Monthly Archives: September 2009

What was happening in their pulpits?

This frightening set of interviews from the 12th September Tea Party March on Washington.  A first reaction is anger at the poisonous cocktail of ignorance that claims Jesus’ endorsement.  Then you have to ask, what were these people hearing in Church, who was the preacher that peddled the lies that got these people to Washington.  Difficult not to ask yourself the same question.

Highlights are the guy who says that Socialism, Communism and Fascism are all the same thing and the bother of folk worrying about the appointment of Czars (the logic is something like Czar = Caesar = anti-Christ) being told that the first Czars were appointed by Ronald Reagen and that they have no executive powers.

(If the clip isn’t working you can link to it here)

The clip ends with this

All that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex,  the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

He Should Pray

Prayer In James

We are going to be doing some solid research and thinking this morning

We are going to be whizzing through Bibles.

And seeing how a few things fit together

What is going to motivate is something that James says at the end of his letter.

James chapter 5:

Are any among you in trouble? They should pray.

Are any among you happy? They should sing praises. 14*

Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord.[1]

But to do some background, we are going to have do some research.

And the research is to establish the fact that in the Bible, heaven and earth are really the same kind of place.

Heaven And Earth The Same Place

When the world gets created,

Heaven and earth are the same place

They get created at the same time

And Heaven is the word for sky.

It still kinds of keep that idea.

And the place that God lives is kind of the same place that God lives.

You see this in the second chapter of Genesis.

You see God bringing the animals to Adam to be named

God is bringing names – lion, and dog and cat and when Adam is feeling flamboyant Hippopotamus

And then when none of them are good enough companion he says to Adam sleep and he takes rib out (Genesis 2:21)

And the thing about all of this

Is that God is there, with Adam

There no God come down to meet Adam.

God is walking in the garden in the heat of the day (Genesis 3:8)

That is the last time in the whole of the Old Testament that you will hear God going for a walk in earth.

It’s the last time that the place where God is and the place where humans are

Is the same place.

But Adam and Eve have sinned, and now there will be no more walking of God in the garden, a big divide, a separation creeps in.

It is now possible to talk about heaven being a different place

And God being in a different place.

God Comes Down

In Genesis chapter 11

The humans build a tower to be like God but it doesn’t work

And when God looks at it

We read that God comes down Genesis 11:5

You never read anything like that in the first chapter of the Bible

Are you with me everyone

And this is a separation which destroys us

There is the place where God is

And the place where we are

And we can never get to the God place

And if God comes to our place, then God comes down.

One Place, One Day, One Man

And the thing which shows that it is the temple

Which thought about quite a lot of late.

The temple – is the sign that God is separated from us

But he has not abandoned us.

And the temple is on Mount Zion which Jews regarded as being the highest mountain

The place that is nearest to heaven

But God isn’t on the whole of Mount Zion

And God isn’t in the whole of the temple

Because there is the outer court of the temple, which is in the temple

But God isn’t in the court

And then there is the holy place, where only Jewish men could go

But God isn’t there

Only in one place, the inner sanctuary, the holy of holies

Where only the one person – the high priest

Could go one day a year

Behind the curtain into the holy of holies

Wearing protective clothing – like the reactor of a nuclear power plant

That was the place where God was.

And do you see the difference

Between God running about the garden with us doing rib operations and bringing us animals to name.

And then it is one place, right on the mountain

One special person, protective clothing, one day a year.

That is when you get to encounter God.


There is one person who probably challenges that more than any other in the Old Testament – Elijah

There is a little story that illustrates that.

Elijah has called for a drought – normally prophets speak “The word of the Lord”

But Elijah speaks, it is “There will be no rain, except by my word”

Him and God are pretty close.

Elijah describes God as “the one before whom I stand”

We are told that during this drought, Elijah goes to stay with a widow

He has a deal with the widow, that if Elijah can stay in her house

Then her oil will never run out

And when Elijah stays with this woman, he stays upstairs.

And one day when the woman’s son dies

Elijah takes up him upstairs and lies upon him

And breaths upon him

And God revives the child

And there is this kind of closeness between God and Elijah

Elijah breathes, God revives

The separation is squeezed waver thin

But it is still there.

Jesus comes

And then Jesus comes

Jesus comes

And something that has not happened since that day on the garden

God walks on the earth.

And what is his message,

The kingdom of God is near.

And when Jesus prays

What does he pray

Our Father in heaven

Your kingdom come

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

And do you see the gap being closed

The kingdom is near.

And when he dies, what happens

The temple curtain is torn in two

And the people he leaves behind are to be called the temple of God

And do you see that the people of God, are the people close to God.

Back To James

Now lets get back to James.

Do you notice the way that the people in everything are to express this closeness to God.

Are any among you in trouble? They should pray. Are any among you happy? They should sing praises. 14* Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord.[2]

Everything is close to God.

Someone is in trouble/ suffering – he prays

Do you know, he prays

He doesn’t get the priest to pray

That is such an important thing – you should pray.  You don’t just get someone to do it for you.  I warn you that more and more when I go to your home now, I get you to pray.  I am not some priest with special clothes – although you might be forgiven for thinking that this morning

No, you pray.

Is anyone happy? He should praise

Actually the word here is strum strings, the idea is that you celebrate,

Because God is near

Is anyone happy, he should play guitar.

And prayer isn’t just about asking God for stuff

It is celebrating that the curtain is down

God is near, “Yo God”

Is anyone among you sick

He should call for the elders – always make sure you call

And they anoint with oil and pray.

This prayer will save the wearied, and God will raise him up

The idea is that God deals with someone who is not just ill, but wearied, they are chronically fatigued, they have no energy to exert upon the world, the world does to them, they do not do to the world.

Some kind of deep healing which deals with body and soul –sometimes there are miraculous healings, our own Elizabeth Gordon will talk about the way that her legs were healed of a vascular condition and she is able to walk, to go the shops for the first time in years

Other times, the healing is on a longer, more hidden trajectory.

We have done this once during my time here, at a hospital ward in the Victoria, we anointed with oil, and nurses commented about the peace that was in the ward after that had happened

The woman still died, her name was Margaret Lamont, but something special happened in that ward.

People visited days later, and nurses would say “What did you do with Margaret, our whole ward has been different because of what happened there.”

In 1900, Hudson Taylor, the great pioneer missionary to China, suffered a nervous breakdown.  He was speaking in Boston at the time when he began to repeat the same two phrases over and over again: “you may trust the Lord too little but you can never trust him too much” and “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful:  he cannot deny himself “ (2 Tim 2:13)

Hudson Taylor repeated these two extraordinary sentences over and over before finally being escorted form the stage, He returned to London and then, on doctors’ orders, moved to Switzerland in a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion.  That was where the terrible news reached him that 58 of his fellow missionaries and 122 children had been massacred in the Boxer Revolution.  The news was almost more than his aging heart and exhausted mind could endure.  “I cannot read, I cannot think, I cannot even pray, “ he admitted to his wife, “but I can trust.”

With hindsight, we can see that Hudson Taylor’s trust was well-founded: the blood of such martyrs was to become the seed of the Chinese Church, which has since grown into one of the most vibrant and sacrificial expressions of Christian faith in the contemporary world.  But at the time, devastated by the pain of so may lives cut short, children killed and the gospel seemingly silenced, Hudson Taylor could find no such hope in the tragedy.

Countless prayers for protection had come to nothing.  Years of intercession and endeavour for the evangelisation of inland China had seemingly been thwarted.  Hudson Taylor could do nothing but trust, resting helplessly in the arms of the one who “abideth faithful” even when he was in doubt.

God on Mute (page 61-62)

Confess Your Sins

16* So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect.[3]

And we are to confess sins, because sins are always at their most powerful when they are secret, when they are confessed, we have the chance to let go of our pride which doesn’t want to be found out, and expose the forgiveness of God

Always pray, always find someone that you can confess to.

And God heals

And the prayer of a righteous person is powerful

Who here is righteous?

Everyone – we are made righteous by Jesus.

So you are capable of powerful prayers

I hope that you pray for your friends

If you don’t then your friends are deprived of great strength

Try and write it down, who you pray for.


And do you notice that the Church is always reaching across

God’s kingdom here, here, and here

No more separation, no we are going to pray.


17* Elijah was the same kind of person as we are. He prayed earnestly that there would be no rain, and no rain fell on the land for three and a half years. 18* Once again he prayed, and the sky poured out its rain and the earth produced its crops.[4]

Elijah was a man like us

A fellow sufferer

And his life was not easy

But in him, people believed

And widows were fed

And children were healed

And the waters of the earth were stopped, so that people learned to trust God more

And he prayed.

And he was a man like us.

And should pray like him

And heaven and earth need to be nearer

Where does that start

It starts (it is not only this) but it starts in a people who pray And then live the life of the one who said “The kingdom of heaven is near”

For the sake of children who fear for the future

For the sake of families left vulnerable by broken relationships

For the sake of communities where life is dry and hard and the refreshment never comes

For the sake of the poor, who still gather their morsel of food, and getting ready to die.

For the sake of people we live near who are frightened

We need to pray

We need to pray

In 1842 a man called Joseph Scrivener graduated from his university in Dublin, and the fell head over heels in love with a girl from his home town.  They got engaged, and with great excitement began planning their wedding and their life together as husband and wife.

The eve of their wedding arrive at last, and Joseph’s fiancée saddled a horse to go and see him.  Tragically, this is one of the last things that she would ever do.  A little later Joseph saw his bride-to-be riding towards him, and he grinned.  But suddenly, just as she was crossing a bridge, over the river near his house the horse bucked and threw her like a rag-doll down into the river below.  In blind panic Joseph ran to the river, calling out her name.  He plunged into the icy waters, but it was too late.  His bride was already dead.

Heartbroken Joseph emigrated to Canada, where eventually he fell in love again.  In 1854 Joseph was due to marry Eliza Roche but she fell ill and grew progressively worse.  The wedding was repeatedly postponed until, three years later, Eliza died.  Joseph Scrivener would never again give his hear to another woman.

Back home in Ireland, Joseph’s mother was deeply concerned for her heartbroken son, and he in turn was concerned for her.  One night, Joseph penned a poem to comfort her , little knowing that that it would become one of the best loved songs of all time.  Several years later, a friend found it in a drawer at Joseph’s house, and was deeply moved.  “The Lord and I wrote it together, he explained.  The poem, forged out of so much disappointment and pain continues to call millions of people in their painful experiences to admit their grief, their trials and temptations, their sorrows and their every weakness to Jesus in the privilege of prayer.

We’re going to sing the hymn now as we remain seated.


* 5:14: Mrk 6:13.

[1]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

* 5:14: Mrk 6:13.

[2]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

* 5:16: [2] Si 4:26.

[3]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

* 5:17: 1Ki 17:1; 18:1 [2] Sir 48:2,3.

* 5:18: 1Ki 18:42-45.

[4]None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :

When Hudson Taylor Broke Down

With hindsight, we can see that Hudson Taylor’s trust was well-founded: the blood of such martyrs was to become the seed of the Chinese Church, which has since grown into one of the most vibrant and sacrificial expressions of Christian faith in the contemporary world.  But at the time, devastated by the pain of so may lives cut short, children killed and the gospel seemingly silenced, Hudson Taylor could find no such hope in the tragedy.

Countless prayers for protection had come to nothing.  Years of intercession and endeavour for the evangelisation of inland China had seemingly been thwarted.  Hudson Taylor could do nothing but trust, resting helplessly in the arms of the one who “abideth faithful” even when he was in doubt.

God on Mute (page 61-62)

Top 15 Aquinas Quotes

Here are the top 15 quotations from Thomas Aquinas, courtesy of Listverse: (and William Crawley)

1. A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.

2. All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly.

3. Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.

4. Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.

5. By nature all men are equal in liberty, but not in other endowments.

6. Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.

7. How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.

8. How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know.

9. It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.

10. Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.

11. That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.

12. The things that we love tell us what we are.

13. Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.

14. To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

15. Wonder is the desire for knowledge.

Our Vision

Our Vision

John Ortberg 15th September 2009

This is Ortberg’s reworking of this Rob Bell talk – absolutely incredible to see how these two interact with each other, how they fashion each other’s material, and find new things when they do, like two jazz artists riffing on the same theme.

Ortberg covers a lot of the same ground, but he has a nose for fantastic illustrations.

The first is the illustration of First Class/ Cabin Class to think about the difference between common and holy.

The second is the illustration of the huddle used by sports teams, how it is their job to huddle and then go and do the work.  There would be something wrong with a sports team that just loved to huddle.

“I have heard of a no huddle offence, but I have never heard of a no offence huddle”

There is a lovely bit where he complains at having to assemble furniture for his daughter, and prays to Jesus “Why am I having to do this?”

Jesus first response is “I was a carpenter for 30 years”

The second was to realise of the important conversations that might happen around that table and in that chair.

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

Tony Campolo 30th July and 8th August

Campolo and Willard reviewing a Christian Science Monitor article on the end of the Evangelicalism.


One thrust is a failure of Evangelical education, which Campolo refutes vigorously.


The other is the alliance between the Christian Right and the Republican party, and with it Republican values.  He talks (first part, round about 28 minutes) about the National Rifle Association having the largest stand at the Christian Coalitiion, and how there is a link between how evangelical you are and how much you support torture.

Christ In The Common

Christ In The Common

Rob Bell 2nd August 2009

Spends large amount of time talking about the barriered universe, and the separation between the unclean, the common and the holy, and the most holy.

Lots of heavy lifting going on in the Old Testament there.

Then there is the exposition of what Christ does to that system, and how Jesus breaks apart (when the temple curtain is torn, quite literally) the whole temple system.

There is lots on Leviticus, Matthew 12 (corn on the Sabbath), John 2 (breaking down the temple), 1 Corinthians 3 (temple of the Holy Spirit) and Matthew 25 (Christ in humble encounters).

It is the job of the preacher to alert us to the present of the holy, so that we might say with Jacob (Genesis 28) that God is here and we did not know it.

Then ends with the illustration of Joshua Bell, being on the corner of the subway and people did not notice.

Armstrong vs Dawkins

An incomplete list would be something like:

  1. Explanation of origin of first reproducing cell
  2. Explanation of big bang
  3. Explanation of consciousness
  4. Explanation of coherence of universe
  5. Atomic response to conscious observation
  6. Completeness of physics (possibly impossible)

And even then there would have to be explanations for morality and for love.

I am not so much arguing a “God of the gaps”, as “God of the chasms.”  Science is good, but it doesn’t own sufficient knowledge to claim divine redundancy.

Getting The Kiss To Work

This excerpt comes from a book called “Mortal Lessons: Notes in the art of surgery” by a surgeon called Richard Seltzer, and is quoted in a book called the “Sixty Minute Marriage” by Rob Parsons.

I stand by the bed, where a young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish.  A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed.  She will be thus from now.  The surgeon has followed with religious fervour the curve of her flesh, I promise you that.  Nevertheless to remove the tumour in her cheek I have cut a little nerve.  Her young husband is in the room.  He stand on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private.  “Who are they?” I ask myself.  “He and this wry mouth that I have made.  Who gaze at and touch each other so greedily”  The young woman speaks “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.  “Yes, it will” I say.  “It is because the nerve was cut.”  She nods and is silent, but the young man smiles.  “I like it“ he says “It’ s kind of cute” And all at once I know who he is and I lower my gaze.  One is not bold in an encounter with a god.  And unmindful I see he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I so close, I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate her, to show the kiss still works.  And I remember that the gods appeared in ancient times as mortals and I hold my breath, and let the wonder in.

Parsons comments

Would that young husband have preferred his wife to hate loo,s she had when he married her? Oof course.  Is it the case that sometimes even now he dreams of her with a perfect f ace? Yes.  But there will come in every marriage time when we are called to lovenot “Because of “but “in spite of”, a time when we have to twist our mouth “to show the kiss still works”.  It has at its heart not just the feeling of love but the will to love.  Unless we hold on to that, it is impossible for love to last.

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