Posts filed under ‘preaching’

kids on the bible

We’ve had kids for Hope at the Centre for 12 days. They’re Palestinian youngsters, aged 12-15, identified as potential future leaders in their communities and they’ve spent the time here getting away from the war zone, experiencing freedom, making friends and undergoing Leadership Training & Personal Development. It’s been a great time with them. We’ve certainly got as much – if not more – out of having them than they have out of being here.

I did s bible study on forgiveness with them, using the parable of the prodigal. Of course, one of the main things is that it ought to be called “The Parable of the Lost Son”, coming as it does as the climax of a 3-parable section on the theme of losing and finding. Re-read it if that surprises you. The important implication of the fact that we generally mis-title the parable is that we miss the principal character: God! It’s a parable about the lovesick father, not the wasteful son!

The kids got that one straight away. We read the parable (in Arabic and English) and I then asked them to identify the principal characters. Then I divided them into three groups, each taking one character: the father, the son and the older brother. They each had 2 questions to explore, identifying with their character.

I took the group on the father. The first question was, “How did this parable strike you?” A 12-year old boy answered “Shocking!” I asked why. A 15-year old girl answered, “because the boy told his father he wanted him dead!” And she’s right! You see what happens? Youngsters “get it” straight away, because they come to it unencumbered by years of reading it and hearing it expounded in a church context. It’s a parable whose main offence isn’t the actions of the son in the far country, but in the son’s deliberate rejection of any relationship whatsoever with the father. He wishes the father dead so that he can get his hands on the money.

The surprise of the parable is grace – the joy of the loving father who won’t hear of the son coming back as a servant. The son doesn’t repent, of course! He comes home to negotiate a new relationship, not to restore the old! he knows he’s turned his back fully and finally upon his father. It’s about grace because the father doesn’t take this “last word” of the son on the subject as the Last Word. His Last Word is of love and acceptance. He welcomes the son back – as a son who was lost and is found, was dead and is alive.

The point of the parable, in the words of Philip Yancey, is that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less. That’s not the conclusion most church groups come to – but the kids got it in one!


30 July, 2006 at 9:49 pm Leave a comment

a Jesus & Peter dialogue on forgiveness

I've written this dialogue in the style of the "Eh, Jesus … Yes Peter?" Wild Goose meditations. In the interests of space, I'm only putting enough on here to give the general idea. It goes on to deal with forgiveness and "winning vs healing", loving enemies and praying for them. If you want the full text, I'll happily email it to you by return. You can email me on
Matthew 18: 21-35
Cast: Jesus & Peter (Peter clearly seething)
J: Peter …
P: WHAT??? O, sorry, Jesus! Didn’t realize it was you.
J: What’s the matter?
P: Nothing! Why SHOULD anything be the matter?
J: Oh, ok. I was looking for Andrew – do you know where he’s got to?
P: Don’t know, don’t care, don’t matter!
J: Aaah … the joys of family life getting to you, are they? What’s happened?
P: It’s not fair! I’ve told him over and over again … but does it make any difference? Does it thump!
J: What is unfair Peter?
P: Wednesday’s Andrew’s day to get up early, make sure the nets are untangled and ready in the boat, check for any splits in the sail … you know, get everything ready for the day’s fishing. It’s a real pain to get up early, but it has to be done. We take it in turns – or we’re SUPPOSED to. But Andrew keeps oversleeping. He says he “forgets”. So I end up making breakfast, thinking he’s sorting the boat out, when all the time he’s snoring his socks off and then I end up doing the boat as well! AND it happens ALL the time! I could have murdered him this morning!
J: What did he say?
P: He said he was sorry …
J: So it’s all sorted out, then?
P: Sorted out? How?
J: Well, you were angry, he said he’s sorry …
P: And …?
J: So if you’ve forgiven him – problem solved!
P: FORGIVEN him? You’re kidding! Why should I forgive him?
J: Why not?
P: Apart from anything else, because it happens again and again and again! And I KNOW it’ll probably be just the same way next week. It’s not a one-off. Surely you don’t expect me to go on and ON forgiving him, do you?
J: Why not?
P: Why do you rabbi types ALWAYS answer a question with a question?
J: What’s wrong with a question?
P: Very funny! Ok, answer me this: how many times do you expect me to forgive him?
J: 70 times 7
P: 70 TIMES 7??? That’s … that’s … well, that’s a LOT of times!
J: It’s 490 times, Peter.
P: 490 times? How do you expect me to keep count? I’ll lose track long before 490 and then have to start all over again! I may as well give up counting and just say I’ll forgive him every time!
J: Would that be so bad?
P: Of course it would! Why should I always be the one to give way, when he’s in the wrong? Apart from anything else, I’d look weak … a pushover!
J: You think forgiving someone is weak?
P: Of course it is! It lets him off the hook … oh, I get it! Jesus, you’re a genius!
J: I am? …

4 September, 2005 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

gone live on the lectionary!

I'm ahead of my schedule, which is unusual enough to make video of the event and seal it in a time capsule, let alone simply diarise! My disclosing new worlds blog has gone live, with reflections on the texts for 11 September rather than the first week in October. I'd be grateful for any and all critical comments, please. I want to know whether it's worth the time, and that depends on how effective a resource it proves to be!

31 August, 2005 at 2:35 pm 4 comments

disclosing new worlds

I've started my new blog, disclosing new worlds. Its purpose is to be a resource for ministers and preachers, with a weekly reflection on the lectionary readings. I also want to build up a library of prayers, worship resources and images, so any contributions are more than welcome! If you go to the section on the art of preaching, you'll find the first of a series of essays on preaching entitled dissonance and disturbance – journeying outside the comfort zone, reflecting my conviction that one of the primary and early tasks of a sermon is to jolt people out of their comfort zone to engage and disturb them. In so doing, we create space for God to break into our self-enclosed and self-constructed world and show us the new world of the Gospel. I'd be interested in your comments and criticisms.

30 August, 2005 at 11:35 am Leave a comment

Emerging Bible

How does the Bible function as the Word of God in the community of faith? The answer to this question has a great deal to do with what we understand the nature of the Bible as the Word of God to be, and also the nature and place of preaching.

I was astonished to discover how deeply (and mainly unconsciously) I have imbibed and embraced postmodern approaches to the Bible. By "postmodern approaches" I mean trends in postliberal exegesis pioneered by people like George Lindbeck and postevangelical approaches. What they have in common is that they focus on the internal coherence and detail of the Christian story rather than the historical-critical preoccupation with the reconstruction of history. They ask "What does it mean to live by this story?" rather than "What happened?" (with the unspoken corollary, "Can we accept this as true or not?"). In so doing they break out of the sterility of so many years of liberal vs evangelical standoffs and polarisation.

One of the most helpful people I find is Walter Brueggemann. His contention is that the Bible doesn't primarily relate history or teach doctrine: rather, when we read the Bible, we find in the narrative the "Third World of Evangelical Imagination". In other words, we find our world reconfigured because we discover what it is like to look at it through God's eyes. Put another way, we see it in a new light: it is infused with the reality and presence of God. This is inspirational and empowering. When we look at the world, we are struck by our helplessness in the face of its systems. We see the annihilative power of multinationals. We are reduced to despair by the intractability of global poverty. Our imaginations are paralysed by the power of capitalism such that we cannot even conceive of an alternative reality. What reading the Bible does is to open up an entirely new set of hitherto unimagined possibilities because God is present and active to redeem. Seemingly impregnable powers and authorities are exposed as fragile opponents of God's grace, justice and resurrection. And we are inspired to yield to the Spirit and to change things in the name of Jesus Christ, because that is God's mission.

The task of preaching, then, is to bring the world of the biblical narrative into conversation with our own contextual stories and so to enable people to go out and live and act as faithful, hopeful disciples of Jesus Christ.

I was reading Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity. I was reading it in preparation for the Windermere reading party (18-20 November – please come if you fancy it!). Borg is a member of the Jesus Seminar. And the Jesus Seminar is not the place to which I would instinctively turn for nourishment! I remember listening to Robert Funk, its founder, who is a non-realist. I was left wondering why we should bother with Jesus at all. Yet Borg is a different kettle of fish. For him, the purpose of studying the Bible is to elicit passionate faith – by which he means wholehearted commitment and faithful living. The Bible is meant to transform rather than inform. Christian faith is not about believeing a set of doctrines: it is about experiencing the Life of God given in Jesus and becoming christlike. I sat reading The Heart of Christianity and got more and more excited.

Emerging forms of biblical exegesis are to me one of the most hopeful signs of God's Tomorrow. This is something the Church can get its teeth into because it actually matters! The Bible is transformatory. The power of the text is unleashed because its purpose is to enable people to encounter God, rather than become textual experts in ancient literature. And it is Gospel – Good News to a world that is weighed down with Bad News!

14 August, 2005 at 4:16 pm 4 comments

Time to move …

... to my own hosted site on See you there.

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