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Reading of the “Word”

Recently I have been thinking about the way in which I read the Bible. Firstly I see the Bible as a book shelf, not as a single volume but as a collection of works drawn together to show the relationship between God and humanity and the response of humanity to God. Within this I do see that the Bible is inspired by God – but I don’t think that God sat there and dictated it word for word. I am aware that the Bible is made up of letter; history; legal books; advice and proverbs; poetry; prophetic writings; political challenges; humour; and the Gospels – the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.

 

However I have found that there are five general ways in general that I read the Bible, in no particular order:

  1. Pastoral reading – this is the reading that I do to prepare sermons, this is for me reading the Bible to hear most of all what it has to say in the situation in which I am to preach, as well as the general message to the current age.
  2. Academic reading – this is the reading to come to know the background of the text, the delving into the history of it, and what at times the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic meant or could have meant
  3. Devotional reading – this for me is my reading of the Bible in daily prayer; often to a set pattern and trying to keep the discipline of reading the sections set.
  4. Getting to know reading – this is for me reading to come to know the Bible better; it links to me devotional reading, but at times will move away from it. This is an attempted to come to know the body of Bible better.
  5. Personal reading – this is the reading that I do my self, when I open the Bible and simply mediate upon the word with no other purpose but to dwell upon it and listen to it.

So why think about the way in which I read the Bible, in part this is the question of how to approach the text before me. Some of the tools used will cross over and not be individual to one way of reading. However the way of looking at the text will change, what am I trying to get from – if anything – the text.

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Posted by on July 20, 2015 in Ministry, Spiritual Vocab

 

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Sing out in good voice

Singing is a part of Christian worship, in part from the early days – we are told to have a hymn by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:26 – and still forms a part of communal worship.

However some blogs I’ve seen of late have asked questions about our congregational singing. The first of these asked the question about why people are not singing any longer – Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship by Kenny Lamm. Lamm suggests that with the professional musician is the return to the pre-reformation performance of worship, and I’d have to say it can feel at times more like a performance at times. For me the performance is not all bad – we have the choral evensong, with bits that no one but the choir sing as another method – however to move completely to just this model  does leave people out of what is happening. And are we not there to worship God, and not just watching others do it. In fact it can come to feel like this does:

The second blog came at the issue from another direction, 13 Solutions for a Church That Just Won’t Sing and looks at how to encourage singing.

The cross over between the two blogs is interesting, and a couple of things stand out to me:

1) The use of Hymn Books

The common book that all can share in and sing from. Singing from the same hymn sheet in fact. But that the hymn book is more than just a way to get the words out to people so they can sing them, but that it is also a book to be engaged with and used as part of everyday live. Within my own Methodist tradition the hymn book is a key part of the devotional material of the church, and has been part of the worship resources from the early days when John Wesley put together collections of hymns including Select hymns with tunes annext: designed chiefly for the use of the people called Methodists (1761) (a digital copy of the original can be seen here) which included his Directions for Singing:

Even today the daily lectionary in the Prayer Handbook, gives for each day a Reading; a Psalm and a Hymn. There was also the controversy about the new hymn book – Singing the Faith. However what this has done, is to put common words into the hands of all, and not just those who can search them out on the web.

2) The need for congregational singing

“Directions for Singing” by John Wesley

That this part of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others, be careful to observe the following directions.

I. Learn these Tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing All. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in Time: whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your Heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

Mr Wesley’s Directions for Singing show a need to sing together, and this is the second key part for me of what both blogs say. That the congregation all sing together, that it is a communal act. In this we see that God is the one to whom our worship is directed, that God is the audience for our worship, and not any of us in the worship space. Thus we need to sing together.

What now…

Well I agree we need to have some new worship songs; and some old ones. Also having new songs to old tunes. We don’t need to be perfect in what we sing, but need to know that God is at the centre.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Ministry, Worship

 

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Time, and it’s use

First apologies for the lack of updates of late, but here is one.

So about a month ago, I heard on the radio about a new nutrient pill, that meant one didn’t have to “waste time” eating. On the radio program “A Point of View” John Gray spoke about the fact that people want to be busy all the time, and have our time filled. Now about the same time on Seedbed they had something about Why Worship is a Royal Waste of Time. Now this spoke about worship being there for its own sake, and not to generally do other things.

Now looking at these two things together, first that people want their lives to be filled and with no space in them, but then worship is not a “productive” use of time. I ponder if the filling of time is a good thing, should all be measured in how many time units are allocated to things, or do some things have a different measure on them.

But also is this one of the ways that the church is counter-cultural?

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Ministry, Spiritual Vocab

 

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Hear the words

One of the things that I find helpful in worship is to listen. Now some may say, yes but that is what we all do. But for me it is a case of listening to readings and other long sections of text, to listen and take in the words. And to not be reading them. Now I know different people engage with information and so forth differently, however I do like listening to readings in church. I find that I will often hear things that I may never of noticed when reading (this even happens during services, that in hearing the words something new to come to light).

However I do wonder if we lose something when everyone has their head in a book as the person up front reads out what they are also reading. I’d also say that I like worship that uses set texts – in fact I raised on it. A Greek Orthodox Priest on this topic spoke of the words being learnt from childhood, that they become part of us and we don’t need to follow them in a book. And to this I say Amen.

Christian say we follow the living Word, so let us have to words dwell in us.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Mystery, Spiritual Vocab

 

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Church survival bag

A couple of weeks back I shared a post by God Life Church entitled Long Live the church. The original post viewed the decline in church membership like a disaster movie, with a plague spreading, and the need for humans to come together and do something.

Now those who follow such films and genre will know of the survival bag – a bag packed with the things to get through the asteroid stick, zombie apocalypses or what ever. S it got me thinking, what would I put in the Methodist Church is survival bag, the things worth taking with us.

  • The Class Meeting – the small groups that are intended for spiritual development, the deepening of faith and pastoral care. I’d put this in the bag because of all the above things. But also due to the origin of them, that it was a practical origin of collecting the penny to pay back the loan on the New Rooms. The ability to take something very practical and find a way to use it for the work is something important to me.
  • The Priesthood of All Believers – Now first this is not a case that everyone does everything, no it is a case that every one could do anything. The fact that in the church we are all equal, some are called to different tasks, and some do them, in this way it is not that every one does everything, but that they can. Also a key part of this is that access to God is not limited to a special few, but that all can and should interact with God.
  • Connexinalism – The interlinking of congregations and people. We are all working in the local, but people can support each other across the wider world. In this case the mutual support that can be seen here is important.

There are likely other things that would get put in the bag, what would you put in?

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Ministry

 

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…Long Live The church!

…Long Live The church!

Is this the future, I’m thinking along similar lines and hope to (might do) put up something around the question soon


IMG_2057A pathogen has been let loose in Europe, leaving devastation in its wake as it slowly dismembers the people of the established church. Creating a pandemic of disillusionment within the church and disinterest outside. I am one of the infected, though the disease hasn’t entirely robbed me of hope, but perhaps it’s just a matter of time.

I do enjoy apocalyptic movies, the likes of World War Z, Independence Day or Deep Impact. Where the world stands on the brink of destruction where all is nearly lost. Yet the human spirit to thrive is not extinguished. These movies are enjoyable as well as being horrific and certainly makes me wonder what would I do if I am faced with the end of the world!!

If church denominations and in particular the UK Methodist Church, were framed in an apocalyptic movie genre, what might its current situation look…

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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Ministry

 

Duality

Duality

The bodiless soul
is unrooted.
The soulless body
shall no soar.
The spiritual alone
is without reality.
The material alone
is without the other.
Justiceless mercy
does no satisfy.
Merciless justice
does no satisfy.
Duality can often
be divided to much.
Uniformity can often
not be broad enough.

 

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Mystery, Poetry

 

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