Saturday, December 29, 2007
I did manage to see quite a few useful books - our Bishop John's excellent book on the priesthood was there for example! - and I bought a book by John Bell and another on worship by Stuart Townend which I'd not noticed before but there didn't seem to be much in the way of youthwork books. I'm not sure if this is a policy thing or my inability to find them!
In cheeky mode I enquired if they had a Dave Walker Cartoon Church calendar and... they DID. However they only had one left and they weren't going to have them next year!! Mention of Dave (my friend, I said - check me knowing someone famous ;oP ) produced a smile from the sales assistant who said it was very pleasing that someone had given a voice to their concerns. Go Dave!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Fortunately there are those out there with good words. Local to us is the Child Bereavement Trust with advice for professionals and also advice specifically for families, young people and even some stuff about dealing with Christmas.
These times can be those that test our faith, strengthen it, or break it. All I know is God's calling to presence, availability and flexibility for those I'm youth minister to. The words, "I'm here" may not seem much but I know, in my darkest times, those two words whispered in the silence by God or by someone else can be a light in the darkness.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
So for all those people I have yet again failed to send a card or anything... Merry Christmas!
Take, O take me as I am.
Summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart
and live in me.
Call, O call me as I am.
Show the way that I should go.
Be the light upon my path
and lead me through.
Meet, O meet me where I am.
See me in your light of love.
Show me all that holds me back
and set me free.
Hear, O hear us as we call.
Search us out and know our hearts.
Help us shine out in the dark
and show your light.John Bell (with additional verses 2-4 by Sarah Brush)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
The stars are for part of our intercessions. We're asking people to write their prayers on the back of a star and then we're going to hang them in front of the blue background as a sign of our faith, as St Paul describes it, "shining as stars in the darkness of this world."
I may manage a picture of it for you tomorrow!
If I don't get back on here though...
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Instead of the relatovely more moderate, temperate Thabo Mbeki (who has admittedly exhibited some odd views about AIDS), it is Jacob Zuma, tried for rape, facing corruption charges and still likely to become President of South Africa.
I understand that Thabo Mbeki could not be president for a third term and so, the ANC members may well have felt it more sensible to elect a president to the congress who COULD yet the heightened passions surrounding the election have me worried. Archbishop Desmond Tutu doesn't endorse either man. It wouldbe interesting to hear what his opinion of the new deputy leader of the congress is as apparently it would be the deputy who would become the country's president if Zuma was stripped of office after corruption charges. Not too much hope there though as Kgalema Motlanthe was closley linked to Zuma in defending him against the accusations of corruption.
In contrast we had the result of the Liberal Democrat leader election and Jeremy Paxman challenging Nick Clegg to tell the audience 3 interesting things about him. I thought he did pretty well in his speech. It was empassioned, dynamic and sounding like a man who REALLY is serious about getting into office.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Apparently we're also being urged to emphasise the HOPE that we as churches/Christians can offer and this ties in with what I've been watching today. It is my Christmas tradition to watch the Muppet Christmas Carol. Yes not the highest level of culture ever achieved some might argue BUT I would say that it does exactly what we need to be doing wiht our Christian message. It presents DICKENS which can be rather dry and old fashioned in a fresh and engaging way without changing the central core of the story or the heart of the message. It even encourages viewers to read the book at the end!
For me there is a tiny additional tradition which is crying at one particular point (not the soppy lovey dovey bit - to be honest that often gets fast forwarded!!). No, for me, the moment when Scrooge receives his first Christmas gift is THE MOMENT. Beaker & Dr. Bunsen Honeydew as the people looking for charitable donations had met Scrooge before when he refused them a donation and he finds them and pledges a vast donation to make up for all those missed in the past. These are the first people to really see the transformation and Beaker's response humbly offers him a gift - the scarf from around his own neck and the warmth that no doubt went with it. This man who has been transformed demonstrates such great humility in receiving the gift. The scarf is the sacrament if you like. He has been transformed by the visit of the spirits and then, in wearing the bright red scarf around his neck, that transformation is shown to the world.
How many hard hearts could we soften if we demonstrated this kind of transformative generosity?
So how do we get better when we're struck down with fooey? (Hong Kong strain or otherwise!) Well I think there are two paths: fun and feeding. We need to take ourselves out of ourselves either by having fun or by comfort from without. So here's a bit of the REAL Hong Kong Fooey and also, in contrast, some wisdom from Br Roger of Taizé. Whichever is the better medicine for you. The Dr recommends you take this, sit down with your feet up and drink plenty of fluids.
"The Holy Spirit, poured out on every human being, gives freedom and spontaneity. The Spirit restores a zest for life to those who had lost it, and comes to deliver us from discouragement. Neither doubts nor the impression that God is silent can take his Holy Spirit away from us."Update: Taking a lead from Ben, my feet up time before heading to our joint CUs meeting after school today is Muppet Christmas Carol - a must for me in the Christmas season (though guarenteed to having my husband beating a retreat to a room filled with Radio 4!). Just for you I'll see if I can find a bit on youtube!
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Isaiah’s vision sets out a technicolour, surround sound image of God’s Kingdom:
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
This is nothing short of the Kingdom of God – note not in heaven but on earth. And how does that kingdom start? From a small shoot form the stump of the tree. [prop?]
A new branch bearing fruit from the old root as a conference put it this summer – The wisdom of the old with the passion of the young
The church’s history and all that’s gone before us but with new life and growth
Jesus talked of this small beginning when he described the kingdom as a mustard seed.
So how is that shoot doing in our branch of the tree of Jesse? Well we don’t think of it so much as a tree of Jesse nowadays. We have other kinds of trees on our minds I suppose. [PROP CHRISTMAS TREE]
What have we got hanging on it? Well, it’s shaped a bit like the mountain and we’ve got all those gifts which Isaiah describes this NEW BRANCH as having.
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord
Chocolate coins/candy canes:
Some delights here too – Isaiah tells us Jesus’ delight in the fear of the Lord.
We’ve got some lovely crystals here – they refract the light in all sorts of ways:
Isaiah tells us that this new branch shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear.
We’ve got a shepherd – Isaiah says this shoot will judge the poor with righteousness, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth
We’ve got a King – he will rule - he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked
We’ve got these lovely garlands like belts around the tree according to Isaiah Jesus would have a belt of Righteousness around his waist, and a belt of faithfulness around his loins.
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea or in an alternative translation the earth will be filled with people who know the lord as the waters cover the sea. (garland)
In our Epistle we hear:
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,
This passage is calling us, not literally to be decorated like this tree. To be like Christ bearing good fruits
so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You don’t find many Christmas trees that look exactly the same and it’s the same with Christmas. We bear our fruits in different ways but Christ accepts each one of us so we should as St Paul says:
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
[There is only one you. There is no one else like you and there will never ever be anyone else like you. You have a gift to offer that can touch the world in a way that no other person's gift can do. It is not the gift but it is you. The whole world would be denied experience of that gift without you. No one else can take the place that God has purposed for you to express the uniqueness and beauty of you. God never create extras or substitutes. Every person is significant in their contribution no matter what it is.] – Enoch Tan
We may each be unique but we show that unique quality through our gifts and the fruits of those gifts.
Quite characteristically for a man who went around dressed in camel hair, eating locusts, John the Baptist puts it in a more challenging and stark way:
“Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Strong stuff eh?
Well we do have another part of a tree we sometimes have this time of year. [PROP-log]
A yule log. The yule log was a pagan custom continued by some Christians – they would bring in a log and endeavour to keep it burning for the 12 days of Christmas.
This is the stump without the shoot. It’s not bearing much fruit, not growing much is it?
That shoot which Isaiah talks about comes out from the stump, from something that seemed unlikely to produce new growth. There is no such thing as a person unable of growing. Where does God want you to grow? What gifts does God want you to use? What fruits are you bearing?
Trees come in different shapes and sizes. Some don’t produce much fruit and some produce much more. But those that produce NO FRUIT well that’s clear
John the Baptist gives us a stark choice. To be trees bearing fruit and showing growth or to be destined for the fire. It’s not often we get such a clear cut passage that calls us to decide but this is one of them.
be trees bearing fruit and showing growth or to be destined for the fire
Which do you plan on being?
Thursday, December 06, 2007
"Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
So Paul writes to the early Christians in Rome in the letter we heard read today. These people had only recently learned of this Messiah and Paul tells them that history is there to teach them and indeed us.
As someone who has studied history, I am well aware of the need to look to the past in order to understand the present and from there look to the future.
Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us,
so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
These words are even more relevant for today as it is Bible Sunday.
These words of Paul talk of us using the scriptures in a process, involving endurance and encouragement and finally hope.
Surely this is what the time of Advent should be for us. A time of learning through the scriptures, and seeking for the hope of Christ’s coming at Christmas.
It is a curious thing that in many ways the Church’s year condenses all that came before Jesus into these four weeks. So much happened in preparation for Christ’s coming and yet we devote just these four weeks to it.
This morning’s selection of readings truly spans the centuries.
The passage from Isaiah was probably written some time in the 8th century BC and the words John the Baptist quotes from later in Isaiah may well come from the 6th Century BC. Paul was writing some time in the 50s AD and Matthew’s Gospel, though much debated was probably written some time around the end of the first or the beginning of the second century AD.
Many centuries intervene between the words of Isaiah and the time when both John and Paul looked back to them. Yet like that tree of Jesse, the Old Testament is the root out of which the, branch, the New Testament springs.
Because of this connection, We cannot make sense of the New Testament without reference to the old. To the Hebrew Scriptures
Paul knew this well.
Imagine that early church which had none of the Gospels we now have, Paul’s letters and the stories passed on to them were all they had of a New Testament. For them the Old Testament was what taught them about Jesus.
The Old Testament reading and the Gospel this morning both refer quite clearly to the coming of Jesus and Paul’s letter confirms that these and other sources were correct in foretelling Jesus birth and ministry.
The book of Isaiah was one that certainly appealed to readers of many periods. Its original message was calling its readers to turn aside from earthly allegiances to Assyria or Jerusalem and to turn instead to God. Isaiah clearly portrays God as the Saviour and Redeemer and this great high priest and king who is to come is a symbol of that Salvation.
John speaks very clearly about the one who is to come after him. The one whose sandals he is not worthy to untie.
Yet it is not only about Jesus that the passages agree but also about the kingdom that he will bring about.
Isaiah’s description of an amazingly implausible world of peace and harmony of wolf and lamb, infant and cobra is matched by Paul’s call to the early Christians to accept one another. John the Baptist talks of a leader who will not use earthly water for baptism but a Holy Spirit.
Yet the writers know that this is NOT how the world is. Isaiah is well aware that the world is not as he paints it. Paul talks of the need for endurance and encouragement.
All this could be possible in the kingdom of God and during Advent we look forward to the time when Jesus comes into the world and transforms it. As Isaiah says, all this will happen when the knowledge of God fills the earth.
How will that knowledge of God fill the earth. That knowledge is hope and through learning from the scriptures we can find that hope, as Paul says but it is also for us to spread that hope and to spread that knowledge of God in order to build that kingdom.
For in all this we are not passive observers. We are not called to listen to these words and sit back and wait. John’s message to his Jewish audience is that they mustn’t sit back on their ancestral laurels. They cannot rely purely on their heritage on their link to Abraham. They must build their relationship with God to build this promised kingdom and so must we.
What are we to do to bring about this kingdom?
John and Paul both give us answers to this question. John’s message is so clear that he shouts it out
This is not supposed to be a message to fill us with fear. Remember
Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
John does not consider repentance to be a time of woe and misery. He sees it as a necessary part, an endurance, of the process towards serving God. For after we have repented he tells us we must
Bear fruit worthy of repentance
What might that fruit be?
Paul’s message is one that follows repentance, for him the fruit is that of acceptance.
Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you.
When we have accepted ourselves and our mistakes – for such is repentance. We accept others and then, having learned from these scriptures we can find that hope and bring about what Paul calls the spirit of unity.
This is what the time of Advent is for us a time of repentance, of acceptance and of seeking for hope.
Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
The first one was tied in with the presence of our Scout troop and the whole BE PREPARED motto. It fitted rather well with John the Baptist really and featured a bit of a sketch from the Scouts and some thoughts about mottoes. The second was from three years ago and focussed on the epistle. Three years on and the same reaidngs are here again and as I was only just blogging back then, I hadn't got into the habit of popping my sermons up there so I might just throw up a three year old sermon for anyone lookng for inspiration!
Though Double-dipping might be frowned upon, it seems PREACHING about John the Baptist more than once is not the same. This Sunday I will be preahcing for the THIRD time in five years on Advent 2 and for the FOURTH time on John the Baptist.
When I first saw this on the rota I remembered how much trouble I had LAST time trying to come up with something new so I was a bit disheartened. My dad said I should use 'number one' or the best of the three again and see if anyone notices. I'm not sure which would be worse - being caught repeating a sermon or no-one noticing that I was!
In fact, my solution has been to preach on a slightly different part of the text. You'll have to wait and see when I pop it up on Monday. It's one thing for someone to catch me repeating a sermon from a year back but to read it on here then have to listen to it on Sunday would be a bit much!
I had a great plan to blog the different John the Baptist sermons. Unfortunately... I can't find them!! Not a great loss I suppose as I really don't tend to re-use sermons. I prefer to say somehting aimed rather specifically at who I'm preaching to but then, I've been in the same place for five years and I suppose this might change when I move on. You never know!
Interesting reflection on whole John the Dipper (βαπτιστὴς) thing. John says he will dip/dunk us in water but the one who comes after will do so with the spirit. Drenching/dunking/dipping someone with the spirit does just have more power as an image than the wordy baptising in the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
If you've admired any in the past and fancied buying one, I am taking reservations for some which I'll still display but you'd better get in quick or take your chances and come along on Saturday to see the lot! There is much else to see (and hear as well - including our choir!) including some handmade chocolates, jewellery, wooden bowls and the usual church cakes (I have to say our cake bakers are rather fine!)
Hope to see you there!
We covered some most thought-procoking topics including Human Rights in the UK (including extending detention periods for terror suspects and the Oxford Union hosting extremists in their debating chamber), International Human rights (the monks' protests in Burma and the Olympics in China given its human rights record), freedom of religious expression (wearing religious symbols at school and the appropriateness of dress for men and women according to some religious practices), medical ethics (contraception and abortion), sexual morality (legalisation of prostitution, homosexuality and adoption by same sex couples) and the role of women in religion (women priests and bishops).
I have to admit I was a little apprehensive before I got there as, due to a few communication confusions, I didn't know anything about what the topics to be discussed were going to be. Then when I got there it was most reassuring to meet two Franciscan nuns who knew much more than I did about the plans. They had that wonderful air of calm that those of religious orders often have (usually without knowing it in fact!) as I find with the brothers at Taize. I felt instantly calmer.
The debate itself was in fact really interesting. The girls were put in groups of ten with two of the issues (and some newspaper articles on the subject) to discuss and come up with questions for the panel. The best of these questions were then selected and the girls who came up with them then asked us.
I'm not sure whay but I got asked directly about legalisng prostitution and also made some contributions on religious attitudes to modest dress and the wearing of religious symbols. I also felt strongly enough to respond to something one of the other pannelists said. Someone suggested that countries where women wear "more clothes" have a lower level of sexual crime. I couldn't but comment on the implication that a woman is responsible if she gets sexually assaulted and in affirming the culpability of the attacker rather than the victim I got the one and only round of applause (and blushed!)
I think what was great was seeing some of my young people in their school setting but in a way that was perfectly natural and not intruding on them. I also got to chat to a group of muslim students who felt that their faith had not been represented in a way that was easily understood and would have liked to clarify things in places. I was able to chat to them about it an dthey very graciously commended me on my contribution (as did my young people but I think they're just biased!
I have to say the whole cut and thrust of debate really was thrilling - perhaps too much so though! I don't think I'll be progressing to Question Time just yet as the adrenalin really got pumping when someone said something contraversial!
Well I was brought down to earth rather successfully by the unique experience of our PCC this evening so I think that probably levels the day when all's told!
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
If you were asking for hero powers which would it be - I have to admit I hve always fancied flying! Now I know in all the stories Superman does a good job in using that gift to serve others but it is one that can also be used against them. Likewise, though the spiritual gifts are intended to be used in servicce, they too can be used to build up not the community but the individual. It is a tricky balance, I think, but God gives to each of us something which helps us make that balance, whatever our gifts.
As well as gifts, we have the guidance of what our fruits should be: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In Heroes, one solution to make sure people don't abuse their gifts is to make sure that there is no-one who has them. With the spiritual gifts there is somehting else. There is that all important humility of service which Paul was so keen to instil in the Christians in Corinth. A gift was to serve the community. If it did not it were better not to be there:
"in the Church I would rather speak five words with my understanding--so as to instruct others also--than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."
1 Corinthians 14.19
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5.22-23
At the Youthwork Conference at the weekend, Fuzz Kitto used a clip from Dead Poet's Society and I was reminded just how profound watching that film was as a teenager.
I can also remember a visiting ordinand who took u away for a weekend to study the book of Revelation. Unfortunately I remember very little about the teaching of Revelation but I do remember he showed us Cry Freedom! This Spring I showed my older group V for Vendetta and hope that maybe it had a similar impact. I remember discussing with my young people the fact that they had noticed that parts of that film make me cry.
Considering that I'm still reeling from when some of my young people considered Mrs Doubtfire to be a CLASSIC FILM, (good but classic???) what makes a classic?
What films were those GREAT films that really moved you when you were young? Have you shared them with your teenagers?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Of course there was good stuff at the conference too. You can download individuals mp3s here for £4.50. Or the whole lot here for £75.
It was great to see a reasonable crowd at the Sophia Network launch including Amanda who is writing something for our Women in Youth Ministry site. Jenny Baker introduced everyone to the reasoning behind the network as improving not only the place of women in youth ministry but of making youth ministry (as part of God's creation) a balance of male and female. It's not just about women being women but enabling men and women to work well together.
Fuzz Kitto led the Early day and used the model of a meal (appetiser, starter, main course and dessert) as the structure for his four talks. I have to admit I took a while getting in to what he was doing but his take on things was pretty refreshing as he got us to taste various things (including chocolate!) as we reflected and he urged us to think about the "flavour" of our ministry and the flavour of God. He also sent us out to stand by the sea and reflect then went on, in the main course, to identify some of the key ingredients of good youth ministry and I hope to get those from him at some point as there were LOTS of sub points but they were summarised as:
- Being available
- Showing Interest
- Building Relationships
- Creating Community
- Encouraging Involvement
"Truth is relational"
"We don't work for the church. We work for God WITH the church."
"No matter what anyone tells you words and ideas can change the world"Another bit that I took away was about the need for creativity in people-centred work. We never finish with people so it is important to have something which we can finish. I sat there partly desperate to get home to the HUGE pair of canvasses Michael had bought me for my birthday and get painting something that was screaming to get on the canvas!
and then Fuzz said:
Jeff Lucas was very entertaining in the first main talk but also had some words of wisdom. Callin on us all to avoid burnout and cynicism:
"Dream your dreams through me again and let me see the wide screen picture and let me do the small things well"
For me, Juliet Kilpin (from Urban Expression) was probably the highlight of the main talks as she challenged us to be more daring in our servanthood. She also used one of Dave Walker's cartoons (the facebook one!) so I was almost certainly going to like what she said!
She also co-led a session with Jonny Baker on Fresh Expressions and the Emerging church (using one of Dave Walker's cartoons again[this time the where the church scratches one] and the marvellous but sometimes painfully accurate ASBO Jesus). There were also references to Mark Berry and Richard Passmore so I felt rather at home! My friend and I both went to this and, although we both said it included much we had heard before, we still found it really good. For me, it was a great reminder of how to look at CHURCH and I'm sure I'm going to use some of the theory when I'm working with St Anne's and St Peter's in helping them look at their future plans for youth ministry in their community.
The worship at Early day was led by a guy called Darren Baird from Knock in Belfast who was AMAZINGLY FANTASTIC. He picked the perfect song each time and was really prayerful in leading us without dominating. The main worship sessions for me were not so good in comparison but they were in the theatre which was rather cramped so that may have had an impact. That said, the poems (someone PLEASE tell me they know where I can find them!) and some amazing cello playing really made an impact.
Yet in all this the time I felt closest to God all weekend was on the beach when I should have been in a seminar on personal spirituaity - yes I liked the irony too! It was really windy and it reminded me of a great time in Taizé during the storm this summer.
Back home now and started working on the painting that was screaming to be let out. It's based on the idea of that still centre within each of us and reminding me of that St Augustine line which someone (might have been Jeff Lucas!) used this weekend:
Monday, November 19, 2007
For other interesting pics of the exhibition (including proof that I really am very short) have a look at the Flickr account.
and rejesus has a new thing that fits just perfectly with this concept.
What is Christmas really all about... presents or presence? Go out and float your ARK by generating your own random act of kindness.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
If you're going to be there I am open to coffee!
If you are interested the Sophia network has a launch on Saturday at lunch time.
Oh and if you're NOT interested in all that lot you may lik to know that Nick Park and his team have produced some fabulous new videos for the Leonard Cheshire charity.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Affirming Liberalism is described as a "Church of England network to affirm and support Liberal Christians and Liberal Christianity in the Oxford Diocese… and beyond".
I suppose this brings some balance to the Liberal/Evangelical/Catholic triangle.
I particularly like the phrases about ways we approach our faith:
- Affirming the positive impact of biblical, literary and historical criticism for our engagement with Scripture and Tradition.
- Affirming appreciation of the distinctive nature of religious language in vibrant worship which connects us to the divine.
- Affirming a philosophical approach to Christian faith and the search for truth through God-given reason.
- Affirming the positive insights of the natural sciences and mathematics in the formation of a Christian world-view and understanding of the universe.
- Affirming the positive impact of the social sciences for understanding human nature and society, and developing Christian ethics.
- Affirming the vitality of the performing and creative arts in shaping a dynamic Christian vision of life lived in relation to God.
All those in youth work go and have a look. Ladies, consider joining and gents... maybe you need a men's network??
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
This time it was even for somthing other than needing a large heavy book to flatten something with!
Bishop Alan came to All Saints' yesterday to license David as the Area Dean. Alan had just returned from St Wandrille, a monastery in Rouen and he referred to this place in his sermon and the word Merovingian was used in All Saints' and not by me! Goodness!
I know this may seem entirely bizarre (particularly to anyone looking for something about youth work!) but it is faintly pleasing that the three years I spent toiling on some translations elicits a little interest from a noble few every now and then.
So, for those in that very small band, a reminder that you can have a look at some of the twenty saints lives of Merovingian bishops which I translated over at my Latin blog. There is only a small selection as I haven't really got round to putting them all up (or indeed locating all of the electronic files on the antique non internet pc upstairs!). However to any fans of St Wandrille, both the lives of Lantbert of Lyons and Ansbert of Rouen do include his name and their connection with him.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
First of all I'd packed up a tent with various parts of the tent labelled with different stages in Paul's life. (see below*)
Then we talked about St Paul's journeys and how he travelled around so much sharing his faith.
As part of this I got them to list the things they could do individually and as a CU to share their faith with those around them and with the university. We then turned these lists into origami boats as a symbol of our hope to let their ideas "set sail"
We went on to talk about the Pauline letters (which are/aren't may/may not be written by Paul!) concluding that, no matter the authorship, the letters contained a lot that was worthy of study. Then I suggested they do a "secret santa" style letter exchange and write each other a letter using only quotations from the letters.
We then looked at the prayers that Paul uses to begin and end his letters particularly the grace as found in the conclusion to 2 Corinthians 13.
I put Philippians 2.5-16 before them as a model for them in their life in the university - shining as points of light in the dark as very few Christians in a fairly secular institution.
Then we concluded with my most favourite all time bit of probably one of my favourite books of the Bible (well certainly of the New Testament - gotta love bits of Job and Psalms!):
whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence and
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing the things
that you have learned and
received and heard and seen in me,
and the God of peace will be with you."Philippians 4.8-9
* Chronology of St Paul
1. Born at Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39)
2. Father was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:26-28; cf. 16:37),
3. Originally called SAUL played an active part in the martyrdom of St. Stephen (Acts 7:58-60) and the persecution of the church
4. Conversion experience on the road to Damascus (9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:9-23)
5. Paul set about preaching to the Jews (Acts 9:19-20).
6. Withdrew to Arabia -- probably south of Damascus (Galatians 1:17 returned to Damascus but had to flee
7. He went to Jerusalem to see Peter (Galatians 1:18),
8. Paul’s activity is not recorded for 5-6 years. Barnabas goes to find him and they work together in Antioch and Jerusalem Acts 11:25-26).
9. First mission (Acts 13:1-14:27)
10. Second mission (Acts 15:36-18:22)
11. Third mission (Acts 18:23-21:26)
12. Captivity (Acts 21:27-28:31)
13. later years obscure before martyrdom at Rome in the reign of Nero.
"Thus says the Lord God, See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation"
Isaiah tells us of God’ plan to lay a foundation for his church and Paul continues this model
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God."
Today we remember Simon and Jude two of Jesus first disciples. To continue that image of the church, two of the first building blocks of the church. These are two characters we all feel we should know but perhaps we don’t know as much about them as we should.
In fact it’s hard to know much about them as very little is known about either of them.
Simon we know as Simon the Zealot so we know his past was one which might have involved some very radical political activity in objecting to the Roman occupation, Josephus tells us that the most violent zealots were in action much later but, the title zealot definitely tells us that Simon believed in the rights of the Jewish people to be free within their own kingdom. The New Testament, however, tells us no more about Simon other than listing him among the disciples.
Jude, sometimes called the obscure, is actually LESS obscure than Simon. Jude, also known as Judas and Thaddeus is, not surprisingly, described in greater detail in an endeavour to distinguish him from the other Judas. Jude is known much more in some ways because of the confusion with Judas. He has the dubious honour of being the patron saint of lost causes because he is, unsurprisingly, the last name of any of the apostles that someone praying would call upon for intercession.
He is called Judas of James, meaning he was either the son of James or perhaps the brother of James (perhaps the James who was one of the other disciples). Certainly the new testament epistle of Jude is by Jude brother of James. So this Obscure saint may not be so obscure after all but the author of one of the books of the New Testament. Some have even suggested that as brothers Judas and James may well have been the Judas and James mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 13 when the people of Nazareth question Jesus’ authority to preach
"Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?" Mt 13:55 ff
So, unlike Simon, Jude is described outside of the lists of the disciples. In fact a question he asked Jesus at the last supper is recorded in John’s Gospel:
Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. John 14:22 - 24
Why doesn’t Jesus reveal himself to everyone?
Jude’s question is a very good one. It goes to the heart of our calling as Christians. Why doesn’t God reveal himself to everyone? Why just us?
In the film Evan Almighty this summer, a journalist asked:
Reporter: What makes you think God chose you?
Evan Baxter: He chose all of us.
Evan replies calmly to this question and that calm assurance is what makes the response powerful and not arrogant.
So, just as Jesus called Simon and Jude, he does choose all of us. Not just here but everyone. Trouble is, not everyone hears it when he calls and that’s where we come in.
Our job – the job of the church
Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Gospel make it clear that life as a Christian is not always easy. We do not belong to the world. Does that mean we belong instead to the church and the church is our defence against the world – on that firm foundation do we build a fortress against the world?
God built his church with strong foundation. In the building that is the church are we a Brick in the wall or, as someone preached a few years ago, are we, like the saints, some stained glass that the light can shine through?
We have been trying in All Saints to build a Centre for Anglican Spirituality – opening our church up to people of all ages, people who have never experienced God in their lives and those who want to explore further. You may have noticed we’ve been making a few changes in the way the church is laid out. Pat’s place for the little ones with the toys always out, the plants ready for our quiet garden in the north chapel, the library for those who want something a little deeper and the corner that the young people have made their own. In setting up these spaces we’ve explored various names for some aspects. One such name was SANCTUARY. A great name – a Latin name so I rather liked it – a traditional name; the church has been a place of sanctuary for hundreds of years. In the rather more blood-thirsty periods of history men and women have been chased by their pursuers until they could get that hand grasped on to the sanctuary ring on the outside of the church and claim the church’s protection from the outside world.
What model of church do we want?
(A VOLUNTEER BRINGS ON A BEAN BAG)
It’s appealing to think of the church as a place of comfort where we can escape from all the pressures of life. A place to escape and be looked after. We can rest in God’s love and get away from all that opposition that Jesus said we would face in the world because we don’t belong there. In the Renaissance English sense of “comfort.” In Renaissance English “comfort” is formed from two Latin words, con and fortis: “with strength.”
Yet the church must be much more than that. The church should be the foretaste of God’s kingdom that we’re building.
(A VOLUNTEER BRINGS ON A BEAN BAG)
We shouldn’t just be a place where people can escape from the world. The church should be a place that empowers people to going back into the world; a place where people are encourage to get into the world and engage with it. To equip them to build the kingdom.
Of course there are times when we all need some comfort - times of difficulty or distress but when we have been comforted through those times, the church should still be the place that empowers us to go out into the world.
What do you seek of your church?
A place of comfort or a place to be sent out?
What should the church be?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
- This is the phrase from Hestor Blumenthal that I think, for me summed up the difference of his approach to making a cheeseburger to Nigella Lawson's EXPRESS which I watched last night. Blumnethal used a whole half-hour program to explore how to make the PERFECT cheeseburger including weighing the burger after each bite to check you got a a bit of everything, experimenting with different shapes of bun, making his own processed cheese using the chemical that's used to cure cystitis (YES, he REALLY DID) and making his own ketchup out of tomato concentrate.
It's well-known that Hestor takes cooking a little more serious than most people or in his own words: "If you de-burger does it become too poncey and no longer a burger/" Maybe, yes Hestor!
Nigella, on the other hand, was making food the way I would usually. She didn't know how much of each ingredient she put in (but she made a rough estimate for people watching who NEEDED to get the right amount!). Now, I don't think Nigella got where she is by just winging it the whole time. I'm sure she started, as most of us did, by weighing and measuring but it is pretty cool to see someone cooking on television like a normal person.
It made me think about how we do church sometimes. Do those of us in ministry take it just a little bit too seriously? Yes we might need to give the odd aside to explain something but otherwise keeping it simple is more like the way we "do it at home". Of course, we DO need that underlying understanding. I think doing in worship without understanding why is far worse than going so deep into understanding it all that you end up overcomplicating it (but understanding the complications). Where is the balance?
Do we Blumenthalise our liturgy too often and lose the flavour?
Do we make it too EXPRESS an EXPRESSION?
Friday, October 19, 2007
The Pharisee goes to confirm his religious practices as part of his ritual and to show off how humble he is. It seems he does all the right things for the day.
If it were today he might say:
"God, thank you that I am not like other people; thieves, benefit frauds, paedophiles, or even like this traffic warden. I always give something up for Lent, I’ve got a direct debit set up for all the charities – with gift aid! - I recycle, I don’t leave my television on standby, I come to the 9.45 AND evensong as well as listening to Songs of Praise, I’ve read the WHOLE bible three times!"
Then there’s another person, hiding away in a corner, crying
“God, show me mercy, I’ve done wrong!”
It’s not that giving to charity and caring for the environment or coming to church is wrong. Far from it; it’s the outworking of a living faith in God. It was the attitude that was wrong. The Christian life is doing the right thing for the right reason in the right way. Or as in the case of the second man, doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason in the wrong way but admitting that and, in the right way, confessing it to God in humility.
Quite often those outside the church think that all we're about is the church going and hymn/worship song singing* (*delete as applicable!) when, as much as that is how we express our praise, it is not the only way and it is not all that we are as Christians - or, at least, it should not be. How do we encourage our young people, our church members and ourselves to live out our faith so that we are known not for our singing but for our humility?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
It has to be said though that the littlies were ever so cute - including some from Ark our Sunday school so I may be just a little bit biased!
This made me ever so nostalgic and so, following Ian's lead I'm sharing some gems from a wonderful book called God Bless Love which Nanette Newman ( mother of Emma Forbes for those of you too young to remember her!) edited together in 1972 and which my brother and I used to read when we were about that age and at that school - awwww. As one of the grandads there today (whose wife was one of my Brownie leaders) said, "Sarah, it feels like just yesterday you were that little Brownie" Luckily enough although there apparently are MANY embarrassing pictures of me in the Brownie archive they're not on my pc.
Funny to think that, as these were written in 1972 so that makes some of these people a "little" bit older now!!
So words of wisdom out of the mouths of babes...
"I think you can fall in love if you have your picture taken in front of a church" Eric aged 5 (now aged 40!)
"My sister is always writing to Jesus an he sends her chocolate an once he sent her two lots of chocolates on the same day but she won't tell me where to write" Ian aged 6 (now aged 41)
"My granny always talks to Jesus on Sundays. the rest of the week she goes to Bingo which is where he lives sometimes" Charles aged 5 (now aged 40)
"God loves everyone who is good like me and my friend lucy but not peopul like gillian who takes other peoples rubbers" Katy aged 6 (now aged 41)
"If you eat sweets in church the vicar tells Jesus " Robert aged 5 (now aged 40)
"Everybody loves baby Jesus even my uncle and both my bruthers but I don't. i love the three wizmen best becus they broat presense" John aged 5 (now aged 40)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Had a lovely day off yesterday. Michael and I wandered over to Oxford and caught a glimpse of Lewis being filmed (common enough for Oxford residents, I know but I like seeing all the technical stuff going on!). I bought myself a "large area" paintbrush so later I did a bit of painting (still only the groundwork of the Ruth piece so nothing interesting to post yet on that score).
After that a did a bit of wifely duty and my dear hubby a proper PIE (which does seem to prove Pies are squared! ;oP sorry - enough puns for now!
link on the Oxford diocese site to Bishop John visiting one of my FAVOURITE places in the world when I was a child - Cotswold Wildlife Park and I thought that being a bishop sounded like the best job in the world but no... there was a snake involved so thank you but no thank you. Have a look at the pictures... is it just me or is that a slightly sinister look with the snake? Sorry John but maybe it's me fear of snakes make everything in the pic seem frightening!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I've still got Ruth to do - especially as it's the session about her relatively soon! I'm just not so sure what to do for Ruth. I don't think Ruth at the feet of Boaz is quit emy style. I was pondering some kind of image of Ruth and Naomi comforting each other and entering Naomi's hometown... we'll see!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Tonight featured some FABULOUS bits about unclean things according to Leviticus ("...osprey, hoopoos - has anyone ever TRIED to eat a hoopoo?") and Richard Dawkins ("when he gets here...").
The programme pushes the boundaries a bit with reference to suicide bombers and various aspects of religion but for me it stays within the funny side.
The music is by Malcolm Archer (previously of St Paul's and now at Winchester college) responsible for music at the college chapel) and based on the Last Post. The choir and guest trumpeter will be singing it at the Remembrance Service in November and I really think it's going to touch people. I only wish I could find a recording of it to share with you!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
We had an ecumenical meeting about a night shelter we're setting up in Wycombe this winter. 7 churches around the town will be offering their church halls as a place for homeless people one night a week: 7 teams in 7 church buildings 7 nights with one vision.
You might remember AGES ago that I went and volunteered at a night shelter in London and last year two of our teenagers went along and another small group of young people got together to make some fantastic soup for them to take.
This evening was all about the plan to make this happen in High Wycombe to.
Ok so there were a few little digressions into the nitty gritty of it all but overall it was a group of people fired up to get it all working not just on our own as willing volunteers but in partnership with local agencies and with plans for some great training for volunteers.
As one of the teenagers there said - It's what Jesus would do!
One of my young people is thinking of a Gap Year that involves Orangutan (another one here and a brochure here too!), one has found a church placement that involves working with offenders, another is looking for a church placement and another wants to do something on mission for half a year after half a year of earning money.
Well I've been surfing and Ian came up trumps with a site from Church Army which looks really good.
So, in case anyone is looking, this is a site all about gap years of all kinds.
For specifically Christian Gap Years there's
Ignite XL at the Foundry, DNA, Year4God, Christian Aid, Careforce, Youth for Christ.
Youthblog has also put up some links but (sorry, chum!) the links weren't working when I tried but I'm sure it'll be fixed soon.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I've stocked up on a fab moving representation to help people explore the trinity from this maths site. Shame I was looking for something Christmas related!!
Monday, October 01, 2007
Such a fabulous Cross-Section last night. We had a gospel choir and street dancers from Ruach ministries in Brixton. They sang and danced for us and then showed us all how to join in. The Gospel singing was SO MUCH FUN. I loved it. Not so good at the street dancing but you can't be good at everything!
It was amazing to see the young people opening up to this new type of worship and the adult creche were totally transfixed by it all.
Pastor Mark also delivered a brilliant message which was really challenging. So challenging that, one of my colleagues said she wasn't sure she could ever preach again having see a group of young people so focussed on a speaker. He was speaking about a subject I'm exporing at the moment for a sermon sometime soon - how we as Christians deal with faith. Do we use it as a comfortable self satisfied "I'm ok" idea or do we share it with others. Is the church a cosy club for us or a springboard to send us back out?
Well I know it's sent me out humming "Can't nobody do it like Jesus..."
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Just had a wonderful afternoon visiting our nearly one year old neice. We bought her a little heap of Pocoyo presents including a book, a DVD and best of all an interactive sleepy bird as featured in this little episode. We did have trouble handing it over as we loved it so much ourselves but our neice really liked it and was exploring all the different sounds it can make including a lovely lullaby (complete with nightlight beak!!)
Monday, September 24, 2007
We've been exploring ways of expressing the whole concept of "Set My People free" in our pastoral team.
I'm not sure what we're going to end up