Honest Christianity – blessing to participation in the Kingdom

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We used this blessing at the end of our harvest cafe church this morning. I don’t think I have come across it before and was particularly struck by some of the imagery. It seems earthy and honest:

Be a gardener.
Dig and ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
And seek the deepness.
And water the plants in time.
Continue this labour
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring
Take out with you what you have received here
and carry it to God
as your true worship

Be a gardener, Julian of Norwich
Return Blessings p.117

I thought it was a great way to end a service and I sensed an equipping to get on with doing good. I find gardening, pruning, planting sowing metaphors helpful in exploring how my faith and service can grow, they engage and focus me. I think it is because they are natural, therefore organic to how nature works. What metaphors work for you?

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Honest Christianity – no rules life

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This morning I was doing my first storytelling in our children’s group at church. I was looking forward to it but would have preferred a different story to start this opportunity. We are doing a series on Exodus and it was the story of God giving Moses the 10 commandments in Exodus 20. As I chatted to a children’s worker at work she told me they often used the idea of no rules sports to help show the usefulness and essential need of rules. Given several of the kids are seriously into football (soccer to those in the US), we started the session with a discussion on how useful rules are to them on the pitch. One of the lads eloquently demonstrated this with an imitation of a studs up sliding tackle on someone! Fortunately there were no studs and no contact but as they had a go at no rules football they, they enthusiastically thought how much fun this will be with no rules! the game quickly begun to resemble rugby, one of the lads came up from the bottom of the pile, realising first hand why his favourite game was better played with rules. I thanked him for his sacrifice in illustrating our point of how useful most rules are for our wellbeing, safety and how life best works for us .

Honest Christianity – allowing time and space for despair

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I am a big fan of the film Four weddings and a funeral (I love most of the films actually, see what i did there!) Watching that film was the first time I came across W H Auden’s poem, Funeral blues or otherwise know as its first line, stop all the clocks.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

When I heard it eloquently read I was struck by its honesty. It does not say to me, lack of faith and hope, but this loss, this death is crap! In much of my bereavement support, I seek to give space, if not permission, to dwell for a time in the reality of tragedy. Hope of eternal life, a new next life without pain and suffering may be celebrated in time, but this is only one reasonable response in the grief and loss of love and presence of a loved one. In faith, hope as well as compassion and graciousness, let us take death seriously on all fronts, remembering in the words of a bereaved parent,”it’s not your loss to make sense of, it’s mine”.

Honest Christianity – confirmation – to be strengthened

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Today I was a sponsor for someone who is both a member of our hospital chaplaincy team and one of our youth work students. Bishop Maurice reminded us that to be confirmed means not only to confirm our baptismal vows for ourselves, but to be strengthened by this affirmation through the blessing of our community. These are the words written by Jodie, who while exploring spiritual care as a play worker, has found a renewed and reinvigorated faith and trust in God:

I am being confirmed to express my faith to my family and friends. I’m aware of God all the time. My hope is that God shines through me into others, even those who do not see. As I am confirmed I will be praying for the Holy Spirit to fill me to the top!

May this be all our hopes and prayers .

Honest Christianity – always loved, never forgotten

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Yesterday we held our hospital’s annual memorial walk and picnic. It is held at the National Memorial Arboretum between Lichfield and Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire. It is a beautiful location for such an event and over 200 family members joined us to find a safe and sacred space for them to remember and honour their child, sibling , family member or friend. Some were attending for the first time some returning again and again.

Each year we provide spiritual and pastoral supportive activities for all the family. This year we provided ribbons to make clouties, historically bows left at holy wells. There were pens to write names, and words of love and affection with different types and colours of ribbon with design helps for different types of bows. Yes i found out there was more than one! It was humbling to see the families patiently queuing to come and tie them on the gold netting that hung on the marquee wall, flowing on to the floor.

All this we hope assures our bereaved families the truth of our event strap line for our time together,

“Always loved, never forgotten”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02cs3gh This link is from the BBC 2 series filming – they didn’t include it in any of the programmes but it gives a taste of what happens.

Honest Christianity – through different eyes – white kid, brown kid

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Many years ago Sally and I went on separate trips with Youth for Christ and Tear Fund. We each were a part of teams that took about 20 British young people and spent a month with the same number of young people in their country . Sally went to Brazil and i went to India. For me it was a life changing experience as we explored what was the Gospel through the perspective, experience, understanding of each other’s culture. What we thought was a universal given, was a cultural perspective.

On TV this week there will be a programme seeking to achieve similar objectives. The difference is these 2 girls live in the same city and go to the same college. As you can guess from the title, the girls are from different cultures. As one covered her hair in public, the other made the most of hers as her ‘best asset’ and could not imagine wanting to cover it. As we will see as they discover their differences, they also find surprisingy similarities and common interests.

As our local communities through to national securities and insecurities ebb and flow, at least some of the way forward must be to at least try and see these issues, problems, grievances, threats, through the eyes of the other.

As many of us have realised, to many others, we are the other , not the norm.

Honest Christianity – a blessing for summer reflection

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We had this blessing in church this morning and I expect many of us are ready for a break and are on or getting ready for our holidays, I thought this would give us a reflection to re inspire us upon our return.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Have a wonderful re inspired summer and may we know we are blessed now and blessed for our return.