Rest

Today is usually my day off – but as Lesley is on a course I am working and we are taking time off tomorrow – though we messed that up and both have baptism rehearsals 😦 (well, its good – just not messing up time off).

Recently I have started seeing articles (eg here) about how to manage your electronic devices.  In 2009 I heard Rob Bell at Greenbelt talking about Sabbath (here – from 39:20) and started having a device free day on my day off.  Since then I have been more or less successful at it, but have recently returned to it, and on holiday restricted myself to using the web to look up crossword clues (I do hate it when they make reference to cultural things when you recognise the reference, but don’t know the answer 😦 ).  OK – I broke it when I heard that an election had been called, but only read 4 news items.  More recently I would have thought that I could read the news on holiday, but I came back from this one more relaxed than I have been for a long time.

If you have listened to Rob Bell (and even if you haven’t) what is it that you need to stop doing on your Sabbath (not necessarily Sunday – that doesn’t work for me for a start!).

Alan

Personal Relationship?

Another article, which caught my eye today…

Just because we exist in community, does that mean that we don’t have a personal relationship with each member of that community?  And does the fact that it is Jesus make a difference?

I would certainly agree with the author that a faith which is just about each individual and Jesus, and excludes all others, is not a full faith, but I think that is different from presenting it as an either or alternative.

Perhaps we are not that far apart, as I love these quotes from Joan Chittister in her commentary on the Rule of Benedict:

It is so easy to love the God we do not see but it is so much more sanctifying to serve the God we learn to see in others.

In Benedict’s mind, apparently, the spiritual life is not a collection of asceticisms, it is a way of being in the world that is open to God and open to others. We struggle, of course, with temptations to separate the two. It is so easy to tell ourselves that we overlooked the needs of others because we were attending to the needs of God. It is so easy to go to church instead of going to a friend whose depression depresses us. It is so easy to want silence rather than the demands of the children. It is so much easier to read a book about religion than it is to listen to a husband talk about his job or a wife talk about her loneliness. It is so much easier to practice the privatized religion of prayers and penances than it is to make fools out of ourselves for the Christian religion of globalism and peace.

Alan

Cathedral Worship?

This article set me thinking…

What do we gain and lose if the idea were to be taken up?

We probably don’t gain high quality worship in a different style.  It isn’t as though we are short of churches worshipping with bands across the country, there are “shadow” Cathedrals already providing the kind of service that is described in the article.  St Aldates in Oxford, St Michael le Belfry in York, St Saviours in Guildford, Holy Trinity Brompton in London, Gas Street in Birmingham – and that’s just off the top of my head!

We would almost certainly lose the high quality traditional worship that Cathedrals specialise in – I am less aware of churches other than Cathedrals providing that kind of worship.  We may also, though it shouldn’t be the case, lose worshippers from the among the Cathedral congregations.

The article is written on the basis that as some Cathedrals are short of money, churches which are successful would be able to raise this money – but why?  Cathedrals require huge sums of money for the upkeep of their buildings – why would a church plant wish to take this on, when if you read the Facebook comments where I found the article they don’t value what Cathedrals do?

The question then becomes do we value what Cathedrals offer?  But perhaps that is the wrong question!  Once the church gets in cost/benefit calculations surely we are lost?  We are a church of death and resurrection.  Cathedrals have been doing what they do for 100s of years, modern worship styles, by definition, have been around a few decades.  Which will still be with us in 100s of years time?  I don’t know, but perhaps Gamaliel does!

So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’

Alan

How will you vote?

No, this isn’t an enquiry about which party you support, it is a question about how you will decide which party to support!

Regular readers of this blog will know about “turtles all the way down“, and the concept that if we keep asking why we will eventually reach a statement which is like a mathematical axiom – a starting assumption,which cannot be proven.  Each of us will have some such “statement”, and it is this which determines many of the choices we make.

When voting, if we are going to vote ethically, there is a choice of using rules, consequences or values.  I believe that as a society we have moved from using rules or values to using consequences.  All policies are presented in terms of how they affect us.  The problem is that during the course of a parliament issues arise, and there has been no discussion about them during the campaign.

If we voted based on values then whilst we may disagree with the action taken, at least it would be taken in support of a value with which we agree!  For example, at present we appear to be heading for a hard Brexit; Tony Benn supported leaving the EU, but the idea of doing so on terms which would make workers less secure would have been anathema to him.

So, for me the question is: what values are driving the politicians actions – not what actions do they support; this is a question that I haven’t heard asked very often – and when it is politicians tend not to answer the question (nothing new there – I watched Yes, Prime Minister recently and Jim was explaining to Bernard that in response to a question you make a prepared statement).  Instead they list one of the “turtles” higher up the chain.  I am not sure whether this is because they don’t understand the question, or because if they told us their values then it would make it harder to adopt policies which do not meet those values.

So how do we get to what the politicians values are?  Comments below!

Alan

Forgiveness

At church yesterday the reading was about Doubting Thomas, but it included the line:

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

Although I don’t think that he said it directly, the preacher made me think that this passage may be interpreted differently to the way I have previously thought about it.

Previously I have read this as Jesus giving the disciples (and by inference the church and clergy) the power to forgive sins – or not.  This is slightly odd, as I believe that many of the “threats” in the Bible are nothing of the sort.  For example:

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me

instead, I see them as a description, or a warning.  A little like when we say to a child don’t put your finger in the plug, or you will be electrocuted – we are not threatening a punishment, we are describing the way the world is.  Similarly I see many of the apparent “threats” in the Bible as descriptions of how reality is.  So taking the one above, modern psychology would agree – as would Philip Larkin (warning – profanity).

And so, I now see the option of reading the initial passage as a description – if you do not forgive then forgiveness is not given!  And yet this is very powerful as not forgiving usually hurts the person not forgiving.

Is this a clear answer?  Of course not, but it certainly gives food for thought.

Alan

Easter

I am posting this after sundown (UK time) as the final Lent post, but also as an Easter one.  I have enjoyed and benefited from doing this so much that I am going to continue when I return from leave!

Lesley and I recently watched a film where two bereaved single parents fell in love by first becoming friends, and we agreed that this is the best way for it to happen (we may be biased as that was how it was for us).  We had earlier watched another film where the woman said that he wasn’t her type at all, but they had fallen in love anyway.  Today many people seem to use apps for dating, and the assumption seems to be that you have a list of all the things that you want in a partner, and ignore those who don’t fit.

If you want to be happy, the best bet is not to focus on being happy, but to do other things.

Increasingly businesses are looking at “leading indicators” rather than “lagging indicators”.  When Lesley and I checked into a Travelodge we got chatting and were told that the company had stopped measuring room occupancy and started measuring room and hot water availability as well as other measures.  One measure tells us what we did – the other helps us improve.

I have heard one person complain that when they tell dates what they are looking for, the dates start trying to be that person!  What might a leading indicator for dating be?  Perhaps instead of only dating those who match a predetermined set of criteria it would be better to meet a wide variety of people (OK, I know that isn’t easy), not dating but just meeting, and see who you click with.  Marriage is a compromise, and if you only date people who meet all your criteria when things change and push comes to shove as a couple there is no experience of compromise.

Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

This quote came to mind as it suggests to me focusing on the wrong things.
So what has this to do with Easter?
With God the same can be true.  When we look hard straight ahead we can miss what is in our peripheral vision.  What are leading and what are lagging indicators?  Services attended, or prayers said are surely lagging indicators.  If we live our lives aware of what is happening around us, looking for signs of resurrection in the every day, of the hope born from despair (I don’t endorse all of the views here, but it is a great example of hope born from despair), perhaps we might just see the risen Christ in action in the world, and then find ourselves drawn to worship and prayer in thanksgiving more often.
Happy Easter
Alan

Atonement

At some point I intended to blog on atonement, and here I am on Good Friday – so that seems very appropriate.

In church many will have heard that “Jesus died for our sins”, or “to save us from our sins” – but how does this work?  There are a number of different theories of the atonement.  Some churches will hold strongly to one theory, to the extent of raising it to a condition of belonging, but the Church of England does not endorse any one to the exclusion of the others.

If you recall, I believe that we cannot speak about matters of religion except by metaphor – we are trying to explain someones inexplicable experience, which they have written down as best they can – so I believe that our job is to extract the things that are of value from each of the different theories, whilst rejecting the unhelpful.

So, looking at each of the theories:

Moral Influence

Ransom Theory

Recapitulation

Satisfaction

Penal Substitution

Governmental

Scapegoating

Each has bits that I find helpful, but each also has bits that I find unhelpful.  As an example, with Penal Substitution, I find the idea that God has to kill someone, and chooses his son unhelpful – I do not believe that a loving God has to kill anyone.  However, remembering the Trinity – which makes Jesus=God (poor phraseology, I know) – then I find it helpful to think of us deserving punishment, but God stepping in and taking it for us.

We are trying to describe something indescribable, and different people have used different explanations – but we should not take them and stretch them farther than they will go.  Taking the best bits from all of them gives us a fuller picture – but we still don’t have the whole picture!

Alan

…not my will but yours be done…

Many will know the phrase with which I have titled this post.  But what do you think it means?

It is a nice phrase, which I have used frequently, but what do we mean by it?  Looking at it in context, what is God’s will in this situation?  Do we think that the choice Jesus is facing is between walking away, or facing the arrest trial and crucifixion – where that is God’s will?  Or is God’s will letting ourselves go into an unknown future?

In her commentary on the Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister writes:

The question, of course, is how do we recognize the Will of God? How do we tell the will of God from our own? How do we know when to resist the tide and confront the opposition and when to embrace the pain and accept the bitterness because “God wills it for us.” The answer lies in the fact that the Jesus who said “I have come not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent me” is also the Jesus who prayed in Gethsemane, “Let this chalice pass from me:” The will of God for us is what remains of a situation after we try without stint and pray without ceasing to change it.

If we think that the will of God is Jesus arrest, trial and crucifixion, where is free will?

And yet, sometimes a parent knows what is good for a child, even though for the child it may not seem so at the time.  Joan Chittister again:

It is not supportive to take away a person’s heart medicine simply because they do not like the taste of it. It is not supportive to fail to set a broken leg simply because the setting will be painful. It is not supportive to deny people the right and the environment to think a situation through, to recommit themselves, to gain perspective, to work things out without dividing the community over them.

But again, this ignores free will.

For me, free will lies in being open to hear what God might be saying in a situation, and listening and following – not necessarily knowing where it will lead, but trusting that wherever it leads, God will be with me there.

Joan Chittister once more time:

We are not the last word, the final answer, the clearest insight into anything. We have one word among many to contribute to the mosaic of life, one answer of many answers, one insight out of multiple perspectives. Humility lies in learning to listen to the words, directions and insights of the one who is a voice of Christ for me now.

Alan

Celebration of Ministry and APCM

A date for your diary : Sunday 30th April at 6:30PM at St George’s Church Room. Come and join the celebration of all that is good and find out about aspects of life in our Parish with which you may not be too familiar. There will be cheese and wine to sustain you while you chat, look at photos and have fun. We have achieved so much in the last year and hope to do even more in the future. This will be followed at 7:30PM by the Annual Meetings.

We will be printing very few Annual Meeting booklets this year so please find it electronically here. Also, please find these documents by clicking on them:

2017 Agenda for Annual Parochial Church Meeting
2017 Agenda for Annual Meeting of Parishioners

2016 Minutes of the Annual Parochial Church Meeting
2016 Minutes of the Annual Meeting of Parishioners

Gemma Brown

PCC Secretary