Sunday, 27 January 2013

Arch definitions

The Archdruid and her words of wisdom this evening. I do quite like what I've seen and heard of Justin Welby but I still think the Archdruid as ABC would be more fun. And we're a bit thin on fun.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Room at the Inn

Someone told me recently that they were involved in the Inn Church project. I googled it and was interested to read about it here. No doubt I will be told about the drawbacks and negatives and ifs and buts of this type of endeavour, I have to say though that I am always impressed to see and read about the level of service that people of faith offer to communities. I was talking the other day to someone whose partner is struggling with various problems as a result of having had a very difficult life and how the church has supported him and how someone in his congregation acts as an advocate on his behalf. Many years ago, I used to sometimes attend a Gurdwara (Sikh temple) with a friend. The temple always served a meal to its worshippers and I was struck by the considerable numbers of homeless people who arrived and ate at the temple. They were never turned away and they were always treated with the utmost courtesy.
Much of the work done by people and organisations of faith is done unobtrusively; this is as it should be and  yet it is a shame we do not see and hear more about it  it as that might lead to a greater appreciation of faith as a gift to society.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Evango-phobia

A while back, I attended a gathering of some Christian friends. Quite a few were from London and attended Holy Trinity Brompton, but one told me that he went to "Steve Chalke's church". I could tell by the way he uttered the words, "Steve Chalke" that this was something momentous and I was meant to be impressed.
" Oh yes", I said, "he's some sort of evangelical pastor, isn't he? I've vaguely heard of him."
"He's Steve Chalke", said my companion looking aghast, "you know Steve Chalke!"
"Right", I said, "That's good then."

The fact is that I'm not very up to the moment on evangelical writers and pastors. I've heard of Nicky Gumbel, of course, and of Rob Bell and of a few others but I'm just not really terribly interested. The reason I  even mention this at all is that Steve Chalke has written an article saying how he now supports same sex relationships-  and this has caused waves in the evangelical world.  I just mention it in case you happen to be interested in things evangelical.
Now, I actually know quite a lot of gay evangelicals. I find this a bit weird and freaky (them being evangelical, not the gay bit...) but that doesn't mean I'm prejudiced against them. In fact, some of my best friends are evangelicals and even some of my family. As long as they keep it private and don't go flaunting it by saying things like "Praise the Lord", I'm just fine! I wish that they would change their ways, of course, in fact I used to be in that sort of lifestyle, I left it and so anyone can. I just wish they'd realise that they could sing psalms in a dirge like way and avoid mentioning Jesus outside of the actual service if they would only make the effort to control themselves.It's not that hard  if you only try.

 I have to admit that I might have some teensy prejudices -  as a 100% solid Anglican (ex-Anglican?...it's the same thing anyhow!) I find the thought of people waving their hands in the air and speaking in tongues rather repulsive , but you don't have to think about it- that's the point. Most of what they believe is utter nonsense, of course, and they've got quite an agenda going on,  but for me it's a case of love the believer, hate their beliefs. I'm also fascinated by the way that they have their little signs to tell each other who they are, the fish symbol in the car, the use of a strange lexicon including words such as "sanctified" and "backslidden" and "convicted". We might also think they are so full of themselves and their bloody status-among-the-elect / saved-by-grace/ washed-in-the-blood/ baptised-in-the-Holy-Spirit or whatever term they use to make it clear they are a better class of Christian - but in reality they also feel quite beleaguered, a persecuted minority facing prejudice and misunderstood in larger society. So, just think about what that feels like that next time you are tempted to judge! Finally, they're not all bigots who hate women and gays, in spite of what you've read in the papers. It's a stereotype and a lot of them are as tolerant as the average middle of the road Anglican and generally a lot younger and they give a lot more to the church.

So, next time you are about to make some shallow, prejudiced assumptions - don't! Remind yourself that, despite your instinctive disgust, lots of them are lovely, lovely people and remember that it's just the way they were born again!

With heartfelt apologies to any evangelical readers...:)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Reading the bible

I really like this approach to reading the bible as described by Richard Rohr, whose reflections I receive in a daily email. It seems to me a thoughtful and mature stance which avoids the pitfalls that can plague both fundamentalist and liberal approaches-  when these are characterised by a lack of sensitivity, honesty or grace.
How can we look at the Biblical text in a manner that will convert or change us? I am going to define the Bible in a new way for some of you. The Bible is an honest conversation with humanity about where power really is. All spiritual texts, including the Bible, are books whose primary focus lies outside of themselves, in the Holy Mystery. The Bible illuminates your human experience through struggling with it. It is not a substitute for human experience. It is an invitation into the struggle itself: you are supposed to be bothered by some of the texts. Human beings come to consciousness by struggle, and most especially struggle with God and sacred texts. We largely remain unconscious if we avoid all conflicts, dilemmas, paradoxes, inconsistencies or contradictions.
The Bible is a book filled with conflicts and paradoxes and historical inaccuracies. It is filled with contradictions and it is precisely in learning to struggle with these seeming paradoxes that we grow up—not by avoiding them with a glib one-sentence answer that a 16-year-old can memorize. If I had settled for the mostly one-line answers to everything from Fr. McGuire’s Baltimore Catechism, my spiritual journey would have been over in the third grade. And for many people, otherwise educated in other fields, that is exactly what happened. We created people with quick answers instead of humble searchers for God and truth. God and truth never just fall into your lap, but are only given as gifts to those who really want them and desire them.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Epiphany

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
Your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Isaiah 60 v1-6

Bishops and butlers



We found out earlier this year the amount some bishops claim for their expenses, and the perks of the job can include gardeners, cleaner and chaffeurs. I hope they can't hire butlers, or else, given the rules on same sex partnerships and celibacy, it could well lead to this kind of misunderstanding...

Well, we all need cheering up at the moment, and I do love Mitchell and Webb!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Epiphany

 It is wonderful that Epiphany coincides with the time that the secular world is taking down the Christmas lights and ornaments and packing everything away until another year. Epiphany is just not marked at all except by those of faith, and so it is a reminder to Christians that Christmas does not end with January and the return to the work day world, rather, as Howard Thurman said, it is only after Christmas that the real work of Christmas begins.
The people who travel to the stable at Bethlehem show us the breadth of those that God calls  - the rich and the poor, those near and far, foreigners and locals, Gentile and Jew, the ignorant and the learned. We also see the different ways in which God draws us to Him. The shepherds are stunned by the sudden appearance of the heavenly hosts telling them to get down to Bethlehem- they must have been in a state of shock. The magi probably took their time debating and pondering the star, applying knowledge and lore and planning their journey, drawn by the questioning within. Revelation can come in different forms and God draws us in ways fitted to our understandings. Finally, although we make different journeys, sometimes even with different perceptions, all of us encounter in the stable an event which is personal to us and bigger than us. We leave, and return, with questions as well as answers,  At Epiphany we see that  we are united not by our background, theories, beliefs or even doubts but by the fact that our end goal is the same, and  awe and worship is our most profound response.