Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mrs Beamish

I'm loving this!

Do dogs have souls ?(part twelve)

Following my doggie's misdemeanours, I was quite taken with this - h/t Creedal Christian.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Strumming my pain with his fingers

I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style.
And so I came to see him to listen for a while.
And there he was this young boy, a stranger to my eyes.
Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song,
Telling my whole life with his words.

Today's gospel reading of the Samaritan woman who has a life changing encounter with Jesus at the well always brings  to mind for me the song below. The emotions conveyed, of an intimacy that is almost unbearable and of a feeling of being completely known and understood, sum up what might of been the response of so many of the fallen women of the gospel to someone who reached out in complete knowledge and love.
I think that the Samaritan woman at the well would have faced a lot of pain in her life and that she lived with "dark despair". Those who met her would not have seen the pain or the despair, but only have seen those things which they felt made her unworthy and perhaps less than human to them. I expect she tried to conceal her past as much as she could, that she lived with secrecy and fear of others knowledge being used as a weapon against her.
The moment at the well when Jesus tells her all the details of her life and yet reaches out to her is so intimate it is almost sexual, although the love shown is completely  pure and holy. Many mystics have portrayed God as a lover, it is not for nothing that his suffering and death have been termed the passion, and in this encounter Jesus woos the woman's soul with knowledge, power and love - and I think a certain audacity and panache!

Warning: your faith could make you fat!

According to an American study, going to church can make you fat. Now there are some reasons put forward, such as blaming it on all the social gatherings, your average Church barbeque can rack up 3,000 calories per person, but I am not terribly convinced. There's all that fasting Christians do for a start - you are all fasting aren't you? It is Lent, you know :)  I also suspect that  secular folks also socialise and snack on biscuits, and staying in bed on a Sunday morning rather than hoofing it to the local place of worship can't be  calorie burning - though I suppose it does depend what you do while you stay in bed...
Anyway, for anyone whose congregation is looking a bit porky a short aerobic workout at the start of every service should get the faithful to limber up fast. Come on now, let's have a little enthusiasm...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Justice and mercy

While covering the A level syllabus I find that the older texts, written in an age steeped in Christian teaching and theology, are the most enjoyable and challenging to teach to twenty first century teenagers. Shakespearean and Jacobean drama presents challenges, not only in terms of understanding the language used, but also in grasping concepts and ideas which are now quite alien. Yet good literature, although written for a very different society, tends to deal with issues and truths which transcend any moment in history. Measure for Measure, which we have been studying this term,  has provoked some interesting debate about whether we emphasise retribution or reformation in dealing with transgressors, whether we take account of mitigating circumstances, the intention or the consequences of our actions and how it is impossible to get "justice" right.

Angelo, one of the central characters of the play, is a puritan who has no doubts about pursuing justice at the expense of mercy. He is also guilty of greater sin than those he condemns and the play seems to swing towards mercy as the greater and more divine attribute. Rather  than being a wholly modern and woolly liberal sentiment, this sense of mercy as most truly divine was evident in former times. The contrast between human and divine justice is also key; God's justice is perfect as he sees the heart, human justice is of necessity flawed. It has amazed me recently to read many conservative blogs discussing Bell's universalism and harping upon hell as "justice for all."  Just as strikingly there is  a seeming obliviousness to the Christian concept that judging is best left to God, we judge at our peril. I think Shakespeare would have smiled and thought that across the centuries puritans do not change their spots.

I leave you with Isabella's plea to Angelo to  realise his own frailty and humanity, and in that  knowledge of his own vulnerablity to find the divine quality of mercy. It is a good message for Lent and Easter as well.

                                          Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once;

                                          And He that might the vantage best have took
                                          Found out the remedy. How would you be,
                                          If He, which is the top of judgment, should
                                          But judge you as you are? O, think on that;
                                          And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
                                          Like man new made.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Guilty conscience?

The rest of the chicken tikka masala you left on the side has gone? Someone must have eaten it? Sorry, I've absolutely no idea...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Remember kids, hell is hot!

A fantastic post from Clayboy, the sort of stuff that I read and find myself nodding in agreement throughout.
I think the wisdom of this response is that it doesn't try to do away with hell, but it acknowledges the problems it raises about a God with a time limit on his love and redemptive powers. I particularly liked this section:
"I’m an agnostic about what exactly the metaphor of hell might refer to, other than a promise that injustice, and hate and hurt will be swept away, and no-one will do evil any more. Whether that is achieved by an extinguishing punishment of the evil-doers, or the transformative re-inscribing of goodness in their hearts, I do not know.

As I’ve said before, I lack the imagination to envisage how God might transform the truly evil. If I’m honest, I also probably lack the love to want him to do so. Then again, I’m part of what God needs to change. My limitations are not necessarily God’s. That’s probably a good thing."

Bell is not alone in finding that his personal insight into a loving God has led to doubts about hell. 1700 years ago, St Origen suggested that even the devil would be saved at last and Julian of Norwich in her visions also had a glimpse that the plan of an all loving God went further than angrily hurling the rejects into an ever burning furnace.

"It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day, and when that deed shall be done and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ, and shall be until it has been done. -- This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast, only known to himself, and by this deed he shall make all things well; for just as the Holy Trinity made all things from nothing, so the Holy Trinity shall make all well that is not well.

"And I wondered greatly at this revelation, and considered our faith, wondering as follows: our faith is grounded in God’s word, and it is part of our faith that we should believe that God’s word will be kept in all things; and one point of our faith is that many shall be damned, -- And given all this, I thought it impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord revealed at this time.~ And I received no other answer in showing from our Lord God but this: “What is impossible to you is not impossible to me. I shall keep my word in all things and I shall make all things well.”

What I have found rather disturbing is the sheer fury of some evangelicals at  Bell's doubts, and the shouts of "heretic". How reluctant some are to be deprived of the thought of  God sending sinners - and they are usually thinking of sinners other than themselves -to hell. I suspect some would hate to be deprived of the ability to threaten (on God's behalf of course) sinners other than themselves with eternal damnation.

If I were to define hell, I would say that hell is separation from God and from the divine within ourselves. Julian of Norwich wrote that "no greater hell was shown to me than sin." Once we start to long to send each other to hell we are a little closer to that place where we cannot see God ourselves.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Going ga-ga

Have to say that I was rather amused by this parody of Lady Gaga's Born this Way song -  they keep playing it in the gym, so it has been visited on me too many times without my consent, this feels like revenge!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Apologies to anyone who is finding the content of the blog a bit depressing and heavy recently, but I keep getting sent these videos, and I keep thinking that I should share them. The petition referred to is here if you are interested.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The green shoots of Lent

Lent is often seen as a time of self denial and self discipline; it can be approached with a mindset that emphasises the mortification of sinful desires and an attitude of mind that “oe’r its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.” On the other hand, and just as bad in my opinion, Lent can be reduced to a kind of formula for self improvement, a chance to detox the body and mind and feel rather good and self righteous into the bargain.

I do not like the idea of self imposed suffering, but I am glad we have Lent as a metaphor to express the deserts and wildernesses that we often experience. At the heart of the Christian faith is a focus on suffering, pain and anguish and this is powerful quite simply because suffering in all its forms is the greatest theological quandary. At the heart of Christianity there is a suffering God, one who experienced both intense anguish, but also the bleakness of the wilderness, hunger, loneliness and the temptation just to take an easier option.

Metaphors are all fine, but when it comes to the actual practicalities of Lent, I don’t approach it as a time of sackcloth and ashes. There is plenty of suffering in life without it being self imposed, I have learnt my lesson and I never give anything up and don’t spend a moment weeping with self loathing! I see Lent as a time for making room for God and an opportunity for growth. It also coincides with spring, and the idea of retreat to somewhere remote brings thoughts of peace and profound healing and, after so much turbulence, a still small voice of calm.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Perfect technique!

I hope you've got your wrist action sorted. Enjoy your pancakes tonight!