if it be your will

I have been catching up on blog reading after a lapse due to portfolio compiling and other things. While catching up with what Graham has been writing I came across this post so thought I’d check out the track …. its from Leonard Cohen and it’s simply beautiful.

Rachel Chesney

I’ve just discovered Rachel Chesney via Naked Pastors blog and love the sound she creates … a strength which is quite vulnerable, if that makes any sense at all?

I don’t really need to add anything to what the pastor says on his blog …. apart from echoing you could download this for free – but don’t…. please pay for it.

Go listen here!

curating worship

Along with many others I have been reading, and enjoying, Curating Worship by Jonny. I have particularly enjoyed reading it as it draws from many people who are involved, or rather live in, the world of creative worship and of re imagining church.

Many have blogged about the book already (I am quite slow off the mark) but I particularly like and agree with  Ian’s encompassing comment: ‘what this book emphasises is that this form of worship is a skill, and needs much thinking and engagement with theological thinking, engagement with metaphorical meaning, liturgy and ritual.’

I have been both excited and challenged as I have read this. It has caused me to start to think more deeply about the how and why we do the things we do at the gathering. Some parts of the book have resonated stronger than others; one in particular being that the art of (curating) worship has something to do with leaving space for people to discover the reality of God and how they can engage with whatever is being considered for themselves.

I guess this counters the frustration I have with the style of church worship that I (we?) have grown up with where a person ‘in authority’ decides what a bible passage means and what we need to ‘go away with’ and then sets up activities or preaches a sermon so that we all arrive at the same place with the same conclusion.

I am starting to feel everything needs to be a little more open, a little more permission giving so that we can really hear what it is that God wishes to share with us. I guess it has amazed me for the last few years that we speak of a ‘great big God’ and a God that do anything and is all powerful …. and yet we try to confine God and cause God to act in a way that we want God to act.

If God is so big and so mighty why do we feel a need to control so that we all believe the same? Surely, if God is so big and great, then God can get the message across if we allow the space for God to do so? For this to happen, I wonder whether our worship needs to be more open ended rather than aiming to get people to a particular ‘point’.

I think (hope!) that is what we are trying to do in the gathering. I think we are trying to allow people to discover God in their lives and where they are and so respond in a  way that is meaningful to them. I think there is a desire that we plan to allow God to find us where we are.

Sometimes this is confusing to explain and a lot of time we don’t get it … but I do think it is a healthy kind of confusion.

I dance for Jesus

A while ago I wrote about the condemnation of others for not fitting with our reading of certain doctrines or for not fitting with our assumed lifestyles. Certainly the gathering, the developing christian community that I am part of, strongly believes how we live our faith is far more important than what we believe. You can fairly easily believe ‘God is love’ and ‘Jesus is the only way’ but if you treat people that disagree with you with contempt and ridicule or refuse to even talk to them, then I would say something of the gospel ‘good news of acceptance and love’ has been lost.

A few months ago I found myself in a coffee shop talking to a young woman who was passing through Rochester. This woman is a Christian although she has not been able to settle in an established church set up. This has a lot to do with the fact that this Christian woman also happens to be a lap dancer. Churches that she has tried to join have condemned her because of her job and way of life. When she first became a Christian she gave up her job, because others in the church told her it was wrong, and tried to get other jobs. People told her that God would provide other things to make money for her and her young daughter, but as she tried living in the way others suggested, church after church offered little support and eventually other work was provided …. in another lap dancing club.

The way she spoke of God showed me that without a doubt this woman has a thriving relationship with the living God. She was clearly in love with the God who created her and spoke of Jesus in a way that I have not heard anyone talk in a long while. I felt that her trust in Jesus was incredibly strong. This young woman understood God’s grace, she understood she was loved and she longed for a christian community to accept her fully. I don’t know where she is today but I fear she is alone and living her Christian life outside of Christian community.

I was reminded of this woman during the summer when I read a report in the Independent newspaper on lap dancing outlining research that showed 40% of lap dancers in the UK have a uni degree or are studying for one. I personally thought the article was glamourising or missing the real issue and  I must admit I am of a similar mind to Amy Jenkins who responds in the opinion section of the newspaper that irrespective of education lap dancing is degrading. I believe that to be the case but ….

Something about this woman struck me. This was not her job of choice but I sensed that she felt this was where God wanted her. I plucked up the courage to ask the burning question …’ok, you are a lap dancer and a Christian …. how do you reconcile the two?’ Her answer still brings tears to my eyes:

‘all the girls think of something when they dance. I pray on stage and I dance for Jesus. This is my worship, he created my body … I use my body to worship him.’

Some will have issues with that, some will say it is not morally possible, and a large part of me might go along with that, but what is a Christian other than someone who totally loves God and wants their life to be worship of Christ? Whatever way I recall this encounter in the coffee shop I remember the girls faith and commitment as she said ‘I dance for Jesus’.

Sometimes I just don’t know what to think ….

A Judas meditation

This evening at Choral Evensong (in which the boys and girls choirs sang amazingly!) I led a short meditation based on the reading of Luke 22, particularly developing the theme of Judas betraying Jesus.
I did this quite late in the week and so it is quite ‘unrefined’ but people seemed to find it useful and so I am putting it ‘out there’ in case it maybe useful for others.

Judas Meditation

We wonder why Judas betrayed Jesus
What on earth did he think he was doing?
what possessed him to do such a thing?
to betray such a friend?
the Messiah

Was he not there when Jesus walked on water!
or when he fed the 5000?
changed the water into wine?
did he not know who Jesus was?

what possessed him?
to do such a thing …
is that the reason … was he possessed?
like the boy called Legion
part of a spiritual battle
the last gasp attempt of the deceiver
to blow God’s plan off course?

or was Judas just confused?
this was not the Messiah he was expecting
the messiah was supposed to overthrow the oppressors
and lead them into a new Kingdom
a place they could call home
true freedom at last
why didn’t he act?

Was he naively trying to help?
thinking he was assisting
collaborating in the big plan
accelerating the inevitable overthrow of oppression
‘if I do this …. Jesus will have to act
they will be no match for Jesus
because he is the Messiah
never comprehending the consequences of his meeting

Maybe Judas was just frustrated
and never really got it
So … he tried to force the hand of God
coercing the redeemer to act
embracing personal intuition
deaf to the compassion of Jesus.

And what about us
it is easy for us to judge

have we never got frustrated with God?
never tried to push God?
to rush God?
to make God aware of our need for now?

are we guilty too of
trying to force the hand of the creator
when the right thing to do
was simply watch and wait …

Lord of all hope
creator of all
lover of all
Lord in whom we can trust absolutely

forgive us for those times when we have believed our finite schemes
rather than trusted your infinite creative design
when we are tempted to take things into our own hands
remind us that your hands are more than big enough to cope
and that we need to trust
to wait
to listen
and respond with you.
Rather than playing safe amongst our undeveloped blueprints
give us courage to tentatively wander in your creative bliss.

the 2 sided coin of worship and mission

Yesterday was also quite an exciting day as I had the privilege of joining with many others to welcome Peter and Michelle Guinness to St Mark’s, and to support Peter as he was inducted as priest in charge.

There were lots of people there and lots of people pretty excited by the new era that Peter and Michelle will inevitably bring with St Mark’s.

Bishop Brian preached excellently on mission and worship being two sides of the same coin. He used as his text Leviticus 23:22:

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.”

Bishop Brian made the point that in this book (not the first we would choose to read!!) which is all to do with ritual in worship that there is this reference to mission.  Bishop Brian challenged us to remember that worship and mission go together. They are two sides of the same coin. Our worship informs our mission and our mission informs our worship.

On a personal note I guess this is why we feel uncomfortable when we see churches with what they call wonderful worship who seem to neglect the poor and destitute on their doorstep. Worship and mission must go together as one just seems false and empty with out the other.
last night it was good to be present at the start of a new era and I look forward to seeing what happens at St mark’s over the next few years.

No Stage … it’s just for God

I was interested to read this blog which I was pointed to by Scott and it makes interesting reading. It sums up for me a lot of what the cathedral does which is unseen which, I believe, is a good mark of Christianity – we do things not to be seen doing them, or for glory, but because we feel drawn or led to do them.

I enjoyed reading this, but i think the writer misses one thing. He’s correct to say that this done at an excellent standard for very few people. I wonder if he misses that, actually, the good standard and the ‘excellence even in minuscule detail’ is because this is about worship. It does not matter who is or is not there, because God is and this is for God.

Thanks Scott – it was good to read, and causes me to miss the place just a little bit more!