The new Shibboleth in the church is the attitude we take on homosexuality. Even in a church which takes a fully inclusive view and in a Kirk Session which is waiting impatiently for the wider church to permit the celebration of same sex marriages there has been a minority of people who, although they voted for it and even spoke in favour of it, clearly struggled with the theology of inclusion and in the end left, usually citing other reasons. Continue reading
There is a real temptation to go for the easy route forward and especially the lucrative one. This is nowhere more true than it is in and of churches. To risk alienating members of a congregation and especially financially well off members of a congregation is to risk the future and viability of that congregation. Unfortunately the truth tends to do that. It does not always hold a congregation together and it does not always attract people in. Continue reading
One of the most challenging issues faced by those who are opening up to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth is recognising that very often the faith they think they are leaving behind which they regarded as Christianity is in fact far more similar to the kind of religion which Jesus opposed than it is to the authentic gospel. Continue reading
This is the slightly adapted text of an address I gave at a recent Thursday Lunchtime Service. I include the reading for reference. Continue reading
The authentic church will always appear on the edge and to be on the edge or at the edge is to be in or close to the wilderness. The authentic church exists at the edge of the wilderness because in the Old Testament and also in the New Testament, the wilderness is the place of revelation but it is also the place in which people experience the absence of God. It is when we step into or a forced into the wilderness that we experience God.
In the Bible the wilderness is an ambiguous place in which there is isolation and revelation, there is presence and there is a sense of absence, God appears when everything else disappears. It is a place of wondering and wandering.
This two edged, double meaning of the term, wilderness is extremely helpful to us here. Continue reading
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen, Anthem
One of the challenges for anyone reading the gospels is making sense of what seems to be more than one story unfolding. The gospels are instruction books for the disciple. The story tellers use Jesus’ story to illustrate what the disciple has to do in order to achieve the goal of discipleship but there is a tension because the gospels, two of them, begin with the birth narrative and the claim that Jesus was divine. We then have Jesus who is divine and yet human going through baptism, the experience in the wilderness, the transfiguration, in which it would appear that the divine and the human are somehow coming together. People have asked about this. Is it contradiction, confusion, different Jesus traditions coming together, or is there a way to reconcile and make sense of what appears to be two stories being told simultaneously? Continue reading
In an introductory workshop in which I have been involved twice in the last few months we have been at pains to emphasise the importance of recognising that Jesus of Nazareth is a human being and that what we see in him is the Logos about which the prologue of John’s Gospel speaks. In discussion afterwards it has become clear that we have to be careful of the vocabulary we use to describe what is going on. In the end, of course, we cannot describe the indescribable and we engage with this at a deeper level than thought. Continue reading