGB Council live and online - something that attracted around 300 people of whom maybe a couple of dozen (mostly people I know!) contributed thoughts.  It wasn't entirely successful as a conversation, but it was fascinating (and more than a little distracting!) as an experiment, and one to be applauded I think.  There are things that need to be carefully considered about the status of the group and who joins (potentially anyone could ask to join and be added as it stands) as well as confidentiality and the kind of questions/discussions that are appropriate.  But fascinating and worth repeating, I think.


    So, an interesting couple of days seeing social media doing stuff that is creative and, overall, pretty positive.

  • Second Wednesday in Lent - A Poem


    Henry Ossawa-Tanner


    Last Sunday's lectionary gospel was Jesus and Nicodemus, and we used this painting and this poem (hymn) to aid our reflections:


    As the city's lights were fading,

    And most people were asleep,

    Came a man who truly was seeking

    What Jesus had to say.

    So they walked and they talked on the terrace

    By the light of a thousand bright stars,

    And the Lord told the love of the Father

    Who had sent his only Son.


    Nicodemus said, 'Good Master,

    You're a teacher come from God;

    No one else could do all these wonders,

    Unless he came from God.'

    So they walked and they talked on the terrace

    By the light of a thousand bright stars,

    And the Lord told the love of the Father

    Who had sent his only Son.


    'If you enter in God's Kingdom,

    You must truly be reborn-

    Born of water and of the Spirit,'

    said Jesus to the man.

    So they walked and they talked on the terrace

    By the light of a thousand bright stars,

    And the Lord told the love of the Father

    Who had sent his only Son.

    Willard F Jabusch

  • Koru Brooch

    As requested, because it didn't show up very well on the selfie:


    The shape is based on the unfurling frond of the silver fern (a popular NZ symbol) and symbolises 'new life' or 'new beginnings'.

    Quite a lot of quite conervative Christians in NZ seem to wear Maori symbols rather than crosses.

  • Identity and Suffering

    Chapters four and five of Looking Through the Cross focus on the topics of 'identity' and 'suffering' - two really good topics, and two that I pondered to some degree as part of preparing the conference paper I wrote.  Once again, the book neither surprises nor challenges me.

    Our identity is defined by our relationship to Chirst, and him crucified, ergo we cannot define ourselves over against any other... basic enough conceptually but missing, in my view the key 'so what does that look like in real life' question.

    The chapter on suffering seemed to me to involve a deal of contortion to explain that God-the-son suffers but God-the-father doesn't otherwise God is not 'bigger' or 'stronger' than suffering.  So, if God-the-father doesn't do suffering, why does God-the-father need to forsake God-the-son on the cross, as the author argues a few chapters earlier?  Or is that the point - God-the-father refuses to do suffering?  And, if God is one in three 'personae', not three godlets (my word) then isn't the distinction pretty much moot?  It needs a better theologian than me to offer an alternative, but it doesn't work for me.  Pace, Tomlin, but I think God suffers but is still 'bigger and stronger' than suffering or evil. 

    I think what I am starting to realise is that it is the seemingly abstract/theoretical nature of the thoughts that is bugging me.... there really isn't much to disagree with, except in semantics or theological nuance, but it doesn't really seem to get itself grounded in real life.

    So, identity, humanly defined is far for fluid than it was a generation ago, but how does our identity in Christ through the cross impact that day to day, at grass roots level?  If, as Galatians says, and Tomlin cites, in Christ race, status and gender are meaningless, and if, as he asserts, our identity in Christ demands the giving of self for the other which is like and not like us, what does that mean?

    Must be the (somewhat ratty) practical theologian in me, but systematics without application is, well, systematics without application!

  • Criteria for Canonisation?

    Recently smallVOICE have begun an interesting experiment to identify books and publications that they would choose add their extra-biblical canon.  I remember at the age of twelve going home from school and asking my mother, 'what came after the Bible?'  She didn't know and muttered something vague, as mothers (or fathers) are wont to do in such circumstances.  But it is a question that I've returned to on and off ever since (so the better part of forty years now, oh my!).

    This month, smallVOICE commended a book called French Leave by journalist Fidelma Cook, and their reasoning left me sufficiently curious to purchase and read it.  To be honest, it took me a while to get into it, to get past the Daily Mail journalese which, in my opinion, characterised the early chapters, but I persevered and detected the charting of a metaphorical as well as physical 'journey' on the part of the author as she sought, bought and began to live in a house in La France profonde.  At around chapter 13, I think it was, the emphasis changed, there were more profound observations and less easy-if-justified comments about ex-pat Brits/English.  By the end, with its subversion of the happy ending, I was actually left wanting a bit more.

    I am glad I read the book, and do now enjoy reading the author's weekly column in The Herald newspaper (for ex-pat Brits or non-Brits, avaliable online or in some supermarkets Northampton!) but would I canonise it?

    No, I don't think it I would.  Not because it lacks much overt Christian, spiritual or theological emphasis (it was never intended to do any of the above, so why would it?) but because this is not a book to wihich I would return time and again in search of new insights, new nuggets of truth or humour, passages that merit further reflection, or even simply for pleasure.  I think, though my bookshelves are laden with all manner of books and leaflets, there are very few that I would return to rescue if the vestry burned down, very few to which I return time and again to re-read and re-reflect.  Very few that have the capacity to change my heart or my mind, to infleunce me sufficiently to be called 'good news'.

    So what would I canonise?  That's a much more tricky question!  Certainly David Bosch's Transforming Mission which profoundly influenced my understanding of ministry, and to which I still return now and then.  Probably some stuff that I struggled with or railed against (such as Mary Daly who compelled and repelled me in equal measure). I expect some Moltmann, Volf and Fiddes, even a bit of Barth as these theologians continue to delight and challenge me.  Quite possibly The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  Oh, and Giles Andrae's 'Giraffes Can't Dance' and Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre', the two works of fiction to which I return most regularly (the latter for 40+ years).

    What about you?  What criteria would you use to select works and which would be on your shelf?