Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jesus Army gig

Every month or two the Jesus army has a big get together. Cue colurful occasions packed with friendship, worship, prayer, drama, dance, usually some baptisms of those who've decided to follow Jesus...

Here's some photos of our recent big bash in Sheffield: the Jesus Fellowship Praise Day last Saturday:

Crowd gathers
Warming up
Come as you are
Drama: Tree of knowledge
Anger dramatised
Death dramatised
Christ dramatised
Lights in the world
Remembering the martyrs
Prayer is care

Prickly innocence

My aunt sent me some pictures of a baby hedgehog, so I'm posting them here for my children. Very sweet...

Friday, October 23, 2009

'mJa untamed'

One of the last words our founder, Noel, spoke to us as a church before he died earlier this year was that we ought to be 'untamed'.

As a church, we've pioneered quite a few risky ventures in our time, and sometimes taken flack for it. Residential Christian community with all things in common, I passionately belive to be a wonderful vision - but I've seen it twisted to appear like control or deprivation of freedom. Being an upfront 'Jesus army' gets to the nitty-gritty of where the UK is hurting and seeks to make a difference to the poorest. But I've seen it pilloried as the 'barmy army' a hard-recruting, over-laddish (or even thuggish) approach to Christianity. Jesus Centres, providing 'friendship and help for all' have won widespread public support, but we face all the internal risks of a venture that stretches our resources, capacity - and our faith.

We've not sat still as a church; we're nothing if not activists. Even so, there's the danger, always, that we sit back on our laurels, pat ourselves on our collective back as a 'radical church', waking up one day to find ourselves washed up on the shores of irrelevancy, living in the fading light of our former glory days.

God forbid.

And so our founding leader gave the call - stay wild, keep taking risks. Once we know what we're called to, we must ride the criticism and see it through: humbly, patiently - yet resolutely. Untamed.

We want to take the challenge to heart. 'mJa untamed' has become something of a watchword among us. It feels significant, like the last word from our founding era. People talk it up, chew it over. We've even made some t-shirts displaying it.

Well - I've bought the t-shirt. Now to live the life...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Forget fishing!

Photo by lute1 www.sxc.huWrote this bible study recently on the last chapter of John's Gospel.

This final chapter of John is an epilogue after the formal close of the Gospel [20:30-31]. It focuses upon two key apostles in the first Church.

Peter is disgraced. He denied Jesus three times [18:15-18,25-27] and has returned to his old life: fishing. But even that no longer works for him [v.3]; he is a broken man. Jesus deliberately takes Peter back to the beginning: the miraculous catch of fish is very similar to Peter’s first encounter with Jesus [v.5-6, see Lk.5:1-11]. Then, Peter had cried out 'I am a sinful man!' Now, three years later, he is more aware of his sin than ever – but Jesus reaffirms his love for him and trust in him. Three times Jesus asks Peter the crucial question: 'Do you love Me?' Three times Peter answers, and three times Jesus recommissions him to leadership. Peter’s threefold denial is lovingly undone; he is given a new start and called again, as at the beginning: 'Follow Me' [v.19].

John is different; he followed Jesus to the Cross. He is even called 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' [v.7, 20]. Peter’s question ('Lord, what about this man?' [v. 21]) may well mean ‘Wouldn’t he be a better leader?’ But Jesus, while not denying that John will faithfully play his part, simply reaffirms His call to Peter. There are times when you must not compare yourself to others, but get on with God has called you to.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Between life and death

If variety is the spice of life, and myrrh the spice of death, good poetry seasons everything in between.

This achingly beautiful poem by R S Thomas, who I've been reading again recently, is about marriage - and more than that. It captures the sense of the rush of time, our mortality and the fragility of the present. It's very tender and makes me want to live more deliberately. (And it makes me thank God for my wife.)

A Marriage by R S Thomas

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
love's moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
'Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance, And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.