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Easter Parable: The Beam of Light

Happy Easter everyone!

With thanks to the children of St Mary’s & St Michael’s Church who helped me put together this Space Ranger parable entitled ‘The Beam of Light’. It was told on Easter Sunday 2014 at both churches for an all-age audience in place of a sermon. If you like it and it’s useful to you for future years at Easter time, feel free to use or adapt, because I’m sure you can improve it! The good bits are the kids’ work, the bits you can improve are obviously mine.

An artist's impression of a Beam of Light shooting into the sky

This morning I would like to tell you a story.

This is the story of a Space Ranger whose name is Captain Steve. He has a spaceship called the Eternal Sunrise that can travel the universe. He shoots from planet to planet, and quest to quest, a hero to the galaxy and a friend to all.

One day, as Captain Steve was journeying a thousand million light years from planet Earth, he noticed Read more

Thoughts on Good Friday

Jesus graffiti, photo by Aaron Phelps
Photo by Aaron Phelps

This year on Good Friday and continuing my tradition, a piece of graffiti artwork to delight the eyes and challenge the heart. Although I don’t know who produced the artwork, the photo was taken in Brighton, England, by Aaron Phelps.

I love this image. To quote St John of Damascus (quoted often in my recent dissertation/book):

‘Visible things are corporeal models which provide a vague understanding of intangible things. Holy Scripture describes God and the angels as having Read more

Thoughts on Good Friday

A photo of a graffiti mural by Nolan Lee

This year on Good Friday, the artwork is a graffiti piece called Good Friday by Nolan Lee. More of Nolan’s work is available at his own website.

One of the reasons why I think graffiti always works around this time of the Christian year is because graffiti is visceral, rough, violent and makeshift artform. Today, of all days, when we remember how the Lord of all the earth was executed, it always seems to me like an excellent way to explore its meaning.

I’ve not found any commentary from the artist but I love the upward gaze… is it Mary? Jesus’ mother? The eyes look older, tired, eyes that have seen too much. The cross firmly fixed in her mind and in her sight. Read more

Thoughts on Good Friday

Graffiti image of the crucixion with a caption 'Strawman'

As has been my wont in recent years, I am posting another piece of graffiti on Good Friday. Thankfully those renegade creative types around the world continue to find the crucifixion a story for inspiration and criticism on our streets.

It’s with the latter in mind, that I post this image from Matthew Gidley on Flickr. It isn’t clear where it is from and who it is by.

This year I have been thinking a great deal about Paul’s words in both 1 Corinthians 1 and 1 Corinthians 15.

In regard to the later chapter, Paul says that if Christ was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is utterly pointless. Read more

Cross Purposes

Chagall development painting for the Tudeley church window
Painting for the East Window, All Saints' Tudeley, (Chagall)

Having grown up in Paddock Wood, I was for the most part unaware that just up the road at the tiny, rural All Saints’ Church in Tudeley I would have found the only church in the world to have all its twelve windows decorated by the Russian artist Marc Chagall.

When I became a Christian in my late teens, All Saints’ became a regular place for me to pray. It is, quite simply, one of my favourite places to sit and be in the whole wide world.

The windows are just beautiful and deeply enchanting. Commissioned as a memorial tribute to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid who died aged just 21 in a sailing accident off Rye, the main East window shows Sarah drowning in the sea while Christ crucified looks down. I don’t know much about art (or anything really) but I love the combination of honest brutality in showing Sarah’s plight in the midst of such beautiful stained glass. Sanitised Christianity this is not.

I write about this now because I had a chance this week to visit a special exhibition called Cross Purposes. Much kudos to my old mother church, St. Andrew’s Paddock Wood, who have combined with my old school and their art gallery, Mascalls Gallery, to put on a special exhibition.

In the Gallery, Cross Purposes has brought together powerful images of the crucifixion from some of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries. I was astounded to see the list of names – Stanley Spencer, Tracey Emin, Eric Gill, Maggi Hambling, Emmanuel Levy and (of course) Marc Chagall.

Shown for the first time in this country, Chagall’s original drawings and paintings for the Tudeley windows are on display. They are fascinating to see the development of Read more

Surprised by Hope

Surprised by Hope

I am shamed by how long it has taken me to finish reading this book (I blame it all the Interregnum even though I’ve been reading it far longer than that *cough*) but, anyway, I have finally made it to the end of Tom Wright’s view of heaven, hell, life after death and all that stuff that can be found in Surprised by Hope.

While I’m in a confessing mood, I have to admit that my beliefs on the afterlife have always been a bit hazy at best. Part of the haze stems from a time early in my Christian life as a teenager when I was sat down by a well-meaning (but ultimately misguided) friend to listen to Roger Price cassette tapes whose pentecostal, rapture based, snippet of the Bible here, snippet of the Bible there approach to theology sounded good to me at the time but has left a legacy of confusion in its wake. Roger himself has passed away now so I’m sure he could probably give a far better answer now than he could then… problem is we can’t ask him. Anyway, it was high time I did something about that and Bishop Tom has come to my rescue.

Surprised by Hope is an excellent book. Pitched somewhere between the accessibility of Tom’s ‘for everyone’ series with SPCK and Read more

Rent asunder

I had a surreal experience today in my last week of not being a priest.

I had the privilege of baptising a little girl this morning in our main morning service, which was great. This afternoon, I was walking down a road in our parish on my way to a funeral visit for a lady for whom I am officiating at the funeral in a couple of days time. What I hadn’t clocked before that moment was that the two families lived just a few doors apart.

As I passed the ‘baptism’ family’s house, there was a party going on in the garden, music and laughter. A big banner over their front door with the words ‘christening’ repeated many times colourfully on shiny paper. A few doors down, I came to my destination. No party here. Quiet, curtains closed, sombre. A family mourning the loss of a dearly loved mother and granny.

It felt odd to be torn in two directions so overtly on the same day. Of course, we ‘hatch’ and ‘dispatch’ on a regular basis but placed next to each other like this, it felt very odd indeed. I felt my heart being torn in two directions for the two families, as if in the middle of a tug-of-war.

It reminded me of something Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop, wrote about being a priest – albeit with a slightly different focus in mind:

‘In the minister’s one person the human spirit speaks to God, and the Holy Spirit speaks to men. No wonder he is often rent asunder. No wonder he snaps in such tension. It broke the heart of Christ. But it let out in the act the heart of God’ (Ramsey, 1985: 4)