The first joyous moment of this lockdown for me was seeing familiar faces from 20, 30, 50 devices suddenly appear on a video call at the end of our first entirely-online Sunday service. Our regular church family had gathered together to do all the things we usually do, but in a different way. So, after the service we had coffee together — time to chat in small groups, hear from each other, care for one another.
Not every church is doing online in the same way. Not every church can. For all of us, we are tackling questions of church practice, technology and theology on-the-fly. Initially that’s just a how-do-we-do-this, which is fine. But at some point we’ve got to ask questions of how do we continue as a church family with the restrictions we have in place. …
I went to see Dr Strange the other week. I’ve not read the comics, I didn’t know the story or characters, so I’m not going to comment on that. But there was language that kept coming up that I thought was worth talking about. Here are some thoughts I had about it.
SPOILERS — Go watch the film before you read any more.
Kaecilius & chums steal some spell, which gives them the power to overcome the Earth’s dimensional defences and give our treasured home over to the darkness. In exchange, they expect eternal life. …
Demoralised by democracy?
Let’s take a moment to remember why democracy is a good thing.
Power corrupts (and)
Absolutely power corrupts absolutely
So a king, an emperor, a dictator all share the same problem: themselves.
They are the corruption at the centre of the system.
Democracy fixes this.
No one person holds all the power. The people have a voice.
But it’s never perfect.
Democracies make bad decisions. [Hitler, Brexit, Trump, Clinton]
Democracies share the same essential problem as dictatorships.
Corruptible people at the centre. (Except in a democracy, that’s us.)
I’m not campaigning for a better system.
I’m saying we need a better person to lead us.
Democracy means that the people have spoken. But we don’t always have something good to say.
Jesus means that God has spoken. What do you think He has to say?
Not everyone can say exactly when it happened to them, but I have a date. I can tell you that 15 years ago today I put my hand up and said: I want to follow Jesus.
Only last week, after some difficult experiences this year, I found myself writing down that same commitment in my journal:
Well, that’s enough peeking in my journal! Without further ado, here are 5 moments from the last 15 years that jumped out at me this morning.
It happened in a church hall. Lots of other teenagers had their eyes shut, so that shy people like me would feel free to put their hands up to say they wanted to become a Christian. I wanted it so much. I wanted it. Nobody forced it on me. I wasn’t shy of people noticing me stick my hand in the air. Actually, I was scared nobody would notice. That somehow they’d just let me walk home as if nothing had happened. That I didn’t really matter. …
When I open up my Bible, there are lots of words. Thousands of them.
Every one meticulously translated, squeezed onto the page and footnoted (where appropriate). It can be a bit overwhelming. When I hear someone read it, sometimes the words are familiar, but — even then — they so easily fly through my head and out again. If you read it out loud once, that does not mean I have grasped a single thing of what you just said.
Have you ever noticed the treasure-trove of pictures bursting out of the pages?
I’m not talking about the maps inserted in the back, or any sketches that have been added in. …
There once was a girl who lived in Gath. She was called Lucy and she was ten years old.
Gath was a Philistine town in what we now call the Middle East, but this story happened a long time ago. I’m not even sure that anyone knew the East had a middle back then. Gath was one of the five cities of the Philistines and particular famous for its huge warriors. They were all very tall and very good at fighting. One of the younger boys was called Goliath. You might have heard of him.
Lucy was ten for a whole year and then she became eleven. She was glad to be growing up, but sad because her mother sent her to live with her aunt in a nearby town called Ashdod. …
Jesus’ weary feet trod the stairs to an upper room.
He was on His way to eat a feast with his friends. An incredibly ancient meal, with a lamb at the centre. This meal spoke of God’s people not dying, of not coming to a sticky end. The lamb they ate took their curse instead — dying in their place.
This was a normal meal celebrated every year, to remember the story of God saving His people out of slavery in Egypt. A meal that bought them freedom.
But read the accounts of this particular meal, on this particular evening, in this particular group of friends and you’ll notice that nobody is talking about the lamb. Of course they ate it together, but it wasn’t centre stage. …
The ground must have been so dry and unpromising.
The tiny boy took his first few baby steps on the dusty earth. Then he fell over, hands scratched by the rocks, face full of dirt. That’s how it goes for us humans — we scratch the earth and the earth scratches us back. We broke it, it doesn’t want us here.
The boy pulled himself to his feet. He was not a quitter. Ignoring his dust-covered clothes, he tried again. He managed five more steps. His mother came out of the house. Her huge smile and open arms urged him on. …
Because of something someone ate ages ago, everyone dies. Eventually.
One trivial piece of fruit.
It doesn’t sound fair. Maybe it’s not. But we’ve despised the God who made this world millions of billions of times since.
More good commands followed to keep us on track, but no one was ever able to keep them. Despite all the warnings. Despite the very best of intentions. Despite an uncountable number of second chances.
Since eating that fruit, it seems like there’s something hardwired into humans that makes us say ‘no’ to our maker.
No you’re not there. No, I’m not interested. No, I’ll do it my way. No, I’ve got this. No, I’ll be good enough on my own and then You’ll want me back in Your garden. …
A four-part story.
Once upon a time, the cosmos began.
Everything was spoken into existence.
Out of nothing: worlds, moons and stars were commanded to become and bedazzle.
Big bangs of energy. A myriad of matter.
Dust settled on the tiny planet Earth, and a sun rose in the east.
For what seems like an eternity, light from that small star has blinked across the planet’s surface, as it endlessly pirouettes around her.
The cosmic dance that makes life possible.
On a certain place on the Earth’s surface, there was a hotpot of life.
A garden, a growbag full of seeds, a place heaving with potential. Plants and animals made to multiply, adapt and live all across its surface, from the highest peaks to the deepest ocean trenches. …