Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Donkey Latin...not pig Latin

I wouldn't exactly call it a "request" from the front at chapel last night but a joke that Little Donkey was "translated from the Medieval Latin text" was just too much temptation for me. 

So here's a little Christmas treat:

Asinine, asinine
in itinere

Diuturnus, asinine
hiberno nocte
perge te nunc, asinine
ecce Bethlehem
Sonate campanas
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
stella sequere
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Asinine, asinine
die ardue
fer Mariam
via secura.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Artistic reflection on Kingdom People Characteristics

Recently, I was asked to talk to our Readers about using the Visual Arts in worship. As part of the sessions, the archdeacon spoke about the Kingdom People priorities for the diocese, so in our concluding worship I pulled together the two themes into this short reflection.

This weekend we’ve been reflecting on our use of Visual Arts in Worship. This morning we’ve been joining with the creator in the act of creation. God calls us to be co-creators of the kingdom. Yet what is it we seek to create?

Most beautiful works of art rely upon a well-balanced palette. That’s what I see in the Kingdom People priorities; a palette from which each church can create the kingdom in their local community.

We need the PURPLE which is the prayer and study of the scriptures. In my paintings I use purple for shadows – for that which is always there but not always noticed. The result of our interplay with the light.

The GREEN of regular worship is not just ordinary time; the time of the church is green because it is then when we grow and our worship should be that which is a sign of growth.

The witness of the gospel of Love, Compassion, Justice and Freedom is RED. It’s a bright colour which stands out and symbolises the passion of our faith. If used alone can seem too much but tempered with others can be beautiful.

YELLOW is our dedication to helping children and young people to belong and be nurtured in the faith. Without that bright and light colour of yellow which is young and joyful, the paintings of our kingdom can become dull and lifeless.

Growing deeply in discipleship is WHITE; the willingness to be a blank canvas for God, to allow space for God’s call in us.

BLUE represents being resourced and released to minister to others, like the blue water of the river flowing from the temple in Ezekiel’s vision, in which growth is most vibrant the further the river goes, not in a stagnant pool gathered around the church.

The ORANGE of serving our community with love compassion justice and freedom is that passion mixed with the vitality of yellow.

The BLACK of our buildings being fit for purpose is not for the gloom of the buildings hanging over us but for the that which stands out and defines and outlines our work. 

All our churches will create something different in their painting of Kingdom People in their communities as we choose the blend those colours from our palette. The palette is there for us and we need to make choices. But there is one most important choice. As we seek to be Kingdom People let us remember to be co-creators with our God and to do any of that we must have the courage to make a choice – to pick up the paint brush and create something beautiful.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Evensong Sermon - Just War

I preached at BCP evensong on Sunday evening and oddly I focussed on the Psalm

Psalm 119.81-96
81 My soul is pining for your salvation; • I have hoped in your word.
82 My eyes fail with watching for your word, • while I say, ‘O when will you comfort me?’ 83 I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, • yet I do not forget your statutes.
84 How many are the days of your servant? • When will you bring judgement on those who persecute me?
85 The proud have dug pits for me • in defiance of your law.
86 All your commandments are true; • help me, for they persecute me with falsehood.
87 They had almost made an end of me on earth, • but I have not forsaken your commandments.
88 Give me life according to your loving-kindness; • so shall I keep the testimonies of your mouth.
89 O Lord, your word is everlasting; • it ever stands firm in the heavens.

Turning to this evening’s readings I was captured most, somewhat unusually by the text of the Psalm, particularly the psalmists words of lament:
84 How many are the days of your servant? • When will you bring judgement on those who persecute me?

As I feel these words reflect how many in Syria might be feeling right now. The reading we heard from Isaiah too talks about the way you might view others either as those who are unfamiliar or those who are part of God’s creation:

No longer will you see the insolent people, the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend, stammering in a language that you cannot understand. Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, (Isaiah 33)

At the time of first writing this sermon, the vote in the Houses of Parliament was yet to be taken. We were on the brink of a decision. Now we know that the commons voted against approving future military action by UK troops in Syria. I don’t know how you feel about that decision and most of us are probably fortunate enough that we will never have to make a decision which would affect so many thousands of people yet if we were called to make that decision, how as Christians would we do so?

I’m sure like me you have been disturbed by the images of those injured by what sources strongly suggest are chemical weapons, you may have been aching with compassion at the idea of 1 million child refugees fleeing from Syria so far. We may feel compelled that we or the government and international authorities should do SOMETHING. Yet what should that something be? Should this lead to war?

Fortunately for us, many wise Christians over the years have thought about war and the moral decisions involved with it. Even in the very early years of the church, St Augustine of Hippo spoke about the idea of a just war. He argued that war is something fought for the sake of securing peace, saying: “Better, I say, is war with the hope of peace everlasting than captivity without any thought of deliverance.” Augustine went on to talk about the justification of war for the sake of safety or honour. He goes on to explore the alternative to feeling the need to wage war:

“But, say they, the wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars. For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars; and this wrong-doing, even though it gave rise to no war, would still be matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrong-doing. Let every one, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of them without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling.” The City of God (Book XIX) chapter 7

Thomas Aquinas writing some 800 years later reflected further on Augustine’s ideas.He begins as he often does by saying exactly why war is totally unconscionable and then goes onto describe circumstances in which it might be acceptable after all. He says that three things were necessary:
• That the war be waged by someone with proper authority
• That there be a just cause for waging war
• That those waging the war are doing so for the right reasons.

The Just war principle has been expanded over the years from these early ethical theologians. In addition to those three, modern Just War principle also argues that:
• all other avenues of diplomacy must first be explored and only after they are exhausted should war be considered as a final option
• Another important modern principle is the likelihood of success
 • Some also add the condition of comparative injustice – is what is being done to cause the war worse than the war proposed Just methods of waging war have also been added which insist that a just war is one in which
• non-combatants are not targeted deliberately and
• restricts attacks on military targets which might involve collateral damage to non-combatants. Just war theory also dictates that
• only the minimum force required is used and
• that weapons (such as the chemical weapons described as possibly being in use in Syria or nuclear weapons) are not used and
 • that prisoners of war, as those who are no longer combatants, are treated humanely.

These are the principles which, as Christians we could use to make the decision about going to war. My hope and prayer is that our government will work with others to explore further avenues of diplomacy to secure the safety of the people of Syria. It is not our decision Yet other decisions do face us.

What are we to do in response to the crisis in Syria. Will we donate money to the Disaster Emergency Committee? Will we pray for those people in Syria and those making decisions? Will we put ourselves out in any way?

More than 20 years on I am proud of my, now departed, mum who on seeing the news of the war in the former Yugoslavia, picked up the phone to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and asked what she could do. They were able to tell her of a charity nearby and our church then collected clothes, sanitary products, food and other items specifically requested and volunteers delivered these to a depot 20 miles away for shipping to refugee camps.

This week, each of us will face decisions which affect people's lives in small or great ways. As we do so,let's remember and pray for those who make big decisions and in our own decisions, we may not have Just War principles to help us for whatever those decisions might be; how we deal with our neighbour moving our bin or our family switching the channel on the tv. We may not have such a clear checklist as that for a just war but let's remember what our God teaches us about how we should treat others, loving them as ourselves and loving God with all our heart mind and soul.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Faith and Art research

This post is specifically related to some research I am doing as part of my MA. This is not the final survey but a part-trial of some of the questions I hope to be using. If you would like to take part in this survey (click to open in another window/tab) and help me hone my survey to perfection for the final research please open this survey in another page or tab alongside this page.





Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rock the Priory

For more information about the bands who will be playing at Rock the Priory this year, check out their websites

Sounds of Salvation
The Damage
Jacob Lloyd

More news later this year about the great pre-booking deals we have for groups coming from our churches! It'll be £5 on the door but we can offer you much better deals for groups booking ahead.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Infamous Penguin Sermon

Sermon St Mary’s 25th February 2013
Psalm 27 Genesis 15.1-13 Luke 13:31-35  

This very short Gospel reading which we heard this morning is a curious text. It is brief yet contains so many possibilities. We have Pharisees asking Jesus to go away because of Herod’s desire to kill him. Are these good Pharisees concerned for Jesus or is this a polite form of threat? We have Jesus’ description of Jerusalem as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” sadly an image that is still apt today as Bishop John’s reflection on his recent visit to the Holy Land, in his Lent Message makes clear. (Check out the video on the diocesan website if you’ve not seen it) and then there is this curious talk of the fox and the chicken.

Jesus expression of his desire to care for the people of Israel “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” was brought to life for me this week as I was watching the penguin programme on BBC1 – I don’t know if anyone else has been watching this Penguins, Spy in the Huddle, filmed using cameras disguised as penguins, eggs and rocks so that they get intimate shots of the penguins in their natural state and behaviour. It’s been a beautiful, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking series with images of care given by mother and father penguin alike and the care the adult penguins offer each other either through the large group or most poignantly when a female penguin placed her head on the shoulder of a fellow female who had been too late in finding her lost chick. The huddle of the title is the closely knit group which the penguins form, with their eggs or their young chicks carefully balanced on their feet, to become one large mass against the bitterly cold winds – gathered together as if under one great wing.

This image which Jesus uses of a hen gathering her brood under her wings is a powerful expression of God’s love for his creation, for the people of Israel and for the church. God as loving mother and father; loving hen against the threatening fox of the empire, seeking to protect the children of God and sorrowed when we refuse the protection of the motherly wing. The other element of this short dense Gospel is the surety of Jesus. Jesus seems so very sure of himself and of his course. Something I imagine few of us feel all - if any - of the time. Even though this group of Pharisees come and tell him of a very good reason why he should be afraid, he sticks to his decided path which he know leads to his destiny in Jerusalem. How does he maintain this surety? I can identify much more clearly with Abram, in our first reading. He shows a more human lack of surety. God needed to assure him not to be afraid. Jesus refuses to give in to the fear the Pharisees seem to want to instil in him.

How did Jesus maintain such surety? Obviously he was human and yet also divine so he had something more than the rest of us but I think also he would have turned to those Hebrew Scriptures he knew so well. The gospels show us that the book of psalms is one of the key scriptures for Jesus in supporting his ministry. On Good Friday I’m going to be leading the three hours service and we’ll be taking a journey to the cross through the book of psalms. It is a book he quoted and one which, as all young Jewish boys, he would have learned by heart. As a foretaste, this morning, I’d like to explore this passage we heard today through the psalm set for this morning. Psalm 27.

Psalm 27 is one which might well have given Jesus strength and assurance. Like Jesus’ own words, it too is a psalm of certainty, of great faith.

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 

 Many of the psalms are words of lament or words of praise but this famous psalm is one which is a declaration of faith and dedication to God.
13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Not only does the writer declare their own faith but equally exhorts the listeners also to have faith: 14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

This surety doesn’t come without an awareness of the possible dangers and doubts in life:
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. 
The surety comes not from ignoring doubts and troubles but instead from the determination no matter what to follow the path set by God and a deep devotion to prayer:
4One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 
The Psalmist follows God’s path but it doesn’t mean that the path is one which is entirely without problems.
11Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 
 Knowing all his psalms, I imagine Jesus might have felt his responses to the Pharisees echoed parts of this psalm. He is fully aware of the enemies that are there against him. Yet like the mother hen when danger threatens, Jesus’ concern is not for his own safety but for that of his people, offering his own body as a shield against that which would threaten us. For him there is little space for doubt. Not so for us though.

Like most of us I have times of doubt. Times when I’m not so sure of where I’m going, where the church is going whether God is real enough to make a difference to my life and the world. It might surprise some people to hear doubt not faith being preached from the pulpit but these times of doubt are key for all of us. Without being aware of the doubts and challenges to us we cannot experience the depth of our relationship with God. In our certainty we feel confident to live without relying on God, like those small penguin chicks we can wander off on our own and explore, we can keep on keeping on, never exploring that valley of shadow. It is only in our doubting that we truly turn to God, to seek shelter under God’s motherly wing and be reminded of God’s deep love for each of us and our great need for God.

In a moment we’ll stand and declare our faith, as we rightly should that which WE BELIEVE – a statement of what we as those who stand together across the world as the church believe together (like that great penguin huddle) but with space for each of us in our own time to doubt as well as to believe, to doubt and find God all the more deeply in our doubting, to doubt and find ourselves held up by the faith of others and so more able than ever to say WE BELIEVE

 Luke 13:31-35 31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Genesis 15.1-13 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”[a] 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4 But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5 He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the LORD; and the LORD[b] reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 Then he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. 13 Then the LORD[c] said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; 14 but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

Psalm 27 1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. 4One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. 6Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. 7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. 9Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. 11Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. 13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!