All Creation Worships God: The Impact of Science on Theology

Catching up with a few articles from this blog which directly speaks into my life as a scientist which is where my career path started out and my life as a Christian minister which is where it ended up!

Science and Belief

Woutergroen, 2008; Jens Maus, 2010. Wikimedia Woutergroen, 2008; Jens Maus, 2010. Wikimedia

If all truth is God’s truth, then science must have an impact on our theology. This was the central message of theologian Steve Motyer’s seminar in the God in the Lab evening series at London School of Theology (LST) earlier this year.

Having taught theology and counselling for a number of years as part of his role at LST, Motyer is all too aware of the connection between mind and brain. Neuroscience is showing that everything we call ‘mind’, including feelings, instincts and intuitions and spiritual apprehensions, is rooted in brain function. Various parts of the brain are active when we pray or have spiritual experiences. If those parts are damaged, then we can lose the capacity for certain spiritual activities and feelings. So the spiritual and the physical are not separate, but intersect completely with each other.

Motyer then used evolutionary biology as…

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Review: The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare's play of the Merchant of Venice Arranged for Representation at the Princess's Theatre, with Historical and Explanatory Notes by Charles Kean, F.S.A.
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another read as part of my Shakespeare course. Read this over the course of a weekend and again thoroughly enjoyed it. This was my first time reading the Merchant of Venice and despite having heard of Shylock I knew little of the plot before the start of the week. Must be getting in the hang of Shakespeare as I was able to follow most of the plot including the sub-plots and twists – definitely enjoyed the twists as the crisis in the story resolved itself. Next up – Othello!

( #FLShakespeare)

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A Good Friday reflection from another roleplaying minister I know.

Life, Faith and Role-Playing Games

There are many ways to take a man’s life. The quick and the slow, the painless and the agonising. I, Longinus, I should know. In fifteen years under the eagle standard I’ve seen most of them, used many of them. You don’t get to be a Centurion in the Legion if you’re soft-hearted. You follow orders. Your life, the lives of your men, and the security of the empire depend upon it.

Doesn’t make it easy, of course. Some times you have discretion, sometimes you don’t. Crucifixion detail is one of the hardest. Death in a straight fight, that’s the mark of man. Death by dehydration, suffocation, all the while on public display, is harsh, dehumanising and degrading. No discretion. No way out. But as my old instructor used to say, “If you ain’t horrified, you’re doin’ it wrong”. It’s not just an execution, it’s a public warning to others.

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Looking forward to watching this properly later – the classic Waterboys line up. Should be a treat!

Myles O'Reilly's, Arbutus Yarns.

There was magic in the air at Park Lodge Hotel in Spiddal on September 2012 as the town welcomed back the legendary Waterboys for two special reunion gigs, which were attended by fans from all over the world.

Mike Scott and The Waterboys spent six months in Spiddal in 1988 when they recorded their iconic Fisherman’s Blues album. In his recent memoir, Adventures of a Waterboy, Mike Scott referred to the impact the village had on his life and music.

However, their first ever formal concerts in Spiddal were in September 2012, when Mike Scott, Steve Wickham and Anto Thistlethwaite reunited for a memorable day and night.

These concerts were organized by the Spiddal based Strange Boat Donor Foundation to raise funds for the National Commemorative Garden in memory of organ donors. This is being planned for Salthill.

Hundreds of visitors from Ireland, Europe, the US, and from as far…

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Just been sent a link to this webpage with some fantastic guerilla stickers on the Underground. Had to reblog….

Joe Blogs

My friend Darren sent me a linkto these rather excellent alternative London Underground signs…

(click image above for link to original photographers blog)

Apparently they’ve been appearing for some time now, but like 99% of passengers, I’m sad to say I’ve missed them..

They’ve been done so well, that to a regular commuter, their utter familiarity as part of an accepted, everyday visual clutter, results in them becoming almost invisible, losing all meaning beyond their colour and shape..

Well it’s a lesson learnt for me. I usually pride myself on at least attempting to see beyond the day to day, and resist the automatic filters that city life can generate.

Rest assured, that I will certainly be keeping a much sharper lookout for these signs from now on… How I would’ve loved to have noticed Shepherd’s Pie, overground, Gas mark 4 on a journey into work, it would have…

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Review: Fables: The Good Prince

Fables: The Good Prince (Fables, #10)Fables: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although this is the first compilation of Fables comics that I’ve listed on, I’ve read all of them to this point, and I have to say that I enjoyed this one as much as the best of the rest. A cracking compilation. For those who haven’t discovered them yet, they’re take the characters that we grew up hearing about in Fairy Tales and say what if they were real, and what if they had been forced out of the world they lived in by an evil dictator ‘The Emperor’ and forced to flee into our world, the Mundy world (muggle world if you’re a Harry Potter fan). Here they live in ‘disguise’ pretending to be normal human beings except for those that are animals – these are hidden away on the farm. I love the way they take elements from those childhood tales and adapt them to fit the modern world, or twist them in new and surprising ways. I have also loved the way the characters and the plot lines have developed so far – in that respect these graphic novels have the feel of the best of modern TV series such as Heroes or Lost.

This edition covers the tale of Fly, the janitor or caretaker to the Mayor of the Fables as the fairy tale characters are called, revealing just who he really is (much to my delight as well considering some of my roleplaying favourites),and also touching on stories about Cinderella, Prince Charming and Aladdin.

If you haven’t found these gems, do yourself a favour and hunt them down, find a place where you won’t be disturbed and recite after me, ‘Once upon a time…’

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Alongside the old Blogger version of this site, I have just imported a couple of other blogs that I have run in the past to keep everything in the same place. One is a site where I used to post my sermon notes following a Sunday service, the other a site dedicated to a highly challenging and enjoyable series we did looking at the parables. It will take a little while to get all of these posts properly tagged and categorized, but it will be good to have everything in the same place.

John 1 – Carol Service Talk ’08: Into the Light!

Notes from an All Age talk from our Carols by Candlelight Service on 21.12.08

So what do you think of the lights tonight!
All around us, people have their Christmas lights on.

Light is an amazing thing. Can do incredible things.
One of the things light is, is fast!
(Hand out following numbers on sheets of A4, one digit on each. Get children to rearrange to make right numbers!)
How fast do you think Chris Hoy is on his Olympic bike? – 40 miles per hour
How fast do you think a cheetah can run? – miles per hour
How fast do you think the fastest car can go? -SC Ultimate Aero: 257 mph+,
Top speed of Concorde? -,450 miles per hour
How about light? -71 million (671,000,000) mph

Furthest star in observable universe was 76,369,821,721,183,332,680,000 miles away. We can see it now, but that light has taken 13,700,000,000 years to get here!

The light from this star has travelled this enormous distance, taking for ever to get here, going through miles of darkness, and yet it is still going, the light is still shining.
It doesn’t matter how dark space is, nor how big it is, it can’t put it out.

In his Christmas story, the Gospel writer John says the birth of John was like light blazing into the world.

Many things light can do:
1) Show us the way – like lights on an airport runway
2) Reveal what’s hidden, like a like in a cellar, or a torch on a walk
3) Or can create beautiful things like a rainbow or glitterball (turn on)
4) Light is also vital for life – we can’t live without it.

Some people think that as we celebrate such an old story at Christmas, some 2000 years old, that it is meaningless now. But like the light from a distant star, the light of Jesus continues to shine, still bringing direction, understanding, beauty and life to those that accept him today. John says that those who believe in him are given the amazing offer of becoming children of God.

One of the most amazing lights that I know is this one…

Light trick candle – blow out and watch relight.

Jesus’ light is not old light – like light from that distant star.
His light might have gone out on that first Good Friday when he was killed on the Cross. If that had been the case, then the light we celebrate today would be a faint 200 year old remnant. But the wonderful story about the baby Jesus, is that he grew up, was killed, but then was brought miraculously back to life by his Heavenly Father. His life still shines today.

This is what we celebrate at Christmas – the coming of this Light that shines from then to this day.

Luke 2:1-20 – Christmas Day!

Notes from an All-Age Christmas Day service on 25.12.08

I love Christmas, it’s a magical time. Looking back, many of my childhood memories come from Christmas time.

Complaining that my parents wouldn’t get up early enough!
Eating a tube of sweets and a Satsuma for breakfast, whilst playing with my new toys.
Playing in the snow on white Christmas, and defrosting in front of Bernard Cribbins on Jackanory.
Competing with my Grandad to see who could eat the turkey drumstick the quickest.

I remember one year having a treasure trail to find a special present – a new bike. In our reading earlier, the shepherds had something like a treasure trail too. They had to find Jesus, just like you have. Only a minister didn’t start their trail – it was started by a host of glorious angels – God’s messengers.

They didn’t have paper clues either. They had a sign to look for – they had to look for a baby who was lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling bands. If they found such a baby, they would know it was God’s son – and that’s just what happened.

Of course, that’s the most important present isn’t it; God’s gift of Jesus to us? What did the angels say about him? That he was a Saviour – he was going to rescue us from all that is wrong, both within us and without us – and that he was going to bring us peace, peace with God, peace with our world and peace with ourselves, if we accept him.

So how did everyone else find out about Jesus? What signs did they have? Some followed a star. Some like Simeon later in the chapter, were lead to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. But what about everyone else? What was their clue, their sign? It was the shepherds, who went about telling everyone about the wonderful things they had seen.

As we celebrate Christmas, it is good to remember how we found out about Jesus. I suspect for most of us, somebody told us about him, just like those shepherds. But maybe, as we celebrate, it would also be good to ask ourselves how our friends and families are going to find out. Who is going to be a sign to them?

Christmas Eve – Hark How All the Welkin Rings!

Notes from a sermon preached during a midnight Communion Service on Christmas Eve, 2008

I have discovered over the years that I’ve taken Christmas services (a scary 15 years now!) that on the whole you can’t go wrong. For the hour or so of each service, the stress that sadly surrounds so much of our modern celebrations vanishes as we refocus on what its really all about. The children are excited, and the adults relax and enjoy themselves. Everyone is on your side. Its great!

That’s not to say though, that taking Christmas services is without its dangers. I’ve learnt that there are at least two things that could lead you into difficulties…

The first is that unless you want to be hounded out of church and into the headlines of the Christmas papers, you don’t say that a certain jolly fellow dressed in red doesn’t exist!

The other big mistake is to mess with the carols. Don’t, under any circumstances, change the words or the tunes. This causes at least confusion, if not downright rebellion and anger!

I stumbled across these words the other day that reminded me of this danger:

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born today!”

Imagine the response if I put these words up for us to sing…

First there would be laughter!
Then there would be the questions – confused voices demanding to know what on earth a welkin is.
Then there would be mutiny… and I’d end up singing a solo.

The irony is that these are the original words, as written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The rest of the words are:

Christ, by highest Heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin’s womb!
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
hail the incarnate Deity!
pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus, our Emmanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die;
born to raise the sons of earth;
born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
fix in us thy humble home;
rise, the woman’s conquering Seed,
bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display thy saving power,
ruined nature now restore;
now in mystic union join
thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner man:
O, to all thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

I’m now going to make an outrageous claim, and argue that Hark the Herald Angels sing is actually a Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion Christmas Carol (that’s the denomination we belong to). One of our ‘founders’, the most famous preacher of his day, George Whitefield was a great friend of Charles and John Wesley. He had a look at the words, and broke the rules. He changed them to the ones we know today. These words caught on and Charles’s didn’t. George’s introduction of angels singing in the first verse really annoyed Charles, as the Bible says that the angels spoke, not sang…

So what is a welkin? Welkin is an old word for heaven or the skies.

I must confess, that although the words are somewhat clumsy for us to sing today, and they were set to a dirge of a tune, I love the picture that Charles’ original words conjure up. It’s not just the angels that proclaim the birth of Jesus, but the heavens, the nations, the skies – indeed all of creation!

In Romans 8:22, the Apostle Paul wrote that that Creation is groaning, as in childbirth, since sin came into the world and corrupted it. In Charles’ original words, the birth of Jesus becomes the moment when these groans are converted into cheers, as the child who will put all things right is born.

So often Christmas can be centred on all the events that took place around this birth, either mentioned in the Bible or simply traditional, rather than on the child that was born. The focus of these original words, like those of the Bible itself, is on the question – who is this child that has been born?

Listen to some of the titles given to the baby: King of kings, Christ (God’s chosen one), the Lord, God, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Sun of Righteousness and the Desire of Nations. That’s quite some adoration.

I’ve found all of those wonderful titles in the Bible except the last, the Desire of Nations, although that one certainly fits with the message of scripture. This frail child, dependent on Mary and Joseph, is none other than the ultimate power and authority. This baby is God himself, the Son of our Heavenly Father. In him God draws close – that’s what Emmanuel means, God with Us. But this is not a ruler like so many of our rulers, exercising their reign through might of arms or the threat of sanctions. No, this infant is the Prince of Peace, the one who will show that true power is found in humility and service.

Charles Wesley’s words doesn’t just tell us who the Babe is, but what he has come to do. Laying aside his heavenly glory, Jesus has been born as one of us, to give us the chance to be raised after death to new life, to have a second birth. As John’s Gospel puts it:

John 1:10-13 – He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

This is a restoration of what was meant to be when God first created, that what was lost in the Garden of Eden – and relationship with God, with each other, and Creation. But even as God told Adam and Eve of the consequences of what they had done, he gave a hint of hope. Talking to the Serpent he said:

Gen 3.15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

As the carol declares, Mary’s offspring is the one this speaks of. Bruise in us the serpent’s head! Jesus has come to put right what was made wrong. He has come to destroy the work of the Serpent, to restore in us God’s image, to restore ruined nature, and to join us to him.

Christmas is a time for invitations. Come to my Christmas party, come see the babe that was born, come. This Carol, and the scriptures behind it, offer another invitation. The invitation is to receive these wonderful gifts, the gifts of life, of being restored to be the people we are meant to be, to have the effects of Adam’s sin replaced with the character of Christ. The offer is to receive new life, relationship with God that goes beyond the grave. This offer declared by the angels and sung by the welkin is to all humanity, open to all who believe.