Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bearing Fruit

In the garden this morning I am shown again that there can be no fruitfulness without dying to self, without being prised-apart by the hands of a loving Creator.

We live in a society that demands of us that we resist aging – and so deny ourselves the opportunity of fruitfulness, of investing in others. It is not because our culture is superficial that we prize eternal youth. It is because we prize eternal youth that we have become superficial.

How can we possibly submit to those hands, to that process, unless our eyes are opened to a bigger Story than our Self?

The invitation to enter into communion with
the ripe Spirit, who gives life to the world;
the pierced and wounded Son;
the undefended Father, burst open by love.

(The seed pods of the Iris open out revealing three chambers, a Trinitarian crown of glory.)

“Until we walk with despair, and still have hope, we will not know that our hope was not just hope in ourselves, in our successes, in our power to make a difference, in our image of what perfection should be. We need hope from a much deeper Source. We need a hope larger than ourselves.” Richard Rohr

“When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more, when they touch my mind), when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly waken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and, above all that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only that my faith is strong enough) who is painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.” Teilhard de Chardin

Nunc Dimittis (The Song of Simeon)

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Friday, September 27, 2013

God Is Not Enough

As we prepare to move to Sunderland, we have been deeply touched by how delighted folk over there are at the prospect of our arrival.

It has caused us to realise that it is a long time since we were delighted over. Appreciated, yes – even, very much so. But not delighted in.

And that has caused us to ask, why does it matter? Ought it to matter? Shouldn’t God’s approval be enough? After all, that is what we are told, that is what we are at times encouraged to sing. It is very spiritual.

But it isn’t scriptural.

Consider this: God, and Adam. Nothing has come between them. And yet God says, I AM not enough. And so God creates for the earthling another earthling. This is not a theology of marriage – something not everyone will experience – though marriage should reflect it. It is not about meeting a pragmatic need for reproduction, or for accomplishing work. It is a theology of being human; and key to the story is a delighting in another.

Being delighted in is profoundly healing, and strengthening (remember: these first two delighting humans have just been torn in two) – and God-given. And, of course, the same is true of delighting in another.

So today, may you know that God delights in you.

But may you also know that that is not enough.

And may you know, if not today and if not tomorrow then one day soon, the healing and strengthening delight of other flesh-and-blood.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Downwardly Mobile

nobody else here baby no one else here to blame
no one to point the finger… it’s just you and me in the rain
nobody made you do it, no one put words in your mouth
nobody here taking orders when love took a train heading south
it’s the blind leading the blond
it’s the stuff the stuff of country songs

Would everything be alright?

God has got his phone off the hook babe would he even pick up if he could?
it’s been a while since we saw that child hangin’ ’round this neighbourhood
see His mother dealing in a doorway see Father Christmas with a begging bowl
Jesus sister’s eyes are a blister… THE HIGH STREET never looked so low

it’s the blind leading the blond…
it’s the cops collecting for the cons
so where is the hope and where is the faith… and the love?
what’s that you say to me
does love… light up your Christmas tree?
the next minute you’re blowing a fuse
and the cartoon network turns into the news


Jesus never let me down you know Jesus used to show me the score
then they put Jesus in show business now it’s hard to get in the door

it’s the stuff the stuff of country songs
but I guess it was something to go on

(scat singing)

[if god will send his angels] U2

If Jesus, at the outset of his ministry, identifies himself with Jacob at the outset of his epic journey away from home and back again…what is Jesus doing?

In the course of his epic journey, Jacob will become the father of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, (a daughter, Dinah,) Joseph (whose sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, would be counted as Jacob’s), and, much later, Benjamin. The birth of the ‘twelve tribes’ (or, technically, eleven tribes and two half-tribes). The transition from a family towards a people.

Jesus will call a symbolic twelve disciples: a renewing of the people of God. John’s Gospel doesn’t make that explicit, doesn’t duplicate information already well-known; but it is implicit in Jesus’ statement concerning Jacob, spoken in the context of calling his first disciples.

So there is similarity in the comparison. But there is also dissimilarity.

Jacob is self-serving; Jesus, other-serving.

Jacob is elusive, leaving behind a trail of angry men…oh, wait – we’re back on the similarities again.

God’s commitment to both is the same; but while Jacob remains to be convinced, Jesus is already convinced.

Jacob is upwardly mobile, by any means. Jesus is downwardly mobile, culminating in crucifixion.

When Jacob died, he was gathered to his people. When Jesus died, he gathered a people to him, beginning with his mother and the disciple whom he loved.

A people to be characterised by his example.

So if God will send his angels, where do we go?

If his track record is anything to go by –

sending his angels to a refugee running for his life
sending his angels to a people living in exile
sending his angels to a girl on the cusp of womanhood
to a young man questioning his teenage partner’s fidelity
and to marginalised nightshift workers
to a man more than half-starved in the desert
or facing torture and public execution
to one man in prison awaiting death
and another exiled in a prison camp –

if his track record is anything to go by, if we sure could use his angels now then we must find ourselves at the bottom rung of the ladder…

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Climbing The Ladder

My parents’ generation were raised by the generation who not only lived through the War, but rebuilt the world after the war was won. They told their children that, in this New World rising from the ashes, they could achieve anything, if they were prepared to work hard for it, to make sacrifices.

My parents’ generation were the most liberated generation the world had ever seen. For the first time, a generation went to university: young women, as well as young men; those from middle-class families, not just the elite. For the first time, the possibility of a career opened up for women: not a level playing field, but not merely filling-in in the boys’ absence either.

My parents’ generation set out on a life where, through hard work and given time, they expected to go from a junior position to a senior one; from a small salary to a larger one; from a small house to a larger and larger-again one, perhaps downsizing in a comfortable retirement. They expected not only to have prospects, but for their prospects to be satisfying. Such was the manifest destiny of the children of Giants.

Except that it didn’t quite work out like that. Not for everyone. Not even for the majority. Because life is simply more complex and more fragile than that.

My parents’ generation raised my generation to believe that we could be anything we wanted to be. Invent, and, if need-be, re-invent ourselves. (Sometimes they added that failure to do so would be to betray them.) There were no givens anymore: liberation birthed even greater liberation. There were no longer any constraints, not even the ones that had always been assumed (never mind being constrained by cultural gender roles – we are no longer constrained by birth gender).

Except that it didn’t quite work out like that. Not for everyone. Not even for the majority. Because there are certain givens, for each one of us, even if what the givens are is no longer a given.

We are not masters of our own destiny. That experiment hasn’t worked well for us. It has resulted in a lot of carnage.

It is not that dreams are wrong. Just that the ladder goes down as well as up.

It is not that dreams are wrong, necessarily – although misplaced dreams will lead to disillusionment. Just that God and his angels are as sure-footed moving downward as they are upward. That our ups and our downs, our moving forward and our stuck in a moment we can’t get out of, are accompanied. We are not alone in the world.

It is not that dreams are wrong. Just that God’s dream for us is bigger than ours – bigger than that of our parents. At one and the same time, less self-centred and more positioning us at the very heart (centre) of blessing for everyone. Again, we are not alone in the world.

It is not that dreams are wrong; but God holds out something different to us: total commitment, through thick and thin – and a part in a Story that precedes and will outlast every other story we tell ourselves, or the next generation.

A Funny Thing Happened

This coming Sunday is Michaelmas, the feast day of the archangel Michael and all the angels.

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
and she’s buying a stairway to heaven…
Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
the piper’s calling you to join him.
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know,
your stairway lies on the whispering wind?
~ Led Zeppelin, Stairway to heaven

“He’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy!” ~ Monty Python, Life of Brian

I think that Tom Wright is right when he suggests that the key to understanding the encounter between Nathanael and Jesus is humour.

A group of enthusiastic young men think that they have found the Messiah, in Jesus of Sunderland Nazareth. Philip tells his friend, Nathanael of Newcastle Cana - to which Nathanael responds, with friendly banter, “Sunderland Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” But he is happy enough to come along and see.

As Nathanael approaches, Jesus declares that he is a man of true character; to which Nathanael responds, “What makes you say that?” Jesus replies, “I saw you earlier on.” I’ve observed you.

“Amazing,” says Nathanael, with a grin. “You really must be the Messiah to have such insight!” Again, banter: not sarcasm, nothing cynical – Jesus isn’t wrong when he says there is nothing false in Nathanael’s character - just, you’ll have to do more to convince me…

With a glint in his eye, Jesus responds to banter with banter: “Are you convinced so easily? Well, you’ve seen nothing yet…”

There is another joke here: John’s favourite form, irony. The irony is not that the Messiah is standing in front of Nathanael and he doesn’t know it. The irony is that his friends haven’t found the Messiah at all. At least, not the Messiah they have been expecting.

And then the hook, addressed to Philip and Nathanael: “If you stick around, you’ll see what it looks like when heaven and earth connect.” And they do stick around (see John 12:20-22 and 21:2).

That hook takes us back to Genesis. Or rather, it moves us on within Genesis, because John has already taken us there. The opening of his Gospel echoes the unfolding of “In the beginning…” starting with LET THERE BE LIGHT! and continuing through a recurring “The next day…” (John 1:29, 35, 43).

Light // Jesus, the light of the world

Sky // the Spirit come down from heaven

Land // Peter, the rock

Sun and moon, as markers of time and seasons, and the stars // an itinerant rabbi - referencing a homeless wanderer who is promised many descendants - and his disciples

So as not to labour the point, John skips over the fifth and sixth days and takes us straight to the seventh day, when God rested // Jesus does nothing other than celebrate God’s goodness and love for his creation, and water is transformed into wine simply by his presence.

Here is yet another level of humour: joking banter, built on irony, built on a great literary pastiche. Steps on a stairway?

I wonder whether humour isn’t also the key to the encounter between Jacob and God.

Jacob is running for his life. He runs until the sun has already set and he can run no further, for now. So he takes a stone for a pillow, and tries to get some sleep. But his subconscious keeps running…

In his dream, he sees a stairway from earth to heaven. From failure to success. An escape route, to be grasped? Or an impossible challenge, to fail to overcome? And climbing up and down the stairway, angels: creatures of ancient legends, from before the Great Flood; sons of God who had walked the earth and taken daughters of men to be their wives, and fathered giants and heroes (Genesis 6:1-4) (far to the north, the exploits of these beings and their demi- offspring will inspire whole mythologies).

And God. Where? Ambiguously, both above the staircase – higher than the heights – and beside Jacob – in the place of failure, defeat. (This God is un-pin-down-able. Have you ever noticed how Jacob starts out by failing to wrestle his brother Esau into submission, yet demands Esau’s blessing; and ends up by failing to wrestle God into submission, yet demands God’s blessing?)

And God said, I am the God of your past: the God of the family you are running so hard from. I don’t mind how far you run, because I know that you will end up back where you started…

…because I am also the God of your future: and I will give you a future, centred in the very place and the very family you are running from…

…and because I am the God of your past and the God of your future, I hold your present in my hands. My angels will report back to me on your progress, will come to your aid in time of trouble.

It is farcical: Jacob gets himself further and further into a mess – and God is content to watch, a knowing shake of the head, smile on his lips. But there is nothing mean-spirited about the humour: this is no overbearing god belittling a puny mortal.

I have a set of assumptions about what God is like, about who Jesus is. So do you. And Jesus mischievously responds, “Are you convinced so easily? Well, you’ve seen nothing yet…”

I have a set of things I am running away from, and another I am grasping for. And so do you. God enjoys a good farce, has an appreciation for irony. And loves us: past, present, and future.

That might be worth throwing a party over. Or joining in the party Michael and All Angels are already enjoying.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I am delighted to be able to announce that (subject to the usual checks) I have been appointed Minster Priest of Sunderland Minster, in Durham Diocese.

Details to be worked out, but we are hoping to move before Advent.

The Minster was a parish church for hundreds of years. But when Sunderland gained city status in the 1990s, the church was re-designated a Minster and an Extra-Parochial Place (that is, outside of the parish system) in order to respond to the changing needs and opportunities within the city centre and wider civic context. It is a bit like a cross between a small cathedral and a parish church – with the Minster Priest being a bit like a cross between a resident canon and a team vicar; on the team of the Canon Provost, who is a bit like a cross between a cathedral dean and a team rector. (If you aren’t fluent in Church of England, ignore that last sentence. If you are fluent, or thought you were, let it mess with your head awhile.)

I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness in opening up this new adventure. Here are some of the things I am looking forward to:

A place that works with the structures of the Church, while pioneering within and beyond them.

A context where committed engagement with the ‘now’ (what is; and, Who is) is fed by an incredibly rich Christian heritage (what was; and, Who was) and by resurrection hope (what is to come; and, Who is to come). In other words, resonance with something bigger than my moment in history is not sacrificed for relevance to my moment in history – or vice versa.

Team. Being part of a collaborative team. Clergy team of four (two women, two men), as part of a wider team at the Minster, and working closely with others including a Lutheran pastor. And it is a young team: the Canon Provost and the University Chaplain (and the Lutheran colleague) have been there twelve months; the Curate since July; and the new Minster Priest (me) was announced today. That is exciting.

The North East gets more sunshine than the North West. That makes all the difference.

Having an up-front discipleship remit.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Not A Squirrel

When I was at theological college, there was a particular lecture room that sat below a grass bank. Through the window, we could see squirrels playing among the trees. We used to say that, whatever the question, the answer was always “Jesus” – and if it wasn’t Jesus, then it was “a squirrel.”

The answer isn’t always Jesus, but tomorrow it is. Tomorrow, in the Lectionary, we are trying to make sense of Luke 16:1-15.

First, let us consider the context. Jesus has been hanging out with “sinners” and the Pharisees have muttered against him. So he has told them a series of parables, in the hearing of his disciples, culminating in the parable where a man had two sons. The younger son asks for his share of the inheritance, goes on a long journey to a far land, squanders everything he has on reckless living, and returns. The father celebrates, for his son who was dead is now alive; but the older son, who has never celebrated anything, refuses to join the party. The man is God; the younger son, Jesus; and the older son, the Pharisees.

Now Jesus turns to address his disciples, in the hearing of the Pharisees. He tells them a parable about a man who was accused of mismanaging his master’s estate. The master is God; the accused manager, Jesus; the accusers, the Pharisees. Like the other parables Jesus is telling, this conjures up a scandalous image; for the master is as corrupt as his manager (the master has charged illegal interest, which the manager – who has been syphoning off his own cut – can write off without fear of dismissal, for to expose him would be self-defeating). Would we be so bold as to depict a good God by a corrupt illustration?

The manager writes off debt: in one case, 50%; in another, 20%. Elsewhere, Jesus depicts God as a ruler who cancels debt in its totality; but his emphasis here chimes with his belief that those who have been forgiven much, love much; while those who have been forgiven little, love little.

But Jesus goes a step further: he wants his disciples to learn from the manager – something he doesn’t ask them to do from the shepherd, the woman, or the father and sons. What is it that he wants them to learn?

I would suggest that he wants them to learn to use whatever resources are available to them to cancel debt, to let people know that they are forgiven. On reconciliation.

Debt is the dominant image, and reality, of our day too. We are in debt to the bank, the mortgage lender, the student loan provider. We are in debt to our parents, our lovers, our government, society. God, alone, says, “You owe me nothing.” And that is why God, alone, deserves our everything.

Is learning the lesson of the unscrupulous manager what we are known for?

Is the main focus of our use of resources – be they financial, physical (people, buildings), intellectual (what we know), relational (who we know), or spiritual (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) – embracing “sinners,” even at risk of being misunderstood and misrepresented?

Or do we spend our resources on building an enviable reputation in a world falling over itself to worship money?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

God Is A Desperate Housewife

I love parables. They are a truly amazing art form, a genre of story-telling that not only invites interaction from the audience – as all good story-telling does – but actually requires of the listener that she reads between the lines in order for the story to be told.  In this way the person telling the parable is freed to say things so outrageous, they would never get away with saying them directly.

Jesus came to show us what God is like. Some people, who devoutly held to their image of God, didn’t like what they saw. On one occasion when they expressed their disapproval, Jesus responded by telling three parables (Luke 15). The purpose of his words is consistent with the purpose of his actions: to reveal what God is like. Reading between the lines, one of them went like this:

Your image of God – the One who created the heavens and the earth; who led his people out of slavery in Egypt; who dwells in unapproachable light – is incomplete unless you are able to imagine him as a fearful woman.

This woman has a husband, and therefore she wears the outward cultural sign of having a husband, a coin headdress. This headdress has the minimum number of coins; and not only the minimum number but also coins of the smallest value. Her husband is either a poor man, or he does not value his wife…perhaps as the story unfolds we will discover more…

One morning as she goes to put her headdress on, she sees that one of the coins is missing. With only ten coins, there is nowhere for the absence to hide. And the woman goes into desperation. Her husband is not poor, he is harsh. He will not reassure her, and help her to search for the coin. He will assume that she has used it as money, publically embarrassing him. Or that she has been careless, not valuing his reputation. Or that it has been taken as a token by a lover, humiliating him before the entire town. He is a suspicious and violent man, and, unless she finds the coin before he returns, she is in very deep trouble. He will concoct trumped-up charges to divorce her, and send her away. She will lose everything (however pitiful her ‘everything’ might be). And so she turns the whole house up-side-down. Looks everywhere.

When she finds the coin, she is utterly relieved. Calling her neighbours, her confidants, together, they share in her joy. All looked to be lost, but has been saved.

In the same way that this desperate housewife celebrates, so the company of heaven celebrates over a sinner who repents. An incredible release of emotion.

In the same way? The woman does not rejoice because a sinner has repented. It is the celebration that is compared, not the cause for celebration, nor even the actions of the woman in searching for her coin, or her motive.

That is a scandalous image of God. Jesus takes an older image of God as faithful husband to an unfaithful people and turns it on its head, painting God as the vulnerable wife of a harsh husband.

Who is this harsh husband? The devout, observant Pharisees and teachers of the law so suspicious of Jesus.

Who, in the parable, needs to repent? It is not the woman, who has done nothing wrong. It is not the coin – oh, come on! we all know it is the coin! The coin is a prop, conjuring the woman’s predicament. No, the person who needs to repent is the husband. And within the parable, that does not take place. That repentance is not the reason for the woman’s celebration. Heaven’s celebration is like hers, but greater. Will heaven get to celebrate today, or not? How will the listeners respond to the story they have helped to tell?

Hmmm…That’s an interesting reading ‘between the lines,’ but we all know that the one in need of repentance is represented by the coin. Is there any evidence to support the idea that the one who needs to repent is a husband who doesn’t even appear in the parable, other than as the original audience?

Yes, I believe that there is. We don’t know whether any of the first listeners repented or not; and it is likely that some became even more entrenched in their hardness. But I believe there is a concrete example of just such a repentance, and that we need look no further than the Epistle paired with this Gospel passage in the Lectionary (Sunday 15 September). Writing to his son-in-the-faith, Paul says:

“I thank Jesus Christ our Lord who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord Jesus was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

A Pharisee, harsh – and unaware of it – repents, and joins the heavenly party.

If our presentation of God is incomplete without the image of her as desperate housewife, in what way does our theology need to change?

If Jesus is of the view that the devout are at least capable of acting, quite unawares, as harsh husband to God, in what ways does our self-awareness need to change? Where do we need to repent?

In what ways does this parable challenge our view of women, and men? Of marriage – let me be clear: in no way does being able to identify God with an abused wife give rise to a religious justification for requiring wives to put up with abuse, any more than identifying Jesus with those who suffer torture and execution should give rise to a religious justification for such abuses of a fellow human being – and family; of the Church?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Psalm 139

This morning during family worship at St Peter’s we looked at Psalm 139:


O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; •

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.


You mark out my journeys and my resting place •

and are acquainted with all my ways.


For there is not a word on my tongue, •

but you, O Lord, know it altogether.


You encompass me behind and before •

and lay your hand upon me.


Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, •

so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go then from your spirit? •

Or where can I flee from your presence?


If I climb up to heaven, you are there; •

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.


If I take the wings of the morning •

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,


Even there your hand shall lead me, •

your right hand hold me fast.


If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me •

and the light around me turn to night’


Even darkness is no darkness with you;

the night is as clear as the day; •

darkness and light to you are both alike.


For you yourself created my inmost parts; •

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; •

marvellous are your works, my soul knows well.


My frame was not hidden from you, •

when I was made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.


Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; •

already in your book were all my members written,


As day by day they were fashioned •

when as yet there was none of them.


How deep are your counsels to me, O God! •

How great is the sum of them!


If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, •

and at the end, I am still in your presence.


O that you would slay the wicked, O God, •

that the bloodthirsty might depart from me!


They speak against you with wicked intent; •

your enemies take up your name for evil.


Do I not oppose those, O Lord, who oppose you? •

Do I not abhor those who rise up against you?


I hate them with a perfect hatred; •

they have become my own enemies also.


Search me out, O God, and know my heart; •

try me and examine my thoughts.


See if there is any way of wickedness in me •

and lead me in the way everlasting.

When family gets together, we don’t all do everything together. It is more dynamic than that: we might gather around the table together, but at certain points there are smaller groups in the kitchen, the living room, the garden; or, if we go out for a walk, some who go on ahead while others take a slower pace.

Why should it be different when family gathers to worship?

Today, we set out five different ways in which people could take 10 minutes to respond to the Psalm, all of which could be carried out into the week ahead as ways to explore the Psalm, and allow it to explore us…

1 Highs and lows
“If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.” Sometimes we feel on top of the world. Other times, we feel as if we are merely existing, not living at all. Both are normal human experiences. God wants to share in our highs, celebrating with us, and our lows, comforting us. We can share the highs and lows of our day, or week, with the people we live with or meet up with on a regular basis.

2 Labyrinth
This Psalm has a theme of journeying with God. For some people, the best thing they could do this morning was take ten minutes out to walk the labyrinth in the prayer garden, alone in conversation with God, or sharing that time with a close friend. The rain took a break and the sun shone! The garden is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Sundays after our morning service.

3 A box of potential parables
Some of us need more than words. Jesus took objects – yeast, a pearl – as insights: the kingdom of heaven is a bit like…Glimpses, not theological tomes! I put together a box of objects that might connect with different aspects of Palm 139 – a pair of binoculars; a walking guidebook; a tin of postcards; a torch; some knitting; a woven friendship band; a glass jar of coloured sand, worked into a picture by a master craftsman; the bag of murder weapons from a game of Cluedo; a decorated stone in the shape of a heart – as prompts. Note: this is not for children as opposed to adults, but for people of any age who might find such an approach helpful. What might the kingdom of heaven look like in Psalm 139?

4 Praying for our enemies
There is a section in this Psalm that speaks of enemies. When it is read in church, these verses are often left out – after all, they aren’t very Christian! But in the context of this Psalm, these words undo us: they confront us with the truth that God made our enemies with as much love and care and hopes and dreams and ongoing enfolding as he made us. The best response some of us could make to this Psalm today was to gather at the War Memorial and pray for Syria.

5 Prayer boats
There is a great image in this Psalm of journeying even to the far side of the sea. As everyone arrived, they were given the Psalm printed out on a sheet of paper. Some of us – children, and adults with learning difficulties included – folded our Psalm into an origami boat. Then we shared the places we would be going to in the week ahead, and prayed for one another. The boats were taken home, to be put in a place we will see them every day this week, as a reminder that God goes with us.

With thanks to Steve Taylor, whose playful and thoughtful practice inspires me whenever I play with creative ways to help people engage with and respond to Scripture.