Its taken a few days but I’m sitting down tonight to reflect on this years Spring Harvest experience, at Minehead last week. Under the title of “Only the Brave” we explored the book of James in morning Bible studies, morning interactive conversations and in evening celebrations. It urged us to take our discipleship more seriously; we’re not to play at Church, but to engage in lifestyle change.
Here I’ve included a few pictures of the event (the full collection will be uploaded to my Facebook pages there are too many for this page.
The picture to the right is of my reflection in the mirror one morning, as the theme challenged us to look at ourselves in the way we would look in a mirror: i.e. the Biblical warning of James 1:23-24 and the need not just to read the scriptures but to live it our. It’s not a flattering picture and there must be times when God looks at me and despairs, but I want to shine a mirror on my life in order to weed out the times I don’t obey and act in the way I should.
It was a challenging week, very tiring, but also good to be amongst others who were similarly looking to hold their lives up to scrutiny.
A mix of great preachers such as Simon Guillebaud, who feels that God sent him to Burundi, one of the most dangerous places on earth and Steve Uppal. Worship was led in one venue by Elim sound and in another by the great Geraldine Latty.
Evenings had a mixture of entertainment and as always we thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Viera, this year with his new settings for familiar hymns. We were challenged to pray for the world around us, (much-needed at the moment) and reminded that even in the most dire of situations we place our trust in God and so must lose our pride in ourselves for humility before him.
Theres so much more I could say, but every year I return from Spring Harvest with new challenges on my life, and a renewed desire to follow Jesus as a faithful disciple. And so in closing the last photo is of the new Hoodie I bought…………………….
I never thought I’d be wearing one of these bands again for a while and yet this is from todays visit to Queens hospital in Burton.
My apologies to all those who have felt that I was a “bit off”, short with them, and not achieving what they thought I should. The truth is that for the past month I haven’t been on top form, and largely because I visited my GP about occasions when I seemed to have a reflux problem He immediately started speaking about the possibility of cancer and wanted to investigate. This has involved my attendance today for a gastroscopy procedure. a most hideous experience, performed by a wonderful team of caring professionals for whom I’ll always have the highest praise.
Consequently its hung over me for a while filling my mind with all sorts of possibilities; I even worked my funeral music out (entrance to Tina Turner, “Steamy windows” and exit to Lindisfarnes “Run for Home”) and Alison was told which funeral firm and who was to lead the service (you can relax again Loraine Mellor).
I many ways the reaction was grossly over the top, as I was given a complete ALL CLEAR; no abnormalities, no tumour, no scarring, nothing. Thankfully and my gratitude to the few who knew about it and prayed for me.
I’d deliberately kept it quiet as I didn’t want sympathy and wanted to continue to be there to try to help people. However, because I’ve always tried to be open and honest about both my good times and my bad times, I felt I need to share this tonight.
Tonight I will go to bed and sleep easier.
Tonight I will go to bed with a greater understanding of the fears of others
Tonight I will go to bed grateful for a God who has held me.
Tonight I will go to bed appreciating once again the NHS, who have supported me magnificently today.
Tonight I will go to bed with a sense of those who have yet to undergo frightening treatments, such as gastroscopy procedures.
And believe me, if anyone produces what looks like a bazooka and tries to tell me its a “small camera” I may be tempted to do the wrong thing……….!
I’ve been thinking this evening about Holy Week, which has also rather been lost because of my thoughts elsewhere, and I’ve dwelt on the loneliness of Jesus, the anxiety of knowing what was to come and the result.
Firstly, the appointment came at a time when Alison had a service in her own church. We discussed it and I felt strongly that she should continue with it as the work of Jesus continues anyway. However that meant that I had to walk to the hospital and, sit in the waiting area on my own and go through it by myself. Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane was alone. Was he scared ? the Bible seems to suggest he was. Was he tempted to back out ? Again Scripture says he prayed “let this cup pass from me”. I too felt alone, and if I could’ve got out of it I may well have done, knowing what I was facing.
However I stayed with it because I knew it would give a definite result, and my family deserve nothing less. For me the result was amazing and I praise God for the skill, knowledge and care of the medical profession.
For Jesus the result was resurrection; job done; mission accomplished; victory achieved. We will praise and celebrate on Easter Sunday as if we’ve never praised before because we worship a God who understands our loneliness, our fear and anxiety and throughout it all holds us very dear to himself.
I feel as though I’ve been through my personal Good Friday today, but nothing compared to what God went through for me and for this world. Praise to Him for being prepared to endure the cross for us.
As most of my readers will know I love going into schools to talk to children, either through the medium of assemblies, or through question and answer sessions. I find the latter very challenging and have spent five sessions over the last two weeks meeting in a local secondary school with youngsters ranging from year 7 (11/12) to year 11 (15/16) and the range of questions has been wonderful rating from “why are you a Christian ?” to the standard “why does God allow suffering ?” This morning I answered questions on abortion, homosexuality, Heaven, Hell, the Just War theory, and the Trinity. BIG STUFF !
However it was a question on Wednesday that has stuck with me and it came from a year 7 pupil (remember that means he’s barely 12 if that) and he asked if I believed in Pascals Wager. This is a philosophical concept put forward as one of three arguments for believing, around starting to believe, in the existence of God. The final one of the three arguments is nicknamed Pascal’s Wager and it includes the justification of theism, pragmatism, infinity.
Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher , mathematician and physicist presented this theory during his life time (1623-1662 and basically it suggests tat humans can bet with their lives that God exists or doesn’t.
I don’t want to get into an argument about the relative merits of Pascals thinking, or even if he is right or wrong, BUT I do want to point out that this was a concept raised by a 12 year old boy. I looked at his teacher and she shook her head and said she didn’t understand what it was all about, so he wasn’t simply repeating his teacher.
And yet the questions I get in church are about “pews or not ?”, “which hymn book ?” “should we communicate by e-mail, letter or handwritten posters ?” “why do we have to pay our assessment ?’
It’s interesting that a 12 year old boy is trying to figure out who God is through philosophical argument whilst supposedly long in the tooth Christians are for more concerned about the mechanics of their Church. People in the world are struggling, suffering, dying and we are too often caught up with “should we have hot cross buns before lent ?” and “should we have colour in the church during lent ?”
Next week is Holy Week, the time when we remember the events between Palm Sunday and its procession into Jerusalem and Good Friday when we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. As Christians our focus should be more spiritual rather than physical. That’s not to fall into the trap of “being so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly use” but it is to say that the spiritual matters of how we’re going to live out our discipleship of Jesus in Gods world should have a higher priority than they often do.
God calls us to wrestle with the heavenly dimension, study our scriptures, engage with him in prayer and meet him in the ordinary, and to lay to one side the trivialities of “who’s turn it is to wash the chapel tea towel”
As we enter Holy Week are you prepared to walk with Jesus and use this time to get to know him better, for after all if a 12 year old boy is prepared to, shouldn’t we ?
Whilst at college 27 years ago I came under some excellent teaching in the Old and New Testaments, in Systematic theology, ethics, pastoral care etc. but one of the things it most instilled in me was a love of the book of Job, from the Old Testament.
A book often misunderstood, and believed to be all doom and gloom with no redeeming features to it. We often remember how he lost all his family, his possessions and was shunned by others. Throughout it all he never lost faith in God, but simply desired answers. We don’t always grasp that it is one of the most exciting, profound and hopeful books of the Old Testament.
Tomorrow I’ve got the privilege of sharing my thoughts on the book as part of the Circuit 2018 focus on “Intentional Faith Development” and I’m finding myself really excited about the prospect. I’m not saying I’m anything special or more knowledgeable about the subject but I do find myself with a passion for the themes of the book, such as the environment, humankind, suffering and even the comparison with Jesus Christ.
I find it a book which speaks of a God who is in charge, a God who doesn’t have to interact with his creation but a God who chooses to do so.
As a Circuit we will cover a variety of books within the Bible (next month is Luke) throughout the year, as various members of staff lead us in their thoughts and teach us about their particular book. In this way we’ll learn more about 12 books of the Bible and if it is well received we may well do another 12 in 2019
Why are we doing this ? Simply because we all need to grow in our faith and Scripture studied prayerfully, contextually and with a desire to know more of Gods mind shows us how to grow.
In Scripture we meet God in all his fullness; it helps us reflect on the world around us, our place within it and how we can be Gods people in this day and age.
If you’re in the area why not come and join us, and if you’re away from the area why not join us in reading whichever book is chosen each month.
Singing the Lords song in a strange land is the title of a book by Revd Tom Stuckey that I’ve just started reading. One of the difficulties of Ministry is that its very easy to get caught up in the busyness of sorting, organising, preaching, visiting etc that the studying by which our thinking is informed can be easily lost. I try (rarely succeed) to keep abreast of the latest studies, books etc that will stretch my thinking.
Notice the sub-title of the book is “The future of the Church in Britain. A Methodist perspective”
Reflecting Psalm 137 its a book that addresses many of the fears surrounding Methodism at the moment, decline, anxiety, lack of direction and much more. Like those exiled in Babylon the dilemma is how to be Christian in an increasingly secular world, where it feels that we too have been exiled in a foreign land where our language, culture, standards etc are very different from those around.
I wonder where your church stands within the current atmosphere of doom and gloom that pervades so many places of worship ? Is your Church facing up to the reality of a changing world or is it burying its head in the sand hoping that when it emerges everything will be back to ‘normal’ ?
I’ve only just started the book but already I find myself intrigued by its honesty and clarity. Starting with the observation that many of us find ourselves making sadly; that the world has changed but the Church refuses to do so in many places leaving us further and further behind. The political and economic scene is very different from the world in which many of our church folk grew, music has changed, the increase of reality television and certainly the growth of the internet and social media has impacted upon our world. Its no use ignoring these things (especially the last one) as they shape our thinking and acting. And yet the church retreats into its own little ghetto where nothing changes.
Stuckey addresses the issue of ‘Babylon ‘ with its individualistic culture, the effect of our life styles on the environment, and the importance of materialism for many folk.
Thats where Ive got up to so far and he speaks of that which many of us can recognise but as yet don’t have any answers. What I find is that many recognise that we are as Scripture says ‘living in a strange world” to that which many of us grew up in but few ask the questions of how “to sing the Lords song” or even “what is the Lords song!” and I’m hoping that he will lead us in the book towards a more hopeful conclusion.
Whatever, I commend each of us to the following in Lent…………..
- Read something that will stretch thinking in a spiritual way
- In my circuit we are having a “year of Intentional Faith Development” and so I suggest we read more of Scripture
- Consider the future of the Church, our part in it and our part in its development
- Reflect on how we, ourselves, might sing the Lords song in a strange land.
Have a blessed Lent but also an honest and challenging one
My apologies for not posting yesterday, as I had intended to, but I’ve been away in London for a visit to Methodist Church House and then some R&R with Alison.
So where do we go from here ?
As I journeyed home on the train, I reflected on several things………
Firstly, at Euston station the number of people standing waiting for the train, seemingly without purpose in contrast to those who had been waiting suddenly dashing off for their train as it arrived. I’ve observed this many times during my journeys from Euston and it never fails to amaze me, for I’m one of them !
Secondly, the number of folk on electronic devices, texting or listening to music and definitely NOT engaging with the person sitting next or near to them. It’s become the world of personal space, not to be invaded.
Thirdly, the moments I’ve seen homelessness on the streets of London and knowing that it is reflected up and down the land, where people (often through no fault of their own) have found themselves in situations that they feel powerless to get out of.
Fourthly, the lack of manners shown in the likes of the man who easily pushed Alison out of the way in order to get on the tube first, and left his wife/partner three or four people behind ! Sadly, I don’t think he even realised what he had done, for such is the “me first’ mentality of the world. My Father, who has always been a gentleman, would have been horrified.
This is why I think there is the need for the 5 spiritual exercises I’ve looked at this week; because our spiritual health ultimately is the only thing that will heal this world. In Genesis God created the world “and saw that it was good” and the whole Bible story is about God, in Jesus, restoring that creation to what he first intended. Don’t just read Genesis without reading other books in the Bible.
We are encouraged to look after our physical health these days to ensure we don’t end up, as I did, in the back of an ambulance (several years ago). 5 a day has become the mantra for good physical health, but what about our spiritual health; it too shouldn’t be neglected and that’s why I feel indebted to the Vice-President (Jill Baker) and Loraine Mellor (President) for challenging the Methodist people to engage in this exercise of giving thanks, keeping silent, reading and reflecting, praying and acting each and every day. But it’s not just an exercise for Methodists as I believe from their initial reading of Acts 2:46-47 it’s a good discipline for ALL people of faith and for those of no faith. Lets aim to get our spiritual lives in order this year.
In closing this series on my blog I print the words of the Methodist Covenant which is said annually in every Methodist Church (and in other denominations as well). It puts God at the very centre of our lives. May we achieve this in 2018