i know it's nearly christmas and you've got other things on your mind but i wanted to flag up the ReSource weekend in sheffield at the beginning of february so you have time to book if you are interested. ReSource provides immersive mission experience weekends in a range of locations and contexts. there are plenty of courses out there that impart head knowledge but we think we learn best by meeting people who are doing mission, by hanging out with their communities, hearing their stories and then thinking about what we can learn for our own contexts. throw in some great food and other inspiring people on the weekends and you've got a great mix! the sheffield weekend is called big and small and is a weekend to explore the diversity found across new forms of church. here's the blurb from the flyer
Starting a church with a team of thirty can be a very different experience to starting from scratch with one or two others. This weekend tells the stories of a few churches and mission projects in Sheffield which together show how diverse both the process of starting out and sustaining what grows can be. You’ll have the opportunity to visit Uncut and City Base as well as hearing the stories of Christ Church Central, and Louise Yaull, a Church Army evangelist working in GP surgeries. Together we’ll reflect on their theology and practice. There will also be additional input from leading researchers in the field able to give a national perspective.
i don't preach very often and when i do i am not in the habit of writing sermons out word for word, but because i needed to remember detail and wanted to keep to time i write out a talk i prepared for st marys in ealing yesterday. i actually got the wrong passage so thought i was supposed to be unlocking some gems from jesus' family tree as outlined at the beginning of matthew's gospel. anyway as i have written it out i thought i'd post it here in case it's of interest...
I have a confession - about a month ago when I glanced at the reading for today I misread it and thought it was the first half of Matthew chapter 1 which is the genealogy of Jesus - on the surface not the most exciting reading, a list of names - but I was sad enough to be excited because I like a challenge and also because it contains a few hidden gems. So I am going to focus on that which does connect and lead perfectly into today's reading of the coming of the messiah into the world which is the second half of the same chapter.
Who's looking forward to the Royal wedding next year? One of the issues that was being discussed early on was whether Kate was of good enough stock for royalty - isn't she a commoner?! The messiah would surely have to be of good stock and there are no surprises when Matthew kicks off his narrative [v1]
'This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.'
Matthew is writing for Jews in large part to convince them that their longing for a rescuer, the anointed one, the Christ, the messiah is fulfilled in Jesus. Straightaway he hooks into this longing and sense of good stock by showing that Jesus is in the direct lineage of Abraham and David - two patriarchs and immense figures of the faith. He then lists Isaac, Jacob, Judah… and the reader settles into the familiar roots of the Jewish story.
I saw 'the American' recently. It opens up with a romantic scene - a happy couple caressing. They wake the next day and it's magical snow that they walk across and all of a sudden George Clooney notices footprints and pulls the girl into cover when a shot rings out. What had seemed to be a nice smooth opening has suddenly taken a twist. There is tension in the plot - something else is going on! In a lot of films and books, how they open the story is crucial to setting up plot lines and tension and giving you clues for later.
So we have a happy genealogy going swimmingly when Matthew throws in a shocking twist
'Judah… whose mother was Tamar' [v3]
Tamar is actually the first of 4 women that are a series of shocks creating plot tension, 4 mothers who get mentioned before Mary, the fifth and final mother. In order they are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah's wife (who we know to be Bathsheba but she is not named here). It is incredibly unusual for women to be included - Jewish bloodline dealt with the father, son, grandson etc i.e the male line. And these are not good stock, not 'good' women. They are not the celebrated matriarchs - Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel and so on. They are all connected with some sin and lawbreaking.They are all gentiles, outsiders - Tamar a canaanite; Rahab of Jericho, Ruth a Moabitess, and the wife of Uriah was a Hittite.
Tamar - this story is embarrassing to even read. [Genesis 38]
Tamar marries Judah's son Er who is wicked and struck down by God. Not having children was shameful and the cultural thing to do would be for someone next of kin to give her a child. This is Onan, Er's brother who does sleep with Tamar but spills his seed as he doesn't want a child to be recognised as his brother's heir. There is another brother so Judah says she will have to wait until he is older but deliberately forgets and leaves her in shame and isolation. After Judah's wife dies Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with him. When he hears she has become pregnant through prostitution he says she should be burned to death but she sends him his staff which he had given as a fee and he realises his own shameful behaviour. This story of incest, deception, prostitution. This shame has been woven directly into Jesus' story.
Rahab - she was 'a harlot'. He story is that when the Israelites were scouting out Jericho she let soldiers lodge with her. Then when the invasion came she hung a red cord from her window and her and her household were spared. She is commended in Hebrews 11:31 for her faith.
Ruth - there is a whole book of the bible which tells her tale. But in short she leaves her homeland after the death of her husband to travel with her mother in law Naomi to Israel. Through a series of circumstances and her own kindness she is married to Boaz. There is no blot on her character but as a Moabitess she was under a curse. Deut 23:3 tells us that because of sin the Moabites were shut out of the congregation of the Lord. God's own word shut Ruth out by law and yet she is in the ancestry of Jesus Christ! Salvation comes to those who the law shuts out.
Uriah's wife - we don't know why she is not named as Bathsheba though being forgotten and nameless is a common experience for women the world over. Uriah was always described as Uriah the Hittite so it's certainly a signal in the mind of the reader that she is gentile, an outsider. Bathsheba - David commits adultery by having an affair with her and arranging for her husband to be killed. Her first child dies but her second is Solomon. Another shameful circumstance where mercy triumphs over judgement.
So you see what Matthew is doing - just when it seems like he is demonstrating Jesus good pedigree as the messiah he is shocking his readers by including women, including gentiles, including sinners, including shameful stories, including those who the law says should not belong.
[I haven't got time to elaborate on this but a point that is easily missed is that the men in this list are not so squeaky clean either - Mannaseh and Ahaz and even David - war mongering, idolatrous, adulterers, sacrificed own children, murderers….]
Wow! What is going to happen next? Who is this Messiah? Where is Matthew going with this? The messiah's history is one of grace. Curiously this passage, a family tree, is the most reassuring piece of scripture. Do you feel worthy to be part of God's family? Are you good enough? Are there things in your story and life that fill you with shame? Do you feel like you don't belong? You're an outsider? Well guess what - this Jesus has come into the world for just such a person as you. 'I have not come for the righteous but to save sinners…'
The last woman and mother to appear is a pregnant teenager who is not married - Mary, the godbearer. Whilst the readers might have begun with the thought that a messiah would never appear in that way maybe now they will think twice. Matthew has made the case convincingly that grace can come, that a messiah can come through circumstances that you might not expect. The OT reading this morning was a reminder that indeed that is exactly how it was prophesied it would be [Isaiah 7].
Harry is going to leave you with a poem about Mary, the mother of God.
posterous have added a new group facility that looks pretty good. i certainly love the way their blog works for groups. call me a heretic but i find facebooks groups almost completely useless! hopefully this is better...?
harry sent me a link to the second edition of the tongue fu podcast - it's a selection of poetry and spoken word from the tongue fu event. the basic appraoch is that musicians create a beat and groove over which poets speak - all very improvised. on this edition are a few wonderful pieces including a couple from kate tempest. [thinking of harry today representing the uk in a final in france!!!]
One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
grace last was a wonderful mix of stations for our christmas nine. just to recap 9 artists/groups took a reading from the traditional nine lessons christmas service and created an installation in response. they had to a) choose a piece of music to play and b) use a 2m square frame. for mine i laid the frame flat and filled it with soil and wrote the words your kingdom come with candles in response to the prophecy in isaiah 9:2, 6-7 - the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. above the frame i had a screen projecting the video unwrap our darkness that i made last advent. the tune i played was robert plant's satan your kingdom must come down. lots of people were taking photos of the various stations which will follow at some point but here's a movie i took...
harry is doing a gap year this year and trying to focus on poetry (as well as earning some money). he's been on a huge roll since winning the edinburgh festival poetry slam back in august and has now won 5 slams. one of these was part of a national contest so he is going on to the final of that this coming weekend. but he struck lucky because there is also a european final with 12 countries represented. but because it is too close to the uk final, the organisers decided the winner of the london slam should represent the uk. so harry is going to france next week for the reims slam d'europe - totally amazing!
if you want to see him in action there are a few bits and pieces online -
i get sent books from publishers. sometimes they ask if i'm interested but more often they just arrive - addressed to jonnybaker blog! i never promise to review them though in many ways i wish i had more time as i think books are wonderful and do like to comment on things (unless i really don't like them and then i can't see the point of a review that is totally negative). well this week a book arrived that i had not caught whim of but was a real surprise - common prayer. no - i am not talking about the one that was out in 1662 but a brand new fat hardback that has come out of the new monasticism movement in the US - authored by jonathan wilson hartgrove, shane claiborne, and enuma okoro. it's delightful - laying out liturgies and readings for communities or families (or an individual though it's clearly a book for communal prayer) in the morning, midday and evening along with some songs and occasional prayers and reflections.
something's going on! the tradition is being opened up and re-discovered for a new generation in a very different way. you get the impression that for some this whole approach is very new with explanations of what liturgy is, the church year and so in the introduction. if you have grown up in a setting where this sort of stuff is normal i suspect it will be easy to dismiss this. but you shouldn't - this is genuinely exciting. i think some who love tradition will be shocked that this is out published by zondervan, and the relaxed tone of the intro with words like cool in the mix - it's not exactly a heavyweight religious community feel. but i like that - let's relax and open up the gifts of the tradition in ways that are accessible. many of those making the rediscoveries of liturgy and so on are from the evangelical end of the church where their worship has been dominated by worship bands, preaching and ministry. i think this affords a different kind of depth, reportoire and rhythm in worship.
if you want a flavour of it there is a web site which i assume will become a portal and hub that can grow this resourcing of a movement.
we're going to see more resources like this. i have come across several groups who have created rhythms for their communities and liturgies and a rhythm of prayer and so on. cms, the mission community i belong to, are working on a year book of prayer. it's part of a shift to understand church as being about a life that is lived and fuelled through a rhythm of prayer as opposed to simply being about a once a week gathering. it's also about a maturing recognition that to be a community in the church is to be connected historically and globally into the body of christ and to unite with that rather than ignore it.
it's also a massive piece of work to do something like this. as i say a nice surprise. i have yet to try using the prayers in a communal setting...
it's grace christmas service this saturday evening. we are revisiting nine which was something of a grace tradition but we took a few years off to do other things. but by popular demand it's back only this time with a slightly different take. it will be a series of stations/installations created by members of grace. each station is a response to one of the traditional readings from the nine lessons and carols christmas service and will incorporate a large wooden frame and a tune chosen by the artists. should be fun! a cafe will run through the evening with the obligatory mulled wine and mince pies and DJ... hope to see you there.
you may wonder where i have been recently - in that my blog has been pretty lame! the honest truth is that i have not been as busy as i have in the last 9 months for quite a number of years (and i am generally a busy person). no one has been frank enough to leave a comment to tell me to pull my finger out and improve the blog so i thank you for your patience! people have sent me books and i haven't managed to review them and so on. i fear it will carry on this way for a while yet... but it's also been an exciting time. one year ago almost exactly i was sat with a group of people dreaming about what we would do to train leaders - we produced a ton of flip chart sheets and an action plan (the actions were pretty much all for me to do!). i thought deep down it was incredibly optimistic. but a year on and a training course is up and running and we have done what we wrote and i have just finished teaching the first module of the course which may seem a small deal but i felt pretty excited inside...
a friend, sam, described to me the process of developing a training course as being like pushing a boulder uphill, but that once the students arrive it all changes. there is energy and suddenly the thing is rolling and you are running to keep up. that has been exactly my experience with the pioneer mission leaders training! it’s been so exciting to get started back in september after all the planning.
we (cms) have 10 people taking part in the pilot year of the course and we and they are really enjoying it. they are amazing people involved in mission in different contexts - church plants, comedy clubs, with spiritual seekers, with homeless and broken people, with young adults. we have 50/50 men and women and they range in age from 20s to 60s - pioneering is something that is about gift and calling and not age or gender.
anyway all this is by way of saying i have written a fourth newsletter (the other three are linked to from this one if you missed them). at some point in the new year we'll shift to a web site and some kind of brochure/publicity but for now the newsletters are it. if you know anyone who might be interested do forward the newsletter on - we are currently relying on word of mouth.
if you are interested in finding out about the training as a student we have an open day on march 1 - we are looking to recruit people for next year. if you are interested as a sponsor, bishop, training officer, selector or anything that is in a training/supporting role we have an open day for you on march 2.
it's the first of december - wow! i am so not ready for that... here's our proost news for advent which has links to advent and christmas resources
Ten Thousand Places is this month's proost release. It's a delightful collection of poems from Chris Goan spanning themes of humanity, faith, wilderness, community, mission and family. Chris is part of the community Aoradh in Dunoon, Scotland. It's available as a pdf download or as a physical book.
Today is the beginning of advent. Just a quick reminder of some of the resources on proost for this season...
9 lessons is flash animation . Run the flash file (in a browser or flash player) and there are 9 animating loops corresponding to each of the nine lessons and carols from the traditional Christmas service. But here's the brilliant part - each one loops for as long as you like while you do the reading and whatever else. Then you simply click on the play button in the corner to move on to the next image.
nine - nine artists interpret the traditional nine readings with 6 movies and 3 songs.
wait - Vaux's simple but powerful movie and liturgy on waiting in advent.
silent night - a movie that's ideal for pretty much any Christmas service
If you are a subscriber the movie Unwrap our Darkness (inspired by Cheryl Lawrie's Christmas confession in Hold This Space which has some lovely advent prayers in) is a free bonus movie in the downloads section.
Then of course lots of liturgies and songs on the advent theme elsewhere in the books and audio sections...
If you subscribe of course you can access the content in the downloads area as part of your subscription. if not you can buy the individual items or subscribe now...
Have a great season of Advent!
Jonny, Jon, Aad