Sunday, 21 July 2013

Two Sermons on The Wedding at Cana

As is my custom, if someone asks for copies of my sermon notes I stick em up on my Scribd page, just in case anyone else might want to go get 'em.  This weekend I preached two different sermons from the same passage.  Yesterday was the ordination service of one of our students, John Thompson, at Princes Drive Baptist Church in Colwyn Bay.  We read John 2:1-11, the wedding at Cana, and I used the the story to highlight lessons about the nature of ministry.  This morning I was preaching at my own church, Chorlton Central in Manchester and read a scripted imaginative retelling of the same story, from the perspective of watching angels.  Anyhow, as I said, if you want the notes pop across to Scribd and help yourself.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Kitsch Jesus in the Smelly City

Back in the day I posted a blog about meeting God on Market Street in Manchester. That encounter prompted me to develop some material on Urban Spirituality for our MA course on Spirituality in Contemporary Culture.  This in turn spawned a framework for a half-day city centre retreat which has been taken up by friends and students for use in Prague, Stockholm and Birmingham.

This week here at Luther King House we've been teaching the Spirituality module on our MA Summer School.  We ran the city centre retreat again.  It got lots of positive feedback from the students.  It also gifted me with another unexpected encounter with Jesus.

I wasn't actually doing the retreat myself this time but I was in the city, buying bread and wine for the communion on the street that would round off the day.  I was making my way through the Northern Quarter on my way to Methodist Central Hall for our retreat debrief when God's Spirit beckoned me into a seedy night club back entrance.  I like to use back streets whenever I can.  It makes walking more of an adventure.  I'm not sure what The Spirit used to grab my attention, in fact I haven't a clue, but I found myself walking over to take a peek.

And there, in a stinking, piss-soaked door-well was Jesus.  (Apologies if the word piss upsets you, I don't mean to offend, it's just that neither wee nor urine are quite up to the job.)

I realise this is a rather kitsch Jesus, but I was in the Northern Quarter where they do kitsch rather well.  So it sort of fit.  It also fit because it seems to me it's just the kind of place you'd expect to see Jesus.  Or at least the kind of place where you ought to expect him.   How fitting too that he'd been defaced.  They'd scrubbed out the word love.  Or at least they'd tried to.  True the letters had been erased but the word's still there don't you think?  Again, it's the only word that really fits.

... he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
Lord, we pray for all who use that door-way.  And we pray for ourselves. Please beckon us into uninviting places.  Meet us there and open our eyes.  And if need be our nostrils.  Amen

Sunday, 16 June 2013

In Memory of my Dad on Fathers Day

Kick Off

September fresh we start again, 
by early autumn nipped to ruddy life.
New season’s paint has reddened smooth 
my fragrant iron resting place.
The terrace choir’s achant, 
brown baritone and tenor bright.
And holy Bruno climbs from briar censers 
as Bovril salts my tongue.

And there you stand:
Brylcream-slicked and shiny-shoed,
your china-blues ablaze,
your Woodbine-yellowed fingers
shoveled thick and calloused 
kindly holding me.

And I, 
thrilled by bigness smalling me, 
otherness calling me,
Gifted, belonging and beckoned on, 
I know from you I will not run for fancied wealth to slops
nor break my bonds for freedom-false but rest content
and dream of what will one day be.

Then, as pigeons flap from floodlight frame and, haloed, hover,  
echoes down the years:
“This is my beloved
in whom I am,
in whom I am well,
in whom I am, well, pleased.”

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Exploring Contemporary Spirituality - Theology Summer School at Luther King House

This is coming up soon.  Places are filling up quickly.  Still a few slots left.  To book by email click here

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Dave Egerton Band 30th Anniversay Concert

Wow!  This is bound to be good.  Look!  It's in neon and everything!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Urban Embrace

Look!  A conversational, reflective, creative and friendly bit of getting stuck into urban mission and ministry, Manchester style.  I'm going.  Go on, join us.

Friday, 26 April 2013

New Tutor Appointed At The Northern Baptist Learning Community

This news just out from the learning community with whom I minister ...

The Northern Baptist Learning Community has announced the appointment of the Revd. Dr. Tim Mountain to the position of tutor.

Tim is currently Senior Minister of Grantham Baptist Church, Lincolnshire where he has served for nearly sixteen years. Previously he was pastor of a church in Westerham, Kent. Before training for ministry at Spurgeon’s College he was a secondary school teacher. He holds biology and theology degrees, including a PhD in ecology, and is just completing an MTh in Applied Theology. Tim says, “I am delighted to be able to serve NBLC in this new role.  I’m looking forward to working alongside the other members of staff team.”

According to Dianne Tidball, governor of NBLC and Regional Minister Team Leader in the East Midlands, “Tim has been a good local minister, serving his church and enabling it to be an outward looking community centred on Christ.  He has served the Association well particularly on our Ministry Development Group.  He will be missed but we wish him God's richest blessing in his new role.”

This is NBLC’s third recent staff appointment.  Clare McBeath and Glen Marshall were called to be co-principals just three weeks ago.  Both said how delighted they were that Tim will be joining the new staff team adding,  “Tim combines a wealth of experience with an engaging style of teaching.”

Dr. Mountain will begin his new ministry in August.  As well as teaching at Luther King House in Manchester he will also act as NBLC’s main link with the churches and associations of Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

Monday, 8 April 2013

LKH Summer School, Exploring Contemporary Spirituality

Just out, details of this year's Luther King House Summer School.  This will be the third time we've run this as a Summer School.  It always goes down well.  Why not join us?  Spread the word.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Benefit Cuts, The Poor and Christian Hypocrisy

Thought I'd mark the advent today of the government's spending cuts by reposting something I penned back in 2010.  It's about the importance of the Christian Church speaking out on behalf of the poor.  It's been good to see The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Pope and The Joint Public Issues Team of the Free Churches rising to the challenge.  But I thought that on this day of all days a reminder to the rest of us wouldn't go amiss ...

All together now:

I will speak out for those who have no voices

I will stand up for the rights of all the oppressed

I will speak truth and justice

I'll defend the poor and the needy

I will lift up the weak in Jesus' name

Or if you prefer:

I, the Lord of wind and flame,

I will tend the poor and lame.

I will set a feast for them.

My hand will save.

I wonder if you ever sing either of these hymns.  If so I do hope you won’t allow David Cameron and Nick Clegg to turn you into a hypocrite.

You see it looks like we are in for a period when the attention of the media will be, as ever, on the antics of the rich and famous (not least, following last week’s announcement, the royally rich and famous.) [This a reference to the announcement of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.]  Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of the not nearly so rich and the nowhere near as famous will, largely unnoticed, be struggling to cope as their jobs are snatched away and their benefits slashed.

“Oh dear” I hear you say, “this is getting a bit political.”  Well, yes, but my purpose in raising this is not to debate the minutiae of government fiscal policy.  I’m not sure that an economics A level from 1978 is sufficient qualification to pronounce on the relative merits of Keynes and Friedman as gurus for hard times.  Instead I’m going to stick to what I know. 

I reckon I’m on safe ground when I tell you that thirty five years of reading the Bible has lead me to the conclusion that Jesus is not very fond of hypocrisy.  And make no mistake it will be the rankest of rank hypocrisy if in coming years the church in this country continues to sing its hymns of solidarity and preach its sermons on God’s care for poor while keeping stum about the impact of legislation on the lives of the most vulnerable.   It would also be somewhat less than satisfactory for us to follow the all too familiar path of sticking to escapist praise songs and ignoring awkward Bible passages.

For the purposes of this column whether you voted Tory, Labour, Lib Dem or Monster Raving Looney is not really my concern.  My point is that as Christians we all belong to a political party that has as one of the main planks of its platform a policy that is set firmly against passing by on the other side.  Ever since the good Samaritan did his stuff we have declared care-less neglect of the battered and the bruised to be a bad thing.  And those who shoot their mouths off about how the world should be run really ought to try and muster up at least an ounce or two of consistency.

We can agree on that can’t we?  That the church ought to be speaking out on behalf of those whom the majority of society would rather ignore?  That we should be trying to wrestle the spotlight away from princes and prima donnas, nudging it instead towards those upon whom God’s eye rests?

If not, perhaps it’s time to call an end to the party.  At the very least we should take our scissors to our Bibles and attack our hymn projection software with the delete button.  The Magnificat for instance, and all those songs based upon it, should be left on the cutting room floor this Christmas.  True, the bland and anaemic version of Christianity with which we would be left is a rather distasteful thing, but not nearly as nauseating a full blown hypocrisy.

This piece originally appeared in The Baptist Times and is reproduced here with permission of the editor.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Co-Principals Sought for Northern Baptist Learning Community

The theological college where I work is looking to appoint new leadership.  Here are the details of the position(s).
Want an exciting job in theological education in Manchester? The post(s) of Co-Principal of the Northern Baptist Learning Community in the stimulating Luther King House is about to be advertised.

Two Co-Principals
Northern Baptist Learning Community

Location: Manchester

Reward package: circa £30,000 per post (negotiable) + housing allowance