Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Last Sunday

The Last Sunday
Sunday night was quite memorable. It was the next in our 'Last Sunday' services and we spent the evening as a meditation on communion.
It went something like this:

Opening prayer

Reflection on Bread including a reading from John 6

Making Bread. We had mixed the dough, but it still needed kneading and shaping. During the breadmaking we shared our experiences of communion - both good and bad. Then the bread was taken off to be baked.

Reflection on Wine. There was wine on the tables and we discussed the biblical imagery of wine - as new life, joy, abundance and peace. During this part the smell of baking bread drifted through the room.

A short talk on the importance of the ritual, incorporating some of the historic conflict over communion and an encouragement to take this back as part of our community life.

Then the bread was brought out again, and we used it for communion. Lovely.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Benedict of Nursia

St Benedict icon .jpg
Benedict left his comfortable life in the city at a young age to pursue his relationship with God in the wilderness. Three years of solitude profoundly changed him, his understanding of humanity and of himself and of God.
Gradually others came to join him in the wilderness and as the community grew he found it necessary to develop a rule of monastic life, full of spiritual and practical wisdom for christian communities which profoundly shaped not only the spiritual life of western europe but also its politics. In an age when government was by force in these communities the Abbot was chosen by the monks and ruled the community in accordance with the written rule and in consultation with the monks.
As a contemporary introduction to the rule of Benedict I would highly recommend the book Finding Sanctuary (£4.50 from Amazon). One of the aspects which I found particularly helpful was Benedicts 12 steps of humility.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Old Paths: Augustine

Really enjoyed preaching on St Augustine yesterday. I am struck that one of the really important aspects of this series is that we see great figures of the past as they really are, and avoid the natural inclination to put people on a pedestal. Augustine is one of the greats, but he is also very human. And perhaps it is his awareness of his own failings, along with his ability to wonder that makes him so important.
For further reading there is a short biography here, and here is a modern translation of City of God, and here is Confessions. They are quite long though and you might want to pick them up in a 2nd hand book shop or from Amazon. The wikipedia article on him is not so good - I think people are fighting over him (the down side of wikipedia) and it is a bit scrappy.
Oh and check out this free download of Malcom Muggeridges 'a third testament'. The first chapter is on Augustine.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Old Paths: Tertullian

Tertullian was a theologian and fierce defender of orthodoxy. He articulated an elegant and sophisticated doctrine of the nature of God and coined the term Trinity. His influence on Christian thinking is enormous, but also very significant was his gradual rejection of the Greek philosophical culture which the early church was formed within.
You can read a brief biography of his life here [though with a rather more positive interpretation than mine], and find his surviving works and more in the excellent Tertullian Project
I was struck in studying Tertullian (ironically) by the importance of heresy to sharpen and refine orthodoxy. If it had not been for the views of people like Marcion and Arius this elegant articulation of the Trinity may not have come into being. The church has tended to try to lock down orthodoxy through fear of error, but it is that very struggle for truth which spurs us to understand and better articulate what we know of God.