Friday, 28 November 2008

What kind of G(g)od?

I just caught a bit of 'Cataclysm' there, the C4 series about the genesis of earth and life on it, interestingly presented by Tony Robinson, who last time I checked was a man who besides a talent for playing Baldrick had a religious, dare I say it Cn faith. But that's an aside. A couple of Bob's images that have stuck in my mind of late, to capture a sense of the fulfilment and 'living life in its fulness' that the Christian way offers (not wishing to sound exclusive), are of the fish made to swim in the river and the 'upswelling desire' for 'God'... I'm acutely aware of a key difference in the way I think of God and how atheist fellow passengers view God, god, yahweh,... It's to do with the size and texture of the conception we entertain. About who or what we worship. You see, I have every sympathy with the atheist's exultation of a developed morality, high regard for the power of reason etc. And I'm curious why I as a 'believer' I don't stop there but choose to have faith in 'The LORD'. As I see it, the atheist's view of God is commonly a very small one, a conception which I myself couldn't possibly hold to with any sanity or dignity. 'A cruel local storm god', 'a petty deity', these are some of the kind of phrases I've come across. Like a little statue on a mantelpiece. Who indeed wd want to be devoted to such a being? But the God I commit to, not without my own doubts and questions, is both as big and as small as can be conceived: the ground of the universe or multiverse, yet embodied in the delicacy and vulnerability of a new born babe - to offer a momentary reflection on the import of my last post's sketches in amidst the cartoon humour. So one task in 'bridging the gap' here is how to convey this view of the Godhead as awesome, beautiful, tender etc as the heart of Cn theology holds he is, rather than this contemptible tinpot deity that atheist friends hold up for ridicule.
I wish I cd go on, I wish I cd go back and answer some qs, but I have buses to book, bills to sort, recycling to take out, tidying to do... but if a discussion is sparked, all well and good, and I'll be back next time.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Xmas Factor

Latest scripts for a set of radio thoughts to be hopefully played on a Yorkshire FM station shortly before Christmas - for a popular audience remember. We've even found a good Simon Cowell voice over...

Dermot O’Leary (DO): Welcome to The Xmas Factor, where this week we're in Bethlehem.

SC: Whoa, whoa, hang on. Guys, what are you WEARING? Dressing gowns, tea towels on your heads? It's just RIDICULOUS. I mean CRAZY bad.

Shepherd: But we’re shepherds.

SC: So what on earth makes you think you're gonna make it here? I'm sorry guys, the image is ALL WRONG. I just don’t think you’re right for the show. You need to go away and think about what you really wanna do.

S: We wanna find the baby Jesus.

SC: Good luck to you guys. (to judges) What is it about Bethlehem just now that’s attracting all the nutters?

FX: sheep baa sound

Dermot O’Leary (DO): Welcome back to The Xmas Factor, where this week we're in Bethlehem.

SC: Guys, I thought those shepherds were bad, but what's going on HERE? Turbans, camels, it's just SO over the top. You're like something out of the Arabian Nights.

LW: He’s just jealous guys, don’t listen to him.

SC: (sarcastic) Thank you Louis. Anyway I hear there’s a rising star among you. What do you call yourselves?

3 KINGS (who are girls): The Three Kings

SC: Three kings? Right, er, guys. Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.

KING 1: Gold.
KING 2: Frankincense,
KING 3: Myrrh.

SC: Hold on, hold on. Gold, frankincense and myrrh? Guys, girls, whatever you are, it's a singing competition. That's SING, not BLING.

(aside to judges) What is it about Bethlehem just now that’s attracting all these weird people?

FX camel sound?

Dermot O’Leary (DO): Welcome back to The Xmas Factor, where this week we're in Bethlehem. It’s been a disappointing day, and the mood among the punters is gloomy. One couple feeling the strain more than most is hubbie and wife team Mary and Joseph. All her life Mary’s harboured a dream, and she really believes this could be her moment. It hasn't been easy though, and with rumours of an angelic visitation, a baby on the way and no clear indication who the dad is, she's had her fair share of stick - not to mention a few doors slammed in her face. But Jo's stuck by her, and with so much at stake we're all hoping and praying they can produce something really special tonight.

SC: The thing about this show is, we really have NO IDEA who's gonna step through those doors next.

Dermot O’Leary (DO): Welcome back to The Xmas Factor, where this week we're in Bethlehem.

SC: Ok guys, before he comes in, I’ve gotta be honest with you, on paper this Jesus doesn’t look very promising. Don’t even know who his dad is - turned down by every major inn in Bethlehem - and born in a STABLE for goodness sake. I mean it’s just a FIASCO. In fact I think we need to decide now. Yes or no?

LW: I dunno. I think we should give him a chance. You might be missing something here.

SC: Oh come on, don’t be ridiculous.

FX baby cries

SC: Um, how old is this Jesus by the way?

Dermot O’Leary (DO): Welcome back to The Xmas Factor. And with proceedings in Bethlehem drawing to a close, there’s one person the judges can’t stop talking about.

SC: What is it with this Jesus kid? It’s just unprecedented. This show's supposed to be about turning nobodies into stars, but here we've got someone going from being a STAR to a NOBODY. From King of the universe to a baby in a manger. I mean it's just CRAZY.

LW: I know. It could really jeopardise the brand. Whatdaya think's gonna happen?

SC: God alone knows. All I can say is, all bets are off for the Christmas number one.

Dermot O’Leary (DO): Welcome back to The Xmas Factor - the grand final in Bethlehem. And with King Herod and baby Jesus going head to head, it’s very hard to call. Let’s hear from the judges.

SC: Well Herod, I’ve gotta say, you pulled out all the stops there and that was just FANTASTIC. (cheers and whoops). You’ve got the fan base, the will to win, the killer instinct - I really think you’ve got what it takes to go all the way.

Baby Jesus on the other hand, I just think at this stage of the competition you're looking very vulnerable. It's a cut throat business and I'm really not sure you're gonna make it.

L: I disagree, I think the kid’s got something. Anyway, it’s out of our hands. It's gonna go to a public vote.

SC: OK. We’ll just have to see what THEY make of this Jesus then.

Monday, 17 November 2008

What scope the grace of God?

Some of the thoughts that have been 'running in my head' (a catchy number one hit from 2003 as I recall)... I've been thinking quite a lot lately about how Christian truth - assuming here you believe in it - can be thought through and applied to real life and people in a way that fully expresses the highest, most expansive and generous view of God's grace, and takes full account of the richness and sheer complicatedness of human experience. The simple evangelical line recites that you need to believe in Jesus and that he died for your sins to be saved. Say the sinner's prayer. This may suit a particular person at a particular moment in life in a cosy church environment, but how can the idea that this man Jesus died for the sins of the world be meaningfully communicated and made relevant to the vast tide of humanity living out the brief candle of their lives without meaningful absorption of the message. JC described the kingdom of God as like a mustard seed or drop of yeast that gradually grows, or permeates the world. So in secular Britain say, what of the tens of thousands of ordinary decent secular folk who pay their taxes and watch Coronation Street but don't give God much thought and are felled yearly by the grim reaper, without having 'signed on the dotted line of a 'clear commitment to Christ'? (cheery one today!). I believe the grace and kingdom of God are more expansive and embracing than such a model implies... but how? In what way(s)? I'm just bit by bit flagging up some questions I'm interested to explore...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Prayer as the communion of friends

Some recent reflections. Today in church the interim vicar - standing in while we await the arrival of Bradford-famous Robin Gamble in December - was speaking on the John passage where Jesus disinguishes his friends, as opposed to servants, as those who were 'in the know' - those with whom he shared what he had learned from his Father in heaven. He also referred to a Genesis story whose drama and pathos make it one of the rugged mountain peaks of Old Testament narrative: Abraham, who was called a friend of God, pleading with the Almighty for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of the possibility of just a few righteous people: fifty, then forty, right down to ten. The key message was that prayer - which can in God's goodness mean conversation between friends - has power to shape the future through as God, while remaining sovereign, chooses to allow His decisions and actions to be affected by the prayers of those with whom He is intimate.
An interesting contrast was drawn between this dynamic, fluid model of God's engagement with human beings, and the Muslim view presented more as prayer being about bringing one's life under the sway of the immutable will of Allah, above and beyond. To be continued...