Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Review - Mission Shaped Spirituality

It has been quite a while since I have read a book cover to cover in one go. Maybe it is because I am writting an essay on its contents, maybe it is the authors style that appeals to me, maybe its because the contents are great stuff, I suspect though that it is a comnination of all of these things.

This book goes hand in hand with the Church of England report "Mission shaped church" produced in 2004 which has had an immese impact on the church at home, looking theologically and practically at examples of how church could be changed to meet the needs of those on the outside of the doors.

When we think of spirituality - we look at the personal, the relationship with the almighty wether that be expressed in prayer, Bible reading, quietness, art, poetry ... + 101 other ways. However the Bible also speaks about that relationship impacting the world around us as well. Mission comes from the call to "Go", as Christians we are called to engage or in some ways to re-engage with the culture around. The question this book asks us is there a spirituality for mission? a spirituality which will support mission - an apostolic spirtuality?

Well, there clearly has to be! (Not least because there is a book written about it!)

Mission Shaped spirituality is something which has to span traditional church as well as fresh expressions, we are all called to be "one, holy , catholic and apostolic church". Each christian has that call on their lives to be a person who is sent - to go.

We are called and sent. In the busyness of a typical parish, there are many, many concerns, so much so that the fire and passion of mission is in danger of being extinguished. How can one keep this passion.

(p7) No one really argues that themseleves out of inertia. There is onlu one way to deal with it and that is to exert a counter force. To push through it, to pull against it. As soom as we start doing that, the inertia begins to release its grip ... (The authors experience) is that the fire of mission can re-ignite through the act of going" ...

It is this fire of love for God and the world which has to be the foundation of a spirtuality which is mission.

This mission spirituality reminds us of our lifes meaning - who and what we are, what we are doing and our life's purpose. When we live by it, when we really know what mission is then when times are tough, when all around us we see trouble, at the end of a hard and difficult day, week, month ... the sense that we are living for a purpose for which we are commissioned (Matt 28) then we can return to the central truth that we a members of a missional communuity.

The book also reminds us that there is both a general and a particular call on our lives - The general is "to go" the particular is "where to go". It could be deepest africa, it could be round the corner. We are all called to go.

.... to be continued !!!!

these are only my rambling thoughts on the book!

Sermon Preached in Exegesis class

A reading from Mark 7 : 14-21

14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.' "[a]

17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

Let us pray,

Heavenly father I pray that as we come to your word this day, you would teach us, mould us and challenge us through Jesus Christ our Lord amen.

From the outset of this sermon I would like to apologise for using a geeky computer term but here it is GIGO – Garbage in Garbage out. Basically it means that if you put rubbish into a computer you will get rubbish out at the other end.

This passage is all about purity, cleanness of the individual which affects their relationship with God and does, I believe has something to teach us as individuals and also as a church in our life and mission.

Let us take a step back from this individual passage and look at it in context.

Marks gospel is a journey towards the full revelation of Christ as Messiah and concludes with the centurion at the foot of the cross saying “truly this man is the son of God.” This passage occurs right at the heart of the gospel. Prior to this we have had immense demonstration of Jesus’ power – Baptism, calling of the disciples, healings, teachings, teaching on the Sabbath, driving out demons, raising the dead girl, sending out the 12, walking on water. With all of these amazing acts Jesus is gaining in popularity – feed 5,000 people and you will gain a name for yourself!

Just before we get into chapter 7 we have a summary of what Jesus is up to

“As soon as they got out of the boat people recognised Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. …It is not a problem to say that “Jesus mania” was sweeping the countryside.

As we come to the passage we are looking at this morning – the scene is set – Jesus is in one of these towns and some of the Jewish authorities are out to catch him out. The place is public, a market place, stalls, fruit, veg, and noisy lots of people buzzing about. They have got him now! – The disciples are eating without washing their hands - this is not a hygiene issue – its another 1800 years before our Louis Pasteur gives the health benefits of washing hands – it is all about ritual tradition. In this tradition it was a widespread custom of washing after the market as they may be defiled by touching a gentile in the crowd and so become ritually unclean.

The shadow of a Gentile falling across a dish or plate made it unclean.

These traditions were found in the “law of the elders” that halakah – the oral law which claimed to interpret and complete the Mosaic Law.

Jesus responds by trying to show them how far these traditions have fallen from the law. By quoting text from the 10 commandments – “honour your father and mother” but then your case you can nullify that by doing certain things. This is only one example.

It is then Jesus calls the crowd and says that nothing outside a person can defile him – this was radical teaching – it went directly against the rabbinic teachings of the day. That statement in itself would have been completely stark to Jews of the day listening in.

Then after leaving that public declaration we see the disciples entering the house and his disciples asking him what he meant.

ARE YOU SO DULL! – The disciples don’t get the significance of what he said

Food doesn’t enter the heart – therefore it can’t defile it –

It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. He goes on to describe examples of this uncleanness.

So what was Jesus trying to say from this passage?

  1. He was not trying to overturn the laws of Moses – in Matthew we read that he came fulfil the law and the prophets.
  2. He was not trying to say that you can eat / drink or use substances which would harm you.

Instead what he was speaking against the hypocrisy of ritual cleanliness but the impurity of hearts

It is what comes out of a man that defiles him – it is the heart that is unclean – the thing that needs cleaned not the hands. It’s all about the heart

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

I have a story which I think illustrates this

Ray Stedman shares a letter in one of his books from a sharp-minded, Christian business man friend of his. I'd like to share it with you along with Steadman's comments about it.


This scene didn't make sense, There he lay in the street, bleeding -- the hit-and-run driver gone. He needed medical help immediately! Yet he kept pleading, "Don't take me to the hospital, please!" Surprised, everyone asked why. Pleadingly, he answered, "Because I'm on the staff at the hospital. It would be embarrassing for them to see me like this. They've never seen me bleeding and dirty. They always see me clean and healthy; now I'm a mess."

"But the hospital is for people like you! Can't we call an ambulance?" "No, please don't. I took a Pedestrian Safety Course, and the instructor would criticize me for getting hit."

"But who cares what the instructor thinks? You need attention." "But there are other reasons, too. The Admissions Clerk would be upset." "Well, why?" "Because she always gets upset if anyone for admittance doesn't have all the details she needs to fill out her records. I didn't see who hit me, and I don't even know the make of the car or the license number. She wouldn't understand. She's a real stickler for records. Worse than that, I haven't got my Medical card with me."

"What real difference would that make?" "Well, if they didn't recognize me in this mess, they wouldn't let me in. They won't admit anyone in my shape without a Medical card. They must be sure it isn't going to cost the institution. They protect the institution. Just pull me over to the curb. I'll make it some way. It's my fault that I got hit."

With this, he tried to crawl to the gutter while everyone left, leaving him alone. Maybe he made it, maybe he didn't. Maybe he's still trying to stop his own bleeding.

A strange story you might think but unfortunately it is quite close to home. If we think of the man on the pavement as someone we know who has been hit not by a car but by some sin or another. Where should he find somewhere to be helped, somewhere to be accepted somewhere where relationships can be sorted, wounds cleaned, restored.

If we believe that each one’s purity comes not from tradition nor from the outward appearance but from a heart which is made clean from repentance and relationship with Jesus then

I suppose there is a challenge here for us

Firstly as individuals – in looking at ourselves in the mirror – what is there inside us that need changed, values, feelings, sins? How is our heart?

Then again in the mirror as a member of the church – when someone comes in – what prejudices do we have?

And as a body of believers how can we present ourselves not as the museum of saints with all the outward signs of purity and having life sorted but a hospital for sinners.

People who are open about what they struggle with, what they need.

In conclusion I do believe that it is not about garbage in garbage out

The garbage produced is systematic of what garbage is in the heart

Garbage out, garbage inside

And the garbage needs dealt with.

Before we pray let us take a moment of quiet as we listen to a song

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Walking on water

Walking on water
Originally uploaded by rferris281

If you want to walk on water ... Don't do it in Glendalough

Today a load of us weekenders in college headed down to Glendalough for the day. It was great to get out and have the cobwebs blown away - photos are on the flickr site!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sermon on Sunday 13 January 2007, Bray

Matthew 3:13-17

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.’


Heavenly Father,

We pray that as we delve into your word today – you would speak to us individually, that you would increase our faith and teach us more about your word. In your name we pray Amen.

It is great to be back with you at the start of this new year.

Today we are looking at the Baptism of Jesus – It is the natural follow on from events which have occurred over the last while

We had advent – the preparation for Christmas, the expectation of Christ coming

We had Christmas day – the Birth of Christ – Immanuel, God with us

And last week we had the magi from the east bringing gifts

Sure after birth and presents – the natural thing is to baptize a baby isn’t it ???

Let us remember that Jesus was not baptized as a baby – but rather 30 something years pass before he comes to john in the wilderness to be baptized.

This passage is one of the passages we look to when looking at the trinity – all three persons are here – son baptized, spirit as a dove and the voice of the father

What about john? What was he doing there? – preaching a message of repentance.

When jesus came to him he realized that Jesus was THE one who didn’t need to be baptized but that he had to set the example. At that moment we read that God spoke to him.

Today I would like to explore 2 questions

  1. What does it mean to repent?
  2. How does God speak today?

Each Sunday in church we have confession / absolution – what are we doing? – let me show you with this illustration

When God created the world – it says right back at the beginning of the Bible that it was good. – perfect

But sin entered the world because of mans greed – can anybody think of other sins.

Greed, murder, stealing, hatred, envy, lust, alchololism, drugs ….

That is how we look – when we look around our community we see that multiplied – when we turn on the news any night we see the blackness of it all.

It was into this blackness that Jesus came – showing us another way – showing us his example. The need for repentance

The word repentance means turning around. For example if when I was coming here this morning from dundrum and instead of going on the M50 southbound – the way I was meant to go I decided that I just wanted to go home and went Northbound, if at some point I didn’t catch myself on I would end up going completely wrong. I at somepoint need to turn around and come back.

When we come to confess our sins we do say sorry for them but not just a casual sorry but a repentance that means a turning around. That is the symbolism in baptism – dying to sin and rising to life.

Of course we may say that that is too difficult but this needs to affect our lives each and every day- in our offices, at home, at school, when we are with our familes.

On our own this is totally impossible – but not for God. The same God who spoke to his son at his baptism is still speaking to us today.

When we confess our sins god is faithful and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As Christians, if we really believe this – we are called to action – we are called to share that love with our communities.

That is what repentance is

“The journey that Jesus made from the baptism to the cross, was marked by joy, energy, clarity of focus, friendship, conflict, struggle.

The power that Jesus used to get through the many trials and struggles is available to us. By remembering and learning that we are “Loved by God” and learning to “abide” in God, it is from this place that all daily life has to proceed

To answer the second question as to how does God speak today –

- Through scripture

On your service sheets I have included a letter I found when I was researching this sermon – a scripture filled letter which I think is absolutely amazing and speaks to us today.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

More from Kenya

Again from the cmsi website

Kenyan Talks Break Down

Diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving Kenya's ongoing political instability have broken down. The talks, headed by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, had set out to negotiate a deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga following December's disputed elections.

It is now hoped that both parties will begin fresh discussions under a panel which may be headed by ex-UN chief Kofi Annan - although Mr Odinga has intimated that the protests, which have caused so much unrest, will now resume.

To date it is estimated that approximately 250,000 people have been displaced and 600 people killed in the violence which followed the poll.

Ronnie Briggs, CMS Ireland's Regional Mission Partner for East and Southern Africa, writes,

"It is now two weeks exactly since the election held in Kenya on the 27th December and it is amazing to see the vast destruction that has taken place in that short time. The serious numbers of people killed and the hundreds of thousands made homeless as a result of the breakdown in political leadership.

The facts and figures will eventually all come in and we will be horrified all over again but what this hides is the real suffering and agony of so many people. Those who suffer most in these circumstances are the poorest and this is indeed the case for many people in Kajiado. There are food shortages in Nairobi and so there is very little food getting to Kajiado. Very little grows in the Kajiado area and so people depend on supplies coming out from Nairobi. There are signs of some food now getting out of Nairobi but this will take time before it reaches people living in more remote parts of the Diocese.

Even more concerning is the fact that the political talks between President Kibaki and Raila Odinga broke down today with no lasting agreed way forward. This will frighten people into thinking that the fighting will start all over again so there is a high degree of nervousness around. The longer the political stalemate goes on the more difficult it will be to find common ground for an agreed way forward.

The drought situation in Kajiado is now becoming even more difficult and the Church is struggling to find a positive way to respond. These are testing times for the Bishop and all the Clergy and for them to know that we here in Ireland are praying for them is of great comfort and really makes them feel part of the world-wide Church. Please take this issue on seriously and bring the situation in Kenya to the Lord in prayer.

The Urban Development Programme of Nairobi Cathedral has also been in touch and the three communities they work with are well - although again the tension is high and the poorest are the ones to suffer most. Nairobi has gone back to more or less 'normality' - shops and offices are open and public transport is back on the road. The ban on live transmissions for TV and radio is being lifted so there is more of a normal 'feel' to life in Kenya. However, we now know how fragile this can be so I would urge you to pray along the following lines:

- For a break through in the political discussions for a lasting peace
- The violence is being perpetrated by a small number of people - pray that they will be able to see more clearly what they are actually doing to Kenya and stop this activity.
- Pray for the Church leaders in Nairobi and also in Kajiado that the message they send out will be one of encouragement and support for people to live peacefully together.
- Pray for the UDP staff - Louise, Kathleen and Lucy - that they may be strong and able to respond to the needs of the people in their communities.
- Pray for Bishop Taama and all his Clergy. That they may show strong leadership and be a good example for others.
- Pray for the Bishop's family and especially Nathan that he may make a full recovery.
- Pray for the CMS Office in Nairobi - Sila, Anne, Enos and Witcliff - for their safety in their work and to encourage them to continue their service to both Kajiado and the UDP as normally as possible."

Making life easy for essay!

I love it when software actually works

One of the problems I have had over the years with essays was the referencing of books - it took up too much time ... way too much time ... that was untill last night!

its name is Zotero and it claims to be the next generation research tool - you can find it

What does it do?
Well simply it keeps a library of books you have used / you have in your library. You search for them on the internet - eg on the trinity library site or other book sites. When you find a book a wee book icon apears in the address bar click it and all the information automatically downloads onto your computer - dates, location and publisher author. It stores it in a wee database on your hard drive.

Then the cleaver bit comes when you come to ms word or open office - a new wee tool bar icon appears when you click the button after you have used a quote it will automatically stick in a footnote - then click another button at it will automatically create a Bibliography for you.

What it does is plugin to firefox web browser - so you need that first
Then download the plugin for firefox
Then download the word plugin

Then add your booklist!

I am raving about this to the extent that lastnight I stayed up late and stuck in most of the books on my shelves at college.

Happy New Year


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Normal Christianity

OK, I do not know where this post is going to end up as I write... but in Bible study tonight we got talk around the whole Idea of what is normal ...

Go to parts of africa, asia ... and you will find people of faith, people who are living their lives sold out totally for the kingdom of God. you will find people who have very little but people who have it all. So what are we to expect a normal Christian life to look like?

What do we mean by normal?

It would depend on who you ask: depending upon their custom, their tradition, their culture.

Surely for us as chistians the normal has to be exemplified as Christ - what he did as a example has to be our norm. If that is the case then logically to be normal we have to do what he did, to follow what he commanded. If that is the case then a huge question has to be asked of the church at large - how far are we living up to that norm? how far are our cultural norms removed from that? which normal life are we living - are we taking our norm from our own experience or from the gospel way of life?

Are we doing what he did? are we trying to live to his standards? are we content in living a lesser standard? ... mmm ...

Baden in chapel tonight spoke of a set of stairs - if society could see what lay at the bottom of those stairs we certainly wouldn't go down them we'd choose to leave them well alone. BUT
we don't, we are more on a spiral staircase where we see just a few steps ahead and feel its OK to keep going. That has to be where penitence, repentance comes in we need to instead of going down take hold of our selves and return to the God.

Normality - to be a normal christian surely has to mean being what God has called us to be, and doing what he has called to do. With that in mind i refer to a book which I have just read cover to cover - Mission shaped Spirituality

"All of us are called by the missionary God to share with him in his missionary work". That means we are called to go. All of us are called to go and share that gospel. When we share that gospel as commanded we are being obedient to the call.

In Matthew 10:8 there is a definitive call to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy and drive out demons" ... but that's not normal! ... is it?

... it certainly isn't in my church ! ... talk about that in most churches and you most certainly would get strange looks

... feed the hungry (support a mission charity, sponsor a child ...)

there are huge questions around what the holy spirit is doing - the ministry of healing in our churches today - in the BCP there is a service of healing and wholeness, the laying on of hands for healing, prophecy, tounges, prayer, visions ... certainly it could be seen as one particular "box" in the church.

"Missionary engagment needs to draw on a particularly robust spirituality, which can take on the powers, whether social or supernatural. We need, as Christians to be assertive and engaged. The roots of taht assertiveness are not found in ourselves but in the authority that has been given to us: 'heal... raise... cleanse .. drive out'.

Churches as it suggests in the MSS must come to terms with this authority and also the responsibilty which comes with it. It is only through this growing up and responsibility taking this to the secular polis can the church grow further.

One sees hope, when you look around the globe where healings and lots of other miracles are taking place. where the gospel is being proclaimed.

What are we passionate about? what are we doing if we are not seeing lives changed for Jesus?

the gospel needs to be shared ... lives need to be changed with it ... what are we doing about it?

when miracles happen ... is that the norm? or should we be surprised? are we praying for it?

surely we do every time we pray the Lord's Prayer -

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Mission is about life ... life is about mission

mmm... lots to ponder on

are we normal? am I normal ?

what is normal? do I want to be normal?

is society normal or abnormal?

... mmm ... mmm ...

Friday, January 04, 2008


Originally uploaded by rferris281

I have now joined the photo community that is flickr

- Photos will appear on the Right and my page on that website is

photos from the latest snowfall are there

Kenya problems

From the CMSI Website

Kenyan Leaders look for support in the face of violence

Church leaders in Kenya are asking for prayer support in the wake of the violence that has followed last week's disputed elections.

Supporters of Mwai Kabaki, who was re-elected president in the 27th December vote, and those of opposition leader Raila Odinga have clashed across Kenya with both sides accusing each other of 'ethnic cleansing' and 'genocide'.

Around 300 people have been killed - more than 30 of those burned to death while sheltering in a church in Eldoret, in the west of the country - and the Kenyan Red Cross estimates that approximately 70,000 people in the rift valley have been displaced by the continued unrest.

The violence follows accusations that the December elections were rigged and while falling short of condemning the process, EU observers have stated that the poll "fell short of international standards".

Diplomatic efforts to diffuse growing tensions are now underway as Kenya looks to avoid the type of ethnic and political crisis that has dogged the wider region in recent years.

Ronnie Briggs, CMS Ireland's Regional Mission Partner for East and Southern Africa, says, "As many of you will know Kenya held it's general elections on the 27th December to vote for a new President, MP's and local Councilors. While the actual voting day was reasonably quiet the delay in announcing the Presidential winner caused the beginning of some serious reaction all across the country.

The sitting President - Mwai Kibaki - was eventually re-elected and after the announcement on Saturday last the country was thrown into chaos with riots in all Cities and Towns and also in smaller towns like Kajiado. This is likely to run for days to come as more demonstrations are organised and tension mounts as a result.

Bishop Taama of Kajiado has been involved with other local community leaders to try and resolve the situation but it is not easy. There is a lack of leadership in the whole country at the moment and while that vacuum exists there will be tension and fear. Much of Kajiado is also facing a serious drought situation and again the Bishop is trying to work out ways of supporting his people through this. When these things are put together the people who suffer most are those at the bottom of the economic chain".

Following conversations with church leaders in Kajiado Ronnie asks that CMS Ireland members and supporters would pray:

- For peace in the whole country and an end to the unrest.
- For all political leaders that they may be wise in their use of power.
- For wisdom and understanding as decisions are made over the next number of days that the needs of all Kenyans be taken into account.
- For Bishop Taama as he provides leadership in Kajiado - for wisdom and clear guidance as he gives direction.
- For all those suffering from both the political situation and the drought in Kajiado.

Please pass this information on to your Parishes, prayer groups and as many family and friends as possible and let's all make a difference through the power of prayer.

Photo Credit: BBC