Alan has been blogging during Lent about the Christian Faith. If you would like to see all his blog posts please click here.
The Holy Spirit is probably the most misunderstood of the Trinity. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit thus:
12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
and the role is believed to be:
However, there is also a belief in the Holy Spirit that he/she (not it)
the implication of which is that part of us becomes part of the Trinity!
Different denominations put greater or lesser emphases on the power of the Spirit, with Pentecostalism believing that the Spirit gives the power of healing.
The Holy Spirit is represented in many ways, but often as wind/breath, flame or a dove.
*…the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures…
* Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.
Extracts from 4 & 5 of the 5 Principles that Bishops set out and which have been referred to rather a lot lately
Flourish (of a living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment.
Are we saying that a person cannot develop unless they are a bishop?
Is it a congenial environment if your boss does not think you are capable of doing your job, or even being who you are, because you are a woman, or a man ordained by a woman?
Is it a congenial environment for you if those in your care find it difficult to accept your care and your leadership?
Surely it takes both of the latter two questions to be answered for mutual flourishing to exist?
When women bishops and priests were allowed special provision was made for Episcopal oversight for those who would not accept it. However, no special provision was made for the reverse situation.
Yesterday morning there was a wonderful service at St George’s. We welcomed Craig as LLM with PTO (not that Craig is over 70 – just there are complications with getting to a licensing service) and he led parts of the service. Instead of a sermon Mike spoke about the interaction of his faith and work and a few other things!
So instead of a service where I do everything, this was one where we shared the load, and it was great!
When I was a curate, I was in a single church parish where there were 3 (or more) clergy most Sundays. This meant that I got used to presiding, preaching or deaconing. Moving here, more often than not, meant doing everything every Sunday. Suddenly with others sharing the load (and to be fair it isn’t just last Sunday, but I have only just started blogging again) worship became more alive for me (and I hope others). There was something about the interaction, the way in which there were a variety of voices. Also about the space that I gained, particularly during the ablutions, so that instead of always thinking about what came next there was time for private prayer.
As our team grows I look forwards to more of this 🙂
As many will know Bishop Philip North, currently Bishop of Burnley, has been announced as the next Bishop of Sheffield. Following the announcement, Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, wrote a piece for Modern Church in which he suggested that Philip North should decline the offer because of the inherent conflict in being responsible for worship in the Diocese, whilst being a member of a society which believes that 1/3 of the Sheffield clergy are not able to consecrate communion validly.
This has understandably created a bit of a storm. Those supporting Philip North have quoted the Five Guiding Principles (pdf) which say:
the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures;
(them being those who are “unable to receive the ministry of women Bishops or priests”)
but the same Guiding Principles also say:
those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
Those who believe that women can’t be priests or Bishops are entitled to alternative episcopal oversight – what used to be flying Bishops. One question that comes to mind is why can those who have a Bishop who does not believe that they are ordained not have similar alternative oversight?
I can see two answers to this question; one theological, in that the idea of flying Bishops does not fit with the theological role of Bishops, it is a practical fudge. The other, more practical, is that if they were allowed, how many parishes would seek their oversight – and what becomes in a Diocese if more parishes are overseen by a flying Bishop than are not? Who in reality is the Bishop, and who the flying Bishop?
Driving to Diocesan Synod this morning I was listening to the news and someone said words to the effect that it makes no financial sense to do this (and I can’t remember what “this” was); and there was an implication that the only grounds for making any decision was financial. This shocked me because of that underlying assumption.
Someone once wrote:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10)
I am about to start reading Justin Welby’s book: “Dethroning Mammon“, which looks at this area, but the shock that I felt has made me start thinking about this now!
One of the key elements of the Christian faith for me is that all people are made in the image of God. This then becomes an alternative yardstick when making decisions, because if all decisions are made on financial grounds we can very quickly find ourselves dehumanising people.
In Bhutan they have institutionalised this, in that what counts is not GDP, but Gross National Happiness.
For the last 40 years we have bowed down to “the market”and GDP has improved – but are we happier? Probably not according to these figures.
In the Brexit debate I don’t recall the Remainers making arguments that were not essentially financial, whilst the Brexiters did. Whether we liked those non financial arguments or not, perhaps that is why Brexit won! (This is not a comment on the pros and cons of Brexit, but a question about whether a fixation on GDP didn’t speak to many voters).
Today at our weekly ecumenical Bible study on the following Sunday’s Gospel we were looking at the following passage:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.”’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
This led me to reflect on the Synoptic Problem. When I was training the predominant theory (simply put) was that Mark was written first, then Matthew, based on Mark and then Luke based on both. However, one of my lecturers discussed the theory that Luke preceded Matthew. This appealed to me as someone who likes things categorised; that Luke told stories and then Matthew rearranged them into more organised blocks.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.”’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”, and
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
There were two things that I noticed:
- Matthew had an extra “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” to the first response.
- The order of the temptations is different.
Why might this be?
If Matthew wrote first then why would Luke remove the second half of the quote? If Luke wrote first, then Matthew (as a Jew writing for Jews) might have included the second half of the Old Testament quote as he already knew it, and knew that it would point his readers to a known reference.
Why would Luke change the order of the temptations if Matthew wrote first? I am sure you may come up with your own answers, but if Luke wrote first Matthew might change them so that they reflect a movement from the personal, to personal aggrandisement to power.
I am far from an expert in these matters, but from time to time I like to think about these things!
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.
Through fasting, prayer and acts of service
you bring us back to your generous heart.
Through study of your holy word
you open our eyes to your presence in the world
and free our hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of your love.
As we prepare to celebrate the Easter feast
with joyful hearts and minds…
I have just finished presiding at the first of our two Ash Wednesday services (the other is 7:30 this evening at St John’s), where these words were said.
The challenge for me, and I guess for all of us who want to follow a “Holy Lent”, is what to do to engage with this. The problem is that what I need is not the same as what you need, so I can’t just take something off the shelf. I can, of course, read a Lent book, or follow one of the many daily programmes available (Christian Aid, Tear Fund, 40 Acts, and others), join a Lent Group, take up some additional daily Bible Reading or Prayer, but is that going to:
open my eyes to God’s presence in the world
and free my hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of God’s love
As an incumbent I feel as though I have two roles: one as spiritual leader, and one as MD of a small business. It is all to easy to find myself spending too much time on one, and not enough on the other! So this Lent, as well as some of the other things I shall be doing I am going to blog every day (except my day off, naturally) as a way of engaging with God in the world. It won’t be a pious blog, but I hope that in doing this I will engage more with what God is doing, and a little less with my “To Do List”.
I wrote a blog post many years ago, before I was an incumbent, and I am trying to reengage with that kind of ministry.
Yesterday Henri Nouwen’s daily email read:
We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”
It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.
This practise is to help move me towards that kind of ministry, and away from the busyness, from “running the business”.