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Showing posts from February, 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B): Paradox and Commitment

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Lewis Carroll’s book, “Through the Looking Glass” is about a mirror-image world. The book starts with the young girl Alice wondering what is on the other side of the mirror above the mantelpiece. She clambers up to it and is astonished to find she can step through the looking glass into an alternative world. Among many other surprises Alice discovers that, paradoxically, in that world, to get to a chosen point, you have to walk in the opposite direction. That appears to be sheer nonsense but makes sense in a looking-glass alternative world.
The gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent this year (Mark 8: 31 - 38) contains an equally surprising paradox: to save your life you must lose it. Or, as Jesus said, "..those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8: 35)The outspoken Peter thought Jesus was speaking dangerous nonsense, the opposite of what he wanted to hear about Jesus'…

George Herbert, Priest, Poet

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Today the Church of England commemorates George Herbert as 'Priest, Poet'. As a teenager I discovered George Herbert's poetry long before I knew he was a priest and for 3 years Rector of Bemerton where he died on 27 February 1633

In 2010, in 'Bed, board and books by the thousands' I wrote about a conference my husband and I attended, led by Justin Lewis-Anthony and based on his book 'If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him: Radically rethinking priestly ministry''. This was about:

a redundant model of ordained ministry based on romanticised mythology of how George Herbert is supposed to have done it, or thought it should be done, in the 17th centurythe damage that has been created for parish priests trying to live up to this idealised role modelalternative models for the 21st century.
To me George Herbert is one of England's greatest poets. Today I would rather celebrate him more as poet than priest. After all he only had a very few years in…

1st Sunday in Lent (Year B): In the Wilderness

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The Gospel of Mark's account of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is brief:
"And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. " (Mark 1: 12 - 13)Apart from its brevity the 2 details that interest me most in this is the statement are: "he was with the wild beasts" and "the angels waited on him".

What were those wild beasts?
Wild goats, ibex  and hyrax that could have felt like companions in the wilderness? Or hyenas, jackals and wolves that could have posed dangerous threat to a man weak from prolonged fasting? Companions or threats or both? When feeling alone in whatever wilderness we may find ourselves, unexpected companions on the way - even of a type we wouldn't choose can be what we need to survive the experience. For any one going through difficult desert experiences the threats are real, can be overwhelmin…

How often should Christians fast?

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Following my post yesterday about 'Lent Fasting' I found this really helpful post by Ian Paul on his Psephizo blog 'How often should we fast'. Ian Paul describes himself as:
"a theologian, writer and speaker. Associate Minister at St Nic's, Nottingham and Honorary Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham. Mac user and chocoholic."The last word makes me wonder if he is giving up chocolate for Lent - or not? He doesn't tell, but he does write well about the Biblical background to the Christian practice of fasting. One thought that was new to me was the idea that a practice of 'intermittent fasting' is theologically "the dietary expression of the 'now and not yet' of the kingdom of God". He writes:

"Finally, it’s worth reflecting on what this habit of fasting two days a week signified as a devotional practice. As Eliezer Diamond notes (Holy Men and Hunger Artists, p 130) the idea of regular fasting would have seeme…

Lent Fasting

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What have you given up for Lent? I'm surprised how often that question is asked. It's interesting that many people who do not claim to be Christians do 'give up' something during the 6 weeks of Lent - typically chocolate or other inessential luxuries. There's nothing wrong with that. It can improve health and it helps to be disciplined.

If you are wondering when Lent is this year - it began yesterday on Ash Wednesday and continues for 6 weeks until Holy Week and Easter. It's not too late on this 2nd day of Lent to think about giving something up.

The Christian practice of fasting goes back 2000 years to its Jewish roots. Jesus was Jewish and so assumed his disciples would fast at certain times as part of their religious duty. He warned his disciples not to make it obvious to others by looking miserable or disfiguring their faces. The reward for that is immediate if you want others to think how pious you are, but lasting reward comes from God for those who fast in…