did she teach Jesus?

dennist_thegospelbeyondthegospels-20170517180938319_webYesterday I was pretty inspired by this man!
Trevor brought some of Luke’s gospel to life for me in an incredibly, if not radical, way.

Two things in particular have stayed with me 24 hours later….

One being that he urged us not to ‘preach’ Luke’s gospel but to ‘perform’ it … to not preach about what it does say, but stick to what does say as we learn, and teach, about the God that runs towards us on the road when we never deserve God to.

Secondly he asked a great question … ‘Was the foot washing woman Jesus’ teacher …. did she give him the idea that he used on that last night with his disciples …. it’s a great thought to be unpacked one day ….

5000 answer to prayer!

icon_christ_loaves2We just had a good, no exciting (!) DCC meeting. I never thought I would ever anywhere write that sentence in my life …. but there you go, I have. My DCC are a great bunch of people … they must be because they put up with me!

Tonight I changed the agenda around a bit … we spent the first part of the meeting looking in our bibles and searching for a story that we felt we could identify with as a church now, and why we felt that story was important to us. The idea came from Holy Conversations which I am currently reading.

A number of stories ‘appeared’ which we spoke about. There was Esther, the Exodus, The woman at the well, Daniel, the road to Emmaus, Ezekial, Love your neighbour …. but none of these seemed to resonate with everyone. Until, that is, someone suggested the feeding of the 5000.

When this story was shared I saw the DCC members change … body language changed, there was enthusiasm, people talked of how it seemed to link with us … the disciples had very limited resources but thousands to feed …. just like us trying to reach the thousands of people here when there is only 12 of us. The disciples brought what they had on that day and Jesus took it and multiplied it so they had more than enough …. this is our prayer on the peninsula; that through our little gifts and ability God will do amazing things. Other questions and parallels came…. so it seems we have a story which we can relate to at the moment, at this point in time.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look into this story, study it, think or dwell on it when we can and talk about it lots when we gather. It is my prayer that through this story we will learn more about us as church and our purpose.

Bible believing???

bibleI like to be challenged … no … really I do. I love a great discussion. One thing I particularly enjoy is pub theo (which happens tonight, 7.45pm at the Dog and Bone with great curry – shameless plug!!!) because people come to talk, are generally open to listening to each other which sometimes results in people changing an opinion.

Over the last few weeks, though, I seem to have come across quite a fair bit of cliche conversation stoppers … such as “well … I’m a Bible believing Christian’ … or … ‘You can’t pick and choose .. you have to believe ALL the Bible’. I have come to see these as conversation stoppers because they have been used that way … to stop me in my tracks with the expectation that the discussion should not stop … dead … there and then! Sorted! One way and all that!

Faith Interrupted writes well about this today.  I love Brian McLaren’s words that are quoted …

The Bible is too good and too important to be left to those who won’t think critically about it. And frankly, it’s too dangerous! 


One place to do some of that critical stuff is pub theo now and again … it’s important … it’s fun … don’t close the conversation … open it … lets challenge each other!

the gathering storm

gathering fb logoThe gathering got together Sunday afternoon and it was a pretty amazing time together.

We took the Bible Story of Jesus calming the storm and ate a meal and discussed it together. To help us really get into the story we all took on characters that may or may not have been there and started to have the conversation around the meal table, pretending this was the night after.

Before the meal people were sent short character briefs and asked to read the Mark 4:34-41 version of the story. That was the preparation … so after some opening words and prayer, and hearing the story read to us again, we collected our meals, got into character and discussed faith and trust and other stuff with Jesus.

This worked incredibly well with comments in the debrief afterwards like:
‘it was great to hear other viewpoints’
‘we seemed to focus more on the story’
‘I had to think more’
and my favourite comment as I think it’s important and something we miss from multi-million studio reproductions of Jesus stories ….’I was struck by the humanity of Jesus’

Obviously the person playing Jesus was quite key and I think we got that person spot on as they had really great answers and challenges for the other disciples … but every other character got into their part well and the conversation went on for around 40 minutes.

I think this is one of the most thought provoking and personally challenging things we have tried as the gathering … and pleased to say it seemed to work.

I know we are supposed to thank God and all that because it is all about God and not 1975036_10152226474855211_990244496_nabout us …. but today …. right here and right now … I want to thank the amazing people of the gathering for being willing to try this out … yes God was there today … but without you amazing people we would not have got very far.

Thank you …. there are times when I am reminded what a privilege it is to be part of this community …. today is one of those days.

worlds shortest commentary

urlI enjoyed reading this the other day from Ben Myers …. the shortest ever commentary  on the whole Bible.

A sample:
Matthew: We thought his teaching was a mirror of God’s Law, but we were wrong. The Law is the mirror, reflecting him.

There’s more … go read

distracted by God

distraction-quoteYesterday morning’s office readings resonated very strongly with my ‘not growing up’ post from Monday. Actually, I read the wrong part of the lectionary for the NT reading and fell upon Matthew 18 : 1-7 rather than the reading of Matthew 24 … but it is interesting that I read this by mistake

Because that reads:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  He called a child, whom he put among them,  and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

As I approached this through Lectio Divina I was struck particularly by the line:

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

As I rolled the words over I became fixated on those words humble like a child.
What is that?
What does the humbleness of a child look like?
And … how do we become humble. whatever humble is?

The dictionary uses words like: not proud or arrogant, modest, a feeling of insignificance, low in status, respectful.

I remember years ago back in the day when I was a member at the Tate. It was the year that the Shibboleth was on display. I noticed adults, those ‘important’ adults, observed the crack, walked around the crack, tried to explain the crack, but at no time did they interact with the crack. Then they would move on.

I noticed the children. The humble, insignificant respectful children who walked around the crack, did not care or try to work out how it was made, they just enjoyed it. They poked hands down it, dropped things in it. while some even fell in it, but they were captivated. Shibboleth had their attention. Their lack of self importance and associated busyness allowed them to be distracted and experience the Shibboleth.

I have observed similar behaviour in many High Streets when a busker or street entertainer appears. It is always the children who stop, or try to stop. The children listening to the music and wanting to stay and watch are pulled along by hurrying parents. But as they move away I have often seen children constantly looking back at what had previously held their attention and has been ripped away from them. It was as if they were totally focussed on the entertainment. Their lack of self importance and associated busyness allowed them to be distracted and experience the busker.

And this causes me to wonder and think aloud …

I wonder if there is something in the act of being humble like a child that brings balance to our ‘self’ attitude. A balance that reminds us we are not the centre of the universe and that, actually, we are not as important as we think we are and ‘YES’ we do have time for this.

The adults rush on, the children wish to stay.

I have contemplated what Christ is saying here. What is it that we are to copy from that humbleness? I wonder if it is the distraction thing.

To be humble, is to be in awe of what you see around you, to be interested in the small bits of beauty that pop up now and again, to accept  our place in all this with a realisation that we are not overly important and do not need to charge and rush around.

I think, to be humbled like a child, is to be distracted …
What might our lack of self importance and associated busyness allow us to be distracted by? 
Distracted by God? 

ponder …

imgresIn my continued mode of trying to walk and not run, I am finding some advice from Richard Rohr, that sounds so simple, to be quite unsettling, challenging and provocative:

When you encounter a truly sacred text, the first questions are not: Did this literally happen just as it states? How can I be saved? What is the right thing for me to do? What is the dogmatic pronouncement here? Does my church agree with this? Who is right and who is wrong here? These are largely ego questions, I am afraid. They are questions that try to secure your position, not questions that help you go on a spiritual path of faith and trust. They constrict you, whereas the purpose of The Sacred is to expand you. I know these are the first questions that come to our mind because that is where we usually live—inside of our mental ego. They are the questions we were trained to ask, because everybody else asks them, unfortunately!

Having read sacred text, I would invite you to ponder these questions:

  1. What is God doing here?
  2. What does this say about who God is?
  3. What does this say about how I can then relate to such a God?

On the face of it those questions are simple and safe questions. Ss I have pondered them well, however, they are amazingly demanding and, on occasions, mind blowing. As we get ever closer to Holy Week I am wondering what such questions will bring up in the richness of the stories before us.


is the Bible the last word?

bible4In today’s Advent thought Bodenheim challenges us to think about the Bible, or rather how we view the Bible. She starts the thought with words from Eugene Peterson:

The simple act of buying a Bible has subtle side effects we need to counter. It is easy to suppose that since we bought it, we own it, and therefore we can use it the way we wish.’

I believe Peterson is touching on something quite serious here. How do we act if we BELIEVE that we own the bible? If we think this bible is mine? That mindset opens up the possibility of using it to back up our already held ideas. It allows us to pick and choose verses we like, while ignoring those that we do not. Many things have been justified by using the bible in this way, from slavery to domestic abuse. I think it is used in this way today in the news and in certain parts of the church with the condemnation of homosexual love and marriage. (this is another blog post for another time… but apparently the CofE is against gay marriage … I have never actually been asked … and there are very mixed views which I outlined earlier in the year here. )

On the other side of the coin, it leaves us with a choice … we can use the Bible as a weapon, to condemn, to control, to manipulate, or we can use the Bible as good news, to show how God accepts, how God loves and how God encourages us to be who he created us to be.

I believe the Bible is the word of God. If that is true, I have to ask, does the word of God condemn or liberate? Should the word of God condemn or liberate? Or does it do both or neither? Is it to be taken literally or does it need to be read in context? Is it the dictated speech of God or is it God’s word written in a particularly cultural way? Is the Bible the last of God’s words, or does God still speak today?

I wonder of we find it easy to elevate the Bible … and I fear that for some it may have become a god. Exodus 20 says; ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.’ Are we in danger of idolising the word of God?

I end todays thought with Bodenheims last words for todays reading. These words challenge me to think hard. I became a Christian when I was 17, and have been brought up mainly in the evangelical wing of the church … so I particularly find these words provoke me to consider my views more deeply:

If the Bible does not point us toward God, but instead speaks for God, then the Bible has become our god. 


My Advent reading this morning started with this Eugene Peterson quote:

The simple act of buying a BIble
has subtle side effects we need to counter

It is easy to suppose that since
we bought it,
we own it,
and therefore we can use it

the way we wish.


I have been challenged to think more about this today, asking myself do I think of my Bible as, well ‘My Bible!’ If I claim I own it then I am at risk of just using it to support and uphold the stuff that I think is right. ‘

Bodenheim reminds me that:

many things have been justified through the BIble: slavery, a husband’s right to abuse his wife, parents rights to abuse their children, refusal of birth control, refusal of medical treatment for illnesses, the condemnation of homosexuality.

A question I am forced to ask myself is is, ‘do I use the Bible as a weapon or as good news?’ If the way I read and interpret the BIble makes life a misery for others or causes pain or victimises then I believe there is something seriously seriously wrong with that. I see the bible as essentially a love story between God the creator and the whole of creation. If my reading of the Bible is good news for others then something is right! Do I use the bible to oppress and impoverish or to liberate and free people?

If the Bible does not pont us toward God, but instead speaks for God, then the Bible has become our God.




what do I believe?

Over the last few months I have had some very interesting conversations on my travels both within and outside Medway.

In particular I have found myself in ‘debate’ with Christians who have a very legalistic view of our faith. I guess I am on sensitive ground here as I don’t want to berate or get into the whole ‘I’m right and you are wrong’ crap that flies around Christianity far too much. But I do, somehow, want to start a dialogue over how we live out our faith. It seems to be that there is a significant section (I have not researched enough to be able to say significant ‘minority’, significant ‘majority’ … so ‘section’ will have to do) of Christians that will excuse any behaviour by simply saying ‘well it is scriptural’ or ‘it is in the bible’.

The Bible is important. The Bible is the word of God. In that sense I am still a good evangelical; but we still need to ask what does that mean. I mean, when we say this is the word of God, what do we actually mean by that?

Do we mean that these words come direct from the mouth of Creator God and so cannot be altered in any way and are totally, irrevocably 100% to be adhered to the the exact infinite letter? Well … if we do there is a slight problem of age and culture to get around there. The most recent parts of scripture are some 2000 years old … and a lot more is older. This means this whole question is not as easy as some people would have us think.

I want to share a little incident from home that is relevant here. Around the dinner table recently one of my children said ‘that’s sick’. In translation he meant ‘it was brilliant, or cool, or amazing’. Only  few years ago, ‘that’s sick’ would have meant ‘gross, horrible, or maybe ugly’. In the space of just a few years one word ‘sick’ is being used in a totally different, and maybe even opposite, way than it used to be used.

If we were to write down that conversation and it was read in a few hundred years, let alone thousands of years, would the people have any idea what we were talking about? Would they have to try and second guess what was being said? Would they understand that ‘sick’ meant ‘amazing?’

There are plenty of other word we can use that we may or may not know what people were saying when they wrote them: cool, gay, yellow, slate, slag, waste, ace, acid, dabs, deck, dipstick, pad …. the list can go on and on and on.

I do believe the Bible is the word of God … but I do also believe it was written by humans who had only the language of their time and culture to be able to express what God was telling them. So, our task in discovering what it means requires that, first, we try to work out and consider what was being said at the time it was written – and that only comes after the complicated process of translation because (shock horror!) the Bible was not written in English ….. not even in 1662 BCP type English!  Here a knowledge of the culture and history of the time becomes very helpful, and I would say vital.

For me, as well, there are some clear standards and attributes that go with God and so I believe that what the Bible ‘says’ should mirror who God ‘is’. Surely that must be the case … mustn’t it?

I believe Jesus came to earth and that we can look to Jesus to see what God is like. Jesus being God in flesh is a pretty orthodox Christian belief (100% human and 100% God – too big for my brain to get around … but God is God!).

From the gospels we that Jesus is compassionate, loving and inclusive. So it follows simply that God is compassionate, loving and inclusive. It then follows in my mind that any interpretation from the bible for relevance today that is not compatible with those values does not fit with who God is. If biblical interpretation does not fit with the character of God then I query whether we have interpreted correctly.

So … it is not as straight forward as it may seem. I do not believe we can simply say ‘the bible says x and so we have to do y’ and then believe we are ok and right. I think it is more about finding out what the bible said then in a particular time and culture and why and then bringing that same practice into the here and now and living a way that displays the compassion, love and inclusivity of God. After all … there is no point being ‘right’ if the way we live is crap, discriminatory and abusive!

But saying all that … I refer to my opening remarks … I could very well be wrong … and I’d love to know what others who come here think …