Thursday, 27 May 2010

Opening the circle....

I am sorry for no blog until now. Some maybe rejoicing so apologies for disturbing you.
Came across this the other day. It is based on Brian McClaren's writing. He is someone like Rob Bell - if you Google the name you are more likely to find first all those who think they are heretics, traitors to the evangelical cause. misguided, downright evil etc
Anyway Ten questions which he thinks every person serious about following Jesus should explore? Here goes...

1.What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
2.How should the Bible be understood?
3.Is God violent?
4.Who is Jesus and why is he important?
5.What is the Gospel?
6.What do we do about the Church?
7.Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
8.Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9.How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
10.How can we translate our quest into action?

McClaren does spend time in his book 'A New Kind of Christianity, Ten Questions that are transforming the Faith'  looking more closely at these questions and what it means to be a Disciple of Jesus. I welcome the openness about this sort of journey and although I might not always agree, I think the approach is so refreshing. If you are serious about being a disciple of Jesus then maybe working through these questions will help you - I hope so. You may have some of your own - then please share them.

Found this quote which resonates so strongly about how I believe I am called to follow Jesus.
He drew a circle that shut me out

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Through different eyes...

I am writing this surrounded by fields of wild flowers, trees and rows of vines. Nope - not Hounslow but the countryside around Bergerac in the Dordogne. We travelled from here to the Abbaye at Belloc in the foothills of the Pyrenees where I was leading the annual retreat for the Anglican Chaplaincy based in Bordeaux and the Dordogne. The Chaplain is my dear friend Paul Vrolijk - one of my ordination candidates from Bristol days. What an interesting life he, his wife Janine and four beautiful children lead here. They are a Dutch family ministering to groups of Anglican christians (generally English) and the children go to the local french primary schoool! I am deeply humbled by their commitment and passion to serve God in this context and seek to connect the Good News, not just to the many English people who live in this part of the world, but also to local communities. Paul and I spent time on Friday night discussing aspects of Old Testament theology that had been sparked off by the sessions I had led with those on retreat. On Saturday night we did the same - except the subject was a bit more high brow. Ranging from Tommy Cooper, Al Murray, Jack Dee, Michael McIntyre etc How much English and Dutch humour is so alike!??? How we laughed.... it was a real tonic to be honest. Some of the jokes we shared were not particularly PC but for a large fee I will share them with you!!! The journey back from Belloc was the same, except we had Caroline Gordon Walker with us - another ordained person, so the jokes and laughter was even more raucous. Caroline threatened to record the conversation and sell it to the highest bidder...

After the Eucharist, which was led so simply and beautifully by the monks and nuns together with a large congregation of all ages, one of the monks 'hi-jacked me' and showed me around the monks quarters. He showed me some of their treasures - a crucifix that dates back to the 14th century and was dug up in a field, and a wooden carving that was of a similar age. Myself, Paul and Michael (Good News down the Street) Wooderson were invited last night to share with the monks. They were really interested about the Anglican church, womens ordination and even the sessions I was leading. They laughed so much when they suddenly realised I was the English priest who they inadvertently locked out last year.

I have cried a lot these past few days. Tears of laughter, tears of gratitude for the love and welcome I have been given by Paul's community and also the love and grace shown by the monks. Also at the prayer and concern shown to myself and Sheryl as we look to the future. All are welcome at the Altar in the Abbey, and at the Eucharist we shared last night around the dinner table the Abbot came and shared bread and wine with us.

Laughter, welcome, hospitality, tears, prayer, unity deeper than words can express, joy in simple 'human' things, shared conversation, challenge in the context of relationship and grace, eucharist as table fellowship - surely the world seen through different eyes. Dare I say - community that has the potential to transform and offer a hope and future to all.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Grace..... and truth???????? Help......

Full of Grace and Truth

I have just read an Ordained leader's parish letter on hearing a message on John 1 and it has left me really anxious- and I need help to understand why.

The comment was something along the lines of: 'We must be gracious but need to remember that we have to speak truth so it is not as if anything goes'. Why does my stomach do a somersault at this point?

Reflecting on this:

I don't understand what this comment really means?
I, as a Christ Follower, simply don't know what it means to be full of grace and truth.
Some of us are more comfortable with what we understand to be truth, and then feel that grace means to find the nicest (we hope) possible means to encourage others to agree with us.
We are not secure enough to allow the One who is grace and truth to work in the relationship and dialogue - (pre- supposing those of us who hold onto 'truth' have those sort of relationships anyway).
We believe change is about what we do to others rather than what the Holy Spirit does when a person is in a relationship with Jesus. (though of course we really believe this)
We believe change is what the Holy Spirit in a Christ Follower does, as long it conforms to what we believe the truth is, which of course may be right, but we need to give him a helping hand in case he doesn't do it  a) in our timescale b) according to the rules (ours and those in our church - which secretly we may disagree with.. c) answers on a post card

My starter for 10 is that I think we need to work at some basic rules of relationship, listening and dialogue - maybe even feel what Jesus felt when he met people - and then work it out from there.

I am work in process on this - so any thoughts welcome.

Maybe somersualts are not my thing and I should stick to trampolining. (I have discovered that trampolines with walls are on offer in ASDA at the moment!!???)

Off to France tomorrow to share thoughts on looking at the world through different eyes, with some lovely Anglican Christians who form part of the Aquitaine Chaplaincy. The monks at Belloc (Pyrenees) where we meet, last year forgot I was coming early, so I spent the night in an out house watching 'Frasier' dvds. Could be worse and they made up for it afterwards.

So this year I think they are looking out for me. Oooer....

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

Great time with students and staff at Moorlands Bible College this week. It is a real privilege to speak to people from different life contexts who are following God's call on their lives - often at great cost and sometimes major life change. I shared with them this Franciscan prayer It really says so much and is not totally unrelated from the events of Election Thursday.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

A great book I've started to read: 'Love is an orientation' by Andrew Marin. I said a few weeks ago that 'Post Mixed Economy' church will need to express values in the context of relationship and conversation. This book seeks to elevate the conversation with special regard to the gay community. In fact I think for some Christians it will challenge them to stop judging and repent of prejudice and actually see that the demands of divine love is that we seek to have more open-ended conversations that focus on understanding one another’s stories and drawing one another closer to God.

In Hounslow we do have requests from church groups to come and use the space in front of the church building to share the Good News. Sadly it usually means they shout at people their version of the Good News and sing worship songs badly. It becomes something more akin to 'boundary marker religion' as J. G. Dunn put it and can be a a bit of max 'cringe' factor. As Andrew Marin said to a conference of church leaders recently: 'Friends, I plead with you today that you stop being a gatekeeper and start acting like Jesus.'I know some Christians find the judgements made in our courts and the arrest of a street preacher this past week are a sign of the demise of the UK as a Christian nation. We need to discover how we can continue to make a difference in the context of being with people where they are. Easy to say I know but something about 'becoming a human being and moved into the neighbourhood' comes to mind.

And to end. I am not saying who I shall vote for, (some who know me will have guessed anyway), but I still think it is an amazing privilege to put our cross against a name. For Chist Followers it is a cross in more senses than one.