Monday, 31 May 2010

Whether you are French or not...   Time for another break.  Back soon.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Does our desire as Christians to be inclusive of all sorts of people mean that we will never say, 'You should not do that'? Surefish Daily Reading
I read this yesterday and so wanted to answer this question!  There is a big difference between advising people and ordering them.  Too often Christians order people - and it is wrong and it does us no good.  We need to respect people's free will, of course we can explain our views to them, but to order them or threaten them shows an arrogance that is not found in Jesus.

Some Christians also do not appear to understand the difference between the law of the land and a belief drawn from faith.  I may or may not believe something is wrong because of my faith - but if I live in a land which has chosen a different law then I am free to campaign against it - and in many senses I have a duty to do so - but if I chose to break the law in doing so I must be prepared to take the consequences.  After all we have rather a good role model for doing exactly that.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Is the rational all there is?

be rational Pictures, Images and Photos
Since I blogged on rationality the other day the web seems to have been full of others doing the same.

Apparently Terry Sanderson had held Rowan Williams up to ridicule but Andrew Brown supported him, my Bishop chipped in comparing the spirit and dogma and the Naked Pastor critiqued faith from within.  Then Richard Rohr sent round a daily thought with the following:
So we have these words describing mystical moments: enlargement, connection or union, and emancipation. You may not use these same words, but on a practical level it is experienced as a new capacity and a new desire to love. And you wonder where it comes from. Why do I have this new desire, this new capacity to love some new people, to love the old people better, maybe to enter into some kind of new love for the world? I even find my thoughts are more immediately loving.
Clearly, you are participating in a love that’s being given to you. You are not creating this. You are not generating this. It is being generated through you and in you and for you. You are participating in something larger than yourself, and you are just allowing it and trusting it for the pure gift that it is.
The question that I will keep posing is what about the things that can't be proven: are they worthless and to be ignored, or can we admit that there is something of worth which cannot be proven?  My vote is for the latter.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Communicating across Divides

For those who have been following the debates on faith and proof, there is another of our Millennium lectures coming up which might be of interest if you are anywhere near Amersham.

Reflection on an authentic language of the Spirit, by Harvey Gillman, Tuesday June 29. 8 pm.  St Michael and All Angels, Amersham on the Hill.

What do we mean by religion and spirituality? What do we mean by truth in a community of faith? How far can language embody meaning? How can communication lead to communion? These themes will be explored in relation to a world of conflicting understandings of truth. Harvey comes to this topic paradoxically as one who finds meaning in ambiguous poetry, revelation in music and depth in silence.

Harvey Gillman was outreach secretary for British Quakers for 18 years. He writes and lectures on spirituality, language and how we can use difference compassionately and with integrity. His books include: A Light that is Shining, an introductory book on British Quakers; A Minority of One; and Consider the Blackbird.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Do you like this?

Place your hope in God alone. If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
The Rule of Benedict (only there 1 day in 4 months)
I like this quote from Benedict, but I have a friend who dislikes it - we haven't gone into why - but I think that it is an example of the religious paradox that I was writing about yesterday.  It isn't necessarily that I think that it is "true", but that it gives insight into ways of thinking which help me come to God.

What do you think?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Paradox and Faith

Something else which I suspect will get up the nose of atheists is the concept of religious paradox.  I want to say (and mean) both that God is powerless and that God is powerful.

When we are talking about God we cannot use language - God is bigger than language - instead we are working with metaphor - and sometimes a metaphor of powerlessness helps us understand more, and sometimes a metaphor of powerful does.  All of these help us colour in our picture of God - or perhaps taking an apophatic path help us in removing bits that aren't in the picture!

Pete Rollins is very good on paradox in all his books

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Faith - Pragmatist v Rationalist

The debate between we of faith and an atheist rationalist has been going on in the comments of a number of blog posts (here, here, here and here for example).

As a pragmatist I am finding it frustrating as we appear to have little common ground to debate on; for example we agree that there is no scientific data to base our thinking on, but that is all that is allowed as proof by our atheist friend.  When it comes to circumstantial evidence, for example the behaviour of Christians, then it is responded that this could come from another source (which of course it could).  The one argument that I don't think has been answered is that Christians behave in counter intuitive ways (see long quote below fold), but ways which when they are lived lead to life in all its fullness (John 10:10, GNB), but again subjective experience is not allowed.

Fowler's theory of Faith Development defines faith thus:
Think if you will, of faith as `universal’, as a feature of living, acting, and self-understanding of all human beings whether they claim to be `believers’ or religious or not (Fowler & Keen, 1985:17).
As teachers of the faith one of the things that we have to deal with is that there are people at all faith stages in our congregations, and things which may be helpful to those at one stage might well be harmful to those at another.  Somehow we have to find a way of speaking to all, of encouraging all, without frightening some away.  That is why I believe that clergy will say things in private that they will not say in public or on a blog - in private one to one conversation it is much easier to work with where that person is!

Whilst taking on board Fowler's comment:
that the stages should never be used for the nefarious comparison or the devaluing of persons (Fowler, 1987:80)
I do believe that those in the higher numbered stages are less likely to behave in ways which militant atheists object to.

The challenge to those of us of faith is perhaps how to move people through the faith journey, and perhaps as a real challenge how to evangelise directly into the later stages, for if the stages apply to whatever "faith" we have then it should in theory be possible to do this - although most programs, such as Alpha,  appear to introduce people to the early stages.

Friday, 21 May 2010


I have been holding out for a while now, but yesterday finally signed up for Twitter.  revdalan is me if there are others of you out there who want to follow my jottings.

Already I have added Tweetdeck for my laptop and TinyTwitter for my phone - though without an unlimited data option I have left it on manual updating!

The question that I have is how will I manage the additional stream of information coming my way?  And I don't know the answer to that!   Yet.

The other question is how I will handle the visibility.  I try to control too much (even though I know I can't!) and I think Twitter will help me learn to deal with that.  After all, if I am broadcasting my thoughts to the world (as I suppose I do on this blog) I am letting go of control, and somehow with Twitter it seems more so than blogging - not sure why.

What experiences do others have in this space?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Do we all have a special gift?

A couple of days ago I met up with some old colleagues.  One of them mentioned that he had heard Clive Woodward saying that early in life you should find what you can excel at and nurture it.  None of us knew what our gift in this area was (and we are all of an age when too much time is spent talking about pensions J) and it set me wondering whether that something exists - and if it does what it might be.

This also takes us into the nature v nurture debate and that is also informed by Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers". In it he talks about how the vast majority of Ice Hockey players have birthdays in January, February and March - the reason for this being that if they start playing at a young age their greater development gives them and advantage which is magnified by the further opportunities that they get.  OK, so perhaps if your birthday is later in the year then Ice Hockey should not be your sport - but that to me questions whether you have a specific gift, or whether you have a number of aptitudes which can be developed in a number of different ways.

Perhaps I have misinterpreted Clive Woodward and what he was doing was to encourage everyone to find something which they enjoy and then to do it to the very best of their ability for its own sake - but sadly I doubt it.

Faith in God encourages us to see everyone (including ourselves) as loved by God for who we are and not what we do.  Our current society seems to be trying very hard to persuade us that this isn't true.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ethical Companies

It is good to see companies being monitored for ethical behaviour.  However, as always there are question marks about what constitutes ethical behaviour.  Personally I see the treatment of employees as a major part of this and do not consider the "rank and yank" approach to appraisals as ethical.  I don't know whether they still use it but General Electric certainly used to and lo and behold they appear on the ethical companies list!

Shouldn't there be a threshold for this?  Good policies in one space shouldn't be able to outweigh bad ones in another.  After all they are the only company ranked in their sector.  Or is this a case of not being able to agree that "rank and yank" is bad?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

What about Extra Curricular activities?

Is this person unfit to be a teacher because of this photo (with a caption saying "drunken pirate")?

I have blogged before about the perils of the net when it comes to employment.  But decided to have another go after seeing this article in the Guardian about someone arrested for a tweet, and someone else refused a teaching degree, they claim on the basis of a My Space entry.  I haven't fully read the judgement in this case, although comments on one of the sites covering it suggests that the issues were other than the photo.

What interests me about this are the range of views that exist in this area, for example the comments on this version of the story, from what you do off the job is no one elses business through to everything you do is part of the job (perhaps only for certain jobs).  It also touches on Red's question on differences of opinion.  Are there jobs where your behaviour off the job disqualifies you from carrying out the job?  I think the answer has to be yes - although with qualifications.  Nobody is perfect (I know this will come as a shock to some of you out there ;)) so the question becomes what imperfections do we focus on?  Red asked whether we would make a priest having an affair a Bishop - slightly tongue in cheek I would ask whether we would make a priest lending money a Bishop - after all the Bible says more about usury.  The same goes for other public roles, doctors, politicians and of course teachers.

I guess where I fall on this is that there are behaviours which would disqualify people from certain jobs, but having your photo taken as above isn't one of them.

Differences of Opinion

Red posted on differences of opinion and I felt that my answer was so long that it had better be a separate post!

For me there are two questions in Red's post.  The first is what do we do when we agree that something is wrong and the other is what we do when we don't agree.  When we all agree then it is relatively easy - although I suspect that there are few things that we all agree on!

So, when we don't agree, what happens then?  As Red said, Suem posted a link to the Bishop of Gloucester talking about what are first order issues and what aren't - where we have to agree and where we don't:
I think the best place is with the categorising of first and second order issues. I am quite clear that the issues on which the creeds make a firm statement - God as trinity, the divinity of Christ, the death and the resurrection of the Lord, the role of the Spirit and more - are first order issues on which there can be no change in what the Church teaches. They are fundamental to the Christian faith. I am equally clear that there are second order issues, which are important, and where interpretation of the tradition needs to be careful and prayerful, but where nevertheless individual churches and provinces need to be free to define doctrine in the way that seems to them to be in accordance with the mind of Christ.

Second order issues are those where we recognise that Christians can come to different conclusions and Christians can allow their view to be shaped in dialogue with their culture without imperilling the good news of Jesus Christ, setting back the Kingdom of God or breaking the fundamental unity of the Church.
There has recently been further discussion about whether the gay issue is first order or not, and whether instead we shouldn't be trying to get on together:
If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good.  Ruth Gledhill
The outcome will be a great challenge to the beliefs of many who have understood themselves to be faithful, orthodox, committed Christians and Anglicans.  Colin Coward
All spiritual teachers tell us “DO NOT JUDGE.” For those of us raised in a religious setting, this is very difficult. In a strange way, religion gave us all a Ph.D. in judgmentalism.  Richard Rohr quoted by Bishop Alan
I don't want to argue the pros and cons of the gay debate here, but instead ask why we can't accept that we have differences of opinion over this and recognise that we are all trying to follow the teachings of Jesus as best we can?
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
Oliver Cromwell: Letter to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland (August 3, 1650)

Monday, 17 May 2010

How much do you have to believe?

Whilst I agree with this post I was also challenged by it.  How much do we have to believe?  What is essential to our faith?  In this post the same writer suggests a stripping back of belief to a personal relationship, and I have heard David Winter saying that as time goes by he is more and more certain about less and less.  (I recognise that this is an ambiguous statement - for the avoidance of doubt I believe that his intent was to say that there were fewer things that he believed strongly, but those that he did he believed more strongly).  As a pragmatist I want to ask whether these things make any difference to us?

If I can't currently be certain about any of the things in the blog post does it matter whether they ever become resolved?  Or is there a sense in which knowing becomes worse than not knowing?

An old joke goes:
An archaeological dig in the Holy Land unearthed the bones of Jesus Christ. The evidence was compelling, even irrefutable. After checking and double-checking his information, the head of the team of archaeologists became certain that he had found the corpse of Jesus Christ, who therefore could not have been resurrected as Christians had always believed.
Stunned, he called the only person he could think of who was the recognized head of world Christianity, the Pope. After much discussion, the Pope began to understand just how strong the evidence was, and decided that he would have to call together the leadership of all Christian denominations in order to come to terms with this astonishing discovery.
“Who,” he asked his advisors, “is the greatest Protestant theologian now living?” The answer came back: “Paul Tillich.” So the Pope telephoned Paul Tillich and carefully described the way the bones had been found and how convincing the archaeological evidence seemed to him.
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. “Do you understand what I am saying?” asked the Pope.
“Ach,” said Tillich in his thick German accent. “Zo there really was a Jesus after all…”
 The article from which this comes goes on to suggest that:
A major goal of his [Tillich's] theological project was to create a version of Christianity which no possible historical evidence could ever falsify.
but how can we possibly falsify what we already have?  I can think of no evidence (short perhaps of a time machine - but even there it could have gone back to a parallel universe) which would prove to me anything about what happened 2,000 years ago.

I think we are left with mystery - and I think that is a good thing!

My question to those who differ from me is what difference would it make to your life if some of the things that you hold as important were to be proved false?  How would it change your life?  What would you do differently?

Perhaps one day we will know the answer to these questions but that day is at the end of time, and not much good to us in living our lives today other than through faith.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

What are exams for?

My daughter is about to start her exams (again!), but what are they for?  This might seem a silly question, but the answer determines an awful lot of other issues.

Broadly the choice is that exams are either to show the innate intelligence of children or to determine which children are most suited to further education or various jobs.

When I did exams I believe that they were to determine who was most suited to further education and jobs but somewhere they seem to have morphed into ways of showing innate intelligence.  Does this matter?  If you believe (as I do) that innate intelligence is not a good correlator for the ability to do a good job outside of academia then it does mean that exams are no help for this.

Universities and employers still appear to want to select the "best" (or perhaps most appropriate) candidates. However exams no longer provide this information.  I also recently got involved in a conversation about extra time for exams.  In the real world if someone needs additional time, or special surroundings that is potentially a drawback to carrying out their duties, but exams no longer tell this.

The problem is that universities are starting to set their own exams because they cannot determine what they wish to know from public exams, and I suspect that more employers will start to do the same.  When I was recruiting we used literacy and numeracy tests together with psychometric profiling - what is the literacy and numeracy other than an exam?

So why do we have the exams we do?  Answers on a postcard please!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Working from Home and Social Media

Not my office - far too little paper around for that!

I was sparked into thinking about working from home by this blog post.  Although I work from home, and have the issue of not having colleagues working alongside me at least in this church we say morning prayer together every day and have the opportunity to chat afterwards.

However, I am not going to blog on work - I have done that a reasonable amount already, but on my observations on social media.  Perhaps unsurprisingly I know a lot of vicars!  A subset blog and Twitter and Facebook and one of the things that I have noticed is that particularly blogging and Twittering (no I don't tweet) build communities and provide a a virtual neighbour for that displacement activity which is essential when that sermon just has to be written (like now!).  This is far from a scientific observation, but I am starting to wonder whether the growth in these media is in part down to the reduction in community in the workplace, providing a virtual community which will still be there when the current job isn't.

However, it can also be very addictive and at present I don't have time to tweet and don't feel the lack of community - although either of these might change!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

What value Budgets?

What is your experience of budgets?  Are they useful or not?

During my life I have experienced, or heard about a number of different approaches to budgeting - though I have no experience of government budgeting where counter intuitive Keynesian approach works.  So what are the pros and cons?

I have experienced one approach and heard of another.  My experience is of budgets being targets which were not to be missed.  If the forecast outcome was off budget then action was taken to correct it.  Most often this involved cutting expenditure - to the extent that maintenance was often delayed until later in the financial year to see how the overall budget looked.  There were two sides to this - one was a genuine cutting back on expenditure, the other simply a manipulation of the timing of expenditure to fit into arbitrarily defined buckets (financial years and quarters).  The other approach that I heard of was where there was no budget - but expenditure was expected to be on an ever decreasing decline with this months target being below last months.  The difference between the two companies was that one was a PLC having to satisfy "the market" whereas the other was a privately owned company.

Charity Sector
My experience now in the church/diocese is that the budget is treated more as guidance - the idea of moving costs into a new year because they weren't budgeted in the old one has gone - and I think this is good - it avoids the manipulation of expenditure to meet arbitrary targets - after all if the money needs to be spent does it really make sense to wait a couple of months?  However, I wonder whether the culture of explaining differences to budget rather than managing them out means that the cost cutting is harder to implement.  It is very easy to explain differences - but if your boss doesn't accept that then you have to find a way - if you have a more understanding boss who lets you explain things away that is always easier than taking action.

I run a very simple personal budgeting system - what, budget? J Though I know others who run more or less complicated systems.  I figure out what rate of expenditure I can sustain and monitor it by looking at my balance at the end of the month.  Nearly all my expenditure is monthly bar TV and phone so it works well enough for me.  Plus if I put money into savings I might even get some goodies - assuming that I don't have to take it out again to live!

Funny thing is - soon after I wrote most of this post Thinking Anglicans posted the following about the budget problems in the church, with links to other sources as well!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

More on Women Bishops...

Aren't Reform fighting a lost battle?

I was going to hold off discussing the latest on women bishops, but I have just come across this letter from Reform, published last week (h/t Church Times Blog).  The issue of the theological acceptability of women priests and bishops has been long decided in the Church of England, and the ongoing debate as I understand it has been about how to accommodate (or not) those opposed to it.  The Reform letter appears to be going back to first principles and arguing that there shouldn't be women bishops, perhaps in their terms "can't be".

They do not appear to be arguing for a different form of oversight, instead they seem to be arguing that if there are women bishops they will leave.  That is their prerogative, although quite why they want to stay with a group of people with whom they differ so fundamentally baffles me.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Value of Sport

Do you remember the old joke about having aches in places you didn't know you had places?  Well that is me today!  Yesterday I played my first game of cricket for about a year, and bowled for the first time in about 10.

It was a practice game before the serious stuff of the Church Times competition and for some reason unbeknownst to the rest of us the captain had picked last years runners up as our practice competition.  Suffice it to say we did not win and three big sixes got hit off me.  Still, I managed to fend off their quickest bowler at the death, although what I was doing facing him I still don't know.  He bowled a no ball and I called the other batsman for a bye - why?  I could have stayed at the non strikers end safe and sound.  That said I was pleased that I did as I discovered I could still see the ball and he didn't seem that fast (just hope we don't meet them again, or he doesn't read this!).

Still, I had an enjoyable day out and found out a bit more about my fellow players - relationships are important, and this is another way of building them.

Monday, 10 May 2010

How cynical are you?

While the politicians have been busy trying to sort out a government what have you thought their priorities have been?  I caught a little of the TV coverage and it mostly seemed to be about party advantage for either the short or long term.  Is it possible that our politicians are thinking about what is good for our country as well?

Gordon Brown
Assuming that he believes what he was saying, then he believes that a Tory government who cut spending immediately will put the country at risk of a double dip recession - trying to stop them doing so, even at the cost of damaging the Labour Party's future prospects would be the right thing to do.  If he really believes this then standing down to facilitate a deal with the Lib Dems would also be the right thing to do (although he might find this harder if he believes that he has the skills that others don't to solve the issues).
I actually think that party advantage would suggest that he should have already resigned.  Let the Tories run the country for 6 months as a minority government and then find there needs to be another election - they then have the problem of being the incumbent in a difficult economic situation.  But he would believe that that would be bad for Britain.

David Cameron
If we want a government with any prospect of longevity then I think it has to be a Tory/Lib Dem coalition - anything else could fall apart at any moment.  The question is whether that is what we want.  I don't however think that there is any doubt that that is what the Tories want - there has been much talk about the fact that they don't like the idea of PR because it will give weak government - so again this fits into a "good for the country" decision (you might not like the solution, but I don't think you can argue that they don't sincerely believe this).

Nick Clegg
Here is where the rubber hits the road - and in some ways I feel sorry for Nick Clegg.  What is best for the country?  Is it a period of stable government with time to sort out the economy?  Can he and David Cameron agree sufficiently on the necessary economic policies?  If they can't then is it better to support the economic policies that he wants and try to do a deal with Labour?  And all that is before the cynicism about what might best get PR (which he would believe to be in the country's best interest) and whether the Lib Dem party would allow him to enter into a coalition with either of them, or how the country would see the Lib Dems "propping up" a failed Labour government.

Who would be a politician?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

New use for Redundant Churches?

I recently visited my daughter in Wolverhampton and driving around the city centre I saw this - the second time past I was able to get these two photos with my phone.  It is a Sainsburys which has been built attached to a local redundant church (history buried in the middle of this article).

There was something about it that I didn't like, and I couldn't quite pin it down.  I have no objection to churches being made redundant, or to their reuse, but the aesthetics of this are awful.  Then when I read about it the apparent cynicism of it annoyed me.  Sainsburys wanted a site, the church needed saving, bingo!  And a car park is a public space - so the church yard could be repurposed having been left in trust for open space.
And then they didn't try to make the new development sympathetic.

Friday, 7 May 2010

PR - Why don't politicians like it?

At last weeks hustings one of the arguments given for not having PR was that PR might allow minority parties like the BNP into parliament.  The other was that with PR we would not have strong government.  What arrogance of the politicians.  They obviously think that they know best.

Of course, we need strong government - it was strong government that gave us the poll tax, the Iraq war, and all number of other unpopular policies.  And as for the BNP - whilst I hold no truck with them or their policies - if we claim to live in a democracy and people vote for them then they deserve representation.  What both of these arguments show is a contempt for the idea of democracy - the people don't know what they are doing and we politicians should sort it out for them.

There is also a confusion between strength and speed.  So much of management these days is about speed - how quickly can a decision be made - and so little about making the right decision.  I recall at work recognising that making a quick decision and making it work was more highly valued than making the right decision.  Why do we think that speed is so important?  Particularly when it comes to law making?  Surely a law which has been discussed and agreed by parties representing more than 50% of the electorate has a greater chance of gaining the support of the people and of being obeyed and lasting than one which is imposed against the will of a significant proportion of the people.

I am writing this before the result of the election is known, so it may be that things are about to change - but it will lead to a very different kind of politics which may well need a very different kind of politician; one who knows how to negotiate and work out what is best for the long term needs of the country rather than one who knows how to force through what they want NOW.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Time to Vote - How will you decide?

There has been much said over the past few weeks by the candidates - now is the time to make our mark.  But how are you going to do it?  (other than with a pencil and an X J)

Last Sunday I preached on "Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another", asking people to hold in mind "who should I vote for?" as I talked about loving one another.  This wasn't an attempt to sway them to any particular party - more a case of challenging them to ask themselves which party best does it (and there will be arguments on this for all the main parties).

I have heard people talking about engagement as one of the necessary prerequisites for love.  If we do not engage with people then we can't love them - and it is so much easier to demonise people we don't know (something that I used to minimise customer complaints in my previous job).

The one plea that I would make is that we all vote (I might let off those in the Buckingham constituency who have the speaker as a candidate!), for two reasons: firstly that if we don't vote we are refusing to take responsibility for the future of the country, particularly this election, where if it is a hung parliament the votes cast for each party may be relevant in the forming of a coalition; and secondly because there are parties which do not by any stretch of the imagination deal in love and engagement, and the way to deal with them is at the ballot box, and a large turnout is bad for them!

Having written the above I am now fuming.  I have just read that a group of Christians are promoting 192 Conservatives (and a few of other parties) on the basis that:
as UK citizens having a vote they would prefer to be governed by representatives who are committed to protecting life, marriage, conscience and fundamental freedoms
Ruth Gledhill
Now that is one view, but the Bible has rather a lot about orphans, widows and resident aliens.  This strikes me as Christians wanting what is best for them - not what is best for others - and what is potentially worse for others.  No wonder people don't like us L

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Do churches show the love of God?

This article suggests that many people no longer attend church because they have been hurt by the church at some point in the past.  There are also those who are put off attending by an insensitive first response, particularly when requesting weddings or baptisms.

How do we maintain our integrity whilst welcoming those who have expectations of us which might not be realistic?  The Weddings Project encourages us to find ways to say "yes" when a couple come to us for a church wedding, and the recent changes to the rules have certainly helped this.  It is perhaps easier for me to welcome this from a church with perhaps 1 wedding a year than one with 50 - when each takes about a days work all told, but given the rules are as they are it is possible to treat requests graciously or not.

I understand the theological thinking of those who object to certain requests or behaviours, but as a speaker said on our course:
it is amazing how much you can achieve just by being nice

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Obsession with money

In the past I have liked a lot of what David Taylor has written, and even attended one of his courses at my companies expense.  However just the title of this book makes me cringe.  His other books have been management books espousing openness and honesty in management.  I haven't read this one, but although the blurb says that it is still about being yourself the focus seems to have changed to be about making money rather than about being yourself/

Perhaps I have missed the point of the other books - after all if you become a successful manager then you usually make a lot of money - although this is not a necessary outcome.  The Bible says that "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" and it seems to me that this book encourages that love of money (by its title even if the content doesn't).

I do not believe that money makes you happy - I have had lots and little and there was no correlation with my happiness.  There have also been studies suggesting that extra money over £10,000pa makes you no happier - at least at the national level.

I even remember a spoof article in the trade press explaining why promotion was not a good idea!  You would get more money, but you would have to spend it on better clothes and take more expensive holidays and live in a bigger house (and you would work longer hours reducing the pay/hour).  I was even surprised to discover that at work those with the biggest incomes also had the biggest debts!

Do not get me wrong - not having enough money s a problem - but our definition of enough is perhaps skewed.  Jesus had something to say about this:
24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.*  25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,* or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6.24-33

Monday, 3 May 2010

What is the Bible?

Reading the comments on this post I was challenged to describe what the Bible is for me.  It is most definitely focussed on the Gospels, with the other books being there as support material, and if there is conflict between what the Gospels say and what another part of the Bible says then I will support the Gospels.

I once heard a vicar joke that St Peter founded the Catholic faith and St Paul the Protestant one!  However there appears to be a certain degree of truth to this.  I am always surprised when people give their favourite Bible passages as coming from anywhere other than the Gospels (Church Times back page interview for example) and wish that I was more surprised when I heard that at one theological college the students needed little teaching about Paul, but more about the Gospels!

For me the thing about the Gospels is their counter cultural nature, and the fact that striving to live them is counter intuitive (loving enemies, not worrying about the future, forgiving those who wrong you).  If you read the Jesus Seminar view on the authentic sayings of Jesus then most of them would fall into this category.  And yet attempting to live them brings "life in all its fullness" (John 10:10 Good News Bible).

One of the criteria that they use of course is whether the saying would have been expected or would have been a later embarrassment to the early Christians and this helps me to believe that at least those things are genuine sayings.  There is of course a certain circularity in the argument - the bits which are genuine are the bits which are counter cultural because they are counter cultural!  But the fact that living them changes my life is enough for me.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Where is the Good Samaritan?

The story of a man who bled to death while people walked by on the other side reminded me of the story of the Good Samaritan, although ironically the eventual victim was initially the Good Samaritan in this story L.

Yesterday was our monthly all age service (yes - we hold it on Saturday afternoons - it is when people said was a good time) when we were looking at "Who is our Neighbour?" to fit in with Christian Aid Week.  Our recently retired Churchwarden did a great job of talking about water - she brought a bucket into the church and asked the children if they could lift it - most of the under 4s couldn't.  She then talked about carrying it for miles.  Then she had a glass of dirty water...  All the children were gathered round fascinated.

However, what is it about our society that a man can be allowed to bleed to death?  How can we miss the point?  (And I include myself)  In a previous church we did a dramatic version of this using a motor biker in full leathers - this was inspired when one of the organisers arrived straight from work in full leathers and was given some distinctly dodgy looks until he removed his helmet.  We seem to do a lot of judging L


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