Monthly Archives: December 2011

Gospel According to Polar Express


This is remarkable the way we need the myth, need those points of contact with the Jesus story in them, and the way that the Santa myth has become the dominant Christmas myth, and the meeting with the Santa the sacred moment of Christmas.

I need to think what this says about the stories we need to tell ourselves, our innate human hungers and the importance of belief in something bigger than ourselves.  In telling stories like this for ourselves, are we reaching for that which we need and know to be beyond ourselves.

Grace Alone

Or looking good. How attractive enough. Comparison with George Clooney.

Grace is enough. Paul in Ephesians 2

What would grace say to this area ? Stop

All this success looks like idolatry

In the bible the opposite of grace is salvation by works. It is ironic that a generation that does not believe in God still believes in salvation by works.

Grace is good news but it is not soft. It teaches us about sin. Amazing grace it was grace that taught my heart to fear

Grace would say that that uneasiness you feel cannot be healed by achievement or messages of self esteem. You need to be saved by what sin is doing to your soul.

Tell story of girl who disobeyed. Girl says you had better spank me now because I have disobeyed. The human will has rebelled.

And we have just got used to this world because it is all of us.  But god never gets used to it. Never says that’s okay. Gods standard is the sinless position in which he dwells. In gods eyes sin is the real horror of our soul.

Reads list of sins and asks people to honestly deal with where they are.

Spiritual sanity begins by saying something is broken in me

Grace came one day (John 1)

All have sinned (Romans 3)

Grace would say you can have the acceptance you have always craved. Just humble yourself and check out of the culture of performance.

You can affirm this and still not be a follower of Jesus.

Take a pencil out. What does it mean to give my heart to God.

My only hope is this man Jesus.

I want to receive your forgiveness and love and I want to surrender.

I want God to fly the plane

Morna Hooker on Mark

Morna hooker on Mark

Looks at the Mark as a drama played out with different scenes like a drama played out in an amphitheatre.

Hooker views the first scenes: the baptist, the baptism and the temptation as being like gods scenes in drama where the audience is told what is happening behind the scenes. We need this information to understand the story.

This explains all the moments when people don’t understand

The one group who are different are the women. Initially they seem foolish but seem to have a grasp of what it is that God is doing.

The idea of Jesus as king of the Jews is vital to what happens in the last few chapters of the gospel. It is a title which appears again and again

Then the soldier sees the heavenly significance of what is taking place

The Bible Alone

Brilliant bit on the whole of the scriptures being fulfilled by Jesus. Also about the guy ah Jacobs who lives literally for a year. The Bible cannot be read like this. It has to be about understanding the era

Good illustration of the allies fighting and then helping the Germans during the second world war. This was not inconsistency but understanding the era that we are in.

Look at the literalism of Genesis. Looks at the way the sun is talked about in Genesis. how the ancient writers would have known that the sun does not come late. This was a polemic against sun worship. W should not claim too literally for example the arguments about the earth being at the centre of the solar system.

The best thing to do with this book is to chew on it. Memorise it and do it

You can change – reasons for change

Chester looks at three reasons we try to change.
1 that we want to impress God
2 That we want to impress ourselves
3 That we want to impress others

Then looks at the reasons we should want to change because we are a temple of the Holy Spirit or because we have a new identity or because we like righteousness

We cannot change by resolve. Look at Colossians 2 or Puritan John Flavel “we are more able to stop the sun in its course or make rivers run uphill as by our own skill and power to rule and order our own hearts. “
Page 47a

Telling a slave to be free is adding insult to injury but telling a liberated free to be free is telling them to enjoy their freedom and privileges. Page 55

By Faith Alone

Some beliefs that we don’t really believe. Look at incident in Exodus when he people believed. At that moment they believed. But after this point they don’t really believe.

When they said they believed th crisis hit hat belief turned out to be fickle. This goes on in our lives all the time. Eg when we believe that marriage is equal.

What we believe is our mental map.

The test of what we believe is what we do.

James is not saying you have to add a certain level of behavioural compliance. What James is saying is that what we do reveals what we believe. Luther Faith is a living active creative thing.

What do we do when we think we don’t feel like we have faith that is not strong enough.

Look at Romans 4

Look at the contrast between Abraham having faith and yet having many faithless moments.

Looks at Abraham discovering Hod without much information. So Abraham went is the key. He’s just a guy who went.

Why is his faith so strong. He chooses to wait for a son even when there is nothing else that we can do

This story does not depend on Abrahams certainty. It depends on action. Compared to his Father Terah. It is better to have a little faith   In a big God rather a big faith in a little God.

The character of Abrahams faith is determined by the character of his God and not the quality of his faith. The old body of Abraham points to Jesus

You bet the farm on Jesus. You show me a better bet. This week walk by faith. This week don’t focus on the quality if your faith but the object of your faith.

Think of this term. “friend of God” and live this week live as if you are accepted and loved by God. Make this your Abraham week.

Hymnodic Hate is Healthy

He forcibly emptied ou

All his essence (ousia) and his soul

And was named another Judas

Both for his ideas and the manner of his death

Such liturgical performance of hatred is embarrassing for modern ecumenical discussions among Eastern Christians when it is directed at cherished saints of one of the Churches participating, but it is probably to be preferred to the Western practice of burning heretics.  There were very few burnings in the Byzantine Empire and they ceased soon after the West resumed burnings in the eleventh century.

Fearlessness and hope



Rudolf Bahro, a prominent German activist and iconoclast, describes the first step: “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.”


The nineteenth century Tibetan master Patrul Rinpoche stated this perfectly: “Don’t prolong the past, don’t invite the future, don’t be deceived by appearances, just dwell in present awareness.”


Yet only in the present moment, free from hope and fear, do we receive the gifts of clarity and resolve.  Freed also from anger, aggression and urgency, we are able to see the situation clearly, take it all in, and discover what to do.  This clarity reveals “right action” – those actions that feel genuinely appropriate in this moment, without any concern about whether they will succeed or not.


From Vaclav Havel “Hope is a dimension of the soul… an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.  It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons… It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”


Hope is not related to accomplishment.  It is, quite simply, a dimension of being human.  To feel hope, we don’t have to accomplish anything.  Hope is always right there, in our very being, our human spirits, our fundamental human goodness.


If we know we are hope, it becomes much easier to stop being blinded or seduced by hopeful prospects.  Instead of grasping onto activities that we want so desperately to succeed, we can see clary and simply what to do.  Grounded only in who we are, we discover those actions that feel right, rather than those that might or might not be effective.  We may not succeed in changing things, but we choose to act from the clarity that this is right action for us.  People who endure and persever for their cause describe clarity as a force rising from within them, that compels them to act.  They express this by saying “I couldn’t not do it.”


Thomas Merton, the famed Christian mystic, counselled a despairing friend, “Do not depend on the hope of results.. you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness the truth of the work itself… you gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people… In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”


Many years ago, I took Merton seriously, and abandoned all hope of ever saving the world.  This was extremely heart-wrenching for me, more difficult than letting go of a love relationship.  I felt I was betraying my causes, condemning the world to a terrible end.  Some of my colleagues were critical, even frightened by my decision.  How could I be so irresponsible… still today I have many beloved colleagues who refuse to resign as saviour.  They continue to force their failing spirits and tired bodies back into action one more time, wanting angry vehemence to give them vigour.


Thomas Merton was right.  We are consoled and strengthened by being together.  We don’t need specific outcomes.  We don’t need hope.  We need each other.


St. Augustine taught this infuriating truth: “The reward of patience is patience”.  Years ago the Dalai Lama counselled a group of colleagues who were depressed about the state of the world to be patient “Do not despair.  Your work will bear fruit in 700 years or so.”


From T.S. Eliot, the Four Quartets

“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.”


My heart holds the image of us journeying in this way through this time of disintegration and rebirth.  Insecure, groundless, patient, beyond hope and fear.  And together.

The Boy Is The Gift



The gift is the boy.


We miss the gift, the gift is a confusion to us, a source of irritation, something that that we don’t understand, something that vexes us, something that we rarely appreciate, and it is the boy.


I love the fact that he comes from Hamilton, attends Townhill Primary, and I also love the fact that in real life his name is Lewis.


One of the great gifts of this nativity play and the shows that are on at this time of year, is that a group of people who irritate you, who arouse in you great emotions of tiredness and irritation and fury are unveiled for us as the gifts that they are.


And the great message that we have at Christmas, is that the boy is the gift.


And we don’t spot it…


This is the gift, this child, this baby boy.


Sure there is a gift that the boy holds in his hands,

It might be a toaster, a DVD player, a hot water bottle, his and hers matching dressing gowns,

And they will be unwrapped, they will be appreciated,

But the gift, really is something that will stay with them longer than all these things


The gift is the boy.

What they see, these parents through blurred eyes, is the gift,

But what they see above all, what we have delighted in through this whole advert

With his funny expressions, his hope that that wizard magic would speed up time,

What we remember, what they spot in this moment

Is that the gift is the boy

People Sing Songs About Him

People sing songs about him at Christmas time.

Because our deepest emotions, our deepest truths about him

Are found in song


Mary sings, and Zechariah sings and Simeon sings and the angels sing.

They sing, because songs are the place where people are able to rejoice in the gift.

In amongst the busy-ness, the fury, the irritation, they are the place we spot the gift.


This the time of year I receive the most hymn requests,

The place where people are most passionate that their hymns is included,

Because in the hymn people want something

And I suggest it is that they need, want to, at some deep level

Spot the gift.

We Sing Songs

So in song we will sing to the people we love

“you to me are everything, the sweetest song that I could sing, Oh baby”

“All I want for Christmas is you”

“after all, you’re my wonderwall, baby, you’re gonna be the one that saves me.”

“you’re my bridge over troubled water”

“The skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up in clovers
The night I looked at you”

“You’re just too good to be true 

‘t take my eyes off you 
You’d be like heaven to touch 
I wanna hold you so much 
At long last love has arrived 
And I thank God I’m alive 
You’re just too good to be true 
Can’t take my eyes off you”


And we will sing to this baby

“God of god, light of light”

“Veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail the incarnate deity”

“Hail the heaven-born prince of peace, hail the sun of righteousness”

“King of all the world”

“beloved and fair, Christ the Redeemer is here, saviour since thou art born”

“The prince of glory was his name”

“the everlasting Light, and the hopes and fears of all the years”

“heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign”

“Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray”


The gift this Christmas is the boy.

We sing songs, because somehow song unwraps the gift for us.


He is the friend in every lonely circumstance

He is the wisdom in every confusion

He is the sacrifice to remove every guilt

He is the price to set us free from every tyranny

He is the brother who gives us a new family

The teacher who shines light that we can see

The power who helps us become the best hopes we have for ourselves

He is the prince who has defeated evil

The king who promises justice

The love that will not let us go

The God who alone is worthy of our best


And he is given to us


As the ancient prophet put it

And urges us to see

In our prayers, our allegiance, our intention, our love

Unto us a son is born

Unto us a child is given


This Christmas, we sing

And in our singing we spot the gift

The gift is the boy