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Showing posts from June, 2006

Servants of God

What does it mean to be a servant of God? In this week's lectionary passage [1] St Paul give us his CV and asks us to judge whether he has lived up to his calling.
As I listen to it again, I think he would have felt very much at home in the modern job market. He's not at all reticent about his achievements. Instead, he recognises the pressing need to go out and sell himself, or – as he puts it – to commend himself and his team to his readers. He wants them to know exactly what his team has done and the commitment which this has demanded. It could be called 'boasting', but St Paul calls it 'speaking frankly' and 'openly', and he urges his readers to do the same.
I think St Paul is not just describing his own work, and the work of his colleagues. He's also setting out a pattern for all kinds of Christian service. And it's not a pattern which applies only to people who are working as ministers or missionaries, I think it's a pattern for everyone …

Time to Talk of God

Do we spend too much time analysing the mission of the Church and trying to work out how to do it better? Perhaps that's inevitable in a culture where organised religion – and especially organised Christianity – is in decline. Most of us have seen mission initiatives come and go, often without any sustained impact. We are bound to start asking ourselves, 'Where are we going wrong and how can we do it right?'
The Methodist Conference report, 'Time to Talk of God' spends a whole chapter looking at how we can get back into conversation with the dominant culture of our time. It concludes that Christians need to be talking to their neighbours and colleagues about the things which really matter to them.
What then are these pressing issues that we should be prepared to talk about? They are things like: how to help people feel they belong to something or someone in an increasingly fragmented society; work / life balance; spirituality as opposed to religion; the difference be…

At Home or Away

Perhaps because the country is currently in the grip of World Cup fever, one phrase stood out from the passage in St Paul's second letter to Corinth that is included in this week's lectionary.[2] 'Whether we are at home or away,' says St Paul, 'We make it our aim to please the Lord.'
It makes a big difference to football teams whether they are at home or away, and no one seems to know quite why. Occasionally, when non-League sides are competing in the FA Cup, it's because they know about – and can exploit – some of the idiosyncrasies of their pitch, things like slopes, bumps and hidden depressions in the surface. Professional sportsmen shouldn't be affected, of course, by the roar of the crowd. They should be able to blot it out and concentrate on the game. And so should referees. However, a statistician recently analysed Premiership matches and found that referees consistently award more free kicks to the home side than to the away side. He thought that…

Looking at God

Some people look at God and see mystery, and often they look no further. They assume that the mystery is unfathomable, that it will never be possible to know for sure what God is like.
Some people look at God and see the universe and everything in it, and assume that they are one and the same. They see that God is in everything that exists, and in everyone they meet, and they imagine there is no more to God than that. They don't see how God could also be above and beyond the universe.
Some people look at God and see Jesus – a God who is one of us, who laughs with us and cries with us, and shares our pleasure and pain. But all they see when they look at God is Jesus.
And some people look at God and see someone who is a constant source of power and inspiration. Theirs is a God who guides their everyday thoughts and decisions and gives them strength when they feel weak.
And all of these ways of seeing God are more or less right. God is a mystery too deep for us to fathom. But God is also…

The God of Storm, and Peace and Blessing

Psalm 29 is a song which people sang or chanted during worship in the Temple dedicated to God in Jerusalem almost three thousand years ago.
Its subject matter is very daring, for it takes the characteristics of the pagan storm god, Baal, and reassigns them to the one true God.
The psalm is addressed not to other people on earth, but to the beings in heaven. They are asked to praise God using a description which pagan worshippers had probably used when praising Baal.
Baal was supposed to be the god who spoke in thunder and torrential rain. But now his worshippers declare that it is really the one true God who speaks with a voice like thunder.
Baal was supposed to be the god whose powerful storms lashed the trees and sometimes split them in half. But now his worshippers declare that it is really the one true God who sends the violent winds and shakes the earth.
Baal was supposed to be the god who sent bolts of lightning. But now his worshippers declare that it is the one true God who does th…