Tag Archives: scripture

Coming Out… Into The Light

Does God weep over his creation?

Does God weep over his creation?

Recently, after much prayerful thought I have reached what I believe is a clarity in thinking with regard to something that I have often struggled to express. That is what my stance is, as a Christian and future Minister, towards those, including fellow Christians, who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women

I have often not expressed what my inner heart was telling me, but instead have prevaricated, choosing to be cautious with my public expressions and feeling deeply hypocritical for not speaking out

However, events, both recently within the Church of England and in our world as a whole, have left me with a sense of both shame and despair.

I have struggled to reconcile what I understand to be the most basic tenet of my faith, namely love, and the many interpretations of what that should look like in respect of people whose sexuality differs from my own.

The love that we are called to is quite simple – we are to love God and we are to love each other. For this love to be genuine is indubitable, but in both cases, we have to be wary of discriminating and categorising exactly what this love should look like; how it might be expressed and who may partake of it, whether in long-term relationships, through marriage or through celibacy

I am aware that there are many who look to Scripture and yet only use isolated and often disjointed biblical passages to justify their position and I would affirm that Scripture as a whole contains all truths; but I would have to wonder whether we only worship a God who remains firmly in Old Testament attitudes and early Judaeo-Christian life-styles or a God that lives and is part of the 21st century, with all its challenges, changes and nuances. Has God not accompanied humanity in the last two millennia? Has he not wept and rejoiced, listened and guided? Does he not know what is happening?

Others speak of alternative sexuality as sinful and unforgivable; and again I would be loath to apply this label to what could be considered part of the human condition. Particularly as this is not helpful, especially in light of the message of open-ended grace and forgiveness for all, regardless of any measure of rebellious sinfulness. Who is to say what God does and does not see in us as a whole person – did David (murderer and adulterer) or Jacob (lier and cheat) not receive God’s grace for their devotion to God rather than for what other people judged them by? It is surely our faith that makes the difference

As a professed heterosexual, I cannot begin to say I know what it feels like to have your faith questioned or to be regarded as less worthy because of your sexuality – to know that despite being created in God’s image, that others consider it a tarnished reflection – to have to settle for something less because someone has decided you don’t meet all the ‘criteria’. Yet, I do recognise that the pain and hurt must sometimes be unbearable and for that I willingly offer my support in prayer and in love

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome
but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher,
patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.
God may perhaps grant that they will repent
and come to know the truth
2 Timothy 2:24-25

I know that on reading this, despite my heartfelt attempt to show sensitivity for all concerned, that some Christians will regard what I say as wrong, that they may even regard me in a different light. There will be those who have already made their mind up, who will reject these and other valid arguments completely; and whilst I must respect that decision, whether made on a personal level or as a church directive, at the same time I will be hoping that they too, like many others will be open to a similar journey as mine. When they find that they can no longer sit on the fence or through prayer and soul-searching be ready to admit that when we are called to love as God loves us then we should do so completely and honestly and be ready to treat all equally

Until then may God bless all who love the Lord our God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their strength, and with all their mind; and also their neighbour as themselves. Amen

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

A Bible Is For Life, Not Just For Sundays?

Read the bible in whatever way possible

Read the bible in whatever way possible

At church recently we took the opportunity to think about the place that God’s word, in the form of the bible, takes in our worship and daily lives. Appropriately, it was on Bible Sunday*

It would be silly to ask you to put your hands up or answer out loud, but I’d like you to think what your answers might be to these questions…

I read the bible……

I read the bible every day……

I read the bible every day and then reflect on what I have read…

I read the bible every day and then reflect on what on what I have read and then try to apply it to my life…

The questions are not intended to be accusatory …. that you really should choose the last one in order to be deemed ‘saintly’. The most important thing is whether you actually read the bible!

At college we may not be required to bring our bibles to each lesson or lecture, where we talk about theology, liturgy and formation, but what has become obvious is just how vital Holy Scripture is to our faith. I don’t mean learning huge chunks of it off by heart or being able to recite whole gospels from memory, although it would be handy knowing exactly who said what, where and when sometimes… No, I mean looking to the bible to provide some guidance and answers to the many questions we have, not only about our faith, but about life in general. In the Book, or books to be more precise, lie all those answers. The problem so often is how we understand or interpret them – whether we accept them as instructions or guidance only.

Some people like to look up passages which have been selected as being particularly helpful for the different emotions we may be experiencing. When we’re worried, it might be calming to read, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” or when facing bereavement to be comforted by “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”, both from Matthew’s gospel or when showing gratitude and thanksgiving to proclaim from the psalms “Let us come before him with thanksgiving.”

Even here though we have to be careful that this is not the only way we experience and use God’s word. There is always the danger that these become our preferred readings, to the exclusion of other, perhaps more difficult passages… and are they simply sentences in isolation whereas the whole verse or chapter may actually have more to tell us?

We also have to be aware of bias. So often nowadays we hear people asserting that their stand on different issues is fully justified because of specific passages in the bible. They trot out verse after verse of carefully selected scripture and vehemently declare this is the truth of the matter because it’s written in the bible and that the bible is the Word of God and you don’t argue with God!

All the while they either consciously or unconsciously blatantly ignore other scripture that might contradict their point of view… just think back to how the ordination of women was debated in the Church or how homosexuality is viewed in general. Surely these contradictory passages too are written in the bible and inarguably the Word of God?

What is does show is that it certainly isn’t easy. This book is not really a teaching manual – but it still does contain all the answers. Whenever we think or talk about God we are allowed to do so using all of our previous knowledge and information, but very much aware of the context in which we do so. What have been our examples, our own life experiences? What have we absorbed though our families, our education, our culture? All of these will give us a unique and corporate vision of what God is about, how he moves in our lives and how he moves us to be in his world. Yet we can’t truly be so individualistic without referring it back to and centring on the Scriptures.

Some people might nowadays treat as laughable the simplistic motto from the 80’s and 90’s of WWJD – What Would Jesus Do, but the basic premise makes perfect sense. When we find ourselves in situations where we have to make decisions it might not be a bad thing to simply ask… if I am trying to be more Christlike in my attitude and behaviour then I really need to understand what examples Jesus has given us… and where do I find that out… in the pages of the Bible.

Whether we’re reading about what Jesus was doing or where he was pointing us to what God was doing through him, fulfilling the prophecies; embodying the word that had gone forth or bringing us hope for the future, if we want to get the truest picture, not just some intellectual theologian’s take on it or an experienced commentator’s exegesis or the humble preacher’s attempt at exposition, then we have to go back to the source.

All those other things are subjective and come with lots of layers of opinion and interpretation. Not that I am saying that any or all of them are incorrect, but we need to peel back those layers and expose the heart of the matter, whether you believe it is the word of God to inspire or the inspired word of  God.  “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.Romans 15:4

'Go back to the source'

‘Go back to the source’

My original question emphasised the fact that the bible is a book that needs to be read. We need to make sure it’s not sitting as a pristine but dusty tome in our bookcases, but that it’s placed where it can naturally come to hand. Why not see it as your bedside table book, full of ripping yarns and adventures. Or put it with your dog-eared and food-specked cook books – using it to create delicious recipes for life or maybe in the glove compartment of your car – a combined road atlas and ‘Haynes’ manual to keep you going straight on the journey?

Wherever you keep it don’t forget that unlike a library book there’s no restriction on who could borrow it, it doesn’t have a return by date and each and every copy, whether it’s an original or translation will only ever be a first edition. Happy reading!

*Bible Sunday was celebrated on Sunday 23rd October 2013. It is an annual part of the Church of England’s calendar and resources each year are produced by the Bible Society. Follow this link for more information http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/about-bible-society/our-work/bible-sunday/

A Place to Study!

Cuddesdon Library

Cuddesdon Library

‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ 2Timothy 3:14-17

I LOVE LIBRARIES!… Shh….. Sorry, I think I said that a bit loud! I’ve mentioned before about how much I love books – so a room (or rooms) that are stacked from floor to ceiling with them is equally as exciting. There’s that unique smell of printed paper and leather; the burnished gold lettering on some of the oldest books and the fact that the books on the top shelves, whose titles you can’t quite make out, could be reached by climbing up the librarian’s special step ladder!

A cosy study corner

A cosy study corner

Added to all that is the fact that I get to set up my own little workspace right there in the room itself – I have officially died and gone to bibliotheque heaven!

Knowing that I simply have to walk over and pick the book I need off of the shelf makes studying so much easier – it’s all there at my fingertips, although to be honest it wasn’t that easy the first time……I went in, clutching my list of suggested books and tried to find out where they might be.  I was quite familiar with the Dewey system that most libraries use, but then this system covers vast ranges of topics.

Here, it is more specialised – broken down into various religious and theological categories. Each of these categories is labelled A-Z and then further broken down into even more specific grouping before being alphabetised by author. No wonder I was confused. Added to that is the fact that Cuddesdon library is also not just in one room, or indeed several rooms, but is also on various levels – involving walking along corridors and climbing different flights of stairs!

Cuddesdon library skylight

Cuddesdon library skylight

But when you got this as one of the skylights it doesn’t seem such a problem!

Thank goodness for the librarian whose kindness and patience got me started and pointed in the right direction, because no doubt in the future this will become a haven into which I can tuck myself away as essay deadlines loom.

What I am very much aware of is just how lucky I am to be in this situation and I certainly don’t want to take it for granted. There are many millions of children and adults around the world who not only don’t have access to libraries, but who don’t even have the facilities or the option to an education.

As Malala Yousafzai pointed out in her speech to the United Nations, books and pens are the most powerful weapons we can equip people with, they are the basic tools of education that can begin to eradicate poverty and provide opportunities for better job prospects and life goals.

Perhaps I will do well to remember that, especially when I’m feeling a little stressed and anxious about how I’m doing, and instead look to the fact that part of what my training will be about doing whatever is in my power to seek relative fairness and social justice for those in need. Therefore, when I stop for a moment and glance out of the window it will be a good reminder not to be complacent, because there’s a whole other world out there beyond the tranquil fields, hungry for knowledge and education as well

Tranquil views from Cuddesdon library

Tranquil views from Cuddesdon library