Tag Archives: Weakness

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

The Shack

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you – Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth – page 209

An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of his children.  He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one he gives all of himself as fully as if there were no others – A.W. Tozer (page 218)

Earth has no sorry that heaven cannot heal – author unknown (page 231)

She lives where there is no impatience.  She does not mind waiting. (page 235)

Faith never knows where it is being led.  But it knows and loves the one who does the leading. – Oswald Chambers, page 239

Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God

But only he who sees takes off his shoes

The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries – Elizabeth Berrett Browning

An hour of your time

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?
After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think:
Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $ 50 and he really didn’t ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.

DAD: “Are you asleep, son?”

SON: “No daddy, I’m awake”.
DAD: “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $50 you asked for.”

The little boy sat straight up, smiling.
SON: “Oh, thank you daddy!”
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

DAD: “Why do you want more money if you already have some?”

SON: “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do.

“Daddy, I have $100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness. It’s just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts. Do remember to share that $100 worth of your time with someone you love? If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family and friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than to our family.

Some things are more important.

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The Clerical Family

Protestants could point to an innovation which was distinctly theirs in Western Christendom, and which overall proved a real success:  their re-establishment of the clerical family.  The parsonage was a new model for Europe’s family life.  It was perhaps not the most comfortable place to live, on a modest income and under constant public gaze, but children grew up there surrounded by books and earnest conversation, inheriting the assumption that life was to be lived strenuously for the benefit of an entire community – not least in telling that community what to do, whether the advice was welcome or not.  It was not surprising that clerical and academic dynasties quickly grew up in Protestant Europe, and that thoughtful and often troubled, rather self-conscious parsonage children took their place in wider service.  Such personalities as John and Charles Wesley, Gilbert and William Tennent, a trio of Bronte novelists, Friedrich Nietszche, Carly Jung, Karl Barth and Martin Luther King Jr took their restlessness and driven sense of duty into very varied rebuildings of Western society and consciousness, not all of which their parents might have applauded.


(page 686)

How are the children

From Michael Gove:

….perhaps the most powerful lesson from abroad that I’ve learned in this job comes from Kenya – from the Masai people of that nation. Whenever one Masai greets another they ask a question – Kasserian Ingera? Not “how do you do” or “how’s it going”, but “how are the children”? It’s wonderfully revealing about the values of Masai society – their first concern is the next generation. And the hoped-for reply is equally revealing: “all the children are well”. Not my children. Not some of the children. All the children are well. For the Masai, society cannot be well unless all the children are well. The question the Masai ask each other is revealing not just of their society – but of ours. Whatever tests we set ourselves – and whatever achievements we boast of – the question that goes to the heart of the health of our society should be the same – how are the children?”

Jeff Lucas – Samson – Part 1

Jeff Lucas

Judges 13:1-24


The experience of being lost, and then asking for directions, and then being bored by the person who is giving you directions.  Lucas is perennially lost.


Samson is a man famous for being a lost soul.  Lay aside our prejudices today and take a fresh look at this man.


There are different perspectives on Samson – he is called a “hero” (Jewish tradition children are taught to call him a hero, elite groups in the Israeli army are named after Samson, the Israeli nuclear program was called the Samson option)


And the opposite response is to write him off – the profligate judge, the oversexed muscle man, a noble savage, trickster, dead end, a prankster, a tragic figure.


The Church does not know what to do with Samson – some want him to be a saint, otherwise a write-off.


Lucas “Samson is a man of God who lived badly”


He grew and the Lord and the blessed him – the only one of whom it is said that the Lord blessed him.  Despite the blessing, he was a man who ended up behaving badly.


Mark Buchanan – we need to invent a new word – theists, atheists and apatheist – they believe in God, but it makes no difference.   He was an apatheist.


He did things, two out of the five things he did, God is the source.


He is not written off, he is celebrated by God in Hebrews 11.


So often we do is write off failures, but what God does (Hebrews) is celebrate Samson’s true strength.


Technical Point

Is it just a story – (a poem, a saga, designed to stir the imagination) – Lucas – I believe this to be a historic story.  It is more than history, it is history that is designed to stir and fire our imagination.  Samson is history’s first suicide bomber – no bombing but he took his life for a religious cause.  There is quite a lot of sex – we need to be able to talk about this without embarrassment or fear.


Bible is full of talk about sex – Baptist minister got into a lot of trouble for talking about sex in the pulpit – he got into trouble.  This story is laced with innuendo, there is bondage sex.  There is no hesitation to talk about tough stuff.


The world in which Samson lived – 3,000 years ago, now they were in trouble, they were not walking with God.  Israel was in trouble because their religion,

Canaanite – 12 priestly families, they had prophets, they celebrated the agricultural year.  Then there was the very specific threat from the Philistines.  They were terrifying in warfare.  One of their cities was called Ekron, archaelogists have discovered a wall 10 feet thick from that city.


Samson grew up near that city.


We can feel overwhelmed by a society that has largely rejected God.


Met psychiatherapist, likes to help Christians get out of Christianity.  She looked at him with pity in her eyes, you don’t believe all that do you?  All those absolutes.  No one believes in absolutes any more?  Are you sure.  Maybe we are flying in a large boat, and she looked at me and said “you may be right”.  Maybe we are flying in a large jaffa orange.  Bless my heart darling, you need to make an appointment to see yourself.


Dawkins there is no such thing as good or evil, and then 10 pages later says “we don’t need God to be good.”


This man surrounded by swirling fog and confusion, there are things that we can learn.


Point 1 – We learn from his story that sin is an anaesthetic


Judges 13:1


Slight problem in aeroplane – “slight problem” shooting out of the wing.  Remember saying something like “oh Hosanna”.  The loss of hydraulic fluid means can’t move flaps, all the men said “can we do that again”.


This is Nigel your pilot speaking, “On behalf of American Airlines, I would like to welcome you to Chicago, have a nice day”


This is the script that always gets said, it is the same again and again, there is not attempt to repent, there is no cry of distress, they say “this is the way it is.”  There is only word Philistine that survives in English language is “Lord”.  Philistia is Lord.


This is the script, and Israel got used to say it.


Perhaps God might wake us up and stir us when we say “nothing is ever going to be different”.


You have a lived within the shadow of a stronghold, and that is never going to change, you say “I am what I am”.


God works while we are sleeping.

Apart from Joseph and Mary, they are the only kind of child who do not attempt to acquire a child through some means.  They have done nothing.  While the nation is sleeping, God has an impatient grace.


God does something which is entirely outside the remit of their expectations.


God might want to do something which is way beyond our expectations, and we haven’t asked for it.


Terry – is aggressively anti-Christian, his brother from whom he is estranged.  Had no expectation of Terry becoming a Christian.  Terry came to his home, and they started to talk.  The subject of our faith and calling.  I suppose I had better tell you what happened on the mountain, “I needed Jesus”.


Israel was asleep and God broke in.  Are there areas where the enemy has hissed “Mission is impossible, it is never going to happen”.


Sin doesn’t start with temptation

Samson’s problems started in the family home.


I am not trying to do that thing where we blame everything on our past.  Steven Gaukroger – some labels that he has discovered on various domestic  items


“This pie will be hot when heated”

“Do not turn this pie upside down” – on underside of pie

“Do not drive after taking” on children’s cough medicine

“May cause drowsiness” on Night-all the sleeping pill

“These lights are only for use indoors or outdoors” – on Christmas lights


Samson’s home was deeply dysfunctional


Mother is referred to as a barren one – angel creates problems.  The word “came to me” suggests copulation in Hebrew.


Doesn’t talk to her man about what the angel says – takes things to himself.


The Dad is shown to be a bit of an angel “God wouldn’t have told us all of this if he was going to die”


Rembrandt has the wife sitting upright whilst the Dad sitting like a sack of potatoes.

The wife runs ahead of the Dad, which was a sign of shame in the family.


Do we know who we are and where we come from, have we ever reflected on the influences that have shaped us (not to blame our history)


We need to have a consciousness of where we come from – part of the reason was the alienation and isolation in his family.  His downfall was all about being known, which is not what happened in his family.  We all want to be naked and unashamed, we all want someone to know the deepest recesses of our hearts, we all want someone to know us, including our darkest secrets.


Samson – part of his downfall came in his background.


There are no strong people, just people with strengths


Shemson = means little son, but the root of the word means strong,


There are no strong people, but only people with strongs.


I get fed up with bionic Christian leaders who pray 16 hours a day, and always getting it right.  Those Christian newsletters from the perfect Chistian family, you want to hurt them.


The Bible doesn’t paint perfect people, I feel like a Christian Mr Bean stumbling around from one lash up to another.


He was known for being strong, but wasn’t as a strong as we think he is.


Rembrandt gives Samson thighs like tree trunks, Reuben.  A masculine physique not dissimilar to my own.


Rabbi had a tradition that Samson had lame feat.  Why did everyone ask Samson the secret of his strength, if the secret was obvious.


What does matter, first of all that no such thing as a strong person, only a person with strength, also your strengths create weaknesses, the passionate reformer who is intolerant, the financially strong becomes someone who depises those lower on the ladder, the entrepreneur who refuses to ask for help, the tender hearted soul who becomes manipulative.


Samson was never called to live in the strength of his muscles.


Chesterton – the Christian life is impossible.  It is only possible by the power of the Spirit


WWJD – limited – we don’t know if he had a fixed rate or floating point, what car,


It is not about knowing what Jesus did and then copy it, but allowing him to work in us by the power of his holy spirit.


If we don’t get that right at the start, we are going to be exhausted by the end of the day.


You hear all the things that you have to do, I don’t want a purpose driven life, I just want a life.


Man Alive  – in the Spirit of God, in the Spirit of God, being awake to him,


This is the beginning of Samson’s story.


Dysfunction in the text

  • Samson continuously refuses to confide in his family
  • Both his father and mother (commands) about his marriage (the tradition would have been to the father)
  • If sin doesn’t’ start with temptation, begins in our journey, in the crucible of our upbringing.  Satan’s primary strategy is not temptation but accusation.  “If you are the son of God” (accusation) “turn these stones to bread” (temptation) – disheartens us with accusation, and then temptation
  • Lucas, understanding his own Dad’s pow experience, has helped him to respond to his own identity

The Girl Nobody Wanted

The Girl Nobody Wanted

Tim Keller – Genesis 29


Looks here at the tragedy of this story,


Having Judah is the gospel for Leah (16:54)


The overall title is Laban’s plot and Leah’s Lot,

Leah is plunged into hell because of a bad marriage.


There are three bad news

And three good news


And the good is gooder than the bad is bad.


Bad news:

  1. You never do sin, sin does you


You never get away with it, sin always is a boulder falling into a pool



  1. It’s always Leah in the morning – all the disappointments that we get

Derek Kidner “But in the morning, “Behold it is Leah”, this is a miniature of our disillusionment from Eden onwards” (page 20:45).


In the morning it will always be Leah.


Lewis “Most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world.”


There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give to you, but they never keep their promise.


There are four responses to this, a theory of reality (22:55)

  1. To blame the things around us for not being Rachel – the fool
  2. You’ll blame yourself – Self-hater
  3. You’ll blame life – utterly hard cynic
  4. You’ll blame your theory of reality, if there is nothing that is Rachel then Rachel must be beyond this world – The Christian


  1. Idolatry

These are conservative idols.


If you build your life on a white picket fence, and on a perfect family.

These are conservative idols, traditional values.


Good News

  1. God uses weak people.

Unless you are incredibly proud, you have no idea what good news this is.


If you think this is a book of virtues, of role models that we should emulate.


Every other religion says that God is at the top of the ladder, and he is looking down, saying “Try real hard, emulate the heroes”


You will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man – John 1:51


Our God is not a God who stands at the top of the ladder,

But sends his son down to be the ladder.


The Idolisation Of The Family


“Th ‘idolization’ of the family noted by Schermann (who laments “it is not the lack of repsect for the famiy, it is the idolization of the family that breaks the modern family so easily, making divorce its almost natural shadow.  It is the identification of marriage with happiness and the refusal to accept the cross in it”) results in an almost impossible pressure upon the family to function as closed, self-sufficient, autonomous unit.  The rituals of political liberalism (whether “liberal” or “conservative”) paint a picture of the family as the incubator of good citizens, dutiful producers and eager consumers at the same time that it shuts up the family in a private “closed home” as part of the Americal ideal of indepedence.  The result, however, is an unbearable weight upon the family.

As McCarthy remarks [this] “isolates it with the formidable and lonely task of being a whole communion.”

The promises in baptism indicate a very different theology of the family, which recognises that “families work well when we do not expect them to give us all we need.”

You don’t have to go Martha Steet

The Family

And I want to talk about three stages in the history of the family

And I am very grateful to an American preacher called John Ortberg for a lot of what I am going to say today.

Ortberg, identifies the first moment in the history of the family in heaven:

Three Critical Moments In The History of the Family

Imagine one day, that God is with his angels, and he says to his angels, I have an idea, I am going to create a family.

And an angel says “What is it?”

And God says “I am very excited about this idea.”

“Of course I am excited about all my ideas,

One of the great things about being God is that never have a bad idea

But this one’s kind of unique,

The Family is the going to be the way that I connect people

A binding together in love

And is going to work like this

Adult people are going to sign up to take care of a tiny little stranger.

“Are they going to get paid?”

“No, actually that little stranger is going to cost them a lot of money

More than that, that little stranger isn’t going to be able to talk at first

It will just cry and scream and you’ll have to guess why

It will make messes all the time that you have to clean up

It will be really vulnerable, you will have to watch that kid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Then when it’s two that little stranger will be able to say words like

“No” and “Mine” and it will throw tantrums, and then I thinking about inventing puberty, and I’m not too sure about that thing yet

But if they do, they will get strange thing called hormones, changes will come over their body

Pimples will come out, their voices will crack, their limbic systems will melt down,

Then, they’ ll grow up and just when they are mature and interesting and able to contribute they’ll move away

That’s the idea, what do you all think

Lord, no-one’s going to sign up for that, no-ones going to get excited about that

Why would they do that

And here’s where God really gets excited, here’s the cool part

They won’t even know why,

They’ll look down at the little body, those little hands, those little feet

And they’ll think that that tiny little stranger is beautiful

Even though he looks like every other little baby

And every other little baby looks like Winston Churchill

And then one day that little stranger will smile, just for them

And they’ll think they’ve won the lottery, they won’t have words to describe it

And one day that little stranger will say “Dada” “Mama”

It will say “Dada” first, because Daddy’s are so sacrificial and noble, and Mum’s are good too,

And one day those arms will open up and wrap themselves round that neck

And that day, they will sense why arms and legs got made

And what it’s all about in this sneaky kind of a way

It’s just about grace,

Those core thing in the universe.

And those children, they will be in families, And they will hate their families

Their Mum will be intrusive, always asking questions, to which the answer is always “fine”, and “can’t remember”

And Dad will be embarrassing, and crack bad jokes

And older sisters will be patronising and superior

And younger brother will be annoying and immature

But one day at school she will hear that that younger brother is being bullied

And she will march up to the bullies at playtime

And tell the bullies, that if they mess with him,

They mess with her.

But one day when a relationship has broken up, they will call Mum

And one day when they move to a new city, they will stay with older sister

And one day when they get married, they will be next to Dad.

The family is this reflection of the Father

This bond kind of reflects God

For this reason, says Paul in Ephesians 3,

I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes it’s name.

The kind of ideal family, reflects God.

The Family Goes Wrong

The Bible roots its story in the story of dysfunctional family.

Things start going wrong for them, when they were clothes,

Or rather the clothes go on, when something goes wrong inside of them

A rebellion, a twistedness,

But this shows up in the family putting on clothes.

The clothes are sign, that the members of the family are a little bit scared of each other.

What are the clothes about, they are about hiding,

Because you have the power to hurt me.

I have noticed with children, that round about the same time that they don’t like strangers to see them naked

Is round about the same time, they are frightened of strangers.

And the family that is fearful

Blames the other members of the family for its pain.

And what do families do that are frightened

They blame their mistakes on each other

“They screw you up, your Mum and Dad” as Philip Larkin once put it.

What the family does is it takes it out on each other.

You see this with the first family.

God comes into the garden, and sees Adam and Eve wearing clothes

God turns to Adam, have you eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

And what Adam needs to say at that moment, one word “yes”

But the words is “The woman”, “whom you gave me” gave me the fruit,

And I ate.

And this moment of fear

And this moment of blame

Spirals out

And Cain murders Abel

And Ham sneaks up on his naked drunk father Noah

And Abraham cannot have children, so he father’s Ishmael, who teases his little brother Isaac

And Jacob and Esau come out the womb wrestling, striving with one another

And Jacob’s family dynamic is based on competition, favouritism, competitive child production,

And Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery

And this pain, this pain spirals out,

And this pain goes through David and Bathsheba

And into Jesus’ own family, where the family Joseph and Mary have to explain that Mary is expecting a son and Joseph is not the father

And if you think that the problems in Jesus family are only about reputation

Then look at the number of times that Jesus is in disagreement with his parents, his mother, or his brothers and sisters.

But we in the Church have not been good at such imperfect f

When I do funeral tributes in Cambuslang for people who are in their seventies and eighties.  People who got married round about the 1950s, and you do the family tree, “Where were you married”

And if they say “Glasgow Registry Office” or “Martha Street”

Then you can tell almost exactly how the next two questions are going to go.

and you say “When were they married?”

And then you do the birth dates of the children, and you say who is the oldest,

And you get the date, and then you do a bit of maths

And you are shocked, because I thought pre-marital sex wasn’t invented in 1950, it came along about 10 years later,

Almost half I would say, of the funerals for people in that situation is of that order.

And the odd thing about this emphasis

Families have never conformed to the norm, then you don’t go to Church.

Or you are allowed back into the Church, once you have shown suitable sorrow

You see that with Sarah Palin’s daughter, make amends by getting married

But what is odd, is that such broken families

May not be allowed into the Church, but you would find a home in the Bible

And the Church not a place where smug, contented families can get together

And advertise their smugness, their contentedness,

Their togetherness, their loveliness

To other smug, contented, together, lovely families

Because our heritage, is this brokenness,

This pain.

Family Problems

So tonight we are going to show that if you have a problem in your family, you don’t have to go to Martha Street.

Ever been in a family where there were drinking problems

Where there was a betrayal of trust

Or experimenting with drugs

Or an unwanted pregnancy,

Or angry bitter words got spoken on regular occasions through clenched teeth

Where Mum or Dad felt they had failed in their career

Or in their finances

Where kids got into huge amounts of debt and had to be bailed out

Where children had to go one day to court and Mum and Dad had to watch them there

Where two people tried for years and years and spent a fortune on IVF and then one day had to come to the painful realisation that this is not going to happen

Where parents have invested a fortune in tutors, only for all the exams to still be failed

Where the parent is regularly called up to school because the child has been excluded again

Or where a disability has placed huge pressure on finances

Or people that come to Church but have a spouse that stays at home

Or a married couple that look together and sit together but they have not been together for months

Nobody knows

Young people who have never been asked on a date, and feel like a loser

Or people who have been through the pain of divorce

Or people who have never been married and wonder if you have to be married to be an insider

People who carry a secret and the guilt eats at them, and nobody knows

Parents who feel like a failure

Sons or daughters who feel like they have disappointed

Or parents that never see their children

Or brothers or sisters that haven’t spoken to each other in years

Stand up if your family has ever been affected by any of these things

Such families are not Martha Street families, they are Church families

This is your Church, where you take your place with Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Ishmael, And Jacob and Esau, and Noah and his sons, and Adam and Even, and David and Bathsheba, and Queen Esther and Mary and Joseph and Jesus.

Moment In The House

The third movement in the history of the family is when this gets reclaimed.

The body of the broken.

There is a moment in  house,

When Jesus does something about the family,

He calls it back to itself

But with him at the central point

Its family mark II

And it is the family that welcomes back in all those who stand

It is a family where a model family where the daughter is unwell

And a single woman who has been ill for years will be called together

And a woman with five husbands

And a woman who has had a history of disturbing behaviour

And two brothers with bad tempers

And a mother and a son who are not related

And later on it will be slaves and their masters

And Greeks and Romans,

And men and women

Drawn together in a new family

A family that draws the outsider, and the failure

And the one’s whom the world says “You too should not get along”

And they say “We are sisters”

And the moment, is when Jesus is in a house

It happens in a house

And he is teaching

And someone says “Your Mother and brothers and sisters are outside”

And he says “Who are my Mother and my brothers and my sisters,

Anyone who does the will of God my Father, is my brother and sister and mother”

That Jesus is dismissive of his own family is not the only scandal in this text.

The second scandal is Jesus’ unfettered self-belief – he has the ability to bring about a family whose bonds are even tighter than the families of earth.

And the reason he knows he can do this, is because the family was his idea.