Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Theology of Washing Up

Sing it out, shout it out loud: 'It's Christmas!' The long wait is nearly over. Before long the presents will all have been opened, the turkey will be a carcass, and those incredible little sausages wrapped in bacon will all be in my belly.
Soon it will be 2.30pm on Christmas Day...
and it will be time to do the washing up...

Whenever I find myself taking on the never-ending mountain of dishes, standing there with hands buried amongst the soap suds, a strange phrase, a curious challenge, rattles through my mind. I'm not sure where I first heard the phrase uttered, but somehow the phrase has become wedged in my consciousness - it's dug its claws in and clung on.
I'm talking about the challenge to 'Find God at the bottom of the washing up bowl.'

How weird. What's all that about?

Doing the washing up can cause us to pause and stop. And think. It can be one of the rare times in our busy days when we turn off the computer or TV screen and just stand.
Sometimes in silence.
Sometimes in solitude.

Which is of course extremely precious and powerful in our fast paced, image-drenched, noise-laden society. There is a reason why you can download silence from itunes. There is a reason why silence reaches number 21 in the charts at Christmas or number 20 over Remembrance Sunday.
Silence strips us down.
Silence takes us to our core.

When it comes to relationship with God, in many ways Sunday mornings are the easy bit. Music and images and enthusiastic friends are all there to help us focus upon the love that breathes life into our lungs. But take away the external stimuluses, place us next to a bowl full of bubbles and dirty plates, then where do our thoughts wonder?

Can we 'find God' in the mundane?
In the every day?
Can we 'slow down, be still, awake, and aware of the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is so wondrously present'?

But there is more to washing up than just the possibility of silence and solitude, the ordinary and the mundane. Washing up is first and foremost an act of work - I guess, that's why most people have dishwashers!

But I am learning that our work is extremely important.
Rob Bell regularly says that God has invited us to 'take part in the ongoing creation of the world.' (see pg24 of 'SexGod')

To which we are like, errr, explain that please.

I began to understand more of the theology behind this idea whilst reading this academic text which explained that the first six days in the creation poem of Genesis 1 each finish with the refrain, 'and there was evening - and there was morning.' But - and here's the crucial bit - this phrase is not used after the seventh day.
The authors claim that, 'The reason is simple: we are still in the seventh day.'
There has been no evening and morning yet.
Because the seventh 'day' hasn't finished yet!

'God has indeed rested from creating,' the authors write, 'but that is not the end of the story.' They call the seventh day, 'the day of human historical responsibility.'
Crafted in the image of our Creator, we are designed to be creative.
By echoing the very first creative cry, 'Let there be light!' Jesus invites us to be 'the light of the world,'

Now, hold up. Press pause. The idea of God handing over responsibility for his creation may perhaps seem to you like a bit of a stupid idea. After all, why would an all-powerful deity have taken such a massive risk? And sure enough, history tells us that over and over again, throughout the millennia, human beings have indeed failed to bring the light that God desires, regularly spreading pain and injustice and horror and suffering and neglect over the earth.

But God is Love.
And true Love desires partnership.
Love - by its very nature - shares.
And trusts.
And Love - by its very nature - forgives.
Unconditional Love, over and over again, offers us a fresh start.
No matter how badly we've messed things up before, we are given a fresh opportunity to be the light of the world.

So as we head into 2011,
whether it's by managing money.
Distributing food.
Organising events.
Developing medicine.
Bringing law and order.
Constructing buildings.
Cultivating the environment.
Educating the next generation.

Or washing up dishes.

We are all invited to play our part in bringing paradise back to earth.
To rescue beauty. And restore peace.
To squirt our Fairy Liquid.
And scrub away the dirt.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Bible in Miniature: A Tale of Two Trees (pdf)

The Bible in Miniature: A Tale of Two Trees

In the beginning.
The first humans had a choice.
One tree was called LIFE.
Fruit from the other tree 
brought DEATH.
                                                                           Choose life...
                                               Choose life…
                      Choose life…
The first humans did NOT choose life.

The people of Israel, the family of Abraham, they are in Egypt.
In Egypt they are slaves.
And as slaves they are hurting.
They are suffering. 
They are crying out in agony.
          When God hears their cries and rescues them.
                      With Moses’ help, God pulls them out of Egypt.
                                                  And leads them to the brink of paradise.
                                                                                   This paradise is a land 
with rivers and pools of water,
                                                                                   with springs that flow in the valleys and hills,
 a land that has wheat and barley,
vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey.
To quote Moses, this is a land where, 
And it is poised on the brink of paradise that Moses tells his nation,
‘Today I have given you a choice. 
It is a choice between life and death,
between blessings and curses.'
And Moses begs.
He pleads: ‘Now choose life!’

                                                                                Choose life...
                                                   Choose life...
                    Choose life... 

                            Jesus said, 'I have come that they may have life, 
                                      and have it to the full.'
                                                  But Jesus was captured.
                         And Jesus was tied to a tree.
And on that tree Jesus suffered.
He bled.
He hurt.
He cried out in agony.
And on that tree Jesus died.
The one who had said he had come to bring life.
He died.

Because after two nights of Jesus’ dead body being buried in the ground, 
life bursts forth from the grave.
Jesus defeats death.
Once and for all.
       And life, life in all its fullness, reigns victorious.

                                    Choose life…
                                                                Choose life…
                                                                                               Choose life…

Because in the Bible’s grand finale.
There is no more death
or mourning
or crying
or pain.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Question of Mumford and the Lost Sons

A recent BBC News article asked, 'Where are the great new guitar bands?'
And I've kinda been wondering the same thing. Apart from decent, but not outstanding, recent offerings from the experienced Kings of Leon, and Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, Indie music seems to be scrambling about in the musical wilderness at the moment.
It may be true that we have grown a bit tired of the mellow strummings that proved so successful for Coldplay, Athlete and Snow Patrol in the 2003-2006 era ... but what comes next?
Where's the next breath of fresh air?

"I think the next big thing ... will sound like something you've heard before,' says BBC DJ Steve Lamacq. 'And I don't think we'd mind - if they say something about your life. If they are engaging and charismatic.' We 'want something to believe in,' and 'very few new bands have been "touching people in that way" in the last 12 months.'

According to Lamacq, it is emotion and meaning that we are craving most - something that expresses how we are feeling when we cannot find the words ourselves.

Considering his struggles in the recent US elections, I'm probably a bit late in getting round to reading Barack Obama's 'The Audacity of Hope'. But in Obama's 2007 book, which helped propel him to his presidency, he notes that thousands of Americans 'are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness are not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness.' (pg 202)

And that for me has been the biggest reason why Mumford and Sons have had such incredible success in 2010. It's not because of a sudden sweeping love for the sound of folk, but because 'Sigh No More' feels like it has grown out of hours upon hours of honest heartfelt soul searching.

And as a result the album is so full of poetic pearls that someone could probably write a book simply dissecting the lyrics.
Indeed, one line seems so symptomatic of our age,
our generation,
our culture,
that it could potentially be quoted in University lectures in 50 years time.
I'm talking about Marcus Mumford's raw questioning croon, 'How can you say that your truth is better than ours?'

This lyric encapsulates what some philosophisers term postmodernism.
It's the idea that in a pluralistic society all opinions are valid.
That no truth is better than another.

I am learning that it is good to explore
and make your own decisions
and form personal opinions.
But I am also learning that you can never please everyone.
It's impossible.
The realisation is daunting
but also incredibly freeing.

Whether it's the greatness of a movie,
the hilarity of a comedian,
or the appropriateness of an abortion,
there is always a spectrum of possible opinions.
And no matter where you place yourself on that spectrum,
even if you take the view that everyone is right,
there will always be someone, somewhere, who disagrees with you.

Diversity of opinion is certainly beautiful.
And recognising it is certainly important.
In 2007, before becoming President, Barack Obama wrote, 'I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush's eyes, no matter how much I disagree with him ... No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.' (pg 68)

But diversity of opinion can also make things incredibly complicated.
In a chapter on faith, Obama notes that even if the powers-that-be decided that Christianity was the only valid worldview, the problem would still remain, 'Whose Christianity would we teach in our schools? James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's? Which passage of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests that slavery is all right and eating shellfish is an abomination? ... Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage so radical that it's doubtful that our Defence Department would survive its application?' (pg 218)

For many centuries Christians have claimed to know 'The Truth'.
Yet Christianity is in itself full of diversity.
It encompasses numerous spectrums of wide-ranging opinions on many issues.
There are liberal views and conservative ones.
Progressive views and traditional ones.
It may be true that Christians relationally know 'The Truth', if Truth is God, but no-one can possibly claim to fully intellectually know and understand the truth.

In one of Jesus' most famous parables he tells the story of a lost son who wastes his Father's money on 'wild living', but is then welcomed home into the out-rushing open arms of his Father.
But in his recent book, 'The Prodigal God', Tim Keller points out that there is a second son, an elder brother, in Jesus' parable.
This son stays at home and works hard to earn his Father's love.
He thinks he has done everything right.
And takes pride in this.
But Keller claims that the elder brother is just as lost as the younger. He even states that ''elder brother lostness' brings just as much misery and strife into the world as the other kind.' (pg 49)

Indeed Jesus - who was telling this story to confident religious truth claiming know-it-alls, not the 'wild livers' - finishes his parable on a cliffhanger. Because even though the Father has invited both his sons to a massive celebratory feast, by the end of the story, only the younger has accepted the offer.
The second son is left with his nose stuck up.
Missing out on all the fun.
The point is, acknowledging that you might have got it wrong, it keeps you humble.
It keeps you healthy.
Because it keeps you looking out for a Rescuer.
Reaching out for the Father's embrace.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bible in Miniature: A Tale of Two Trees (video)

'The Bible in Miniature: A Tale of Two Trees' by Pete Atkinson (2010)
The story of the entire Bible ... told in under 4 minutes.
Audio recorded live at Upper Beeding Baptist Church in West Sussex on 17th October 2010.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This Time I Cleared Out The Cupboards

I have left home. For the second time.

Only this time I cleared out the cupboards.

It may have pulled at my heart but I managed it - I filled a black bin-bag with paperwork dating back to Primary School.

For one piece of paper however, nostalgia - the age-old arch nemesis of cupboard clear-outs - won out. Before screwing this piece of paper up into a ball, I decided to immortalise its contents on-line.

Don't get me wrong, I do not present the following article because of its quality. Written when I was 17, it is not particularly well structured or punctuated. For starters, there is an amusingly youthful overuse of exclamation marks!

Nope, the following is presented, unedited with warts and all, merely for the purpose of recording and storing memories. That and the faint possibility that you might find it mildly amusing and intriguing.

So this, my friends, in its full original 2003 glory, is a report on my interview to get into Cambridge University:

Butterflies in the stomach, shivers down the spine, head spinning; and that was a whole 24 hours before my interviews. I arrived at Churchill College in Cambridge at about 4pm and found my room after working my way through a maze of entwining corridors. So what do you do when the stress is becoming too much and you're on your own? My answer is you lie down and stick some of your favourite music on your mini disc! That was my answer over the whole two days (that and a few games of pool!) and I'm pleased to say it really did help me relax.

The first task on an action packed couple of days was a Maths aptitude test at 7 in the evening. We didn't really find out until the next day that the test was for use in one of the interviews, where they'd talk through our answers and methods! Anyway I came out of the test thinking I'd done alright and went back to my room, sent a few texts, listened to some more music and fell asleep in anticipation of a BIG day.

And when the nerves are beginning to go again when is the last time you want your interviews? 4 o'clock in the afternoon! But actually, looking back, it was the best time for me, because it meant I had to forget about Maths and find something else to do. During the day I played several games of cards, won a few games of pool and watched a re-run of the previous night's football. By 4 o'clock I had come out of my shell and was actually looking forward to the two maths interviews!

What an array of characters there are applying for a Maths place at Cambridge! One in particular stood out as he sat in the corner tapping away at his palm top in his Dennis Taylor glasses, scruffy hair, white trousers (that were too short) and pink socks! I also found another guy who was doing Further Further Maths which is 18 gorgeous Maths modules making 3 whopping A Levels! I'd love to have been in their interviews!

5 o'clock arrived and I came out of Churchill to be met by my Dad. I was pretty pleased as I left, having responded to, 'Have you any questions?' by setting my own Maths problem. I don't think the interviewer was ready for that!

And after all these exciting adventures I suppose you want to know whether I got a place or not? Well, I was rejected from Churchill but placed in the 'pool', which means any of the other colleges could have me if they want. I didn't think I'd hear anything but out of the blue I was ushered into Mrs Randall's office to be told by my Mum that Homerton College had offered me a place. A perfect result really, especially as I wasn't particularly impressed by Churchill. Well, what do you expect when the vending machine gets in the way of some of your pool shots!

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Evolution of Forgiveness

'If Cain's killer is punished seven times, then Lamech's killer will be punished seventy seven times.' (Gen 4:24)

In one of civilizations earliest ever narratives, violence escalates rapidly. Whenever someone was wronged vengeance was sought with blood being spilt on a greater and greater scale. Peace on earth would be attained by pounding the opposition into submission. The threat, 'If you attack me, I'll attack back seventy seven times worse,' was meant to be a deterrent against violence.
It didn't work.
Before long, according to the account, 'the human heart was only evil all the time.' (Gen 6:5)

Hence, the destruction of the world in the not-so cute and cuddly story of Noah which parents now read to toddlers at bed-time.
Terrifying stuff.

After the flood, humanity is given a second chance to flourish. This time around Yahweh (aka God) introduces some foundational values for what to do when you are wronged: 'Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound and bruise for bruise.' (Ex. 21:23-25)

Do you remember the classic computer game Pong? 'An eye for an eye' is a bit like a never ending game of Pong, where attacks simply bounce back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. To us this may still seem like a hopelessly bloody approach but in the evolution of humankind this was a highly progressive and radical concept. It stopped violence escalating.

That the new advice was so counter-cultural is demonstrated by just how challenging the new society found it to adhere to. Set three centuries later, the story of sex-driven Samson (of Delilah fame) is a prime example.

Samson is humiliated at a party; he kills 30 men.
Samson's wife is taken by his best man; he uses 300 foxes, tied together by their tails, to burn down his enemy's crops.
Samson's wife and father are burnt to death; he kills 1000 men with a donkey's jawbone. (Judg. 14-15)

The tale is savage and barbaric.
'Eye for an eye' has clearly not yet seeped into the fabric of society.

'You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you don't stand up against an evil person. If a person slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well.' (Matt 5:38-39)

If 'eye for an eye' was difficult enough then this takes the challenge to a whole new level.
But this really is the only way to bring peace to earth.
Because this really is the only way to break the unending rally of Pong.
Don't hit back.
Concede a goal.

Forgiveness: in the evolution of humankind this was a highly progressive and radical concept.

And how many times should you forgive?
Alluding to one of civilizations earliest ever narratives, rabbi Jesus answers, 'Not seven, but seventy seven times.' (Matt. 18:22)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Life of Pi

I went into HMV last week to explore the latest offers and, to my great surprise, the first aisle I went down was full of books. Piles and piles of books! What was going on?!
It was of even greater shock when I left HMV with
no £3 CD,
no £3 DVD,
just a £2 book.
This was quite a revolution.

I'm not even sure what attracted me to 'Life of Pi' either.
Perhaps it was the mathematically alluring title.
All I knew about the book was the blurb on the back. My new purchase was about a 'boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, a female orang-utan, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.'
Apparently it was 'vivid and enhancing', 'a great adventure story' and 'ultimately uplifting.'
But most books say that on the back.
This blurb was hardly knockout.
It hardly screamed 'buy me, buy me, buy me.'

If I'd have known then what I know now, I would have leapt at the shelves as if they contained a newly released Coldplay album.

The central character, Pi, is a teenager of great faith. So great in fact, that somehow by the age of sixteen - though his Father is 'rich, modern and as secular as ice cream' - Pi has chosen to be committed to three major religions. He is a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian.

Now there is a knockout, 'buy me, buy me' premise for a book, if ever I saw one.

I haven't finished the book yet. I look forward to discovering quite how the hyena, zebra, orang-utan and tiger play themselves into the plot. But I have been gripped by the opening 74 pages. And it was Pi's gritty wrestling with Christianity, and in particular Jesus, that most alerted my eyes, quickened my pulse, glued my hands to the pages and left my heart dancing to a samba beat:
'That a god should put up with adversity, I could understand. The gods of Hinduism face their fair share of thieves, bullies, kidnappers and usurpers. What is the Ramanya but the account of one long, bad day for Rama? Adversity, yes. Reversals of fortune, yes. Treachery, yes. But humiliation? Death? I couldn't imagine Lord Krishna consenting to be stripped, naked, whipped, mocked, dragged through the streets and, to top it off, crucified - and at the hands of mere humans, to boot. I'd never heard of a Hindu god dying ... Divinity should not be blighted by death. It's wrong. ... It was wrong of this Christian God to let His avatar die. That is tantamount to letting a part of Himself die ... But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in his mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real. Why would God wish that upon Himself? Why not leave death to the mortals? Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect?
Love. That was Father Martin's answer.

...There is the story of Vishnu incarnated as Vamana the dwarf. He asks of demon king Bali only as much land as he can cover in three strides. Bali laughs at this runt of a suitor and his puny request. He consents. Immediately Vishnu takes on his full cosmic size. With one stride he covers the earth, with the second the heavens, and with the third he boots Bali into the netherworld.
...This is God as God should be. With shine and power and might. Such as can rescue and save and put down evil.
This Son on the other hand, who goes hungry, who suffers from thirst, who gets tired, who is sad, who is anxious, who is heckled and harassed, who has to put up with followers who don't get it and opponents who don't respect Him - what kind of a god is that?
...This Son is a god who walked - and in a hot place, at that - with a stride like any human stride ... and when he splurged on transportation, it was a regular donkey. This Son is a god who died in three hours, with moans, gasps and laments. What kind of god is that? What is there to inspire in this Son?
Love, said Father Martin.

...He bothered me this Son. Every day I burned with greater indignation against Him, found more flaws to Him.
...I couldn't get Him out of my head. Still can't. I spent three solid days thinking about Him. The more He bothered me, the less I could forget Him. And the more I learnt about Him, the less I wanted to leave Him.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Only Revolutions

It may have been released in 2009 but my album of 2010 so far has to be Biffy Clyro's 'Only Revolutions.' With 5 singles reaching the top 40 the album simply demands attention.
'Only Revolutions' amuses me, moves me and intrigues me in equal measure.
I mean, in the most recent single, in one breath Biffy are rushing around popping bubbles and the next they're washing away sins.
What's all that about?!?
It's seemingly meaningless and yet deeply profound.
And that, I think, is the album's strength - it has layers, it suits different moods, different personalities, maybe even different worldviews.
Talking of diverse worldviews, the next single to be released opens with the verse:

I like it. Again it moves me. And again it puzzles me. I am left wondering, are the lyrics simply comical or are they meant to be incisive and profound?
The answer is probably yes, both.

But sitting on the train last week, ipod plugged into my ears, one lyric from the song didn't just move me, it challenged me, maybe even inspired me.
Because, when faced with discomfort, 'when the see-saw snaps and splinters your hand' as Biffy puts it, the band sing:
'I'll only see your good side. And believe it's a miracle.'

It's too easy to be critical of people. It's too easy to see weaknesses and miss 'good sides'.

This has certainly been true for me this year whilst training to be a teacher. When faced with a crowd of thirty-five teenagers it's been far too easy to simply focus on the disruptive minority. Whilst teaching, in theory I wanted to praise, encourage and draw out potential. In practice, I criticised and shouted, telling pupils to change, to grow up, to stop being such and such and start... It seemed like the only way to survive.
But I am learning that being critical rarely changes people. Most of the time it simply causes more friction and division. It can create bitterness and resentment. And far from being dissipated, the character trait which is criticised might even become stronger.

What's more, being critical of people can simply open the accuser up to criticism of hypocrisy. To quote the 2000 year old philosophical teachings of a Jewish rabbi named Jesus, 'How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?'

Christians are too often perceived as judgemental.
Too often they are.
And as a fan of Jesus myself, for this I am sorry.
Christians want to be bringers of life, they want to see health and joy and peace and love and goodness flourishing. However, for those who hold such great aspirations, a tricky dilemma arises. How do they assist such change without being critical? How do they open eyes to glorious new possibilities, without highlighting weaknesses in the status quo?

I am learning that by far the most effective way to encourage goodness and beauty to flourish is to identify goodness and beauty. To spot it, label it and claim it. I am learning that I need to change to see things in a more positive light. The only revolutions required are in the way we see the world.
I need to use words more positively.
To focus on good intentions.
To appreciate kindness.
To praise generosity.
To celebrate joy.
Inspired by Biffy Clyro, I need to pray for the gift of seeing the good side.
And believe it's a miracle.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Poems and Prayers of Switchfoot and Hillsong United

Recorded from amongst a crowd of thousands, live from the West Sussex countryside, I present to you now the poems and prayers of Switchfoot and Hillsong United.

From California and Sydney respectively, the bands feature prominently on my i-pod, and have done so for years. So when I heard that both were playing a music festival in my own home village(!), as you can imagine, I seized the opportunity with both hands.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pete's Valentine's Sermon

If God is love, is God romantic?
If God is love, does God experience heartbreak?

These questions and more are explored in this 23 minute video, a slightly shortened version of a sermon I delivered on Valentine's Day 2010.

Just want the audio? Want to put the audio on Facebook? Use:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Cave

Home alone last night I set myself up in front of the tele, put my feet up, warm mug of tea in one hand, remote in the other and chocolate within reach. After another week at school I deserved this comfort, I told myself.
Mmmm, Sport Relief on BBC One, this should keep me entertained for a bit.
It wasn't long before the tears started to fall.

All my life I've watched this stuff, BBC celebrities watching on as children die of a preventable disease, while others laugh and play and kick a football at a funded project. You'd think you'd grow hardened to it, used to it.
I've been moved by the images before.
But never moved to tears.
I was shocked by my reaction.

The morning after I arose to the sounds of 'The Cave' by Mumford and Sons and the lyrics rose up and slapped me round the cheeks.

'So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears.

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be.'

I realise now that it was healthy to cry last night.
Because I'm realising that heaven looks like children playing and laughing and kicking a football, stomachs full of scrumptious food with not a disease in sight.
This sight, the end of poverty, justice rolling like a river, it's the aching, breaking desire of God.
This sight, it's what God sweat blood and tears for.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The more we learn, the greater the mystery

For many the sheer beauty of creation accelerates them into the presence of an ultimate, majestic artist, the Creator.
Yet for many the sheer agony caused by creation acts as a blockade; or even convinces them that there is no higher power, no great designer.

The tiniest detail of a flower or the overwhelming monstrosity of a tsunami?
A stunning sunset or a devastating earthquake?
'WHICH IS IT?' we scream, bewildered and helpless.

We live in this tension, torn between tears of joy and tears of agony.

Apparently, the blood of a foetus does not enter the lungs. But at the moment of birth, something amazing happens. 'Suddenly all blood must pass through the lungs to receive oxygen because now the baby is breathing air. In a flash, a flap descends like a curtain, deflecting the blood flow ... After performing that one act, the muscle gradually dissolves ... Without this split-second adjustment, the baby could never survive outside the womb.' (Yancey, 2001)

Do we look at the miracle of new life, or look at a miscarriage?
Do we look at the remarkable workings of our eyes, or look at a crippling disease?
Do we look at our thumb as Newton did, or look at our appendix?

Because the more we experience, the more we open our eyes to the world, the more we learn, the greater the mystery.

I mean, how on earth do I wrap my mind around the breathtakingly enormous universe and then begin to contemplate the jaw-droppingly miniscule atom, or even quark? Even at GCSE I learnt about the electromagnetic spectrum, in itself evidence that there is more to life than meets the eye. But now I read that scientists - 'string theorists' - reckon our reality is formed of at least 11 dimensions!

In the final chapter to a massive 1000 page book confidently entitled, 'A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe' Roger Penrose writes 'exactly what is really going on remains a mystery.'
Which amuses me. He then ultimately concludes, 'Perhaps what we need is some subtle change in perspective - something that we all have missed.'


In one of the oldest stories ever told a good, wealthy man called Job is stripped of everything. And in the midst of his unbearable suffering Job screams WHY!
Then into the chaos, God speaks. The response is awesome. Read it in full here, it is a remarkably stunning and detailed depiction of creation.
But God offers no answers.
God responds with questions.

In one of the oldest stories ever told Job is left utterly speechless.
The mystery remains, the mystery deepens, but his questions are no more.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

'Son of Man' Talk

When Jesus described himself as 'The Son of Man' he was being humble .... wasn't he??? Here's a 10 minute edit of a talk I did exploring this title.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maybe Robbie Williams Was Right

I was reminded this week about the power of the modern day poets who fill our airwaves and our ipods. Because, more often than not, the anthems of Radio One dissect, open up and shine a light upon the collective hopes, hurts, wants, frustrations and joys of our society. Never has this been more obvious and so comprehensively achieved than in the case of Lily Allen's 'The Fear.' But it's her song '22' that I reckon cuts us most to the core:

'When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she's nearly 30 now and she's out every night
I see that look in her face, she's got that look in her eye
She's thinking how did I get here and wondering why

She's got an alright job but it's not a career
Whenever she thinks about it, it brings her to tears
'Cause all she wants is a boyfriend, she gets one night stands
She's thinking how did I get here, I'm doing all that I can.

It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over...'

Is this not 'the fear'? A thoroughly personal, yet commonly held fear, a fear of significance passing us by. It's a plea for purpose, a cry for depth, for something more real. In life. In love.

'Desperate and broken,' Thirty Seconds To Mars currently proclaim, 'We were the Kings and Queens of promise.'

Which begs the question, what went wrong?

'We were the victims of ourselves,' answers the next line.

The song has connected with an age-old truth, one that's true of the faded dreams of a 22 year old about to turn 30, but also true of the nation that sets out seeking peace, yet ends up at war.

Courageously Thirty Seconds To Mars dare to finish their anthem with a declaration: over and over they sing, 'We are the Kings, We are the Queens'. Apparently we have already been restored to significance. We have value.

This is what fans of Jesus hope for. First and foremost you - yes you - your identity is rooted in beauty. Who you are is significant. No matter what relationships you have, no matter what job you choose, whether your dreams fizzle out or are a mighty success, you are first and foremost loved.

Why would Jesus fans make such staggering claims? Because maybe just maybe, when Robbie Williams returned from celebrity exile last year he was right. Maybe just maybe, 'Jesus really died for me.'