Showing posts from June, 2015

Power of a word

I've been reminded lately of how often words can be misused on social media and the harm that can bring. Digitalnun's post today 'Trial by Social Media' is well worth a read on this topic. 
'A Wise Word: Reflection on Proverbs 25:11' was one of my 2014 posts on the Big Bible Project website. Here's what I wrote there and it seems worth re-blogging it  here, if only to remind myself.
Social Media is full of words – funny, sad, silly, wise, cruel, kind, judgemental, helpful, beautiful, ugly.

Posting on Twitter, Facebook and all the rest is so quick, it’s easy to say things we later regret. How many times have you re-tweeted a tweet that seems to be news, but without pausing to check the facts, so your tweet becomes false gossip or even slander. Or perhaps it is true but expressed in a cruel way? You know the sort of thing.

Dave Roberts has a helpful Proverbs related post about our use of words in Words! Aaaarggh! Do take a look.

My post today is about one particul…

Welcome and warning

I take delight in odd or ambiguous signposts. These are in a garden on the Mount of Beatitudes in the Galilee, Israel. I was on retreat near here last month.

Here with a refreshing water feature I saw one of my favourite Bible verses, words of Jesus from John 7: 37 - 38.

Right beside this open invitation from Jesus for anyone who is thirsty to come to him and drink, was the warning 'Water not for drink'. Kindly meant and with a view to the health and safety of visitors no doubt, but it did set me off wondering about the contradictory messages the church often gives and individual Christians present. "Come to Jesus...but don't..."

What contradictory or ambiguous Christian signs have you seen?

Have you experienced a church 'welcome' that turns out to be not so welcoming after all?

What barriers to finding faith in Jesus have you experienced or noticed?

Some other posts about ambiguous or odd signs:

How not to welcome visitorsAlarming or helpfulAmbiguous signsHuman…

Mentoring and St Barnabas

Have you ever acted as a mentor for another person? To sponsor them or to help their development? Have you been helped in your career or life development by a mentor? I've experienced both in informal ways and as part of formal schemes.

Mentoring is not a new idea. It has been basic to most apprenticeship systems for many hundreds, if not thousands of years. A good mentor can enhance a person's life or career through helping to build competencies and confidence. The role of mentor requires a range of skills, values and knowledge.

One particular aspect of mentoring is the mentor's encouragement of the 'mentee'. Encouragement does not mean giving constant false praise. It's more about strengthening, so can include identifying problems, or giving someone a bit of a shove in a better direction.

Some people have a particular gift of encouragement. One person who good at encouraging others is commemorated today. He was Barnabas, 'son of encouragement'. The name …

St Columba's Day

This is the day to remember Columba (521 - 597 A.D.), patron saint of Derry, floods, bookbinder, hackers and copyeditors and much more. He belongs both to Ireland and Scotland. I love this photo of the top part of his statue in Derry, Northern Ireland. It shows #Columba releasing a dove of peace. The name Columba means dove. The Irish nicknamed him Columcille which means dove of the church.

There is a brief summary of Columba's life and legacy in 'Who was St Columba?' on the Derry Heritage Trail website. My previous post about this Irish monk who I remember best as the founder of the Abbey on the tiny island of Iona in Scotland is here, 'St Columba'. Iona became a significant base to spread the gospel in Scotland and northern England. although after arriving in Iona I think Columba himself spent most of the rest of his life on that island.

The following is known as St Columba's Prayer' although as far as I know not written by him. It is more of a poem really.

On Being Awake in the Present Moment

One of the joys of a holiday or retreat away from the usual busyness of life is the opportunity to be still and just look, listen, smell, touch, taste and really be awake. It is a time to set aside the 'to do' list and just be.

We can so easily sleep walk our way through life, not noticing life itself, even our own life. I can be busy but not really attentive to what is going on around or within me.

I wrote in 'Beatitudes: a call to let go' about a recent retreat in Galilee. This is another reflection arising from that week. Most afternoons I sat for a while on a rock by the lake, with my feet in the water. Sometimes I tried to sketch what I saw or took photos. Sometimes I prayed. Sometimes I just sat and looked and listened. 

On 2 occasions I deliberately did nothing except observe a square yard in front of me for at least half an hour. (This had been a suggestion of the retreat leader.) The photo at the head of this post is the small area I chose. It was at the edge of …

What is bad theology?

What is bad theology?

To ask that question presupposes there is such a thing as 'good theology' which could be contrasted with the bad.

For people of Christian or any other religious faith there is a danger that we think of good theology as that theological position with which we agree. There is also a danger of thinking of bad theology as whatever is alien to the theological view we hold. 

Aware that I am immediately falling into that latter trap, I still want to share with you 2 comments on good and bad theology with which I agree. They were written by Amos Smith.
"Good theology builds bridges and heals divisions in our minds and in our world."  "Bad theology builds walls between people, and promotes violence."
I found these here on the Recover Christianity's Mystic Roots website written by Amos Smith. 

How would you characterise 'bad theology'?
What sort of theology do you think is 'good theology'?
Does it matter how you answer those question…

Beatitudes: a call to let go

Do you find it easy to 'let go'? Many of us cling to certain things or attitudes, even though in the wider perspective they are unimportant or even wrong. By 'wrong' I mean destructive rather than life-enhancing. I think I often don't realize what those things are for me until they are threatened or taken away. 

During a recent retreat in Galilee I spent time alone in a shady place on the Mount of Beatitudes, the hill traditionally associated with Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. As encouraged to do by the retreat leader I slowly read Jesus' sermon on the mount from Matthew 5 - 7, thinking of it as not so much a set of rules as an invitation, a snapshot of the kingdom of heaven.

Later that day our leader The Rt. Revd. John Pritchard invited our retreat group to think of the Beatitudes as "some kind of call to let go". This really resonated with me so before I forget them and because I need to meditate on these further, here is an outline:

Our Mother who art in heaven

Is it OK for Christians to address God as 'Mother'? My short answer is 'yes' because the Bible uses many female metaphors for God.

Similarly it is OK to address God as 'Father' because the Bible uses many male images for God.

My longer answer is: it's complicated! It's complicated because God is neither woman nor man. God is Spirit. That is the witness of the Bible and of the tradition of the Church. We cannot know God except through revelation by God, who is neither male nor female (biological sex) and neither feminine nor masculine (gender - a cultural construct).

It is further complicated by traditional expectations of how Christians should address God in worship.

I am not saying we should stop praying to God as 'Our Father in heaven'. That is an important image of God as Father that Jesus gives us in his pattern prayer ('The Lord's Prayer). That 'father' image is also there in the Old Testament. It is memorably amplified in Je…

Leaping with joy, against all the odds

An older woman is full of joy as she greets her younger cousin.

They are both pregnant and may both the subject of malicious gossip. 

Elizabeth is too old to be pregnant.
She has been married to Zechariah a long time and no babies have come from their marriage. Women deemed 'barren' were scorned - hard enough in itself. or was the problem with the husband? If Zechariah had failed to impregnant her after so many years, did the village gossips of Ein Karem wonder if Elizabeth's much belated pregnancy was by a younger man?

Elizabeth's young cousin Mary is scarcely old enough to be pregnant.

Have Mary's parents sent her far away to the hill country of Judea on the pretext of helping old Elizabeth, but really to shield her from disgrace in Nazareth before her condition began to show? Mary is pregnant and the father is not her fiance Joseph. Who would believe her story of being visited by an angel and conceiving a child by the Holy Spirit of God?

The story of Mary's prenat…