Friday, 23 February 2018

Popularism

Still at the start of Lent I’ve been pondering the story which comes at its end, that of Pilate washing his hands as he lets the mob decide the fate of Jesus.  In doing so he abdicates his responsibility and no amount of washing can absolve him of the charge that in the end he abandoned any sense of conviction and chooses instead the popular vote.

Churchill’s dictum is often quoted that democracy is a bad system until you consider the alternatives. Yet the rise of ‘popularism’ over recent months and years has achieved some questionable outcomes.  Perhaps I’m thinking this way having been given a copy of Fire and Fury: Inside the White House as a gift last week.

Leadership is tough and democracy is flawed yet in the end one has to temper the other.

I’m not sure the message of Jesus has ever really got the popular vote.  Take this weekend’s lectionary reading all about ‘taking up a cross and following Jesus’.  It’s an invitation to a life of tough choices, to be made at some personal cost.  Could you ever imagine a poster outside a church saying; Living a Christ-like life could be the biggest struggle of your life – join us at 10.30 Sundays to find out more!’.

Perhaps a central message of Lent is that a truly human life, one that reflects the life of Jesus, should be one lived with conviction, and that despite the siren voices of hedonistic popularism, selfless-love really does display the best of us, even if it involves cross-carrying.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Painting Creation

Our Junior Church take a monthly bible story and develop it over four weeks using a variety of different activities.  This month it’s been the Creation Poem of Genesis One and they have ‘painted’ it.  This week their efforts were put up in the church corridor.  The one opposite represents that moment when light came into being – it’s got great energy with a spiral of silver glitter at its centre.

I sometimes wonder if the Junior Church activities are far more interesting than the sermons I preach!  Perhaps soon I’ll have to stop people volunteering to be helpers!

I think it’s great that the few young people we are privileged to have week by week do some really interesting things from making bread and putting on puppet shows to these wonderful paintings.  It makes the bible come alive and our prayer is that something of the fun and involvement it produces will enable the lessons learnt to go deep into their hearts.

Blog holiday next week!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

We read to know we are not alone

This week I’m attending two book groups – I must get a proper job!!!

The first was at AFC on Tuesday when we gathered after LunchBreak to consider Matthew Fox’s book A New Reformation.  Fox, a theologian, has been forced out of the Roman Catholic Church so his book is really one of protest, and at times it's quite a forceful cry from the heart. 

Tuesday’s book got mixed reviews from our group yet, in the process, prompted an excellent and lively discussion!

I love talking about books because that produces a conversation which breathes life and, sometimes, a new perspective into our reading.

In the film Shadowlands, about CS Lewis and his marriage to Joy Davidson, there is that beautiful line: We read to know we are not alone.

So, I’m pleased to be going to another book group tomorrow!  This time in Luton and one that draws together half a dozen ministers from our local Association. 

The book we’ll be discussing is John Swinton’s Raging with Compassion which seeks to address the issue of Theodicy, that is how we continue to believe in a God of love in the light of so much suffering in the world.

Swinton urges us to steer away from trite or traditional answers to the problem of suffering and believe instead that in the cross we encounter a God who doesn’t explain pain away, but one who shares pain with, and alongside us.  This is the God who partners us in suffering.

I find this just about the only response worth considering, that suffering doesn’t require an answer (which never really comes) but a presence.

One of Swinton’s most helpful quotes in this respect is from Henri Nouwen:

When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares…

Well, I love books and the wisdom they contain – and I enjoy book groups – even when two come along in the same week! And I really do understand the idea that ‘we read to know we are not alone’.


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