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Saints are portrayed as outdated and unhelpful especially in reformed thought.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.

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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?
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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*



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