Wednesday, 31 December 2008

More Tidbits + Advance warning of Jan F2F

Been a bit quiet over the festive period. Who says Xmas on the beach is only for Aussies - here are a few things from my festive surfing trips.

1) Naked Pastor on the morning after... reality is not always sexy

2) Mark flagged an event below and I want to try and get to one of these. Lets try and get a proper calender on the site so we can put all this stuff in one place with links etc and poss get chance to go to a few things together.

3) Nice quote that echoed with some of my excitement about rediscovering the trinity in 2008 -Once there was a time when the whole creation formed a single dancing chorus looking upward in the harmony of that motion to the... leader of the dance. Gregory of Nyssa 4c from BMC

4) Wonderful quote from JollyBlogger on his observations from marriage counselling - "I think I think that we could improve many marriages if we could treat one another as enemies. In fact, I think that in many cases the relationship could improve immeasurably if Christians could elevate their spouse to that of an enemy.
Biblically, the Christian is called to love his/her enemy. According to Matthew 5 the Christian doesn't retaliate against his enemy, gives twice what the enemy asks, works twice as hard for the enemy as the enemy wants and blesses the one who treats them badly.
I'm thinking that if I weren't a Christian I would want to be the enemy of a Christian, because that's a pretty sweet deal relationally.
I think I think that many Christian marriages could be a little heaven on earth if the partners would quit worrying about what it means to be a "Christian husband" or "Christian wife" and just learn how to relate to one another as enemies".
Jolly Blogger

5) Brilliant story of a Pastor who abandoned his church

6) COE Bish's get their mitres dirty at Xmas

Next Engage F2F, 12th Jan - thinking of cooking a meal with a good few courses over at mine and inviting all sorts (even you!) to join in a conversation along the lines of 'Christians are (supposed to be?) better people'- discuss. I want to share a few scripture readings and quotes and also get others views on it all (and poss capture some via twitter? etc). I'll post some more potential prep links/reading etc soon but - How's that sound?

Monday, 29 December 2008

The World to Come...?

A Sheffield Conference asking: How can people of faith respond to the challenges posed by some of the root causes of conflict and insecurity in our contemporary society?

Keynote speaker: Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University.

Date: 25th April 2009

Could be a good Engage day out. (?)

For more information, click here.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas

And here's to eking out some meaning today.

I sang this last night and felt bad about it -
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.
Sure you can guess why - I ain't poor and 'just' my heart/personal piety seems like a convenient cop out.
Yet Christina Rossetti who wrote it, although famous in her day, grew up poor, with a refugee father and her own deteriorating mental health. So I need to be careful with my bah humbugs.
So then, lets enjoy a Christmas of exploring the story, chewing on it like a turkey dinner and savouring the many flavours, views and voices. Lets explore it unabashedly with our hearts as God is incarnate now in us*. And lets continue to be dissatisfied by all the chintz and clutter as we explore what our gift to the world may be.
*Free Christmas Tidbit- Luke uses the same phrase 'come upon' about the Spirit and Mary Lk 1:35 and in describing the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost

Monday, 22 December 2008

Sneak a peek at a couple of gifts

My gift to Pete Rollins this year seems to be a boost on technorati but at the risk of over exposure I thought you would enjoy a great little pod from Icon re a political reading of the Xmas story and also referring to the creation story - hence the image (hmmm... you want to listen now don't you). There is also another short one on here from Pete's new book for next year re Parables (Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales) - Mark - think you will like this one on the rapture.

Click here for both

Friday, 19 December 2008

Roll(ins) over for a Tickle

Great little series of short youtube vids with Pete Rollins and Phyllis Tickle discussing 'the great emergence' at the recent GE gathering in the States here.

Check Phyllis' book here.

'Do they know it's Christmas' - Yes... but I guess they are hoping for something different this year

Following our reflections around Xmas on Monday the situation in Zimbabwe seems to be crying out for some Liberation. See what you can do to be part of the frustrating, waiting, but pregnant story of freedom here.

Tendero - if you are out there - what do you think is the most important thing for us to do as we join in the hope of freedom, health and peace for your people?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Get In! (out)

Get in! - BREAKING NEWS - this looks like a serious break through

Wrong Channel

Took me a little!
Work's in so many ways.
Good on you NP and Happy Christmas to you and family

Dark Jesus

Bit of a follow on from Mark's post and certainly tooooo good to not pass on (as Mike Morell said if you saw it on Zoecarnate)- click for larger version.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Cross & the Lynching Tree

Well, your editor-in-chief has been back to the cutting room floor to edit another video! Unfortunately, I need to give the same caveat to this film I gave to my last - there are some grim scenes/themes in it! I'm going to get a reputation if I'm not careful!

I wanted to get away from the some of the abstract ways in which the cross is understood and wanted to express the idea of the cross as it really was - a violent lynching. How do you do that without making people think about violence? But I have tried hard to limit the number violent images and certainly avoided at all costs the kind of gratuitous violence of the Mel Gibson variety - a morbid fascination with violence does not interest me, but an interest in understanding the cross for what it really is, is important to me.

I would like to have used Billie Holliday's version of 'Strange Fruit' because there is nothing quite like the haunting brilliance of her performance, sung by someone who knew first hand what lynching was all about. Unfortunately her style just wouldn't allow me to dub over it. You can see her performance here.

I have dubbed over an interview with James Cone. The full interview is worth listening to. You can see it here.

I am still very much aware of the limitations of my film making skills, so please forgive this.

James Cone has said, “The crucifixion of Jesus was a 1st century lynching and it was very violent. Jesus was lynched. Well, America has a tradition of lynching. America lynched more than 5,000 black people in this land. lf we understand the cross correctly we will see it as Jesus being a victim of lynching, a victim of violence… At the heart of the Christian faith is God taking upon God’s self the suffering of the victim. So, Christians in this society want to understand what the cross was all about they have to see it through the lynching experience… When you see a lynched black body that’s who God is. God is present in that body just like God was present in Jesus’ cross. So the cross is very violent in which God is taking the violence of sin and the world upon God’s self… We have to become identified with lynched black victims. If we can’t do that we can’t be identified with the crucifixion of Jesus…The cross is God taking the side of the victim…If the powerful in our society… want to become Christians they have to give up that power and become identified with the powerless,"

Monday, 15 December 2008

Engage Advent Liturgy/Meditation

Here is a meditation we did tonight. Mark also did a great session on reading the Christmas story from the perspective of the oppressed. We all took on different characters to be as the story from Luke was read - A Guantanamo inmate, a trafficked woman, an asylum seeker, black slave, etc etc. It was amazing and we really benefited from the voices Robert Spooner and Tendero, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker (from ASSIST) - hey I would never have guessed in a million years the stuff Tendero brought to the story. Love it - different /global perspectives rock!

Anyway the med was partly, and totally gratefully, nicked from Iona and the phenomenal Cheryl Lawrie and a bit of me. Get it here and get the audio to play over the top here (thanks ubiquitous Sigur Ros and less so Ulrich Shnauss). Set off audio then launch slide show straight away to sync it.

So, if you were there tonight - what are you carrying with you from it? I'll kick off and please do join in sharing your reflections via the comments button below.

Look out for the next enagage F2F in Jan if you missed this one - muppet! :-)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dance God Bear, Dance

Flicking through GodTV type channels (I know I know!) and a passionate guys was, I am sure sincerely, trying to help people live a full life - you know 'prosperity'. Anyway the guy said an amazing thing - "You must know how to activate the release of gods favour"

Wow - what a thing to say. No doubt this would then be followed by the exact process (e.g prayer of Jabez type stuff, donate(read buy) to get my prayer cloth etc etc) to follow to twist God's arm and make him dance

What an outrageous conceit, surely total idolatry, perhaps even divine puppetry - mastering the master to have him do our bidding. Who is God in this equation?
It reminded me of reading How (not) to Speak of God by Pete Rollins. Although he is tackling our intellectual/systemising reduction of God, this prosperity gospel stuff is surely another version of boxing and using God for our own purposes - Yikes - that ain't right! - but its always a danger.
Here are some quotes from Rollins that came to mind:

“God is not the object of our thoughts, but rather, he is the “absolute subject before whom we are the object.”

“To take our ideas of the divine and hold them as if they correspond to the reality of God is thus to construct a conceptual idol built from the materials of our mind”
“Christians testify to having been caught up in and engulfed by that which utterly transcends them.”
H(N)TSOG - get it on the Christmas list (alternatively stick with a little God you can keep on tight reins)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tip Off

Tip off -

Great reflection on 'house church' and its legacy in lives (might be topical!:-))

Advent Conspiracy podcast from the Homebrew crew

Advent reflections from Mars Hill (Rob Bell)

Checkout great sermon called 'beware the dogs' from RB from excellent series on Philippians (quick - its a 12 week rolling gig)

Naked Pastors, 12c Carols, Gauntanamo - just another advent...

Our friend Naked Pastor posting close to our hearts -

Weird but this is a clip is from a (12 century!) carol has come up again and again for me this advent. It seems to tie into so many themes I have been chewing recently - around the Hebrew hope/(humanities hope?) for a new exodus, about 1 John's dawning of something new, the powerful/powerless grace,goodness & peace of God, the nature of atonement, wrestling with God, our hope for and role in the future. Its not a perfect carol but it seems to ring some seriously significant bells and I presume it would be hard to sing this Christmas in Guantanamo. Check it here- what does it stir in you?

I reckon it was written by a 12c 'emergent'! (Shock news - the idea of the Gospel being about everything/now is not new!)
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, And be yourself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Wow you look great God

I really like this blog and this post is a short, sweet but important one re the dangers of making God over in our image. I don't think this risk is unique to contextual theology, its a besetting sin of both biblical and systematic versions too. Good prompt though, no matter which side of which fence you sit on, as Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, " You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do ..."

Theology is looking in a mirror dimly not a 20/20 reflection of myself. Hey if God's just like me we are all in trouble!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sprained finger TV

I find these TV stations a bit like a sprained finger - It hurts but I cant stop wiggling it for the sensation. (ASBO Jesus is like clearasil - spot on again)

Upside down thinking

Click on image for more(less)

Someday us be free

We are accustomed to hearing about the ways in which the Christian religion has been used as a tool to oppress. Of course, it has been used in this way. One black slave in America recorded,

“Those who were Christians [and] held slaves were the hardest masters. A card-player and a drunkard wouldn’t flog you half to death. Well, it is something like this – the Christians will oppress you more.”

Such a comment is certainly sobering. However, there is another side that is not pointed out quite as often about the way the Christian religion has been a force for liberation. I love this quote by a black slave:

“My Uncle, Ben, he could read de Bible and he allus tells us some day us be free. And Massa Henry laugh, “haw, haw, haw.” And he say, “Hell, no, yous never be free. You ain’t got sense ‘nuf to make de living, if yous was free.” Den he takes de Bible ‘way from Uncle Ben and say it put de bad ideas in he head. But Uncle gits ‘nother Bible and hides it, and Massa never finds out.”

If we can use the Bible to liberate or oppress we need to ensure we choose the former rather than the latter.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

No one wants our guilt for Christmas

Reading some great liberation theology stuff this morning and came out with overwhelming message -

'The poor do not want our guilt they want our power to become their power'

Sounds like an important theme for our guilty reflections on our consumer Christmas and our considerations of the incarnation - the power the poor Christ child brought into the world and the way he used it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Christmas & Poverty

Christmas can be and often is a very difficult time not only for the poor but for those that by the standards of the majority of the world are rich indeed. It is not the meaning of Christmas or the bible story of Christmas that makes it so, but rather piles of dubious expectations that have been placed upon it, especially by western culture. The cultural lore that has made Santa Claus or his equivalent into a representative of materialism makes it hard for those who cannot attain the levels of giving and getting that are promoted by the commercial world. The deep and growing divisions between the haves and have nots are abundantly clear at Christmas in many places of the world. The reality is, however, that the commercialism in the West that undermines the true celebration of the birth of God’s gift of hope to the world also deadens our sense of connection to the majority of God’s children who live each day in poverty. Christmas calls us to reflect upon our relationship to poverty at many levels. Failure to do so distorts our souls and weakens our spirits.

The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem is remembered because of who Jesus was, what he taught, how he lived, died, and was raised. Jesus himself probably did not grow up in abject poverty, but he certainly heard the cry of the poor throughout his ministry. He saw the results of the Roman occupation and the ways injustice and unabated power create conditions of poverty and its resulting suffering, humiliation, and hopelessness. His mission to the impoverished proclaimed by both word and deed that God stands with the poor and the oppressed against the evils of tyranny, inequity, oppression and greed. Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim scriptures convey the same message. If we neglect the poor and oppressed, if we do not share our wealth, if we turn away from the lost, the least, and the last, we have not truly heard the word of God. It is not just the condition of the poor that is at issue. It is also the condition of our own souls.

The celebration of Christmas at its best is the celebration of hope. There is hope for the poor. There is hope for justice. There is hope for peace. There is hope because Jesus was born as the Word: “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us.” God reached down into human history and declared that nothing, not angels or powers or things past or things to come, nor any creature can separate us from the love of God that was born in Bethlehem as the
embodiment of hope. So let us sort through the piles of crass materialism that contemporary Christmas too often offers, through the piles of meaningless gestures of the holidays, through the piles of denial of the dismal poverty that infects our planet, seeking once again the birth of hope. May our gift giving always include those who live in want. But even more may we give the gift of ourselves to those institutions and structures that seek to address the poverty of Gaza and the West Bank, the poverty of the vast majority of humanity, not with handouts but with political and economic action. Let us hold up the reality of life for our impoverished sisters and brothers to those whose policies create their misery. Let us hold fast to the message of the birth of Jesus which always points to the realm of God in which there are no poor, where justice reigns, and where peace is not a dream but a reality. And on Christmas Eve and whenever
we give and receive gifts, let us give thanks for the ever-present Christmas.

by Robert W. Tobin

Coming - Advent Reflection

Really getting into 'Advent' this year - over and above the cheesy/chocolaty advent calender thing. Even with my CofE background the church I went to was so low we missed out on lots of the wonderful church calender stuff that i am now appreciating much more.

Anyway simple thoughts on 'Advent'

  • Advent is from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming"
  • Adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia ("coming, arrival, personal presence")
  • Its a period of expectant waiting and preparation
  • Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians today as they await the second coming of Christ
  • These days I see the expectant waiting and preparation as less passive and more proactive
  • In fact the bible story invites us to be part of the 'coming'
  • The coming of the kingdom of God, a totally different empire than the one that the Xmas stories set themselves up to subvert (Herod 'king of the Jews', Emperor Caeser)
  • The coming of Peace, 'Goodwill to all men', grace, love, justice, healing, the transforming power of powerlessness
  • God becoming incarnate in humanity in order to save, rescue and redeem humanity
  • Advent then seems now to also be about our part in that becoming incarnate / coming of God and his presence and in the reconciling of all things in him
  • In Christ God came, in helpless babe
  • For those who are now 'In Christ' we are also the helpless babes of his coming who will grow in grace and good deeds as apprentices of Jesus and followers of his way, as instruments of peace, as God's own gift to the world.

Perhaps everyday is an advent calender day when we open the door to the surprise possibilities of Gods coming in and through us.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

JD Crossan on the Xmas Story - Peace, another King/Saviour - what you talk'in 'bout fool?

V thought provoking podcast from the Homebrewed crew (they are on the podcast bar on the right)

This is JD Crossan talking about the Xmas stories - might be good prep for the 'Christmas form the underside' F2F on Monday.
Perhaps most people would have said - 'What do you mean 'peace on earth', a king/saviour - we all ready got it (Caesar)' So what is the story saying?
Muse on through Advent.

Close Guantanamo Video!

At last, I've managed to upload the Guantanamo video we watched at the event last week.

Aldous Huxley said, "The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human". Hopefully, this goes some way towards correcting that.

Be warned, it is not easy watching:

Also, here are the links for anyone who hasn't managed to take action on Guantanamo yet: (write to your MP about Binyam Mohamed) (e-mail Mr Bush)

Also, why not visit YouTube and give my video a good star rating?

Monday, 1 December 2008

From the mouth of babes!

I told my kids a story over dinner and asked them what it meant. It was a story about a master who had three slaves. He told the slaves he was going away for a while, but would be back. He gave the first slave £5 and told him to invest the money while he was gone.

I says, "What do you mean, invest the money?"

I told him that if someone needs money you can lend them the money, but they don't give you back what you lent them. They give you back more.

Immediately, I could see I's face. He seemed incredulous. "Does that still happen now?"

"Yes", I said, "that's how we get money if we need it".

"That's not fair."

"What do you think they should do instead?"

"They should give them the money if they need it."

"Or, they could just ask them to pay back what they borrowed and not ask for more?", I suggest

"Yes", he replied.

Anyway, I carried on with the story. I said that he went to the 2nd slave and gave him £2 to invest and the third slave £1 to invest.

"He's got favourites", said C.

"Anyway", I said, trying to carry on the story, "when he returned the 1st slave said that he had invested it and made an extra £5. The master said that he was a good and faithful servant. The 2nd slave said that he had earned an extra £2. The master said that he was a good and faithful servant. The 3rd slave said that he knew the master was cruel and harsh, so he he buried the £1 he had been given. The master sent him out to be punished."

"So, what's the story about?"

"I think he's greedy", says C.

"He's just interested in taking poor people's money", says I

"and he has favourites", says C.

"I think the story is about the situation now," says I.

I couldn't help thinking that two kids hearing the story afresh so instinctively get what the story is about, whilst theologians have got their knickers in a twist about strange interpretations because they can't help thinking Jesus is the master. For some interesting debate about its meaning see here.

Stuff Bank

I was reading something on sustainable lifestyles yesterday and I remember a quote something like this
'Do you really need to own the thing or just use it?'
What a great question. I was part of a household church about 12 years ago and when we got together one of the things we did was make a massive list of all our stuff that we would be happy to lend out to others in the group / our wider network. No pressure, purely voluntary and only stuff you were happy to get back in 'used' condition! It was great as Heather and I were skint in a bedsit (affectionately known as the 'damp cave') and it really helped us not to mention the way we could reach out to others with our stuff. It was a great way of subverting our individualized (or 'nuclear familyized') ideas of community, 'property/ownership', consumerism etc and it made massive eco sense - not to mention the way it was, in a strange but beautiful way, good for our individual and communal soul.
Bit like freecycle idea (maybe we should start/join a group) but the stuff doesn't even need to change hands (though that's good too) - its more about living open handed.
So if you need something just ask! Anyone for hedge trimmers?! Stuff Bank - its the way forward...

1st Sunday in Advent Liturgy

The Lectionary Liturgies are in our Links (bottom right) but this is a great kick off Advent liturgy.

Maybe we could do this (or some of it) or similar at our Xmas session 8/12, or maybe someone wants to write one for us?

The old 'morning bell' is doing a great series in advent so make sure you are hooked up here

Guantanamo for kids

I recently attended a good and productive meeting that raised my awareness of Guantanamo Bay and the human rights issues related to such detention camps.

A few days later I spent a short time scribbling down some words…

Abused physically
Abused emotionally
Abused sexually
Abused ritually
Abused habitually

Abused by those who house them
Abused by those who feed them
Abused by those who clothe them
Abused by their “carers”
Abused by their “keepers”

Abused for the satisfaction of others
Abused behind closed doors

No rights
No voice
No-where to go
No escape
No justice
No hope
No-one to help

Utterly innocent

Who will intervene?

These words may conjure up all sorts of images and emotions, and you might be surprised to see the line “Utterly innocent” in there. Even at the meeting it was acknowledged that not all the detainees in Guantanamo were “whiter than white”.

But this poem is not about Guantanamo Bay. It is about child cruelty in this country, and it attempts to show the similarity of experience between the detainee in Guantanamo and the child just down your street. The poem is entitled “Guantanamo for kids”.

Please take the time to re-read this poem in light of such child abuse and you must surely agree that “Utterly innocent” is utterly appropriate.

The NSPCC estimates that 1 child is killed by a parent every 10 days in the UK, and that there are over 35,000 children on Child Protection Plans in the UK at the moment (some of those children are yet to be born).

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering say there are another 64, 000 children currently in local authority care.

There are thousands of seriously abused and broken children who have been separated from their families through the courts, and social workers ensure me these children are just the tip of the iceberg.

I was pleased to go to the meeting about Guantanamo Bay, but I feel there is a limit to what I can do. I can raise awareness. I can attempt to apply political pressure. I can pray. But I cannot go in and release the captives. And even then, would my responsibility stop there? Surely we must consider the whole process of physical and emotional restoration for these captives once they are released? Who will be there for them once they are released?

But what about those children in this country, those on the “tip of the iceberg” who have been released from their chains (although some will fall straight back into new chains in our imperfect “in care” system) or those who are still secret and hidden. What about their release? What about their physical and emotional restoration? What about their renewal? Who will consider that? Who will consider them? Can I do more than raise awareness, apply political pressure and pray?

In Isaiah 58, God is rebuking his people for just “going through the motions” when it comes to their seeking of God and their worship of Him. He doesn’t want their unimpressive and duplicitous fasts / acts of worship. God says…

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Worship of God is not just about letting “the oppressed go free” but about bringing “the homeless poor into your house”.

These children need to be bought into a good and caring house, a new house, and all the Adoption Agencies agree with that. This new house is the context for their healing, for their restoration, for their receiving of unconditional love. I hope and pray that providing this house / home / family is what God would have me do for just one of the thousands of those “tip of the iceberg” kids who have been released but now need restoration.

God wants his people to “bring the homeless poor into your house”, and in doing so, God reveals His character through us. After all, this is what God has done for us, isn’t it? Yes, he has “released” us who were captives to sin and death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But he has not left us there, broken from our experience. He also re-houses, re-families and re-parents us by adopting us into His family and His house for the purpose of true restoration and renewal.

God has done more than release us captives. He has bought us, the homeless poor, into His house, his place for renewal and restoration. What and how is God calling you to bring the homeless poor into your house and what would that look like?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the people of God should do such things for these children. We may not be able to see it, but they are all wearing orange jump suits.

Advent Conspiracy