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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Let Heaven Ping

Is it just me, or have you heard a new verb in use re: email?

"I'll just ping them an email. "

It's an interesting use of that verb. Implies the speed with which it is possible to send an electronic message, without hinting at the cluttering-up of people's lives that the 75-email-chain of responses (each "looping-in" another 30-odd people "FYI") will result in.

In this increasingly time-poor society (mostly because of abovementioned use of email) maybe this is the way forward. The concept of an "arrow prayer" (ie very quick prayers for people without the time to light a tea light or find a decent pebble) could be expanded. "I'll just ping a prayer for you" could be the new equivalent.

Which gave me the idea for "Pings Ancient and Modern". A set of very short hymns for worshippers on the move. Our newly rewritten hymns include:

Ping to the Lord
Hark, the Herald Angels Ping
We'll Ping a New Song
Ping to the Lord With All of Your Heart

So I'm hoping this is gonna be a winner.  If you have any views on this, why not ping me a comment?

Monday, 27 July 2015

λόγος and Logic

"In the Beginning was the Word".

And so John appropriates the first of the three Genesis creation myths and makes it all about Christ. And weaves the beginning of the world into the story of salvation. All the way from the back to the front.

I heard someone refer to the story of our lives yesterday as a "poem". That makes sense - the "Word" is interacting with your life - sustaining you, describing you, surrounding you, defining you - because how can anyone be described except in relation to another? The Word spells out your life - turns it into a poem. It's not simple narrative - because there's so much in there that you don't understand, can't describe. It's too multi-threaded. Too much you don't actually know about yourself. And when you can't quite put your finger on what's going on, poetry is what describes things so much more precisely than prose. It doesn't need to get it nailed.

And then the Word doesn't just tell the tale of your life. We are, after all, not individualists here. The Word tells the story of everyone's life. And there's a poem there for all - from the shortest ode, to the length of an Icelandic Edda, but each one formed as the Word sings to everyone, upholds them, takes the measure of their life and sets it to the lyrics of the universe. 

The Logos goes beyond just "word". The Logos is the truth underlying reality - the log-ic of life. The logic that sets out the rules of physics - that holds the stars in their paths, not through some bizarre rending of the law of Physics as an alien entity, but rather defines their paths, through velocity, mass and gravity as the most natural thing in the universe. The Word speaks the rules of life, the presurre of a light beam, the way four hydrogen atoms combine and glow as they step their way towards helium, If, as in Tolkien's Silmarillion, the story of the universe is a song, then the Word provides the bass line - and the baseline - forming the structure of the song, keeping the melody in place, shaping and driving forward and holding it all together.

And the Logos takes the music of the universe, and the poems of our lives - all of them, from the shortest to the longest - and weaves them into the song of Creation. All the highlights, all the dark, slow passages, From the frequency of gamma rays as the top notes down to all the depths of the darkness of space, All the joy, beauty, tragedy and lost-ness, yearning and love stories woven together into a symphony. Each of us bringing our own meaning and picking up our own lyrics.

And then the maker of the rules of sound became the lead soloist in the symphony he created. His melody picks out your line - highlights it - weaves around it and fits your words. Even the notes you fluff and the words you forget. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Slap Bad Weather Journalists With A Large Fish

Fellow English people (the rest of you will have to imagine this bit) - you remember that hot day we had back at the start of the month? I do. It was warm one Monday. And then on the Wednesday it was even warmer. 

And then I promised myself I'd remember a newspaper article, ready for the end of the month. Like about now.
"Second British Heatwave Could Bring Hottest Ever Temperature". 
Now had this been the weather-infatuated Express, or the global-warming-obsessed Indie or Gruaniad, I could understand it. But this was the Telegraph.

The sub-heading actually told you all you really needed to know about the headline's accuracy. I'll be honest, I didn't bother reading any further at the time. And I've not bothered now, either.
Some forecasters are predicting that temperatures could even pass Britain's all-time highest temperature of 101F (38.5C)
Which does some brilliant vagueness. If there were two forecasters in the whole world out of a million, predicting that the weather passed the record temperature, that would still be "some". And even the "some" aren't too certain. They're predicting that temperatures "could" pass the all-time high. Presumably all so the Telegraph can crowbar the all-important "101F" into the sub-heading.

That's the important thing. That's what we all read, isn't it? 
100 - Phew wotta scorcha 90 - Time for another cuppa 80 - Time for a cup of tea 70 - Nice Day  then boring temperatures nobody really cares about 5 Parky 0 Freezing -5 Taters -10 Brass Monkeys
For the rest of the world, and probably those under 30 years of age, I should explain something. The British have never quite taken on metric measurements. It's all we are taught at school, but then in real life we insist on dealing in feet, miles, pints and stones. But in temperature we do something that may appear really, really odd. This is what the British Thermometer looks like, as it exists in our heads.

So if the temperature is cold, we think in Centigrade. Because zero sounds like cold, doesn't it? Whereas 32 just sounds like it ought to be somewhere in the middle. And if the temperature is below freezing, makes sense it's minus something.

Whereas if the temperature is hot, we think in Fahrenheit. Because 32 (which is hot in Centigrade) sounds like it ought to be somewhere in the middle. And if the temperature is really hot - really apocalyptically hot - so hot even a third cup of tea may not help - it makes sense that it's 100.

So the Telegraph put that 100+ temperature in there specifically to draw our attention. Make us go, "oo - that's gonna be hot then." Tickled our weather obsession, gave us a nice little story to excite our early summer, and went on its way whistling thinking it would never be held to account for what is, when all is said and done, a non-story - "some people think it might be hot".

Well, no more. From now on, every time a newspaper makes a medium-range prediction of extreme weather, we should hold them to account. We should note the date and time of their prediction and, if they are wrong, the editor should be summoned to Marble Arch, there to be slapped round the face with a wet fish. If they're a bit wrong, or going on a Met Office warning and it turns out to be OK - that's fine. This happens. But if, for the following month they forecast record heat or in September tell us that one weather "expert", who lives in his shed with an owl and a piece of sea weed, claims it will be the coldest winter in history - if they're wrong, the editor must head for Marble Arch and the Royal Wielder of the Wet Haddock will be waiting for him or her.

Yes, it's rough justice. But this nuisance has got to stop. If Jeremy Corbyn proposes this law, I'll pay my 3 quid and vote for him.

The Wisdom of Frank Field

The Labour Party leadership election is being hijacked by Communists who want Jeremy Corbyn to win. According to the Telegraph, radical unions are encouraging people to join the party to vote for him. Which is, oddly, exactly the same tactic we're told some Conservatives are using. Then I read this:
Frank Field, a senior MP who nominated Mr Corbyn but does not want him to win, said: “The other three candidates need to confront Jeremy’s deficit-denial position." 
Well, maybe that's what the other candidates need to do. Or maybe Frank Field should reflect that, if he doesn't want people to win, he shouldn't nominate them. I presume he did it because he wanted a better debate. Unfortunately, given three cardboard candidates, it appears he also got a better debater. It's a bit like a Catholic Cardinal looking at the new, unexpected Pope and saying, "I only voted for Katharine Jefferts Schori because I wanted to open a debate about women's ministry."

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Some Things Not to Say in Sermons

"So I'm pretty sure God doesn't like it. But then, what do I know?"

"And I'm sure Mary won't mind me telling you, that time I discovered she was having an affair behind Bernie's back, it was very like what happened to Hosea."

"So I'm going to demonstrate how Paul wants us to run the race of faith, by preaching this sermon while running round the church. Obviously I needed hospital treatment after the last time I used this illustration. Which is why I've not done it since 1982."

"And was it St Augustine or Aleister Cowley who said that? Either way...."

"Can you  imagine what Sampson's last stand must have been like for the Philistines at the feast? Well,  you don't need to!  Leigh! Release the wrecking ball!"

"Gerry is going to represent Elijah. Brady is King Ahab. And the good news for the prophets of Baal is, you won't have to sing "Lord of the Dance" at the end of the service."

"Now this illustration isn't really relevant but it does show me in a very good light."

"And Eutychus was so tired he fell off the windowsill to his death. And would you believe it, when I was preaching just last week....."

"And the Trinity is very like the theory of Non-Inflationary Consistent Expansion in Economics. Inasmuch as they both sound fairly unlikely, I don't understand either, but I'm reckoning you lot don't either."

"And the unmerciful steward went to the servant who owed him 10 denarii and said, "would you like to roll all your debts up into one easy-to-manage loan?" And I think we can all learn something from this"

"OK. So everybody line up in order of how sinful you think you are...."

"As you all know, I regard sermons as a form of prophecy. Which means I don't actually prepare or research them but trust to the Spirit. So a few people have asked me since last week's sermon in which Gospel Jesus received that scar on his temple as a baby, and guess what...."

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Church Projector Operator Wishes the Worship Leader Would Share the Song List in Advance

Well I know that David had a chord
with which he used to praise the Lord
but you don't want to pick that one though, do ya?
So I'm sitting behind this laptop now
And wondering just when or how
I'll have to find that song called "Halleluah"?

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

It was worse when we had acetate
The warning would come really late
Getting the wrong overhead, really threw ya
But now we've all gone digital
It doesn't really help at all
When you say "now the next song's Hallelujah".

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

Could it be the one by Fishel, D?
That's the one that means the most to me
Or is that actually spelt "Alleluia?"
Or the one where we to Jesus sing
Or the one where we let praises ring?
There's just too many songs called "Halleluah".

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

So you've gone up to the mic, so cool
And said, "now I think that we all
should sing that song that's so meaningful to ya."
And I'm looking at my PC folder
And feeling so many years older
There's 85 songs all called Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

A Musical in the Next-door Key

Bloody Internet dating. Thought I'd try it out. Interesting sounding bloke. Made contact. Said he'd take me to "Wicked". Brilliant, I thought. Haven't been to a musical in ages.

Turns out he suffers from terminal fat-thumbs. I've just spent the afternoon in Wickes in Dunstable. Not the same thing at all.

If Labour Party Leadership Contenders Were on the Shortlist to be Bishops

Andy Burnham would be the safe pair of hands.  Smooth, bland, able to keep the organisation running smoothly without having any radical impact.

Yvette Cooper would struggle because who would dare appoint another female bishop who's married to a clergyman?

Liz Kendall would be "too young", "too lightweight*", "not enough experience in parish work".

Jeremy Corbyn would be the bloke who's done 40 solid years of parish ministry, worked hard, loved by his parish, but never become archdeacon or even rural dean. Which seems really odd. Until you hear his theories on Biblical inerrancy and the Last Times.

* about 8 stone, according to the Daily Mail

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Björn from Which No Traveller Returns

Some people don't like to introduce children to death too early. Asked where Flossy the Cat or Syntax Error the Goldfish has gone, they'll tell kids that they're now living at a lovely animals' home.

Of course, it's different with humans. There are many who believe in a future life. But even many of those who don't, still talk about Granny or Grandad having gone to heaven and looking down smiling as you flog off their porcelain collection.

Then there was the odd case of my uncle. They swore blind he was in a "happy place". Apparently in that place,  he was incapable of communication with the real world - indeed had no real idea of how we that were left lived our lives, and sadly we could never hear from him. But he was at rest. "Sleeping", they used to say.

Turned out he'd been elevated to the House of Lords. 

But in Milton Keynes we are made of sterner, more traditional stuff. We talk about a place where you always know that rewards are ahead of you, know there will ultimately be a way out - even if it is difficult to find. A place of yearning, of wandering, of hoping one day to see the brightness of final release.

Hence the old saying. Beaker Folk don't really die.

They just go to Ikea.

Lighting a tea light can get a Beaker Person 5 fewer days in Ikea.