Saturday, October 18, 2008

I was reminded yesterday that I only have about a year and a half left before ordination...this came as no surprise, but did set me thinking about how unprepared I really am for the whole thing!

I have been on two funeral visits this week which I obviously can't comment on in any detail here, it is enough to say that one of them was pretty harrowing. Even though I only had to sit there and care, it was a difficult experience. Whilst I realise how much there is still to learn before I will be remotely ready to start my curacy, I also feel very affirmed in these daunting situations.

It has occured to me that ministering to people is not just what I want to do, it is what I am! Am I changing my theology on the ontological nature of ordained ministry? I'm not sure.. I DO know that I believe that all Christians have a specific calling within which Jesus channels his love and through whom he chooses to fulfill his purposes. Whether that means all are included in the ontological nature of calling (just different callings), I don't know. Can a teacher really not be a teacher when s/he is not teaching or a Doctor not be a doctor when s/he isn't on duty?

I will have to reflect on this further.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We have a very cute pair of guinea pigs called Ginger and Tufty. We recently moved them into their new accomodation which is a rather smart apartment with a grassy area underneath in which they can graze and generally poddle about. Upstairs is their bedroom with warm shavings and straw and of course their food. I should imagine it is bliss for a guinea pig...

BUT, do they ever look beyond the enclosure at the garden beyond and wonder what it would be like to be out there? It must be hard to see the sunny part of the garden when you are stuck in the shady bit, or eye up that lovely bunch of dandelions which are just out of reach. They don't know what it is like not having to rely on me to move them to pastures new or on my choice of food for them. They don't know anything else but our garden. It could get very boring...if they ever thought about it.

Being outside their comfort zone would have its negatives of course. They may be eaten by a fox or injured by a cat! If they managed to find somewhere safe as a bed, they wouldn't be as warm and cosy as they are in the hutch. (No nice warm straw there.) The would have to be totally independent for food and shelter, foraging for what they could get and accepting the unfamiliar.

So why am I musing about all this? It struck me that Christians can be in either position. We can get comfortable in our churches, in the activities which we enjoy and are good at, in the friendship groups we are used to. We can be passive and reliant on the leadership to tell us where and why..poddling about as we have always done. Or we can hear God's call out of the comfort of the enclosure and go where things may not be as familiar; where it may be more dangerous and less reliable and comfortable. Daunting huh? The upside it that God may have the spiritual equivalent of a bunch of dandelions waiting for us, which would have always been out of reach before. We may be able to bask in patches of sunshine at the far end of the garden. We may even visit entirely new gardens never seen before in which there may be lettuces and tomatoes or even more guinea pigs... who knows?

Only those who step out of the comfort zone get to find out! Are you prepared to?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why do some Christians and branches of Christianity come across at best as eccentric and at worst total lunatics, who need locking up? Is it because they are total fruitcakes or is it because I am just not holy enough to recognise their unique understanding of God's revelation which they enjoy? As an example, it seems as if some feel it is entirely rational to brand Barack Obama as the anti Christ, see this for the full story.

Why is it that a sizable proportion of the church seem to spend so much time debating issues which are red herrings? Shouldn't we as Christians be taking a leaf out of Jesus book (he spent much of his time talking to tax collectors and sinners I recall,) and concentrating on talking to people about their need for God?

Instead they seem to be getting involved in pointless arguments and speculative rhetoric, like the Pharisees did. This kind of pejorative, ego driven criticism really makes me mad!! Even if Barack were some kind of anti messiah, will discussing it in detail help? Yes, we are called to be aware of false prophets and to be on our guard, but the endless debate and speculation over so called 'end of the world prophecies' is just pointless! Wouldn't it be better (if those who believe this stuff have integrity), to encourage Christians to get out there and triple their evangelistic efforts, if they truly believe that the end is so close??

I have to say that if we are looking for the powers of darkness, then I am more worried about this branch of the church being a tool for Satan. Who knows how many searching people are being put off looking into Christianity because of this sacremongering tripe? Whilst they are debating the reasons why Barack, (or any other politician they don't especially like), is or isn't the anti christ, they have taken their eyes off the real task of speaking to people about Jesus.

It's not as if we are not warned in scripture keep our eyes firmly fixed on the ball...Paul tells us not to get involved in arguments over pointless things in Titus chapter 3..

8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

If they feel that they are correct; then fine, get out there and intensify evangelistic efforts! After all, if the end times are that close then evanglelism can be the only rational response...If they are wrong, what immense judgemental damage have they done to smear and damn the integrity of Barack Obama?

Who will be next to receive this kind of vitriol I wonder?
Anyone else who doesn't quite fit into their particular understanding of Christianity I suppose..I'd better hold onto my hat...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pastoral ministry can be hard...especially when bad situations don't seem to change and you are at a loss as to what on earth you can do. It can be frustrating when you think you have it all worked out and then a situation doesn't go according to plan..
The problem is they're MY plans, not Gods...
Pastoral ministry can also be one of the most fulfilling tasks you can ever be part of, when you find that you have been used by God to help, even just by listening. Listening is SUCH a vital part of ministry and I am learning that more and more. As a naturally gregarious and fairly vocal person, it can also be difficult for me, but it is getting easier, especially as I see the difference it can make.
Keep them coming Lord...I'll do my best!