Our Last Supper by @idcampbellart – a meditation video inspired by @sandfordawards and @small_voice1

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This year I once again was involved in the shortlisting for the Sandford Awards – awards for excellence in religious programming. The category that I was given was ‘Interview of the Year’ – all of the interviews were absolutely fascinating and every one could have been a winner. You can see the final shortlists here.

One interview that stayed with me was one based on a painting by the artist ID Campbell called Our Last Supper.

Our Last Supper by Iain Campbell

You can listen to the interview here: http://www.smallvoice.org.uk/a-thousand-words-iain-campbell/

Using this, I have created a meditative film that can be used in worship. Enjoy!

Iain Campbell is a portrait painter, and Artist in Residence at St George’s Tron Church of Scotland in Glasgow city centre.  ‘Our Last Supper’ is on display in the Olive Tree Café in St George’s Tron Church right in the heart of Glasgow city centre.

Links:
idcampbell.com
www.facebook.com/IDCampbellArt
@idcampbellart

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Maybe we don’t need to talk about Jesus?

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downloads_720A report has been published about evangelism that will be discussed by the General Synod of the Church of England shortly called ‘Talking Jesus‘. It has resulted in a number of surprising headlines including:

‘We need to talk about Jesus’ – cue cringing embarrassment – Andrew Brown in the Guardian

Talking about Christianity could just put people off – Church of England signals – The Telegraph

Don’t preach, Church tells Christians: Research suggests those who talk about beliefs are more likely to put friends and colleagues off God than turn them to faith – The Daily Mail

The authors of the report did write to the Times about the negative reporting of this story and responded like this:

It is true that the results of the report can be viewed in different ways – there are some positives in there but of course the press are always going to leap to the juiciest statistics first.

I just watched a video that summarises the findings of the report whose conclusion is that we should talk about Jesus more to people. Oddly, that is not the conclusion of the press articles, or the actual report itself which shows that only 1 in 5 people wants to hear more about Jesus (admittedly, the video suggests focusing on this 1 in 5 – but how do you know if a person is the 1 in 5?). A table on page 20 of the report states that of people who spoke to a practising Christian about their faith, 59% did not want to know more about Jesus!

An alternative video summary can be found here:

Perhaps we need to rethink how we share our faith. I’m not convinced that the best way is to ask people if they want to know about Jesus.

It reminds me of when we lived in Dewsbury and some earnest Christians came to my door to offer me a copy of the Jesus film on video. I had a chat and gently tried to encourage them in what they were doing, one of them said ‘we went to a Muslim family’s house and do you know, they said they weren’t interested. But the film’s good, it’s free!’ I replied ‘if a Muslim came to your door and asked you if you wanted a free film about the life of Mohammed would you want it?’ – deathly silence. Said it all.

I’ve had the privilege this year of preparing some adults for confirmation. The last session we had was about sharing our faith and how we do it. Interestingly, their experience chimes with the results of this seemingly depressing survey. When I said ‘some people think evangelism is saying to people ‘you need to accept Jesus into your life” one of the people in my group said ‘I’d have run a mile!’ And yet they are excited about Jesus now and coming to faith. This has happened through the quiet work of the Holy Spirit alongside a lively welcoming congregation – not through having a ‘conversation about Jesus’.

I showed the group this video about Mission, I think this makes more sense. I’m not suggesting we don’t talk about Jesus at all but the awkward ‘can I talk to you about Jesus?’ question is not a natural thing for us to say. Mission is about the Missio Dei – God’s sending mission out in the world – we are just invited to join in – that is what I’ve experienced on this current confirmation course – the amazing role of being alongside people as they discover Jesus for themselves. Here’s Rev’d Stephanie Spellers putting it very well:

Alleluia, He is Risen!

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Happy Easter!

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.  They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’  When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

– John 20: 11-18

Death, where is your sting?

Jesus smiling – an exhibition of 18 different artists from around the world

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I found this link via Unvirtuous Abbey on Twitter:

There are some lovely paintings in this collection of 18 different artists’ work depicting a joyful Jesus.

A good resource for schools work and church things – sometimes it’s hard to find images of Jesus as different nationalities and also of him smiling!

Visit this link to download a pdf of the whole collection with artists’ notes:

http://www.miat.org.au/jesus-laughing-exhibtion.php

 

Jesus laughing

Sermon – Holy Family – Sunday 29th December, 2013 – a leap into darkness

Domenico Fetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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I was delighted (and a bit nervous) to be invited to preach at my home church of All Saints on the day of my parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary.

Me preaching at All Saints Church, Southend on Sea on 29th Dec 2013

Me preaching at All Saints Church, Southend on Sea on 29th Dec 2013

Here is the text of my sermon:

Matthew 2:13-23

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

(Isaiah 9:2)

Only a few days ago we heard these words read in our Christmas services – the words of Isaiah written about 600 years before Christ pointing to the light that was to come into the world. In today’s gospel reading, Joseph and Mary are the people who are walking in darkness.

Joseph is the star of the nativity in Matthew’s gospel. He is a model for us all. Much is made, and rightly so, of Mary’s ‘yes’ to the message brought to her by the Angel Gabriel. Here in Matthew’s gospel we discover that Joseph’s ‘yes’ to the angel is also hugely significant.

Joseph and Mary have been happily settled with relatives in Bethlehem, raising their toddler Jesus when Joseph, seemingly out of the blue, has a dream that shakes him to the core. His small, fragile family is in danger from Herod. An angel tells Joseph, rather abruptly to get up and take Mary and his baby to Egypt.

I don’t know what images are conjured up for you when you think of Egypt? Sunning yourself in Sharm El Sheik? Visiting the Great Pyramids? A Nile cruise? Or perhaps rioting and political unrest? None of these images come close to the fear bound up for a first century Jew in the phrase ‘go to Egypt’. Egypt is a place of darkness, a place of slavery, a prison, the place from which the Lord God dramatically delivered his people. This is all upside down and back to front. Egypt is a place of death, a tomb.

The imagery of darkness is there in the gospel reading: Joseph got up and took the mother and his child by night… There is almost the implication that Joseph woke up from his dream in the middle of the night, hastily packed their belongings and set off in the darkness to the foreign country of Egypt.

Domenico Fetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph’s obedience to the angel’s command is astonishing. The threat to his family was even greater than what they might find in Egypt. So he went. He said ‘yes’ to God with no idea of what would happen and not with only himself to think about but his wife and small child, a two year old who would struggle with a change in his routine. This sounds a little bit like Abraham and his call to leave his home for the vague notion of a Promised Land. And that is deliberate, I think. Matthew’s original audience were Jewish Christians, they knew the call of Abraham and the promise of descendants more numerous than the stars – even though he and his wife Sarah were old. They also knew that Egypt is the place from which God rescues.

Joseph takes the step of faith that has been taken throughout the centuries by those who sought to follow God. A step that’s taken by us all when we say ‘yes’ to God: a leap into darkness.

And so Joseph models for us the great pattern of salvation that we experience in our lives over and over again – death and resurrection, death and resurrection. He goes to the place of darkness, the place of slavery and returns with the Christ child who will bring light to those who walk in darkness.

Earlier this year, Lord Howell was speaking in the House of Lords about fracking. He described the North East as a ‘desolate’ place. This understandably upset a lot of people – and I’m sure Fr Neil wasn’t too impressed!

The north of Israel in ancient times was viewed in much the same way. Just at the beginning of the Isaiah passage I started with it says:

“But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations”

(Isaiah 9:1)

In the place where no one expected blessing, the land beyond the Jordan – far from God’s own city of Jerusalem, there was salvation to come.

Picture a different donkey ride. Mary and Joseph, struggling with their belongings on a donkey, travelling for days to reach the “desolate” north of Israel. Jesus, a young boy sits on his father’s shoulders and points out what he can see: ‘look, Abba, another sheep!’ Mary and Joseph reminisce about that other journey they took to Bethlehem, some years before, they smile as they tell Jesus he’s been on this road before. This time they arrive looking like foreigners, they have been living as refugees in a strange land but now they come and find a place to settle by the sea in a small town called Nazareth. They are carrying the Christ child. They are carrying with them the hope of the nations. They are bringing the light that shines in the darkness.

This journey is made possible all because Mary said ‘yes’. All because Joseph said ‘yes’. The Holy Family are a family who say ‘yes’ to God, not knowing what the future will hold. We join with them in the journey – into the unknown. We don’t know what 2014 will hold for us. Mary and Joseph carried the Christ child with them. The message of Christmas that we celebrate in this season is that God is with us, Immanuel. Like Joseph, we carry Christ with us ourselves as we leave this place, as we start a new year, as we move to a place of the unexpected, possibly a place of darkness, into that we carry the light of Christ. God with us. Immanuel.

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At the service they made an affirmation of vows and my mother got a surprise new ruby ring which was blessed. As a thank you for using the church for a party this evening they also bought a new set of vestments for the church.

O Rex Gentium – O King of the Nations advent antiphon: a reflection

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O King of the nations, and their desire,

the cornerstone making both one:

Come and save the human race,

which you fashioned from clay.

cf Isaiah 28.16; Ephesians 2.14

Listen to this antiphon:

On my placement at St Aidan’s church I have been wonderfully reminded (in being part of a congregation with people from the Caribbean, Iran, Eritrea and Zimbabwe) that Jesus is truly King of the Nations – that, as Paul writes:

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

– Ephesians 2:14

Jesus came into the world to bring all nations, all peoples, to God himself. This is the Good News: that there is now no division between us in Christ.

This year, we saw but a glimpse of the joy of all nations in the London 2012 Olympics. It is all these peoples and those who weren’t represented at the Olympics that Christ came into the world to reconcile to himself.

2012 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations

O Sapientia – O Wisdom – Advent Antiphons: a reflection

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O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

– cf Ecclesiasticus 24.3; Wisdom 8.1

Listen to my friend Kathryn singing this antiphon here:

The Antiphon set for today focuses on wisdom. The antiphon is based on a couple of passages from the Apocrypha. We get a lot of ideas about wisdom, unsurprisingly, in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. One of my favourite bible passages on wisdom is from the book of Proverbs and it’s a useful passage to look at at Christmas as I think it adds something to the magnificent prologue to John’s gospel which is read every year at this time:

‘The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so that the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in the human race.

– Proverbs 8

So we see here that wisdom was with God at the creation and delighted in His presence and at the human race. It seems, then, that wisdom is a key part of the character of God. So when John begins his Gospel he speaks of this ‘word’, this ‘wisdom’ again in reference to Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1

Sometimes I feel that it is hard to pin down exactly what wisdom is. It’s one of those concepts that is deep and wide and that we only ‘see through a glass darkly’ – although I think we can recognise it when we see it. James urges us to seek wisdom from God and when Solomon is asked what he would like, he asks for wisdom.

I think, that if we ask for wisdom we are really asking to have something of the mind of God. Something of the way God sees the world.

O Sapientia

We have as our model, Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us. So we can understand when Paul writes of the incarnation in Philippians 2:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Amen

Here is a song by Iona that captures this theme of the wisdom of God and asking for that wisdom: