A prayer for New Zealand

22 February 2011

I was asked today to write a prayer for use in the Diocese for those caught up in the earthquake in New Zealand:

Heavenly Father,
whose love and care embraces all people
as our lives weave through the opportunities and dangers of this dynamic world.
Tighten your embrace we pray on those who are victims
of the powerful forces of this planet:
be comforter for those who weep,
an encourager for those who search,
and a strength to those who support the lost and bewildered;
and to all the people of New Zealand at this time,
give the assurance of your presence amid the devastation and loss,
for the sake of Jesus our Lord, Amen


Happy New Year?

1 January 2011

BBC Radio Humberside – New Year’s Day

Well I wish you a very happy New Year . But, having said that  I realise that we start 2011 with many problems before us – the weather, the economy and those myriad of personal issues which can so weigh us down.  So what does it need for us to be happy in this New Year?  Oscar Wildle that great manufacturer of sharp quotations observed that “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”

But I am much more drawn to the anonymous observation that “Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.”, because unless that’s true, then we are doomed to unhappiness, because throughout my life I have never known a time when there haven’t been problems to deal with and I suspect that’s true for all of us.  Indeed it is the problems which give life a texture and responding to them can bring out some of our best qualities.

There was a fashion for imagining a world which was problem free, one of the most famous versions was a book  by Sir Thomas More written some 500 years ago which he called Utopia – a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean where there was no poverty or misery and all lived in harmony.  As we grapple with the recession, unemployment and all that comes with them, Utopia sounds a good place to be.  Of course the story of Utopia echoes the story of the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the Bible, where God places Adam and Eve in a paradise where there were no problems. An experience of harmony and peace which they can enjoy as long as they used their freedom of choice responsibly.

The story goes on that once Adam and Eve misused their freedom of choice, then paradise became an impossible place for them, because paradise requires a depth of responsibility which enables harmony to exist.  But as we look over human history and read our headlines today, it is clear that such a depth of responsibility seems beyond our capacity to achieve.  The distinctiveness of Jesus is not really so much about him being ‘good’, but about the depth of responsibility which he lived out – to such an extent, that those who met him had the experienced that something of paradise had come close to them.

In wishing you a happy new year, I am not offering a meaningless phrase, but a hope that we will each find the ability to deal with the problems and concerns which lie ahead, whilst at the same time discovering an inner sense of responsibility in the way in which we make our choices, so that something of paradise is found within us to enrich our lives in 2011.  So I do wish you a very happy new year…….

 

 


New Year Aspirations

30 December 2010

The Grimsby Telegraph gave me 200 words to express my hopes for 2011

I suspect that in 2011 the effects of the spending cuts will dominate our lives and I am most concerned that it will be the weakest who will bear the greatest pain.

So my number one hope for 2011 is that politicians will discover a vision for the society they are creating and especially a vision to generously support the marginalised and most vulnerable.  Expedience appears to be driving the way we shape the future and that is a perilous path.

My second hope is that the ‘Big Society’ becomes more than a slogan to avoid Government spending.  Jesus Christ was a proponent of a Big Society, with love driving how we live together. But he knew that such a society has to be built on what is going on in people’s hearts for the generosity and commitment required to reach out and meet the needs of others.

My third hope is more personal, I want to slow down a little to have more time for the people I encounter.  The constant rush and demands on our time can make us careless of the time which we need to invest in each other – so 2011 will be the year when I accept that second cup of coffee!

 


The Christmas story is full of depth

28 December 2010

Christmas message on Compass FM

Even though my childhood was some time ago, I still love the excitement of Christmas day. There is stillness around with people just pausing in the constant rush of life to appreciate family and friends – the presents, a lunch and for many of us the carols and prayers all serve to touch base with something beyond our preoccupation with the problems which challenge us the rest of the year.

At the heart of Christmas is a story – the story of the birth of a baby some 2000 years ago in a troublesome part of the Roman Empire. Some people only ever touch the surface of this story and remain in themselves untouched by it, or relegate it as something for children. Yet, like all of the best stories, the story of angels, shepherds and a young girl giving birth in a stable invites us to go deeper, beyond the concerns of fact or fiction, to go deeper into the mystery of life and the possibilities of God.

The Christmas story draws us into its power because in no small way it is our story. Each of us has been a baby coming into the world with all the risk, vulnerability and uncertainty of birth. In the same way, each of us knows the sheer complexity of love and being loved.
The wonder of the Christmas story is that we are drawn into the possibility that there is within the child Jesus a glimpse not only of the nature and heart of God, but also what it means to be human. And it is that possibility which Christians continue to explore and study as we embrace the possibilities of God into our lives.

Christmas 2010 finds us beset with problems – with the weather, with the economy and with the absence of any convincing political vision for the future. The recession and the Government’s response to the financial turmoil is creating many victims and causing much despair. At times it almost seems that the poor and the vulnerable are being punished for the inability of the economy to bring the sustained prosperity which politicians had promised and for the recklessness and greed of the bankers.

The story of Christmas doesn’t offer quick and easy answers to these challenging issues, instead it offers us a quality of life to shape a different future. The child of Bethlehem grows up to reveal that love, forgiveness and lives filled with God’s character are the qualities which shape the future. It is why the story of Jesus and the story of Christmas continue to fascinate the world, drawing us back again and again, Christmas after Christmas to the mystery of love wrapped in the risk and vulnerability of a baby. It is the only story which holds out the simple truth, that it is through love, sacrifice and a Godly heart that you can transform the future – such a vision is not on offer anywhere else, for it can only come through the risk and vulnerability of the love which came down at Christmas.


Fruitful Growth

10 December 2010

I have recently been involved in a number of conversations with congregations deeply concerned with how to ‘grow’ their church.  It sometimes feels as though they are looking for ‘the’ answer to this concern, or a formula for them to follow.   Such conversations have encouraged me to recover a paper which I wrote following my last sabbatical, where I looked at what we really mean by Church Growth and the foundations which are needed for real growth in the life of the Church.

You can find the paper on this site – “and he cursed that tree…”


Happiness – beyond Government

16 November 2010

So the new government is going to conduct a survey to discover the levels of happiness in the country.   At last politicians have realised that there is more to life than the economy – a reality which many of us have promoted for a long time.  I just hope that given politicians habit of wanting to measure and control everything, we don’t end up with ‘targets’ for being happy – with pictures of smiling citizens lining the roads whenever a ‘beloved leader’ passes by!

Yet the pursuit of happiness and wellbeing is fundamental to being human.  I can’t recall meeting anyone who has set out either to be miserable, or to be unhealthy.  It is the changes, chances and realities of life which erode our sense of wellbeing and undermine our happiness – and this is something which politicians need to understand.

If the government is really committed to happiness then they have to accommodate the simple truth that it is very difficult to be happy if you have lost your job; it is hard to be happy if your benefits have been cut or removed; it is impossible to be happy if the chaos of poverty becomes your everyday experience.  But most importantly they need to understand that for many of us, we cannot be really happy ourselves when we know that others are suffering and have become victims of the need to balance the budget.

But ultimately happiness is an inner and spiritual quality beyond the reach of legislation and politics. Happiness is something about how we shape our lives and order our priorities.  Indeed we can do much to promote our own happiness and well being.  Learning how to love, to be loved and forgive are sure foundations to a happy life.  Discovering how to value others and preserve one’s own dignity are each ways of securing our sense of wellbeing.  Controlling our anger, greed and sexuality each contribute to stability in life from which we can live at peace with ourselves and our neighbours.

Governments have a responsibility for providing a context and an economy which promote happiness, but in the end it is how we live our lives, relate to each other and share out the good things of life which secures our future.  It is all summed up in a verse from the Bible written many centuries ago, it just says – do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.


Developing a collaborative model for beginning public ministry

23 September 2010

We are exploring new patterns  for formation and training in the first four years of public ministry for the stipendiary ordained.  The paper supporting the two pilot schemes can be found on the pages of this Blog at http://wp.me/Pg5Vx-7k


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