Struggling with the text

I find it hard to admit this, but I have been struggling with the Bible of late.  There has been part of me wanting to “move on”, which has got tired with being a Bible believer (I hate to admit it, but I must admit it).  The thing that told me this was my morning meditations on the armour of God, and the last one was the one I got least excited about (“and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God”).

Perhaps it was the image of children doing actual sword drills to race each other to read out a verse (to the initiated, it’s this kind of thing here), but I think it was something deeper, perhaps those internet posts where people get too excited about proving the Bible’s inerrancy through circular reasoning, but circular reasoning that tames the text.

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Teaching a stone to talk

This is rich fare and my first venture into the remarkable worlds of Annie Dillard.

Here’s some quotes that jumped at me:

“It is difficult to undo our own damage, and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave.  It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind.  The very holy mountains are keeping mum.  We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it, we are lighting matching matches in vain under every green tree.” (page 88)

“Caution passes for wisdom around here” (page 99)

A strkingly gracious description of Fundamentalist Christians

“They live and work in the same world as we, and know the derision they face from people whose areas of ignorance are perhaps different, who dismantled their mangers when they moved to town and threw out the baby with the straw.” (page 119)


12 Steps and Getting Unstuck

This is the series on the Christian lessons from the 12 step movement.

It provokes a number of questions for me – a lot of them that this is good, but then we have to look at what we are saying when we say this essentially theistic movement with its roots in Christian tradition (and in particular the Oxford movement, which is much criticised by John Stott among others) has some big lessons for us.  Once again, where is God in the place that is good but doesn’t name itself Christian.  Or does 12 steps also in a way have to admit it’s own faults and need of redemption, or is that a bit too meta.

Anyway, this is really interesting to look at, because the thing that so many of us want above all is change. Continue reading

Love is spelt T-I-M-E

Ortberg – January 11th 2015

I have been struggling with Ortberg of late – not finding the same enthusiasm.  Perhaps this happens with every preacher over time and you must move from novelty and entertainment to value, meaning and relationship (I have a relationship with John Ortberg, even if he doesn’t with me).


Anyway, there is something of a return to form (or a return to listener engagement) here, with a sermon on TIME.  There is the stunning insight that the three years of discipleship with Jesus and the 12 adds up to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours.  But is the Willard inspired piece no experience (life is a set of conscious experiences) and intimacy (shared experience) that really bowled me over.  There was also a lovely reworking of Warren’s aphorism – The best use of time is love, and best way of showing love is time, and the time to love is now.


Gift and Regifting

This is the sermon from January 18th, transcript is here.

This is all motivated going through giving as a key love language, and that if anything is the love language of God, then this is it.

Many ideas come from Peter Leithart’s book “Gratitude: An Intellectual History”.

It says that Jesus is the most influential person in the history of giving, undermining the Roman system of Patronage (quite a lot of detail on this here) which was all about calculated giving, and giving to create an oppressive sense of obligation.  Jesus was completely removed from this idea, and that in this agape took on Rome, and agape one.

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Cranky Beautiful Faith – A Scripture Index

The rowing team – on God’s misfits – Matthew 5 – On being called to preach through the death of a friend

God’s aunt – 1 Timothy 2, Esther –  On Wicca, going to seminary, and the reading of her parents when she came out that she was going to be a pastor (page 18)

La Femme Nadia – on working for the opposition – Romans 7 and her reaction to the Bible

Thanks Elca – Those who come late to the field – Matthew 20 – on her friend Ross being ordained as a gay pastor, the stereotype that pastors wives are school teachers

“Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every tie we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”  (page 57)

It’s the fact that the trampy landowner couldn’t manage to keep out of the marketplace – the parable of the vineyard and God’s desire for more – Matthew 20

Hurricanes and Humiliation – 1 John 3 (page 59) – on being a hero to someone in need and actually being conned.

I didn’t call you for this truth bullshit – John 3 (page 69)

Clinical pastoral education – on being a hospital chaplain, “you have to stand there and be present to God” , what her parents used to say “Nadia, you could at least come and visit more often as we won’t be spending eternity together”  Luke 23 (page 78)

Eunuchs and Hermaphrodites – this one spoke to me about connection as we were being served in Wagamamas, I need the other (page 87) Acts 8 – the Ethiopian Eunuch (page 87)


I need the other – the Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8 – page 94

Whenever I am weak, I am strong (pastoral failure), 2 Corinthians 12 (page 99)

Pirate Christian – getting on with Pirate Pete who should be her enemy (Matthew 5) (page 108)

The Haitian Stations of the cross – Isaiah 62

Demons and snow angels – about the baptism of a man changing gender – Luke 4

Doormats and wrinkled vestments – Forgiveness of enemies – tells the story of the pastor who did the service for murderer Dylan Klebold and was put out of a job – Matthew 18 (page 144)

Ghosts in the kingdom of heaven – meeting a friend from the past, and her true identity – page 152

Dirty Fingernails – Mary meets Jesus on Easter morning – John 20

The wrong kind of different – Hebrews 13, showing hospitality to strangers (page 178)

He’s a fuck-up, but he’s our fuck-up (page 188), Mark 1

Home by another way – A Scripture Index – Pentecost

The gospel of the  Holy Spirit – Acts 2 (page 143)

The sound of three hands clapping – one of my favourite ever sermons – John 16 on the Trinity (page 153)

The cheap cure – The miracle in the water – this was rather a profound sermon when I read it, although can’t remember the exact circumstances exactly which reminds me I must write such things down – 2 Kings 5

Out of the whirlwind – Job 38

Perfect in weakness  – 2 Corinthians 12 (page 170)

To whom can we go – Joshua 24, Ephesians 5, John 6

Famine in the land – Amos 8 (page 182)

The yes and no brothers – Matthew 21 (page 189)

The Wedding Dress – Matthew 22 (page 194)

Bothering God – Luke 18 (page 199)

God of the living – Luke 20 (page 205)

God’s handkerchief – Revelation 7 (page 210) – For all saints day

Home by another way – A Scripture Index – Lent – Easter

Lenten Discipline – Luke 4 – Temptations (page 65)

Life giving fear – Luke 13 – The story of the tower (page 69)

A tale of two heretics – John 9 – The healing of the blind man (page 73)

Meditations on Good Friday and the words from the Cross – Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19

The unnatural truth – John 20 – Easter

Believing in the word – John 20 – Thomas

Hands and feet – Luke 24

Blood of the martyrs – Acts 6, Luke 7

Rest for the land – Leviticus 25

He who fills all in all – Ephesians 1

Home By Another Way – A Scripture Index – Advent – Christmas – Ephiphany

To help me navigate Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderfully brilliant collection of sermons, sermons that have such a natural flow to them, the odd great phrase, that makes you wonder why you never saw things that way before:

God’s beloved thief – Matthew 24 – The thief that comes in the night (page 1)

Wherever the way may lead – Mark 1 – page 8

Singing ahead of time – Luke 1 – page 15 – Mary and the Magnificat

Past Perfection – Luke 2 – Watchnight (page 20)

Home by another way – Epiphany – Midrash on the story – Matthew 2 (page 27)

The River of life- Baptism of Jesus – Mark 1 (page 32)

Miracle on the beach – Call of the disciples – Mark 1 (page 37)

The Company of Strangers – Luke 4 – Tells great story of going round the room and people being asked when they had met Jesus, and one person who replied “Who in my life has told the truth to clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?” (page 42)

Show me a sign – Judges 6 – Story of Gideon (page 47)

God’s Ferris Wheel – Luke 6 – Beatitudes (page 51)

Thin Places – Luke 9 – Up the mountain (page 57)






The Shocking Secret Happy People Learn

September 21st 2014 – Transcript here.

Philippians 2.

Ortberg talks about the strata in Roman society and the way that the to humble yourself was almost unheard of, and yet the great secret is that happy people are people who have stopped trying to get up the social ladder.  Talks about how remarkable it was that Christ humbled himself.

Talks about how we try get upgraded and asking for a downgrade is almost unheard of, and yet this is what Jesus does.