Monday, 21 April 2014

Militant atheists?

 So several prominent British humanists have written to the Times objecting to Cameron's description of Britain as a Christian country, saying this is not accurate. Well, I am pretty lukewarm towards politicians who bring up religion anyway as I am cynical enough to wonder whether the desire for votes lies behind the show of piety. I also think the objectors may have a point querying the christian nature of modern day Britain. However, I laughed out loud when I heard on the radio today that one of the signatories (can't remember who it was) had said he was "offended" because Cameron might be implying you couldn't be fully British without being Christian. Offended by something which may or may not have been implied - and most likely wasn't! Offended, really?
To quote the teenagers I know, "get over yourself!"
 They're an arid bunch at times aren't they? I really don't care for militant atheists any more than any other form of extremist.I suppose it is good to know that the different camps can be equally pompous and silly.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday in Creole

I found this clip from the Patois bible online a few weeks ago. I was looking for examples of Jamaican Creole as we have to teach about pidgins and creoles for A2 English Language. I loved hearing such a familiar story in this form and hope you do too.
Happy Easter.

Friday, 18 April 2014

"He opened his arms of love upon the cross"

So goes a line in the liturgy. There are so many ways of seeing the Crucifixion, but one of the most accessible  interpretations  is that Jesus died to "show us how much he loved us", or to use scripture, that God so loved the world that he sent his only son. You might think that the line above from the liturgy reflects a relatively modern understanding- the touchy feely aspect of God rather than something more daunting and controversial, such penal substitution." Surprisingly though, the quote about opening arms is attributed to Hippolytus, right back in the third century.
                          Hoping you feel the embrace of Love this Good Friday:)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Surprising Easter

Today, Maundy Thursday, has been my first chance to get some time to myself and to really appreciate the fact that it is Holy Week. A few weeks ago I planted some seeds- I'd almost forgotten about them until this afternoon when I found several small but distinctive shoots in evidence, tender green emerging through the soil.
Maybe it is just me, but I always feel a sense of delight and something akin to surprise when I see that a seed I've planted has grown. It is a tiny miracle that the shrivelled, tiny seed has that potential. Today it reminded me of the words of Jesus to his disciplines, "unless a seed falls into the earth and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it produces much fruit." Holy Week is a week of highs and lows and of surprise and paradox- meekness and majesty,  triumph from shame, life through death. It is a journey to the bleakest places, disappointment, fear, humiliation, rejection, betrayal, loss, grief, suffering and death, and then beyond to a garden where a tomb is transformed into a surprising symbol of hope and life because of the power of love and sacrifice. It is so outrageous as to provoke doubt, there is whiff of a conjuring trick and plenty of room for the doubting Thomas in us all.
Steven Turner cleverly plays on our ambiguous attitude to Easter in the poem below. By using the structure of a joke, he draws attention to our questioning, our inability to understand, our tendency to scoff or to dilute the message of Easter and, in his final "knock, knock", the message that Easter is not a riddle which we can fathom but a call to encounter the risen Christ for ourselves.

Poem for Easter

Tell me:
What came first
Easter or the egg?
or daffodils?
Three days in a tomb
or four days in Paris?
(returning  Bank Holiday Monday.)

When is a door
not a door?
When it is rolled away.
When is a body
not a body?
When it is a risen.

Why was it the Saviour rode on the cross?
To get us
to the other side.

Behold I stand.
Behold I stand and what?
Behold I stand at the door and

knock knock. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Vicars are just so multi-talented these days! (Don't worry, he doesn't break dance or anything...)

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Praise to the Lord

A wonderful hymn of praise to a God who defends the weak and vulnerable and befriends us with his love, goodness and mercy.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
Come ye who hear, brothers and sisters draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration

Praise to the Lord
Who o'er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings
Yea, so gladly sustaineth
Hast thou not seen all that is needful hath been
Granted in what He ordaineth

Praise to the Lord
Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Doing Lent badly

I'm not sure I am really that good at doing Lent. I've written before about how I prefer to see it as a time of growth and renewal rather than of deprivation and guilt. There are quite enough real Lents around without having to play act pain or suffering. I firmly resist doing things like giving up chocolate or alcohol just because I've tried it before an don't personally feel that brings me any closer to God.
What I do try to do in Lent is find a little time to read and pray regularly, and I sometimes pick a theme to meditate on throughout Lent. This year all of that has gone right out of the window simply because, having agreed to cover an absent colleague's classes, there's been no time to do anything. I had planned to mark the start of Lent, as I usually do, by attending the Ash Wednesday service in town but unfortunately I had a meeting on the same evening that didn't end until late. I guess it's not a good enough excuse.
So we were asked today in Church to think about what Jesus would make of our lives at this moment. I have no idea and I am not sure it is an easy question to answer. The gospels contain a warning about people who had looked at their lives through the human lens and genuinely thought they were doing pretty well. I am thinking of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers or the tax collector or of the rich young ruler, who was probably looking for a bit of a pat on the back for having kept all the commandments, or of Peter when he asked how many times he should forgive, knowing he had the "right" answer.
 Lent shouldn't offer a lot of space for complacency, and one of my fears about it is that Lenten discipline can be in itself a kind of egotism- in fact how often do we reflect upon the real danger  that religious faith can be a cover for a sort of smug, self satisfied egotism, even when our intentions, our desire to be "good" is well meant?  So much of what we do is about ourselves and meeting our own needs even if that is the need to feel righteous or at least less guilty.What is asked of us is mercy and compassion over routine sacrifice and , while I like to fool myself that I am quite good at compassion, it hasn't yet led me to give all I own to the poor...
 Lent should strip us bare of  our masks and make us recognise how utterly inadequate we are, not because we need to wallow in guilt for the sake of it, more because we need to understand the reality of our collective and personal human frailty. As Jesus once said, "Why do you call me good? Only God is good." Until we acknowledge that we all do Lent, and life, badly, we do not understand our need for the cross or the hope offered by an empty tomb.