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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Start:Stop - Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’

Bible readings

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. Matthew 5. 13

Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. Mark 9. 49 & 50.


What does it mean to be a Christian at work or in society? For many of us this may be the question with which we struggle most within our faith. One of the key metaphors Jesus uses to help us think through this question is that of salt. Salt flavours, preserves and (in ancient cultures) purifies food. Jesus’ teaching about salt suggests that Christians should have a similar role in their society and communities. Gerard Kelly has unpacked this as meaning that “every gift you have been given … your intelligence and artistry; your creativity and character; your strength and stamina – these have been given to you so that you can work with God to unlock the full potential of his [world].” (G. Kelly, Humanifesto, Spring Harvest, 2001)

H. Richard Niebuhr proposed five different relationships that the Christian can have with our culture. These are Opposition; Agreement; Christ above culture; Tension; and Reformation. In reflecting on these options and thinking which comes closest to Jesus’ call for our lives to do the job of salt in our society, Steven H. VanderLeest, Jeffrey Nyhoff, and Nancy Zylstra apply these categories to something which is a standard part of our workplaces, the computer (Being Fluent and Faithful in a Digital World).

The first two options Niebuhr gives us are the extremes. Opposition means that the Christian opposes all cultural artefacts as "worldly." For information technology, this would mean that the Christian would see the computer as just one more instance of depravity, one more example of how sin infects everything we do. Agreement takes the other extreme, where Christians find their religion to be fundamentally compatible with the culture around them. Here, the computer is simply an extension of God's good creation, put here for us to develop and use as we wish.

The last three choices are somewhere between the extremes. The "Christ above culture" option was advocated by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas would look at the computer and see it as a fine product of culture, but, as such, it could never approach the sublime beauty of Christ. The tension option, advocated by Martin Luther, places the Christian in a tension between Christ and culture. We are in the world but not of it and must be careful not to estrange ourselves from the world, but at the same time not to embrace it either. In short, we are citizens of two worlds that are often at odds with each other. Applied to information technology, the computer may be used, but with care not to indulge too deeply.

The final option is for a transformational, or re-formational approach. The Christian must recognize three truths: first, that culture is a manifestation of God's good creation, an outgrowth of human creativity and community; second, that sin deeply infects every part of the creation, including human culture; and third, that we can redeem culture in the name of Christ. This redemption is a transformation of culture by seeking, enhancing, and celebrating the original good we find in cultural artefacts while identifying the effects of sin (and working to reduce those effects). The computer is, therefore, an extension of God's good creation and thus has wondrous potential. However, it also exhibits the deep effects of sin. Christians are thus called to transform information technology in the name of Christ.

It is this transformational, or re-formational approach which seems to reflect most fully Christ’s teaching about salt. So let us reflect for a moment on the power of salt to preserve from rot, and to bring out the many flavours of food. As we do so, let us ask God to show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty,’ both in its role on the earth and in our workplaces (Humanifesto).


Transforming God, may we bring out the many flavours of our culture and workplaces by seeking, enhancing, and celebrating the original good there, while preserving from rot by identifying the effects of sin and working to reduce those effects. Enable us to use every gift we have been given; our intelligence and artistry, our creativity and character, our strength and stamina, to work with God to unlock the full potential of this world.

Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’ in our role on the earth and in our workplaces.

Gifting God, let us all take time to look deep within ourselves and discover the gifts you have blessed us with. May we take the time to direct our lives in a way that best uses our own unique combination of gifts. May our education help us discover where our strengths and interests lie. May our faith guide us in realizing our gifts. May we always be open to the direction of the Spirit and never forget the love you have for each of us. May we use our gifts for the benefit of others and for the common good.

Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’ in our role on the earth and in our workplaces.

Grant us a vision of your world as your love would have it: a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor; a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect; a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love. Give us, through Jesus Christ, the inspiration and courage to build it.

Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’ in our role on the earth and in our workplaces.


Being granted a vision of our world as God’s love would have it, unlocking the full potential of this world, using every gift we have been given, using our gifts for the common good. May all those blessings of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Mark Heard - Treasure Of The Broken Land.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Greenbelt: Gentleness, Care, Spirituality and Vocation

I had a great day at Greenbelt today seeing friends from my cell group and from current and former churches. I caught part of Nadia Bolz-Weber's talk on Accidental Saints (especially her modern Beatitudes), Harry Baker presents ... (with Caleb Femi and Vanessa Kisuule), and Drew Worthley. I also got to whole sets from Josie Long, the majestic Mike Peters, and the wonderful singers and dancers from Alrowwad Cultural Centre as part of Cafe Palestinia (which also featured Peter Banks, co-author of 'The Secret Chord', performing with Garth Hewitt). Click here and here for more information about the issues and campaigns featured in Cafe Palestrinia.

I first saw The Alarm in 1983 at the Hammersmith Palais as support to U2 on the 'War' tour, so seeing Mike Peters at Greenbelt (reprising The Alarm's slightly later 1986 UCLA gig) was both a reminder of the Hammersmith Palais gig and also of how affirming and anthemic is the music they made.  

Michael Ramsey Prize winner John Swinton spoke on 'Gentleness, Care, Spirituality and Vocation'. He told a story about Jean Vanier calming another person with a look, a touch and shared movement. As with Kosuke Koyama's Three Mile an Hour God, gentleness involves slowing down. He highlighted the second creation account in Genesis as being a story about care for our environment and each other. Receiving care is therefore a key part of what it means to be human. In Western culture, our focus in terms of spirituality is often self-actualisation but spirituality is communal. Inclusion is belonging and people need to miss you when you are not there. We are called to knowing Jesus, rather than know about Jesus, and that is the work of the Spirit in us. Our identity is found in Christ. We are hidden in Christ and remembered by God. In answering the question, 'What does it mean to be a disciple or have a vocation while having dementia?', he told the story of Beatrice and the chaplain at her nursing home. Beatrice began to pray herself when the chaplain started to prayed for her. Beatrice then prayed for 15 minutes and her chaplain commented that she hadn't thought of Beatrice as a prayer warrior until that point. Sometimes our vocation is to do absolutely nothing but to offer communion - silence, attention, space etc - in order to encounter the spirit (nephesh) of the person, spirit to spirit. We need to open our eyes and mind, so we can see the situation differently, remembering that when Jesus sits with the marginalised, the margins shift.


The Alarm - Walk Forever By My Side.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Windows on the world (407)

London, 2016


Deacon Blue - The Believers.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Margate & Turner Contemporary



Today I went to Turner Contemporary in Margate to visit 'Seeing Round Corners: The Art of the Circle,'  which explores the significance and symbolism of the circle and sphere in art and culture; architecture and engineering; astronomy and geometry; optics and perception; religion, spirituality and everyday life.

Featuring more than 100 works – from 3000BC to the present day, the exhibition brings together artworks and artefacts that reflect a vast range of themes and ideas from roundness, rotation and visual perception to wonderment and cycles of time. The exhibition encompasses sculpture, film, painting, design, installation, performance and photography, with works by leading historical and contemporary artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Nash, Barbara Hepworth, JMW Turner, Theaster Gates, Rebecca Horn, David Shrigley and Bridget Riley.

Also at the Gallery are two major works by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Co-commissioned by Turner Contemporary and 14-18 NOW, Shonibare’s newest sculptural work 'End of Empire' explores how alliances forged in the First World War changed British society forever, and continue to affect us today. The new work features two figures dressed in the artist’s signature bright and patterned fabrics; their globe-heads highlighting the countries involved in the First World War. Seated on a Victorian see-saw, the entire work slowly pivots in the gallery space, offering a metaphor for dialogue, balance and conflict, while symbolising the possibility of compromise and resolution between two opposing forces.

Presented alongside this new commission is Shonibare’s 'The British Library,' a colourful work, celebrating and questioning how immigration has contributed to the British culture that we live in today. Shelves of books covered in colourful wax fabric fill the Sunley Gallery, their spines bearing the names of first and second generation immigrants who have enriched British society. From T.S. Eliot and Hans Holbein to Zaha Hadid, The British Library reminds us that the displacement of communities by global war has consequences that inform our lives and attitudes today.

In Margate Old Town \I saw work by David Bunting, Abbott van Dada, Jose Inacio Fonseca, Gay Gower and Luda Ludmila. Gower, Bunting and Fonseca were at King Street Art Gallery & Studio in a group show entitled 'The Eclectics' which is part of Thanet Open Studios. Dada and Ludmila are at the Pie Factory with a mixed media exhibition consisting of quality sculptured jewellery worked in solid gold and silver part of the new Dada collection along with his bespoke oak furniture, plus textured acrylics by Ludmila


Morrissey - Everyday is like Sunday.

Monday, 22 August 2016

St Stephen Walbrook - Autumn 2016 Newsletter

The latest newsletter for St Stephen Walbrook can be viewed by clicking here.

This edition includes:

Hunter Singers - Locus Iste.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Making Beauty & The Third Paradise

Last year I saw Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva's 'Fragility' for Fabrica Gallery, Brighton. This installation forms the breathtaking entrance to her first major UK show at the Djanogly Gallery Nottingham. The exhibition entitled Making Beauty also includes the first UK showing of ‘Haruspex’ commissioned by the Vatican for the Venice Biennale, 2015.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva is a site-specific installation artist working across the varied media of sculpture, installation, video and sound, photography and architectural interventions. Her materials range from the unusual to the ordinary, from the ephemeral to the precious; they include organic materials, foodstuffs and precious metals.

Making Beauty is a new body of work made in collaboration with academics in medical departments of the universities of Nottingham, East Anglia and London, introducing highly regarded medical research activity to a wider public. Her work has been informed by their work on nutrition, healthy diet, our gut, and the development of highly specialised - invisible to the eye - manufactured parts providing solutions to medical problems. The sculptures reveal the fragility of our bodies and reflect the delicate nature of these medical components. The work has been supported by a research grant from the Wellcome Trust.

For summer 2016, Fabrica is presenting a work by internationally-renowned Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, a leading light of the Arte Povera movement of the 1960s. The work features a labyrinth constructed from cardboard which leads to a mirror with a symbol laid out in coins.

The symbol, the infinity sign altered to add a central loop represents The Third Paradise. According to Pistoletto’s manifesto written in 2003, The Third Paradise seeks to reconcile the conflict between the first and second paradises of nature and human artifice. This conflict is leading toward global destruction but the third paradise offers a solution, a resolution that will save the planet and humanity.

The Third Paradise is the new myth that leads everyone to take personal responsibility at this momentous juncture. The idea of the Third Paradise is to lead artifice—that is, science, technology, art, culture and political life—back to the Earth, while engaging in the reestablishment of common principles and ethical behaviour.


Moby - Everything That Rises / The Last Day (Poordream Remix).

Windows on the world (406)

London, 2016


Ralph Vaughan Williams - Te Deum in C.