Monday, 29 March 2010

Glee 'mash-up' meets funeral service remembrance...

Am thinking things funeric - in the cheeriest sort of way.  I was reminded earlier of a minister friend's wonderful story of a funeral she conducted some years ago.
The service was being held in a crem. and at one particular point, said friend allowed space for family and friends to say a few words if they wanted to.
An old chap duly got up, arrived at the lectern and observed the following:
'Ahhh, Jimmy* didnae go tae the kirk that much, but he loved his hymns. 
And I remember he was very fond of a particular hymn.
"On a hill far away
Stood an old rugged cross,
Where the deer and the antelope play..."

Said minister friend then womanfully struggled for the rest of the service to maintain her professional composure and not collapse into hysterical giggling....  She succeeded, but it was a close run thing.
Not sure if she's ever dared to allow space for comments again!!
*not his real name!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Foxy Knoxy's word to the wise #2: preaching beards

Facial hair letting you down?

Preaching beard lacking in Reformed gravitas?
Tired of older Reformers throwing theological sand in your clean-shaven face?

Why not try:
PREACHING BEARDSTM!

Made specially from the hair of pedigree, prize-winning Angora rabbits on the Isle of Sanday*, all-new PREACHING BEARDSTM come in two colours: black or white.
That's right, definitely no shades of grey here!

Hear the hushed murmurs of your congregation as you stride up to your pulpit in your long and luxuriant beard!

Watch with pleasure, from your 6 feet above contradiction pulpit position, faces staring up at you in rapt attention, straining to hear every word being filtered through your beard of authority!

'Before I received my preaching beard, I just felt naked.  My ministerial life was a meaningless abyss of self-loathing, failure and despair.  My preaching lacked the 'zing' that comes with the choreography of beard stroking that always denotes wisdom.  Since I started wearing my PREACHING BEARDTM, the sick are healed, the dead are raised and the congregation stays awake during my sermons.  Thank you so much!'
Lazarus B. Raysed, minster, St John of Knox Presbyterian Church, Cummerbund.


'Baptisms were an ordeal before I ordered new, 100% gravitas guaranteed PREACHING BEARDSTM.  Babies screamed when I approached.  Toddlers burst into tears.  Since I started wearing my PREACHING BEARDTM children flock to me.  My PREACHING BEARDTM is so strong that it can take the weight of 3 babies and toddler swinging from the long, luxuriant locks and into the baptistry.  The optional 'slide' accessory is great too.'
Noah Wheretogo, pastor, 1st Baptist Church, Auchtermuckle

'Thank you for transforming my approach to minstry!  My authority as a woman in ministry was often under attack.  Since wearing my PREACHING BEARDTM however, the congregation sit in awed silence as I proclaim the word.' 
Shirley U. Musbjokin, priest, Valhalla Episcopal Church, Fetlar.

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Be the first minister in your area to wear all new, all-guaranteed PREACHING BEARDSTM!
Designed to demonstrate your spiritual authority without even having to utter a word!
Special offer: buy one, get one free!

Available only while stocks last!

PREACHING BEARDSTM: reforming ministry since 1560!

*all rabbits free-range and fed only the highest ethical quality fairly traded chocolate*

Sunday, 21 March 2010

heaven scent...

Have been wondering about the gospel text this
week - John 12: 1-11.
Set in the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, after Jesus has raised L. from death.

Martha, as is her way, is bustling about doing the practical side of hospitality: food has been made and sits on the table - the smells are wafting through the house... bread?  Lamb?
Lazarus sits there, the smell of funeral spices still lingering...
And then Mary takes a bottle of nard, the oil of funeric anointing, and pours it over Jesus' feet.
The room is overwhelmed by the smell of it: prophetically and literally, the smell of death hangs in the air...
all is hushed... as Mary quietly and intimately dries Jesus' feet with her unbound hair...
It is an extravagant act
a shocking act.
All week, I've wondered about this 'smelly' text and it lingers still....
Smell, I guess, is part and parcel of what incarnation is about - the sense of smell grounding the person of Jesus in our human reality... the living Word
and also bringing alive the words in the passage.

There's an excellent article written on this passage here.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

serendipity and clearing fog...

Sort of vaguely enigmatic musing and note to self, really....

Was off doing a couple of hospital visits yesterday.
On the way down, texted a friend to say I was in the area and if she was around after visiting hours what  the possibility might be of spontaneous coffee - as opposed to combustion, which is a little messier and slightly more final I believe.
Transpired she was also on the way to the hospital to do visits.
Serendipity is a grand thing.
We agreed to meet after we'd caught up with our various folk.
An epic chat of 3hours commenced.
Later, as I sat on the bus headed home, I realised just how incredibly blessed I am to have so many good and wise friends who enrich my life,
fill it with laughter and space and care,
and hope and hugs.

Arising from yesterday's chat was more fog clearing and floating away...
and the acceptance of something that I will have to do at some point down the track.
It's something that will be hard and which I believe I am called to do as a human being, and as a human being who feels called to ministry...
called to be real;
called to be fully human;
called to be foolish, ridiculed and vulnerable - sticking my head above the parapet knowing it may potentially shot at - and knowing there's an odd sort of wisdom and logic within it that goes with the territory.
Called to stand up and quietly challenge certain ways of thinking because until 'issues' become connected to human faces, people will continue to dehumanise others.
It's my contention that being Christian is about being in the business of rehumanising not dehumanising - to do everything in our power to encourage and support lives lived to the full, not lives lived in fear.
And it's scary in the culture of fear that is currently church, concerning some issues at least, to stand up and say 'no more' - or, in the spirit of the moderate protesters worldwide - 'steady on',  'we're against this sort of thing'.  :-)

But in the accepting of this,
the weight of it and the tiredness created by carrying that weight, has fallen away.
I'm calm.
I have got my perspective back, along with my sense of humour.
It's been a little bit of an 'Itchy and Scratchy' show for a wee while.
There's a struggle ahead.
I'm in training and quietly preparing.
With God and good friends, it's going to be alright.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

pints, prayers and Patrick...

It's St Patrick's Day.
A time to wear lurid green accessories,
a time to drink dark pints of Guinness,
a time to vaguely remember [depth of vagueness proportionally equal to number of pints consumed?] St Patrick.
Not that this is a particularly Presbyterian practice - the pints perhaps, but not remembering the saint...
One of my favourite hymns comes from the prayer of Patrick for protection - a lorica - St Patrick's Breastplate.  According to the old sotries, Patrick was fleeing from druids intent on attacking him, so he prayed this prayer... as he fled, apparently the druids saw only a deer running, hence the other name for the prayer is 'the deer's cry.'
Not that many good versions on youtube, but this one was not too bad... and words below the video.  Happy St P's...



I Bind unto Myself Today
By: attr. St. Patrick

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever,
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation,
His baptism in the Jordan River,
His cross of death for my salvation,
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom,
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my god to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Foxy Knoxy's word to the wise #1: on fasting

Plagues getting you down?
Witches upsetting the tone of your village?
Wars, rumours of wars, or cows dying unexpectedly?
Afraid that pesky Catholic conspirators are plotting your downfall?

You need all-new, all-Protestant penitential fasting.

Be the first in your faithful remnant to fast decently and in good order.

But wait!  There's more!  With each penitential fast, you get a free set of stainless steel steak knives - great for tucking into that post-penitential roast lamb dinner.

You've seen the fast,
you've admired the steak knives, but wait - we'll also throw in a slightly used set of jougs for those of you who place your order in the next 30 minutes!

That's right: a penitential Protestant fast,
a set of fabulous steak knives AND for a limited time only, a free set of slightly used jougs.  This is an unrepeatable offer!
Offer finishes when all stock gone.

100% guaranteed for obtaining God's favour or your meat and ale returned in full.

*wearers of 'gorgious apparell' ineligible to apply*

[because every blog should have a mascot... and Knoxy is my home-boy]

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The wounding healer?

As part of our assessment process, we trainee ministers were recently asked to read and reflect on Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer.  I'd read it a long time back when I was doing practical theology and we'd moved onto the pastoral care module - in 2nd yr of the B.D.  Even before then, I'd come across it via my former job, as I used to stock it - and it sold by the bucket-load.

I thought for a long time that I had some real issues with Nouwen... I realised via this exercise, however, that the issues were centred more around some of his 'followers'.
Something that I'd always found bizarre and frustrating was the Nouwen 'devotee'.  It seemed to me that a small group of Nouwen 'devotees' seemed to take what Nouwen was saying and completely misappropriate its meaning... almost as a permission for them to not only be aware of their 'woundedness' but to completely transgress boundaries and bleed all over the place, leaving a rather messy trail of destruction after them.  It's why I've been twitchy for years about Nouwen and this particular model of ministry.

As I wrote the piece on Nouwen's model, I realised I was not only twitchy, I was still, to some extent, a bit angry from having observed folk misusing the model, taking it and working through their own stuff by ostensibly 'helping' others.  My sense was that it encouraged self-absorbed, self-indulgent, navel-gazing which did not in any way help the person move on to a space of healing and freedom.  It seemed, as practised by those I observed, rather to encourage folk to remain in a cycle of dependancy or worse, to continue further into a downward almost narcissistic spiral.  And seemed to be the very antithesis of what Nouwen was actually saying.  I've never personally seen this model used well - in my limited experience - and wondered if others who happen upon this blog might have...?  All comments on this model of ministry welcome - good, bad or ugly!