Friday, 29 May 2009

All creatures of our God and King




... and that includes beavers, apparently.

Delighted they are back in Scotland after 400 years away. Wonder if it's a cunning bid by the kirk to increase numbers... or at least build bridges between warring factions?

Thanks to REVEREND FUN for the toon. :)

Thursday, 28 May 2009

ain't nobody here but us chickens... er, postgrads

Silence.
Only disturbed by the occasional slinking mouse or creeping postgrad.
"They've" gone... the General Assembly roadshow has left the building.....
Shhh.
In the quiet corridors and study spaces, postgrads slumber.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Stepford Christians, Dolly the Sheep & the General Assembly

The Lectionary Gospel reading for this coming Sunday - John 17:6-19 seems beautifully timed in light of discussions taking place at the General Assembly. Thinking particularly here of the verse:

‘So that they may be one, as we are one…’

I’m possibly about to utter heresy. Talking about the Trinity can lead to that. Talking about ‘unity’ can also apparently lead to it, as well. And so, some inarticulate rambling, and possibly poorly teased out theology.

There’s a great deal of talk in some sections of the CofS at the moment about ‘church unity’ – church unity in this case seeming to mean unity only if you agree with ‘my’ point of view [otherwise you’re on the side of Hitler?!]. Does unity mean a kind of cloned conformity – we are all the same? Christian versions of Dolly the sheep? Or even ‘Stepford Christians’?

As I read the prayer of Jesus in John 17, especially ‘so that they may be one, as we are one’, my sense is that unity / oneness here takes in the diversity of the persons of the Godhead. Different, yet one: different ‘persons’, different roles, but yet still one. Eternally pre-disposed to be relational, eternally co-existing in love. And it’s this kind of unity in diversity, and disposition to lovingly relate and co-exist which we are to model - we who are in the world and who belong to God.

So, as General Assembly kicks off again – the trumpets have been sounding in the New College quad as I’ve been thinking – let us pray for unity:
that all-encompassing generous unity which takes in the myriad views held in our broad church.
And let there be graciousness and gentleness and love as we try to relate and co-exist with one another, for it's in this way, we glorify God, One yet Three.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Looking upwards, looking outwards...

Acts 1: 11


Gawping.
Gaping.
Gasping... like goldfish sucking in air.
Looking up, not looking out...
at the world the Word brought into being.
Looking up, standing around -
perhaps a little punch-drunk

with all they’d seen and heard and done?

Others then reminding them,
urging them onwards,
outwards, through that question:
‘Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?’

We must look up, but look out too -
roll up our sleeves.
There’s work to be done.
We are builders
of God's kingdom of love on earth.
Healers of hurts.
Menders of hearts,

gently wiping tears away.

Empowered by his love.

Watching? Yes.

Waiting? Yes.
Working...
until the Word returns once more to the world.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Hitchcockian font covers of horror and despair

Font cover, St Mary's Parish Church, Lindisfarne.


A marvellous time on Lindisfarne... tho' a horror-filled moment of trauma when I spied this font cover in the parish church.

It is more than faintly disturbing, no?

Is the bird trying to pluck out the eyes of the helpless child?

OR?
Is the child a monster in human form emerging from the waters and ready to eat whole the poor captured birdie?

Apparently it was kindly donated to the church. Remind me, when I eventually [hopefully] emerge from training and am thrust on an unsuspecting parish, to be very careful when it comes to accepting generous donations of gifts....

Sunday, 10 May 2009

throwing otters @ st cuthbert

Throwing otters at St Cuthbert: be back soon!

Off to Lindisfarne for several days...

luckily, I am not the remotest bit saintly:
unlike St Cubby
I need not fear otters fondling my feet in ...
well...
frankly,
a weird sort of way.
Got to watch those
Celtic saints
and their packs of oddly behaved animals.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Abiding, tea, and muffins...

John 15: 1-8

Abide.

Abide in me...
Stay.
And in return,
I'll stay with you.
Together growing,
knowing,
blossoming.

What is it to 'abide'?
The words pinging about my head right now are
'hospitality',
'mutuality',
'community'.

The invitation to abide works both ways: it is a mutual hospitality where the doors are flung open, the lights are all on, the teapot steaming - mutual welcome, ongoing friendship.
This, in turn, sets up the process of creating community, because the business of abiding is not merely a 'me and my God' experience: there are other 'branches' in on this. Although all one in our abiding, there's a broadness and diversity as well.
At the heart of abiding is a deep, deep, well of generosity.
God's generosity...
encouraging us to be generous...
encouraging us to be hospitable in the same manner in which hospitality has been given to us.
And the fruit of generous hospitality?
A place where all are welcome.
Where all have a place at the table.
Where all abide in God,
in one another,
in grace and love,
without rancour, or bitterness, or fear,
or trying to fence God in
or keeping God to ourselves,
jealously,
protectively.
The tea and muffins are waiting on God's table of grace,
the cushions on the chairs have all been fluffed and preened and primped and made ready.
Time to rest, remain and blossom together.
Abide....

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

John Knox is my home boy

Johnny K's 'order of excommunication'....
This is what my life boils down to until 21st August.
There is nothing else.
No baubles or babbling,
no fun or frivolity,
no nuttin' til this task is complete.
Working title for the paper:
'in, out, shake it all about': excommunication as a type of hokey cokey.
It will end up with a title that will be eminently more dull and worthy.
And will eventually, possibly, be distilled down from 25 000 words, into a dull and worthy conference paper in February.

What I'm loving - yes, it is possible to love this stuff - is our John's slightly schizophrenic attitude to magistrates and judges. He utters the mantra of 'godly magistrate' whilst simultaneously bad-mouthing them. They are variously called 'negligent', they allegedly 'wink at crimes' - overlook them, they are prone to corruption.

John's my home boy and he has a glorious way of not mincing his words - you know where you stand with John. Although, sometimes, I can't help but wonder if he wasn't a little 'socially challenged'? :)

Sunday, 3 May 2009

foxes have holes, and birds their nests, but mice are simply 'divine'


The mice have been particularly present with us in the Rainy Hall this year - their garden habitat having been disturbed during the 'makeover'
(and still no sign of the conservatory or jacuzzi, tsk).


When the drone of the radio,
perpetually tuned to 'old gold classics',
clicks off...
when the students begin to melt away...
when all is hushed and oh-so-quiet...
God's wee creatures come out,
immerse themselves
in the lofty, wafty aftermath of theological musings,
ancient credal controversies,
the crusts and crumbs of hebrew and greek grammar.
Ministers and missionary mice in the making?


Saturday, 2 May 2009

agenda nailing, scapegoats and Matthew 16

I'm revisiting some thoughts stemming from reading and discussing Matt 16:21-28 -

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem
and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes,

and be killed,
and on the third day be raised.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying,
‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’
But he turned and said to Peter,
‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me;

for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Then Jesus told his disciples,
‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father,
and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.

Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death
before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

In particular, just wanting to note a line of thought I'm still processing and pondering with regard to the cross:
does the cross stand in need of redemption?

Mary C. Boys has a superbly thought-provoking essay which has from time to time wandered into my mind. On the basis of this, my own garbled stream of consciousness....

What is the cross we are asked to take up?
Conversely, what are the agendas we nail to the cross and which we raise and carry before us?

Paul Ricouer's work on signs and symbols, and how they are perceived comes to mind: the cross is a hugely powerful symbol, but there are many ways in which it can be interpreted. What I mean by, or how I think of, the cross and how it affects me as a symbol will not have the same meaning or symbolism for others.
There are multiple layers of meaning.

In light of this, can the cross be redeemed from some of its more negative historical associations?
Can it be redeemed from the looong shadow of the Crusades, for example?
The long shadow so evident in the language used by George W. Bush after 9/11? In language both apolcalyptic and dehumanising, he proposed a new crusade against the so-called 'axis of evil'. Certainly, in this instance, the manner in which Bush jr. took up the cross via the language of crusade would have been perceived in many quarters as symbolic of Western 'we are right by our might' imperialism.

There are other agendas we nail to the cross.
The agenda of misogyny.
The cross used to marginalise and exclude women - preventing them from preaching, teaching and service in the church; blaming them for bringing evil into the world; telling them to endure the suffering of domestic abuse... as Jesus suffered on the cross.

The agenda of racism and anti-Semitism.
The cross used as justification by white supremicists and Nazis to justify slavery and genocide.

And thinking of my previous blog: the agenda of homophobia: has this been nailed to the cross and carried around in the pursuit of excluding LGBT folk from a place at the table?

The cross has been used to justify exclusion and violence borne out of the brutal fear-filled ugliness of prejudice. Rene Girard's theories are pertinent here: the downward spiral of violence continues as does the need for, and practice of, scapegoating.

Wittingly, and unwittingly, have we taken on the violence of the cross, mimicking those who used violence on Jesus, rather than mimicking the active non-violence of Jesus? Down through the centuries, have we repeated the pattern of violence, rather than repudiated it?
Have we been too 'of the world', setting our minds on human and not divine things?
Have we used violence on those we deem 'other' as scapegoats for our own failings and lack of faith?

Again, the question arises:
What cross are we choosing to take up?
What are the agendas we nail to the crosses we choose to carry?
How can we redeem the cross from our agendas and choose to accept it as a powerfully liberating symbol of total, utter love?

'The scandal of the cross consists in this:
Christians in their history have made it a sign of conquering hate rather than sacrificial love. It is now time to ask whether the cross itself can be redeemed'
Mary C. Boys.