Thursday 25 February 2010

180 seconds

At one of the places where I attend worship I have been asked to preach and so am preaching again on Sunday, as I have done twice before. The worshipping community there is transient and services are conducted with great efficiency. A Eucharistic service will take 30 minutes.

In the past, in other places, with other communities I have preached for up to 40 minutes. My preferred time is 20-25 minutes (if necessary). In the past I have also preached homilies of about 5-7 minutes. For the service I am preaching at on Sunday I have three minutes. A twentieth of an hour. 180 seconds. A short amount of time that brings its own exciting challenges.

What can I say in three minutes? What should I be able to say in three minutes? What is there to say in three minutes?

To say, 'repent' takes about a second, but to consider what that means in our context and in other contexts.... How long does that take?

To say 'The kingdom is here' takes only two seconds, but to draw anything out of such a phrase, how long does that take?

When preaching for three minutes the danger for myself is that I round everything down, smooth the edges, fill in gaping cracks and preach a word that has become all the more pleasant to swallow in such a short time. Another danger is that I don't saying anything at all.

But, how do I give a significant message, what can the Holy Spirit express through me in three minutes? Is it enough to leave people with a thought for the day? Is it too much to try to give them more than that...? To either give a soluble gospel that freely disperses into the everyday existence of life? Or a heavy tablet of challenge and cost, with no water to wash it down?

Let Jesus be my guide as I try in the Spirit's strength to find an honest, heart-felt, Spirit-led word for Sunday that doesn't just flatter or make laugh, that doesn't offend for no reason and that doesn't confuse.

Perhaps I should preach Jesus?

Thursday 18 February 2010

Politiking Jesus

Have been trying to prepare a seminar for Church History but my mind (and hands and eyes) keep drifting back to some classic Yoder, The Politics of Jesus. In particular his sparse exegesis of Luke's gospel. A community focused reading of the gospel that challenges assumptions.

I'm currently thinking through what Yoder has to say about the arrest, prosecution and execution of Jesus. In the evangelical circles in which my life and faith have lingered I've been relentlessly taught that the arrest, prosecution, trial and execution of Jesus was illegitimate and that as he was without sin, it must surely be unjust for him to be arrested.

It seems, if my tired brain gets this, that Yoder makes a different point. That Jesus was indeed without sin, but that his arrest could be legitimised by the Roman and religious leaders. Yoder's exegesis continually plucks out elements of the gospel narrative and extracts from them points that from the Roman view of the time could well have been seditious or incendiary; in total amassing to political insurrection.

Indeed I'll not read the cleansing of the temple in the same light again, the weight of the events in the eyes of the society leave a lasting mark. Nor will I look at Pilate's advocacy for the freeing of Jesus in the same way!

(p.s. not sure of the blogging etiquette regarding references to books, but basically the first 60 pages should do it!)

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Valentines Service In The Lakes

On Sunday morning I attended the 10:30am service at Holy Trinity, Chapel Stile. A beautiful church in the Lake District.

The service was attended by approximately 40 people, mostly in middle-age or later and it was one of the most profound church experiences I've had in years. The service was mainstream yet contemporary, aimed at an older generation yet relevant to most people present. Care and attention had gone into the preparation of the service and what could have been a mundane Sunday morning was transformed into beautiful and articulate worship. The Priest in charge, George Wrigley led the service beautifully and the warmth between him and the congregation was clear.

The service challenged my understandings of alternative worship and contemporary worship. It's easy to presume that contemporary worship must mean 'contemporary' to those in the 15-25 age group and not 'contemporary' to those in the 50-85 age group. It's also easy to presume that alternative worship only has a place at a festival, a fresh expression or a church reaching those in the 15-30 age group. The Valentine's Day Service at Holy Trinity showed such notions to be false.

The service made use of The Seekers, Turn Turn Turn whilst those who had lost spouses (unfortunately not partners) were able to take flowers and lay them before the cross.

The service also included intercessions that were beautifully led and cut to the heart of so many issues.

Thom Meredith, a singer from Harrogate sang a beautiful version of Love Changes Everything that was incredibly appropriate to the congregation.

After this there was 'An Act Of Recommitment To All Our Relationships' which addressed husbands and wives, parents and children and spoke more of commitment to each other than any liturgy I have heard in a long time.

The whole service spoke of community; of a priest who knows his congregation and their needs and interests; of a priest who was taking the opportunity to turn what could have been an everyday act of worship and push forward something that was really challenging.

An incredible service and an incredible privilege to worship with a community longing to meet God.