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!