Monday, December 24, 2007

Immanuel Iwuamadi....

It doesn't seem right that Immanuel is no longer with us, the irony of his name sticks in my throat this evening; at this time of year as we come to terms with his death.

Immanuel moved to Poplar Corps when were there with his wife and became a valuable member and pillar of our congregation. He was a solid member of the church, a true support to our ministry, someone who to spend time with made a difference to you, a member of a small congregation that developed in his front room first in Bethnal Green then Bow - above all he was a valued friend. Someone to laugh with, to feel totally relaxed in the presence of his generosity.

He taught me far more than he will ever realise, his wisdom impacting me deeper than he ever intended. His favoured prayer phrases are indelibly embedded on my memory - and as a 'mother hen gathers her chicks under her wing' may God in his love and mercy gather Immanuel's young family to him as they come to terms of life without their father and husband.

There have been many Africans in my life that have called me brother - Immanuel was truly that to me and I to him - I'll miss him. His life has been like that of a 'mustard seed - that so small grows into the largest of trees' there will be many that will miss him.

He will rise again...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ricky Gervais and The Archbishop of Canterbury - BBC 5 live

There was an interesting conversation on Radio 5 between Ricky Gervais and The Archbishop of Canterbury on matters of faith.

Here's a taster...

Ricky Gervais: "The biggest mistake he [God] made was giving me free will..."

The Archbishop of Canterbury: "A lot of theologians would agree with you there...!"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wright, N.T. (1996). Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2).

I'm getting to grips with how to read NT Wright; concentrate on the first two sentences and the concluding sentences of a paragraph, be prepared for your brain to be mugged and turned over in between while NT substantiates his thoughts and arguments!

Jesus and the Victory of God looks at and makes sense of key themes within Jesus. The strongest themes being that of the Temple cleansing and the Last Supper, through which come a strong essence of Messiahship and Kingdom of God. His approach based on what he calls the 'third quest' raises questions of how Jesus' words and action would have been interpreted, and through doing so peels back centuries of theological silt that has been build up through different cultural and ecclesiastical agenda's. NT Wright reveals a profundity to concepts that have been watered down and makes connections with what is obvious - Jesus' Jewishness.

Here is my highlight's package, it consists of insights, questions and areas for me to think through.

NT - on dichotomy...

The distinction of ‘word’ and ‘deed’ has clear warrant in Lk 24:19… we should not suppose that it represents a sharp disjunction between two unrelated entities. Jesus’ contemporaries would have found that very odd indeed. Pp171
NT - on miracles...

Jesus’ healing miracles must be seen clearly as bestowing the gift of shalom,
wholeness, to those who lacked it, bringing not only physical health but renewed
membership in the people of YHWH pp 192

NT on the Kingdom of God...

Kingdom of God was not a vague phrase, or a cipher with a general religious aura. It had nothing much, at least in the first instance, to do with what happened to human beings after they died. The reverent periphrasis ‘kingdom of heaven’, so long misunderstood by some Christians to mean ‘a place, namely heaven, where saved souls go to live after death’, meant nothing of the sort in Jesus’ world: it was simply a Jewish way of talking about Israel’s god becoming king. And when this god became king, the whole world, the world of space and time, would at last be put to rights. Pp 202-203

NT on repentance...
The most plausible historical reconstruction of Jesus’ call to repent brings together, the two emphasis – returning to YHWH so that the exile may come to an end and renunciation of nationalist violence. Pp 251
NT on forgiveness of sins...

From the point of view of a first century Jew, ‘forgiveness of sins’ could never simply be a private blessing, though to be sure it was that as well…. Overarching the situation of the individual was the state of the nation as a whole; and as long as Israel remained under the rule of pagans, as long as the Torah was not observed perfectly, as long as the temple was not restored , so Israel longed for ‘forgiveness of sins’ as the great, unrepeatable, eschatological and national blessing promised by her god. Pp 271

What Jesus was offering, in other words, was not an different religious system. It was a new world order, the end of Israel’s long desolation, the true and final ‘forgiveness of sins’, the inauguration of the kingdom of god. Pp 272

NT on how Jesus saw himself...

Jesus saw himself as a prophet announcing and inaugurating the kingdom of YHWH; he believed himself to be Israel’s true Messiah; he believed that the kingdom would be brought about by means of his own death at the hands of the pagans. He believed, that is, that the message of the Isaianic herald was coming true at last: Israel’s god was becoming king; ‘Babylon’ was being defeated, and the exile was over at last pp 612
NT on Jesus' task...

Focus on a young Jewish prophet telling a story about YHWH returning to Zion as judge and redeemer, and then embodying it by riding into the city in tears, symbolizing the Temple’s destruction and celebrating the final exodus…. He would be the pillar of cloud and fire for the new exodus. He would embody in himself the returning and redeeming action of the covenant God. Pp 653

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What Are We Waiting For?

"This deeply dynamic day conference is being hosted by Spring Harvest and King's College London on January 26th 2008. Featuring top theologians, thinkers and communicators, the day will get to grips with the subject of Christian Eschatology and Contemporary Culture."

What Are We Waiting For? is a one-off, one day conference from Spring Harvest and King’s College London for church leaders and members who are passionate about the place of theology in the church. Featuring leading thinkers and theologians, the programme will unpack the major themes of Christian eschatology, including the Second Coming of Christ, the end of the world as we know it, eschatology in the Old and New Testament, the doctrines of heaven and hell and contemporary issues such as art, culture and the environment.

26 January 2008 King’s College London
The Strand, London 9.30am to 5.30pm

Booking line 01825 769000

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mission as Action in Hope...

Brueggemann challenges the capacity of the people of God in mission to practice a hope that is rooted solely in God's own hope.

Brueggemann mixes it up with NT Wright's overarching theme of 'New Creation' and task of the Church as a focus for mission while reflecting on Mission as Action in Hope. The symposium's premise was simple but effective:

"The Mission is Missio Dei;
The action is God's action in mending creation;
The hope is God's hope for a new creation"

By making sense of the church's purpose to witness to God's intention and making sense of God's purpose of bringing the 'whole creation to well-being (shalom)', Brueggemann challenges the capacity of the people of God in mission to practice a hope that is rooted solely in God's own hope. This invites thinking on the part of the church to take up its responsibility as a 'counteractor of hope in every dimension of life' concerning:

  • economic disparities midst God's abundance,

  • political oppression midst God's justice,

  • environmental exploitation midst God's fruitfulness,

  • destruction of the social fabric of health, education and welfare midst God's homemaking,

  • the claims of natural sciences midst the mystery of God,

  • destruction of community via class, race, gender in the midst of God's vision of unity,

  • deep and lethal despair among those who have received 'everything' and whose lives yet are absent of joy.

Brueggemann. (2007: 161ff). Hope for the World. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mission...? Bah Humbug...

I used to think that much of mission talk was pretty much subjective; that you could maintain a partisan approach to mission and that was okay; that mission was much a point of opinion. However, I am struggling to stomach that anymore...

Grumpy old man here, 42 this month and I feel some intolerance coming on, not difficult after a day Christmas shopping, people walking too slowly, stopping to look at things in the shops (for goodness sake!!), offering me loyalty cards...! "NO BETHAN I AM NOT STRESSED... I AM SHOPPING.....THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS!"

For another thing .... I used to think that much of mission talk was pretty much subjective; that you could maintain a partisan approach to mission and that was okay; that mission was much a point of opinion, a point of view. However, I am struggling to stomach that anymore – as I see our mission narrative as a point of deep theology and can understand why Martin Kähler, (1908) would describe mission as the mother of all theology.

So I am troubled by a mission narrative that is outside that of:-

  • the Reign of God;

  • the gospel that Jesus 'was and is';

  • our call to be signposts of hope;

  • salvation as shown through Jesus’ life and ministry;

  • the counter cultural message that Jesus is Lord;

  • our unequivocal call as church to signpost that which culminates 'New Creation';

  • Romans 8 and our task to discover how righteousness should be met in us;

  • the demands and opportunities of our post-christian culture;

  • TSA's highly contextual heritage;

When I hear a mission narrative that is born largely of the enlightenment; when I hear a mission narrative that could resemble a subtle form of Gnosticism; when I hear a mission narrative that compels an approach to mission content with throwing answers at people who are not asking the questions - the distraction and lack of theology makes me feel sad.

There you go ..... sorry .... but I am feeling grumpy......!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Liverpool Nativity....

Sorry it didn't seem to happen for me! Maybe I need to check the lyrics closer but I thought the links were a little too tenuous and lost the sense of plausibility that the Manchester Passion had. Help me if I missed something? Maybe I need to watch it again. Having said that there was some good lines in the narration that I wish I had jotted down at the time.

Good to see Liverpool Walton band playing 'Get Back...' (I think?) shame the flugel player rushed his semi-quavers!! ( :o) sorry Pete!!)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thomas à Kempis ... Highlights

"Without the Way, there is no going, Without the Truth, there is no knowing, Without the Life, there is no living."

"If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned."

"At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done."

"If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him."

“If you do absolutely nothing about your small faults, you will, little by little, fall into greater ones.”

“Many of us are kept back from spiritual progress and amendment of life because we fear the difficulties we are sure to meet and the effort it will cost us to overcome them. Nevertheless, the one who makes progress in the spiritual life is the very one who vigorously and strenuously strives to overcome these seemingly impossible obstacles. Both profit and merit are greater when we overcome ourselves and subject our will to our spirit.”

Thomas à Kempis


A useful online and accessible 'Imitation of Christ' translation can be found here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thomas à Kempis ... Reflection

My soul, always find your rest in the Lord more than in anything else, for He is the everlasting rest of the saints.

Dear loving Jesus, allow me to find my rest in You above any created thing (Rom.8:19-22) and above any health and beauty, glory and honor, power and dignity, knowledge and cleverness, riches and arts, joy and gladness, fame and praise, pleasure and comfort, hope and promise, and any deserving and desire.

Let it be above any gifts or favors that You might give to me, above any humour and celebration that the mind can conceive and feel. Let my rest in You be more than all this, and even higher than all the host of Heaven, including angels and archangels and anything visible or invisible. Let it be more than anything that is not You, my God.

Thomas à Kempis (Imitation of Christ)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thomas à Kempis and keys to peace...

Four Keys to Peace…

  • Strive to do another’s will rather than your own;
  • Choose to have less than more;
  • Seek the lower places in life – dying to the need to be recognised and important.
  • Desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you.

Imitation of Christ (Thomas à Kempis)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thomas à Kempis on temptation...

We did a bit of work on Thomas à Kempis and the Imitation of Christ this week and had an interesting conversation about temptation. Would a monk from 500+ years really know what temptation is? I think he had a good idea even if his concept of a Wii would be somewhat different!

Here are his four steps by which temptation becomes sin…

  • The thought is allowed to enter into our minds;
  • The imagination is sparked by the thought;
  • We feel pleasure at the fantasy and we entertain it;
  • We engage in the evil action, assenting to its urges.

Imitation of Christ (Thomas à Kempis)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The guilt trip...

When I read some books they make me feel so guilty; I’ve got through the stage where I beat myself up because my prayer life isn’t as spectacular as Paul Yongi Cho; that my sense of holiness falls so short of Brengle; that my community justice isn’t as intense as Jim Wallis.

However there seems to be a new brand of Christian book that needs a warning on the cover. If you are not taking the environment as seriously as the re-cycled pages of the book you are reading - be ready to be feel pretty miserable by the end. That is unless of course you have already converted your car to run on cooking oil? That you have re-plumbed your water so that you re-cycle your shower water to flush your toilet to then water your organic tomatoes?!

Shane Claiborne – seems to lead the way and his message is definitely one well worth listening to and being challenged by. So when I met him the other week when I was taking Eryn to school – was I pleased we were on our bikes!? I was introduced to him while he was waiting for a bus to take him to the Faithworks conference - that would be a fossil fuel powered bus - I felt pretty smug with my non-fossil fuel form of transport, that not only was second hand, but also borrowed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Liverpool Nativity....

Those who remember the Manchester Passion on BBC might be interested in The Liverpool Nativity - press release here.

"Liverpool Nativity tells the story of the first Christmas through the music of Liverpool. The familiar songs will be performed by characters in the drama and a live orchestra with fresh musical arrangements."

I'm not sure if Harry Enfield has been part of the casting but I hope the three wise men are truly scouse!!

Sunday 16 December, 8pm, BBC Three.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thomas Merton on tradition...

"...human traditions all tend towards stagnation and decay. They try to perpetuate things that cannot be perpetuated. They cling to objects and values which time destroys without mercy." (New Seeds of Contemplation . 1972:111)

Ringma develops these thoughts further:

"When traditions are no longer life-giving; no longer empower people; no longer reflect the strange values of God's upside-down kingdom; and when they are no longer relevant as an embodiment of contemporary understandings of faith and life in the light of the gospel, then traditions need to be renewed from within..."

Ringma, C. (2003). Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton.

So tradition is good ... as long as it is life-giving; empowering; reflects the Kingdom; is relevant in the light of gospel ... not a bad check list to work from.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Romans 8 ... righteousness and the task of the church

Apparently if you are being interviewed by NT Wright for the ministry, he is keen to ask what four portions of scripture you would take to a desert island. Romans 8 would have to be up there for me and it is a welcome distraction for me to disappear into when it looks good to be looking in a bible!!! Every time I read it I see something different. Here is what it is doing to me at the moment.

The depth of meaning of the word righteousness fascinates me in that because of Jesus, that righteousness is met in us. As co-heirs we have an obligation to this outworking of righteousness, why? Because the future glory of God’s creation is to be met in us as we take the obligation to be signposts of New Creation seriously. It is amazing that as co-heirs God equips us for this task through making us more than conquerors and that through us God’s will for his creation will be fulfilled.

I suppose it leaves us to ask - is the fullness and depth of the concept of righteousness found in us as individuals and in our understanding of the church’s task?

I suppose it leaves us to ask - are we working in partnership with God by allowing Him to equip us for His task, or have we an understanding of the task of the church shaped by a subtle Gnosticism?

I suppose it leaves us to ask - how seriously do we understand and engage with God’s will for his creation.

Monday, December 03, 2007


"...A three day forum to consider what it is to engage with God and creation for people living in communities of deprivation... a space to think, reflect and discuss...."

Read more and print the application form here

The first day of the forum (29 January 2008) is the latest one day conference hosted by William Booth College. So if you want to come along and hear Geoff Ryan and Stuart Murray-Williams email me on gordon [dot] cotterill [@] salvationarmy [dot] org [dot] uk and I will forward your application. Did I mention that the first day is sponsored by SISTAD (not the Israeli secret service - but the in-service training section of TSA) so it is free!

Come and hear how Mission and Spiritual Formation can only be one in action!!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rob Bell interviewed...

God created us to be co-creators and to further shalom, to carry shalom forward, so, I would argue that at the core of most spiritual longing is to find your proper place in the kingdom of shalom

Interesting interview with Rob Bell in the newlook Tearfund magazine you can read the whole interview here. Here is a snippet that would fit within the false dichotomy of mission theme. (The False Dichotomy of Mission)

"In Tear Times last year Jim Wallis said that the connection between spiritual hunger and social justice was what the world was waiting for – what do you think that looks like?

RB - Well I think the fundamental hungers that people have are for meaning and for community and for task, which goes back to genesis one and two in which God created us to be co-creators and to further shalom, to carry shalom forward, so, I would argue that at the core of most spiritual longing is to find your proper place in the kingdom of shalom, and you can’t when people don’t have enough food.

Someone said something along the lines of ‘your greatest passion and the world’s greatest need – when those two meet, that’s your calling, and ultimate purposes for humanity are not… and then 'When you are you, then we can be we’, a great African phrase, so yeah, I think that we have lots of people who come to our church and they get plugged into some form of mission and then begin
to find God in very real ways.

But to present people with a gospel that’s all about Jesus just wants to save you – I mean the original call in exodus 19 is for a kingdom of priests – and the priest mediates the divine, so the call is never just to leave Egypt – we talked about this at Tearfund – the call is to leave Egypt and to be a certain kind of presence the world. So when you say hey, we’re out of Egypt, isn’t that great, you’re saved – as Paul says in Ephesians 2, mizboh – you’re saved to do good deeds, to repair and restore the world. So yeah, he’s right on.

Couldn’t agree more!"