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  • The Man with Wibbly-Wobbly Legs - and other stories

    This morning for our all age, all together bit of the service I told the story of "the man with wibbly-wobbly legs"... a telling of the the Markan narrative of the four friends who brought their disabled friend to see jesus, climbed on the roof of the house and broke through to gain acess to Jesus.  But this telling requires as a visual aid four identical strips of card joined together end-to-end with paper fasteners so that you can manipulate them into different shapes... a house, a hole, a bed being lowered and, of course, some wibbly wobbly legs.  It went down well, it never fails to... it is simple and intriguing how these bits of connected card can become images for the story.  And it intrigues me that it never fails to go down so well, because I first saw it around forty years ago in a URC in Northamptonshire.

    Which got me wondering, which are the stories (or all age talks or children's addresses or whatever name we prefer) that stick in the mind and why.  Back in those teenage years, I recall one of the GB/Sunday School leaders saying she recalled a visiting preacher who, as he told his story, had put together a fishing rod; she had no recollection of the message, but she recalled how she had watched, spellbound, as the rod was assembled.  There is one I recall for all the wrong reasons, as it was someone telling about a particular (now viewed with suspicion) charismatic evangelist and the sentence, allegedly translated as "in the morning I see a man ahead of me" recalled independently by myself and my (photographic memory) sister as "um bongo titty phoowayo".  Even if it was genuine, it wasn't the best thing to say when a load of teenagers were in the congregation...

    Of course, I have no way of knowing which, if any, of the stories or activities I offer will lodge in the memories of anyone  who hears them.


    Here is a version of the wibbly-wobbly man told by an American woman... not quite how I tell (I don't ever add on the object lesson/now let's work in the cross bit) it but worth a look see...


  • Of the Creation of Sermons there is No End!

    This morning I've just about knocked my sermon into an acceptable shape... the third attempt is, I have decided, OK.  Not my best sermon ever.  Not my worst sermon ever.  A bread-and-butter kind of a sermon, and that's OK.

    It used to be easy to produce good sermons way back when I began to preach - there were long lead times and plenty of opportunity to mull over ideas and pray for inspiration.  It wasn't too bad when I was a student, usually only preaching once a fortnight (almost always in the same place) which still left lots of time to ponder, write, re-write and re-invent.  Then it was the two sermons a week phase, which began to erode some of the creativity as deadlines could not be avoided - Sunday arrived every week, bang on time, and something had to be delivered, twice.  It was a relief to revert to one a week (when the two services were combined) and to have time to craft, revise and hone my sermons - some were pretty good (or they seem it when I look back). 

    Fifteen years since I began to preach frequently as well as regularly, and in the last few weeks I've once again become aware how easy it is to slip into some kind of diligent and worthy but not very inspired sermon-writing.  Read the passage, study the commentaries... and write a competent exegesis...add a bit of application... but that's not a sermon.

    In the end, what I have this week is a broadly expository type sermon, which is pretty much my default mode - suits my scientific mind, takes account of the exegesis and hopefully offers something worth pondering to the hearer.

    This is not a grumble, nor is it a sense of 'burn out', just a recognition of how easy it is to end up in some sort of a rut, unthinkingly churning out stuff that people are sufficiently generous to listen to but that lacks a certain "je ne sait quoi".  I am enjoying myself working systematically through the start of Mark's gospel, and have learned loads in the process - but that isn't ever going to be enough, sermons are not lessons.

    Thankfully, preaching and the creation of acts of worship remains a geniune mystery (mysterion) and the links and hints emerge unbidden as the musicians and intercessors play their part, as the people of God become the Body of Christ, as, depsite our clay-footed, ham-fisted endeavours it works.  And I guess, ultimately, that's more important than whether I consider my sermons to be good, bad or indifferent!

  • Ministry is...

    ...as always, impossible to define.

    So far today I have achieved exactly one thing I had planned and several that weren't even on the horizon when I woke up today.

    Everything I've done is important, and all of it is ministry, but yet again the week is nearing it's end and I haven't done what I'd planned.

    And now, of course, I am blogging as a means of displacement in my delayed lunch hour!!

    Back to work and get my brain into gear and all will be well, with a little help from the Holy Spirit!

  • World Cancer Day

    Last night I was at a meeting where our resident oncologist was telling us about his struggle to tie the "unity band" he'd bought to support CRUK on World Cancer Day, which is today.

    With the news telling us that now 1 in 2 UK residents will develop cancer at some point in their lives, there is inevitably a push for more research to understand and maybe, one day, beat this cruel unpredictable class of diseases.

    One awareness option for today was to post a "hand selfie" with the hashtag #WeWillUnite. On your hand you were to write people you wanted to support (or to thank, it seeemd a little muddled when I was watching the video).

    So, in my own fashion, here are my hand-selfies, which mix up people I support, people I remember and people I have been supported by.  The second one is a "customised" (old) lymphoedema glove... seemed fitting somehow!




  • Wedding Report!

    The wedding on Saturday went really well - two young people pledging their love one for the other for life.  I hope that when they come back to earth, when the cards are taken down, the gifts found homes, and new normal emerges they are as happy as they seemed on the day.

    Slightly odd when I realised the last time I had been in that church was for the baptism of the Godson whose wedding it was...

    But all went well, some nice remarks on my "sermon", lovely weather (snow on the ground, blue skies) and tasty food... all in all a good day for Mr & Mrs Llama-Giraffe