Sunday, 10 November 2013


I love communion, bread & wine, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, whatever you want to call it I mean the symbolic meal taken in remembrance of Jesus as described in Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29 and Luke 22:13-20.  It wasn’t a big deal for me until a couple of years ago and I don’t suppose I thought much about it when we did it at our church, nor did I particularly miss it when we hadn’t done it for a while.  I have always baulked a bit at anything that seemed liturgical or religious especially if it happened on special days and was pre-planned, it didn’t feel authentic to me and I couldn’t see the connection to my life or even to Jesus’.  Some people may say “that’s because you don’t understand the Jewish Passover properly” which certainly was true once but I attended a church service that thoroughly explained all the first-century Jewish elements of a Passover meal and put the familiar Protestant communion into that context and while it was very interesting, from a historical perspective, it still didn’t really connect it to my life or my understanding of Jesus.

A few years ago I really started to get to grips with the ‘finished work’ ideas and the focus of my Christian life started turning towards what Jesus has already accomplished for me, and as me, rather than on a frustrated longing for some future blessing or work in my life.  Also around that time Mags and I attended a conference where on the last day a huge set of tables was set out in the shape of a cross, decorated with shiny cloths, small lights and candles and then absolutely covered with the most spectacular bread, wine, sweets, chocolate, fruit, cheese and all manner of delicious food, then the attendees were invited to come and feast at the cross.  It was a free for all, a delightful messy slightly chaotic jumble of people helping themselves, sharing with friends, bumping into strangers, laughing, meditating, thinking, hugging and generally enjoying themselves.  I absolutely loved it and the experience stayed with me for days, if not weeks.  It shifted something in my thinking about communion, I suddenly loved that simple symbol.  I doubt I’d have had the same reaction if I hadn’t started down the ‘finished works’ route – I would probably have been offended by the lavishness and been justifying my offence by reference to the poor or the homeless or third-world famine vs. western excess!  The extravagance of the decoration and the wide range and quality of the food spoke so vividly of the extravagance of the love Jesus and the Father poured out; it brought this symbol to life!

Over the years since I’ve increasingly loved communion, when it’s given the time and space to be savoured; I can’t stand to see it rushed or tacked on as an afterthought!  I don’t care if it’s done using artisan bread and £20 red wine or a cheap supermarket loaf and some Ribena, the actual ingredients are now irrelevant so long as we get to linger, focus and savour it.

One other thing that has become increasingly important to me is the absence of a ‘priest’ administering it.  For many in non-liturgical or hierarchical church systems it seems this is one sacred cow we are unwilling to shoot, those in Roman Catholicism or the Anglican Church don’t even get this choice (and if they’re happy with that arrangement that’s fine).  The fabulous feast on the cross worked as a symbol in part because it was free from control, there was no-one dishing out an allotted portion!  You could help yourself, take your time, share with friends, with strangers, mingle happily with others or stand quietly on your own and return time and again.  One of the most beautiful truths of the New Covenant is that we no longer need any mediator but Jesus, his life is our life.  Symbols are important and they help shape our thinking and our understanding so if one of our key symbolic acts still includes a human mediator between us and Jesus’ body and blood we’re reinforcing a separation that is not true.  There may be a genuine desire on the part of those handing out the wafers or bread, and holding on to the cup to give out the sips of wine, to serve the meeting but really it’s not necessary!  Embrace the chaos, the wild, the free and the beauty of the direct one-to-one with Jesus that communion can represent.  When we are all ministering to each other we really are the body that has one head, Jesus.

So next time you’re planning to include communion in your church, event, house-group why not think outside the usual and really feast on all that the cross has won for you, for me for the whole of humanity!  It’s a banquet of blessing!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The feminist within....

I can’t pinpoint the moment I became aware that the world was not working the way I thought it should. My starting point was to think that boys and girls were of the same value and should be treated the same as we are both human and whilst we might be physically different that didn’t mean one was better than the other. Growing up there were rows with my brothers over which was better, to be a girl or a boy, we could have babies, they could grow a moustache…..but as I grew up I realised this row had been won by the boys long before I was born.  I learned that women had to fight for equality; they had to fight to become more than property, then the fight for the vote, fight for equal pay, fight to be educated, fight for the right to have a career and there is an on-gong fight to be treated fairly. Women have had to fight for things that men seemed to have given to them just because they are male. So I’ve been pondering this unfairness for a long time.
Being born in the late 60’s in the Western world means I have had much more freedom than previous generations; I can wear what I like, stay in school for as long as I wanted, have a career, go to university, marry when and who I wanted, control when I have a baby, any job is an option and yet it is clear there are still clear inequalities between men and women, the struggle continues for equal pay, equal opportunities to the top jobs and the debate hits the headlines when the church starts to ‘explain’ the place of women. In the West it seems that the church is the place where women are discriminated against the most, a shocking thought when the church is supposed to be the bride not the groom!!
So why have women not been treated as equal to men? I think part of that answer lies in how we have viewed God as totally male and how we have interpreted certain scriptures.
Growing up I was taken to the catholic church, I did my first confession and my holy communion and remember being very excited to wear the pretty white dress and told something about being old enough now to take communion, old enough to line up with everyone else. I couldn’t be an altar boy like my brothers, so no other participation for me till I was older and then if I wanted to work in the church it would be as a nun or a housekeeper for the priest….not a priest though. By the time I was a teenager I was completely at a loss how a male priest could have anything relevant to say to me as a girl, he wasn’t one and wasn’t going to marry one, so how would he know anything about me or family life and why were priests all men? Questions with unsatisfactory answers took me out of the Catholic Church.
I entered the charismatic movement at the age of 17 and it wasn’t long before I felt women were not treated equally there either; women on the stage were introduced as somebody’s wife rather than by name, I could volunteer to be a Sunday school teacher or run the crèche or I could do youth work but I would not be a ‘teacher’ or a ‘leader’ as I was a woman and the bible said I couldn’t. It appeared that outside the church structure women could be anything including Prime Minister but inside our leadership was restricted and our voices were for singing not teaching or debating theology. Being married to a leader seemed to give some sort of position but no single women were permitted to lead house-groups or preach, rarely getting near the microphone unless to pray for somebody. Women are allowed to be intercessors, they can’t preach but they can talk to God on our behalf…... When questions are asked about the inequality in church there is the pointing to scriptures and obviously Eve has a lot to answer for despite any theology about curses being broken. Eve and therefore women are not to be trusted. We cannot interpret scripture, lead men, teach and are easily deceived
I now believe in equality, not because I’m rebellious or deceived but because I’ve read the Bible.  I’ve read theologians explain how the scriptures that are used to teach that women can’t be in leadership, or teach men or how they ought to wear their hair, or how salvation comes through childbirth, are contextual and that Paul is not a misogynist. I’ve read how Jesus treated women and how women were in all levels of leadership in the early church and I have concluded that God created us equal and so we should treat each other as equals. I think the problem lies with having a warped view of God and ourselves and how we interpret scripture, compounded by not recognising that we are reading it through a patriarchal lens.
When we have a male only God and believe we are created in ‘his’ image we then believe male is supreme and women are inferior and we will interpret the scriptures and act accordingly. Our behaviour shows exactly what we believe. When we believe Eve was made as a secondary thought or as a servant to Adam we will treat women according to that belief. When we believe Eve was the archetype of all women and easily deceived, pretty but dim, we assume all women are simple minded and easily deceived and if beautiful then unlikely to be intelligent. Whether we believe in Eve or not she is in our thinking.
Could it be true that women are treated more equal outside the church construct because people have stopped believing in Adam and Eve and have therefore stopped believing women are inherently gullible or made to serve men? Could it be true that once the church stopped having such an influence on society it allowed space for women to flourish? Although the whisper is still there that a beautiful woman cannot be intelligent and that women in positions of power or influence are somehow less feminine.
What if we accept that God is more than just male? He describes himself as ‘I am’ and neither male nor female and we can accept that we have been made in ‘his’ likeness both male and female and so God is not more of one than the other. What if when God was walking in the garden with Adam it wasn’t an old man with a white beard, what if it wasn’t a man at all? Perhaps acknowledging the male images we conjure in our head, when we think of God, shows us how it is entrenched in our thinking.
Jesus refers to God as Father in his prayers which adds to the image of an older man, could Jesus have said Our Mother who art in heaven? Would that have been outrageous even if it was accurate and if he had how would the church have developed?
What if the reason we call nature ‘Mother Nature’ is because Holy Spirit is feminine and she was the one who did the creating???? Scary thought there…..
The problem is we just don’t have the mental framework to know how to verbalise or imagine a God who is not male. So the church is totally committed to its patriarchal system. We have created God in a male image rather than the God who is the ‘I am’ and because we don’t have the understanding, we return to what is familiar when faced with the questions. We put the question off as one that cannot be fathomed; we use humour to cover how uncomfortable we are with the idea of a feminine God. We call women who raise these questions feminists and hope they will be quiet and stop rocking the boat. It is interesting to note when the subject comes up men often want to know if they have to get in touch with their feminine side and whilst, mostly unaware, will try and shut down the conversation with humour or scripture. Fear of destabilising the patriarchal system is held by men and women and yet until it is removed and we understand what it is to have a God who is not a man, women will continue to struggle and fight for equality.
I think our starting point is knowing that God is the ‘I am’ and is not just male, to spend some time asking God to show us how to be liberated women made in the image of God. I know the way forward is not to imitate men, it is not to oppress men instead, it is not for men to get in touch with their feminine side, it is not something that we can continue to ignore, it is not ok that women are not treated equally in every sphere of life. The feeling that women should be treated equally in the church is not rebellion or deception, it is time for women to be who they are created to be without let or hindrance from any patriarchal system. I'm pretty happy with what a generation of liberated women isn't going to look like but once that is out of the way we may see something new emerge....
Does it matter? I think so, I think the earth is calling out for women as she is in trouble, running out of resources and gripped with fear, she needs the women to have a voice. The boys have had a good run it’s time to step aside, not down, just aside and let’s work together as liberated children of God to love the earth back to good health.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Love and eternity

‘He has also set eternity in the human heart’ Ecc 3:11

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake

I can see a connection between these two statements, there is something of substance here that is to be discovered. Eternity that is within us being explored, contemplated, believed and then to discover what is in creation and be able to connect the two. Is that possible? Is it possible to contemplate what/who we have within us, so we can see the world the same as the creator sees it, and in seeing can we touch it with the eternal? Is it possible to release the eternity that is within our spirit into our consciousness so we can experience the eternal here and now?
Love as an experience can be overwhelming, those moments when you feel your heart is expanding and it is almost as if it might explode if you don’t draw back from the intensity. We call it awe inspiring and we could say it is the breath of God on our deposit of eternity.
Love is the most powerful force and when we allow love to engage with our eternity there may well be an explosion.
Have a ponder and in the meantime, love.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Male and female, the image of God.

If humanity could grasp that God is as much feminine as masculine perhaps we would look to God for our identity rather than to a lesser version of freedom and equality.
The patriarchal system  fears women’s equality as it believes the inevitable change will be for the worse, therefore it refuses to allow women’s freedom or equality and will keep women from their freedom for as long as possible to avoid any change. It believes there will be a loss of power and control, which is true, but it will not be so women will then gain the power and control over men. There is a fear that maleness will be diminished if women are permitted equality, when in fact men will be released into their true position when women are.....There will be change and it will be so the fullness of what God’s children actually look like, can be revealed on the earth, perhaps that is what it is longing for…..

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

I don't think that means what you think it means....

“You keep using that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means” Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride

‘The further away you travel from religion (and the I-have-all-the-answers-mind-set you inherit with it) the more freedom you find in asking questions about your faith. You no longer feel obligated to pledge undivided allegiance to your doctrines. You become pleased to put them on trial, to examine then, and to discard them if they are found to be without substance.’ Mick Mooney
‘Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning.’ Richard Rohr.

There are times when I hear or read something and think to myself; ‘I don’t think that’s what that means’. I can’t always put my finger on why, so I ponder it for a bit, read about it and then sometimes write about it, without finding any answers sometimes just asking the questions is enough…. I think there are all sorts of scriptures that have been taken out of context and whole doctrines and teaching programmes built up around them, which has the effect of ending up with something very different to what God intended. The scriptures about slavery are a classic example where the words were taken at face value and used to endorse the belief that slavery is ok. Not to mention those pesky scriptures about women….
Recently I heard something, that I’ve heard lots of times before, but this time the phrase above seemed to say it all; ‘I don’t think that means what you think it means’.
I need to pray for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit because if I don’t the demon that just left is going to wander around for a bit and then come back into you, it will see that there’s nobody home and go and get seven of its friends and they will all move in to you and you’ll be worse off than you were when you arrived for your deliverance ministry. Ok so you’ll probably have to become a Christian too or the Holy Spirit won’t be moving in so if you could just say this prayer and we’ll get started….’
Now it’s all biblical. Jesus said if one goes out, seven more move in….it’s all set out in Matthew 12:43 and Luke 11:24. Paraphrased: the spirit is cast out of a man, it wanders around in arid places and then deciding to go home, finds the place clean and tidy and goes off and gets seven more spirits to move and the man is in a worse condition than he was before.
So why don’t I like it?
My starting point would be that Jesus isn’t setting out a teaching programme on deliverance to his disciples and on that basis we need to be very careful if we decide to make it one. Jesus told parables and used one thing to point to another. In these scriptures he isn’t delivering a person of a demon, the context is he’s just been accused of delivering demons by demons and is setting out for them what kind of a generation they are. He could be saying, ‘if you get rid of one thing that is bad for you and don’t replace it with anything else you’ll find you miss the bad thing and go for it seven times more than you did before’. He could be saying ‘just one prayer of repentance isn’t enough, you need to then live a life of belief or you’ll be worse off than had you not repented in the first place.’ In relation to the crowd he’s talking to, they’d gone down to repent with John and not long after were calling for Jesus to be crucified…..the point I’m trying to make is, he wasn’t doing a teaching session on deliverance.
My other thought is, if he was giving specific teaching into how to deal with people who need deliverance, there is no mention of praying for the man to be filled with the Holy Spirit to stop the demons coming back. In this scripture the man is just left worse off…
Also, there are instances of people being delivered of demons in the gospel accounts without any reference to them being prayed for to be filled with the Spirit straight away, something of a problem for all those who were delivered if they were then worse off after Jesus prayed for them. We get into a Monty Python sketch at that point - alms for an ex-leper!
But what makes me think we really need to think this through is the impact on people who come to us for help and the message we are giving them.
If we tell them they are possessed, need deliverance and whilst we can get rid of the demon that is afflicting them, we can’t keep it out unless they sign up to Christianity because they can’t be filled with the Holy Spirit unless they are saved and they need to be filled with the Holy Spirit or seven more demons will come back with the first and then they’ll be worse off, we better be darn sure that is what Jesus said to do.
I’m concerned about the person with mental health issues, suffers with depression, epilepsy, anxiety, bi-polar, schizophrenia, addiction and any array of difficulties that is told by us that they are possessed. How will they react if they have a relapse? Will they believe the demons are back? What will they think of the power of the Holy Spirit? What will they think about their own salvation? It’s a bit lame to think they won’t have a relapse unless they do something to invite the demons back in, then we’re in the theology of Christians getting possessed and the demonic being stronger than the Holy Spirit…’s not really good enough to say they won’t have a relapse if they’ve been delivered properly and it’s much more likely they have a relapse because they didn’t have a demon in the first place and they have health issues that need medical intervention and a loving community to care for them.
What then? Should we not cast out demons when it is part of the great commission? I don’t really know how ‘deliverance’ fits into the modern world and unless I meet someone whose head is spinning I’ve no intention of starting at ‘they’re possessed and need deliverance’.
Here’s as far as I’ve got with my thinking– I don’t think that scripture means what we’ve taught it means. We need to be careful what we are enacting and be sure it is based on what the bible says in its entirety rather than from a couple of scriptures.
We should see the person in front of us and realise the majority of people are struggling with their identity, lost in who they are and who God is, unaware that they are made in the image of God, lied to about their identity and lied to about God. Our ministry is to inform them of the good news that they have been reconciled to God, the enemy is defeated and they are held in the loving embrace of the Trinity. Love them and be careful with their mind. People are so precious and we can get so caught up in healing and deliverance we forget there is a person in front of us who first and foremost needs to know they are loved.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


The dandelion seed ball, nature’s inspired reminder to take the updraft and fly.
It unfolds full of potential and even if considered a weed it is not deterred.
No name calling can change its true identity.
It can be pulled up and discarded by gardeners who hope it will not contaminate the cultivated flower bed but it laughs and explodes.
The wild refusing to be tamed.
Picked by children with excitement of counting the time, blowing seeds into their future.
Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains He said, what about a seed with a sail, created to catch the wind and fly.
So many of them from one previous seed, the magnificence of potential for life to continue.
Hidden from sight, the spark of eternity, hidden yet known.
Hope, there is always a way for life to burst forth in glorious sunshine as the petals declare.