Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I've no wish to wade into centuries of religious debate (and, apparently, it has been debated for centuries) but I'm confused about the whole communion lark.

As far as I can see, what we now call 'communion' or 'the Lord's supper' (I can't help but have a mental picture of Jesus with his slippers on having a few crackers and a bit of cheese before bed) came from the passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before going out to die.

If that's the case, then blessing and breaking bread was a normal part of the meal (as it was of pretty much every Jewish meal at the time) and blessing the wine was just a marker that it was a special meal with a particular significance.

Whether Jesus' words about 'whenever you do this' were directed at celebrating the passover (he was Jewish after all, and perhaps assumed that people would continue to celebrate the passover - just associating it with him) or whether that's supposed to apply to breaking the bread and blessing the wine, i.e. eating together, I don't kow. But there's no indication there that he was turning it into a ceremony.

Ditto the Lord's supper during Paul's time, where there is reference to eating together and to special Love Feasts (my years in YWAM swim back to haunt me - in a good way), but again no reference to a ceremonial bit of bread and bit of wine taken in isolation at the end of a service.

Where's that all come from?

And what's happened to the subversive 'show no favoritism, invite the lowly, eat with tax collectors' demonstrations of the Kingdom of God, which start with breaking the bread and blessing the wine putting Jesus right in the centre, and remembering that he's the reason that we gather?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Just off signal

At the moment, we've got some builders working outside where I work. I think they're cleaning the stonework.

In addition to pouring water all over us as we return from meetings in other parts of the university, they emit a constant kind of builder-chatter. Out of deference to the ivory towers that they're working on, what they say is only mostly blue. But being the west country, and they being Bristolian builders, most of what they say begins, ends (and mostly consists of) the sounds 'oi' and 'ar' - even the swearing. It makes you feel like you're working in a pirate ship.

Oh, and there's also the radio, which this morning as I arrived, spewed forth Lady Gaga - with the tuning slightly off signal.

Now, ask The Wife, and she'll tell you that distortion is a particularly resident bonnet bee for me. I'd rather listen to nothing than listen to something that has even the slightest chance of distorting.

Anyway... this made me think of a conversation I had yesterday with the new Pastor of our church. I say, new - he's been there for several months now.

In a brief 5-10 minutes we talked about a lot of things. But something that he said made me think.

I struggle with Sunday morning church because of the way that it seems to try and be a surrogate for a week's worth of 'Church'. In some ways, I'd rather see the week put back in order, and the Sunday service dissove into the everyday 'just being' Church. 

He, on the other hand, expressed what he wants to see in terms of 'getting the passion back' into the church so that they can take that passion and 'go out' into the week.

I don't think there's very much difference between the two. Ideally, they flow together into one.

But it did make me think how tricky it must be to lead a church when the people in it appear to be 'just off signal'.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

What do I do now?

When I was growing up, I remember being told that - when in a pickle - we could ask Jesus what to do. We could ask him, based on the fact that he had been a human and so had 'experienced everything that we could experience'.

At the time I must have nodded and thought 'yup'.

However, as I've got older, I've wondered how much wisdom there really is in telling people things like that. 

Setting aside all the trappings of modern life, Jesus still didn't know lots of situations. 

He was never married for example.

He never had children. Was never a father. He never failed to have children when he wanted some. Or wished he'd not had them when he had. 

He was never a woman. He was never pregnant. He was never a mother. 

He was never terminally ill.

Actually, when you think about it, the only person who really has a chance of Jesus knowing what they're experiencing, based on that logic, is a single Jewish carpenter under 30, living somewhere in occupied land, destined to save the world by giving up their life.

I don't know how many people that applies to.

Why are we told these things?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Beginning again

Two months, nearly, it's been since I last posted. Asked by a friend the other day why I'd stopped, I replied that I wasn't posting any more because I wasn't sure how to say what I wanted to say without sounding judgemental.

That's not changed. It's not that I want to sound judgmental, it just comes out that way... so I type with some hesitation.

So, if that's why I've not been posting, why then have I come back? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

The first is that, for a number of reasons, my blogging habits have recently changed. My work blog, which used to be the home for occasional, long, academic posts has, over the last couple of months, become somewhere that I post to nearly every day. Writing vague, half-cooked ideas, explorations and honest reflection... things that pretty much drift to the surface of my mind as I live in the subject from day to day has taken the pressure off having to strive to achieve a particular 'quality' and, ironically, probably delivered more interesting material. And, it's been a lot more fun.

So, I wondered whether I could apply the same practice to this blog and abandon the polished for the rougher and the cooked for the more raw. I spend a lot of time just mulling over God-based things... so why not post that and opt for the honest over the safe as the strap line on the blog suggests.

The second reason though is that in a previous post, I promised to let you know how I got on being a comfortably olivey olive in a church salad full of more normal fruit (confused?)

The answer? Not very well. Although I continue to feel the freedom that I mentioned in that post to be me, and to not be too bothered about what others were doing, I'm still not putting into practice any kind of 'alternative, really me' type church.

This could be another good reason not to write. After all, who wants to read about someone not really doing what they intended to do?

But then, last Sunday afternoon, while attending a tea (we're so British - yes, there were even scones and cream - and it was pouring with rain) for some friends who live and work in Albania, I saw someone who left our church a number of months ago because of a disagreement over the direction that the church was taking. Committed to seeing the church change to the point that they were prepared to leave it... since they've left they've had no impact on it at all.

So, although there are things that I'm not comfortable with, and I'm not even really sure what I want from church any more - withdrawing from it, and taking my oliveness somewhere else is not going to achieve anything. 

So I'm sticking around...