Wednesday, October 31, 2007

St Paul Session

Had a great time talking to the Christian Union at Bucks New Uni on Monday evening as part of my role as one of the chaplaincy team there.

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!):

"Finally, beloved,
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.

Beanbag or trampoline?

"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?


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.


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

Eat drink man woman

"So how would we make our own processed cheese slices?"
- 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?
p.s. One interesting bit of info from Hestor, though - the perfect mouthful is apparently something less than two fingers thick, which means... you can eat a whole waggon wheel but a whole doughnut might be too much!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

I've been thinking about the readings for this Sunday. The gospel is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. In the story we hear of two men going to their place of worship with very different motivations

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!”
The second is the one who goes home justified.

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

Going Deeper

Realised the blog hasn't had much thought let alone DEEP thought lately so I will be addressing that... but not today! Enjoy this BIZARRE exhibition of non-scary puppets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jesus loves the little children

FABULOUS morning hosting the best primary school in Britain at church today for their harvest festival. No hackneyed old bread shaped like sheaves of corn and tins of tomato soup from them but some amazing singing, dancing, artwork, drama, jokes and information about their REAL harvest of money for some Tearfund projects in Brazil. Fantastically we raised £140 just this morning but the school will no doubt make more.

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

Pie in the Sky

Lewis in Oxford
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

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!

Pie 1
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Pie 2
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Today I saw a 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

Set My People Free - Mary in the Garden

Mary in the Garden detail 2
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
I've just finished another one of the paintings inspired by the Set My People Free initiative at All Saints'. I've also nearly finished the Peter picture which I was hating for a while as I really mucked up part of it. Fortunately a friend, who's also starting to paint, recommended turning it upside down and seeing what happened. I didn't actually move it but I did turn it upside down in my head and then I saw how I could make it work still.

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

Set My People Free: Abraham

We had our first session of Set my People Free this week, looking at Abraham. If you're interested you can download it to listen to it here.

My painting inspired by the theme for this session is currently in church (picture up here soon).

Game on!

Michael and I have just finished giggling about Old Harry's Game on Radio 4. If you've not heard it (listen again here!), the programme is by Andy Hamilton and features him as Satan, Robert Duncan (from Drop the Dead Donkey) as his sidekick with "residents" such as a city slicker played by Jimmy Mulville (minor claim to fame - I've been in a lift with him - how random can you get?!) and this series introduces an historian played by Annette Crosbie who's decided to write a biography of Satan and is interviewing people about him.

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.

In War

We were practising an absolutely marvellous piece last night using these words of Winston Churchill:

In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace goodwill.

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

Church as a foretaste of the kingdom

I went to the Reaching the Unchurched network conference a few weeks ago when Bishop Graham Cray spoke about the church being a foretaste of the kingdom and tonight it really felt that way.

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!

Mark Berry hates these but never mind!!

What Kind of Blogger Are You?

Mind the Gap

For some reason Gap years have been coming up a lot lately.

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

Sony Bravia - Play Doh - Full TV Commercial

Absolutely AWESOME video from the people who brought us that video with the bouncing balls. Just love this. (HT to EasyRew)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Funky Munky

In looking for some interesting crafty things for the youth group I found this marvellous site which led me to the wonderful flickr monkey page with some really instant craft activities for groups. All you might want to do is work out why you want a red monkey...

He's so cute
Originally uploaded by flickr monkey

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

You gotta have soul

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..."