say what you see

Some of you may remember Audrey 3 from a couple of weeks ago. She’s a venus flytrap and I bought her to deal with the small flies that seem to like annoying me while I am in my office. Since her arrival the number of annoying flies in my office has dropped significantly and it looks like Audrey 3 has eaten some of them because several of her ‘mouths’ have been closed recently and have now reopened.

I wasn’t around when the flies got caught so I can’t confirm whether there was a loud ‘whump’ or ‘om, nom, nom, nom’. The trap is triggered when a fly moves one of the tiny hairs inside the mouth and I really would like to see it happen. The temptation is to use a cocktail stick or something like that to trigger the trap. But the advice given to owners of venus flytraps is that you should not trigger them unless there is food in their mouth. Apparently it takes a lot of energy for the plant to trigger the trap and that needs to be replenished by the energy obtained from absorbing the prey. Unnecessarily triggering the trap can lead to the plant’s death.

There’s a real temptation to make a comment about the consequences of triggering Article 50 here but I am going to resist it and allow you to make your own jokes. But there are times for all of us when we have to go to extra effort because of someone else.

It could be as simple as someone leaving the toilet seat up, or leaving the lid off the toothpaste. But there is lots of scope for us to have to take extra effort in life because of the actions of another person.

Do you get frustrated when someone is dawdling along the pavement in front of you and start to go around them and they change direction right in across your path? You then have to stop suddenly and change direction to avoid knocking them over.

Or what about if you have a dishwasher and someone has thoughtfully brought their dirty dishes and placed them on the surface in the vicinity of the dishwasher rather than in the dishwasher? They may think they have been helpful but you have to finish the job.

Or maybe you have trodden in something unpleasant on the pavement that was left behind after someone had a takeaway, or even worse, after their canine friend had done what it had to do? There’s some serious cleaning up needed then.

How about when someone’s having a barbecue in a neighbouring garden and you’ve got washing out drying?

Most of the time when our hairs are tickled and we have to make the effort to react and respond to others they are unaware of the effort we have expended. Of course we would like them to know (and that’s why car horns were invented I think) but ask yourself for a moment how many times are people doing that for us and we are unaware of it? Because we are unaware we won’t know.

We human beings almost always live in communities with other humans. Sometimes they are informal, like towns or cities, and sometimes they are more formal like places of work or places of worship. In every case I think we would be better off if we all put into practice some of the most overlooked advice in the Bible:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4.2 NIV)


Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3.13 NIV)

The emphasis is mine, but the opportunity is there for all of us. How different would life be if we all bear with one another? (Say what you see)

Be blessed, be a blessing

pulling our lego(TM)?

Some of the children in one of our Sunday morning groups were invited to write a letter to the church. They have been exploring some of the letters written to the churches in the New Testament and were given the opportunity to write to our church.

Some of them will be read out on Sunday morning in our Harvest / Communion service so I won’t quote them now. Perhaps next week…

One of them (cheekily?) wrote this:

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome
When we’re living our dream

Everything is better when we stick together
Side by side
You and I
Gonna win forever
Let’s party forever

We’re the same
I’m like you
You’re like me
We’re all working in harmony

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome
When we’re living our dream

legoThose of you who have seen the Lego Movie are now singing it in your head. If you haven’t seen that film it’s worth watching – it’s not just for children. There are all sorts of ways in which it can be seen as a parable, as an exploration for the nature of God, good vs evil and so on. Plus it’s great fun!

Look again at the words of the song, though. They really could be a letter to our churches. And not just churches on their own, but groups of churches in a town, or in a denominational stream, or worldwide! Try placing the words as a template over your church. Do they ring true? If not, perhaps God might be saying something to us.

In some ways I am sad that this ‘letter’ was filtered out. The message is a great one, an optimistic one, a challenging one and yet one that contains hope.

Perhaps we should sing it in church instead!!!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Smelly Church

Churches across the UK and across the world have been blessed by exploring the missional concept of ‘Messy Church’. If you don’t know what I am talking about have a look at the website here. We have run versions of Messy Church in our previous church and in our current one. But, inspired by the brilliant name ‘Messy Church’, today I want to introduce you to a new way of doing church:

Smelly Church

Smelly Churches are Christian communities that share a lot in common. Of course they share their Christian faith first of all. They have the same understanding of the Bible and the same understanding of Jesus as the Son of God.

(Smelly Churches all have smelly cats and sing the song from Friends!)

Smelly Churches are made up of Christians who are committed to one another. They spend a lot of their time in shared activities and working towards common goals.

Smelly Churches always work with consensus. They will agree on everything. There is no dissent and church meetings are harmonious.

Smelly Churches sometimes run well. But sometimes they get a bit congested.

Smelly Churches don’t mix too well with other churches. They prize their independence. They can seem to be turning their noses up at other churches.

Smelly Churches find it difficult to see what is happening in their communities. They might catch a whiff of something going on but won’t listen. They also find it hard to mobilise for action and find new concepts difficult to grasp.

The blueprint for Smelly Church is found in the Bible. This is from 1 Corinthians 12, taken from The Message paraphrased translation:

4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts


distinguishing between spirits


interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

27-31 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:

miracle workers
those who pray in tongues.

But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts.

noseIn case you haven’t quite worked it out yet, this is what Smelly Churches look like:

Be blessed, be a blessing

Blessings from Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have been following a series of 40 daily readings from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German Christian pastor who was arrested for opposing Hitler during the Second World War. He died in captivity shortly before the end of the war.


These readings from the last couple of days made me think about churches as Christian communities:

Reading 1

Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial…

Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly…

Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive. We thank God for what God has done for us. We thank God for giving us other Christians who live by God’s call, forgiveness, and promise. We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily.

Reading 2

Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Getting needled

needleOn Saturday I performed some magic at a local village fayre. I was delighted that it was indoors as just as we were about to leave the house the heavens opened and there was a deluge of hail and rain. I was also quite pleased to be on the stage in the village hall, as it meant I could be comfortable about important things like people being able to see.

However, without giving anything away, one of the tricks was almost scuppered by an unscheduled needle on the stage floor. It got into my shoe and as well as being uncomfortable almost prevented me from being able to do a brand new trick that I had never before performed in public.

In the UK we have a saying to describe trying to find something that is small and well-hidden: “It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.” Well it seems to me that the best way to find a needle is to walk around on a stage when the last thing you want to happen is to find a needle in your shoe. It will find its way to you. (Of course, if you have lost a needle and want to find it again it is  not likely to be on a stage if you weren’t on a stage in the first place, this plan only works if you need a needle and can’t locate one).

It is amazing how it is often the small things that can have a big effect. The Apollo 13 near-disaster was caused because 5 years previously the designers had changed the voltages and one component manufacturer was missed. One tiny thermostat in that massively complex space craft failed and it almost led to the deaths of the three astronauts.

There is an old rhyme that goes:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

(The opposite of my needle problem).

Details are important. Details matter. Logistical planning is vital. That goes for any venture in life, but here’s a possible scenario for churches:

“For want of a question the sad news was lost.

For want of the sad news the person was not prayed for.

For want of the prayer the person felt unloved.

For want of love they left the church.

For want of that person others left too.

And all for want of a question.”

It’s not an unrealistic scenario, sadly. I am acutely aware that I need to pay attention to the details in peoples’ lives as well as having the ‘big picture’ in mind. But in the scenario above that chain of causality can be broken at any time by grace and reconciliation. If we needle someone (deliberately or unintentionally) a gracious approach, an honest apology and graciously requested forgiveness are needed. And alongside that, plenty of prayer that God’s grace will abound.

We’re all human. It’s part of being human that we make mistakes. How we respond to that (either as the cause or the victim) reveals God at work in us.

Be blessed, be a blessing.