On the surprising origins of the advent wreath

Sunday night we had our church carol service, with considerably more candles than any Scottish Baptist of a previous generation would have approved of outside of a power cut. Front and centre was our advent wreath, four red candles now of differing heights burning, a central larger candle waiting until Christmas morning to be lit. It was a good service; later that evening, whilst certain other members of the family were watching The Apprentice final, I noticed some tweets about the origins of advent wreaths. The Anglican mission society US (once USPG) had tweeted a picture of a pink candle alight, and linked it with the theme of remembering Mary on the fourth Sunday of advent; others had responded querying the link and suggesting that the pink (sic, ‘rose’)...

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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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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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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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Once again: on being unapologetically charismatic

‘Are you a closet charismatic, Steve?’ I was having lunch with someone I like and respect greatly when he threw this one at me a month or two back. My response was heartfelt and immediate: ‘What do you mean, “closet”?’ On this issue, I’m out and proud – although hardly uncritical of the movement as a whole, or in its various strands. Because of this, I initially looked seriously at the first reports from the ‘Strange Fire’ conference that happened across the pond a while back; I have to admit that I quickly lost interest: there are some serious theological criticisms to be made of the charismatic movement, but there was no-one on that platform capable of making them. I picked up a farrago of...

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