Well, today's hunt for something other than the usual (for me) in listening to sermons each day didn't go so well today. I decided to visit Preaching Today, a website that is worth subscribing to for the illustrations that it throws up for a preacher, once you have got past all the American sports illustrations, that is. Well, today I discovered that they have an audio sermon archive and that on the sidebar you can specify types of preacher - men, women and ethnic. Out of 864 sermons on the database, two are by 'ethnic' preachers and one is labelled as being by a woman. And she has the first name Howard, which makes me think it was probably an error in the database. So out of 864 sermons on the site, 862 are by white males. I guess I need to keep on looking.
I had a week that included standing in front of three different classes and being asked any question they wanted recently. The kids were Year 4 and Year 6. I tried by best but as you can see, some of the questions can be pretty random. Some of those that I remember are listed below:
We are doing about weddings at Brownies at the moment. What would your top wedding tip be?
Why do we say that Jesus was God's son if Mary was his mother?
If you had a fantasy pet to represent your job, what would it be?
How often do you use your organ?
You do a lot of weddings and funerals - how many divorces do you do?
What about the dinasours?
When you do a baptism, how long do you hold them under for?
Who created God?
What are you favourite parts of the job?
What are your main beliefs?
I really enjoy these sessions, the hour flies by, I also try to remember that who I am will probably make more of an impression than the answers I give. So I try to be a good ambassador by being friendly and kind and the like and I also try not to be too remote or strange because sadly most of the these kids know nothing of church and are starting from scratch. So friendly and normal are what I aim at. Whether I pull it off is another matter!
I'm finding this a really useful thing to do. I'm listening to a wide variety of people on different parts of the Bible, although I am aware that virtually everyone I am listening to is white, middle-aged and male. This is largely because so far I am almost exclusively listening to people I know. And I know a lot of people who are broadly like me. Most are friends, some aquaintances and some people who are rather famous and I have heard preach live and on mp3. I've enjoyed listening to friends, knowing the preacher helps in a lot of ways. But maybe it's time to go off-piste for a while, to try a few random choices and listen to some people I don't know. Any suggestions? Watch this space.
Confession time - forgot all about this yesterday until about 11pm and so went sermon-less for the day. Hopeless, hey? It's another reminder why I need forgiveness in all areas of my life! So one this morning and I plan to catch up by listening to another when I make cottage pie for tea tonight.
Really enjoying doing it, so it wasn't reluctance on my part, just a combination of forgetfulness and being distracted by other things. As is so much of life!
Last month I almost got my first point in a camera club competition, tomorrow night is our next monthly competition. The theme? Kitchen cupboard. I ask you! I am anticipating a number of shots of jars and packets. Either that or cute children or cats emerging from a cupboard. Really struggled for inspiration and so have ended up taking more pictures of a cheese grater than is healthy for anyone.
I have just narrowed it down to two shots, question is - which of the two do I enter into the competition? The blue one, the silver one, or none of the above?
I don't know how long this will remain on the web. Assuming it's genuine, it's possible that once it's realised it'll disappear pretty quickly. But the link here is very funny. Someone might need to get a new picture editor.
I don't generally like visiting in hospital, I find the oddness of the situation makes for stilted conversation, certainly from my side anyway. But sometimes you are aware that something very precious and hard to explain is going on. I had a couple of visits like that earlier this month, visiting one of the old men from the church.
At the first one speaking was clearly hard work for him. He gasped out whispered sentences with long pauses for recovery. Hearing him was hard because the fellow next door was deaf, or else was being treated for shouting the whole time.
After a while I felt that I ought to leave him to rest as it was clearly hard work for him. I prayed for him and as he held my hand he whispered the words of his favourite hymn, "In heavenly love abiding".
The second visit saw him hardly stir. He was sedated and very tired and I just sat with him a while and prayed quietly for him. He showed some signs of stirring when I quietly hummed a hymn to him as if he was doing all he could to respond but it was clear the end was very close. I silently said my goodbye to him and the following morning he passed away.
John Wesley said of his people that they died well. John was 97 and he died as he lived, thankful to God for all he did for him and trusting him right up to the end. In a couple of hours I will be conducting his funeral. It is a privilege.
The book 253 is by Geoff Ryman. It is the story of 253 characters on a Tube train, each one described in a total of 253 words split under three sections - outward appearance, inside information and what the character is thinking or doing. It's an interesting exercise which sometimes intrigues but more often frustrates because you really want some development in the story. In the end it feels a bit like junk food, you keep consuming it but it isn't as substantial as you hoped.
The Tube meets with a tragic end (it's flagged pretty early so no great spoiler to tell you) and it's interesting to have a snapshot of a diverse group of people and the state of their souls just before the accident. With the awful events in Japan on our screens everyday, it has an even greater poignancy right now but because there is no plot or shape to the book (which is probably the whole point) I am marking it down as a mere 5/10.
A very full week coming up and so I spent some of my Sunday afternoon preparing a PPT to show to the three school classes I am speaking to. It's of what we are like as a church and how we are different to the local CoE church.
One of the pictures shows the church during a service and was taken nearly five years ago. I remarked to my wife on how different the building looks (seats for pews etc.) and how different the church (i.e. the people) is now. Her reply was excellent, "Yes, some have gone to glory and some have gone to the Methodists".
I've been really enjoying the sermon a day thing (I know, I'm odd) but as I update it each day was aware straight away of how male the list was going to be. Today I listened to a terrific sermon by a female of the species. All four have been good but this was perhaps the best so far. (I have to be careful here because I know each of them!)
Begs the question, where will I find other good preachers who are women? For obvious reasons - lack of opportunity, lack of experience - we have a rich heritage of men who preach well but far fewer women. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd be very grateful.
I don't intend to post on each sermon that I listen to this Lent as I try to listen to one each day. But I have added a Lent Sermons heading in the top right hand corner of the blog to reference what I have heard. You can click on to them to listen to some of them - perhaps not all as some might be on CDs that I have bought and not listened to yet.
I will choose some by some friends, some of the more famous preachers, some reasonably random ones. The only rule is that the sermons are not allowed to be on anything I am preaching on this week.
Last week I preached the last in the series of Meals With Jesus and a few days beforehand a survey came out that reveals some alarming things about how today's families eat. The research, commissioned by Bisto, says:
* More than half of families no longer eat their dinner together in one room, instead eating in up to four different rooms in the house.
* One in five children eat dinner alone in their bedroom.
* 61% of families are too busy to sit down and eat a meal together.
* If they do eat together, 59% admitted they prefer to send text messages, watch television or go on the internet than talk with the rest of the family.
I find this so scary! Anecdotal evidence says that lots of teens feel that they can't talk to their parents, some self-harm and many say that they have considered suicide (how seriously, who knows?) It seems that our eating habits are only adding to the problem.
We get plenty wrong as parents but I am glad that we always eat together at least daily. It's a time to talk and catch up and sometimes to laugh, cry or argue. But we do it together.
This week's Reel Issues was Cast Away, the Tom Hanks film about a driven career man who has an enforced halt placed on his life when he finds himself on a desert island. As well as issues around time and loneliness and relationships, there is an angel theme that is very strong in the film too, providing a nice link with another recent Reel Issues film, It's a Wonderful Life.
As usual, for fun, I put together a playlist for the music beforehand...
Blondie - Island of Lost Souls
The Primitives - Crash
Joe Jackson - Got the Time
David Bowie - Time Will Crawl
M People - Fantasy Island
Sheryl Crow - Maybe Angels
Next month we show Signs, the Mel Gibson film about faith.
Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday today, known as Fat Tuesday in some parts of the world. (My favourite parishioner tells me that Mardis Gras literally means 'Greasy Tuesday'.) So I celebrated in style with doughnuts, cakes, and a roast dinner today. I met up with some ministry mates for the day and the agenda was have coffee and eat, read and pray, eat, walk in the New Forest, drink tea, pray, eat. And then leave with more food. It was the first time we had met up and I hope it becomes regular - lonely old business sometimes.
After all that excess, what to give up for Lent? Alcohol? Unlikely.
I don't usually do anything extra for Lent but this year I have decided to listen to a sermon every day. Might seem like a penance to you, what could be duller? But there are some great bible teachers out there on the interweb and I am a better person when I am taking in God's word. I very much enjoy listening to things done well. So watch this space. Day 1 tomorrow.
I'm a middle aged man, a Baptist Minister, and more to the point an evangelical Christian. I have a great family, the best wife, an interest in music (mainly the sort of things that a middle aged man should like) and media in general. I like my sport and hardly ever play any. Will watch Test matches very happily and have a love of football, Exeter City are my club of choice.