Skip to content

A sea of books

A moving new poem:
A sea of books

I set sail on the sea of books;

My fleet of novels

Bravely bobbing

Cover-sails fluttering

Amid a wind of acclaim.

Hope was not enough

Armour against the tides;

Their bright flags faded,

Tattered and ragged,

Ripped by the storms.

Then came the days

When piracy threatened

And every author cried

“It’s a jungle out there!”

And eyed others askance,

Seeing fellows as rivals

And former friends as foes.

The sea became too busy,

Impossible to navigate,

Books thronged, thick as flies

On a week old corpse.

I called my books home

And weary and gratefully

They came back to harbour,

Hulks in a haven,

Safe from sinking and shame.

Source: A sea of books

Mum that woman’s got a funny nose!

I’ve been spending lots of time recently with little children. I’ve been taking lots of baptisms and each time there have been lots of children livening up the church. I’ve also been into the primary schools, visiting and taking assemblies. I love the vibrancy of young children and their honesty. Both can be a problem, particularly when trying to keep order. They get excited about things which needs careful handling in a church service or in school. They can also be relied upon to say the most unexpected things!

I can be in full flow “I baptise you..”, pause for breath and a loud high pitched voice calls out, “Mum that woman’s got a funny nose!” Indeed, if a woman ever wants an honest answer to the question, “Does my bum look big in this?” they should ask a young child.

Children are mostly honest about what they like and what they don’t. Their bodies are new and need to run, jump and play. They tend to say what they think or see; at least until they ‘learn better’. I suspect that the adult world would be very fraught if everybody said exactly what they think, when they think it. But I also think that more honesty would be good. I don’t always want to run around but a little more exuberance would be great too!

So, with this experience in mind I think I have some idea what Jesus might be meaning when he says,

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10.14-15 NRSV).

I think that Jesus is talking about the value in God’s kingdom of honesty and zest for life that young children are famous for having. It is the innocence of young children that is so beautiful. I’m not being sentimental here, I’m under no illusion that little children are angels. Indeed, I would be very worried if I knew a child who was never naughty – it just wouldn’t be normal. No, what I mean is that little children have an innocence that comes of just acting on what they find as they explore their world, good and bad. They are only just learning right from wrong, and, as the law states, they are not fully responsible for their actions.

That is so different from me and my fellow adults. I have a good idea what is right and wrong and I still so often choose what is wrong, or at least what is less than the best. This is the conscious, premeditated nature of adult sin. Something so much worse than the relatively innocent naughtiness of young children.

Jesus therefore is calling us to be more honest, and innocent as we approach the coming kingdom of God. I read that and I want that, but I am an adult and it is so hard to do. In fact I find it almost impossible. Finding it impossible but wanting to be one of Jesus’ children, I prayed. I prayed, “Jesus help me to receive the kingdom like a little child… help me”. I prayed and had the impression of Jesus smiling at me. Then my eyes were opened a little more.

The kingdom is a gift. A gift must be ‘received’. But the kingdom is so nonsensical to the adult mind. As an adult I am too likely to refuse to receive the kingdom of God: A kingdom where weakness is strength, the first are last, and death on a cross is the only road to life. I need to put away all my fixed ideas and see, really see, what God wants to show me. Like a small child I need to be excited by what the Spirit is going to reveal next.

I need to let the Spirit give me a new innocence. An innocence to trust God. An innocence to say what I see, not what I believe can be: To walk into the new Eden of God’s kingdom and not be ashamed.

Helping Refugees: A Leap of Faith

Marion Interview


I always put together a post on a Saturday looking forward the the coming Sunday. Today I’m out most of the day so this isn’t going to happen at least not until late tonight. But I can share some great things that are happening that are partly to blame for my lack of a normal post. I have just come back from supporting one of my congregation in Harleston, Marion Courtney during an interview first thing this morning. Marion is 90 years old and is having her head shaved to raise money for the refugees fleeing countries like Syria (pic above). They wouldn’t let her do a parachute jump – her first choice! This action is a direct response to the Spirit speaking to Marion and she is acting in obedience to his will. The least I can do is support her.

Thank you to Julian at Christian Aid for all his help setting up publicity.

Marion will be having her head shaved at The Swan Hotel, Harleston 7.30pm tonight, just before the big screen viewing of the England/Wales rugby match. The place will be packed.

Marion’s Just Giving page is here:

More details about Marion’s step out in faith can be found here:

The response to the crisis from the Bishop of Norwich is here:

I have been praying about this and James 2 came to mind, especially verse 26 – “Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!”:

James 2:14-26 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

14 My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? 15 If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, 16 you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? 17 Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!

18 Suppose someone disagrees and says, “It is possible to have faith without doing kind deeds.”

I would answer, “Prove that you have faith without doing kind deeds, and I will prove that I have faith by doing them.” 19 You surely believe there is only one God. That’s fine. Even demons believe this, and it makes them shake with fear.

20 Does some stupid person want proof that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Well, our ancestor Abraham pleased God by putting his son Isaac on the altar to sacrifice him. 22 Now you see how Abraham’s faith and deeds worked together. He proved that his faith was real by what he did. 23 This is what the Scriptures mean by saying, “Abraham had faith in God, and God was pleased with him.” That’s how Abraham became God’s friend.

24 You can now see that we please God by what we do and not only by what we believe. 25 For example, Rahab had been a prostitute. But she pleased God when she welcomed the spies and sent them home by another way.

26 Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!


Even me!

I’m only little, well not that tall. I’m taller than my Mam but that’s not saying much – sorry Mam! Being short can be helpful when I just want to be part of the scenery, when I don’t want stand out. Being short is a real pain though in crowds. The number of times I’ve been in church and ended up behind someone tall. I always choose to sit somewhere that I see the front, but it is truly amazing how often someone slips in in front of me just before the service. God must have a sense of humour because they’re always over 6′ tall and 4′ wide! I’ve got used to going through a whole service or concert, hearing everything but seeing nothing; well nothing but the back of the person in front! And don’t get me started on about ministers who whisper! I must be getting grumpy in my old age. All of these thoughts about being short were prompted by reading the story of Jesus and Matthew from (see  Matthew 9.9-13. I don’t know why but I always picture Matthew as being short too.

I love the story of Jesus and Matthew. I find it encouraging and really challenging. It’s encouraging because it reminds me that Jesus calls everyone, even me. It’s challenging for exactly the same reason. Jesus calls everyone, even includes those that I really don’t think deserve him. I find it so easy to end up sitting with the Pharisees.

Matthew is a tax collector and collaborator with the hated Romans. No good Jew would have been seen dead with him, much less go to his house for dinner. Today perhaps imagine the local drug dealer. Being seen with Matthew would have been bad enough but there were his friends too. Matthew’s friends would have made up all the criminals and outcasts around. Very likely there were pimps and prostitutes, thieves and thugs, all sitting round with Jesus and his disciples.

No wonder the Pharisees complained – no self-respecting Rabbi would ever do what Jesus was doing. I suspect that they were a bit smug too. This new fancy Rabbi may have turned people’s heads for a while but now he had shown himself for the sinner he really was. I can see them now, heading home feeling pleased with themselves… and they missed the greatest opportunity of their lives.

Jesus’ message is clear – none of us deserve God’s forgiveness, let alone his love. No one is perfect and never has been – the Pharisees did their best to keep all of God’s law but it is impossible never to do or think anything wrong. As Jesus points out they need mercy not law. Sadly, all their respectability made it impossible for them to see the truth right in front of them.

Matthew and his friends though were very different. They knew all too well that they were far from perfect. They will have done many things that they would have been ashamed of and knew that they would probably do more the very next day. One step ahead of the law they knew that they wouldn’t stand a chance in court, especially not God’s court. They knew that their only real hope was in mercy but no Rabbi was willing to talk to them and show them the way to God’s mercy. Then along came this strange fellow from Galilee.

This Rabbi Jesus would stop and speak with them. He listened too. There was something about him that made them want to listen back. Jesus was treating them as real human beings, even as children of God. Jesus cared about them and wasn’t afraid of ruining his good reputation by spending time with them. Jesus would even break the Jewish food laws to sit down and eat with them.

Still I don’t picture a peaceful scene with all of them listening to Jesus, awestruck. No I imagine a rowdy meal with lots of drink. Lots of choice language too, enough to make most Rabbi’s blush. No ‘airs and graces’ just desperate men and women, some mocking Jesus, and some who knew their need of God, of hope. Then Jesus stuck two fingers up at the Pharisees again. He didn’t just eat with Matthew he invited him to join him, and not just as a disciple – Matthew was invited to be one of the inner twelve.

So the story of Matthew and Jesus encourages me that God’s love is big enough to include me, even though I’m so far from perfect. That little man, Matthew speaks across 2,000 years and challenges me to never totally write someone off. It is even possible that the person I’ve looked down on will go ahead of me into the kingdom of God.

– Anyone can receive the free gift of God’s love.

The Popularity Trap

I was born in Yorkshire, a county famous for straight talking honesty that borders on rudeness, at least to those from elsewhere. While I agree that there is a real place for tact I also feel more comfortable with plain, honest speaking than with nice sounding lies. At least you know where you are. I’m now in Norfolk and I’ve found Norfolk folk to be not that different from those in Yorkshire. I’ve found lots of warmth, for definite. I’ve also encountered lots of real honesty, enough to make me feel right at home here.

I often think of Jesus as being from Yorkshire, or now from Norfolk. He and his disciples speak a radical honesty that is so refreshing to hear. Jesus is honest in a way that no good politician would dare to be. In Mark 8.34 he tells the crowds exactly where following him will lead, to the cross. That can’t have gone down too well with those listening, I wonder if it made some of them start to slip away.

He didn’t seem to care that his words were losing him his hard earned popularity. Now, most of us, me included, are so attracted by the thought of being popular. Being popular is not a bad thing in itself but the need for popularity can be deadly. Once, I or anyone, fall for that trap all honesty flies out of the window. Even straight talking Peter falls for this trap when he hears Jesus say,

“The nation’s leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life.” (Mark 8.31 CEV)

He hears this and sees the crowds start to waver. What was Jesus doing? You don’t win recruits by telling them that their leader is going to lose, suffer, fail and die a humiliating death. He’d had them eating out of his hand now he was driving them away. Seeing Jesus making such a great ‘mistake’ Peter steps in to stop him before it’s too late – you can almost hear the panic in his voice. Maybe, the pressure of preaching and teaching and healing during the day and praying all night had finally got to Jesus. Jesus was exhausted, he’d ‘lost it’ and Peter had to act. Peter was known as the decisive one, he couldn’t trust the others to step in so in he dives. I don’t know what he was expecting as a response but I am pretty sure it wasn’t what Jesus actually said,

“Satan, get away from me! ”’

Jesus had called Peter, ‘Satan’ the personification of temptation and evil. Peter must have felt as if he’d been slapped. I’m always surprised he didn’t hit Jesus, it must have hurt that much!

This is a warning to me and to anyone who teaches or preaches. The temptation to be popular, to be the centre of attention, when it is God who should be centre stage, and only him. The temptation to sugar coat the message of Jesus and dodge the difficult challenge that life as a Christian is likely to bring. Yes, when I came to Jesus, the Spirit gave me love, joy, peace and so much more, but he also made me more and more aware of the problems around me; painfully aware. With love comes pain and peace is hard, often thankless work. When talking about my faith I am so tempted to focus on the love and joy and peace because I know that knowing Jesus is so wonderful. I want people to experience all of that wonder for themselves so I’m tempted not to put them off with the bit about picking up my cross and following Jesus.

This is a huge temptation but I must resist, otherwise the Good News is clearly wishful thinking, sweetness and light, and not for the realities of this world. The truth could not be more different.

I have found that the Spirit working in me has made me a more compassionate person. But that compassion has a cost: money to good causes, and time spent helping simply because there is a need. The Spirit brings love, but with loves comes care and pain when the object of that love is hurt and abused.

I think of Peter tricked into being Satan and I see myself in Peter’s place. There but for the grace of God go I. I read this story and pray for honesty to preach the whole of Jesus’ Good News, not just the fashionable bits. I pray it for myself and for all Christians. I pray to listen and respond to the Spirit, to value the Father’s opinion of me and no other.

UEA Chamber Orchestra at St. John’s

It is great to see St. John’s being used for it’s community. This evening we hosted a free concert by the UEA Chamber Orchestra as part of the Heritage Open Days across the country I’ve added a couple of pictures of Stuart Dunlop conducting the orchestra below.

DSC_0009 DSC_0010

Refugees, neighbours and helplessness

Like most people I’ve been left feeling distressed and helpless by the scenes of desperate refugees on the borders of Syria or risking the often fatal journey to get to Europe. So many harrowing scenes. This is a crisis that has taken Europe by surprise, or at least the scale of it has. The politicians have been caught out and so the policy responses are far from ideal. I pray that all countries stop the posturing and get on with the caring and do it soon; the immediate issue of people in need demands it. I hope and pray too that serious steps are taken to actively seek solutions to the far more difficult issues that have caused this crisis.

With these thoughts in mind I turned to James 2.1-17 and heard loud and clear that I can’t turn the other way. I read, “You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” (verse 8, NRSV)

I hear the story of the Good Samaritan in my head and remember that my ‘neighbour’ is anyone in need that I can help. I read all of this and I’m trapped. You see part of me wants to hide from all the suffering. To switch off the tv and hope it will all go away. It all seems too much to cope with and I feel utterly helpless. That’s what I’m tempted to do, but I can’t. I can’t abandon my neighbours from Afghanistan, or Syria. James makes it very clear that real faith is shown by action:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2.14-17, NRSV)

I can be in no doubt that a living, lively faith is one that feels the pain of others and acts. I still want to get away from the pain that I feel at all of this suffering but now I have something more positive to do than just run away and pretend that it isn’t happening. Now I know my pain to be a result of a living faith, a result of sharing Christ’s pain for the suffering here: The pain is the Spirit connecting me to the heart of God. Now I also know that acting to help is putting faith into practice, as well as showing God’s love for those that he has made.

James has cut through all the confusion in my mind. ‘James the Practical’ tells me loud and clear to stop messing around and do something; to get on and help. So far I have not found anyone locally who will take clothes and other physical aid but I’m still searching! I have though decided on 3 practical things to get on with:

1. I will donate money to support those on the ground helping refugees in Europe and in the refugee camps on the borders of the conflict zones e.g. in Turkey. There are a number of charities that I could support to do this but I have decided to donate via Christian Aid towards the refugee work being undertaken by the ACT Alliance. The ACT alliance includes 400 church groups including Christian Aid. In this way I can help support the work of local groups in Greece, Hungary, and Calais etc. which seems far more efficient than paying for help to be flown in. I am also going to arrange for collections in my 7 churches to support this work.

2. Along with the Mothers’ Union and many other groups I’m going to sign the online petition asking Norfolk County Council to offer to sanctuary for 50 Syrian refugees.

3. Last, but certainly not least I’m going to pray, and pray some more. To remind me and help me to focus I have found this prayer online:

A Prayer for Refugees 
Almighty and merciful God,
whose Son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own;

look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.

Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Finally, I need to thank James for reminding me of the obvious:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2.14-17, NRSV)

When it comes to faith I can always trust James to shoot from the hip!

A boy with dirty hands

When I was a little boy I loved getting dirty. Well to be truthful I loved playing all sorts of outside games that made me filthy (I still do!). I loved racing along our road on my bike and throwing myself off onto the grass at the end, usually playing Kung Fu or Cowboys and Indians with my friends. I loved vanishing off into the woods for hours, or playing in the muddy stream, or digging around in the back garden. One way or another I must have been a nightmare for my Mam.

I would be out playing then the call would go out, ‘Tea’s ready’ and I dash home to eat – I was already ready for food! But there was something that my Mam always did that I never really appreciated at the time – she would always make me wash before eating: Face and hands had to be clean before sitting down. All my friends were the same – we had to wash before eating. 

When I read the story of Jesus with the Pharisees from Mark 7 it brought these memories flooding back.

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands. The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?” (Mark 7.1,2 & 5 (CEV))

When I read that again I thought, “they’ve got a point”. You don’t eat with dirty hands. Then when Jesus started to argue with them about it, I started to side with the Pharisees. At least my adult self did, the little boy still wants to eat with muddy hands! It seems perfectly reasonable to expect people to wash their hands before sitting down to eat, it’s healthy it’s good manners.

Then I stopped to really listen to what Jesus was saying (always a good idea). There was more to all this washing than just having clean hands. We don’t know whether or not the disciples had clean hands – that wasn’t what the Pharisees were complaining about. The Pharisees were complaining that the disciples hadn’t undergone the elaborate ritual washing that Jewish tradition said made them ritually clean. Tradition said that they shouldn’t eat without being ritually clean. Not going through this fancy ritual would have been bad enough for any Jew, but for the followers of a big shot rabbi it was unthinkable!

There was more to all this washing and there was far more to Jesus’ anger. All these rules where fine if you were rich enough to have the time and money to follow them. But they left the poor out in the cold. It left them feeling second class in God’s sight because they just couldn’t do all that the Pharisees did. What the Pharisees were really doing was taking Godliness out of the reach of the ordinary people and Jesus takes it right back!

Jesus leaves them in no doubt about what he thinks of them:

Jesus replied: You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said, “All of you praise me with your words, but you never really think about me. It is useless for you to worship me, when you teach rules made up by humans.” You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught… Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God.” … Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God. (Mark 7.6-8, 14, 15 & 21 – 23 (CEV))

So what about today? Well Jesus’ teaching is just as relevant. Only it is us religious people that are in danger of being the Pharisees. The message is simple, God’s kingdom is here so turn to Jesus, turn your life around, love God and the people around you. There’s nothing about what hymns we have to sing. There’s nothing about what prayers we have to say, or what words to say when we re-enact his Last Supper. Jesus didn’t give any rules about who can do what in church. So much of what we do as Christians is down to human rules. Often good rules but human rules none-the-less.

This message is far harder to live by than it seems. Just think, I may attract new people to Jesus but my precious church rules mean nothing to them. That might change but it might not. I need to act in love and care and share the Good News of Jesus, and leave the rest to Jesus and the power of the Spirit. I need to accept that the Church here could be thriving but the building may stay empty. I hope not but I’m not the boss. I’m not the head of this family, I’m just a son and I want to be a faithful son.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thinking of ditching all human rules about religion. For one thing, we need structure for our life, it’s a human need so it wouldn’t take long for us to invent a whole load more to take their place. No, I’m not calling for human rules to be ditched, I’m simply trying to listen to Jesus; trying to understand what he would say today. I think Jesus’ message would be the same as it was then: remember they’re human rules not God’s rules, use them to help you be more like God, but never ever let them get in the way of someone coming close to God.

The GodHide

I am trying to get back into the swing of things after a holiday. A holiday that although interrupted was still long enough for me to feel out of touch. But also a holiday not long enough for me to get all those things done that I had planned. In other words -A normal holiday!

I do however feel nicely relaxed and keen to start again. I am looking forward to leading worship again.

One of the many highlights of my time off was part of a local Sculpture Trail. It  was being able to experience the ‘SoundHide’. The SoundHide is an installation by electro-acoustic composer Mike Challis. The SoundHide is a circular structure made of straw bales to insulate the inside from outside sounds. I sat and listened to sounds recorded over many months at the River Waveney Trust Centre near Earsham. It was a wonderful feeling to walk in and suddenly feel the silence inside. Then to have that silence filled with a story made up of natural sounds. It felt as though I was immersed in that sound story, lost to experience for the 20 minutes or so that I sat there.

The deep power of my experience in the SoundHide made me reflect about how infrequently I allow myself the time to really appreciate the sounds around me. How often do I allow myself the luxury of letting myself feel the sounds around me? By that I mean how often do I appreciate the background track to my normal life?

Maybe, taking time off has made me too introspective but I have a feeling that there is a deep spiritual truth hidden here. Perhaps this is a tiny fragment of what Jesus meant when he said, “I came to give life—life that is full and good” (John 10.10 ERV). I know that Jesus does not lie but so often my life feels rushed; like my meals every experience is gulped down before dashing onwards. How can I really praise the Creator for the wonder of this world made good if I don’t allow myself to appreciate it properly? Too often I’m a bored teenager again, shrugging my shoulders and saying a metaphorical, “Whatever”.

If I am missing so much of God’s gifts to me in this physical world, what else am I missing. What is the Father trying to help me to be and feel, if only he could get me to stop for long enough? What does the Jesus want to say to me, if only I would take the time to listen? What is the Spirit trying to give me if only he could stop me trampling his gifts in my rush to get on?

Perhaps, I need a GodHide: A place where I can go to stop, listen and truly feel what God is saying and doing? Perhaps I already have my GodHide: A place inside, lit by the Spirit where he can give me back the sensitivity that the harshness of life keeps taking a way? As I write I feel the enfolding of the Spirit, I feel God’s presence within reopening all of my senses to feel, truly feel. I hear Jesus saying, ‘I give life that is full and good’, and ‘the water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life”'(John 4.14 ERV): I feel alive.

A Simple LIfe

This again is a post from a few years ago that seems just as relevant today:


I’ve recently been up in the frozen North – well Co. Durham and Scotland.

While there a friend took me to perhaps the oldest church in England. It is the 7th Century Anglo-Saxon church of St. John at Escomb , near Bishop Auckland in Co. Durham.

Standing in that small church I was reminded of the deep roots of Christianity in this country. I was also reminded of how the church has come and gone only to return again. And of how ordinary Christian people have just carried on living a simple Christian life right through it all.

That little church was mostly built from stone taken from the nearby Roman Fort of Binchester. Some of the stone still has its original Roman inscriptions. Those stones will have witnessed the first conversion of Britain to Christianity when the Romans still ruled.

Then came the Saxons and Angles who destroyed the Roman church that they found here. Then the Anglo-Saxons became Christians, converted by monks from Scotland and Ireland. Then came the Danes, destroying the churches once again only to be converted themselves, before being banished from these shores.

Then throughout the history of England the Church has flourished for a while before losing its fervour, only to be revitalised once again. And through it all ordinary Christian people have stayed faithful.

We are now in one of those times where the Church seems to be in decline. Numbers are falling and churches are closing or having to band together to survive in a hostile world.

When I see churches closed or full with nothing but silence, I think about the history of our church. I think about the past and know that now is not the time to give up. A new and vital church is on its way and perhaps is already beginning to grow.

Now is the time to stand firm for what we believe. For values that the rest of society need so much. People who are more likely to believe in Halloween ghosts than in the presence of the Saints whose festival eve they unwittingly commemorate.

Values of love and forgiveness. Values of truth and honesty.

The value of forgiveness and the knowledge of the ever present reality of the world of the divine.

We have a rich tradition. A mass of resources available to us to help people find hope and meaning for their lives. Meaning beyond the material things. Meaning that helps us to see the real value of the things that we have.

We, and our church, have so much to offer. So much to give.

The challenge to our Church is to hold onto what is of value from our past and let it grow in new and vibrant ways. Ways that people who have had no contact with the church can understand. We think of mission and outreach and hope that our church buildings will be full. And that may be the result.

But it may not. Mission may lead to people praying and learning online, or in their own homes. It has led to the main service for some people being on a day or evening other than Sunday.

The friend that took me to that little Saxon church, is one of the most influential theologians in the world today. But he is almost unknown in this country. He does most of his communicating online, over the internet, with bishops, theologians and ordinary people like you and me. He is in contact with hundreds of people every day. He inspires lives and challenges iniquity and duplicity. He has more influence for Christ than a hundred parish priests but his approach is different and he has now lost his house and all income from the Church.

Thankfully, his wife works and they have been able to find a little house on her income. But this is an example of how we can miss what God is doing simply because it doesn’t fit with our idea of what God should be doing. Or when God’s acts don’t exactly match what he did in the past.

This world, God’s world, changes constantly and the way God leads us to reveal him in the world changes with it.

I love our Church of England. But it also drives me mad at times. It inspires high and low to live lives of world changing holiness then almost in the same breath it can be petty and inflexible; full of bureaucratic yes-men (and yes-women – I don’t want to be accused of being sexist).

Then I remember that little church in Escomb, and the even smaller Saxon Church in my home town of Thornaby. And I think of the ups and downs in the fortunes of the church that they have seen come and seen go. And I smile. God is in control. All is well.

Jesus faced far worse than we face, the Spirit has transformed more stiff necked countries than ours.

So, until you and I get the chance to do something big; let’s continue living our simple Christian lives. That’s far more radical these days than being covered with tattoos and piercings. Far more outrageous than living a wild life or having an affair; living a decent, honest life; loving rather than hating; being generous rather than grasping; are not what you learn from the tv adverts.

You – by just being here are being controversial. You are reminding anyone who notices you that their latest purchase doesn’t satisfy, that there is a hole in their life.

Let’s continue challenging our country by living our simple Christian lives.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 782 other followers