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Christian values in the UK today…

Every so often there is a call in some of the press about the UK being a Christian nation, and that we should have Christian values. But then again there is also the saying to be careful for what you wish because you might just get it.

So at the end of a week when there is what I can only see as a created controversy over the inclusion or not of “Easter” in the name of some events. We have on the one hand those who say that it is all bad because some lumps of chocolate (wrapped in foil with pirates, robots and princesses on) that are hunted for don’t have the name Easter associated with them. As Mark Steel puts it “Theresa May is right: if we let someone drop ‘Easter’ off an egg hunt, we may as well hand Britain to the jihadis

But of course this is in the same week that the Churches raised the issues of child poverty and the effects changes in the benefits system on this. Of course this is not new, as the the item from the Joint Public Issues Team highlights, there have been a number of reports and items raised on this. Going back to 2015 there was the Enough campaign. And even further back the church has been raising such issues. What also surfaced for me this week was a piece in the Guardian where (the then) Victoria Coren defended the Bishops of the Church of England for standing up for children in the befits system – and this was back in 2012.

 

So what are Christian values, to me the latter set of standing up for the poor, the oppressed, being a voice for the voiceless. As it is put in the letter of James

26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

and then there is continual call in Deuteronomy about how we care for the widow, orphan and stranger, with just two examples below.

1018 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing.

2417 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.

So for me once we have sorted out what can be seen as core Christian values; as come from Jesus him self, and of course he then goes on to explain who a neighbour is

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ (Luke 10:25-28)

And for who is my neighbour – Luke 10:25-37

 

Then we can try for the minor things like chocolate eggs…

 
 

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The political but not partisan

With all that’s going on at the moment, it is difficult to not just let my own views take over what I say in the pulpit. At times yes I need to give my own views and opinions… however these view need to be rooted in scripture and faith, and when preaching, when I

interpret those sacred stories of our community, so that they speak a word to people today [Ordinations service of the Singapore Methodist Church]

It is my place to let me get in the way of the message, but at times it can be hard. This thinking has been kicked off by others having similar issues, in this case David over at Beloved Spear, and how he is dealing with things in the US.

So now we wait and see, but keep in mind the teaching of Christ and ways of God.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Ministry

 

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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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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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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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