Thursday 20 December 2012


Here's a quick poem. Couldn't just put up an audio file so had to make a little photo montage. Words to the poem are below.
There’s no dance I would rather do.

There’s no hope I’d rather kindle.

Than the one I want to bring.

But the one I wonder about is broken beyond my dreams.

Another broken dream.

Everybody dreams sometimes.

Everybody hopes for these things to come true.

Everybody longs for it to be “me and you”.

Everybody has a dream to fly.

To soar up so so so high.

And everybody knows the sky goes blind.

Once you’re up above the highest heights.

Everybody has a time to cry.

Just as everybody has a time to die.

A time to drift and scratch.

A time to miss and match.

It’s always too soon to glide.

Never know just how far to try.

Always one thing or more holding us back.


But everybody has a care in the world.

Everybody’s world is so so so absurd.

Everybody needs to try.

To respect what must be respected and reject what needs to be rejected.

There’s no way back from the other side.

And there’s no place for bravado and macho male pride.

Everybody hopes they’ll never need to cry.

And everybody speaks too much from their deepest insides.

And almost everybody has that feeling within.

Everybody wants to die sometimes.

Everybody hopes to never have to try again and

Everybody feels claustrophobic.

Everybody has a hunch that’s worth risk.

Always the same to never be sure and ready until.

Until everybody realises it’s high time to try.

Everybody quotes somebody sometimes.

And everybody longs for release and besides,

Everybody is too torn up by the people on either side.

Instead of just reaching out and putting a hand on their shoulder.

Everybody says the world feels colder.

But everybody knows its heating up.

Everybody wants to be bolder and live right.

Yet everybody’s pockets are too tight, too shut, too locked down,

And there’s no hope they’d rather kindle.

And there’s no dance they’d rather do.

There’s nothing left to bring but,

But broken dreams and tired, clapped out but inventive schemes.

Everybody’s dream at some point dies.

Unless that dream is breathed upon and held tight.

Everybody works their best to seize the day.

And everybody waves their hands to scare the crows away.

But everybody’s love is there on display.

And everybody’s whispered hopes disappear someday.

And all of everybody one day someday dies.

And everybody’s hopes won’t stay alive,


Unless everybody tries to live beyond the lies,

To look square and straight at the true horizon,

Usually just out of view.

And everybody’s purpose is somewhere over on that point,

Everybody’s compass is muddied with loss,

Caked in dust and a veneer of false aspiration,

But everybody has a chance to refresh the stale heart,

And everybody is not alone, eternally forgotten.

And everybody doesn’t need to cry by themselves,

Dreams torn and tattered on the shelf.

Everybody has a hope that even they might not know.

Or might not see.

But everybody’s heart has strength in reserve.

But the tap can be shut too tight, too dry and rusted solid.

Everybody stares into space and hopes to see something twinkling in the stars.

Everybody glances in the mirror and sees something,

Everybody turns inwards once too often.

Everybody has a dream that died.

Everybody has a scheme they wish they’d tried.

Everybody has a hope that’s broken.

And everybody has a hope unopened.

Everybody has boxes scattered around their lives.

Everybody draws shutters tight on the inside.

Everybody dreams they’ll live before they’ll die.

And everybody sees through tired eyes.

And shattered sighs,

And broken cries.

Everybody knows disgrace at some point.

And embarrassment does the same.

And in time the moon and sun still do their revolve,

Problems solve,

Hopes remain unopened,

Hours pass by.

And for everybody, there’s a time to try.

For everybody there’s a time to catch the sky.

And for everybody there’s a time to clutch at why.

For everybody there’s a point too far.

For all the points of it all can seem so small sometimes.

And everybody has a hope before they die.

Everybody has a hope they might not try.

Everybody has a hope.

Everybody has hope.

Everybody hopes.


Thursday 22 November 2012

The art of reading nothing: or how I learned to still keep worrying about my current lack of reading

Today, I have squeezed a few jobs, pushed a few around, moved mountains, destroyed fortresses(!) and now find myself in a place where I have a few hours "spare" to do some reading. The hours are not really spare, though they should be.

As I sit down at my desk instead of reading, I start typing a blog post, using these most precious gifts: time, energy and inclination.

Time to read.

Energy to read.

Inclination to read.

But I'm not reading. And I'm not reading for a few reasons:

The first is because I am writing this.

The second is because I know that actually, while I have found time to read, I have a million and one jobs to do, and people waiting for those jobs to be done. Once again we come to the great question of time management, of what is essential and urgent, and essential and non-urgent, and etc etc etc.

But in the end, it all still amounts to too much sand in an already full sandbox.

So, I lay these things down, I accept this is the case, and I persist, no, I will still read.

Which brings me to the third reason I am not reading.

What do I read?

What can I read?

Because, before me are a number of books, all with validity and reasons to read.

I have the Diocesan bookgroup's book, Moberley's, The Theology of The Book of Genesis - which is fantastic. And which I need to read more of for a book group meeting in December.

But I also have John Inge's fabulous, Theology of Place which I need to dip into to complete the next part of my Diocesan IME assignment.

But at the same time, I really want to invest a bit more time in Michael Moynagh's Church For Every Context as I think through and prepare the new service to begin in January.

Yet, I'm also aware that I need to read some more devotional reading, and so Tozer stares at me.

I'd really like to take the advice of the Dean of Liverpool who on my ordination retreat before priesting encouraged folk to have a commentary on the go, being read parallel to the Bible, devotionally. So a commentary on Luke bought for that purpose, smiles down on me from the packed bookcase.

Then there's the three or four books in my, "started and love but must sort out the baptism and will pick this up some time" books, who sit, in a corner, a bookmark in each. Comparing notes. "He only read 20 pages of me" - "you're lucky, he only read my introduction".

Then there's the Bible. SHOCK HORROR. Sat, hopefully not collecting dust, but tempted.

And finally, there's the book I've been wanting to read, receipt tucked inside the cover. Glossy, shiny cover that it is. But this book worries me, will it too just find its way to the "started but not finished pile".

So I feel rather impotent about what I might read. I have a book of short stories on the go, and a magazine, but I don't want to read those things: I've managed to put aside 120 minutes to read deep and profound theological material.

It's timetabled in place. Scraped and shaped, into a busy week, but its a block of time.
120 minutes.

Well actually, now it's 119 minutes, and by the time I've made that cup of Earl Grey it will be closer to 110.

Wednesday 21 November 2012


the news filters through, synod says no, synot.

Through it all we still have to keep striving to embody love.

And to recognise that the need for women bishops isn't to pander to the societal expectations, but rather, to Jesus'.

Sunday 28 October 2012

My Family And I, We

My family and I, we
Meet together,
Whatever the weather.

My family and I, we
Greet each other,
We hold each sister and brother.

My family and I, we
Sing songs together,
And long forever, for a better time to come.

My family and I, we
Cry, we pour out tears together,
We share tears as treasures.

My family and I, we
Read together and we learn and know together,
We grow together.

My family and I, we
Walk together,
Towards the horizon of the highway together.

My family and I, we
Shout out together,
Against injustice and we will until the never never.

My family and I, we
Dance together, sway this way and that way,
As one endeavour.

My family and I, we
Ring bells together,
Calling out to forever.

My family and I, we
Carry bags and baggage as a single group,

My family and I, we
Protest together, for those with less than nothing,
And we will on and on into the ever ever.

My family and I, we
Pray together,
We say the grace together.

My family and I, we
Face the cross together, we turn to the cost together,
Now and forever.

My family and I, we
Eat together, with Father, Spirit, Son,
As one together.

My family and I, we
Live faith together,
We desecrate barriers between race and hate together.

My family and I, we
Strive to stay together, as one,
As long as forever.

My family and I, we
Wait for the Son as a single one together,
We turn from "I" to "us" together,
Now and forever.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Broken We Gather

Some words to a hymn without much of a tune or rhythm (except the currently one in my head).

Broken we gather,

Aware of our faults,

Shattered and bothered,

And wrecked with our doubts,

But the light of the saviour,

Shines through into the dark,

His Spirit, it guides us,

Beyond all our fears.

The wonder of nations,

The catcher of tears,

No place is too far away,

From his outstretched arms,

The embrace of the saviour Son,

Reaches down into despair,

Where the tyrants of hate

And sadness reside,

His grace is enough for all,

His peace will reside,

No woe is beyond him,

No sinner-saint apart from his love,

The outreaching, all loving,

God who calls us home,

Draw near to his scars,

And hold aloft your own.

Saturday 14 July 2012

A top five of practical things for a deacon

I'm writing this short blog post as it's been on my mind for a while, and 
it was confirmed that I should write it, when a photo of a "pastor's toolkit" appeared on a deacon's timeline.

The five things I have to offer are not necessarily five things that are the most theologically pertinent or indeed powerful, but simply five things that I have used that have been helpful in the last year.

Naturally things like a BIBLE, COMMON WORSHIP, a HOME COMMUNION set are handy too!

1. Holding crosses: these little holding crosses are shaped to fit in the palm of your hand, they become a symbol of Christ's presence in situations where it is not possible for people to pray. When it feels like God is absent.

I buy these things in bulk, and I give them out in almost that bulk. They are available from charities that work with olive wood within Palestinian communities near Bethlehem. They are perfect for hospital visits. I give them to folk who are in difficult situations. This year I have given about forty of them out. And not just to Christians. Two instances are striking. One lady received one before going on a long-haul flight of which she was petrified. One lady received one when she was in intensive care. Next time I visited she was unconscious but the cross was firmly wedged in her hand. CHRIST IS PRESENT. The holding cross doesn't make him present, but it serves as a timely reminder.

2. A portable projector which has no need for a PC but accepts SD cards and USB flash pens: A multi- media PICO PROJECTOR might sound like a bit of an extravagance (and it is), but I have used this thing endlessly.

As a new deacon I was invited to give talks and to go to house groups and give more talks and to the Methodists and give more talks. Meetings in churches, in lounges, in halls. Bringing your own technology to illustrate your words.

Also, alternative worship sessions. Contemplative prayer evenings. Have Holy Trinity icons on repeat. Watch beautiful movies in an informal cafe church setting. Log on to VIMEO and go crazy.

3. A fold up table: A small one, about a foot square table surface is enough. I do home communions and communions in residential homes. Rather than making a mess and in the case of dementia care homes (from my experience) potentially causing distress, bring your own table. Mine resides permanently in my boot.

4. "Sorry I missed you" cards: Postcards with a picture of the church on one side and a simple message saying something like, 'I called to visit' and your name and address and email and phone number. Leave some space where you can write messages. Get them printed professionally, challenge the culture of shoddy black and white church photocopying. Carry them and a pen with you.

5. A visits bag: I have a bag which I use for visits. The reason I have A bag for visits, rather than a number of bags, is that it allows me to keep things in there permanently that I will often use on a visit. Things like, some pens, some Sorry i missed you cards, some holding crosses, a New English Hymnal, a New Testament with Psalms (given at deaconing), a Common Worship Pastoral services book. A fold up umbrella. Five pounds petty cash in change.

They are just suggestions...... but they've worked for me.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

My Inheritance

My Inheritance

Glistening and glimmering,

Too bold to just hide away,

In darkened, dreary, shades of grey,

And too old,

To well-worn and ripped to disappear into the ether,

This volume,

Hangs no matter how limply,

It belongs besides me,

And there it sits,

On its wooden shelf of a grave,

No longer driving me,

Its slave,

I’m suddenly bolder,

A little older,

But to be truthful,

I’m a little less me,

A little messy me,

Sometimes out of sorts,

And too often in cahoots,

With false schemes and lowly plans,

I’ve dropped too far in this grace race,

This race of hyper stasis,

The power of those phrases,

Once contagious,

Now just a faded memory,

Of the way that life used to be,

Before I rediscovered the honey tree of life’s elixirs,

Strife’s fixers and hope’s better fixers,

Because that prized possession,

Yesteryears obsession,

Is now a recipe for remasters,



Into something streamlined,

But actually,

Less sublime,

More of the time,

But less inclined,

To bless,

To bless the broken and instead,

To offer simple platitudes and token attitudes,

All in the hope of a glimmer of gratitude,

And all told,

It’s all sold,

My inheritance,

Exchanged for fools gold,

Soup too lukewarm to scold,

This redefined existence,

Without the need for persistence,

It brought a comfort cold,

But pleasant,

A remission from the inherent,

Trials of keeping going,

On a one way road, when the traffic’s slowing,

My inheritance,

Much maligned,

Put out to pasture,

Yesterday’s classy clothes,

Bagged up with so much charity shop junk,

But even now,


Silent and still,

But speaking,

Even in this moment,

When my inheritance stands between some Bolshevik,

And some mini atlas,

Even in that place,

It makes claims,

Stakes a claim,

Calls out my name,

Won’t desert me,

Won’t forget me,

Nags at me,

Calls to me,

Whispers to me,

Not as sin,

But succour,

Full to the brim with hope and questions,

Answers and incessant praise,

To fill fresh days,

To blow away cold shakes,

And tired headaches,

My inheritance,

Quietly screaming,

Calling out to be called out,

Calling out to fit between my hands,

Pages turning,

Words yearning,

To be read aloud,

My inheritance,

This pile of crusted words,

This bound bureau of divine light,

Click goes the desk lamp,

Let’s begin again.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

I Saw You - a poem

I Saw You

I saw you walk in and it was clear from your demeanour and your slow and hesitant steps that you were scared out of your wits, cut down, half dead by the worry,

Anxiety bubbling away in your tired head,

Locked down with weary tears,

Too afraid to dare to believe.

But in you stepped, stooped,

Your strong frame bowed low and weak,

Clamped shut by emotions too hurried and harried,

Your steps were heavy, burdened with a dread,

And denial,

An acceptance and a revelation,

You were once,

But not now, hopeful and built for hard work,

Capable, reliable and formidable in physical ways,

But the lens of coloured glass, reflects a different side today,

Mottled by colours in a different way,

Hewn in daubs of red and yellow,

Casting a shadow,

In this unfamiliar scene,

Of some of life’s grand events,

Those memories spent and wrenched, from a cold heart,

Made colder,

Not from madness and alcohol,

But an impassable wall of wailing,

That shapes, this encounter,

In this supposed sanctuary of anointing and redemption.

Your gruff voice, barely a mutter, was a redacted gesture,

Reduced to a flutter of air,

Passing through lips, too tense,

To breathe deeply of the joys and pleasures to be found.


And majestic,

Your grit determination to make your once a year pilgrimage,

To cast your heavily held stone,

And to lay that burden down momentarily,

Or more accurately,

Let speak in your inner being those words you never wanted to hear,

Those syllables that have shaped existence and life in ways, never before imagined,

Words that can never be spoken, and must never be spoken,

And should never be spoken, and should never have been spoken.

Condemn to the history books the oral passing of every dialogue on the matter,

Every muttering by another white coat.

Every wasted breath trying to articulate through nothing more than intellectual grunts and groans,

Some absurdist reality, a Dadaist deception, that cuts to the heart.

And channels within, a wall of shadows, too high to climb,

Too strong to fell,

Too impenetrable to pass through.

And like history’s rusted pages you move.

A spectre filled with air, but not life.

Your steps echoed down that wide corridor,

And I saw you.

You were seen.

Maybe not all of you.

But enough.

To begin.

Saturday 31 March 2012

Friday 30 March 2012

Palm Sunday

A sermon for Palm Sunday. The readings are: Isaiah 50:4-9 and John 12:12-16.
This might not be a sermon I'd preach at this time next year. But it's the word I have to bring on Sunday.

Today I want to share with you about the disgrace of the triumphal entry.

Because the triumphal entry, as we ‘headline’ the narrative as. Is a narrative in which assumptions are turned upside down. And it is a narrative in which everything that one might expect to happen, doesn’t happen, or at least, doesn’t happen in the way expected.

It may happen in the way prophesied long before.

But it doesn’t happen in a way that everyone can really understand.

Because the triumphal entry is the moment.

It is the moment when all the different strands of Jesus’ life get woven together in a way that some rejoice in and some are confused by some. Some are hopeful about. And some are bemused about.

The triumphal entry isn’t necessarily a triumph in the way the people of Jesus’ day, or indeed, the way that we, think about a triumphal entry.

So today I want to make three points.

The first is that the triumphal entry is the moment when the different strands of Jesus’ life are woven together in the public eye.

The second is that the triumphal entry is only a triumphal entry because it is a disgrace leading to a disgrace.

The third is that triumphal entry provides a model for us, as to how we could live our lives.

So the first.

Up until this point in his life Jesus has lived a life of love for others. He has willingly given up any hope of creature comforts and security, to live a life as a poured out offering to God.

Jesus has given of himself in his love.

In his energies, spent with the poor.

And his time spent with the broken.

The unclean.

The diseased.

The forsaken.

The forgotten.

The despised.

The outsiders.

The ritually impure.

The unwanted.

The unloved.

The despairing.

The dirty.

The depraved.

The villains.

The disassociated with the culture and the empire.

The powerless.

The power holders.

This is the life that Jesus has led.

And these are the people that Jesus has loved.

There is no doubt that Jesus’ actions were often with the forgotten.

The Liberation Theology movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s in South America would have us believe that Jesus had a “preferential option for the poor”.

That Jesus’ preference was to serve the poor. That his love was preferentially focused on the poor.

I can see how liberation theology gets to that point.

But I think they might miss the point.

Jesus’ preferential option, is for everyone.

There is no one outside of the remit of his love.

The centurion. Or the bleeding woman.

The tax collector or the rich young man.

It would be easy to say that Jesus had a preferential option for the poor, but I think that is a misread.

Jesus spent so much time with the poor and broken, not only because he loved them and had hopes for them, and cared for them, and wanted the best for them and wanted to love them, and for them to find shalom, but Jesus also spent time for the poor as a model of how the rich, the Pharisees, the ruling elite, should live, side by side with the poor.

In relationships of mutual love and respect with the poor.

Jesus’ preferential option was for everyone, and he knew that for people to really live, to embrace life in all its abundance, their and our, standards and expectations would have to be turned upside down.

That the dreams they had would have to be turned upside down.

And this is exactly what is enacted in the triumphal entry.

The threads of Jesus’ life of loving the poor. Of living to different standards. Of living by different expectations. All of these things. All of these aspects of his life are in some way evoked by the triumphal entry.

Certainly, there are prophecies that predicted that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, on a colt.

The prophet Zechariah had prophesied how Israel’s true king would approach the city, ‘Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zechariah 9:9)

This prophecy hung in the air, like radio static, a background noise in people’s minds, ringing bells for them.

But there is also an expectation associated with past experience. That expects something vastly different. That holds onto the prophecy, but expects to see it played out very differently.

As he approached Jerusalem the people began shouting, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Most of the crowd were excited, it was Passover time after all and the people were ready to praise God for the arrival of the last true king. They shared the sense of occasion, the excitement and anticipation. Many in the crowd knew Jesus, he’d been to Jerusalem before and he was returning, riding a donkey.

Jesus the king was coming.

Culpepper suggests that, ‘Jesus was a king, but no ordinary one – the king of fishermen, tax collectors, Samaritans, harlots, blind men, demoniacs and cripples. Those who followed Jesus were a ragtag bunch, pathetically unfit for the grand hopes that danced in their imaginations.’

Over the years Jerusalem had seen plenty of kings and generals arriving in triumph.

And the arrival of kings and generals pretty much always followed a standard pattern.

Whether celebrating the return of a victorious general after a battle or welcoming a new conqueror, taking over the city, four things would happen.

1. The conqueror or ruler would be escorted into the city by its citizens or the conquerors army.

2. The procession would be accompanied by hymns or announcements of greatness.

3. There would be elements of the procession that depict the authority of the ruler.

4. The entrance would be followed by a ritual act such as sacrifice which takes place in the temple, so the ruler symbolically takes ownership of the whole city.

But Jesus does not enter Jerusalem as a conqueror, a warlord, or a returning general, on a grand war horse, covered in armour, followed by a huge army.

Jesus approached Jerusalem on a donkey. Not as a conqueror, but as a servant.

The truth is, Jesus’ triumphal entry had more in common with travelling through the slums with the poor than it did with parading towards an enemy with a vast and experienced army, expectant of military victory.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem had excited noise and clamour, but in Luke’s account of the narrative, in the midst of it Jesus wept, heavy with the burden of pain yet to befall Jerusalem. Unlike a world champion boxer entering a ring expectant of an easy victory, Jesus’ heart is heavy. Heavy but determined.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was one in which the true and righteous King entered the city with an attitude of servanthood, rather than as commander in chief surrounded by state of the art military equipment ready to take the place by force.

Jesus’ triumphal entry tied up all the threads of his life, into one visual, prophetic act that would stand as a metaphor and symbol of his values and purpose.

The second point I want to make is that the triumphal entry is only a triumphal entry because it is a disgrace leading to a disgrace.

We find in our Isaiah reading, words of prophecy. And prophecy is a complicated beast. Prophecy in the Old Testament doesn’t necessarily relate to just one event or occurrence. So in our reading today we have one of the three pictures of the Suffering Servant given in the book of Isaiah. And the suffering servant in this passage, refers to Isaiah himself, a man carrying the burdens of speaking unwelcome words to a community who don’t want to hear what he has to say.

But this prophetic image of the suffering servant also relates to Christ and his sufferings on behalf of so many.

And so we read in Isaiah 50:6, of Isaiah and Christ, offering their backs to those who beat them, that they won’t hide their faces away. Instead they will be open to the Sovereign Lord’s call to be vulnerable.

And Isaiah 50:7 states, “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced.”

Christ will not be disgraced.

Christ will not be disgraced even though he will set his face towards Jerusalem and willingly walk towards his death. Ultimately Christ will not be disgraced, as he will die, be resurrected and then will come the time for the ascension. In the end Christ will not be disgraced.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, it’s clear that his way is not the anticipated way. Many of the different factions of the crowd would have been expecting different things from this king, many would have been expecting him to negotiate with the Roman rulers, entering in victory, many would have been expecting him to enter Jerusalem with a great army, ready to take back the temple for God. Many of them would have been expecting Jesus to take on a key role within the temple, to reform the temple practices.

Instead, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, is to them a disgrace: instead of military victory, or religious victory or political victory, Jesus brings with him a donkey he rides as a fulfilment of a prophecy, and Jesus arrives with a rag tag group of the poor, the unclean, the socially excluded.

Rather than arriving in a fashion everyone expects, Jesus turns the expectations of standards upside down.

Rather than arriving to preach in a cassock alb, or cassock and surplus, as expected, Jesus stands in an old T-shirt, marked and dirty. Turning the standards of the world upside down. (By the way, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting I’m Jesus!)

But for Jesus, even in this social disgrace of his arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus is still cheered, there is still a hope with the crowd, for Jesus.

But notice, only a short time after, that before Pilate the crowd have turned and deserted him, calling instead for his crucifixion. And then, at the cross, the crowd have deserted Jesus in his final disgrace, the ultimate disgrace, crucified like a petty criminal amongst other petty criminals.

In a worldly sense, it’s hard to see anything but disgrace here.

As Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove suggest, the way of Christ was not the way of a conquering king, instead, “Here was a king who ruled with a towel rather than an iron fist, a king who rode a donkey instead of a warhorse, a king who carried a cross rather than a sword.”

 Instead of a military triumphal entry with pomp and ceremony. We encounter a Christ whose triumphal entry is that of a servant. A triumphal entry shadowed in disgrace.

The third point I want to make is that the triumphal entry provides a model for us, as to how we could live our lives.

Quite simply, Jesus enters Jerusalem with his face, “set like flint” as Isaiah puts it. There is a task to be done. There are people to serve. There is a new kingdom to pronounce. There is hope to enact. there is resurrection to await. there is the knowledge that in the eyes and mouths of many Jesus will encounter in Jerusalem, they will be disappointed with him, their perceptions shattered.

But for so many others, there are hopes fulfilled and dreams set ablaze. Jesus enters Jerusalem resolutely. And he enters Jerusalem to serve. And he enters Jerusalem with hope.

And these characteristics of resolute, hopeful servanthood can be for us a word to challenge, encourage, and refresh us, even in the discomfort that we might come to encounter.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Dialogue, the Purpose of Preaching and the Toothless Walrus.

Recently I have been experimenting (prayerfully - I hope) with how I preach.

For me preaching is a life long journey, and with preaching comes the opportunity to experiment creatively, but also to break your back with false aspirations.

At times I have preached from full scripts.

At other times I have preached from scripts much more weighted in the style of popular theology books.


Sometimes I have preached using only three words as markers.

Markers in the sand. (OK, enough with the pop. theology style....
..... For now.)

Sometimes, when I haven't been able to prep a sermon and only have a post-it note to preach from I have felt like kicking myself.

But then, that's idolatry.

What matters is the motive, and the discernment, and the hope, and the prayer.

Recently I have been thinking through the interaction between blogs and preaching.

Occasionally I will post a sermon on this blog after I have preached.

I generally only do this if I have a full script written (if that's right or wrong, who knows, another question to contemplate).

But the point is, when do I post these blog sermons? Usually, after I have preached them in church.

And that's interesting, I did that by default. I do that by default.

I preach and then I post the preach.

But ultimately I want a dialogue about my sermons, about God. I want to talk to people about sermons. But by posting the sermons after the preach.
After they have happened. I naturally limit the dialogue.

In an ever moving culture especially a digital fast paced blogosphere (see how outdated that feels already, "blogosphere????") people move on to the next thing.
If I blog post a sermon I preached yesterday, why should I expect people to engage with it?

And if I want a person to person conversation (whatever that means) with a blog reader then it will always be after the preach has occurred. After the "final word" from the pulpit,  "six feet above contradiction" is preached.

Two things happen off the back of this:

1. the first is that a conversation partner's voice is always heard after a message is given to a wider audience in the act of preaching. Therefore, the discussion naturally becomes something of an addendum, or an appendix to the preach.

2. the second is that, as a preacher, I implicitly close myself down to being shaped by the input of others. Basically I present a, "yes I'd love to hear what you think, but not in a way that might shape what I think, and actually, what I will say in my preach." I am closing myself off from the other, but doing so, whilst appearing to be open to embrace the views of the other.

But only one of our speech will be publicly shaped by this for the immediate time.

So why don't I blog my sermons before I preach?

Mainly because I like the sting in the tail, I like the surprise, the twist, the anticipation. I like to challenge people to think differently, to be gripped, to be excited by the word of God. Which itself, is not a bad thing.

But two things implicitly come from this as well:

1. the first is that I fear that if someone knows what is going to be said, they won't engage. That they'll be like, "yeah this is the bit when he says that the triumphal entry is a disgrace, yadda yadda yadda."

But surely there is a lesson to learn from theatre here (@nedlunn ?). When you go to see the production of a play at the theatre, in many cases you know how it ends. And not only that, in many cases, you know the precise words that will be used to get you to the ending.

But you are still excited. I remember seeing a theatre adaption of Orwell's 1984, it was a touring production and an adaption. I knew what was going to happen in the end (as ultimately we do with sermons - in the bigger story at least - Jesus? Restoration? Forgiveness?).

But actually, in the case of 1984, how the playwright got us to that point, the words used, the choreography of actions and words. That was all unexpected.

But even in a play that you may know word for word, like, Romeo and Juliet, the theatre director and ensemble still have the power to shock, and surprise you, they can still draw you into the story.

2. the second is that if a visitor to church comes to church on an off-chance and hears the sermon (they probably wouldn't read the blog or even know about it), but I speak to them from a position of relative power: not that I am a powerful preacher. But because I have had time to pray, read commentaries, lectio divina, live the passage, ask questions about it. And distill into the allotted time a reflection on this.

Now the hearer could check the lectionary/sermon series and research the passage and so be informed of the passage. But they wouldn't get chance to see my reflections on it - like being told the resulting data of a scientific survey, but without being told the conclusions and actions that come from it.

But in the case of the spiritual seeker who may have stumbled across the church, what I am doing is modelling a way to engage in discussion from a point of power. I am refusing to actually engage fully in their legitimate questions, and instead I am very definitely avoiding deep conversation and their research and genuine queries, in the hope of a simple, uncomplicated, conversion where I don't give them opportunities to ask the real questions on their heart.

So what about the toothless walrus? Well, perhaps I am scared of being the toothless walrus, stood in the pulpit, with everyone knowing what I'm going to say next (not that many folk read this blog!)
Perhaps I am scared that folk won't engage properly. Perhaps, I am scared that my already-read-once-words would appear flabby and without real conviction. That the "power" would have gone from them. That I can't just breeze people in to believing something without chance to either reflect on the words, or talk about them.

And that's where I am the real toothless walrus, and deserve to be named as one. When I am too afraid of discussion, in case I might be shaped and my views challenged.

Long live the toothless walrus.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Wildfire Prayer

A Twitter conversation with Matt Carso @yvesraven from Sanctus1 in Manchester has prompted me to drop a quick blog post about something I've been thinking about for a little while.

One of the delights about social media is the possibility of engaging people in immediate prayer needs and immediate intercessory prayer requests.

While this has been made possible by mass communication and the chain-letter style text message. Facebook events and Twitter have facilitated a viral way of seeking prayer for immediate need.

This is what I'd like to call Wildfire Prayer, I am sure there are a plethora of other names, but the principle is that once a prayer need is raised, that need can be made known to friends/followers, who make it known, etc, and before you know it, countless numbers might be praying.

A few times I have organised prayer "events" on Facebook for folk, and what has been interesting has been the number of people who I (the creator of the prayer event) know, the number of people who the "subject" of the prayer event know, and the number of people neither the "subject" or I know!

Long may God use social media in this way.

Naturally, this Wildfire Prayer requires pastoral sensitivity and an awareness of boundaries / data protection.

Bad examples of Wildfire Prayer might include:

"Pray for my friend Jez, who is suffering from terrible piles."
"Pray for my friend Jen Whatever, who has lost her mastercard on the number 47a heading for Lincoln bus terminal"
"Pray for my friend Jay, whose not getting on with his mum and hates her"

Silly examples I know, but as we send out these Wildfire Prayers lets make sure its okay to do it.

Friday 10 February 2012

big church meets big mission

In the past four years I have become fascinated by mission. It is the theological discipline that excites me most.
And in the beginning of those years I had to come to understand that mission is bigger than evangelism. I have realised that every strain of church approaches this differently and that as a result, each church has strengths and weaknesses.
Over these four years I have drifted away from the big church, attractional model into something different. But even here I am aware of weaknesses of other forms of church.

Part of my enthusiasm for missiology has been developed by reading some seriously exciting missiological writing. And in May this year, it feels like two huge threads of my life will be meeting up. The big church model of New Wine charismatic church and the smaller mission community.

Alan Hirsch will be speaking at the New Wine Leaders Conference (no Bill Johnson this year).
And by my reckoning this could be a huge turning point for the big church to see another way and the smaller mission ommunities to re-connect with the big church.
Let's pray for fruit!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

becoming a human becoming

I paint.
At times.
And I write.
And I study.
And I read.
Books of poetry.
Books about art and spirituality.
Books of fiction.
Particularly American.
But others as well.

I do other things too.
I watch films.
European documentaries.
About bees.
Or nuclear waste.

I like to travel.
And I like lasagne
And coffee.
And funicular railways.

Some of these things I do because I love them.
Some of these tings I do because I am interested in them.
Some of these things I don't so much do because anything.
Some of them I do because they are me.
Puke if you need to.
That is allowed.

Often I pick things up for a while and then put them down again.
Maybe for years.
Maybe just for a few weeks.
But slowly.
I am coming to realise.
As if by an epiphany being printed slowly on a BBC micro computer.
At primary school.
Revealed line by line.
On the paper with the perforated punch holes..
Slowly but surely.
It is being revealed to me.
Who I am.

Before I went to university in 1998 I wanted to articulate something.
To say something.
But my sister was the artist.
So I didn't paint.
And I couldn't write poetry.
The poetry I had encountered never really spoke to me.
So I tried writing heavy metal songs.
But they were garbled and meaningless.
So instead I read.
I didn't say anything.
I read what others had said.
And I related to their words.

At university I studied cultural studies.
So I encountered philosophy.
Religious studies.
De Beauvoir.

And while at university I became very good friends with a poet.
And we talked for hours about Pink Floyd.
Tom Waits.
And I learnt to write what I wanted to write.
And I wrote.
And in 2000 I read poetry at my first poetry festival.
And those poems were the 5 out of 200 or so I'd written that really said what I wanted to say.
(Recently I shreaded the other 195 or so because they weren't really my poems. Just things I had written).
And I kept writing.
I was, for a time separated from a loved one and I spilled my heart in letters and verses.
And then we were reunited and the need to articulate those feelings was gone.
But I kept writing.
And I read at another poetry festival.
And I submitted poems left right and centre.

And then when I started work, I started to use pastels.
The poetry notebooks went away and the pastels and shades appeared.
Greys of five different kinds.
Smudged and scratched.
Blues, light and blues deep.
And I picked up my guitar again.
And I then I got a new job.

And occasionally I would write poetry for that job.
Or even a liturgy.
Or paint something.
I even studied some short courses.
Very occasionally.
It was in a church.
A wonderful community church.
Where the busyness of life and debt took over.
And I stopped writing and painting.
Except for the odd occasion.
But I kept reading.
And I kept yearning to say something.
And I kept scribbling notes.
And ideas.
And thoughts I would like to develop.

And then I went away.
To a place with so much need.
That meeting the needs were so important.
That other things got put down.
But even there crayons and colours had their place.
So I used them.

And then I went to college.
And over time.
I picked things back up.
The paints.
The pen.
The visits to galleries.
And I realised that these things.
Alongside some others.
These things were me.
These things were who I am.
And actually.
Who I have always been.
But I just forgot.
Or never knew.

I began to paint again.
I began to create.
To consider things I had never had the voice to share.
I studied again.
I visited galleries again.
And I wrote again.
And I felt like me.

When I worked with the community church.
The Image of God was paramount.
It focused my every action.
It was central to my motivations.
That others might recognise who God had made them to be.
How God had made them to be.
I wanted to enable others to see themselves as God sees them.

Perhaps now, I am beginning.
Beginning too understand.

To understand what that means for me.
For who God has made me to be.
For what loves and hopes and dreams and desires and aspects of myself are central to my existence.
And maybe I feel.
Maybe I feel that for the first time in so long a time.
Or maybe for the first time, I am becoming a human becoming.
Seeing who I am.
And what I cannot be without.
And this birth is painful.
And it hurts.
And I struggle.
And I don't know what it all means.
And that is a constant shadow.
But then again, even that shadow.
Perhaps that also is who I am.

Who I have been made to be.
So I paint.
And I write.
And I study.
And I long to travel.
And I long to visit exhibitions.

And I look at lost years.
And realise that they weren't lost.
They were the steps towards becoming.
They were the people of Israel on a walk that should last a few weeks.
But that lasts for forty years.
Only for me it wasn't forty years.
Perhaps it was only 32.