Honest Christianity – what are you waiting for?

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This question gets asked in several ways. Sometimes it is when we want someone to get on with something, when it is unclear why they are waiting. I use this one frequently to the car in front at the green traffic lights or the empty roundabout. When it comes to discussing what Christmas means to us, what events and services we are helping, going to, we can sometimes be a bit slow, hesitant. For many for us it is because we do not want to be pushy, but perhaps we have backed off too much.

The benefit I have found in facilitating multi faith celebrations, is that I can be clear, transparent, when explaining a Christian celebration such as Christmas. Unashamedly remembering the reason for the Season, celebrating the gift of Jesus to our world. what are we waiting for?

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Honest Christianity – not much time to prepare and wait

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I understand this year, the season of Advent is the shortest it can be as Christmas Day is a Monday. So, tomorrow, we only have 3 weeks to go until Christmas Day! So, we have less time to get ready physically and spiritually. I am not sure if I have come across this poem before. It was read by our vicar Al Barrett as part of his sermon this morning. It brings into focus most of the objectives and themes of Advent and draws us in to our current realities as well as our future hopes. As a children’s hospital chaplain, this poem is particularly poignant, there are always families who get world ending news at Christmas. An awakening Advent to you.

Blessing When the World is Ending by Jan Richardson
Look, the world
is always ending
somewhere.
Somewhere
the sun has come
crashing down.
Somewhere
it has gone
completely dark.
Somewhere
it has ended
with the gun
the knife
the fist.
Somewhere
it has ended
with the slammed door
the shattered hope.
Somewhere
it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone
the television
the hospital room.
Somewhere
it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
your heart.
But, listen,
this blessing means
to be anything
but morose.
It has not come
to cause despair.
It is simply here
because there is nothing
a blessing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.
This blessing
will not fix you
will not mend you
will not give you
false comfort;
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.
It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
will come,
gathering itself
about you
as the world begins
again.
The original post by Jan Richardson with this poem in can be found here.http://paintedprayerbook.com/2016/07/18/blessing-when-the-world-is-ending/

Honest Christianity – sinister sleeping beauty

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Some of you may have heard the report of a parent this week requesting that the story book of Sleeping Beauty be removed form the school library. This was because the parent felt it encouraged inappropriate, uninvited sexual contact, a stolen kiss. While some of us will respond with “what the heck, leave it alone, its only a children’s story book”, some might go “em, not thought of it like that before, perhaps she has a point”.

On further research, the original story is much more sinister (trigger alert).
“Sleeping Beauty”: In Giambattista Basile’s tale (which is the actual origin of the Sleeping Beauty story), a king happens to walk by Sleeping Beauty’s castle and knock on the door. When no one answers, he climbs up a ladder through a window. He finds the princess, and calls to her, but as she is unconscious, she does not wake up. Well, dear reader, he carries her to the bed and rapes her. Then he just leaves. She awakens after she gives birth because one of her twins sucks the flax (from the spindle) out of her finger. The king comes back, and despite him having raped her, they end up falling in love? However, another big problem: the king is still married to someone else. His wife finds out and not only tries to have the twins killed, cooked, and fed to the king, but also tries to burn the princess at the stake. Luckily, she is unsuccessful. The king and the princess get married and live happily ever after (despite the fact that he raped her). Perrault’s adaptation of Basile’s updated adaptation of the story (a much tamer version) is probably what was used for the Disney adaptation, as they are much more similar. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/the-real-story-behind-eve_n_4239730

I have not finished my theological reflection upon these bits of news, but it seems that both women in the story are very wronged and sinned against, respond in totally different ways and continue to be misrepresented in today’s culture. I am left wondering, when does a story become misrepresented and when does it it become reinterpreted and redeemed? Its only a story, right?

Honest Christianity – lost in loss

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Yesterday I was taking part in our local collaborative training for chaplaincy volunteers. We were exploring loss and grief. I have long been convinced that one has to understand loss before one can understand bereavement. It was a sobering reminder of all the different ways we experience loss and perhaps some reactions and expressions that go under the radar, are not acknowledged or unrealised.

We discussed the loss of independence, dignity, security, hopes for the future, abilities for hobbies, health, cognitive ability, employment, identity, home, knowledge, status, relationships and friendships etc It was almost overwhelming as we discussed all the ways our patients might have and feel loss. for many of them these losses are multiple.

Being a Christian and being in ministry, it is healthy for us to realise our lifestyles, sacrifices, also bring losses as well as gains. The Gospel imperative to seek to lose our lives in order to gain eternal life, can be a subtle drift as well as a consciously intentional one. Giving up our lives is one thing, things being taken away is another. I am sorry for your loss is so much more than a response to bereavement. It is an empathetic expression for their current situation.

Honest Christianity – blinded by your grace

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This is the name of a song I heard for the first time this week. It was not on a Christian station but on afternoon Radio 2 – what an inspiring way to describe the essence of our faith. Our undeserved but God’s amazing, unbounded, unlimited generous loving kindness and goodness.

Honest Christianity is sometimes a risky Christianity, to encourage a lifestyle, mentality that could be misconstrued and take advantage of God’s liberty. Not to live under law but in the freedom of the Spirit, to know we will always be forgiven. Risky but our unique relationship with our God. Finding the right way to describe this has been the challenge of song and sermon writers over the centuries, blinded indeed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuTuGS3hXtM Watch the song here…

I’m blinded by your grace
I’m blinded by your grace, by your grace
I’m blinded by your grace
I’m blinded by your

Lord, I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me, I’m blinded
By your grace
You came and saved me
Lord, I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me, now I’m blinded
By your grace
You came and saved me
…….
I said a prayer this morning
I prayed I would find the way
To another day, I was so afraid
‘Til you came and saved
You came and saved me
And the rain was pouring
‘Cause the sun faded away
Now I’m in a better place
No longer afraid
Blinded by your grace
You came and saved me
I said a prayer this morning
I prayed I would find the way
To another day, I was so afraid
‘Til you came and saved
You came and saved me
And the rain was pouring
‘Cause the sun faded away
Now I’m in a better place
No longer afraid
Blinded by your grace
You came and saved me
(Stormzy)

Amen and Amen

Honest Christianity: organ donation – herd of elephants in the room

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I was privileged this week to be invited to the launch of the 2018 British Transplant Games. They will be held in Birmingham next August. The games are always a time of wonderful celebration holding the tension of what it has taken for people to have their transplant, the gift of an organ. Because of the games being in Birmingham, the UK’s first black and minority ethnic city, local MPs and Councillors were highlighting the gap between the number of organs needed and the number of organs donated. Recently, this was issued as a press release:

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said:
“NHS Blood and Transplant welcomes the commitment made in the Prime Minister’s speech to increasing organ donation and transplantation. We all want to see more lives saved and welcome anything which encourages more people to share their personal organ donation decision with their family.
We hope this announcement will drive a national conversation about organ donation. Whatever legislation is in place, telling your family of your organ donation decision lets them know what you want to happen and means your family don’t have to make a difficult decision when they are grieving.
The shortage of donors means on average three people die a day in need of a transplant so we urge everyone to have the conversation today.
Sadly nearly 1 in 5 people who die waiting for a transplant are from a black or Asian background. Even though 719 black or Asian people had a transplant in 2016/17 (22% of all transplants), black and Asian people still wait significantly longer for a kidney transplant. They are more likely to need a transplant due to genetic factors and it’s harder to find a suitable organ for them without donations from their own community. It’s particularly important that black and Asian people talk about organ donation as without their donations their communities will continue to suffer.”
https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/news-and-campaigns/news/response-to-prime-minister-s-commitment-on-organ-donation/

This is not an easy conversation to have but it is necessary for all of us. Wales has aIready committed to an opt out approach, which seems to be the direction of travel for England. This will not take away from uncomfortable conversations , but hopefully it will help name, eyeball some elephants.

http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

Honest Christianity – what did you expect to hear?

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Matthew 11.8-10, talking about John the Baptist asks – what kind of person were you expecting to see? This verse resonates with my experience this weekend.
This is my reflection of going to two intimate concert venues this weekend. They were the far end of the spectrum, and both at the twilight of their careers. Friday night was folk singer and storyteller Richard Digance and last night, was classical guitarist John Williams. Both have well known songs and tunes and we were looking forward to some familiar, well known, even famous tunes. We had two wonderful enjoyable evenings but not a familiar song in sight, until… (I will come to this shortly)

Richard Digance, on a 50th anniversary of being in the business tour, was very funny, entertaining but did not play one song from his first handful of albums. John Williams, who is beyond words as a skilled guitarist , did not play his unarguable most famous tune, Cavatina, the theme tune to the fantastic and sad film, Deerhunter.

So with the observers of Jesus, we did not get what we expected. Were we disappointed, yes , were we impressed, yes. I wonder when this is ok? People going to church or meeting a Christian for the first time? Are there expectations that we meet or don’t meet and should we even think about that?

The rider with Richard Digance was I asked him at the interval if he was going to sing Backstreet International? He said he had not sung it in concert for 20 years and probably could not remember all the words, and if I had asked him before the concert, he might have been able to prepare and recall it… Disappointed but understanding the second half started. He continued to play newer songs, then explained to the audience there had been a request and he was going to have a go! He sung and played (perfectly) my request about an 11 year old realising he would never be good enough to play football for England, but he could pretend while playing in his garden that he was playing at Wembley. My night was made, especially when he invited me up on to the stage to sing it with him. What did i expect, not that, it was even better.