Monthly Archives: February 2006

Lent – Going Without?

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Going without This is an article in the BBC online magazine about Thirst For Life, a project from Share Jesus International that is challenging people in the UK to give up alcohol for Lent. Their spokeswoman Emma Morrice says that we don’t need to work so much for things in a consumer society so so we push ourselves to feel more – including alcohol. We also don’t examine things in detail, she claims, thus missing the damage caused by alcohol in our society. (Not sure the latter comment is entirely fair.)

The article asks a psychologist and a philosopher about the merits of giving up something. The psychologist says it is about showing we can exercise some control over our lives. The philosopher thinks it is about clearing our conscience and demonstrating that we we can be virtuous.

In Christian terms the psychologist sounds closer to the Gospel than the philosopher. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. But to prove we are virtuous sounds like what Jesus condemns in the Sermon on the Mount about making a show of our piety (including fasting).

Both contributors, however, miss the Christian notion that this bodily self-discipline is about making sure that Christ and not our appetities is Lord. It is about the devotion of love that will give up something because the Beloved is more important.

Most disturbing, however, is to read the list of comments. So many non-Christians are effectively telling Christians to shut up. Many of the comments read as if Christians are not allowed to campaign for anything. There is real vitriol and hatred of us. Part of that may well be about the reputation we have earned in the past, but it’s also highly worrying that we can’t speak up without being condemned.

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My father-in-law, 1928-2006

As my reader will have noticed I haven’t been blogging for several days: my father-in-law was rushed into intensive care on Saturday following a heart attack and died there on Sunday. I’ve been reflecting on how his lack of interest in spiritual matters has impacted us.

In the immediate aftermath of his death I faced the problem of how to tell our daughter Rebekah who is not quite three. In the end I compared to the death of the family dog last September. Just as the ‘doggy doctor’ wasn’t able to help him any more and Father God and Jesus said to our dog "Come to Heaven where we will make you better," so the doctors hadn’t been able to make Poorly Grand-dad (as she called him) better either, and so likewise Father God and Jesus had taken him to heaven to make him better.

I was dubious about giving this explanation, but it was the only one I could think of. I am by no means a universalist in my theology and while not for one moment would I ever want to do the fire and brimstone routine I didn’t want to tell her something that I’d need to backtrack on later, as if I had lied to her. I have taken refuge in the old approach that you don’t know what goes on between a dying person and God at the end, although I sometimes think that gets trotted out as the get-out-of-jail card.

I have remembered too a man who was always kind towards me and interested in what I was doing. Even if he really didn’t have a clue about my calling and profession, he always showed an interest. For that he was an example to many.

In particular my memory has gone back to his speech at our wedding. When Debbie told him she was going to remarry and to a ‘vicar’ he was quite worried. He knew he would have to watch his language in front of me (not that it seems he had in front of his daughter). To his credit he did his best on that. Only rarely did I hear him blaspheme – which I’ve always considered far worse than words beginning with ‘F’ and ‘C’. It was his way of showing respect – quite a theme in the light of recent events in the news, I think.

He also said that when he knew I was a ‘vicar’ he was worried about meeting me. Apparently what put him at ease was that I turned up wearing jeans. It made me recall the time I made a funeral visit to a young couple whose two-year-old had died of a brain tumour. I explained on the phone when making the appointment that my clerical shirts were in the wash and so I wouldn’t be turning up in a dog collar. At the end of the visit they told me how relieved they were that I had turned up in ‘civvies’. It made them realise I was just like them. They had truly feared meeting a ‘priest’.

That leaves me thinking how sad it is that non-Christians fear meeting
Christians and Christian leaders in this way. How unapproachable are
we? How detached from real life? How holier than thou?

Last Christmas I had to wrap and label my own present from him. I had a bit of fun with the label. On it I put his regular signing-off-on-the-phone expression: ‘All the best’. In a way I wish I could say that to him now, with deeper meaning. Rest in peace. All the best.

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Act of Dedication for a Refurbished Church

My main church will have her refurbished building dedicated by the President of the Methodist Conference on 4th March. I have to write the ‘Act of Dedication’. I want to avoid the pitfalls of making the building an idol and building in a missionary slant. I’m no liturigist, but this is my first draft. The formatting may not come out very evenly here, but all constructive comments are welcome.

Gracious Father,       No
place on earth can limit your presence in your world. But we dedicate this
renewed building to your glory. May it be a home for your family, and a place
of welcome for all:

                                                for
those who are assured of your love;

                                                for
those who are seeking;

                                                and
for all who are broken.

                                   

                                    In
your Name

                                    We dedicate this place.

 

Lord Jesus Christ,         May we
who worship together in this place meet with you here:

in joyfully
offering you our praise and humbly making our confession;

                                                in
listening attentively for your word;

                                                in
our priestly task of interceding for your world;

                                                in
celebrating together your grace in the sacraments;

                                                in
the fellowship of the small group;

                                                in
the conduct of our business;

                                                and
in the offering of this building to the community.

                                   

                                    In
your Name

                                    We dedicate ourselves.

 

Holy Spirit of God,   Empower
your family that gathers in this place to be true disciples of Jesus Christ:

                                                as
we welcome the stranger;

                                 as
we speak your word of love and as we demonstrate it in acts of healing and
justice;

                                    and
as we disperse each week to be the church in the world.

 

Almighty God, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, you are one in a community of love. Grant that your people who
meet here may be known as a community of your love. Through Jesus Christ our
Lord, Amen.

 

                                               

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Act of Dedication for a Refurbished Church

My main church will have her refurbished building dedicated by the President of the Methodist Conference on 4th March. I have to write the ‘Act of Dedication’. I want to avoid the pitfalls of making the building an idol and building in a missionary slant. I’m no liturigist, but this is my first draft. The formatting may not come out very evenly here, but all constructive comments are welcome.

Gracious Father,       No
place on earth can limit your presence in your world. But we dedicate this
renewed building to your glory. May it be a home for your family, and a place
of welcome for all:

                                                for
those who are assured of your love;

                                                for
those who are seeking;

                                                and
for all who are broken.

                                   

                                    In
your Name

                                    We dedicate this place.

 

Lord Jesus Christ,         May we
who worship together in this place meet with you here:

in joyfully
offering you our praise and humbly making our confession;

                                                in
listening attentively for your word;

                                                in
our priestly task of interceding for your world;

                                                in
celebrating together your grace in the sacraments;

                                                in
the fellowship of the small group;

                                                in
the conduct of our business;

                                                and
in the offering of this building to the community.

                                   

                                    In
your Name

                                    We dedicate ourselves.

 

Holy Spirit of God,   Empower
your family that gathers in this place to be true disciples of Jesus Christ:

                                                as
we welcome the stranger;

                                 as
we speak your word of love and as we demonstrate it in acts of healing and
justice;

                                    and
as we disperse each week to be the church in the world.

 

Almighty God, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, you are one in a community of love. Grant that your people who
meet here may be known as a community of your love. Through Jesus Christ our
Lord, Amen.

 

                                               

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You Know It’s All Going Pear-Shaped When …

… the congregation doesn’t know four of the six songs or hymns you’ve chosen; when they don’t know the opening traditional hymn and the keyboard has that plinky-plonky sound of a 1970s Dean Friedman record. Was ‘Lift High The Cross’ going to mutate into ‘Lucky Stars’?

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You Know It’s All Going Pear-Shaped When …

… the congregation doesn’t know four of the six songs or hymns you’ve chosen; when they don’t know the opening traditional hymn and the keyboard has that plinky-plonky sound of a 1970s Dean Friedman record. Was ‘Lift High The Cross’ going to mutate into ‘Lucky Stars’?

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Danish Cartoons – a sane Christian view?

Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance has some sane things to say here about the violent controversy over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad:

Respect is what you say about me – third of four lectures

True respect, says Edwards, is based for Christians on the notion that all humans are made in the image of God.

I would go on to say that a Christian response would therefore be alarmed when satire crosses the line into abuse and deliberate insult. There is much talk of freedom of speech, but what is freedom in a Christian sense? It is not freedom to do or say what I please: we are set free to do what is right. As such, freedom is not autonomous. And in this sense we should be critical of secular European liberal values. (And it’s curious to see American Christian commentators adopting these values so uncritically.)

But by the same token Christians should be equally alarmed by the violent overtones of the more militant protests. There is no sense of respect there. Nor indeed is there in parts of the Muslim world where it is apparently perfectly acceptable to draw cartoons depicting all Americans as paedophiles. I welcome the more moderate Muslim protests, but even then they would gain more credibility if they condemned not only the violent protests but also the vicious caricatures perpetrated in Muslim cartoons.

Does either side come out of this well?

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Internet Evangelism Day 2006 Is Coming

See this link re 7th May:

Media contacts for interview and press releases with news of Internet Evangelism Day

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We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto

Useful stuff in this link from the St Vincent Pallotti Center for evaluating where you are missionally in transitioning from your ‘Kansas’ (place of origin) to your ‘Oz’ (place of mission):

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

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We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto

Useful stuff in this link from the St Vincent Pallotti Center for evaluating where you are missionally in transitioning from your ‘Kansas’ (place of origin) to your ‘Oz’ (place of mission):

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

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