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Showing posts from September, 2015

From castles to tents: a critique of closed, complacent and comfortable Christianity

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Mark 9.38-50



In verses 33-50, Jesus’ teaches the disciples in Capernaum. The verses begin with the disciples arguing about who is the greatest. They end with Jesus urging them, ‘be at peace with each other’.
And in the verses we are looking at today, Jesus challenges three things.
1. He challenges a closed Christianity (vv38-41)
The disciples see a man who is casting out in demons in the name of Jesus, but he was not one the 12 or one of the people who was part of Jesus’ ‘in group’. So they tell him to stop. Jesus however rebukes his followers. He says to them, ‘Don’t stop him. If he drives out demons in my name today, he won’t say bad stuff about me tomorrow. If he is not against us, he is for us’.
In fact, says Jesus, it does not even need to be as dramatic as driving out demons. If someone simply gives you a glass of water because you bear the name of Jesus (v41), they won’t lose their reward.
It is very easy – whether it is in the face of hostility, insecurity or suffering – for us a…

On the centenary of the WI, and the 95th anniversary of the SWFWIs

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You are 95 years old. Congratulations. You are looking pretty good for it.

As I have read through the history of the WIs, it is quite a story. You have done and you are doing a great deal. You've made a difference. You've given dignity to people.

You've campaigned on an astonishing range of subjects including fairtrade, women's suffrage, equal pay (proposed by a delegate from the West Suffolk Federation), more women in the police force, the environment, make poverty history, health issues, and the SOS honey bees campaign. They are things that matter. And you were often there at the very beginning. You were considering the issue of female genital mutilation in the 1980's, long before many others saw it as an issue. There is, as Esther Addley wrote in the Guardian, 'a pleasing bolshiness to the WI that has never faded'.

You have not allowed yourself to be put into a box. You've allowed those letters, the WI to stand for something old and for something new…

The healing of the man at the pool: a reflection on the mosaic from S. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

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John 5.1-18
We are beginning a series looking at incidents from the life of Jesus. The incidents which we are choosing are incidents which are portrayed in the earliest known set of images from the life of Jesus. They are in the church of St Apollinare Nuovo, in Ravenna. 
Ravenna, in NE Italy, is an amazing city. It is completely off the tourist map, and yet it contains 8 world heritage sites. Those include the church of St Vitale, and the church of St Apollinare, not to mention two baptisteries. 
Ravenna is significant because between 400 and about 550 it was the most important city in the Western Empire after the fall of Rome. The Christian architecture and the art was influenced by both East and West, by Rome and Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), the residence of the senior Patriarch of the Eastern churches. And while virtually all of the early Christian art in Constantinople, Jerusalem and the East was destroyed in the iconoclasm of the 700s and 800s, Ravenna – because it was mor…

Monsters in the dark

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John 6.16-21
The disciples are in the boat. Jesus is up a mountain. It is dark, the wind is strong and they are struggling. They see a figure walking on the water, coming towards them, and they are terrified.
WHAT THEY FEAR IS IN FACT JESUS COMING TO THEM.
Jesus did not need to come to them. He could have stayed up the mountain and prayed that the storm would pass. They would have reached their destination; they would not have been afraid; life would have been easy and comfortable.
But Jesus doesn't do that. Instead he comes down off the mountain and walks on the water and comes to them. And they are afraid: what do you think they might have thought that it was? Maybe they thought it was a monster, a ghost - a zombie walking on the water - coming to get them. It wasn't. It was Jesus coming to them. 
SOMETIMES WHAT WE ARE AFRAID OF IS, IN FACT, JESUS COMING CLOSE TO US. 
We are afraid of change: maybe it is an unknown journey, or when we begin a new school or job, or do somethin…