Monday, December 29, 2008

Strictly not dancing

Michael and I listened to a fabulous programme on Radio Four on our way down to dad's on Christmas Eve morning.

It was all about the RUSH of life and our perceptions of TIME.

It featured the marvellous sounds of the bells of a clock planned to be in the middle of the desert which are based on something composed by Brian Eno designed to be unique for every day for the next ten thousand years (you can hear a bit of them here) as part of the LONG NOW foundation and some wonderful reflections on the busy rush of our world. The prototype is in London's science museum but if you want to see the real thing, it will take you, as they say themselves, "at least a day to get there" on a kind of pilgrimage. Understanding that it will take time to experience and engage with this clock.

This idea of slowing down life is something which I've really noticed since we moved to Worcestershire away from the Buzz of the South-East commuter belt. I've noticed that time is NOT as rushed here as it was in High Wycombe. I didn't think it was juts me and apparently it has been measured that some places ARE more rushed than others. I think Worcestershire is a much healthier non-rushed society and I love it, I have to say. There were examples of some fascinating endeavours to sow life down... I think taking a tortoise on a lead with you was my favourite!

I shall be keeping an eye on the Long Now Foundation from now on. It wasn't just the programme as a whole that struck me.

There was one chap Tom Hodgkinson on the programme who talked about Puritans and what impact they had on how we perceive time. The Puritans took away all kinds of the festivities that marked and measured times. He said that they stripped away all the joy and insisted that life was hard and getting to heaven a struggle. I think the enlightenment generally rather the Puritans alone is responsible for it really but I agree with the sentiment. What he said that really spoke to me though was this:

"Life Before the Puritans Life was seen as play, you could call it a Dance, and life after the Puritans became a race."
I've been musing over this over the last few days and it is SO TRUE. Life now seems to be a contest not a creative interaction of different creatures moving alongside each other. In all we do we try to do our best yes and to out-do others, to better OURSELVES, to make ourselves the winner. How different would this be if we instead focussed on life as a dance not a race?

Dances and races both use energy but a dance is about beauty and style in each moment. A race is about passing others in speed or height.

Dances and races both involve skill but a dancers skill is for the delight of others while skill in a race is about surpassing the skill of others.

Dances and races both have an ending but a dance flows from start to finish and ends with a satisfying flourish or a calm conclusion whilst a race ends in a burst of energy and exhaustion.

Which would you rather your life was?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sermon 21st December 2008 Advent 4

This is my sermon from last Sunday. I was leading a service of the word in a rather busy team of churches where the clergy where around and about leading yet more carol services in various places!

The readings for the morning were:

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 16:25-27

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38

I decided to focus on the Gospel. Each member of the congregation was given an image of the annunciation (found via google images) before the service started.

So it’s nearly Christmas… but not quite. And we’re taken back this morning, back in time 9 months or so in fact from where we’re about to be to the moment when Mary first learns that she is going to have this child whose birth we will celebrate this week!
As St Paul put it; it’s
“the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but is now disclosed”
That’s a passage we have all heard many times I’m sure. It’s a story we’re familiar with and yet I’m sure we all see it rather differently in our minds. Have a look on your seats (you may have already spotted them!) and you’ll see a few ways that various artists over the years have depicted that moment of annunciation. Now there are some very different styles some traditional some very modern. You may like your image or you may dislike it. Respond to it honestly.
Some have a very tangible ANGEL figure whilst others show something more of a presence or a glow. Some have Mary just sitting quietly in her room, in others she’s looking out the window or in a garden. Or she’s surrounded by flowers or bright colours. In some Mary is very still and quiet and submissive in a prayerlike or meditative pose. In others she is actively engaged in conversation with the angel or perhaps questioning – How can this be?
How would you paint or sculpt this story or make it into a film or a piece of music perhaps or a dance?
There are two elements of this story which I would want to focus on if I were painting it. Two elements which stand out for me as the most important
The first for me is this element of the otherworldly coming into the ordinary.
Why do you think the angel had to say, so very quickly, "Do Not Be Afraid"? There’s an ANGEL right there in front of her. And the Gospel rather coyly describes this as;
“she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be”
Now, I work with teenagers and there are not many teenagers I know who would have responded quite so calmly to a supernatural being appearing so suddenly and calling them “favoured one”. It reminds me in a way of that lottery advert they had a few years ago with the giant hand coming down from the sky and pointing at someone with those booming words “IT COULD BE YOU” and I think that’s why this element of the story strikes me. It COULD be any one of us. Mary was no-one particularly illustrious or famous. She was just like one of us until that day. And God sent her this message as her to serve him.
Now I’m not saying it’s going to be that clear for each of us when God calls us to do something. I don’t think there’ll be hundreds of different of classical paintings of the moment that God called one of us to be a teacher, to help at a local charity, to befriend a neighbour or sit with someone who is ill.
The second part of this story which really sparks something in me, is not actually the news that Jesus is to be born. That is an amazing gift to each and every one of us. A gift we may take for granted or be so unable to grasp that we can’t even begin to describe it. No the element that gets me is Mary’s response.
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Ok so there’s some initial doubt that she can possibly have a child without there being a physical father. Yet so very quickly she comes back with this YES. This complete submission to God’s will. God calls her and she answers that call.

That’s what I would want to show in a painting. Not just a passive beatified and serene Mary but a Mary saying YES with all her being.

So my painting would be of the otherworldly coming into our world with that call and Mary responding YES to that call.

The reason I’d want to paint that is because I think this story really encapsulates God’s call to each of us. I don’t know what God might be calling you to. I do know that he is. I know that God says to you, as he says to Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you… Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And if that’s true at any time it’s all the more true at Christmas. A future and a hope. That is what we look forward to and we find that future and that hope in listening to God’s call and in answering it as Mary did.
So when the Lord calls. Will you answer as she did
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Saying yes to God

1. When is it hardest for us to say yes to God?
2. What makes Mary able to say it?
3. How can we follow her example?
4. What is one way we can show God's love this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Card in Video form

For those of you who don't receive one of the rare cards I've sent out (Yes I actually HAVE sent some this year - it's a "oh we've moved house" thing!) I've put together a little video using some of my paintings and doodlings and a track from a CD recorded at the fabulous church of St Mary and St George in High Wycombe where I guest non-starred with a friend of mine in the alto section for a choir from Stokenchurch. It's a setting of the words below which is, somewhat appropriately considering we're now next door in Worcestershire, the "Herefordshire Christmas Carol" preserved by the great Ralph Vaughan Williams (who's anniversary year it is!)

I love these words and won't be singing them this year for the first time in many years as I'm not in a choir at Christmas for the first time since ... er... well probably since I could string two words and a few notes together!

The words tell us what Christmas is all about. Not something that happened 2000 years ago but something which began so much earlier and continues today:

This is the truth sent from above
The truth of God, the God of love
Therefore don't turn me from your door
But hearken will both rich and poor

The first thing that I do relate
Is that God did man create
The next thing which to you I'll tell
Woman was made with man to dwell

Thus we were heirs to endless woes
Till God and Lord did interpose
And so a promise soon did run
That He would redeem us by His Son

And at that season of the year
Our blessed redeemer did appear
He here did live and here did preach
And many thousands he did teach

Thus He in love to us behaved
To show us how we must be saved
And if you want to know the way
Be pleased to hear what He did say.

If you're very clever you may pick up a few unspoken Scriptural references through the pictures - not just the ones with words!

Christmas blessings one and all...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Muppets vs Puppets

The young people who came with me to a national event down in London about the Youth Evangelism Fund couldn't quite believe I was so freaked out by the puppets that were shown. I don't know what it is but the human puppets that feature in most incarnations of Christian puppetry wig me out completely. The animals and weird muppety creatures... all fine. People puppets - FREAKED.

This is peculiar really as I LOVE the Muppets (Beaker is sitting on my desk right now!) and am holding out as long as I can before watching Muppet Christmas Carol this year. Yet there is that big difference. In the muppets, humans were always humans and muppets were always muppets in all the colours of the rainbow (even though it's not easy being green).

My youthwork colleagues in my last job thought I was joking when I told them of this phobia but realised it was true when we went to the Christian Resource Exhibition and I had to run the gauntlet of smiley pink furry faces. They did try some aversion therapy and Costa (my mini monkey puppet) still travels around with me in my work bag!

All this has got me thinking about The Muppet Christmas Carol. The followign will have to do for now though... apologies to my more catholic readers... they don't do an Advent song but I have put it in seasonal colours!

Beard, madam?

I'm grinning to myself a bit today as I received a rather bizarre request yesterday. If they can't find anyone else and as I'm quite new would I dress up in a red coat and don the white beard for the sunday school party. "You'd have to speak in a deep voice, of course" said someone who was recently dressed up as a human sized Christingle (yes there does appear to be a recurring theme going on here!!).

It has all made me think about those very silly scenes from the Life of Brian now, by the wonders of modern science and the generosity of the Pythons themselves available on Youtube.

The Life of Brian really was misunderstood as being against Jesus. All the Pythons, in preparing to make the film, re-read the Gospels and came back decided that they couldn't knock this guy as he was honourable... the CHURCH however... totally open to ridicule for some of its curious practices and sometimes lemming like behaviour!

Monday, December 01, 2008

If you're sitting comfortably

You might not be in too much shock that I'm blogging twice in one day!

I had the privilege of doing a lot of waiting over the weekend - a true introduction to Advent. Unfortunately about seven hours of the waiting was in trying to get Photostroy to save my intercessions video only to resort to redoing the whole thing on Windows Movie maker (grrr!).

Anyway the service at Alvechurch was in fact great and the video and other alternative prayer opportunities went down really well. people had the choice of planting a seed of prayer, making bead crosses (thank you Fiona!), colouring celtic knotwork or watching the video as an inspiration to prayer.

I was also oreaching for the service and wanted to give peopel a powerful image to help them think about the value of waiting and the difference between waiting around and waiting actively.

I used the symbolism of bubbles and balloons.
Bubbles take no effort and are pleasing but don't last and you can blow as many as you like but they will never stay long.
Balloons take more effort and skill (knot tying) and will last that bit longer. Without the effor thtough a balloon is just boring.

I then took out a rocket balloon and poitned out that these took stretching, a special inflating straw and much more puff. However the extra effort is worth so much more as it produces something exciting.

I went on to speak about how much more effort it would take to inflate a hot air balloon but how much MORE AMAZING that would be.

Below is the text of what I might have said had I stayed by the lectern but, as I am wont, I wandered around and spoke slightly different (no doubt better) words.

(to be added later today)

Take that you doubter!

Ok so I had a scary moment last week. It was a bit of a shock...

A few weeks ago while ont he way to the Diocesan Board of Education meeting, I switched on YouthComm radio (as I tend to when I'm in Worcester as I can't get it for much more than a few miles outside the city or at home!). A song came on which had really powerful words and was then followed by another song as I pulled up in the car park so I wasn't able to catch who was playing it. It went roudn in my head and the lyrics stuck with me. the words I heard were these:

"Let’s make a new start, The future is ours to find...
Arms open wide
Yea the world starts to come alive
Today this could be the greatest day of our lives
and the world comes alive and the world comes alive"

I had images of using them at Christmas or Easter for talks etc.

Then shock! horror! I discover it's a Take That song. Noooooooo!

I remember htis happened before with Will Young. Iheard three songs over a few months which I thought were by George Michael ... only to discover that I liked Will Young's music. It was good. I even bought the album.

Does this mean I'm turning into a Take That fan??? Please, no!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Something for the weekend

Has your youth group done every outdoor activity there is? Stuck for some new ideas? I picked up information about a fabulous organisation called Treasure Trails. Not only does the pack offer you a walking guide to help you get them out in the open air but it also gives you a puzzle to solve - either a treasure hunt, murder mysery or James Bond style spy trail. There are trails in Worcestershire and Herefordshire (particularly handy of you're staying at Woolhope Cockshoot - there's one in Ledbury!) There are also trails for Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Enjoy!

Jesus Christ is waiting in the streets

I loved this nativity scene by our local street pastel artist. I have a better view of the pastel drawing itself but I just like the way the artist is in this one and so is CHRIST. Despite the lovely "Christmassy" Victorian Market in Worcester today, I have to say this was the moment that most reminded me of Christmas. I just hope he wasn't sent on and the picture washed away as it so often is.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oranges are not the only Christingle

Having been described as "former blogger" just one too many times by a certain prolific and wise blog hero, I thought it really was time to get back here.

I was at a meeting last night with the planning group for a parish Sunday School. They were a fab group of dedicated and enthusiastic people full of love for all the members of their group, even those whom they have found challenging over the years.

Among other things we were discussing the construction of Christingles in preparation for their service. (ah memories of discussions on Dave Walker's site and his great alternative Christingles cartoon - to see it properly go to the church times archive or BUY THE BOOK or the other book - great Christmas presents for churcgoers) Not only did I get a chance to see the HUMAN CHRISTINGLE costume (which is a work of pure genius! I do have a pic but would hate to embarras the person who was demonstrating it at the time) they're going to be using but we also had a chat about what sweets would be used, what ribbon/red tape, what sweets/raisins do you use. I remember hours of agony with Dolly mixtures in a previous year. Not only are some dolly mixtures utterly impregnable but we had enthusiastic helpers putting four on each of the four sticks which meant we had to go to the pick and mix at Woolies (where would we go now?? So sad to hear of their demise!) and trawl through the pick and mix trying to pick out only the easily-spikeable-with-a-cocktail stick sweets.So our experiment last night was ... Can you spike a Haribo with a cocktail stick? Answer yes though it looks kinda cruel with the bears!!)

All this was great fun but I have to admit giggling FAR too much when we were esting if you could sellotape the ribbon to the fruit (rather than use pins which are a little un-child-friendly (never mind the fire, spikey cocktail sticks, potential nut/citrus/gluten/dairy allergy to sweets and the slip hazzards due to orange juice all over the floor!). The peopel hosting the meeting didn't have any oranges so we tested the sellotape theory on an apple. It got me thinking...

Why an orange? It represents the world... yes... why not an apple? a peach? I had great images of a Christingle pineapple (impressive but expensive!) and miniature Christingle grapes with hundreds and thousands for sweets (stuck to the sticks with icing!) Fellow youthworker Lizzie tells me she tried a melon Christingle one year.

So why an orange? Well, I like to do my research and apparently he story goes that it was an orange which Bishop John De Watteville used at the first Christingle in 1747. So that's why it's always been an orange before... but now... anyone doing alternative fruit Christingles PLEASE send me pics!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Birthday Presence online

Ok so I thought my BEST birthday present was the curry book from Michael - source of some fabulous food already... well that was until I saw this video.

I may be a year older but I still appreciate a good slice of Monty Python. Aaaah ...fond memories of singing Eric the half a bee with the youth group on our last youth holiday (and surprising some of them by knowing the words!)
For the joys of the Silly Olympics, The Four Yorkshiremen and the Ministry of Silly Walks plus some classic clips from the films and some great songs (Sadly :( no Eric the Half a bee yet though!)

The launch video is beautifully subtle Python (So you won't be surprised when I say **CAUTION** there is some mild swearing).

Head on over there! Not suitable for all ages but genius nonetheless!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Training and experience

I'm off to a deanery chapter meeting next week to talk about youth work. I've decided to help the clergy experience what youthwork is like as well as discuss it. So I've got some worship from The Book of Uncommon Prayer supported by the video below. I'm also getting them to do some activities from Frontier Youth Trust's Mission and Young people at Risk and maybe some games

I'm very pleased with the three part reflection from Psalm 126
  • What in your community makes you weep?
  • Where have you/might you sow seeds?
  • What have you/might you reap with joy?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Parable of the sower

Saw this great claymation version of the parable of the sower. The sun has never seemed so evil!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Breath of God

I'm listening online to the morning worship led by the young people from St Barnabas in Kidderminster who are part of mass@barnabas a service designed and mostly led by young people through the help and inspiration of their vicar Fiona. I was privileged to have them lead prayers at my licensing earlier this year and to be with them on Thursday when they recorded the service for BBC Hereford and Worcester. They are a fabulous group of young people and I am unbelievably proud of the wonderful service they have presented. It's rather different to what we often have on a Sunday. It focusses on the Breath of God in Genesis and in the upper room after the resurrection. The radio station also picked up on what I said about Youth Work week so introduced the service as part of that celebration of what we do with young people.

The recording on Thursday was a classic example of teen culture. I think the chap recording was worried they were going to muck around - indeed they were joking around about a few things before we started - sharing the memory of the liturgical dance actions for happy God, sad God and angry God which they devised for a non-existant service, for example. Despite the BBC chap's worries, as soon as they began recording, they became the professional, prayerful, capable group I've come to know and respect them for. I still like the dance actions too though!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lost in Translation

I so loved this news story on PM on Radio 4 today.

Apparently the Welsh on the sign is NOT the translation of the English above but instead:
"I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated"

Still grinning about it!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

autumn comes autumn leaves

It was really wonderful to have some time out this weekend after some fairly heavy weeks of work in hours and emotional engagement. Love my job as I do, I knew I was turning into a zombie towards the end of last week and that's never good for continuing to love my job!

So on Friday I took the well earned TOIL and began the chill down with a tidy of the house and some creative catering (Pork with gorgonzola sauce and stuffed mushrooms accompanied by a green bean and red onion salad with balsamic dressing).

Saturday we walked the dog and kicked up some autumn leaves (I even carried some home with me which is a perfectly normal thing to do - even if people do give you funny looks!) and then I went mad with some paint (some of it getting on the dog!!) and did a few pieces.

I also made Nigel Slater's chocolate cake (yumskies! Even better for being able to offer some to the curate this afternoon :oD ) and a batch of mincemeat. My best beloved and I had a great half hour contemplating what alcohol should go in the mincemeat from our eclectic store and have opted for a cointreau/pimms/cranberry gin combo - we wait and see how it turns out!

I'm most pleased with this picture here which is a kind of reworking of an earlier painting I did for my mate Matt (though he's not blogged in an ETERNITY!).

Funny thing about creativity. I find it quite difficult to recreate something that's like this. If it's a very figurative work I find it a lot easier but something really free like this, well it's just not right to try and recreate it. Recreating it makes it not what it was which was a free piece.

I find youthwork and church has the same feel sometimes. Often the things that work the best are those which didn't come about through a careful plan but have come together in a marvellous serendipitous working of the Holy Spirit bringing together some unique groups of people. You can't repeat that model elsewhere because it didn't start as a model, rather it grew and evolved.

In the end I abandoned my attempt to recreate the original painting and have ultimately ended up with something I think I actually prefer to the original (gorgeous and green though it was!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SATiSfaction Guaranteed

Having spent two fabulous days with Breathe at Wolverley High School today and yesterday, the day was rounded off to a treat with the FANTASTIC news that KS3 SATs have been abolished. I am so pleased for all those teenagers who can now look forward to focussing on LEARNING rather than on TESTING.

It was really good the last couple of days to watch young people as they got into the experience of Breathe and realised that there wasn't a "right answer" but an opportunity and an invitation to wonder, ponder, question and reflect.

Today one of the pupils in particular started out very sceptical about "anything religious" and came up to me at the end and thanked me because it had really made her think.

It was also cool being in school for school dinners for two days. They were yummy yet well balanced. The chocolate milkshakes were a particular fave!

So two days of Breathe have left me incredibly fired up (and with a wooden block that needs gluing, a russian doll with a squeak and in need of more string and new play-doh!)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Peter gets cold feet

The Bible passage for the evening

"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”" Matthew 14.22-33

I got two of the young people to precede my sermon with the sketch from Eh Peter, Yes Jesus series from Iona

The passage from the gospel we heard has a lot to say about faith: About Jesus’ faith, about Jesus’ faith in Peter, about Peter’s faith in Jesus, about Peter’s faith in himself and at the conclusion of the passage about the disciples’ faith in who Jesus was.

We’re often so excited about the movie moment of Jesus walking on water that we miss what happens at the beginning of this passage. Jesus goes off on his own for some quiet on the mountainside to pray. Not he goes to a huge gathering of people where there’s the best worship band ever or the greatest gospel choir or cathedral choir. He goes off ALONE and spends time with God. This is Jesus we’re talking about. Perhaps you’d think he didn’t need to do that. I mean – he’s the Son of God isn’t he. He’s part of the trinity. He’s surely got it figured? Exactly that. He HAS got it figured. He KNOWS that he needs to pray. Jesus knows what he is there to do. He is there to show God’s light in what has become a rather dark world. He knows he has to offer himself up to death and he knows he needs to keep praying to be able to do that. He has faith in God but not by some magical or “just add water” kind of a way. His faith in God is something he has to work on. It’s not an automatic thing that BOOM you’ve got it and it stays that way forever. He tries to teach the disciples that by his own retreats into prayer at key moments. At his time of greatest doubt in Gethsemane he has asked his disciples to be there with him but they fall asleep. It’s the same for us. Even the most righteous of Christians cannot maintain their faith without turning to God in prayer and it’s not big and glamourous. Tim Hughes might stand up in the front at Soul Survivor and play the greatest most vibrant prayerful worship songs that make hundreds of people feel alive in the spirit but he doesn’t do it fuelled by that experience alone. He spends time in solitude and prayer.

How about the other faith we see in this passage? Jesus has great faith that Peter will come out to him. Now if you know Peter’s record in the Bible events before and after this and Jesus knows Peter. You’ll know that he’s not the most faithful guy. He’s the one who denies even knowing Jesus. He’s the one who when Jesus says I will wash your feet loudly declares he’ll do no such thing. Yet he’s also the one who leaves everything when Jesus says follow me, who declares that Jesus is the messiah when Jesus asks who people says he is, the only one of the disciples who follows Jesus when he’s arrested the one who goes to the tomb on Easter Sunday, the one who preaches at Pentecost. The foundation of the church. The rock.

Unfortunately for peter, in this passage he lives up to that name a little too quickly and sinks.But wait. He doesn’t sink at first. He DOES walk on the water. He DOES IT. Then what happens? Does God take away something he’s given? Does Jesus look away? No it’s Peter who loses faith and no longer stands on the water but in it! The good news though is that Jesus is there and pulls him back up again and Peter doesn’t lose faith in Jesus, he loses face a little perhaps but he still follows in awe of his great teacher

Sometimes it feels like that for us. We step out in faith in something God has called us to do and then something strikes us. Some doubt creeps in. Not a lack of faith in God perhaps but a lack of faith in ourselves. Do you have those times too? When we’ve followed God into something and suddenly you get cold feet. Just like the waters rising above your ankles as it did for Peter. It’s at that point that we need to turn to Jesus, walking towards us across that water. To trust in ourselves and his faith in us, even if our faith in ourselves is in doubt. It’s also a time we can look to Christians around us and ask for support.

I know when we were organising Rock the Cathedral last month there was a time when I really began to doubt. We had been hoping for 300 people and we’d only sold 30 tickets with a few weeks to go. Yet I stuck it out and handed it over to God. I worried about it of course. The young people seemed sure it would work out. Their faith was pretty incredible. I’m sure it’s the same for Stu here as we get nearer to Alternate but I also know that he’s got you guys supporting him and praying for him as that event approaches. I’m sure, just like the young people on the diocesan youth council, the young people here don’t worry that people won’t come. I reckon your faith is pretty strong and you know you’re going to bring loads of your friends to what will be an awesome weekend. Just like Jesus walking on water which was a pretty amazing thing, it takes that preparation of prayer beforehand before you can have something as amazing as alternate. Peter waling on water was pretty miraculous but one of your mates from School coming to alternate and GETTING it, finding their faith. How amazing would that be?

God doesn’t give us faith on its own. It comes as part of a package. A 3 for the price of two deal. Faith comes together with Hope and Love. Jesus showed that three part gift when he invites Peter to come to him. He hopes in him and Peter clearly hopes he can do it too. They both show faith, though Jesus a little more clearly perhaps and when Peter fails, Jesus shows him the greatest part that of love.

Exalt the Word and the Emperor's New Clothes

The Bible passage for the sermon:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets. I have come to fulfil them. Truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5.17-20

Sometimes people talk about the Bible not as a single big book but as a collection of books. That makes it sound a bit like this book. My grandmother’s book of Tales from Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a collection of stories but I don’t suppose there’s anyone here who likes stories is there?

Oh alright then, shall I tell you one of the stories?

Once upon a time, there was a King who was too vain. He always wanted to wear new suits.

The capital of his Kingdom was very wealthy and attracted many visitors. One day two rascals came to offer the King a wonderful fabric. The weavers said that their fabric was magical, and Not only were their colours and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once. They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest gold thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better."
So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.
"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.

"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers.
"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colours!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."
"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The weavers worked day and night. They used thousands of balls of silk, and yards of gold and silver threads. All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom was his old trusted official-the one who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving, but without a thread in their looms.
"Magnificent," said the official already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colours! What a design!" He pointed to the empty looms, supposing that the others could see the stuff.
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!
Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent!
and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver."

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him."
Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine."
"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.
"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror.”
The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.
"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."

"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.
The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold. So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.
"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.
"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on."
"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.

That is a wonderful story and it has an important message to remember but the bible isn’t really like this book is it? It’s so much more than a collection of stories.

The text I’m given this morning is certainly a challenging one. Especially with the theme of Exalting the Word It’s a very definite message isn’t it?

“Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”

There’s no going against something so definite as that, is there? That’s a statement that Jesus wants upheld. No question.

Jesus tells his disciples that they must uphold the law and the prophets. Jesus, who was positively drenched in the Hebrew Scriptures, urges his disciples to be likewise. The Law and the Prophets must not be set aside as irrelevant but breathed through all that the disciples themselves teach in the future. It certainly sounds very clear.

Can you tell I’m about to put a slight question into that?

The question I want to pose is what does Jesus mean by fulfilling the law rather than abolishing it? Certainly a lot of the Pharisees who objected to Jesus and his ministry would have said that he seemed to be working against the law he says he comes to fulfil. He works on the Sabbath, he does not seem to observe the temple customs, he eats with those who are unclean and consorts with people of very dubious character. Jesus didn’t seem to be fulfilling the law at all in their eyes. He is the little child from the story that says what others won't

Well a good way to understand Jesus’ fulfilment of the law is look at where this passage comes. This passage is from the Sermon on the Mount. It follows on fairly soon after the beatitudes. Now if the Pharisees had heard that one they might well have thought Jesus was overturning the law. I think it’s fair. He turns the laws upside down and soon after we hear Jesus’ most memorable overturning of the law. When he says, you have heard the law an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but I say do not resist an evil person If anyone slaps you on the cheek turn the other cheek.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him
John 3 16-17

Throughout his ministry, Jesus places the law and the prophets into a new light. He makes people look at things a different way. How can we look at things in this different way?


Jesus isn’t abolishing the law of the Old Testament but revealing it as God always intended it. If we look back to the beginnings of John’s Gospel, we get a clear idea about how we can truly exalt the Word of God:

“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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Jesus is the word. It is him we exalt when we read our scriptures.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
The Pharisees and teachers of the law had a very literal way of reading the law. It was a black and white, right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous, clean and unclean, Jew and gentile way of reading the law. Jesus comes and turns that over. That’s not Jesus’ view of the Law. Jesus sees and shows the scriptures as being fulfilled in Him and interpreted through his teaching. He sees all the human foibles and failings that have found their way into the law; the unloving desire for vengeance which has seen an eye for an eye and the legalistic piety that has allowed Pharisees to consider it better NOT to help a sick person on a Saturday because it is the Sabbath.

So how doe we exalt the word without finding ourselves falling into that Pharisaical trap? How do we maintain our own righteousness without looking down on those we consider unrighteous. Jesus makes it clear. We ARE called to be righteous in the eyes of God. That part of the law is not overturned. The fulfilling of it though is in being righteous AND accepting the fallenness of others without condemnation but with the Gospel of love.

How do we weak humans achieve that though? Well, I believe it’s through the power of the Holy Spirit. To me that still small voice inside me which challenges me when I stray. It’s probably not a great idea to tell people I hear voices but I do have this voice inside me that sometimes says. Are you sure you need to do that? Perhaps you should… That voice is there sometimes and I try to listen to it when it’s there but I know there are times when I reject it and go my own way. As I’ve got older, I’ve tried to listen to it more and more. It’s usually at a time when I am trying to do something which I think I’m going to enjoy and following the voice might spoil my fun because I have to think of somebody else instead but in the long run I know I would rather I HAD thought of that somebody else instead.

It’s that Holy Spirit which we need most of all when we consider the Law and the Prophets. The Holy Spirit is what was lacking when the Pharisees interpreted the law. A good way of doing that is to read our Bibles not as a legal code or an historical document or a challenge to be completed but in small pieces, to be savoured. There’s a very ancient practice which the Benedictine Order has used for hundreds of years called Lectio Divina; divine reading.

Lectio Divina is a way of spending time with the Word of God, by reading it slowly – very slowly.
Choose a piece of scripture – perhaps from the Sunday service, or a programme of readings, or one of your favourites, or just look through the Gospels and see what attracts you. Then find a comfortable and quiet place. Begin by taking a bit of time to become as quiet as you can, but don’t worry if you still feel edgy or distracted – Lectio starts where you are now. Often, listening to your own pattern of breathing, without trying to change it, is a good way to start. We are making space to allow the words we encounter to take root in us.
We are not trying to agree or disagree, make notes or analyse. We simply want to listen.
• we read a little;
• we stop reading and allow our deepest response to surface;
• we respond in prayer;
• we listen;
• then we read a little more...
It is a way to let go of our own preoccupations and allow God to begin a conversation.
We let a word or a sentence stay with us and focus on that word.

If we read the bible this way we know in our hearts that we exalt the word of God, in text and in person as more than just stories rather as doorways to meeting with God through his Holy Spirit.

Two preaches in one day

Somebody asked me today - do you often preach twice in one day (as I was just about to do!) and it made me think that actually I've very rarely done it. I did it once with a St George's day service followed by a sung evensong (and preceded by a weekend away with teenagers!!) but other than that I really don't think I have much. This was also two completely unrelated preaches at the same place (i.e. not the same one twice as I know various clergy around the country do). So am I drained... actually no. The evening preach was much better than the morning which wasn't bad but didn't have the zing of the evening one. I'm about to pop them both up but in fact, as ever, what I actually said isn't quite what will appear.

I also just did a quick tally of my hours this week and realised why I'm physically knackered but spiritually buzzing. Two days of Breathe in a local school which means periods of rushing to get people sorted with ipods interspersed with periods of calm near silence (with the occasional interruption of the shredder!) Should be great. Then, even better, the joy of spaghetti bolognese with the lovely curate! Yumskies!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kubb set with tower block game

Look what my talented husband has made in his wood workshop. The Giant blocks tower game is for the diocese and the Kubb set is one of two he's made for a friend of ours.

Anyone fancy a set of either? Get in touch!

Kubb set
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Radio Active

So I was up EXTRA EARLY this morning to pop along to BBC Hereford and Worcester radio for a great chat with Phil Simpson. Apparently you can listen again I was on at 8 and the show started at 6 so it may take a while to get to my bit!

I'm not a morning person so I got the chance to hear the lions roaring over at the Safari park and see some cool misty views on the drive in. Some might feel inspired to get up early again tomorrow... perhaps not... getting up early has its benefits but I'm sure I'll find lying under the duvet is slightly preferable!! Maybe I'll be a morning person one day!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Licensed to Chill

So it was my licensing service last night and I am now official!

It was a fabulous evening with some outstandingly good confessional prayers from the young people of St Barnabas Franche, some fantastic drumming from takadrumba, awesome worship songs led by Formal Affair, some really thoughtful intercessions from Upton deanery as well as a great Peruvian gloria from the cantor, beautiful celtic knotwork from my best beloved on the service sheet and topped with the bright red cherry of a phenomenal sermon by Bishop John on the spirituality of young people and my mission in the diocese. Kinda heavy stuff to have a sermon that really IS preached at you however it was still amazing.

Thanks also to Andrew for taking pictures!

Thanks to all for a wonderful evening, especially to those who came so far to support me!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clergy Day

Had a great morning this morning as I joined the clergy day in the diocese. As a lay worker I fall in that "sort of clergy - sort of not" category. In Worcester diocese, though, this really doesn't seem to be that much of an issue. I felt very welcome.

We had some reflections from David Hewlett on Presence and Engagement, followed by three perspectives on "what is church?" from a catholic, evangelical and radical view. Peter Atkinson (the dean) gave a well-rounded catholic view followed by Hugh Burton for the Evangelicals and then Professor John Hull proposed that it was possible to be a radical Anglican, even if it did sound a little oxymoronic!

It was also great to catch up with lots of people including some who have been reading the blog... always unnerving... but thank you Mike(1) and Doug... and others who have apparently begun to mistake the communications officer for me. Now, as no-one has done it the other way round, I could come across as working extremely hard!

Unfortunately I didn't manage to chat to everyone as I had another meeting in the afternoon which was also a great time meeting some new people and building stronger links with those I'd met before. When all's said and done, I think I am pretty much loving my job.

I'm being licensed on Sunday evening at St Mary and All Saints Kidderminster at 6.30pm and a little daunted at being the focus person on my own but looking forward to hearing Formal Affair and Takadrumba again and seeing young people from around the diocese contributing to prayers and readings. After that, I am officially not NEW anymore!

(1) Mike, does that sufficiently constitute a mention or did you want me to say how amusing/intelligent/insightful/dedicated/talented* you are?
*delete as applicable

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sermon Holy Cross Day

I was invited to preach at St Barnabas, Franche on Sunday for Holy Cross day so used a little thing I'd used before about looking at things from God's perspective. Then I saw this marvellous cartoon on the Naked Pastor so decided I'd pop the sermon up here. As ever, this is the sermon I wrote and is not exactly what I said. As always I find that writing the sermon out in full means I get an idea of the structure and then I get to the lectern and pretty much abandon the text completely!

The readings for the day were as follows:
Philippians 2:1-13
"If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

John 3:1-17
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
and this was my sermon:

Today we have two very rich readings; two very well-known readings. In Philippians we hear those words which we often sing “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow” and for our gospel we had John’s famous born again passage. The Greek for this passage has two meanings: to be born from above or to be born again different biblical translations opt for one or the other. The passage also concluded with that passage which some consider sums up the whole of the Gospel the good news John 3.16 for God so loved the world…
The problem with such readings is that, as they are so familiar we can actually miss the depth of what they have to offer us.
Let’s start by taking St John’s words. St John’s Gospel takes on a new light if viewed, throughout, with the prologue in mind. Some scholars argue that this is how the author intended the text, in the style of other Greek writings, the prologue sets out the author’s ideas and colours all else that follows:
John 1.1-5 & 9-13
So Nicodemus is one of those people who walk in darkness. You might say that John tells us Nicodemus comes at night, not just because he was trying to hide from the authorities but because he was in the dark in more ways than one. Nicodemus, unfortunately, remains confused. I like the old translation, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it. It can’t understand it and it can’t overcome it either. That double meaning again.
Paul, similarly is writing from prison to the Christians in Philippi emphasizing how they have not understood Jesus, just as Nicodemus had not.
These passages then, have another thing in common. Both these readings place an emphasis on our need to make a change in the way we view things
For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, this can be harder than we think. We find ourselves in a similar position to Nicodemus: A part of the established religion faced by a challenging presence in the form of Jesus. Now we may be part of the Christian church, founded on what Christ taught not the Jewish religious establishment yet I’m sure God does look at the Church of England and see a few things that should be different. Jesus responds to Nicodemus by referring to the tradition of the Jewish church and by telling him that he is both the fulfilment and the power which will turn it on its head and put it back the way God intended it to be. Jesus emphasizes that people must change so utterly that they are born from above, born again, born in a heavenly way before they can see the kingdom. Is that before they can be aware of it or before they themselves can change so much that they become the kingdom?
That is what that great passage of John 3.16 encapsulates. The world as God intended it. Far from the punishment of all the enemies of the Jewish people and the God of wrath, Jesus comes as the opposite not to condemn the world but so that it might be saved and he doesn’t do it in a way that the Jewish people might expect. He’s not the great king and conquering hero but as the lowest
“though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross”
Br John of Taizé described this once as Jesus going from as high as you can be to as low as you can go and thereby encompassing everything within creation.
It is this Christ that Paul says we must be like.
As Christians we may think we know the answer to the question “What would Jesus DO?” as popular today as WWJD on bracelets T-shirts and, I kid you not, boxer shorts! Yet this change of mind is not a once and for all thing. It’s not something that happens at our baptism or confirmation. It is a continuous process. The Benedictine order has “conversion of life” as one of its core rules. It doesn’t mean a one time only deal but a daily, hourly, minute by minute conversion.
Let’s try and get our brains to hold that concept. That looking at things in a different way
If you’re able I’d like to ask you to stand if you’d rather not that’s fine you can still take part it’s just a little easier to do standing.
I’d like you to put your arm up in the air look up and draw a circle clockwise above your head, like it’s a halo. Then I’d like you to keep drawing that clockwise circle and close your eyes. Think of all you do that leads you forward with God and I’d like you to keep your eyes closed, keep drawing that circle and bring you your arm slowly down in a spiral until it is to level with your chest. Now this is how God sees it, looking down. Open your eyes and keep the circle going. He sees us continuously turning back not clockwise but anticlockwise.
This is our needing to be born from above, from god’s point of view. Those good things we do which draw us to God? (halo) God sees our need to turn our heads around and see them not as a way of GETTING TO GOD (they’re not. We don’t build our own path to heaven. Jesus builds the whole path and calls us to follow it) Not a way of getting there not things that make us saints. We are saints God calls us to do that which Paul says, to be of the same mind as Christ. Not building ourselves up by our works but humbling ourselves as servants.
It may sound a big ask to be of the same mind as Christ but as St Paul says, we don’t have to do this alone because “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” What is God’s will for you this week where will God be at work in you this week?

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Newlife (7)
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
It was fabulous last weekend to be involved with Rock the Cathedral but it was also really draining. Several of my colleagues asked me if I was "ok" on Friday as I had got really drained by the whole BIG EVENT thing and the attendant aftermath of the sudden drop in adrenalin and all that.

Fortunately I had the time today to do one of those things which is wholly outside my work. One of my "sabbath-day" talents as Bishop John (Oxon) calls them. I really enjoy painting and today I spent a long time on this piece whilst listening to my new Finchley album especially Track 12 called Struggle On. It felt right to draw something from one of the groups that rocked the cathedral last weekend to my quieter reflection this weekend.

The odd thing about this painting is that there's another one hidden in there. I started painting one thing and then found myself just blotting that out and reworking the pain into the background. That's something that was part of the process but is totally not seen in the final thing. I had painted images of white figures moving to a brighter centre but that wasn't what I felt was meant to be there in the end so, against all my better judgement I just blanked them out with no record of them except in my mind.

This image replaced them, of humanity born out of the blue and green of the earth and bathed in God's light.

I hope that the feeling I'm having for it isn't "pride" as such but rather a deep peace at feeling that I've painted something beautiful which speaks to me and hopefully will speak to others.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Rock of all ages

We had an AWESOME night on Saturday at Worcester called ROCK THE CATHEDRAL.

After months of planning and hours of setting up we had a crowd of nearly 300 rocking to the tunes of Finchley, Relentless Craving, Formal Affair (pictured), Dan Haynes and Fans of Faye as well as hearing some wisdom from Bishop John and the vice chair of our Youth Council Jon Pedley. Matchborough youth group presented a challenging drama about Jesus as the "rubbish collector" and Peter Cooper and Co from Barrel of Fun provided some fabulous entertainment in the Juggle Zone.

It wasn't all hyperactive though. There was some chillout space for the adults in the adult creche (putting green and newspapers included!) and BREATHE in the chapter house as well as some fabulous sharing of silence, prayer, bread and wine in the crypt.

Thanks to all my WONDERFUL youth council and the AMAZING team of adult stewards. We really couldn't have done it without you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rising Sun sets

So the sun has set on Greenbelt again for another year. I had a fabulous time hanging out with our youth council, with young people from the diocese leading some fantastic worship, with young (and not so young!) people from my old parish, with youth work types on the youthwork matters stall and with all those people who you bump into by chance in a Greenbelt way. Notable was the soap opera-style coincidence of coming out of the Church Times tent with my new Dave Walker book and Cartoon Church calendar for the office to bump right into Dave himself! I promise he wasn't just hanging around watching how the pile of his books was reducing.

So what did I get up to? To be honest there weren't as many talks that really caught my imagination as last time I was there (2005) Jenny Baker was great (despite gales trying to steal her notes), Brian Maclaren was excellent on the subject of praying ina vulnerbale open way and John Bell, as always, was a joy to listen to on the subject of miracles. I also popped along to see Jon Birch of ASBOJesus who was very funny but rather short (in the time sense - only half an hour) pictured here (my endeavours to get a good pic were somewhat hampered by the guy in the hat!)

The overall experience for me was a mix of great chilling (at the proost lounge, in the blue hour with safespace, at blessed's funky mass - with me in three of the pics on Simon's site) and some fab music (Taize, Finchley, Jose Gonzalez, Yvonne Lyon, Beth Rowley, MxPx etc) I went to far more music than I did last time. My proudest moment had to be joining St the young people of St Barnabas for their youthmass which was truly awesome. There was a little bit of, well lets call them teething trouble, at the venue but all came right in the end and young person who came along to it was clearly blown away by the experience which made it all even better!

I still failed to get to any actual art workshops which I REALLY meant to do this year... next time... but I did do a bit of drawing inspired by some of the talks.

For me I think the overall sense was of gentle encouragement. Yvonne Lyon's songs Walk in the Rain and Down to the River plus Here Comes the Sun at the main eucharist and stuff from the talks all came together in the phrase "Here comes the Sun... it's alright"

Monday, August 18, 2008

WDYC internal!

Ok so this is really just for the Diocesan Youth Council...

Alice said on the forum:
"i found some vidios and didnt know what you would think they could be played inbetween the bands or maybe somewhere else. there off a website called but i got this version off you tube
the fathers love letter

an interviw with god

there are different versions

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ode(ar!) to Joy

I promise I was looking for some useful resources for youthwork on youtube when I found this:

I love Beaker!

Even better news is that this is just one of several official muppet pages now on youtube.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Joy in Sadness

It must be the hopeless historian in me that is so VERY excited at the news that the Codex Sinaiticus is now available online. I can be hip and trendy at times but then my inner geek just shows through when I see enlargements of parchment damage described as being on "Quire 78, folio 6 recto!" and you can zoom right in on the text and it highlights the individual words for you (this is handy as Greek texts of the time looked basically like wordsearches with no punctuation or even spaces!)

Geeky comments aside...

This is basically the oldest edition of the "Bible" roughly as we know it today dating back to the mid fourth century. It's a book (codex - i.e. no scrolls) of the gospels and most of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (which was originally in Hebrew in the majority though with some Greek) . Basically this text shows that the Bible was formed pretty early and you can SEE IT! Wow!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Moping and some cheering up

As I had hoped to be going to Taize today but I'm not... I'm a little mopey. Especially as apparently there are some etchings by Fr Eric on display (and no doubt for sale) in the exposition. Fr Eric who died last year was one of the very early brothers who really epitomised the coming together of men of great gifts. It was he who designed the beautiful glass windows which adorn the church at Taize and so many of the other beautiful simple things.

It's not just for me that I wish I were going today but for the people I would have been with there. One of the teenagers from my old parish who was there throughout my youth ministry and grew with me in my role is going for the first time and I would so love to have travelled with her as she discovered that amazing place. Instead, those I have travelled with there before are travelling with her and my thoughts and prayers will be in Taize for the next week even as I sit in lots of different meetings here.

Now for the cheering up bit... this did make me lol! Thanks Chris

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dave Walker solidarity post

I've not blogged on the Dave Walker/SSG story before as SO many other people out there have said wise things about it all. Have a look at David Keen, Richard Peat, Bishop Alan and Tim Abbot for some good summaries of the situation which has arisen and of course ASBO Jesus for a fellow cartoonist's reaction. Dave has basically been told to remove any blog posts relating to SSG and SPCK or face legal action which he clearly couldn't afford to contest. He has carefully posted nothing but what he has been able to verify and has even removed comments which were unsubstantiated. It's a horrible situation.

I was back at my old town at the weekend and it was announced that there will be a new Christian bookshop there in September. The congregation received the news, as you might expect, with great delight and anticipation. The idea that people will be able to buy Christian books and resources to support their ministry was fabulous news for them. This is what having a former SPCK shop in the city where I now work should feel. It just doesn't. When I started in post the lovely guy who worked there was ever so apologetic about the ludicrously pathetic "Youth Section" which contained three books none of which I even vaguely wanted to purchase (or indeed already owned). SSG have already taken the joy my old town is now feeling by doing what they have done to the SPCK shops and now they attack someone who has striven to respond honourably to the situation.

As Bishop Alan says:

"Plainly the skills required to sabre rattle for reactionary causes are very different from those you need to run a bookshop, let alone re-evangelise England."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Understanding Generation Y

Interesting new research on Generation Y. As a member of this generous (though tenuously at the top end and married to someone outside it) I do feel an affinity with what they're saying about me and my fellow IPODs (as we're also apparently known! -Do you think when we're OAPS we'll be called Ipod Shuffles??? ) It also rings true for some of the young people I've been working with over the last few years who are now adults.

Anyway, bad puns aside, check out this new research or download the pdf of the report which summarises Generation Y with six tracks on an Ipod (desert island discs comes round again!):

Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not, Arctic Monkeys. IPODs are members of many overlapping communities, virtual and conceptual as much as geographic.

Speed of Sound, Coldplay. They are busy and time-pressured, so expect sophisticated and entertaining communications.

I can, Nas. They are confident and demanding in work and home life. They want the tools to be as demanding of government.

Gold Digger, Kanye West. Value for money is crucial, but they don't want profit motive to be the driving force behind public services.

Standing in the way of control, The Gossip. They want to be offered a selection of good choices, but not the responsibility of having to make all the decisions themselves.

Digital love, Daft Punk. Unimpressed by the use of technology for its own sake, they want communication in surprising, elegant ways.

So the real question is - what six tracks define your generation or your life? I'm putting my thinking hat on for that one. I'd set it as a challenge to others but everyone's off on hols!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bishops' Cru

I just love this picture snapped of our Bishop John and Archbishop John Sentamu sitting in front of the altar frontal made by the young people at our diocesan assembly. It just looks liek they're chillin in a diocesan posse. I'm rather hoping the Lambeth conference is going as harmoniously!

Genius from down under

Thanks to Dave for passing this on:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Double time?

Ok, so is it only me that thinks McFly have been influenced by the theme tune for the Gummi Bears for their latest "song for the radio"?

evidence below...