Saturday, 10 December 2011

Monologue or Dialogue- Part 2


So was my sermon dialogue? Well, I shared some of the work with my prayer triplet, I talked it through with some friends who don't go to church and had to go through an outline (a slightly bizarre process as plenty of reading and research came into the form of a mind map) so I would say I dialogued with:

  • The Bible
  • Other Students
  • Christian scholars (through commentaries and other resources)
  • Faculty
  • Friends

I would also say that in prayer and meditating upon the scripture that God spoke to me, though I want to be honest and say I am neither a perfect listener or a perfect vessel but I felt I got that point across.

It may be slightly fortuitous that I couldn't post straight away after the sermon I preached on the Sunday. It was my assessed sermon for college and unexpectedly it opened some raw emotions. For my entire placement I have had no issues with my Dyspraxia and thinking back over leading and preaching in the past it has come out in the prep stage and in my sermon structure. Yet on that particular Sunday it really came to the fore with missing out several sections of the service. Good job that I have a really lovely church to practice on!

So how to move forward?

My placement church have morning prayer on a Monday where the text for Sunday is read together and discussed, and I think this would be helpful to attend next time too, for instance I think I would have made more of "Stir up Sunday" rather than just "Christ the King" Sunday. I didn't talk it through with my placement supervisor, who knows the congregation and who is a good preacher. I have planned some time with him for the next assessed sermon.

One suggestion has been to work through David Day's Preaching Workbook which I am doing, but I have also found a great resource on itunes university, Preaching Christ in all of Scripture, I think Tim Keller has become a firm favourite, a preacher who inspires me not only to preach better but in my worship of God.

Another reflection has been I have heard loads of sermons via podcast and have decided to be better at filtering, why listen to bad sermons when there are some really good preachers out there to inspire and encourage. I doubt I will ever be a 3 point sermon affectionado, but I need better structuring in planning my sermon so others can follow a metaphor for my current preaching may be the problem of driving a new car and not getting the gear changes right, it clunks which sets people on edge.



Finally and most importantly, God is good and inspite of a fairly average grade for the sermon, a couple of people felt challenged and told me so afterwards, so however great or poor the sermon may seem to us (in spite of the hours spent preparing) God still speaks, whether through an Ass or a Angel.

Happy to be back- Sorry for the gap

For whatever reason, I haven't been able to post for two weeks, something to do with blogger I believe. So not been happy about that. Still back on now and I can post some of the drafts I have...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Dialogue or Monologue?

A couple of weeks ago we had to argue for either monologue or dialogue for preaching. Now my stance is there is no such thing as a true monologue in a sermon because:

  • The preacher is in a dialogue with God. Prayer and mediation on the verse are part of this after all as we read the scriptures we too are challenged.
  • As no preacher is an island (to borrow from About a Boy) reading commentaries etc is engaging with other voices too.
  • Because it is a lectionary reading, it is a community decision rather than choosing my particular favorite verse.
  • If we are reading scripture and engaging with scripture people will respond and that may be because of the sermon or not.
I know many see dialogue as between the preacher and the congregation in the delivery of the sermon, people breaking into small groups to discuss or some other way of feeding back or interaction. However not all contexts allow for this, but the sermon can still be dialogue if the preparation is not done in isolation, so with that in mind even though my next sermon will be a monologue in delivery the preparation is not.

So with that in mind does anyone want to input into my sermon on Matt 25.31-46?


Matthew 25:31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The week that was...




This week has been an interesting one, I suppose the biggest one has been the realisation that I have not really come to terms with dyspraxia. I am not at peace with it for several reasons:

  • College is so busy that taking time to actually think and read about it has been limited
  • I am still waiting for confirmation of study skills sessions (only completed one whole year of study)
  • When I talk about it, I often find people don't understand (why would they I don't)
  • I have been really clumsy this week (I have the bruises)
  • But mainly I have been grumpy with myself whenever I do something related to it (ie can't remember someone's name, bump into something, especially the bad key day)
I haven't lost perspective but I think I am on a different part of the learning curve. I suppose the denial (before being diagnosed) was several years so I shouldn't expect to get to integration already. It has been suggested that I do a project on dyspaxia and ministry and I think that this project is a fantastic way for me to really reflect and pray and find ways to adapt to life with dyspraxia.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

All Saints- Light

Hallelujah- All saints day! No not supporting some past-it girl band from my youth, but a day of celebration and life.


This week at college we have been celebrating those saints who have inspired us, the every day saints, mums and dads or others who have been significant in our faith journeys, it has been great to take time to do this. 


My faith journey has led me to this point and ordination as a deacon in July next year, something I would have thought as crazy 10 years ago. I have been so blessed to have many saints in my life, not least my parents who have prayed for me supported me, put up with me, but most of all loved me and shared Jesus with me. My testimony is not one of I once was a drug addict or alcoholic who has been transformed but the story of one who has had God's light shine into my life. As I have grown up I have looked further into the light and realised i have still needed to be changed and transformed, I haven't got there. It is the grace of God alone which has opened the windows of heaven.


I recall one day being told by someone at church(they were having a bad day to be fair) that  I hope your halo dosent choke you Paul. If I boast in anything other than in Jesus Christ then it is me once more at the centre and all this is is a smug, self satisfied life. God has come that we may have life and life in it's fullness in abundance. So often when we proclaim good news it sounds anything but, yet recalling this weeks posts:



  • Light brings warmth, it reveals and brings life. 
  • Prayer to me seems to be ideally suited to the image of light
The passage I started with John 1 seems to continue to be at the front and centre of my reflection.

Light is great but it can create in us feelings of vulnerability, fear and shame. But this light we have been looking at is not a light which seeks to destroy but is also life.



In the Bible we see light in various forms as something which leads, Moses was led to a burning bush, the children of Israel followed the fire by night (fire by night)...the wise men followed a star a lamp on a table and tongues of fire fell on those gathered in the upper room. In all these cases (if you forgive my use of fire as light) we see God leading people to life. My prayer is that we might be bearers of light.

Father of lightsyou never change and in you there is no darknessOpen our lives to the true light of the worldHoly Spirit fill our lamps with oil so we might bring your light with us wherever we goIn Jesus Christ's name
Amen


Monday, 31 October 2011

Catching Light

A friend has kindly allowed me to share this poem she has written on the theme of light. Have a read and let me know your thoughts.


Paul

After the eclipse, the king decrees
that whoever brings him rays of light
will receive the hand of his youngest daughter.
Subjects try, but let's skip to three brothers.


The first draws papers from a box inlaid with gold
proving that the speed of light through glass
is the refractive index n of the material.
The king says, oh my head, my head!


The second lifts a photo from his silver casket,
which displays, against ferocious blue,
a line of raindrops clinging to the royal oak.
Very pretty, yes. What use is that?


The third opens the casket made of lead:
two pitted stones, one powdery moth.
Sorry I thought..The princess laughs
for the first time since the decree. The king does not.


Daybreak. Light glides across the capital's slate roofs.
The sun cuts busily between the curtains
of the king's bedroom. He huffs and turns,
dragging the queen's share of the quilt with him.


Meanwhile, the daughter staggers home
along a towpath, arm in arm with the third brother
Look! He says. Bright as a flare, a kingfisher
dives into the canal. The princess shields her eyes.


(c) Carol Beadle 14.10.11.



Hero's and Saints-Light

*This was yesterday's post so just imagine it is Sunday!*




Today is All Saints Sunday, which is an opportunity to think about those who have gone before us in the faith. And I want to focus on what Saints do. I read a great essay recently on Theology as Narrative and a section of it concentrates on the difference between Hero's and Saints (For the article see: Hauerwas, S. (2010). Theology as Narrative. In: L Bretherton & R Rook (Eds). Living Out Loud. pp. 23-38. Paternoster: Milton Keynes). Hauerwas makes the distinction between the Greek ideal of Hero something which we understand well in Western thought, the Soldier. The problem he suggests is we all want to be the hero. A Christian is instead called to be a saint:

The hero is always at the centre of the story. By contrast, the saint is not necessarily a crucial character. The saint may be almost invisible, easily missed, quickly forgotten. The hero's story is always about the hero. The saint is always periphery of a story which is really about God. (Hauerwas, 2010, 35)

Saints are portrayed as outdated and unhelpful especially in reformed thought. However, coming to saints from a history of suspicion (my background is non conformist) looking at saints again is enlightening.


I think Hauerwas' distinction is helpful, because it helps reorient our lives. Without the light of the sun life is a struggle (see previous post on Light- Frozen Planet), without the Light of the World as the centre of life, then it too is a struggle, if we are the centre of everything then life really is all about us and our selfishness. There is no need to love our neighbour (unless I can get something out of it), there is no need to exercise grace in our relationships.




A hero fears failure, flees mistakes, and knows no repentance: the saint knows that light only comes through cracks, that beauty is as much (if not more) about restoration as about creation (Hauerwas, 2010, 36)


In the light of Christ and in the power of the Spirit let us pray with one voice.


Amen

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Candles- Light


This keeps coming back to me while meditating on Light. 


Each Sunday at my placement church people are given the opportunity to pray by lighting candles, the candles seem to me to help in two ways.



  • It is something physical- I think this really helps, because connecting with God sometimes feels remote, to know that the candle continues to shine after we have prayed 
  • It is something that helps locate the prayer- In the midst of change or trauma or incomprehension using a ritual reminds us again that he never changes even though we do
I am sure people have many reasons for doing it, maybe this is something they have grown up with but it helps.


People don't forget who they are praying to it just reminds them that the one they pray to does hear and in the familiar and the ordinary a plain candle can help as light brings hope...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Frozen Planet- Light

Living in the UK, it is very easy to take light for granted, the sun shines (even in the rain) or we turn on the lights in the house or on the street. We only really see life without light in a power cut. David Attenborough will showcase the effect of the coming of the sun after 5 months without light on 2nd Nov's Frozen Planet. Darkness is the absence of light (According to my A level physics) and the arctic is in darkness for months. Yet when the light of the sun shines and warms what has been a desert of ice, life is awoken from suspended animation, it needs this spark for new life to emerge.




But light also reveals that which has been hidden by shadows, and we don't always want these things to be revealed, the things we struggle with, the things which we do when no one else sees (though our internet provider does). Light brings life but it also reveals that which needs to change. At times we do not feel like we can change, but the light has overcome the darkness and has been tempted in every way just as we have but is without sin. I heard a great definition of sin today:

"Sin primarily is our failure to do that which ought to be done, our failure to love God utterly and to love one another in reflection of that love for God" (Colwell, 2007, 65)
Colwell goes on in his book The Rhythm of Doctrine to say that we only know what true humanity is meant to be in the light of Christ. All other expressions of it fall short however noble or heroic they maybe. Bonhoeffer calls Jesus the man for us, if you haven't read any Bonhoeffer then read some, especially the Cost of Discipleship, it might seem an impossible thing to live a life like this which is why Christ was the man for us. We can live this authentic life which was intended by the Father, lived by son and is outworked in us by the Holy Spirit.


When light shines it changes that which it comes into contact with. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

illuiminate





Looking up at the night sky is inspiring, if the glare of urban life dosen't obscure it, sometimes we are only reminded of the things that matter when we stop and quietly listen. It may seem like platitudes are romanticism but I am a Christian because I have seen the light shine on me, and even in the darkest times the light shines, at night the sky can be spectacular, I remember having a telescope for one Christmas and trying to see the stars the wonder of it. Standing in the rain as the sun breaks through, seeing life spring up again.

Our lives are punctuated by times and seasons, darkness and light. At times it seems full of life at other times it seems to barren, I know someone I care about dearly won't be around for very much longer and they have always been there, life will never be the same. Yet in the midst of all of this I know I can depend on the one who has proved himself faithful time and again. He didn't withhold but sent his son, and he doesn't leave us as orphans and sends another one of the same stuff alongside us.

Wherever you find yourself in life, light shines even in the darkness, though it cannot understand it or overcome it. The lyrics below are from the youtube clip above.

you should see the stars tonight
how they shimmer shine so bright
against the black they look so white
comin down from such a height
to reach me now, reach me now

you should see the moon in the flight
cuttin cross the misty night
softly dancin in sunshine
reflections of this light
reach me now, you reach me now

and how could such a thing
shine its light on me
and make everything beautiful again

and you should feel the sun in the spring
comin out after a rain
suddenly all is green
sunshine on everything
i can feel it now, i feel you now

and how could such a thing
shine its light on me
and make everything beautiful

and you should hear the angels sing
all gathered round their king
more beautiful than you could dream
i've been quietly listening
you can hear 'em now, i hear em now

and how could such a king
shine His light on me
and make everything beautiful
and i wanna shine
i wanna be light
i wanna tell you it'll be alright
and i wanna shine and i wanna fly
just to tell you now
it'll be alright, it'll be alright
it'll be alright.

cus i got nothing of my own to give to you
but this light that shines on me shines on you
and makes everything beautiful, again.
it'll be alright, it'll be alright.


Dave Crowder- Stars for the album Illuminate

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Are the prayers of the saints...

 Having played far to many FPS (first    person shooters) on my xbox, I know how tracer rounds have a trail behind them as they help to see if shots are on target. 


 Maybe something like prayer, it helps us know understand where our priorities are.





 During the quiet day at college last year I spent sometime thinking about this passage:


 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand (Rev 8.4 ESV).

 The youtube video is of Matt Redman's song of the same name. The canvas at the top is my attempt to express this. 


Light pierces the darkness.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Light Shines



  • This is a picture of the shattered safety glass in my oven. 
  • Have a think about how the reflections have created an interesting pattern.
  • What does it make you think of?


Monday, 24 October 2011

An insight into my mind!

Dave Walker adapted this cartoon for the Church Times and entitled it "the preaching creation process". This seems to be my default position lots of ideas plenty of research (if at times too much) and then the rest of the time is spent unjumbling the muddle. One of the challenges for my training is the need to do things quicker, as much as a sermon or leading the service are part of our communal worship, I don't think I will be able to spend 30 hours a week preparing for them!


So far I have had two mentors and two formation tutors ( the first has now moved on but is missed), a spiritual director and a placement supervisor, each of them has encouraged me to not take myself so seriously and let God speak to me as I prepare and lead and always make space, to develop rhythms which daily set my face towards the one who made me. Preaching has been interesting thus far, going from 30-40 minute sermons to having now preached a homily (previous shortest was a friends wedding)  but now learning to preach in just 20 minutes is actually a great training curve.

My new formation tutor has surprised me by asking me what I am at college to do? Is it to achieve an academic qualification or for ministerial formation? I answered it is the later, then the challenge which I have been putting off is to actually use this next year as a time to reflect on having dyspraxia and the implications for life and ministry. My prayer is the muddle of my mind will be able to clear while I actively receive one on one sessions and reflect and try different ways of doing things.

Light



It is coming to that time of year when the nights are closing in, and sometimes we forget that the dark cannot extinguish the true light…

(John 1:1-18 ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
                

This is my attempt at curating a reflection on light for the 31st Oct. I will post once a day on this theme. Then if you look back by selecting the label light it should bring up all the posts on the 1st Nov (All Saints Day) then you will see the full picture.

Thanks

Paul

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Work Life Balance?



Dilbert comic strip for 10/12/2011 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

The temptation to develop a culture of long hours is just as much a temptation for the church as it is for the work place or home (there is always something else which needs doing, as I look at a pile of washing). Scott Adam paints the picture well, the culture for a business is set by the manager of your place of work, they are the first in and the last to leave, commitment to your job is measured in hours (and not effectiveness just look busy), others expect if your target has not been met that you stay until it has been (though if you have spent 8 hours not getting there will another hour or two really work?), then you get the rare breed which understand you have a life outside of work, which means there will be times when a need will arise for late working or an early start but this will be done by negotiating rather than enforcing contract hour directives (most places I have worked have a maximum number of hours to be worked in a month or week and any hours between 7am and 7pm).

The temptation when things are going wrong is to pour more time into the issue, that somehow if we stare at the same screen the figures will miraculously change or by ringing the same 200 people we will get a different response. Work life balance is something which I always hear, in church and at work. At work we are reminded that we need to balance work and home life as both affect each other (just go to work after a row with your nearest and dearest or come home after a bad day at the office) yet in my experience this is largely lip service and I don't think the church at times is any better. As an ordinand (someone training for ordained ministry in the Church of England) the question turns on me, how am I allowing God to form me in his likeness? I can be an an activist frantically rushing to save the world one person at a time, which in reality fulfills a need to be wanted or a messiah complex. Jesus is Lord has been the declaration of the Church down the ages and though Caesar is no longer the competition, I am faced with the same temptation but to place myself as lord.

Bonhoeffer in Cost of Discipleship, points to the call to follow Jesus by saying Yes to God, which if we take Sabbath as part of God's pattern means taking time out from work (even as a priest). Jesus is Lord means not accepting a cheap grace which molds God in our own image but allows God to mold us in to his. I tend towards working longer and harder to get a job done, which means I can so easily circumvent prayer and taking time to read scripture for scriptures sake. If Jesus is Lord then that means that neither work or leisure are God. He is.




Monday, 10 October 2011

The Mission of the Triune God: Plenary



Dilbert comic strip for 09/22/2011 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.:

Fortunately the plenary wasn't like this, Ben and Michael did a good job, they summarised the issues and pointed the way forwards. Loving the juggling picture of how we often drop one of the balls and neglect the fullness of the Trinity (is it fully possible to appreciate the fullness of God?),  in our Theology or worship. It is one of those mysteries, but I am looking forward to Sarah Coakley's Praying the Trinity, which should be a good read.

'via Blog this'

Saturday, 8 October 2011

How do you handle stress?



Dilbert comic strip for 09/24/2011 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.:

As college starts up again it is timely to remind myself that it is not all about dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's. David Runcorn suggested we need two signs, the first for the house, and the second for the desk. The first is to say "We are not the holy family" and the second which says "I am not the Messiah".

Stress can affect us in many ways, but for me it is usually caused by trying to spin too many plates at the same time. How do I de-stress?

  • Prayer
  • Scripture
  • Exercise
Having had a night to sleep on it, I would say that the best cure for stress is playing with my children though yesterday it was one of the causes of stress!

Like I have said before, I just need to live out my own advice!

Any thoughts?
'via Blog this'

Children & Theology IV



CartoonChurch.com » Cartoon » Sunday school:


Since being on placement I have had time to reflect upon the needs of our children in our churches (I can't blog too much on this as I have a placement project to write and this will probably part of the topic), the church I am in is in the same position as my time in Bangor. Having a handful of children with a large age range, how do you go beyond entertaining, and see our children grow in faith and given the opportunity to enjoy that faith?

It is a question which taxes many a Sunday schools in the UK (there are plenty of exceptions my sending church and my sister's church being notable exceptions). Having a great building here and plenty of volunteers (which is a major plus in any church), means that with a little direction and encouragement there is so much which can be done. Anyone who is part of the C of E should contact their diocese as the expertise and resources are around to look at which is what we did.

It was great to have the diocesan children's worker come and do a session with the Sunday school volunteers, it encouraged and enthused them. It led to an immediate change in the way Sunday school was set up, so the creche was extended (0-5) but the older ones have some activity but can play as well (they couldn't concentrate in the older group, my daughter being one of them).

But what resources should we use? Well plenty of recommendations have been forth coming, but it seems a trip to Dunham house is the way forward, plenty of resources to choose from. Not sure which route the church will take on this one but when each of the volunteers was asked why they were involved in this ministry and each one had slightly different motives, but the majority said because "Jesus calls us to".

*interesting times ahead*



'via Blog this'

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Are we part of the web underclass?

Another pause for thought about using that which we do not pay for...


The guardian have an interesting article, which comes to the conclusion that we get what we pay for (or don't pay and don't get a service).

Why Facebook's new Open Graph makes us all part of the web underclass | Technology | guardian.co.uk:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Viola blogs Bonhoeffer


I have just started following Frank Viola's blog on google+ and have found a little Gem on Bonhoeffer.

Blogging Through Bonhoeffer: Part I | Beyond Evangelical:

He has started blogging several of his books which is great to see. I love to see people getting into it. I will link to the other posts but off out to do a pastoral visit at the pub...

'via Blog this'

If only this worked with more people!

Dilbert comic strip for 09/13/2011 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.: "
"

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Rachel posted this link on facebook, I think it is well worth a read it is about preaching and may interest you if you are looking at preaching:
Nadia Bolz-Weber-on-preaching

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jesus, my father, the CIA and me: Ian Morgan Cron


When I picked this book up and read the recommendations it did make me slightly apprehensive about reviewing it. Especially when the Archbishop said it was "like Augustine's Confessions". So it was a happy surprise to find this a really good read. I took the holiday period to finish reading it. This isn't a lite read and neither is it a hard read, it is a window on one man's life and at times you want to look away.

It isn't a rant or a preach telling you how you should live life or a guilt trip of the life of a saint which you cannot hope to live up to, instead it is an honest testimony of how someone who had to live with an alcoholic who became an alcoholic themselves saw his life turned around by the love of God.


Even though my life and Ian's are separated by the Atlantic and several decades in age, he paints pictures which touch my own experiences of growing up in a "cheesy" youth group. The same emphasis on people and relationships rather than cutting edge events and I like the way Ian painted pictures of his life. The last book which made me well up was "Contemplative-Youth-Ministry" I read that probably 6 years ago this one had the same reaction for a differnet reason. As I read Ian's story my heart broke to hear the suffering that he went through in growing up. I could feel myself asking the same questions and ranting at God for other children today with parents who are drug addicts or alcoholics.


My other reaction was one of thankfulness, that I had the privilege of growing up  with two parents who loved me and encouraged me in my walk with God, something I used to think meant my testimony was pretty poor not having done drugs or bad made good. But now I see this as the grace of God, testimony is more about God's work than our own.

I have taken this holiday period to read less demanding books (that will change this week) but this has been an unexpected gem. heartily recommend it, as neither some preachy piece of propaganda which smooths over the rough edges of life or a bt thitter rant at what life could have been.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Brilliant Plan

Dilbert Comic Strip

I think this conversation goes on at governmental level sometimes! I know its not quite Blackadder but nearly.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

5 Holiday Thoughts

1. Never give your children an Ice Cream prior to a journey on a winding road...(will the car ever be the same?)
2. Going to the beach involves the same logistics required to mount an invasion
3. Holiday reading is a great excuse for leaving the academic books at home and reading a newspaper everyday and reading your Bible without having to think about a sermon or assignment in the back of your mind (which is great).
4. Is a week ever enough?
5. A sign on a church near where we stayed said "We preach Christ crucified" but who is this sign for? And what does it really mean?

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14.27 NLT).

Thursday, 21 July 2011

DIlbert- The truth teller.





Maybe change the second frame to:

I try not to judge people by the quality of the theological questions they ask?
 Just a thought but I sometimes feel this is the way it is sometimes...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Mission and Evangelism

In all cases, the church is called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ with boldness and to participate in God's mission for fullness of life. It is the mission of the church to reaffirm with courage and persistence the unique and eternal value of each human person as being created in the image of the holy, mighty and immortal God.
(WCC- Mission and Evangelism in Unity #31)


I am currently writing my assignment and wrestling with eels again, trying to combine my placement, and the two modules: mission & evangelism and the prophets. Maybe this is some of the connection...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

10 Indispensible books on Ethics?

I have copied a link to andy goodliff's blog 10 indispensable books on ethics. It is something I am looking at myself for next years dissertation. My first book is Bonhoeffer's ethics, and his suggestion off Hauerwas, Wells, O'Donovan and Barth are no surprise but I was interested in Wannenwetsch having met him at the Bonhoeffer conference so I think I will take that up too.



But do you have any other suggestions?

I have added Chris Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the people of God and borrowed Herando De Solto's The Other Path. As I am looking at human rights this is my focus rather than sexuality etc.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

New Link: Stanley Hauerwas Blog

I have stumbled on Stanley Hauerwas's blog, worth looking at.:

http://stanleyhauerwas.blogspot.com/

Perspective

When you are studying and life is so full of demands it is easy to lose perspective and to centre your life around yourself.  I am guilty of this on numerous occasions my little brain reaches its critical mass of information, which isn't quite as large a mass as I think it is, and lack of sleep which seems impossible to catch up on, I then feel that I cannot cope with any meaningful social interaction (though I am normally an ENFP see Myers Briggs). This means I project this to all around me a little black cloud following me around:




Yet though I may have to juggle all those bills on a lower income than I have had previously I am not living on the streets. Though I am tired I am not exhausted from trying to till unproductive land so my family have enough to survive. I am not faced with overwhelming circumstances but choices and the need to be inwardly renewed each day (2 Cor 4.8).

Nearer to home I have had heartbreaking news where I want to scream at God for what has happened to friends I care about yet feel hopelessly equipped to say anything?

This isn't a guilt trip, it is a reminder to me that I continually need to be renewed and refreshed each day and continually centred on Jesus Christ, as an Anglican ordinand the daily office is so important and each time it involves confession yet I can say the words and not really understand the consequences. So I turn again to the Jesus Prayer:

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

And the miracle is he does!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Social Networking the Solution to bad memory?

I had to laugh a little at myself this week, when I realised that those I interact with on social media are less likely for me to have one of my blank moments (I have dyspraxia which sometimes means I cannot connect names and faces including really close friends) the name usually pops into my head at some point after the person has gone, so trying to learn the names of everyone in the congregation at my placement church has been interesting, but those who are on facebook I have had less trouble recalling first time.



Another example is my prayer triplet, I see them everyday at college, I can recall what they have asked me to pray for in a week, yet at times I struggle to remember the names of  their children. I had my support assessment this week and it was recommended that I steer clear from a paper diary (1. I can't read it.  2. I lose it. 3. I don't always have it with me & 4. It is not big enough to hold all the info I need) So having lost my phone I was given a blackberry (thanks Lesley)  and have spent the last 3 days sorting out the calender and contacts so they sync with each other.

It might actually work for me...we shall see... maybe I could take photos of people when I first meet them and label them? Not sure if social etiquette will allow for that! Still I got a CD from the book sale at college entitled: A great memory which only needs a few minutes a day, by the end of it I should have a great memory. Now where did I put it?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Stanley Hauerwas

Just listened to Stanley Hauerwas on BBC radio 3. (a recording form good Friday). It was a great interview, so I have added the link to the Third Way website and the interview they had with him.

Once I have had a second listen I will add some highlights to another post, I have got a couple of books to read too so I think this may be a fruitful post (ps he is a Bonhoeffer fan so extra brownie points).

http://www.thirdwaymagazine.co.uk/editions/oct10/high-profile/mortar-the-point.aspx

Worth checking out...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Metro 2033




When I was at school I used to read a lot of sci-fi, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov etc. but I haven't really read much in the last 10 years. So when I read the review for the Xbox 360 game metro 2033 I decided that I would have a read of the book which inspired it (I didn't get round to playing the game, maybe something to do with children).



The premise of the book is nothing new, a nuclear apocalypse. Something pretty popular in games like Stalker and in plenty of recent films like the road or the book of Eli. What makes this so much more interesting though is how the suspense slowly builds as more is revealed of the horror which is lurking.

I was fascinated by the perspective that a Russian writer would have on a post apocalyptic world. It is a neat concept to take the Moscow underground and some of the overground as the setting for the story (he knows it well he lives in Moscow), Taking something familiar and then letting it morph as the story progresses.

There are two stand out parts to this book, the first is the commentary on the way people react to high stress and the disintegration of society, people huddle together and people who once were neighbors now form various factions, some are peaceful some aggressive but all are fighting for survival...

The second standout point is to do with the place of humanity, human conduct doesn't really seem to be the peak of the evolutionary chain, in fact his book asks questions of our conduct when resources are much scarce than they are now, maybe not quite so apocalyptic in that sense.

The pace of the book is like a good film and has some great moments of suspense and a great twist.

Have a read

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

New links

I have added two more links:

Nomad (A Nottingham based podcast) Which asks questions of community mission and the future of the church). I have been listening to it for a long time and wanted to add it:

http://www.nomadpodcast.blogspot.com/

And the blog of Kevin Potter a guy who works with Oasis in LA:

http://www.potterabout.com/

Monday, 20 June 2011

Children & Theology 3- Just a thought

“When a child receives the Lord they do not get a junior size holy spirit a Jesus action figure, they are fully blessed by the Spirit of God and marry that to a child like faith and they can be a potent agent for the kingdom”(Neil Cole, Nomad podcast 24).

Sunday, 12 June 2011

New links

I have added the link to the Bonhoeffer Issue of Christianity Today (Issue 32). I have had it in my book marks on firefox but I am trying to migrate useful links to the bottom of the blog.





I have also added Baptism Integrity- a website with an Anglican perspective on baptism with some good articles about all aspects of baptism.



Have a look through them...

Esther- The Book of Comedy

Dilbert.com

Wish I had seen this when I wrote my sermon! It reminds me of Haman and the king, assumption is bad for you (in Haman's case more disastrous than Dilbert's).

As it hasn't been handed in yet I don't think I can post the sermon outline but once it has been assessed I will.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Drops Like Stars & Nooma Rain.


As sleep is hard to come by tonight[I pulled the post as it made no sense this is the edited and slightly more sensical version], I might as well do this review that I have been meaning to do since Lent...

...while I was on my chaplaincy placement I read a few books on suffering one of them was the grove booklet below:

which was a good introduction as well as Trystan's book which I have already reviewed which I think is great (see finding hope and meaning in suffering).

Then I turned to Rob Bell (I still intend to read some CS Lewis but this is when I can find time between assignments, placements and Dissertation research)
Rob Bell's book is a great discussion starter (I bet you never thought I'd say that). If you grew up in a christian home like me then you probably will have read plenty of apologetic(trying to make sense of faith) material, explaining that suffering is either a result of the fallen nature of the world, or disobedience and human selfishness, Jesus said that while we were in the world we would suffer, and that in the end it will be different... but when you are in the midst of suffering don't you just want to know that someone cares?

Bell doesn't try and justify why suffering occurs, or give pat answers to someone who is suffering instead he asks the question "What now?"


***I don't think this is a spoiler alert for CSI series 11 but just in case*********



In the current series of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) two individuals with the same gene have taken two separate paths one a mass murderer the other a CSI. Two people with the same gene take two totally different paths and so too with suffering two people can both suffer but one finds creativity the other a pit of despair (probably an oversimplification).

For Bell suffering doesn't fit into our neat packaged boxes, but this presents an opportunity creativity can come out of suffering (reminds me a little of honey from the lion). I desperately want to take sometime to blog the keynote from the Bonhoeffer conference on disability..

he affirms that God is not some voyeur looking down on our suffering, additionally that we may never understand here on earth why it has happened...that some things are just left hanging (the story of the prodigal) but he suggests that it is the moments when we are suffering which can be creative.


Couple this with the Nooma resource Rain and they are an alternate look at suffering, not as something which is the instrument of a wrathful and vengeful God, instead suffering is part of living in this broken and fallen world...
by watching the nooma video rain you get some further understanding that God is a loving father who doesn't want us to suffer that he is right there with us in the midst of suffering.

The book is short, you can read it in half an hour, some of the illustrations work really well, others are lost in translation (I am English after all). I would recommend this book to explore and ask questions, use it as a discussion starter in church... I know it is more risky starting with questions but that is where most people are, as a Christian I believe we have something vital to share with others that God is not some far and distant God, irrelevant and fictitious, but is present right here right now:

Saviour of the world-

Jesus, Saviour of the world,
come to us in your mercy: •
we look to you to save and help us.

By your cross and your life laid down,
you set your people free: •
we look to you to save and help us.

When they were ready to perish, you saved your disciples: •
we look to you to come to our help.

In the greatness of your mercy, loose us from our chains, •
forgive the sins of all your people.

Make yourself known as our Saviour and mighty deliverer; •
save and help us that we may praise you.

Come now and dwell with us, Lord Christ Jesus: •
hear our prayer and be with us always.

And when you come in your glory: •
make us to be one with you
and to share the life of your kingdom.

(Canticle from: Common Worship, p.801)

May God richly bless you in whatever circumstances you find yourself today...

Paul

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Surrogates

Fatigue has finally kicked in, I feel wiped out my brain has stopped working so I thought I would take my mind off Baptism and Exegesis/preaching on Esther by reflecting on a film!




Yesterday night I watched Surrogates, it's a Bruce Willis film so you know what to expect, but I really liked the concept. People living through their surrogates, no need to be real with anybody, fed up of being a bald middle aged man (I am neither bald or middle aged) then be a woman. Anything you want...shiny happy people!

************Spoiler alert*************

The plot starts with the invention of surrogates and then the eventual spread to 99% of the population using them, I guess that most people don't want to be real. It takes the idea of masquerade and takes it to the whole new level. Never knowing who you really are dealing with...people can live a real life but who wants to, you are not the image that everyone is telling you, that you should be.


Some people lived through a surrogate as they were too fearful to go outside, others because they want to live a totally different existence...how far from reality is that?

I won't spoil the rest of the film but it asks in a hackneyed kind of way why do we need to live real life?

It reminds me of a friends blog post about clothes that we are obsessed with the outside but it also reminds me about Jesus' words:

Matt 15.17-20 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.
[ESV]

True life is not about living a projection of yourself but living life and life in its fullness (John 10.10). With my spiritual director I have been asking the question how real am I with people? The answer is that at times I say what I think people want to hear, and if I have been misunderstood rather than being awkward I let it go...maybe that is the Englishman in me! Yet I cannot shake this sense that if I can actually be myself in Christ then it would take a lot of the pressure off me. Not having to perform to everyone's expectations.

I am convinced it is the best way to live, a freedom to live life that has been hard one by Jesus Christ...

Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.

Jesus, come in glory,
Jesus, come in glory,
Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Feel free to let me know what you think...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Preaching

In Finding the Plot the author suggests 4 parts to the process of preparing a sermon:


*Studying the Scriptures
*Discovering what others have said or written about a given passage
*Understanding who will be listening to the sermon and what makes them who they are
*Prayer that immerses the whole process of preperation with the questions, 'is this what you want me to sayand how you want me to say it?'
(Standing, 2004, 15)


R. Standing. (2004). Finding the Plot. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press

After the most recent module at college it is intersting to think again about constructing sermons. The problem I have is that I pretty much always do these 4 points, but this doesn't mean it is a good sermon. Though I am aware that God's word can still be spoken through a donkey and that St Paul sent people to sleep when he preached...

...whatever method is used to prepare a sermon it is still down to inspiration and perspiration.

A funny(peculiar) conversation

Just had an interesting conversation it went something like this:

The greatest cancer that there is, is loneliness. Man's [sic] imagination if it cannot find satisfaction in a personal relationship with someone looks for it elsewhere. Which is where religion comes into being, it is the imagination looking beyond itself for meaning and companionship so it projects the other, someone outside of ourself.

Religion then to him is all the power of the imagination. He went on to talk about how in a relationship you are meant to make the person happy, this is the purpose of our existience each of us is to make others happy and this is how we are fulfilled. It is all about happiness, one person can make you happy. If in a relationship someone is bowing down to another that is their god. He said that being a vicar then is the same, to make people happy that is the power of imagination and religion is a construct of this. It is good news to me that I am not called to make people happy but to proclaim Christ.

In the discussion I said for me it all comes down to Jesus, if he is who he says he is then he calls us to know him and obey him.



He said whenever people are loving and caring, then this is what they are meant to do the purpose for which the imagination finds. The more I think about his argument the more it keeps coming back to God. God is Love (1 John 4.8), the author of love, so once more it seems to me that we worship that which is created, looking for love can be an idol just as much as a carved statue. I also asked: is happiness the ultimate goal in life?

If happiness is the ultimate purpose should we be kind and just exterminate those who aren't happy, put them out of their misery? Doesn't joy have something far more eternal and fulfilling than something that is momentary and fleeting. People let each other down...


When questioned about what he believes about evil, he says it is those who want attention and happiness who don't have it. I don't think for a moment he was suggesting to give them a hug! I said the church exisits because it was first loved and forgiven and it now welcomes all to meet with Jesus. I believe as people encounter Christ they will be transformed.


James 1.27 [NRSV]- "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world"

The joint emphasis of God is that we care for those in distress out of a heart that keeps Jesus at the centre and a heart that stays pure in the face of the temptation to be just like everyone else or  those who just ignore it.