Sunday, 26 December 2010

Radio 2 - Pause for Thought

This is my Pause for Thought from today's Nikki Bedi programme on Radio 2. 

Reproduced with kind permission from the BBC.

Recently, I went to see The Sound of Music at the theatre, with the wonderful Connie Fisher playing the part of Maria, and to my slight surprise had one of the best evenings out in a long time!

aving grown up watching the film on TV every Christmas, I found that I knew all the words, to all the songs, even though I hadn’t seen it for years. The strong tunes of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical score stayed with me for days, and I kept finding myself whistling ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ or ‘Do-Re-Mi’ at inappropriate moments. And as for Edelweiss, Edelweiss, so good they named it twice, well, what can I say?!

One of my friends asked me if I was going to go in costume, and although the temptation was strong to dress up as an army officer, or even as a nun, my sense of dignity got the better of me on this occasion.

One of the slightly strange things about the evening was the fact that some of the audience were carrying small brown paper packages tied up with strings, but all became clear when they gave them to those sitting near them during the song ‘My Favourite Things’.

Which brings me to boxing day – the day when traditionally people gave Christmas Boxes to tradesmen, to thank them for all they had done during the year. And I wonder which, if any, of the gifts we’ve received this year we are going to really treasure, and which we might already be planning to give away next year, or to return to the shop unopened?

Is there a gift we have received this year that will be, in years to come, one of our ‘favourite things’. I’m not just thinking about the gifts we opened yesterday, but the gifts we’ve received throughout the year: gifts of love, hope, new life, and forgiveness.

In the Bible, Jesus says: “I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14.27) And I wonder, this boxing day, if there is any greater gift than this? “peace of mind and heart.”

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Radio 2 - Pause for Thought

This is my Pause for Thought from today's Roger Royle programme on Radio 2. 

Reproduced on the Hopeful Imagination blog with kind permission from the BBC. You can listen again here, 30 minutes into the show.

Good morning, and happy Christmas.

It’s a strange day, Christmas day, isn’t it? I mean, at one level it’s a day like any other, falling rather predictably between the 24th and 26th days of the 12th month. But at another level it’s a day like no other.

We’ve been building up to it for weeks, months even, and the sense of anticipation has been mounting inexorably. From garish grottos in garden centres, to cheesy canned Christmas music round every corner, there has been no escaping the increasingly imminent arrival of Christmas day itself.

And now it’s here, it’s arrived. So happy Christmas.

And what, I wonder, will today hold? Giving? Receiving?; Eating? Drinking?; Family? Loneliness?; Happiness? Sadness? For each of us, today will bring a unique mixture of emotions and activities. But then, as quickly as it began, it’ll all be over. The day passes, and we wonder where on earth it went.

And also, we might wonder, what on earth it meant? Dinah Washington famously sang ‘What a difference a day makes’, and we might well ask this as a question of Christmas day. Just what difference does this one day make?

Within the Christian tradition, Christmas is a day of celebration, but it’s also a day of remembrance. It points back in time to another day, long past, when a young woman gave birth to a child. Just another day, just another birth. And yet Christians believe that that day, that that birth, in some way changed everything. The birth-day of Jesus, one moment in history, one day among many, is celebrated as the moment history changed, the moment God became human.

The Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn puts it beautifully in his song Cry of a tiny babe: Like a stone on the surface of a still river, Driving the ripples on forever, Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe.

So, as I said, happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bible and Justice: Ancient Texts, Modern Challenges

I've just heard that this book, in which I have a chapter, is now published:

Bible and Justice: Ancient Texts, Modern Challenges 
Edited by Matthew J.M. Coomber

You can buy your own copy here.

This book had its origins in the Sheffield conference of the same title, held in 2008. It promises to be an exciting and challenging read.

The blurb from the publisher is as follows:

The Bible contains a variety of passages that defend the poor and champion the cause of the oppressed, but are these ancient texts able to find a voice in confronting injustice in the modern world? Bible and Justice, a selection of papers compiled from the proceedings of the 2008 Conference on Bible and Justice at the University of Sheffield, addresses this question. The authors gathered within this volume explore the various ways in which the Bible might effectively confront an array of human rights, poverty and environmental concerns, while considering the difficulties that arise when ancient concepts of justice are applied to modern socio-political ideals. Written to be accessible to those outside the field of biblical studies, Bible and Justice will be a valuable resource for both academics and non-academics alike.


Part 1:Challenges and Understanding of Bible and Justice
1. On the Genesis of the Alliance between the Bible and Rights
Yvonne Sherwood, University of Glasgow

2. Rough Justice?
Philip Davies, University of Sheffield

3. Is the Belief in Human Rights either Biblical or Useful?
John Sandys-Wunsch,

4. Jesus: The Justice of God
Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University Divinity School

Part 2: Uses and Approaches to Bible and Justice
5. Justice and Violence in the Priestly Utopia
Walter J. Houston, Mansfield College, Oxford

6. A Signs Source: Approaching Deaf Biblical Interpretation
Louise J. Lawrence, University of Exeter

7. From a Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) of the Economy to the RDP of the Soul: Public Realm Biblical Appropriation in Postcolonial South Africa
Gerald West, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Part 3: Prospects for Applications of Bible and Justice
8. The Old Testament and the Environment
J.W. Rogerson, University of Sheffield

9. Ecojustice in the Bible? Pauline Contributions to an Ecological Theology
David G. Horrell, University of Exeter

10. Can the Book of Revelation be a Gospel for the Environment?
Simon P. Woodman, South Wales Baptist College

11. ‘I Have Always Relied on the Kindness of Strangers’: Hospitality and the Geneva Conventions of Ancient Israel
Diana Lipton, King’s College London

12. Prophets to Profits: Ancient Judah and Corporate Globalization
Matthew J.M. Coomber

'This is a truly major contribution to discourse about the Bible and Ethics. To date the discussion has been dominated by simplistically polarized positions: on the one hand, the assumption that the Bible supports justice today without equivocation; on the other hand, the assumption that the outdated ethical views of the Bible are inapplicable today. The present volume confronts this dichotomy head-on by showing how the Bible may indeed contribute to efforts at social justice today once the difficulties in bridging the temporal and sociopolitical gap that separates us from the biblical world is taken fully into account. This volume coincides with the newly established Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice in the United States which is committed to a critical sharing of the biblical imperatives for social justice with scholars, clergy, laity, and especially social activists and educators.'
Norman K. Gottwald, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, New York Theological Seminary, and author of The Tribes of Yahweh

The missing tenth 'lesson'? - Zechariah 2.6 (KJV)

These notes on Zechariah are from the Common Man's (sic) Reference Bible (sick)

HT Ben Myers

Monday, 20 December 2010

Terry Eagleton on gay goblins

Religious faith is not in the first place a matter of subscribing to the proposition that a Supreme Being exists, which is where almost all atheism and agnosticism goes awry. God does not "exist" as an entity in the world. Atheist and believer can at least concur on that. Moreover, faith is for the most part performative rather than propositional. Christians certainly believe that there is a God. But this is not what the credal statement "I believe in God" means. It resembles an utterance like "I have faith in you" more than it does a statement like "I have a steadfast conviction that some goblins are gay." - Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith and Revolution, p. 111

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Tommy Cooper on the Apocalypse

"I bought some Armageddon cheese today, and it said on the packet. 'Best before End'"

Is there something Chris Ellis isn't telling us?

Alibris UK is now offering for sale that excellent worship resource book, 'Gathering for Worship', by Christine Ellis and Myra Blyth. You can buy it here.

HT: Polly

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Stephen King - The Stand

I'm teaching Apocalypse Now! at Cardiff University this term, and once again the students are starting to see the Book of Revelation around every corner. Harriet has just pointed me to this 1994 advert for the TV series based on Stephen King's novel 'The Stand.'
     "A demon, a prophet, and those chosen to survive...
     They find that their dreams are real!
     'Help us to be true Lord, help us to stand'
     The ultimate stand against the forces of evil"

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Postcards from the wall #18

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Monday, 13 September 2010

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Putting the fun in fundamentalism...

Q. How do you know if someone's a fundamentalist?
A. The notes in their Scofield Reference Bible are printed in red.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Steve Holmes on Women in Ministry

Check out Steve Holmes latest thoughts on Women in Ministry

Friday, 20 August 2010

Postcards from the wall #17

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Monday, 16 August 2010

Postcards from the wall #16

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Postcards from the wall #15

It's been a bit quiet on the Western Front for a while now - hopefully normal service will resume shortly...


Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Friday, 28 May 2010

Radio Wales

I'll be preaching on the Radio Wales Sunday Service this coming Sunday morning, with Gareth Evans leading the service.

It's Trinity Sunday, and it was suggested to me that I "preach on the Trinity in no more than seven minutes!" So I wrote my sermon...

Then it was suggested to me that it actually needed to be five minutes and not seven. So I re-wrote my sermon...

Then it was suggested to me that it needed "more stories and jokes". So I re-wrote my sermon...

So, tune in on Sunday morning for 4:30 of stories and jokes, with a brilliant exposition of the Trinity in 30 seconds.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Sermon Wordle

I always preach from a full script, so it was easy to create a Wordle of my sermons from the last couple of years. What does this tell you about my theology?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Letter to the Baptist Times

I'm a co-signatory to a letter which appears in this week's Baptist Times. Here it is for you in case you can't wait for the thud on the doormat:...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Contemporvant Worship

Coming soon, to a church near you...

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Thomas, Richard and Harold

Rowan Atkinson shows how a funeral address should be done...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tony Peck blogging

My good friend Tony Peck has now entered the blogsphere at
Welcome, Tony!

Postcards from the Wall #14

The recent news that Tom Wright is departing from the Bishopric of Durham to take up a post as Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity in St Andrews seems an appropriate spur for posting this (slightly modified from the original) postcard.
The last two lines are my own addition...

Friday, 16 April 2010

My largest ever congregation this Sunday

For those who are interested (and apparently 80,000 are!), I'm leading the Sunday Worship service on Radio Wales this coming Sunday morning, and Gareth Evans is preaching.

When we recorded this service a couple of weeks ago (and also another one at which I'm preaching and Gareth is leading, to be broadcast next month) at Albany Road Baptist Church in Cardiff, we had a congregation of about a hundred - very normal, very 'safe' - and yet I was also very conscious of the tens of thousands who were also part of the congregation, or at least would be when it was broadcast. All in all a slightly surreal experience.

My overwhelming impression afterwards was of the huge commitment the BBC has to ongoing religious broadcasting. I've thought this before with the amount of effort they go to for the Pause For Thought slots I do occasionally. I can't image anything other than a public service broadcaster doing this.

Will I be listening to myself at 8.05? Not likely! I'll be watching BBC1 and the Chinese Grand Prix...

Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday and Coldplay

My favourite (if that's the right word) Good Friday song is the wonderful hymn written by Samuel Crossman in 1664.

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But all made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

And for something a bit more contemporary, here's Coldplay's great re-working of the hymn.

Women in Ministry

For the record (in case you missed it) (in case you're interested!) here's my piece from last week's Baptist Times write-up on the women in ministry discussions at BU Council.
Pat Took and I gave an unscripted double-act presentation for 20 minutes on the first evening, and this short piece for the BT is my attempt at taking that and reducing it to 500 words.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Facebook Passion

No, it's not what you think...

If you haven't seen this yet, it's worth a look. I particularly appreciate Bart Ehrman's appearances.

HT: RevMusings

Monday, 29 March 2010

Target Audience

I'm delighted to see that my paper on Women in Leadership is reaching its target audience.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Fantasy BU Council League (5-a-side rules)

You manage your own team selected from the current list of members of Baptist Union Council. Points are earned during Council on the basis of how well your team performs up-front.

Squad Selection
  • You have a starting kitty of 30 pieces of silver
  • You may purchase up to five team members for your squad, drawn from the current list of BU Council members.
  • Different members have a different value (see below).
  • You may also purchase one ‘wild card’ player who is not currently on the BU Council list of members.
  • You must nominate one of your team to be captain. This player will score double the number of points they would otherwise have achieved.
Player values (in pieces of silver)
  • 15 Moderator of Council
  • 12 Moderator of Trustees
  • 10 Chaplain to Council
  • 10 General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
  • 10 Baptist Union President
  • 10 Head of department (e.g. Faith and Unity, Mission etc)
  • 10 Treasurer of the Baptist Union
  • 10 Regional Ministers
  • 8 General Manager of the Baptist Union
  • 7 Wildcard Player (not from list of current BU Council Members)
  • 5 All other Council Members
  • Points are awarded for ‘up-front’ performance.
  • The more someone makes their presence felt, the more points they score.
  • Points are awarded proportionate to the size of the gathering. e.g. speaking in morning prayers earns less points than contributing to main plenary debate.
  • Players can lose points as well as scoring them. Points will be deducted should any player use the following words: ‘Baptistic’, ‘missionary God’, ‘missional’, ‘crossing places’, ‘community’, ‘just’, ‘really’, ‘wanna’, ‘alternative’, ‘cross-cultural’, ‘buzz-groups’, ‘ecclesial’, ‘that would be an ecumenical matter’.
  • A red card will be awarded to any player who sits on the back row with their laptop open for more than two consecutive sessions.
  • Players score double for ‘inspired utterances’ including unsolicited extempore prayer, praying in tongues, and delivering words of knowledge / prophecy.
  • Points are awarded for style: The more unexpected / spectacular a player’s contribution, the more points they will be awarded.
  • Points can also be earned for ‘community contributions’ including the supply of malt-based beverages, cake, blue cheese, fermented grape juice, and Pringles.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Radio 2 again

Here's today's 'Pause for Thought' from the Lynn Parsons show:

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Pause For Thought - Radio 2

I'm on Pause for Thought on Radio 2 again this weekend.
Here's this morning's 'thought' from the Zoe Ball show.
More tomorrow...

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Great Disappointment

In this clip from QI, the panellists analyse 'The Great Disappointment' of the Millerite sect in the ninteenth century, when the expected return of Jesus to the earth in 1844 failed to materialise. They go on to talk about the rapture....

Monday, 1 February 2010

Terry Pratchett the Theologian

Terry Pratchett is best known as the author of the fabulous Discworld novels. More recently, his diagnosis with Alzheimer's has brought him into the spotlight as both a fundraiser for Alzheimer's research and a participant in the debate over assisted suicide. His recent Dimbleby Lecture, Shaking Hands With Death is available on iPlayer.

So, in his honour, I thought I'd post a couple of interesting quotes.

The first is from the lesser-known Discworld book Eric, a parody of Faust. When my grandfather died, many years ago, we discovered that he had typed this quote out and put it in his writing box.

  • The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that's where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won't do if they don't know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.
The next quote is from Pratchett's latest book Unseen Academicals.

  • The Patrician took a sip of his beer. 'I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect I never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I'm sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of coruse it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that's when I first learned about evil. It is built in to the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior. p. 229

And this makes me think that those of us who dare to lay claim to a belief in God must, simply must, take account of the words of those who do not share our fundamental beliefs. For us to assume any kind of superiority is an act of arrogance unworthy of the very faith we claim to hold.

Postcards from the wall #13

Here's another Christmas postcard from my study wall...

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Another Review of My Book

This review appeared in this week's Baptist Times (29th Jan 2010)

(Click the image to enlarge)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

God Bless You Barack Obama?

Just in case you missed it, you can catch Robert Beckford's exploration of Obama's spirituality on iPlayer here:

As the blurb says: 'America's religious Right had claimed God for them. Beckford reveals how Obama adopted the precepts of black liberation theology and turned them into a winning manifesto that reached out to all Americans.'

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Dara O'Briain on the Bible Creationism

In this clip, comedian Dara O'Briain offers his insights into the world of biblical literalism and creationism.

A few quotes:

For God’s sake stop taking it literally – it’s only the Bible, it’s not Gospel.

Three arguments against God making us exactly as we are:
  1. Have a look at yourself… This is the same guy who apparently made mountaintops and sunsets. What kind of off-day exactly was he having when he threw you together?
  2. If we were truly created by God, why do we still occasionally bite the insides of our own mouths?
  3. The appendix. Why would he put it in you when it does nothing except randomly kill you?

HT Polly