Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Which Corgi Sticker

There has been much talk ever since my first day in theological college over what brand of Christian I am. I had no idea there were so many different types until I arrived at this infamous seat of learning. Surely the question is not what type of follower I am but whether I am one at all. Some are following on rollerskates, some in a car, some walking, some sitting down having a breather and some are simply taking their first steps. Does it really matter if I am not that keen on rollerskating? This issue is more complex than our individual responses. It is now clear to me that the modes of travel have various groupings with banners over them, many give themselves names, have 'Visions', host conferences and some are so bold and confident as to say theirs is the only way to travel. How do they know that? I have not infrequently been asked to join one or more of these travelling clubs and have been on more than one of their holidays. To date, I have resisted the urge to join up. With particular reference to one such travelling club closely associated with vintners, my friend Tim commented "just because you have a Corgi sticker on your van it doesn't mean you are a registered plumber". For the time being my focus I think should be on becoming a good and competent plumber and perhaps we should all be a little wary of stickers, whatever they say.

Black and Gold Movie

We all love coffee but perhaps we should think a little more about how it gets to us. My friend Katie has pointed me to a movie about the explotation of coffee growers. Check out the wesite

www.blackandgoldmovie.com

The Ignored Equation

I was recently sitting in a coffee shop in Oxford reading. On the table next to me were three young students who were having a conversation that fascinated me. They were what one might term 'geeky' and they were all crowded around a small Nokia gadget that seemed to enable access to the internet. They were discussing interfacing protocals, modular interplay, reconfigured this and downloaded that. This was their world, they loved it and understood it and exisited in complete ignorance that most poeple have not a clue about their world nor how to enter it. No sooner had my young google friends departed than I was joined by three mathmaticians on the sofa next to me. They similarly lived in a world I failed to comprehend. A world of formulas and dramatic numeric puzzles that they all pitched their minds against until they were solved. I had not a clue about anything they said, not that it seemed to matter. I was not part of their world.

Why am I reflecting on this? Well, as the mathematicians left I was left wondering about the church. Are not theology and church so often an obsure world of alien language, inner knowledge and exclusivity. Perhaps our historic liturgies so prized and defended by many are as foreign to a post-modern culture as the myspace site of my geeky students is to my 70 year old mother. Has church become a dislocated quadratic equation that few have the time, ability or inclination to solve?

Maybe that's the challenge?

I have not yet mentioned my favourite preacher. He's called Tim Keller. If you want someone to feed your soul and open up the bible to you then this may be the man. His series on Galatians is the best £100 you will ever spend. Check out a resources page I found on the web or Redeemer.com. Happy listening.

Tim Keller

Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Inch-deep Church?

It has been really rather a busy week so I have neglected my blog. I fear also that I may have missed some thoughts that had I got around to it I could have posted. Friends have very generously encouraged me to write some more posts having read my few musings. Where to begin. Well, why not with some thoughts on a sermon a friend gave earlier this week. It was given with great passion, contained much profound thought and challenged me to think more broadly. Always a good thing. One thing that Eric said has stuck with me: " We must beware of creating churches a thousand miles wide and only an inch deep". Indeed we must.

Here my thoughts again turn to Ted Haggard, the fallen American pastor. As a chance happening on a bus journey from Oxford to London I met a friend from London who helped me understand all of this. He said that initially he had been pleased to hear this news and than God said a simple thing to his heart. " Put down your stone". What a word for me and for all of us who would judge another man's sin. "Put down your stone". May God work this misfortune and pain to his glory as he did for Gordon MacDonald. The fruit of MacDonald's removal from leadership was a profound and important book called 'Rebuilding your broken world' and anyone seeking after a life in the pastoral ministry would do well to read it.

Yesterday, I learnt that 47% of evangelical pastors are suffering from stress. My simple word to them is this: take up fly-fishing. For an introduction to fly-fishing for the uninitiated I commend the wonderful book by Norman MacClean called 'A River runs through it' which I like to read at least once every year or for those more visually attuned you can watch it on DVD thanks to Robert Redford. Perhaps I am being a little narrow in my treatment of stress but the principle of finding a restorative pastime is a task worth undertaking.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A lesson from Catherine Booth

I spend alot of time thinking about God. This is particularly the case because I am reading theology and training to be a Vicar. It has seemed to me over the past few weeks that these two things often don't have much to do with each other. This term I have learnt about the existence of dogmatics, natural theology, biblical theology, pastoral psycology and ethics. The whole process seems to be about acquiring more knowledge and cleverness and what I am so much more interested in is becoming the person God means me to be so that I can serve him as best I know how.

I read recently Gordon MacDonald in a fascinating article about the inability of Christian leaders to finish the task and his observation that many are left broken and disillusioned after 10 years of ministry. Why might this be? He went on the quote a letter William Booth's wife (founder of the Salvation Army) Catherine wrote to him when he was on the point of giving up.

"I know how possible it is to preach and pray and sing, and even shout, while the heart is not right with God. I know how popularity and prosperity have a tendency to elate and exalt self, if the heart is not humble before God. I know how Satan takes advantage of these things to work out the destruction (if possible) of one whom the Lord uses to pull down strongholds of his kingdom, and all these considerations make me tremble, and weep, and pray for you, my dearest love, that you may be able to overcome all his devices, and having done all to stand, not in your own strength but in humble dependence on Him who worketh 'all in all.'"

An apt quotation on the week that a major Christian leader in America has fallen from grace and lost everything. How easily I too could let me pride, ambition and decietful heart lead me to burn out in duplicity and falsehood. Not yet thank God, but who is to say that I will be able to sustain the race to the end. For MacDonald, it is all about formation and its radical neglect in the modern church. Worthy of note is that Catherine Booth wrote these words at the age of 23 and seems herself to have been a profoundly formed woman given over to prayer and other disciplines. Will I give myself over to learn these lessons as she seems to have done and get my heart 'right with God'. I pray so.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The more we pay

I have spent the last hour reading my friend Tom's blog and in a moment of enthusiam started my own blog. Being somewhat challenged by technology this is something of an adventure but all seems to have been achieved.

So we're off.

What do I do now?

Incidently, I saw Tom earlier on today in the most disturbed state of hurry and activity. The first time he has ever not had time to stop and chat. I can usually rely on Tom for some destraction, mindless laughter and a timewaste. It really must be one of those days.

I can't imagine anyone wanting to read this apart from me and there is the extreme danger that this may absorb an unfeasibly large amount of time. Ah well, beats writing an essay. My quote of the moment is from Elizabeth Eliot who once said 'The more we pay for the advice the more likely we are to listen to it'. As someone currently wondering and deciding about all sorts of things and always looking for advice she makes a valid and intersting observation.

Well, mustn't bang on on my first posting and who knows where this may lead. It will at very least be a home for all my mindless book, music and other spurious recommendations that I repeatedly bore my friends with.

Happy days!