Two Gods, Three Faces: An Easter Poem

Two Gods, Three Faces: An Easter poem     The statue of the god who guards the turning of the year Has two stone faces carved. One looks toward the future yet to be One back to all that was. Blame sculptor for the flaw perhaps, but Each face is blank. Unmoved by what is gone, Aloof to what will come.   Olympus’ peak is famous for its cold But still, Could even an olympian god look thus? Gaze on time now gone with just Indifference? No tears? No sadness? No mourning for what might have been? No joy? No triumph? No little smile for real though modest gain? And could his other face be samely flat As it surveys the future? No hope? No fear? No trepidation in those cold blank eyes?   Not even calm, serene. Unable, not unwilling, to feel joy, Or...

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On patience: some reflections on the ethics of argument

The all-too familiar morality of strong opinions which we let off all-too easily and which accomplish nothing at all. I discovered yesterday morning, in the introduction to a seminar he was giving here in St Andrews, that Oliver O’Donovan, the leading moral theologian of his generation, is a colleague; apparently he took an honorary chair with us on his retirement from Edinburgh (which I probably should have known…). The above line is a quotation, as near as I could get it down, from early in a scintillating presentation on ‘Ethics and the Future’; Oliver reflected on time and action, hope and patience, as proper modes of Christian ethical life; it was, as we expect from him, beautifully crafted and extraordinarily tightly argued. The...

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A mother in Israel

I was out preaching at another church this morning; I’d planned the sermon some weeks ago, before I realised it would be Mothering Sunday. This week I’ve struggled again with a commercialised festival that constructs a romanticised picture to celebrate, ignoring the pain this heaps on so many who for whatever reason cannot fit that picture. Pete Greig tweeted a wonderful litany this morning which captured this remarkably well; my response was to tell a story in the ‘children’s talk’ slot that explored a rather different vision of ‘Biblical motherhood’ than is usually offered. The style is visibly, to me, a second-rate Bob Hartman rip-off, but here it is: ‘A mother in Israel’ There are lots of mothers in the...

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‘In Memory of Her’

In Memory of Her is an idea I’ve been working on for a while; it’s not quite where I wanted it to be before going live, but International Women’s Day seems the right day to launch it. It’s a website, telling the stories of women who have had significant preaching or teaching ministries, or otherwise led the church. Nothing more than that. I hope it will grow to include hundreds of stories. I hope that perhaps someday a young woman sensing God’s call in a context that does not encourage her might discover some of these narratives of mothers in the faith and find the courage and faith to follow her vocation as a result. That’s all. Do have a look, and if you’d like to write someone’s story, or draw a picture or...

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Serious thinking does not always lead to the same conclusion

Steve Chalke was kind enough to tweet a link to my piece on his invitation to a global conversation; in the same tweet he linked to a piece by Brian McLaren on the same theme. Brian’s piece was entitled ‘The Biblical cat is out of the fundamentalist bag’, which mostly left me straining to think of mentions of cats in the Bible (I don’t think there are any – several lions of course…); the piece was mostly a series of links to interesting posts elsewhere; at the end, though, McLaren writes: …the real question is this: in the privacy of people’s own hearts, will they (will you, will I?) have the courage to think, rethink, question, and consider the possibility that the conventional view of the Bible is in need of...

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A global conversation on the Bible?

I was told some while back that Steve Chalke was writing a piece on the Bible, and invited by someone to give a response; I refused on grounds of friendship – I did a formal response for someone else last time Steve published a position paper, and I don’t want to make it a habit… …when I read Steve’s piece, however, I confess to being puzzled; I’ve now read it more than once, and I remain puzzled. So this is just me, responding as Steve asked us to, not with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but with a ‘why?’ Because I’m puzzled. On the Oasis site where Steve’s paper is posted it is introduced with the line ‘Steve Chalke calls on the world-wide church to have an open and honest dialogue...

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On pessimistic conservatism: a prolegomenon to more comments on Scottish independence

I do not currently have any metrics enabled on this blog – I genuinely have no idea how many people read any given post; I am alert, however, to who shares or comments on a post. A bot that says a thousand visitors came by matters less to me than one person whose judgement I trust saying ‘what you said there matters’. On this basis, I was very struck by the reaction to my first attempt to say something on the question of the coming referendum on Scottish independence: a number of people whose opinions I trust deeply indicated it was very helpful, so much so that I intend to offer some further comment over the coming weeks/months. This post is, as the subtitle suggests, preparatory to that comment; as I reflect on the questions, I am aware of...

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