The Fifth Gospel

Yesterday I was asked to give a talk about the time I spent in Uganda. Five years ago I spent a month on placement at Kampala cathedral. It was the first time Dr Ruth and I had really travelled together and we didn’t know what to expect.  I bought a new camera and took a notebook.  I’m glad I did as preparing for this talk made me dig it out and rediscover some of my memories of our big adventure.

On the page after I had written the profound statement “[expletive deleted] a rat just came into my room”, there was this:

There is a vicar staying at the hostel whilst he is studying. He just said something that made me think.

“People come to church not because of what they have heard but because of what they have seen.

People think there are four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If they read them they probably won’t do it in-depth but they may read them and think that is it. They forget about the fifth gospel, their lives”

9 years ago I went to a baptism service to see an 83 year old lady take the plunge. She had decide to make the leap of faith and start following. Before she was baptised she stood up and gave her testimony.  She told us exactly how she had come to believe in Jesus and why she wanted to follow him.

She explained that she had started coming to church after a conversation she had with her landlord a few months earlier.  He was the caretaker at the church and also owned the small flat that she lived in. Her landlord had come around to visit to check that she was alright.  The weather had been atrocious for a couple of weeks with heavy snow all over the North East.  She explained to him that everything was alright but she had locked herself out of the flat a couple of days ago. She had left her little terraced flat and the latch was on as the door closed behind her.  She was stuck in the deep snow until her husband returned.

She explained that the young kid next door had arrived home and asked if she was OK.  They had never spoken to each other before but he wondered if she would like to come inside to the warmth and wait. In the conversation it transpired that the landlord knew the young kid because they both went to the same church.

The thing is, I had no idea who was being baptised that day.  I was flabbergasted.  From my perspective, I knew the other side of the story.

In my third year at university I was sauntering through the thick falling snow back to the little flat I shared with Dr Ruth after a hard day’s slog through a Johannine literature lecture.  There was an old woman standing in the snow next to a flat door.  When I asked her if she was OK she said yes but she wondered if she could just stand inside my door.  Of course I said yes.  In fact, I struggled to convince her that it wasn’t too much trouble for her to sit on the sofa and watch my TV.   I actually had to pretend that I wanted a cup of tea so that she would have a hot drink. I wandered back around to her flat next door a couple of times to see if her husband was back. When he was she left.

No blinding lights. No miraculous healing. No talking about “religion”. Just a cup of tea with no strings attached.

What does it mean for me to become that fifth gospel?

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Rock Mass @ Biblefresh Wakefield

The Rock Mass just got big!!  Time for ‘Metanoia’ to ROCK Dewsbury Minster!

Wakefield Diocese are having a huge celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the bible called Biblefresh Wakefield.  There are all sorts of activities going on during the day.

In the evening we will be holding a Rock Mass.  It is ideal for bringing your yoof to.  It is also great for bringing your adults to.  Ancient sacramental worship with a rock band and everything you need for a rock concert.

If you are interested in coming or bringing a group, please join the facebook event and consider following @biblefreshwakey on twitter.

Trinity Sunday

Biblical Marriage

Thanks to @dave42w who linked to this with a simple “we need the new testament”.

Faithfully Retelling Our Story

If you have visited my blog on a regular basis you may have noticed that I spend quite a bit of time talking about narrative and story. We are part of an ongoing historical narrative that has been told from generation to generation about the God who has chooses to interact with us throughout time. It tells of our ancestors and it points towards our future generations. Long before we had doctrines we had the story and we are asked to retell this story and continue to live it in our daily lives.

Tony Jones blogged about a sermon delivered by Nadia Bolz-Weber on Easter Morning. Nadia blogs here and tweets as @Sarcasticluther. It is a while since I have visited her blog so I was really glad to be pointed back to it by @jonestony. I’ve just watched the video (about 53 mins in) and it is brilliant. There is something about the way in which Nadia retells our salvation history that is compelling.

This is a leader we can follow. And the thing that really cooked people’s noodles wasn’t the question “is Jesus like God” it was “what if God is like Jesus”. What if God is not who we thought? What if the most reliable way to know God is not through religion, not through a sin and punishment program, but through a person. What if the most reliable way to know God is to look at how God chose to reveal God’s self in Jesus?

I won’t repost her sermon in full. Please watch it. Continue to faithfully retell our story.  Continue to faithfully live the next chapter of our story.  Be inspired. Be renewed. Be changed. Be a “a people who still have the dirt from our graves under our nails, while we stand here shouting Alleluia! Christ is risen”!!

[Yesterday I spent a long time writing this blog post and WordPress ate it. If it does it again I am going to give this up and take to living on a rock just north of Holy Island.]

The Viral Bible Project

As part of the Biblefresh initiative to celebrate 400 years of the authorised version of the bible, the Viral Bible project was launched this week at Spring Harvest.

The Viral Bible Project has taken off with a roar at Spring Harvest Skegness, as the members of the Christian Motorcycle Association got ten new Bibles into circulation around the country. The Bibles will be passed on from hand to hand, linking friends and sharing Bible passages along the way.

Specially-customised NIV Bibles, donated by publishers, Hodder, will be randomly distributed at Christian festivals such as ROOTS, Keswick, New Wine, Summer Madness, Leading Edge and Soul Survivor during the spring and summer.

The happy recipients will be invited to enter their basic details and highlight a passage that has challenged or influenced them. They will log onto a dedicated website – www.viralbibleproject.com to place a ‘pin’ on a Googlemap, and then pass their Bible on – to go as far afield as possible.

It sounds like quite a fun way of engaging with the scriptures.  I wonder if someone will pass one on to me.

Video Resource – The Prodigal Son

I found this on my desktop – someone sent a link to it on YouTube a while ago.  I can’t for the life of me remember if I posted it at the time.  If not, enjoy.  If I did – enjoy again!!

Worship Idea – The Trial

Each year all of the churches in town walk through to the town square and have a short act of remembrance on Good Friday.  Last year I had no idea what they were expecting.  I put on a Death Row shirt and slung a giant wooden crucifix over my shoulders and carried it at the front of the procession.  This year they asked me to do some form of bible reading in the Town Square when we get there.  It is a public performance really.  I suppose I’ll put on the convict outfit and hold a life-size cross whilst I do it this year.  I have rewritten John 19 (abridged) based upon The Message.  Please bear in mind that many of the phrases are easy to say in a broadish Yorkshire accent as I use the tools I’ve got.  Also, the bold parts will be practiced with a baying mob so that they don’t all shout them in unison.

The Trial (based upon John 19)

Pontius Pilate was the man responsible for governing Jerusalem.  He’d had Jesus publicly whipped because he was a troublemaker.  They were worried because too many people were following him. The soldiers who did it made a crown from thorns for him and rammed in down onto his head.  They kept giving him grief.  They had thrown a purple robe over him like he was royalty whilst shouting “Hail, King of the Jews!”.  Then they kept slapped him in the face.

Pilate went to the baying mob and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I don’t find him guilty.  He hasn’t committed any crime.”

In a frenzy the crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

But Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.”

Pilate did his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.”

When Pilate heard those words, he took Jesus outside into the square and sat down at the judgment seat.  It was noon on the day everyone was preparing for the Passover festival.

Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.”

They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”

Pilate said, “You want me to crucify your king?”

The religious leaders answered, “We have no king except Caesar.”

At this Pilate caved in and sent him to be crucified.

They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, they led him out of the city to the place they called Skull Hill.  Here they nailed him up, they crucified him with two criminals, one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate wrote a sign and had it nailed to the cross. It read:

   Jesus the Nazarene
   the king of the Jews.

The Nativity Drama on the BBC

In the final runup to Christmas, the BBC1 are showing a new dramatised production of The Nativity. It is being given a peak-time slot starting on Monday 20th December at 7pm.  Eastenders screen-writer Tony Jordan has retold the story and the production is being made in conjunction with Kudos, the company behind Spooks.

There is more information at this website.

Worship Idea – Video: Prayer

Joe Miller has come up with another brilliant video from his essence series.  Joe Miller we salute you!