I have just started rereading this book for our book group, and whilst I remembered many of the “parables”, I had forgotten the introduction.
In it Peter Rollins explains that the purpose of the book is not to provide answers, but to pose questions (I paraphrase). And that the point of these questions is to change our behaviour, not to gain our assent to some ideas. He goes on to point out that so often people will assent to an idea, but then behave as though they don’t believe it; for example saying how terrible materialism is, but then living in a materialistic way.
I recently posted some thoughts on Remembrance Sunday, and yesterday I had some more that I thought worth sharing.
In the previous article I commented on an article by Simon Jenkins, and he suggested that we should make next year the last Remembrance Sunday because too many use remembering as a means to keep past hurts alive. However, it struck me that the problem is not keeping the memory alive, it is keeping the animosity alive.
Desmond Tutu has written a book on Forgiveness with his daughter Mpho. This puts forward a four step approach to forgiveness, summarised here:
Telling the Story
Naming The Hurt
Renewing/releasing the relationship
It strikes me that at Remembrance the difficulties come because we are good at the first two, but don’t always move on to the third or fourth.
I would suggest that until we have mastered those two steps as well the nursed grievances will remain whether or not we abolish Remembrance Day.
Today’s post was inspired by Pray as You Go (not there for long), and by last Wednesdays group discussion on the Bible. The reading was Luke 16:9-15, and began:
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
This surprised me as it was a memorable phrase, which I did not remember!
Looking it up I discovered that it follows on from the Parable of the Unjust Steward, so when I usually read/hear it it is in a particular context. The words are the same, but the context is different (not that the unjust steward is an easy parable to interpret).
It isn’t in the same league as theatre bill boards (see here), but reading something out of context can give a misleading perception.
The question then comes – how do we use the Bible without taking it out of context?
This coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, and this morning I read this by Simon Jenkins.
For many clergy Remembrance Sunday is a struggle – how to remember the fallen with dignity, whilst remembering what has happened and wanting to say “never again”, often in the context of military parades. The last thing that many of us would want to do is to preside over “a validation of war by embracing its horrors in religiosity”.
However, my experience in church is that when we struggle to achieve that balance it is welcomed. Whether that is a generational thing, as in many churches, including ours, there are still people who can remember the war, I don’t know. And of course, although Remembrance focuses on the two world wars, there have been many conflicts since, and many killed or injured.
If I were to be provocative I might ask whether the problem is that we don’t remember the more recent conflicts enough! People under 70, which includes most politicians, have no experience of a “big” war. Perhaps if our politicians had, or we Remembered better the smaller wars, there would be less inclination to solve our problems by military means.
Over the years I have heard a number of priests complaining about the increasing amount of management coming into the role of incumbent. Until now I have thought it only sensible that the good bits of modern organisational management theory should be used by the church. However…
Recently the Church of England has adopted new safeguarding procedures, and we have recently been made aware of the GDPR that are coming into force in May 2018. Both of these have added significantly to the administrative overhead of running a parish (and that is before the impact of implementing them is considered). If you are in a parish with several retired managers then this may be dealt with by them, although there is a level of knowledge required that the incumbent probably has in their head that anyone else will spend time finding out. But if you are in a parish without those kind of people the burden falls on the incumbent – and in some of those parishes the incumbent is already doing more administration than in others, perhaps no administrator, and I have heard of some with no treasurer.
This is not a plea for the church to be exempt from either of these – there is good reason why they are needed. However, it is a plea for the national church or dioceses to look at ways to reduce the burden of them on parishes. I will admit that this is a hobby horse of mine, but in the era of the internet providing systems centrally for use across the country is not rocket science, and could just help!
And for those parishes who do have people who can do these things – wouldn’t their time be better spent on ministry rather than administration?
I was reminded by a recent sermon of Craig’s that when preaching it is good to tackle the bits in the passage which challenge us. Indeed, at a previous church, the congregation asked the clergy to specifically address this (rather than preaching on an alternative reading).
They also say that the best sermons are those that are addressed to yourself.
Note to self – remember this and act on it!
Reading the passage for a couple of weeks ago I was reminded of exegesis and eisegesis – if you look at who is invited to the wedding banquet you can reach several different conclusions:
sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come
So we are called, but we have to respond;
gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good
Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?
rejection of God (I have been told that the wedding garment would have been provided, so it was a rejection rather than any other reason);
For many are called, but few are chosen
I would however suggest that the small bits of scripture that I have chosen can only support a position based on eisegesis – I know what I think, here is something that supports it. For exegesis you need to look at all texts which may be relevant and weigh them against each other.
I picked the image I did as for me the overarching narrative of the Bible is of God’s love for us all, so for me all texts have to be read in the light of that love. If an individual text appears to contradict that love then I am less sure of it. I’m still not sure whether that means that I read in or read out – but I do think that I am at least weighing conflicting texts in the balance.
Last Sundays reading (Matthew 21.33-46) and next Sundays reading (Matthew 22.1-14) both reminded me of the Johari Window. In both cases Jesus is telling a story against the chief priests and the Pharisees, and particularly in the first they do not recognise it. They identify more with the landowner than with the tenants.
For all of us the things which are most likely to trip us up are the things of which we are unaware. Sometimes others can help us to discover these things, if both they and we can build up the courage to talk about the things that they know about us which we don’t. But there is still an unknown area where no one (apart from God) knows these things, where we have to work at this ourselves (perhaps in prayer).
One clue can be the times that we get really annoyed with someone else – very often it is because sub consciously we are angry that we too do whatever it was made us angry with them.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free
[I have been on holiday and retreat, and have had to prepare to be away and cope with getting back – “normal” service should now be resumed!]
We will be reading “The Orthodox Heretic“, by Peter Rollins as our next book at Beyond Belief. We will be meeting on 11th October and 15th November and other dates to be arranged at 7:30pm at a location to be arranged! If you are interested in joining us please contact Alan.
This is a book of modern parables, all with a twist!
Pete himself reads them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY8UEaIJAN0., here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flaT8wKkDlo and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCLDMMA6Sw0.
I have been talking to a number of people recently about faith matters, and have realised that I think that their faith development is their responsibility. That may or may not appear obvious to you, but it strikes me that many clergy think that it is their responsibility.
In one instance we were talking about a church where the pastor was fed up with people coming late to the service so he ordered that the doors be locked, and latecomers not admitted (don’t worry St Mark’s – we aren’t going to do it); in a number of cases, someone was excluded for their behaviour.
My take on this is that they are responsible for their own behaviour (as are the others in the congregation, just in case these things are done “to encourage the others“), although I have a responsibility to walk alongside them (fellow pilgrims on the way) offering help and guidance and sharing where I am.
I expressed this to someone and they challenged me with Paul’s discipline of wayward Christians in his letters. However, at least some of these were issues to do with community, and the breaking of it, rather than individual behaviour.
Yes, the incumbent is responsible for the cure of souls, but how to do it? If you exclude someone from the congregation your chances of influencing them in any way are surely gone!