Thursday, 30 October 2008

Going the extra mile

An interesting exegesis of Matthew 5.41.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The doctrine of the Trinity

Conversation over coffee turned to the doctrine of the Trinity (as it does!).
Here's some wisdom from Robbie Coltraine and Eric Idle.
This conversation prepares the ground for the profound trinitarian formulation: "God is like a shamrock -- small, green and split three ways."

Bishops love sci fi

At College we're shortly to be coming under the beady eyes of the Bishops, as we participate as ecumenical partners in a Bishops' Inspection.
Mostly at the moment it's just admin - documentation and arranging meetings.
But I think we'll be OK when we meet the panel if we follow Father Dougal's advice that Bishops love sci fi.

Bible in a minute

As a follow up to my (in)famous ability to recite all the books of the Bible, in order, in one breath, here's someone else's attempt at the Bible in a minute.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A question

Is eternal life the spiritual equivalent of a final salary pension scheme?

Happy Birthday World

6012 today! A mere spring chicken.
(And yes, I do know about Julian and Gregory, but I don't think it would have bothered James U. too much so let's not spoil the party).

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The practice of stubborn loyalty

It's my turn to lead the next meeting of the Bristol Anabaptist Network group. We'll be looking at the second chapter of David Augsburger's book Dissident Discipleship, entitled 'The practice of stubborn loyalty'.

Here are some notes, quotes and questions we'll be considering:

2 Cor 13.14 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.'

  • Son - Father - Spirit
  • Grace - Love - Community

'In fellowship with God around Christ, we participate here and now in the kin-dom of God.' p.70

'Community... Is a network of fallible individuals and flawed families seeking together to learn how to work through the various issues they carry with them.' (Palmer, 1977, 18-20. Quoted by Augsburger p. 66.

'The church is an alternative community - an alternative to human communities that live by coercion, competition, and collective self interest.' p. 75

'This community of disciples is connected by two powerful attachments - attachment to Jesus, the living centre of the group, and attachment to fellow disciples.' p. 67

But... 'Nothing is real until it is embodied. The community of faith must be a community of deeds. It is in action that we see the conception.' p. 70

Reflecting on our own situations

'The actual community surrounding a person is only one of the multiple communities necessary for this balance of well-being and growth.' p. 77

  • Are we part of Christian communities which, at least in part, embody these ideals?
  • Who, beyond the 'church', form our 'personal community of positive support, celebration, and active participation'? P. 78
  • To what extent do we experience 'accountability and answerability to a balanced circle of co-travellers'? P. 78

Lifestyle issues

'What kind of spirituality is it if it doesn't affect lifestyle or standard of living?' p.60

'How can (we) learn a spirituality of immediate and reflexive concern for the needs of others that seeks to do something about the unjust distribution of resources unless (we) contribute to a community where sharing is meaningful because we agree to consume less, waste less, do more with less?' pp. 81-2

  • How do we make our 'lifestyle' decisions? E.g. Car, home, holidays, career choices, time management, giving...
  • How and in what context might we help each other make these kinds of decisions?
  • What keeps us from honesty about our lifestyle choices?

Building communities

'The persons who make up our sustaining systems are not pictures in an album or names in an address book. They are real, living people who know us and are known in return.' p. 79

Seven characteristics of true community (pp. 79-80)

  1. Interaction and interface
  2. Intensity and involvement
  3. Affirmation and acceptance
  4. Instrumentality and material aid
  5. Mutuality and reciprocity
  6. History and continuity
  7. Depth and transcendence

  • What specific action might we take, to enable the communities to which we belong, to embody these characteristics?
  • How can we find 'spiritual co-travellers who are willing to invest time, give attention, risk self-disclosing, and jointly covenant for a life of shared responsible discipleship?' p. 81

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Classroom Comedy

One of the perennial hits in class are clips from Monty Python.
Here's a couple I'll be using shortly:
Holy Grail - 'Those miserable Psalms, they're so depressing'
Life of Brian - The sermon on the mount
I also think this next one from Mitchell and Webb is brilliant:
Mitchell & Webb - The Good Samaritan

Sunday, 12 October 2008


I was talking to a friend of ours the other night... And he's very into 'storytelling'.
That is, the art of telling stories.
He's a member of a couple of storytelling groups, and he travels to a number of festivals throughout the year to participate in storytelling events. He writes his own stories, or adapts traditional ones with his own twist and style - and he's very very good! I've heard him a couple of times, and he can captivate an audience of one or a hundred, and of all ages...
Well, the other night, I asked him what he hopes to achieve when he tells a story, and I thought his answer was very interesting.
I thought he might say 'to entertain people', or 'to put a point across', or 'to make people think'...
But what he actually said was far more profound:
He said that his hope, when he tells a story, is that those listening to it are different people at the end of the story to what they were at the beginning.
In other words, he tells stories to transform people, to change them in some way.
We found ourselves falling into a conversation about the stories Jesus told - my friend isn't a churchgoer - and I found it fascinating that his impression of Jesus' stories was that they, too, were told to change people.
So often in the way we handle the parables in church, we treat them as codes to be cracked, or as resource material for the 'family' slot on a Sunday morning, or as excuses for long complicated sermons in which we try to explain them.
I wonder...
What would it look like if we treated the parables as transformatory stories?
What would it look like if our preaching on the parables took the form of storytelling?
What would it look like if we expected those people listening to be different at the end than they were at the beginning?
Can we recover the transformatory power of stories?