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Showing posts from August, 2011

End of Summer Top 10

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On the last day of August I've just looked at the Google stats for this blog to see which posts were the most read during this last month. Here's the list of the top 10 in descending order.

Saying Sorry Isn't Enough posted on 16 July 2011 and triggered by the News of the World Scandal.

Riot Wombles posted on 9 August 2011 is about a good news story in the aftermath of the riots in London and other UK cities.

Weeping with rage posted on 10 August 2011 points to Hayley Matthew's experience as a chaplain caught up in the Salford riots.

On Leaving the Sermon on the Printer posted on 4 August 2011 is about coping with the fear of public speaking and preaching. I wrote this after preaching without notes having left my sermon at home.

How to Strengthen Your Faith posted on 9 June 2011 is about strengthening Christian faith through spiritual food, exercise and rest.

Grave Thoughts posted on 25 August 2011 was triggered by reading about the idea of 'accompaniment' at Velvetee…

Aidan gets my vote

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If England must have a patron saint, why can't it be St Aidan rather than St George? Peaceful Aidan gets my vote every time. St George wasn't English and never lived here. George was a Palestinian, a Roman soldier who died in Turkey. The legend about dragon slaying seems to come from something he did in Libya.

Yes, I know, St Aidan wasn't English either. St Aidan was born in Ireland and was a monk in Scotland, but at least he lived in what is now part of England  for a substantial time. What contribution did St George make England? None. St Aidan on the the other hand made a significant contribution to the needs of the people of the 7th century kingdom of Northumbria (north-east England) and has left an enduring Christian heritage.

Aidan is also a more attractive figure than St George, who is usually depicted as a warrior riding a horse with a sword in his hand. Aidan preferred walking, as he valued being on the same level as other people, especially the poor he met as he w…

Costly Commitment

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Do you know the story of the chicken and the pig? It's an old one.

Here's my version as I used this morning to illustrate the gospel reading - Matthew 16: 21-28.
Do you know my friends Chicken and Pig?

Chicken and Pig got chatting.
“They are good people at the farm”, said Chicken.
Pig nodded.
“They are kind,” said Chicken.
“Yes, yes”, said Pig.
“Times are hard for farmers,” said Chicken, “I think we should do something for them”.
Pig couldn’t imagine what, but he listened to Chicken’s idea.
She said, “I think we should give them something they really enjoy.”
“Like what?” asked Pig.
“I was thinking,” said Chicken “that we should give them…BACON AND EGGS!”
Pig dug all 4 trotters into the ground, lifted his snout and rejected this monstrous idea.
“Absolutely no way!
For you that’s just a minor inconvenience.
For me it’s TOTAL COMMITMENT.”


Grave Thoughts

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I didn't know that the Hebrew word for a funeral - 'levayah' - means 'accompaniment' until I read a post called Earth and Pine at Velveteen Rabbi's blog.

She writes about the last act at a Jewish burial of mourners throwing handfuls or shovelfulls of earth over the casket and how this is seen as 'the last act of kindness one can perform for someone who has died, having "accompanied the soul of the person we love as far as we can go."

At Christian burials a similar tradition of throwing token amounts earth over the coffin is usually followed. By this we acknowledge that as far as the person's bodily remains are concerned, there is nothing more to be done but to complete the burial.

The physical burial work is done by the grave digger/filler, sometimes seen waiting discreetly at a distance until all the mourners have left. Why don't some or all stay and watch this or why don't able-bodied relatives help with this? Because it would be too d…

Weeping with rage

Hayley Matthews, Chaplain at Media City UK, based in Salford, wrote a vivid and disturbing account of her personal experiences caught up in the Salford riots yesterday. Wearing her clerical collar, she found herself held among the rioters in a 'kettling' operation by the police. What she witnessed (and tried to challenge) is deeply shocking. She ends her eyewitness account with this reflection:
"The trouble is, we do have a two tier society without a doubt, and while bankers have been allowed their bonuses having stitched us up every which way, we will continue to pay for this in more ways than one, and tonight is just one of them. With the cuts aimed primarily at the poor and the needy and the disenfranchised, things can only get worse.
And what will we do? Continue to promulgate the values that have created this deadly cocktail of haves and have-nots, faithless, hopeless people who have been taught that consumerism is a recreational right and all moral and religious educa…

Riot Wombles

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Yesterday, my other half and I spent the day in central London and attended the funeral of John Stott at All Souls, Langham Place at the north end of Regent Street, London.

It was a day of peace, poignancy, thanksgiving, sadness and joy. I don't remember seeing any police all day. After 3 nights of riots and looting in some parts of London I assume they were all engaged elsewhere or catching up on sleep after the night before.

Everything about the recent riots over the last 3 nights in UK cities is deeply worrying. One thing that has shocked me most is how quickly a small minority can create so much damage to property, people's livelhoods and sense of safety in their own community.

Is there any good news coming out of this? It's encouraging to see how many volunteers have come out on the streets to help where they could in cleaning up the damage, acting together to restore faith in community.

Riotscleanup Blog posted this message today.
"We should start with a thank you…

On Leaving the Sermon on the Printer

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Have you heard the story of the the young man preaching his 1st sermon? He mounted the pulpit, carefully placing the notes he'd spent so long preparing. Immediately a gust of wind blew his notes out of the open window. He laughed nervously and announced to the congregation, "I'm sorry. I've lost my notes. I suppose I'll just have to trust God."

"I'll just have to trust God" is the thought that came to mind yesterday, when in the vestry just before a mid-week Holy Communion service, I discovered I'd left my carefully crafted 'homily' on the printer tray at home. Grabbing a post-it note I jotted down 1 or 2 words. The resulting reflection was appreciated by at least some of its hearers. The Holy Spirit can use our mistakes, including our forgetfulness.

Some people can give a speech or sermon without notes. I'm not one of them. (Well I can, but I'd rather not - too frightening.) Some preachers prefer mainly to speak spontaneouly, …