One of my favorite episodes of Father Ted is the time Father Ted, Father Dougal and Father Jack try to give up ‘ cigarettes, alcohol and rollerblading’ for Lent. They enlist the help of Sister Assumpta, a very austere nun who uses very unusual measures to get the lads to comply with their Lenten discipline- including making them take ice cold baths outdoors, drag them around a field, replace their mattresses with bricks and replacing their breakfast with a bowl of cold water. Shortly after, the lads receive a gift of chocolate from the local shop and come home to find Sister Assumpta covered in chocolate, victim to her own inability to have self control. While it is all hilarious to watch, it also reminds us that some times we set ourselves up to fail and instead of identifying with Christ’s suffering, we end up identifying with our own failures and feeling even worse for them. The positive aspect is that we can realise how much we need God in our lives, but, there could be another way to realise that.
Christmas means a lot of different things to different people. For some it is a celebration of light in the middle of winter, for others it is a time to gather with friends and family, and for others still it is a time of magical wonder. For many people, Christmas is still a faith based festival where the incarnation of God in Jesus is celebrated. Whatever the reasons for celebrating Christmas, there will also be an equal number of reasons why people will attend church over Christmas when they may not have attended all year long. No judgement from me! But that also means that clergy will have extra work to do that may not be expected.
Something to remember as we approach this season are the clergy that will be preparing for this season long before it gets here. Here are a list of common struggles clergy have at this time of year.
Families– all the things you do with your family, the clergy family will do as well. Continue reading
My grandmother had a beautiful tea cup that was reserved for special occasions.It was a pale mint green tea cup, with four little gold feet, with a gold rim, an ornate handle, with little pink roses on the inside of the cup. One day she said to me “When you close your eyes, what things do you see when you think of me?” I found the question strange, but answered her. But the tea cup was not mentioned.
I had moved away from my home town and for the first time my close knit family was faced with a long distance apart. Christmas was coming. Despite my invitations, my grandmother decided to spend Christmas at home, alone, instead.
I grew up in a very strongly Protestant environment, where the divide between denominations determined everything from where you shopped, how holidays were celebrated, and, who you could be friends with. Since most Reformed traditions do not use incense, I had no idea incense even existed until Continue reading
This weekend, most of Western Europe will readjust clocks to go back in time one hour. We have done this for several years now to make the most of our daylight hours. When the clocks change, I often day dream about things I would change if I could go back in time, for real, and change some of the choices I have made or how I should have responded to something instead of how I responded at the time.
We have all made mistakes. We have all done things that we are not proud of, either on purpose or naively. Some of those mistakes have been made out of a deep pain that seeks to be soothed and some of those mistakes come out of a place of anger and hurt. Some of our responses are out of a righteous anger and others are out of a place of bitterness and hurt. Regardless, I think it is normal for us to want to go back in time Continue reading
In Matthew 6:21 Jesus says “where your treasure is your heart is also.” the Greek word used for treasure is thēsauros. In most circumstances a treasure is something concealed or hidden away for another time, as it is inferred in this passage. But what if it meant something that is cherished or valued greatly, something that is not a tangible “thing” but a concept or a person and not hidden?
Often we misread this passage thinking that the treasure, or thing we value greatly, follows our heart- that if we want something badly enough the treasure will follow and manifest itself if our heart is in the right place. But actually what Jesus is saying is that our heart follows our treasure. Think about that for a moment. Our heart follows our treasure. Not our treasure follows our hearts. For some people that treasure is a career, a home or a family. For others it is finding a partner in life or something else in life. So what does this all mean?
Firstly we need to identify what that treasure is. What is the thing we value? Is it an idea? Is it an opportunity? Or is it something that is a treasure that isn’t really a treasure? What I mean by that is that we may hold on to things that we place great value on but are actually not treasure. Past pains can be concealed and buried, and, something we value but in a negative way. It could be something that we are looking forward to and “treasure” that idea.
So the next question is, where is our heart? If our heart isn’t in the same place as the treasure we will spend a great deal of time trying to get our heart in the right place first. If our heart and treasure are not in the same place we spend a lot of energy trying to bridge the gap between the two.
Years ago, when I took an advanced driving course, we learned how to take back control from a vehicle about to lose control on ice or hazardous conditions. The instructor took us onto a frozen parking lot and we purposely lost control of the car (without hitting something or hurtinggn ourselves) so that we could learn how to gain control. That sounds more difficult than it is.
What did they teach us? In driving a car and the car is headed for the ditch, our natural instinct is to look where we are going. And that is how we end up in the ditch. The way to correct the car is to do everything opposite of your instinct. Meaning, sometimes apply the gas peddle not the brakes, and steer where you WANT to go not where you are going. So, my keeping your eyes on the road and not the ditch, with some very fast thinking, the car will correct itself and end up back on the road, not the ditch. Counterintuitive yes. But it works.
What if this passage is like the analogy of driving the car? Where are our eyes? On the ditch/place we are headed? Or in the road where we want to go? Are our eyes on our treasure? Because if they are, our heart will follow.
There is a reason that stories of treasure have been so popular in literature and film. There is something exciting about the discovery of treasure and some people will go to great lengths to reveal a buried treasure (Oak Island in Nova Scotia comes to mind). Jesus doesn’t say anything about discovering a treasure. He doesn’t say your heart will LEAD you to your treasure to be discovered. He says where your treasure is your heart will be. I think this means what someone values will mean that is where their passion will be.
This could very easily be twisted to mean something of monetary value but I don’t think that is what Jesus means. The passages before hand he says that we should not store things up because in nature, things will decay and be lost.
So what do you treasure? What matters to you? Is it justice? Is it friendship or charity? Whatever it is once the treasure is identified the heart and passion will follow.
Until next time, blessings to you and yours.
Four Corners of Faith: Finding our spiritual home in life
This workshop is for anyone in a time of transition or wanting to have a clearer understanding of how God speaks to us. Seeking a new minister? Church attendance declining or growing? This workshop is helpful for a number of situations faith communities face.
This two day, four session workshop, is held in your own faith community or community center anywhere in Great Britain or Germany. This workshop is for anyone seeking to renew or develop their faith, or, understand how God is working in our lives and what areas of growth are waiting to be explored. The basis of our workshop looks at how Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason interact with each other to have better relationships with God, others and ourselves.
This workshop is good for
- churches in transition (closing, amalgamating, growing or seeking new leadership)
- churches in times of tension
- faith communities seeking better church meetings
- sermon preparation
- leadership development of lay and clergy leaders
- faith communities wanting to find out where their strengths are and build on them
How it works
- The workshop is both small and large group work
- It is best to do this in the building of the faith community to incorporate the context into the discussion
- Works best with a minimum of 12 people and a maximum of 48 people
- for those interested, the workshop will close with a worship service incorporating everything we have learned
This workshop happens where you live, anywhere in Great Britain or Germany. For more information on workshop costs and availability, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org