Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Nobody likes evangelism - Watchnight sermon

“I want to let you into a secret. Nobody likes evangelism. Not you. Not me. Not Christians. Not non-Christians.” So writes Krish Kandiah, from the Evangelical Alliance. He continues: "Of course, everyone celebrates when somebody is converted. We all long for our friends and family to know the hope that somebody once shared with us. But the business of actually telling them about God often ends up feeling awkward, politically incorrect, frightening, messy and time-consuming.”

“According to a recent Evangelical Alliance survey of 17,000 UK evangelical Christians, the older we are in years and faith, the less likely we are to share our beliefs. This survey, 21st Century Evangelicals, also showed that although 90% of us are convinced that we should be active in evangelism, the likelihood that we will speak to anyone this month about God is no more than 60%. The survey confirmed what many of us already feel: evangelism is important – but it just isn’t happening.”

“Why is it so difficult to talk about the most central and significant part of our lives? Why do so many of us feel timid, but appear arrogant? Or feel unqualified, but appear Biblebashing? What does evangelism need to look like to be biblically faithful and culturally relevant, an integral and inspirational part of our walk with God, and a natural part of our relationships with others?”

“Evangelism doesn’t have to mean arm-twisting our neighbours into attending church meetings, or forcing our colleagues to come to terms with their own mortality in their coffee break. Evangelism doesn’t have to be formulaic, middle class, manipulative or misleading. Evangelism doesn’t have to be a war of words or wills. Evangelism should not be a chore, a challenge – or a choice.” As we will see, “Evangelism Jesus-style is for all his disciples as we live authentic, humble lives.”

So, how do people become Christians? Well, there are many different ways. No two people have the same story. Many people are brought up in the church. They are evangelised and nurtured through their family and through all the contacts within the church that they have as they grow up. Some lapse away from church and then come back to a living faith later in life. Others stay as part of the church but are still not really sure what they believe. Others come into contact with the God and the claims of the gospel through all sorts of circumstances, things as varied as moving house, losing a loved one, reading a book, the birth of a child, chatting to a friend, or looking into a star filled sky. Something happens to open people up to the possibility of God, and so begins the journey of discovery that we call coming to faith in Jesus Christ. But one thing is common to every story, and that is the presence and the loving purposes of God. God is the evangelist. God is the one who calls people. God is the one who is known to people though Jesus Christ.

Our job as the church isn’t to convert people – only God can do that – but to allow God to use us in his constant desire to make Christ known to everyone. We do this by trying to live Christ-like lives, by serving our local communities, by providing opportunities for people to find out about the Christian faith, and by sharing the story of our own faith and the story of Jesus. This intentional ministry of witnessing to Christ and helping people make the journey of faith is what the church calls evangelism.

Our Text for 2014 (Colossians 4. 5 – 6) sets this out when it says: “Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.”

This text says that mission and evangelism is about our actions and about our words. To combine these two as our Text for 2014 suggests we just need to rediscover something of our Lord Jesus: “Jesus demonstrated the good news of God in his actions centering on his life, death and resurrection, but also in the way he touched lepers, challenged hypocrisy, fed the hungry and healed the sick.

Jesus’ perfect actions spoke louder than our words ever could. But he didn’t stop there – he explained his actions, finding the right words for the right people and modelling for us the fact that, just as we push back the boundaries of social action, equally we need to be pushing back the boundaries of our conversations.

Sometimes Jesus told a story, sometimes he engaged in discussion, sometimes he reminded people of Old Testament ideas, sometimes preaching, sometimes provoking, sometimes walking away with a punchline. He never used long words, he was never patronising. He was always accessible, always loving, always gracious ... Evangelism Jesus-style is for all his disciples as we live authentic, humble lives.”

Now, there are some who are natural at sharing the gospel, but most of us need help to develop our skills. When it comes to evangelism we have the advantage that God himself is the Evangelist. He wants people everywhere to know his love for them through Christ and he invites us to join with him in this work. For many of us, as we have seen, the thought of speaking about our faith is not natural yet, at the same time we long for our friends, neighbours or relatives, to discover Christ for themselves.

In 2014 the Diocese of Chelmsford will celebrate 100 years of faithful service to Essex and East London. 2014 will be a great time to celebrate the hope which our churches have shared in the living Christ over our first 100 years and to commit to our next 100 years together. Bishop Stephen wants every parish in the diocese to: put on a Mission Weekend as part of the centenary celebrations; try to do one thing in evangelism it has never done before; and have in place a small team of people who have had some training and experience in evangelism. Also in 2014, by working in partnership with churches across London, Crossing London hopes to provide, during Autumn 2014, an opportunity for 10,000+ residents in London and the Home Counties to make a faith commitment and then to grow as disciples of Jesus. Both initiatives encourage us to share our faith with people on the fringe or outside of church and there is training, resources and financial support on offer so that we might make connections and evangelise more effectively in our area.

Do you want your Church to reach people in your parish or benefice more effectively? Do you want people you are in touch with through work or leisure to be transformed through the presence of Christ? Do you want to witness the change that happens when the Kingdom of God breaks into your network and community?

If so, then all of us have a part to play. Some will have a specific gift and calling to share the message of Christ. Others will play their part just by being enabled to talk about their faith with colleagues, friends and neighbours. Some will run groups to help people find out about the Christian faith. Others will play a supportive role, offering hospitality and friendship.

We need to find new ways of connecting with people and sharing with them the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is laid upon us to 'proclaim the faith afresh in each generation'. So, we need this ministry of evangelism to be as normal a part of parish life as worship on Sundays. For without an on-going ministry of evangelism we will fail in our responsibility to answer the call that Jesus gives us at the end of Matthew’s gospel “to make disciples.” And if we are not making and growing disciples all the others things we long to do to make a difference in the world will falter.
 
May we go into 2014 committed to that mission and open to the opportunities which the Diocesan Centenary and Crossing London provide for our mission and ministry here at St John's and in Seven Kings.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John Tavener - Ikon Of Light.

The Image of Christ in Modern Art

For some time I have been arguing that, as Daniel A. Siedell suggested in God in the Gallery, "an alternative history and theory of the development of modern art" is needed, "revealing that Christianity has always been present with modern art, nourishing as well as haunting it, and that modern art cannot be understood without understanding its religious and spiritual components and aspirations." In my Airbrushed from Art History series of posts I have highlighted some of the artists and movements (together with the books that tell their stories) that should feature in that alternative history when it comes to be written.

Richard Harries has recently published The Image of Christ in Modern Art which is a contribution towards the piecing together of this alternative history. The book is based on a series of lectures given through Gresham College and suffers from insufficient editing of the lecture format resulting in much cross-referencing to earlier sections, something which works against the cohesion of its essentially chronological format.

As Rowan Williams wrote in his review of this book, "The art of our age is by no means as secular as some think." Similarly, Harries puts the argument for a comprehensive alternative history of the kind noted above clearly and succintly:

"Interest in contemporary art with a spiritual dimension or religious theme is keener today that it has been since Victorian times. Cathedrals hold exhibitions and commission works, and indeed so do some parish churches. Some of the biggest names in the art world often draw on or refer to a religious theme or seem, to the viewer, to have a spiritual dimension to their work.

It might once have been thought that the advent of modernism before World War I had put an end to art with any explicit religious reference. That has proved not to be the case."

Possibly for this very reason he is also clear about the limited scope (despite the comprehensive claim of its title) of The Image of Christ in Modern Art. He writes in the book's Introduction:

"Apart from one very brief reference to Barnett Newman, there is no art from America. There is also no art from outside Europe included, though I am aware of a rich field to be surveyed, for in every culture where the Christian faith has gained a place there have been artists who have wanted to express their faith through art. Christ for All People: Celebrating a World of Christian Art indicates some of this richness and variety, as does Beyond Belief: Modern Art and the Religious Imagination. There is Christian art from Africa, China and South East Asia. There has been some particularly interesting work from India from people such as Jyoti Sahi, reproduced in Faces of Vision, and Solomon Raj. The focus of this book however, though it begins with the German expressionists, is primarily on Great Britain, especially the post-World War II period."


"The Image of Christ in Modern Art explores the challenges presented by the radical and rapid changes of artistic style in the 20th century to artists who wished to relate to traditional Christian imagery. In the 1930s David Jones said that he and his contemporaries were acutely conscious of ‘the break’, by which he meant the fragmentation and loss of a once widely shared Christian narrative and set of images. In this highly illustrated book, Richard Harries looks at some of the artists associated with the birth of modernism such as Epstein and Rouault as well as those with a highly distinctive understanding of religion such as Chagall and Stanley Spencer. He discusses the revival of confidence associated with the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral after World War II and the commissioning of work by artists like Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and John Piper before looking at the very testing last quarter of the 20th century. He shows how here, and even more in our own time, fresh and important visual interpretations of Christ have been created both by well known and less well known artists. In conclusion he suggests that the modern movement in art has turned out to be a friend, not a foe of Christian art. Through a wide and beautiful range of images and insightful text, Harries explores the continuing challenge, present from the beginning of Christian art, as to how that which is visual can in some way indicate the transcendent."
 
The Image of Christ in Modern Art is, therefore, a valuable addition to books, such as Art, Modernity & Faith, Beyond Belief, Christian ArtGod in the Gallery and On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, which, to some extent, survey aspects of an alternative history of modern art revealing "that Christianity has always been present with modern art." 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Lone Justice - I Found Love.

Windows on the world (274)


London, 2013
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Over The Rhine - All My Favourite People.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The more than (sur-) real

The sur-real (or more than real) seems to suit some artistic mediums better than others. Surrealism's  incongruous juxtapositions (whether satirical or transcendent) seem to work best in instant impact formats like comedy, paintings or songs as opposed to sustained, unfolding narrative-based forms such as films and novels. Here I mean instant in the sense that the incongruity is immediately apparent and acts as a teaser generating a confusion or curiosity which can lead to deeper examination. The surreal looks great visually (i.e. Dali, Magritte et al), is hilarious as alternative comedy (from The Goon Show to Another Case of Milton Jones) and, as documented by Bob Dylan from Bringing It All Back Home to John Wesley Harding, is powerfully affective as images of a "strange, alternate, subterranean America"

I've been particularly enjoying more of Milton Jones' surreal comedy this break, so here are some great examples from the line of absurdist comedy of which he is part:

 

 
 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland - The Mock Turtle's Story.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Text for 2014: Making good use of every opportunity



In 2014 the Diocese of Chelmsford will celebrate 100 years of faithful service to Essex and East London. 2014 will be a great time to celebrate the hope which our churches have shared in the living Christ over our first 100 years and to commit to our next 100 years together. Also in 2014, by working in partnership with churches across London, Crossing London hopes to provide, during Autumn 2014, an opportunity for 10,000+ residents in London and the Home Counties to make a faith commitment and then to grow as disciples of Jesus.

Both initiatives encourage us to share our faith with people on the fringe or outside of church. Bishop Stephen has specifically asked that each Parish in the Diocese organise a Mission Weekend during 2014 as part of the Diocesan Centenary Celebrations. A Mission Weekend is a time set aside for specific events that share the gospel with people on the fringe or outside the church. It is set in the context of understanding how people grow and develop in faith, and of how we become a missionary church, renewing our faith as we share it with others.

Evangelism means sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. It is about telling the story of our faith, witnessing to the difference Christian faith makes, and inviting others to know Christ and be part of his church. Its aim is to make disciples of Christ so that God’s kingdom may be established here on earth.

It happens in many different ways. But all of us have a part to play. Some will have a specific gift and calling to share the message of Christ. Others will play their part just by being enabled to talk about their faith with colleagues, friends and neighbours. Some will run groups to help people find out about the Christian faith. Others will play a supportive role, offering hospitality and friendship.

In the diocese of Chelmsford we need a ministry of evangelism to be as normal a part of parish life as worship on Sundays. For without an on-going ministry of evangelism we will fail in our responsibility to answer the call that Jesus gives us at the end of Matthew’s gospel “to make disciples.” And if we are not making and growing disciples all the others things we long to do to make a difference in the world will falter.

Bishop Stephen has set out his recipe for evangelism. The main ingredients are: faith in Jesus Christ; belief that his life, death and resurrection are good news for all the world and for every person; desire to see God’s kingdom come on earth by blessing and serving the local community; and readiness to face the cost of change and growth.

Take one church. Stir vigorously. But make sure the ingredients do not separate. For this you will need leaders who share responsibility and encourage others to use their gifts, and a laity who want to be part of God’s mission. But there will never be any evangelism unless it flows from a lived relationship with God.

Add appropriate, sustainable, evangelistic events. These small scale do it yourself events give people an opportunity to encounter the church and the gospel. They give expression to the church’s task of sharing that gospel with everyone. They act like yeast, activating all the other ministries and processes which make for effective evangelism.

As you cook consider carefully who this recipe is for. What are the tastes, cultures, passions, personalities, issues and interests of the people you are seeking to feed? Adjust your ingredients accordingly. But, remember, this is a meal many will not have come across before and will inevitably taste a little strange at first.

Add the following ingredients with care and precision. These are the things that will carry the evangelism forward: a place of nurture for those who want to explore faith; people to accompany them on the journey; the gentle challenge to respond to the gospel; processes to enable people to grow up in their faith and discover their own share in Christ’s ministry.

Finally, encourage and equip every Christian to be a witness, helping them to articulate and share their own faith. Without this there will not be enough evangelism to go round. And there are lots of hungry people in the world. Place all this in the warm oven of a loving Christian community and gradually turn up the temperature. Pour on lashings of the Holy Spirit. Bring to the table blazing. Serve with love.

Our Text for 2014 also sets out an approach to mission and evangelism when it says:

“Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.” (Colossians 4. 5 – 6)

This text says that mission and evangelism is about our actions and about our words. To combine these two as our Text for 2014 suggests we just need to rediscover something of our Lord Jesus. Krish Kandiah from the Evangelical Alliance has written that: “Jesus demonstrated the good news of God in his actions centering on his life, death and resurrection, but also in the way he touched lepers, challenged hypocrisy, fed the hungry and healed the sick.

Jesus’ perfect actions spoke louder than our words ever could. But he didn’t stop there – he explained his actions, finding the right words for the right people and modelling for us the fact that, just as we push back the boundaries of social action, equally we need to be pushing back the boundaries of our conversations.

Sometimes Jesus told a story, sometimes he engaged in discussion, sometimes he reminded people of Old Testament ideas, sometimes preaching, sometimes provoking, sometimes walking away with a punchline. He never used long words, he was never patronising. He was always accessible, always loving, always gracious.

Evangelism doesn’t have to mean arm-twisting our neighbours into attending church meetings, or forcing our colleagues to come to terms with their own mortality in their coffee break. Evangelism doesn’t have to be formulaic, middle class, manipulative or misleading. Evangelism doesn’t have to be a war of words or wills. Evangelism should not be a chore, a challenge – or a choice. Evangelism Jesus-style is for all his disciples as we live authentic, humble lives.” 

None of this is a criticism of what we are currently doing. Bishop Stephen has explicitly said that he wants to thank everyone in Chelmsford Diocese for the astonishing ministry done in our local parishes and communities. He sees this Sunday by Sunday and week by week as he travels around the diocese. All sorts of work undertaken, pastorally and evangelistically, which is demonstrating the love of God in beautiful and tangible ways. He wants to thank us and esteem us for this ministry.

But he also sincerely believes that we need to find new ways of connecting with people and sharing with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because we're not doing it already, but because it is laid upon us to 'proclaim the faith afresh in each generation'.
 
May we go into 2014 committed to that mission and open to the opportunities which the Diocesan Centenary and Crossing London provide for our mission and ministry here at St John's and in Seven Kings.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gungor - I Am Mountain.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Courageous: Family breakfast and Fellowship Morning



Saturday 18th January 2014 - 8.30 am: ‘Courageous’ breakfast and movie screening at St John's Seven Kings – enjoy a cooked breakfast for all the family and watch ‘Courageous’, a film about the struggle of four law enforcement officers to grow in commitment to their faith and family.  Entrance is free but donations are welcome (all proceeds to Church funds).

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Neal Morse - Momentum.

New Year events

 


 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mavis Staples - Holy Ghost.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Electric Eden and the New Folk Revival

Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music is an acclaimed history of the evolution of British folk music. Author Rob Young has a fascination with the roots of English folk music and its ties to the British countryside. For the most part the book "is a surefooted guide to the various tangled paths the English folk song has since been taken down by classicists, collectors, revivalists, iconoclasts, pagans, psychedelic visionaries, punks and purists."

The book is in some ways a search for the national psyche which Young notes has been shaped by a "wrestling for possession between competing religious doctrines, heathen, pagan and Christian." Young finds more of interest in folk-rock which is heathen or pagan but, interestingly, he does value the work of Bill Fay, the Biblical references which abound in C.O.B's Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart, and also includes a brief survey of '70's Jesus Music noting that "there were a few groups - After the Fire, Caedmon, Canaan, Cloud, Bryn Haworth, Meet Jesus Music, Narnia, Nutshell, Parchment, Presence, Reynard, Trinity Folk, Water into Wine Band and 11.59 - which managed to make a music that has lasting value, a kind of Eucharistic-progressive sound that sits comfortably with the better acid folk of the period." He highlights, as being of particular interest, Caedmon's self-titled 1978 album, the Water into Wine band's Hill Climbing for Beginners, Bob and Carole Pegg's And Now It Is So Early with Sydney Carter, Carter's A Folk Passion, and the Reflection Records compilation Sounds of Salvation

Young acknowledges that set against "the Dada venom of punk, the angular edges of post-punk and new wave and the plastic seductions of New Romanticism," the "irrelevant, parlous state of folk music in the late 1970s" was revealed. From this point on the book loses focus as Young indulges his liking for Kate Bush, David Sylvian, Talk Talk and Julian Cope without (except in the case of Cope) demonstrating their links to what has gone before. In doing so, Young overlooks the links between punk's political attack and folk's role as the voice of the common people; a connection that Billy Bragg clearly recognised and utilised.   

More recently, Young was one of those interviewed along with Bragg, for Get Folked: The Great Folk Revival which takes up the story Young told and explores the current resurgence in folk's popularity:

"Something incredible has been happening in the music scene over the last few years. Folk - a musical tradition with roots in the pre-electric world - is now becoming the new 21st-century pop phenomenon. Is it the antidote to manufactured music, the new punk, or simply evidence of the enduring appeal of this age-old musical form? This programme features first-hand testimony and intimate, specially shot musical performances from a cross-generational cast of legends, new and old. Richard Thompson, The Lumineers, Jake Bugg, Frank Turner, Akala, Donovan, Martin Carthy, The Unthanks, Alt-J, Newton Faulkner, Seth Lakeman, Bob Geldof and Ade Edmondson are among the contributors."

In introducing the new Folk Revival, the programme references visually the influence of Communion artists including Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling. Although not included in the documentary per se, some of these artists, such as Mumford and Sons and Michael Kiwanuka, continue to tap the Christian influence which, as Young notes in Electric Eden, can be found as a strand within English folk music.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

C.O.B. - Martha And Mary.

A very Tory Christmas: Trouble came looking

Martin Rowson's cartoon, from Monday's Guardian, on a very Tory Christmas accurately sums up this quote from Ricky Ross in the liner notes to Trouble Came Looking:

"I realised there was a malevolence around which sought to punish ordinary people for the mistakes of a few. In older days it also seemed as if there would be a great debate across the country but this time there was little or no sympathy for people who couldn't keep up."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ricky Ross - Trouble Came Looking.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Journey: The long walk is part of the present


This morning for our All-Age Christmas Communion Service at St John's Seven Kings I'm reusing the Christmas Assembly talk which I gave to Downshall Primary School last Friday. It comes from the assemblies.org.uk site and uses last year's John Lewis Christmas advert to reflect upon the cost of care and giving.

Like Jesus coming from heaven to earth, how far will we go to show concern for someone else? Might learning to care and give be the making of us? Loving God, you have given us life. Help us to give a little more love this Christmas and always. Amen.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lily Allen - Somewhere Only We Know.

Love came down at Christmas


The ‘Love’ mosaic that has been hanging at the East End of the St John’s Seven Kings for the past couple of years came down in last night’s winds. It is undamaged and can go back in place when the weather improves but, for now, it is a reminder to us that love came down at Christmas.

Christina Rossetti’s wonderful carol, from which that phrase comes, focuses on the Christ-child as the ultimate expression of love:

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.


Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?


Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.


Through these words, she reminds us firstly that God is love. As the Apostle John wrote, “God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven” (1 John 4. 9 & 10). And, again, “This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us (1 John 3. 16).”

But Rossetti also reminds us that the incarnation, God become human, is as much a sign of love for us as is Christ’s crucifixion. This is what she means by that marvellous phrase “Love came down at Christmas”.

But what does it mean that love came down? When I run Quiet Days on everyday prayer, I often use a prayer by David Adam which provides a clear answer to this question.

Escalator prayer

As I ascend this stair
I pray for all who are in despair

All who have been betrayed
All who are dismayed
All who are distressed
All who feel depressed
All ill and in pain
All who are driven insane
All whose hope has flown
All who are alone
All homeless on the street
All who with danger meet

Lord, who came down to share our plight
Lift them into your love and light

(David Adam, PowerLines: Celtic Prayers about Work, Triangle, 1992)

This prayer uses the imagery of descending and ascending an escalator to pray that those at the bottom of the descent will be understood and ministered to before being then raised up themselves. The prayer is based on the understanding that, through his incarnation and nativity, Christ comes into the messiness of human life, as a human being, to experience all that we experience for himself. The betrayals, dismay, distress, depression, illness, pain, insanity, loss of hope, loneliness, homelessness, danger and despair that many of us experience at periods in our lives and which some experience as their everyday life. Christ comes to understand all this and to bear it on his shoulders to God, through his death on the cross, in order that, like him, we too can rise to new life and ascend to the life of God himself. “Lord, who came down to share our plight / Lift them into your love and light.” This is the hope held out to us through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem; that he was born into poverty, exile, danger, stigma for our sake, in order to reach out to and rescue us.

God, in Jesus, “had to become like his people in every way, in order to be their faithful and merciful High Priest in his service to God, so that the people's sins would be forgiven. And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself was tempted and suffered” (Hebrews 2. 17 & 18). “... we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God — Jesus, the Son of God. Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God's throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it” (Hebrews 4. 14 – 16).

This is the wonderful result of love coming down at Christmas - of Christ’s nativity and incarnation – we can have confidence to “approach God's throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.” Lord, who came down to share our plight, lift us all into your love and light.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John Rutter - Love Came Down At Christmas.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Windows on the world / Metaxu (273)


Tower of London, 2013

William Kentridge, in Figuring Faith, applies Plato's term metaxu to art in a way that has considerable synergy with the Windows on the world series:

"Plato's term metaxu describes that which separates and connects, an ironic or oxymoronic, contradictory position. It makes me think of the wall between two prisoners that separates them, but that also makes communication possible through knocking. Or a window that separates you from the view outside, but also frames the view and makes you aware of what you are looking at. Metaxu also refers to an "in-between state", between being separated and connected, between a quotidian, every day reality and the world of mystery and transcendence beyond ... the very activity of making the work involves the artist in a journey of going from what is known to what is glimpsed at, half understood and tentatively approached with the work."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Leonard Cohen and U2 - Tower Of Song.

Seven Good Joys


Knitted nativity at Parkview Court
 
Nine Lessons and Carols by Candlelight below





This week at St John's Seven Kings we have: sung carols at Parkview Court and along Devonshire Road; hosted a Christmas performance by Aldborough E-Act Free School; held a Christmas Assembly for Downshall Primary School; had a Youth Group Christmas Party; and, tonight, held our Nine Lessons and Carols by Candlelight. Here is the cribbed homily I gave during the latter service:
The Seven Joys of Mary’ or 'Seven Good Joys' is a traditional carol about Mary's happiness at moments in the life of Jesus, probably inspired by the Seven Joys of the Virgin in the devotional literature and art of Medieval Europe. I’ve come across this carol only recently, as it is included on Kate Rusby’s excellent Christmas album While Mortals Sleep.

The carol has a simple, repetitive but beautiful structure:

“The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one
To see her blessed Jesus
When He was first her Son.
When He was first her Son, Good Lord;
And happy may we be,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity”

That structure is repeated for all seven joys. There are different British and US versions of the carol which taken together give more that seven joys but the basic joys of Mary of which the carol speaks are to see her own Son Jesus: suck at her breast bone; make the lame to go; make the blind to see; read the Bible o'er; bring the dead alive; upon the crucifix; and wear the crown of heaven.
These seven joys take us from the nativity of Christ (suck at her breast bone) through his ministry (make the lame to go; make the blind to see; read the Bible o'er; bring the dead alive) to his death (upon the crucifix), and on to his resurrection and ascension (wear the crown of heaven).

Part of the reason this carol resonates, besides its beauty, is that it links Christmas with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It even dares to list the Crucifixion as one of Mary’s joys, an incomprehensible idea unless viewed with the eyes of faith.

So the singing of a carol like this can help us more fully explain the meaning of Christmas and save it from mere sentimentality because, as the carol describes, Christ is born into our world to save us by his life, death, and resurrection. This is the ultimate lesson of every true Christmas tradition and the source of all our joys as Christians, as well as those of Mary.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kate Rusby - Joy To The World.

Debate about foodbanks and food poverty

A few weeks ago Jack Monroe started a petition to get Parliament to debate hunger in the UK and why there's been a rise in the use of foodbanks. She thought she'd work steadily towards 100,000 signers over a few months and aim for a debate by Spring. She was wrong about that, and explains here how the story developed: 
 
"Within a day more than 60,000 people had signed and the campaign made the frontpage of the Independent. Within two weeks you helped the campaign reach 142,000 signers and on Wednesday we secured our goal of a debate in Parliament.
 
People going hungry in the UK has been a quiet secret for too long now, often only seen by the volunteers dealing with an increasing number of families turning to foodbanks. This petition changed that: #Foodbanks was trending on Twitter, the campaign reached the newspaper frontpages -- and most importantly MPs sat for three hours and heard story after story of what it is like to struggle in modern Britain. 
 
Over 60 Labour MPs requested to speak at the debate and they took turns to tell the stories of their constituents. We heard about the ex-serviceman who turned to a foodbank while waiting for four weeks for Atos to deal with his appeal. The story of two hungry young boys who came to ask for one packet of cereal and one packet of drinking chocolate as a treat. And we heard of the man whose benefits were sanctioned when he couldn't attend an assessment interview because he was in hospital with his wife who was seriously ill with cancer. 
 
Unfortunately Government ministers held their party line. Esther McVey said: "it is right to say that more people are visiting foodbanks, as we would expect.” And while Iain Duncan Smith turned up for the debate -- a victory in itself -- he chose not to stick around and snuck out half way through. 
We should be proud of what we achieved through this petition. MPs were reminded of the people that they are there to represent. And while some of them might try to drown out the stories with jeers and laughter -- these stories are now out in the open for all to see. They are on the official Hansard record and can't be ignored any longer. 
 
This debate is just the start - we'll be back in the New Year fighting food poverty - because hunger isn't going to go away. If your MP is one of the shameful 296 who voted against the motion to investigate foodbank use - why not invite them to go along with you to visit a Trussell Trust foodbank in the new year.  
 
There are lots of other ways you can get involved to help foodbanks in your area -- check out The Mirror who have been backing this campaign for more details."
 
The Observer reports today that "Iain Duncan Smith, the embattled work and pensions secretary, is refusing to meet leaders of the rapidly expanding Christian charity that has set up more than 400 food banks across the UK, claiming it is "scaremongering" and has a clear political agenda.
 
The news will fuel a growing row over food poverty, as church leaders and the Labour party accuse ministers of failing to recognise the growing crisis hitting hundreds of thousands of families whose incomes are being squeezed, while food prices soar."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thea Gilmore - Midwinter Toast.

Paul Klee: Making Visible

I recently visited the excellent Paul Klee: Making Visible exhibition at Tate Britain. Klee was meticulous in documenting his creations and recording his reflections on the processes of creation. Here are some of my favourites from among his many reflections:

"Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view."

"Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see."

"The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen."

"Art does not reproduce what is visible, it makes things visible."

"Formerly we used to represent things visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are many more other, latent realities."

"Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off. My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will."


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

C.O.B. - Soft Touches Of Love.