Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Liberating Collar


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I have heard it say the bit of white plastic inserted into a clerical shirt is reminiscent of a slaves collar! Others say it originated from a need to differentiate the ordained from the laity and began its life as a humble cravat.

The kind of people who wear it are presumed to be men and women who believe in jesus’s death and resurrection and are ordained church leaders. Yet who hasn’t read of priests and ministers who abuse their power and wear the same uniform. Who hasn’t heard of opposing church leaders at loggerheads yet wearing the same plastic slip in collar.

At its heart the clerical shirt and its collar is a symbol of something bigger than church politics or the unethical priest, bigger than church divisions and evangelical and liberal arguments. It is a door opener, it sends a message before you even open your mouth. I haven’t worked out what universally that message is yet, perhaps you could leave a comment!

I am one of the clerical collar wearing brigade, and often am so busy encouraging others to see Gods big vision, I sometimes forget myself in the minutia of a complex meeting or some theological argument that seems life and death, that around my neck is the big picture.

The big picture of a God who sees and knows my name. The collar becomes a slave statement to one thing, that of Gods purpose and provision. Not church, not theological sticking points. Instead to the one truth that God is love, and he wants relationship with us through Jesus and that is the message my congregations needs to hear.  Be nurtured in and centred around. Not what colour the carpets are, or whether or what worship should be.

Overtime the collar disappears figuratively and literally, as it becomes who you are. Indeed in some places not wearing the collar is very appropriate, but it doesn’t mean your less it means more than ever you become what the collar represents and embodies, a pointing to a bigger dimension.

Happily scripture reminds us that we are all part of a priesthood of believers, we are all sons and daughters of God and in him have particular roles and duties. let us not let our day to day be so focused we miss Gods big picture for his global mission. Let us control our tongues from tearing down what God needs to be built, increased, nurtured, loved and cherished, his church, the people of God.

So lets wear the meaning of the clerical collar with pride, seeking the best for others in Gods economy without prejudice, without regard for self, but pointing people to a deeper meaning and a deeper narrative of hope. In fact this is something we should all be doing ordained or not. Listening for a narrative steeped in the timelessness of God three in one, and as we speak may the presence of the Living one impress on others, challenge, bring hope conviction and liberation.

Does Peace Even Have a Chance?

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“World peace is an idea of planetary non-violence by which nations willingly cooperate, either voluntarily or by virtue of a system of governance that prevents warfare:.-wikipedia

Sunday was the United Nations world international day for peace, I didn’t even realise it had happened, did you?

The day didn’t even make the news, which heralded the latest footage of violent clashes across the middle east, and in the divided Ukraine. One might have hoped for an coinciding announcement some political agreement on unprecedented financial backing, to train peace makers over and above that of training peace keepers?

As a christian sometimes I find it hard to know what to pray, or indeed do, when there is such hatred and commitment to conflict in the eyes of those who would kill us to get there way. So perhaps I might hold the big picture of a world in chaos before God, remembering that there are moments when peace can break out even ever so briefly.

Such a day was 25th December 1914. The history books recall that the day before German soldiers began singing christmas carols, this lead to conversations between the warring sides, leading to the moment on christmas day, where soldiers tentatively trusted that the other side wouldn’t open fire, as they walked onto mans land, and together the germans and british shared gifts and played football.

But as I hold that wide picture before God, I set about seeking God with the vision of my local situation. Trying to answer the question of how I can be a peacemaker in my own back yard? Whether that is the class room, work place, family or church. How can I enable change in those who slander, or spread the cancer of cynicism and violence?

Make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred, let me bring Your love, are the opening lyrics to the famous hymn of the same name. When it talks of Gods love, I do not think of his love as being soft, but instead, tough. The harder than nails kind of love.

A Love that demands sacrifice, that compels us to challenge those places where violence has become the norm. To restore peace, to bring about a rediscovery in the innate God given value in humanity and the individual right to live, life in all its fullness and potential.

Lets pray

Jesus may we have the courage to be a peace maker, that those through circumstance, the conviction of others or themselves may choose life above death, words above the gun or bomb. Finally lord if I am ever faced with the opportunity to inflict harm on those who  harm my own, compel me to choose peace.- Amen

The Invitation

you_are_invited_flowers_6140426 ‘They won’t come, we have tried that sort of thing before’. Came the all too familiar response from a church member in conversation with her pastor. The pastor concerned, considered for a moment, what indeed she was asking the church to invite people too? Eventually it occurred to her that she probably wouldn’t want to go to it either, let alone anyone else!

Think of the last time you were invited to something you enjoyed, how did it make you feel? What was good about it? Did you find a kindred spirit and perhaps even have some fun and laughter? Sadly in my experience this doesn’t sound like church nearly enough. But when it does, i find i am home, both spiritually and communally.

There is a story of a woman now retired who was invited to her local chapel, and she stayed and felt at home. She was invited to membership and happily accepted and now over twenty years later helps to lead a worship service and is now inviting others into the Lords loving embrace. All because her christian friend stepped over the line and knowing her friend well, knew what to invite her to, and when to ask her “to come.” The woman in the story discovered for herself the freedom Christ offers through the invitation of a friend, who invited her to a community who celebrated the fullness of life that Christ offers us all.

Part of the issue is perhaps that our image of God is serious, and that’s appropriate, to a point. The bible sadly doesn’t record Jesus and the disciples going out on the town, drinking in moderation of course. Nor does the bible record dialogue where Jesus is making a joke or witty retort. But I would like to think he might have at least once or twice laughed, or smiled at something rude!

We read that Jesus has many, many meals with people. I doubt these were all terribly religious or pious, after all he ate with the least religious or pious people. Not that they might be conformed to sensible religion. But instead know that there is another way, a fuller life, one where the burden of sin, or feelings of inadequacy are lifted upon the shoulders of a would be saviour of the world, so that they can be free.

We have seen the effect freedom has on people haven’t we. The celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exuberance at the end of apartheid in South Africa, how communities celebrated as each world war ended. Freedom is heady joyousness, not reserved, not quiet, not always sensible. But sometimes on our knees we can in heartfelt thanks worship God, as well as jump around for joy.

As the pastor said good bye to the church member and drove home that evening. The Lord reminded her, of why she had ever come to church in the first place, and to begin with it was friendship with people followed by and enriched with friendship with God. It occurred to her that that was a good place to start.

Airplane Mode In 3.2.1…

Recently I took a trip back to the 1990’s! Where internet was slow and scarce and mobile data was infuriatingly slow. Yes you might have guessed it, I moved house and am having to wait weeks for the pure juiciness of the internet to be connected to the house.

During these weeks, I can be found intensely searching for the elusive golden number and letter of basic internet accessibility, that being 3G. My wife also joined this quest for internet, and found a spot in a corner of a wall in our house, next to the front door, on her knees. Here and here alone she can just get a whiff of 3G. As for myself, I found success in the cafés of Starbucks, Costa and Nero, but am unsure if I can or should charge the accompanying lattes and cookies consumed there to work or not!!

In this period of near internet isolation, certain apps have become more important to me, such as, signal strength permitting wordpress, and Facebook, but also Daily Bread (a christian devotional guide). I can’t access my usual app hangouts of YouTube, and flipboard because of a lack of signal strength. So I read the bible and devotional guide in Daily Bread, an Ipad app I hardly use despite having a yearly subscription, something I am not proud of.

When normal service resumes, which is the end of this week, and my devices are drinking from the fountain of the data highway. Along with myself consuming gigabytes of video and social media content, I hope that my devotional app doesn’t take a backseat but remains in contention with all the noise in my life. For it is this still small voice of God, that this app points to me towards, the voice in my life that should be louder than the bleep of a message landing in my inbox or the wolf whistle of a tweet, or the stats page of this blog.

In this slight blackout the world didn’t end, life continued, I had more time to chat to others, and even felt a bit more in control of my life. As my devices were silenced from their collective demands for my attention.

The lack of internet has brought a new level of quietness to my life. I was no longer chained to my devices in the same way, and had space to listen for what the Lord is saying to me. Especially important as I take up a new church leadership position.

I hope I have learnt a valuable lesson in these few weeks. Perhaps an out working of that is that I might go unplugged sometimes. Instead plugging myself into what the Lord of creation the God that speaks to us is saying and calling me towards, something none of us need good signal strength for.

So my dear reader, let us consider how to reduce the data noise in our lives, and choose to intentionally switch on airplane mode more often. Not just that we fly with God more often and soar with him, in away that allows us to really live and see our lives differently. Moreover that by switching to airplane mode, we become more present in the now, of that person closest to us who wants and deserves our attention.

So on 1 if you are able let’s flip that switch, 3.2 (see you next week) 1…

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