The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Yesterday our opening worship in the park began with a welcome:


to what you cannot see
to what you cannot control
to what you cannot ignore
to what you cannot hide from


the welcome is universal
the entrance is free
the invitation is open
the hand is extended
the time is now…..


to overflowing generosity
to gentle nourishment
to unspoken prayer
to inarticulate longing


to actions beyond words
to help without asking
to provision without measure
to hospitality without price

take hold of the unknown
accept the unconditional
let go of limitation
trust what you cannot question

god welcomes you


whether you deserve it or not
whether you think you deserve it or not
you are welcome
they welcome you to their mystery
their depth from which all creation springs

god welcomes you

 the creator of everything….

the word that no-one recognised….
the spirit bringing tenderness without words….

they welcome you……

adapted from jonny baker –  worship trick 67 in series 4


Bible readings:  Matthew 22: The Parable of the Wedding Banquet 

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off — one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite* to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

* The Greek translated ‘invite’ in the NIV can also be rendered as collect, call, & get.

Isaiah 53 The Suffering Servant 

 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

The parable of the Wedding Banquet  has troubled me for some time, so I asked people to consider the following questions & thoughts:

I find this parable disturbing! (Matt 22:1-14) Do you?

It has dead servants, a destroyed city, and guests who feel compelled to attend.

It ends with a man humiliated, tied up, mistreated, thrown out and probably killed just because he wasn’t wearing the right clothes.

How is this story a picture of the kingdom of heaven???

If it is about salvation, then it’s a type of salvation that seems to include coercion rather than free-will.

If it is about grace then it appears to be a grace that burns a city because of the transgressions of a few people.

If it is about the messianic banquet, then it appears to be a banquet without a bridegroom, a bride, and any hint of celebration.

It is a strange banquet where violence is so at the fore with food never mentioned.

If the king in the parable is meant to be God, then it seems to be a god who does not behave according to the values of the kingdom of heaven.

This parable ought to disturb us – there is something seriously wrong if it doesn’t.

Is the parable about final judgement or heaven or hell?

Or could it be about the world – about kings, emperors, despots, tyrants, dictators, presidents, politics, violence, coercion and injustice?

Are we open to being provoked, challenged and disturbed by Jesus’ parables?

Are we open to new interpretations and new understandings?

Does Jesus’ way of teaching challenge us: to think about what really matters in life, and to think about how we can live the life that God wants us to live?

While searching the internet for alternative interpretations of the parable I found a very interesting paper by Marty Aiken. The following is just a  brief resumé.

Marty Aiken: “Discerning the Suffering Servant in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet”.

Aiken proposes a new reading of the parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew (22:1-14).  His proposal is that Jesus uses this parable to declare to the world, that his authority will be the authority of the suffering servant.  Jesus does this by structuring the parable so that he can introduce the figure of the ‘suffering servant’ from Isaiah 52 & 53.

Instead of seeing the king as making Jesus’ audience think of God, Aiken argues that this king would have sparked in Jesus’ audience thoughts of kings much closer to home, the Herods, especially Herod the Great. Drawing from Josephus, Marty Aiken shows how the Herods actually behaved in ways very similar to the king in this parable. With a king so brutally dictatorial, does Jesus really mean for us to think of God rather than the many petty kings and dictators, such as the Herods, who have littered human history with their victims?

Aiken points out that when Herod first approached Jerusalem he had a fiancé waiting in the wings.  He had taken as his fiancé the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, the High Priest of the Temple, and a descendant of the Hasmonean line, the most prestigious in all of Judea.  I proposed that we could envision their wedding as the culmination and symbol of the political reconciliation that could have occurred if Herod’s offer had been accepted.  Herod’s offer was rejected, and he then came to Jerusalem a second time.  This time he makes no effort to negotiate with the people.  Instead he immediately proceeds to begin military preparations, bringing his army “…near that part of the wall where it could be most easily assaulted, he pitched that camp before the Temple….” And now, clearly intent on battle, what does Herod do:  “…even while the army lay before the city, he himself went to Samaria, to complete his marriage, and to take to wife the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, for he had betrothed her already….”

Aiken thinks it very likely that Herod would come to mind, and I also think it very likely that his marriage on the eve of the battle by which he conquered Jerusalem would be a part of the popular imagination.  In fact, given the parable’s immediate reference to a king and a wedding banquet, the thought of Herod’s pre-battle marriage would be more likely to have been the first association anyone made with the parable’s wedding banquet setting. This makes the parable’s focus on the guests as the crucial actors. Jesus presumably has in his audience not just those who fear his challenge to the established order; he also likely has a second audience which has been awaiting a challenge to that order.  Both are looking for vindications of their position, and Jesus allows neither to find it at the expense of the other.

Why would Herod leave an army on the eve of battle to finalise a marriage?  Herod the Great was a man of considerable sophistication, even if he was impetuous, tyrannical and brutal.  He was sophisticated enough to realise the wisdom of having legitimacy precede his conquering. Marriage into the Hasmonean royal family would help to legitimise his kingship.

So who is the positive figure in this parable that makes us think of the kingdom of heaven? Could it be the person without a wedding garment who seems to intentionally take on the king’s brutality? (The business of not ‘wearing a wedding garment’ cannot be read as a reference to someone’s moral behaviour. It is also important to note that the custom of the age and place was to provide tunics to place over a guests street clothes so as to participate in the wedding party, and which would have been at the disposal of all the guests on their way in.)

Marty Aiken points to a verse in Matthew’s Gospel – 11:12: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and the violent take it by force”. The kingdom of heaven as suffering violence is represented in this parable not through the figure of the king who dishes it out, but in the person who is subjected to violence. The fate of this guest is the same fate that Jesus himself suffers which had already been the fate of Antigonus.

Aiken identifies this person with the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52 & 53:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Matthew’s Gospel emphasises Jesus’ silence before his accusers more than the others:

Matthew 26:62-63: “The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But Jesus was silent.”

Matthew 27:11-14: “Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.”

If the man without a wedding garment is in fact a reference to the suffering servant, then the suffering servant has put us in a position to understand the answer Jesus gave to the chief priests and elders.  They asked Jesus: “By what authority are you doing these things?”  The answer, probably different from any answer they had conceived of, was the authority of the suffering servant.  The priests, and a great many others, expected Jesus to lead a revolution.  Jesus now tells them that instead of a revolution he will take onto himself the violence that already rules their lives.

Interestingly a literal translation into English from the Greek in Matt: 22 verse 2 would be “a man, a king” and not “a king” as is the usual translation.  Is Matthew trying to tell us something? Very often an allegorical interpretation is applied to Jesus’ parables in which the main character is frequently interpreted as God. But what if Matthew is using the double designation of “a man, a king” to make sure we don’t do that? Shouldn’t this king simply be seen as a man and not as God? This reading is surely crucial because the king is downright brutal, violent and vicious. He cannot possibly be God, can he?

What if Jesus tells parables that avoid the common convention of assuming kings and lords to be a stand-in for God? What if Jesus is inviting his listeners to compare the kingdom of heaven with human kingdoms? The history of interpretation means that it’s difficult not to make the connection between “God” and the “king”. But Aiken’s opinion is that Matthew gives us at least two clues of why we should not allegorise the parable:   in verse 2 he writes: “a man, a king”; and he uses “kingdom of heaven” to try to get us to compare God’s kingdom, the “kingdom of heaven,” with human kingdoms. Jesus then shows us God as King but not in the fashion of human kings. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence (Matthew 11:12), but never inflicts it. The Kingdom of Heaven, then, is not the banquet, but suffers violence in the person of Jesus. There could hardly be a more startling difference and Jesus highlights the difference through this story of a brutally violent tyrant. After all that had happened so far during Holy Week Jesus hearers would have been in no doubt that his message was a challenge to the established order – the Romans, the Herods, the Sadducees, the Pharisees. It is also a rejection of the violence of the Zealots. Could Jesus have been saying in the parable that once we forsake the values of the kingdom of heaven then violence will make us indistinguishable from others?

The parables are highly creative little stories sprung from Jesus’ imagination and have as their aim helping people understand what God is like. Although it is possible to interpret the parable in terms of a violent God, that interpretation only serves to reinforce what Jesus audience already thought, and therefore they are unable to truly understand Jesus teaching about God and his kingdom. It is also perfectly possible to read the parable as a challenge to this violent picture of God, and even to suggest that the kingdom of heaven never inflicts violence.

Luke’s version of the parable presents a positive view of a ‘certain man’ who invites in “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (Luke 14:21). Matthew’s king carries out no such act of benevolence. He is simply insistent on having people obey his authority. When the first batch of invitees don’t come, he kills them all, and presumably many others in a lavish display of violence such that the next group of invitees – “both good and bad,” and not Luke’s “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” – cannot think of turning him down. The picture of the king which Jesus describes for us in Matthew’s Gospel is the worst sort of tyrant who rules by violence and terror. How can we so easily accept an interpretation that presents this king as God?

Aiken suggests that the real image of the Messianic Banquet in the Gospels is the feeding of the five thousand. Here is a generous feeding to all comers with no reprisals for anybody who decides to stay away. No coercion or violence is exerted in the invitation. Nobody gets thrown out for being badly dressed. The poor are not afterthoughts, invited only to replace the ungrateful rich and powerful. The poor as well as the rich are all invited right from the start. The banquet offered by Jesus shows up the king’s banquet in the parable for what it is. Instead of an offer we cannot refuse, we are made an offer that we do not want to refuse. This really is a cause for rejoicing and celebration.

Donald Trump’s decision to take the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the refusal of the rich and powerful to tackle inequality inspired an alternative way of sharing bread and wine.

Our liturgy will talk of both bread and wine but we will only share bread and leave the wine as a symbol that the fruits of creation are not fully shared with everyone, where so much is taken by the rich and powerful everywhere that there isn’t enough left for the poor, both in the developing world and in the rich north. Due to the greed, denial and short-sightedness of the rich and powerful we seem incapable of tackling inequality and climate change, and appear to be determined to leave a desert for our children’s children’s children.

Should I deny people the wine this morning? One of the great things about ThirdSpace is that the bread and wine is offered to all unconditionally. Not sharing wine this morning is meant to be both a prophecy and a picture of what happens to much of the abundance of God’s creation.

Jesus took bread
grown from the earth
and broke it and said:
This is my body
when you eat of it
share it with all.

And Jesus took a cup of wine
pressed from the fruit of the land
and said:
This is a sign of my promise
when you drink
drink it with all.

We will share only bread
for still the world does not fully share what creation offers.
Some take so much others have little or nothing,
and through denial and greed a desert is being created for future generations.

The wine will remain here as a symbol
that the full promise of God is not yet shared by all.

Let us share bread together and the longing for justice and mercy and compassion.

Let us share this gift of the earth that is filled with Jesus.


We continued our fellowship by enjoying Fairtrade teas, coffees and hot chocolates at Cool River.







Pigeons and Pentecost



This morning (28/5/17) we met in the park under a wonderful weeping beech tree just by the river. It was particularly lovely to welcome old friends and so our opening litany of thanksgiving (see previous post) was especially meaningful in giving thanks for reunions. The birdsong that accompanied our worship was just amazing! Because we are apart next Sunday we celebrated Pentecost a week early!

In preparation for Pentecost check out

After viewing the above we were each given a copy of Chris Goan’s brilliant meditation: Holy Spirit Mojo to inspire a time of personal prayer in the park.

There are rumours-

Like smoke signals blurred in the wind

They say

He is here

Not in metaphor

Not whipped up in the collective madness of charismatics

Not just politely suggested by the high drama of religious ritual-

Here, now

Should I hide?

I could never meet his eye

Knowing that the hidden parts of me will be

Wide open

How do I prepare?

I have no fine things-

No fine words

My shield of sophistication

Is broken

I am soft flesh laid bare

I am a fanfare to repeated failure

I am herald only to this



But the Creator wears no stately form

Wants no majesty-

walks gently

And has a humble heart

And is-



Stop making things so complicated

Start from where you are

Not where you would like to be

Not where others say you should be

But right now

I just want to warm your heart

It is not for you to cut a way into the undergrowth

Or make a road into the rocky places

Rather let us just walk

And see where this will lead us

All around you is beauty

See it

Smell it

Feel it

Look for softness in your heart-

There I am

Look for tenderness

And it will be my Spirit

Calling you to community

You are wrapped up in me

And I am bound up in you

We are held together by soft bindings

Like tender shoot and stake

Like earth and gentle rain

Like flowers and sun

Like universe and stars

Like ocean and rolling wave

Like fields and each blade of grass

Like trees and rustling leaves

There is only now

Rest in the moment and be thankful.


In each of the four gospels, the Spirit of God shows up at Jesus’ baptism in the form of a dove. But those glossy images of the Holy Spirit descending from the heavens as a pristine white bird may not be quite how it was. And maybe as Christian symbols go, it all seems a bit bland anyway.

The bird at Jesus’ baptism was more likely a rock dove, a species much more prevalent in Palestine. These birds are grey with an iridescent green and violet neck. Yes – you’ve guessed it… a pigeon. A pigeon? Though most of us have separate categories for pigeons (dirty) and doves (pure), ornithologists will tell you the names are interchangeable.

That means the symbol for the Holy Spirit is just a hair’s breadth away from a symbol of urban trashiness.  Pigeons are ubiquitous; they’re everywhere, forever leaving droppings on our pavements and windowsills, toddling around doing -not -very-much and even as I write this, I can hear one coo-ing on the roof. (Someone somewhere will have researched the average distance we always are from a pigeon.)

What if the spirit of God descends not like an angelic, pure-as- the driven snow dove, but like a pigeon; somehow always underfoot, routinely ignored, often disdained but in the very thick of life? What does that tell us about the nature of the Spirit and how do we respond?


Your Spirit;
present from the beginning
of beginnings,
present in the message
of the prophets,
present in provision
for your people,
present in the life
and words of Jesus,
present in the Cross
and crucifixion,
present in the church
that you empower.
Your Spirit;
within us, around us, behind and ahead of us
today and always



Steve wrote us a Pentecost liturgy for Bread and Wine


There are advantages to being 1,984 years old. I have always had some advantages even when they weren’t apparent. “The Bride of Christ” is what they called me. Really! And I was barely out of nappies then.
I have carried that with me though – in the difficult times. I have had to. Remember those dear Copts will you?
People ask what the secret is to a long life. I think they’re expecting me to keel over tomorrow. I always reply, “Taking a little wine” and they laugh! Not realising, I suppose, that the blood is that which gives everlasting life. Wine and a little bread.
I suppose that age lends a certain perspective. Highs and lows – leaven leavens unevenly. Some ground is stony. But we march still. Eyes fixed on the Bridegroom – he who laid down his life for us.
So take now the bread – for you it might be us, the body or his body. Let it nurture.
So take now the wine – for you it might be Happy Birthday wine, the wine of renewal and resurrection.
And so in our 1,985th year, let’s now go out with hope as our guide and with faith our firm foundation. May you and yours be entwined in the Trinitarian God. Amen.




New liturgies at the bandstand

So, this morning at the bandstand in bright sunshine under blue skies we feasted our eyes and happily joined together in saying our newly created                         Litany of thanksgiving:

For this time, this place, this day, these people
For calling us to this church, this freedom, this worship
We give thanks to the Lord for he is good
His love endures for ever.

For the changing seasons, light and weather,
For trees and birdsong and river and skies
For needless beauty and endless diversity…
That all creation joins with our praise today
That the sun sings and the earth hums…
If we were silent the very stones would sing his praise
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
the whole earth is full of his glory

For those we love, for those who love us
For those we struggle with and those who struggle with us
For old friends and new ones, for friendships yet to be made and for reunions
For all human goodness that speaks of your presence
For our frailty that drives us to acknowledge our dependence on you
We affirm that you Lord are God
It is you who made us and we are yours
For you know how we were formed
You remember that we are dust

For the freedom we enjoy
For choice and wealth and healthcare and education and opportunities and democracy
For holidays and leisure and comfort
For the privilege to be called to give to those who do not have these things
In this sacred place we remember that these are your gifts and affirm our calling
Your kingdom come, your will be done
On earth as in heaven

For the shalom you promise
For the call to press on together as companions on the journey
For your foundational underpinning, support, comfort, direction and strength
For your constant presence – your very name spoken with each breath we take
For Jesus – for all he has done, all he does, all he will yet do for us
For loving us
Salvation and glory and power belong to you our God

We then wandered the park with a reading from Acts 7 from the Message and considered the following questions.

Acts 7
51-53 “And you continue, so bull-headed! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!”
54-56 At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”
57-58 Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.
59-60 As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died.

How does this passage speak to you?
Turn your prayers to those who are being persecuted for their faith today.
Pray for those in any kind of need who need that glimpse of heaven now.
Give thanks for Stephen and for all who have been trailblazers of faith, paving the way for you to come to faith yourself.
Pray that you would be able to play your part in promoting God’s kingdom in the way you are called to, faithfully following the example of Stephen and others that have gone before you.
Ask for God to soften your heart and un-flap your ears so that you don’t miss the Holy Spirit’s call for whatever God might call you to next…

Back at the bandstand we discussed at length various people and situations requiring our prayers and then took our own version of the Lord’s Prayer, line by line as our prayer for them and for us:

God, who cares for us, The wonder of your presence fills us with awe.
Your name, your very nature, is holy.
All creation resonates with it!
Let all people come to proclaim it!
May we move into your presence and unimpeded love.
Let not our will, but your will and purposes be fulfilled in our lives here on Earth.
Give us the material things you know we need to survive.
Release us – as indeed we release others – from the debt of wrong-doing.
Strengthen us for difficult times. Liberate us from all that is evil.
For you reign in majesty, in love,
Power and glory from the beginning of time and forever more.

After this, Steve spoke about his time in Costa Rica. It is a country clearly pursuing the liberal progressive ideal in a part of the world riven by instability and at a time when the US to the north seems to be going in the reverse direction. We visited the grand National Theatre built in the 1890s. This was a statement of their desire to replicate and aspire to the values of the modern European (colonising) countries. Ornate and splendidly over the top in its baroque style, it was a commitment to the highest sophistication in the arts and sciences, in health and education. They are immensely proud of it. In 1948 CR abolished its army – and it has survived. It is on the most rigorous eco-path to sustainability and maintaining its bio-diversity. This hopeful left-leaning progressive politics contrasts with the right wing revival seen in the US and parts of Europe. Theologically it reminds me of John Stott’s writing on the paradox of human beings – that we are simultaneously thoroughly fallen and made in God’s image. Perhaps we can characterise the left as believing that human beings are essentially good and that we must all plan with that hope. The right views humans as essentially fallen and tries to find a way to use their self-interest to build a way forward. The trouble is we are both fallen and in God’s image. This is beautifully and poignantly expressed in the poem, “Vultures”.

Vultures – Chinua Achebe
In the greyness
and drizzle of one despondent
dawn unstirred by harbingers
of sunbreak a vulture
perching high on broken
bone of a dead tree
nestled close to his
mate his smooth
bashed-in head, a pebble
on a stem rooted in
a dump of gross
feathers, inclined affectionately
to hers. Yesterday they picked
the eyes of a swollen
corpse in a water-logged
trench and ate the things in its bowel. Full
gorged they chose their roost
keeping the hollowed remnant
in easy range of cold
telescopic eyes …
indeed how love in other
ways so particular
will pick a corner
in that charnel-house
tidy it and coil up there, perhaps
even fall asleep – her face
turned to the wall!
…Thus the Commandant at Belsen
Camp going home for
the day with fumes of
human roast clinging
rebelliously to his hairy
nostrils will stop
at the wayside sweet-shop
and pick up a chocolate
for his tender offspring
waiting at home for Daddy’s return …
Praise bounteous
providence if you will
that grants even an ogre
a tiny glow-worm
tenderness encapsulated
in icy caverns of a cruel
heart or else despair
for in every germ
of that kindred love is
lodged the perpetuity
of evil.

We finished with bread and wine and words written by him for today:

Of Dignity and Dust

We are, Lord, a paradox of dignity and dust.
We yearn for glory. We commit to hope. We aspire to love.
And yet we fall, exchanging our robes as children of God for
gaudy rags.
Our story is one of redemption and not of our own doing. Just as
the dough and the must is transformed by yeast, so we are
restored to relationship in Jesus and through Jesus.
New life and redirected perspectives as we meet with bread
and wine.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord of all creation whose Spirit
indwells: we are your creatures, dependent and needy.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord of all salvation whose Spirit
inspires: we are your creatures, dependent and needy.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord of all futures whose Spirit enfolds:
we are your creatures, dependent and needy.
And so we come to the bread that Jesus took and broke and
shared. We thank you.
And so we come to the wine that Jesus took and spilt and
shared. We thank you.
Take our dust and dignity, our hopes and fears, our loves and
losses and renew us in this meal. Go with us until we meet
again at this table. Amen.


Holy Fool

I am a fool
I look beyond reason
I stray beyond logic
I dance when I should cry
I am full of joy for the things I don’t know
I love someone I’ve never seen
I long for the future and I love each step toward it
I walk the earth but I dream of the heavens
I know I am special because of my ordinariness
I find chaos confusing and confusion creative
I am of no influence yet I strive to make a difference
I have no voice yet I shout from the rooftops
I am a poet whose lost for words
I love the world that turns its back on all that matters to me
I serve one who washed feet
I live for a deity who died for me
I am an innocent because I know what I’ve done wrong
I am free because my heart is not my own
I am strong because I am broken
I found God in a “Godless” place
I am a faithful rascal
I am an ordinary radical
I am a holy fool!

Mark Berry

The American Dictionary has for one of its definitions of the word “Fool” the following…….

‘One who subverts convention or orthodoxy or varies from social conformity in order to reveal spiritual or moral truth: a holy fool.’

(with thanks to Shane Claiborne for the phrase “ordinary radical” and to the Guardian who called me “The Missionary to Godless Telford”)


Last Supper at Holly House!

Last night we shared a wonderful meal together, celebrating 2 new births, welcoming an old friend (now old enough to be a Grannie!) and taking time to focus on Holy Week, which we are all dispersed for this year. The words we used for the sharing of bread and wine are words I put together and we’ve used for a good 3 years or so. I never cease to find new insights through this greater understanding of the Passover meal and significance of the bread and wine – so here they are for anyone who’s interested:

A last supper before Holy Week and Easter 2017

Before we share bread and wine, we share our own needs and the names and stories of those we know who need Jesus now. We symbolically include them at the table and take bread and wine for them and for ourselves, committing us all into his safekeeping as we head towards Holy Week and into Easter… (Sharing of needs)

At Jesus’ last supper – the Passover meal – the bread was unleavened – leaven or yeast representing sin. It was also a reminder of the bread carried on the exodus journey. The Israelites were ‘with-breaders’, with God as their ‘com-panion’.
At the Seder meal of Passover, there are 3 ‘matzot’ on the table – named after the 3 Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is the middle one that is broken – the Isaac – the one who was taken for sacrifice. The other half is hidden and called the ‘afikomen’, the ‘afters’ or the ‘that which is to come’. It was this that Jesus redefined as his body broken for us…

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,
This is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.
After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you re-enact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.

Response: Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

The Afikomen is broken and shared around the table.

We read, in turn:

  • This is the bread of the Passover which Jesus shared with his friends at the Last Supper
  • It is the unleavened bread – the ‘without-sin’ bread
  • It is the middle matzah that Jesus broke – the Isaac – the bread of sacrifice 
  • It is the afikomen – the ‘that-which-is-to-come’ bread.
  • It is the bread prescribed to the Hebrews to take on the exodus from Egypt – they were sent out ‘with bread’ – with God as their ‘com-panion’
  • This is the promise of Jesus as our ‘with-breader’ – our companion on the journey
  • This is the body of Christ broken for us, for the forgiveness of sins

We eat the bread.

We fill our cups.
There are 4 cups of wine drunk during the course of the Passover meal, recalling 4 promises from Exodus 6: 6 – 7.
The first cup is for the promise ‘I will bring you out’ and is known as the cup of deliverance.
The second recalls the promise ‘I will deliver you from slavery’ and is known as the cup of freedom.
The third remembers the promise ‘I will redeem you with a demonstration of my power’ and is called the cup of redemption. It is also known as the cup of thanksgiving and gives its name to ‘Eucharist’ meaning ‘thanksgiving’. This was the cup redefined by Jesus as his blood of the new covenant.
The fourth cup promised ‘I will acquire you as a nation’. This was referred to as the cup of consummation, and it was this cup that Jesus did not drink.

We read in turn:

  • This is the third cup of the Passover meal which Jesus shared with his friends at the Last Supper
  • It is the cup of redemption 
  • It is the cup of thanksgiving 
  • It is the cup of the new covenant 
  • It is the cup of promise
  • It is the cup of suffering
  • It is the cup of joy
  • It is the cup of healing
  • This is the blood of Christ given for many, for the forgiveness of sins

We drink together and say our Amen!

Thanks to all who came last night. Blessings on all until we meet again post-Easter!!!

To turn, turn…

To turn

We began our worship this morning with the loudest birdsong ever and sun breaking through (despite predicted rain) to Isaiah 45: 8-12, 18-24: (The Message). Do look it up in that version – it is brilliant – and perfect for Lent…

I found it on the basis of the words ‘So turn to me and be helped’, with ‘turn’ being an obvious word for a Lenten reflection, linking with ‘repentance’. However, that word ‘turn’ took me on an unexpected journey to somewhere quite different – so if you have time to follow my journey and what I shared today, here goes…

I found myself looking at the song

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right

While this song was written by a Shaker Christian and interpreted by some to be about repentance, that’s not the case – it is a Shaker dancing song and the words ‘turn’ are a set of dance instructions! Getting you back to the right place again in the dance.

And this in turn led Sydney Carter who wrote the Lord of the dance hymn which is of course set to the same tune. Many will know that the title the Lord of the dance is originally one attributed to the Hindu God Shiva – the destroyer. That in itself is often misunderstood by Christians – God as destroyer? But of course there are things that should be destroyed like evil – we may know lyrics about dancing on injustice (Hillsong’s ‘Did you hear the mountains tremble’ or Garth Hewitt’s ‘Dance on injustice’) Interestingly, Howard Carter had a statue of Shiva as Lord of the dance on his desk and reflecting on that image along with the Shaker faith that embraced dance, he wrote his hymn, saying later:

“I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord … Anyway, it’s the sort of Christianity I believe in.

I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords of the Dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus.’

I found a website celebrating Christian artists from other cultures who have picked up on dance in their cultural expressions and painted Jesus as a dancer. That had me interested in the light of Philip Yancey’s ‘Vanishing Grace’ celebrating the way pilgrims, activists and artists communicate the Kingdom. So I printed off some that you might want to look up:

Nyoman Darsane (Bali) _ Jesus dancing everything into creation

Jyoti Sahi (India) – Prophetic dancer-drummer – dancing for Adivasis is the breath of life, and being made from the skin of dead animals, drumming central to the Dalit experience. Here the drum symbolizes the entire creation, everything around the drummer coming alive to its rhythms of the dance…

Heimo Christian Haikalia – Christ dancing on the Sea of Galilee

There is something so attractive and enticing at the thought of Jesus leading a dance! And I found myself asking what have we to learn from these artists & song-writers?

And then just as I was looking at all of this, Steve B sent through an email quoting Richard Rohr which spoke of the joining the Cosmic Dance! This comes from his book ‘The Divine Dance’ in which he uses the metaphor for the Trinity of the persons of God both dancing and being the dance, to which we are all invited. Rohr explains in one interview about the book that we live in increasingly tribal times – with walls and barriers and exclusions of others. He argues that dancing is not competitive but inclusive…

And that made me think back to the Youtube phenomenon ‘Where the hell is Matt?’ It began in 2006 when Matt Harding from Australia posted video of himself dancing in different locations to show his friends where he was on his travels. Initially it was him as a lone dancer. By 2008 others were joining in and in 2012 he filmed a new video where he learns local dances and has links to charities, inviting viewers to donate…

What is it about those videos that is so compelling? They seems to resonate – to strike a chord with something innate – something primal. It’s something about joy, inclusivity, a language that breaks down barriers, shouting equality and shared humanity. In the 2012 version, dancers join him in Syria, while for their own safety their faces are blanked out – I find that hugely moving…

And one final image, to led us into prayer: Harry was reminding us this week of what we leant from Kitty from her travels in Brazil about a non-contact dance called Capoeira. It originated with African slaves who, if I remember rightly, were forbidden from having physical contact and is a mixture of martial art and dance. It speaks of liberation, dignity and beauty defying an ugly context.
So… how about this as a Lenten message…. If we are reviewing our lives, how about seeing our calling to be to join the dance? Jesus the Lord of the dance calls us to turn, turn… Or, in the words of Lewis Carroll’s Mock Turtle, ‘ Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you , will you come and join the dance?’
Our prayers were to name people and situations where we needed the divine dance to break through, for those people to be swept up in the dance , or where others could not dance but we might dance for them… and we shared bread and wine, including them in the dance… We closed with this blessing:

In this season of Lent,
May we turn
May we dance…
Dance defiance on injustice
Dance inclusion on division
Dance life in all its fullness
Join the Divine dance
And model a better way to live
And may we live to dance on our own graves!

And if you’d like to join us in our homework (!) this is what was set for us…
Look out for the divine dance and join in – with forgiveness, generosity, acts of kindness, laughter, listening…
Choose a charity this week that we can give to so that we can dance on injustice and invite others to join the divine dance.

So will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance?

Fairtrade, Beatitudes and Sanctuary!

We met together in the bandstand on a grey, wet Sunday morning, and began our worship with the following:

Great Ocean Road at night milky way viewGod of the Universe,
You made the heavens and the earth,
So we do not call our home merely “planet earth.”
We call it your Creation, a Divine Mystery,
a Gift from Your Most Blessed Hand.
The world itself is your miracle.
Bread and vegetables from earth are thus also from heaven.
Help us to see in our daily bread your presence and be thankful.

Upon this place
May your stars rain down their blessing.
May you send rain and sunshine upon the land.
Grant us the humility to touch the earth.
That we might become more human.
That we might mend our rift from your Creation.
That we might know the sacredness of the gift of life—and be grateful.

Thanks be to God.
Who made the world teeming with variety,
Of things on the earth, above the earth, and in the waters.
Thanks be to God.
For the many kinds of plants, trees, and fruits.
We celebrate.
For all living things
We rejoice.
We find ourselves eclipsed by the magnitude
Of your generosity and mystery.
And we give you thanks and praise.

(From ‘A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals’  by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro)

continue in worship for a few moments……

Christ, in our coming

And in our leaving,

Be the Door and the Keeper

For us

And all who visit this place,

This day and every day.


As it’s  Fairtrade Fortnight we shared the latest news about Fairtrade sales in the UK.

Fairtrade sales enjoy a boost.

We are in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight and the good news is that Fairtrade sales rose in 2016 for the first time since 2013.

Revenues from produce carrying the Fairtrade Mark – which guarantees a fair price to producers and an additional payment for use on social projects, rose by 2% to £1.64 billion in the UK last year.

The sales will provide payments of about £30 million in premiums, on top of the price paid for the goods, for use in projects such as schools, clinics and clean water provision.

Sales of bananas, by far the biggest Fairtrade product in the UK, rose 6% with strong sales at the likes of Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and the Co-op, which only stock the Fairtrade version of the fruit. Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, began stocking Fairtrade bananas for the first time. Lidl also began stocking Fairtrade tea and coffee. Coffee sales rose 8%, while Starbucks ‘Seattle Best Coffee’ which it delivers to offices and other businesses now carries the Fairtrade Mark.

Tea and cocoa sales slid 3%, partly as a result of changing consumer tastes. It is hoped cocoa sales will get a boost this year as the Co-op becomes the first UK retailer to switch to using only Fairtrade cocoa in all its own-brand chocolate products, from the sprinkles on its doughnuts to the chocolate chips in its triple-chocolate cookies. The change, covering more than 200 products will be completed by the end of May, leading to a fivefold increase in the amount of Fairtrade cocoa sourced by the Co-op.

Just a moment

It starts with a change20150212_172726

So outwardly insignificant

That no one would notice

Except the person

Behind you in the aisle.

Just a moment

When instead of seeing

Rows of labels

On a supermarket shelf

You imagine the people

Behind them,

Tilling the earth,

Sowing the seed,

Gathering the crops.

And you pause,


What their names are,

Where they live,

What difference it will make

If your hand picks up

This box instead of that,

Wondering: how do I

Love these neighbours?

Can I help change?

The child’s long journey for water,

Her mother’s lack of healthcare,

The prospect her father faces

Of another year unable

To feed his family well?

Just a moment.

And the person behind you,

Her impatient baby

Squirming in the trolley,

May never realise

That in that brief hesitation,

Lives hung in the balance.

(with thanks to the Fairtrade Foundation)

Next we shared how valiant Christians were living out their faith in the US.

Sanctuary churches.

Hundreds of churches in the US have said they are willing to provide sanctuary for undocumented migrants threatened with deportation.  About 300 churches nationally have come forward, according to the Philadelphia-based New Sanctuary Movement. A growing number of synagogues are also involved in actions to prevent deportations.

The Sanctuary Movement is a religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing conflict, violence and persecution. It responded to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans, coming from countries with regimes supported by the Reagan administration.

Meanwhile, about two dozen cities – including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia and Los Angeles – have declared themselves “sanctuary cities”, with mayors pledging to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration orders that could lead to deportations. Trump has said he will block federal funding to such cities.

According to Peter Pedemonti of the New Sanctuary Movement, “people are very scared. There are waves of despair, anger and disbelief at Trump’s election and the rise of white supremacism. This is a very shocking part of US society that was in the shadows before, and with Trump it has come into the mainstream. It’s very disturbing.”

Pedemonti added: “The faith community has a specific role to stand up and speak out, and offering sanctuary is a bold way of doing that.”

Several Anglican Bishops have offered sanctuary. The Right Rev Kirk Smith, the bishop of Arizona, said the church would “promote a safe space for those who are feeling vulnerable and afraid”. The bishops of Virginia told congregants: “We stand with you not only symbolically, but will be there to stand with you literally if and when the time comes.” The diocese of Oregon pledged that its churches would be “sanctuaries for those whose safety and security is threatened”.

Alison Harrington, pastor of the Southside Presbyterian church in Tucson, Arizona, said the number of churches joining the sanctuary movement was “growing every day as people are horrified at what lies ahead, knowing that Trump has said he’s going after immigrants”.

The Beatitudes  –  Brian McLaren & Rob Bell.

The poor and those in solidarity with them – God is on your side.

Those who mourn and feel grief about the state of the world – God is on your side.

The non-violent, gentle and humble – God is on your side.

Those who hunger and thirst for the common good – God is on your side.

The merciful and compassionate – God is on your side.

Those characterised by sincerity, kindness and generosity – God is on your side.

Those who work for peace and reconciliation – God is on your side.

Those who keep seeking justice – God is on your side.

Those who stand for justice and truth as the prophets did, who refuse to be quiet even when slandered, misrepresented, threatened, imprisoned or harmed – God is on your side!

Using the following liturgy we shared bread and wine:

What do we bring to Christ’s table?

We bring bread,

made by many people’s work,

from an unjust world

where some have plenty

and most go hungry.

At this table all are fed,

And no-one is turned away.

Thanks be to God.


What do we bring to Christ’s table?

We bring wine,

made by many people’s work,

from an unjust world

where some have leisure

and most struggle to survive.

At this table all share the cup

of pain and celebration,

and no-one is denied.

Thanks be to God.


This bread and wine shall be for us the body and blood of Christ!

Our witness against hunger,

Our cry against injustice,

And our hope for a world

Where God is fully known

And everyone is fed and loved.

Thanks be to God.

In the pouring rain we adjourned to Cool River Cafe for what else but Fairtrade coffee!

Fairtrade coffee

This morning at the bandstand

This morning amongst other things we shared in these home grown words and thoughts…
An Emerging Creed.
We are people who……
Have found Jesus to be beyond compare.
Invite all to join us without insisting they become like us.
Find more reality in searching and questioning than in certainty and absolutes.
Realise that how we treat others is the greatest test and expression of what we believe.
Firmly believe in the equality of men and women, that no-one is greater than another and that all people bear God’s image.
Recognise that following Jesus is costly and we need to support each other in the work we feel called to do: being peacemakers, striving for justice, befriending the lonely, healing the sick, serving the hungry and destitute, visiting the sick and the elderly, inspiring children and young people, caring for God’s creation……………….


In 2001 a singer-song-writer performed a new song on Songs of Praise. It reflected his yearning for faith – the faith he admired in Christians he knew. He wanted an assurance of God’s reality and his song was called ‘Waiting for the word’:
I could follow you, I could be so true, I’m just waiting for the word.
I could join the flock, I could be a rock, I’m just waiting for the word.
Let me know you’re here, call me loud and clear
For as yet Ii have not heard.
I could shine a light, I could fight the fight
I’m just waiting for the word.
On Friday he died. He was Peter Skellern, and as I heard the announcement of his death I found myself moved to think that at last he now knew… But what I hadn’t known until hearing the following sentence on the news bulletin, was that just months before his death, he was ordained a priest. It seems he had heard the word – his call loud and clear -in the end.
The story raises so many questions – some of which we then discussed – not least returning to the words of Grayden’s creed where it speaks of finding more reality in searching and questioning than in certainty and absolutes. Could it be that the search was the reality, was the faith in itself?


Steve had written a liturgy first thing this morning (as one does) for sharing bread and wine. It reflects our reading of Philip Yancey’s ‘Vanishing Grace’ and an image from David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth’:
Pilgrims, Artists, Activists
We journey.
We journey in hope. We have set our sights – Christ our morning star. And we have Christ as our companion and guide along the Way.
Christ before us; Christ ahead of us; Christ – in this Bread – beside us.
Pilgrim Bread!
And yet like hatchling turtles, we are bedazzled by the artificial lights of land and we are gone astray. Father be our compass; Christ realign us; Spirit guide us step by step.
We pilgrimage together and we give thanks for all those who have tended our metaphorical blisters, trodden this path before us, shown us the Way. And so we celebrate with this wine – whilst befuddled and seeing in a mirror darkly – we are in good company.
Pilgrim wine!
Send us out co-missioned to build bridges, to make known the interconnected worlds of matter and spirit. Help us to be inclusive Kingdom builders, pioneer settlers, proclaiming the Year of Jubilee, the year of restoration, where justice and mercy shall meet, and all God’s creatures shall cry out, “Come now Lord Jesus!”


Good to meet as ever and discussion over coffee in Cool River was diverse and challenging and fun!! Thanks all!

Head Space

Drinks and lively discussion around the questions pulled out of the hat :

Head Space



  • “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole ad you emerge in a wonderland …”   Who said this and in what context?
  • If you were famous what would you like to be famous for doing?
  • Have you ever been lonely? A new initiative in the name of Jo Cox has begun to tackle loneliness could Third Space do more to support /reach lonely people in our area?
  • If you could ask Donald Trump one question what would it be?
  • Where have you seen the Kingdom oF God this week?
  • “The number of Americans killed by Islamic jihadist immigrants (2) compared to those killed by other Americans (11,737) How was this message delivered and by whom?
  • If you could have chosen a piece of music for Donald Trump’s inauguration what would it have been?



It’s Winter


Two things happened this week which dictated what we did this morning. Firstly after preparing something on Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Banquet our printer stopped working. While we were discussing what to do we heard a weather forecast saying Sunday morning would either be VERY cold or VERY wet. So we decided to change plans and go with the seasons, something you need to be very aware of when you meet outside as we do.

So winter; it’s like a holding place, nature seems to hold it’s breath and wait to burst forth with all it’s beauty in spring.

There is a winter in all of our lives,

a chill and darkness that makes us yearn
for days that have gone
or put our hope in days yet to be.

The winter, cold and bare as nature takes stock
rests, unwinds, sleeps until the time is right.
An endless cycle
and yet a perfect model.
We need a winter in our lives
a time of rest, a time to stand still
a time to reacquaint ourselves
with the faith in which we live.
It is only then that we can draw strength
from the one in whom we are rooted
take time to grow and rise through the darkness
into the warm glow of your springtime
to blossom and flourish
bring colour and vitality into this world
Thank you Father
for the seasons of our lives

adapted from Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Sometimes we feel like it is winter and spring will never come.20141229_120557

So this morning in our prayers we hold those who feel they are in permanent winter with no hope of spring.


We closed our prayer time with the Third Space Lord’s prayer

God, who cares for us,

The wonder of your presence fills us with awe.

Your name, your very nature, is holy.

All creation resonates with it!

Let all people come to proclaim it!

May we move into your presence and unimpeded love.

Let not our will, but your will and purposes be fulfilled in our lives here on Earth.

Give us the material things you know we need to survive.

Release us – as indeed we release others – from the debt of wrong doing.

Strengthen us for difficult times.

Liberate us from all that is evil.

For You reign in majesty, in love,

 Power and glory from the beginning of time and forever more.


Third Space Lord’s Prayer

Some thoughts to ponder

Extract from Philip Yancey’s book ‘Vanishing Grace’;

‘There are three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith still respect: pilgrims, activists and artists. The uncommitted will listen to them far sooner than to an evangelist or apologist. Although nonbelievers do not oppose a spiritual search, they will only listen to those Christians who present themselves as fellow pilgrims on the way rather than as part of a superior class who has already arrived. Activists express their faith in the most persuasive way of all, by their deeds. And art succeeds when it speaks most authentically to the human condition; when believers do so with skill, again the world takes note.’

Breaking of bread/Sharing of wine

We remember the time when Jesus faced
difficult decisions and destructive forces:
Facing his winter – the days and nights of his searching,
– in facing failure – in facing death

When we too experience the winter of our lives
may we find the courage to let go
and trust in your guiding, warming light.Our daily bread

And we remember
Jesus has shown us that life is stronger than death.

And as we share the bread and wine together
we remember the words and the actions of that ancient meal…
Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it,
and gave it to his friends.

He poured a cup of wine, offered thanks for it,
and shared it also with his friends.

Ancient symbols.
Common acts.


 Closing Prayer

God of amazing grace, in the cold of the winter months we are grateful for your presence warming us.

We pray that this presence will strengthen us to follow the way of Jesus.