The preacher’s task

I get asked sometimes if I enjoy preaching. I find it a hard question. I know I can’t not preach. And often, when actually preaching, I know that intoxicating experience of utter single-mindedness and control – ‘flow’ as they call it – which is dangerously exhilarating and addictive. Every worthwhile sermon I have ever preached, however, has hurt to write, as I have found that in the text that I wanted so much to avoid, and have been forced to face up to it. And Sangster’s old line, that every preacher sits down every time with disappointment and the hope that ‘next time I shall preach!’ rings true for me. These words probably reflect those two moments of pain more than the ecstatic moment of preaching that comes between. Read Revere Relish Reflect...

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‘Show, don’t tell’: bad preaching and mock reality TV for kids

Our seven year old daughter is presently obsessed by a CBBC show called ‘The Next Step’. I stand up and leave the room when the show comes on. Recently I finally worked out why. It’s because it is far too like bad preaching. And I hate bad preaching (particularly when I am the preacher).

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’Shadows and Broken Images’: thinking theologically about femaleness and maleness

I’ve been reading Megan DeFranza’s new book, Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female and Intersex in the Image of God (Eerdmans, 2015). In response, I want to argue that our best way of thinking through an adequately postmodern account of human sex-difference might come from reflecting on medieval commentaries on Lombard’s Sentences.

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An all-age communion liturgy/drama

I had to lead an all-age communion service at LPO. (Well, when I say ‘lead’ … Cath and Rach planned and led the worship, including a wonderful, if somewhat destructive, spoken word piece by Cath’s husband Dai; my role was a very brief preach and to celebrate at the table.) I believe in communion liturgy – not that we should use the BCP or the Roman Missal, but that, whatever words we use, there are things that matter, and must find a place: the recollection of the Lord’s institution of the meal; the eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving; the epiklesis, invoking the Spirit ; … In a very informal, and all-age, context, then, thinking about how to celebrate exercised me a little. The tradition of LPO was clearly very inclusive: all would be invited to the table....

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Holy-daying, Kingdom Living, and Secular Space

We are recently back from holiday; we spent two weeks at Le Pas Opton, a Christian holiday camp in France owned and run by Spring Harvest. We were there because I was speaking one week; I don’t suppose we would have thought to book an explicitly Christian holiday otherwise. I thoroughly enjoyed working with two wonderful people, Cath and Rach, from Sound of Wales, who led worship powerfully and sensitively the week I spoke, and getting to know some of the guests. A few days before we went, I found myself in London with a meeting cancelled, and so met up with an old friend, Lincoln Harvey, who teaches doctrine at St Melitus College (and, incidentally, is the one person you simply must follow on Twitter if you have any theological interest at all). We talked about...

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God, gender, and transsexuality

I appreciate the Westminster Faith Debates, and I think well of them. They were generous to me when I spoke at one. Linda Woodhead, who organises them, is someone I have known, if not closely, for years, someone who I respect enormously academically, and someone who I enjoy interacting with personally when our paths cross. I believe in the programme of making discussion of faith and public life far more intelligent and far more central than it currently is. There is a lot of good here. The most recent debate generated a lot of notice, but I am sure that this was not the primary intention. I have no doubt that Linda and her team welcomed the extensive media engagement that followed; I imagine a text message or four has been exchanged mentioning the word ‘impact’;...

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Lucy Peppiatt on 1 Cor. 11 and 14

Lucy Peppiatt’s Women and Worship at Corinth (Eugene: Cascade, 2015) is a very good book. I don’t say this because I agree with the conclusions, although I do; I don’t even say it because Lucy is a good friend and a former student of mine, although she is; I say it because her book is comprehensively researched and carefully argued, and that combination is what makes a book ‘good’ in the academic world I inhabit. Lucy treats three difficult texts in 1 Corinthians: 11:2-16; 14:20-25; and 14:34-36. She proposes that they may be best read by assuming that in each case Paul is in part quoting his opponents’ views back at them. For this argument, she draws gratefully on Douglas Campbell’s major recent work on Romans, and his extensive investigations into the nature of...

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