Posts Tagged ‘church’

Sound Ministry, Music Ministry

April 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Isn’t wonderful when people are more concerned about how they are serving the body of Christ than whether they have adequate opportunity to showcase their apparent talent?

Meddling with the sound and the music at some point in my misspent youth has given me no wisdom worth sharing, but take a look at these two good websites instead!

Sound Ministry

Music Ministry


The Meaning of Meals

January 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Received the kind gift of a nice guitar for Christmas. After all the rabid cooking of several Christmas meals and hosting over Christmas and the New Year, heeded everyone’s warnings to chill out before the start of term by tuning it up and lounging on the sitting room sofa, trying to get the fingers calloused enough to play the thing properly.

Between irritating the neighbours with terrible strumming, watching the first episode of BBC’s Sherlock Series 3 (no spoilers here!) and other people’s DVD collections, have also been dipping into Tim Chester’s A Meal With Jesus: discovering grace, community & mission around the table and Herman Bavinck’s stuff on the Church.

caramelised chicory (endives) with serrano hamChester certainly inspires his readers to think carefully about ordinary meals – what they could symbolise and the good they could do. At the risk of misrepresenting him, it seems that Chester sees meals as:

  • enacted grace – Jesus is handing out God’s party invitations and they read: “You’re invited to my party in the new creation. Come as you are.” Jesus’ meals picture the day when the last will be first, as he welcomes the marginal and confronts the self-righteous and self-reliant. Our meals should beautifully embody God’s love for marginalised people and speak powerfully of grace, even to those who cannot understand what is being said;
  • enacted community –  involvement with people, especially the marginalised, must begin with a sense of God’s grace. But not just God’s grace to them but God’s grace to me. When I speak with someone who’s an alcoholic or an unmarried mother etc, I must do so as a fellow sinner. Otherwise I will be patronising. Generous hospitality leads to reconciliation. It expresses forgiveness. Paul uses hospitality as a metaphor for reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 7:2. Hospitality can be a kind of sacrament of forgiveness. Shared meals offer a moment of grace, a divine moment, an opportunity for people to be seduced by grace into a better life, a truer life and a more human existence. Church itself is to come extent embodied through shared meals. Our meals express our doctrine of justification. There can be no distinctions around the meal table;
  • enacted hope – the Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world – and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. They reveal the identity of Jesus. They are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news. Food isn’t just fuel. It’s not just a mechanism for sustaining us for ministry. It’s gift, generosity, grace. God set a table so we could eat in his presence. This is the heart of what it means to be human. It involves physicality. God didn’t create us for mere mental contemplation, but for a shared meal. But neither is the meal everything. God has put us together in such a way that our hunger for the gift of food is designed to lead us to the Giver (Deuteronomy 8:3). The meals of Jesus are a sign of hope for a renewed creation with bodies and food. It is hope for a meal in the presence of God;
  • enacted mission – what’s new in the story of the great banquet in Luke 14 is the exhortation to invite outsiders to our meals. God welcomes us to his party, and so we’re to welcome the poor. Simply writing a cheque keeps the poor at a distance. But Jesus was the friend of sinners. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalisation, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community. Meals enact mission. But they enact mission because they enact grace. Meals bring mission in the ordinary. But that’s where most people are – living in the ordinary;
  • enacted salvation – at the fall, food was the way we expressed our disobedience and mistrust of God. Sin distorts all our relationships, including our relationships with food. We use food for control instead of looking to God’s greatness. We use food for image instead of looking to God’s glory. We use food for refuge instead of looking to God’s goodness. We use food for identity instead of looking to God’s grace. We live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3). But this word is embodied in a meal. The communion meal reorients life by relocating us in the story told by the Word. The meal points to the goal: eating in the presence of God as a celebration of his generosity in creation and salvation. We anticipate this in every meal, but especially in the Lord’s Supper;
  • enacted promise – the story of Martha and Mary doesn’t promote a spirituality of disengagement or a contemplative life. It offers a word of invitation. It reorients us to the Word that promises a future banquet. This promise liberates us from the worries of this world so that we can put first God’s kingdom. The meal at Emmaus is the means by which Jesus becomes known as the suffering Messiah. Jesus is known at the breaking of bread, at the meal table, sharing food with friends and enemies. Christ is known in community.

This ticks all the right zeitgeist boxes: inclusiveness, community, authenticity (“It’s possible to remain at a distance from someone in public gatherings – even in a Bible study. Meals bring you close. You see people in situ, in life, as they are. You connect and communicate.”), anti-authorianism (“The future of Christianity lies not in a return to the dominance of Christendom, but in small intimate communities of light. Often they’re unseen by history. But they’re what transform neighbourhoods and cities.”), anti-institutionalism (“Prostitutes loved sharing a meal with Jesus. They avoid the church he founded like the plague. Something has gone wrong.”), finding meaning and significance in the mundane.

clementine and almond cake from an Ottolenghi recipe
And he makes good observations and points worth thinking more about like:

  • we do need to think about glorifying God in all aspects of life, even in the mundane things.
  • hospitality has become a performance art, and we’ve lost the creation of intimacy around a meal.
  • think of your favourite food. Steak perhaps. Or Thai green curry. Or ice cream. Or home-made apple pie. God could have just made fuel. He could have made us to be sustained by some kind of savoury biscuit. Instead he gave us a vast and wonderful array of foods. The world is more delicious than it needs to be. We have a superabundance of divine goodness and generosity. God went over the top.
  • not only did God give us food; he also ordained cooking. God gave this world to us to care for and cultivate. But he also gave it to us to explore and develop. It was God’s intention that we should take the raw material of his world and use it to create science, culture, agriculture, music, technology and poetry – to his glory. Every time you bake a cake, you’re fulfilling that creation mandate. (Hmmm, interesting.)
  • Chester’s observations on how sin distorts our relationship with food.

I also rather like his pithy soundbite-y style of writing (though this makes linking up his ideas a little challenging for me). However, am still pondering whether this coheres with what the Bible says. This is not so much a critique as a note-to-self as to where my little brain has got to so far:

  • not completely convinced that Chester correctly interprets Luke’s aims in writing the referenced bits of his Gospel;
  • in many of his categories, I wonder if he might have muddied the distinction between the church (even if just the visible church) and the world. It probably seems unpopularly elitist to make such a distinction, but it is clear from Scripture that the church is made up only of people who have put their trust in God. Therefore, the benefit of church community and unity is available only to Christians. But this is not to say that we should hunker down in our holy huddle. Those outside the family of God should be made to feel welcome as visitors to the household of God, but it would hypocritical and confusing to treat them as if they were part of the body of Christ when they are not;
  • not quite convinced either that meals should, in all cultures, at all times, be invested with the significance that Chester accords them. While some meanings might hold in the culture I come from, I’m just not too sure about stamping “biblical mandate” on them;
  • the offer of community is attractive and I have in the last year been a grateful beneficiary of very loving communities. But it seems to me that the Bible as a whole lays greater salvific significance on the express proclamation of God’s word.

That is all for now…

*the recipes for both the caramelised endives with serrano ham, and the clementine and ground almond syrup cake were Ottolenghi-inspired. They were easily made by someone with very sore fingertips.

Another Christmas Dinner!

January 4, 2014 Leave a comment

post-Christmas roast dinner

roasted beef bone marrow with caramelised onions roast beef (topside)

It was good to meet a group of Malaysians visiting London. They were elders of a little church in Johor Bahru and we had good chats about local issues. Then we had a stranded Brit to stay. She couldn’t get home because of the flooding around her house – loads to chat about living as a Christian in the workplace, and about love and marriage.

There is great joy in meeting fellow brothers and sisters for the first time and finding that, because of our common paternity, we are able, almost straight off, to speak intimately about various things (with or without several glasses of champagne).

(It was interesting to observe the vastly different food preferences of ethnic types/backgrounds: the Asians disliked cheese and cured meats, wanted only very little beef and carbs but very much preferred their meat well-done, and shunned dessert, mulled wine, and mincepies (“too sweet!”). Unfortunately, the host who has often been called a “banana” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) by the Asian crowd hadn’t thought about this. Happily though, the said host accidentally stayed around chatting in church for far too long so the pot roast did emerge well-done afterall.)

For my own information – cost of Christmas dinner for 12 (£2.12 per person):
British beef topside (1.5kg) £13.55 (Waitrose, discounted)
Brussel sprouts on stalk (x3) £2.09 (Waitrose, discounted)
Smoked lardons £1.93 (Waitrose)
Carrots and parsnips £0.88 (Asda)
Bacon and sausage for pigs in blankets (£2.00) (Lidl)
Roast potatoes with goose fat £2.99 (Waitrose, discounted)
Yorkshire pudding £1.00 (Aldi)
Marrow £1.00 (Waitrose)

Friendship that is Fellowship

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Was desperately prepping for a Bible study while my tummy was fighting down the maple-syrup mould (long story), when a Curate sat down for a random chat. Despite the less-than-favourable circumstances, was grateful for more than an hour of fruitful talk about embarrassing stories of our common weaknesses and attempts to change; about what it means to love another – of not insisting on rights, of self-sacrificially serving the other; about directing the emotions to be angry at what is sin, not what might merely be people’s expectations of us.

teapot on heaterI do dearly love this brother and all the brothers and sisters in the Local Church who have been such great encouragers to perseverance in the faith – fruit, no doubt, of years of faithful teaching from the pulpit and in Bible study groups having taken root in the rich soil of their hearts. A visiting Latvian pastor recounted how the Local Church had been recommended to him by a friend,”In that church, even the cook teach Bible.” (sic). And the receptionist, the most junior admin staff, the IT people, the building managers, the catering assistants can be trusted for well-thought-through godly speech and advice on almost everything.

And it hasn’t been all talk: it has been a real pleasure being in a team that works harmoniously, under a wise God-fearing rector who hates gossip and shows no favouritism, with people who all understand that each plays a different but essential part in making God known. The lack of back-biting, back-stabbing, bitterness, and complaining is absolutely amazing.

And friendship amongst non-staff members is indistinguishable from fellowship – always (in the categories of Vaughan Roberts’ True Friendship) Christ-centred, careful, candid, and with a smaller group, constant and close.

Who knows how long, by the grace of God, this wonderful state of affairs will last. But, as much as the Local Church is a well-taught and mutually-encouraging church, it is far more a praying church. And a older staff member likes to pray,”Thank you God that you have allowed us to be part of this stage of the life of this church. In your mercy, please keep us loving and serving you and your people, for your glory.”

The Church at Sunningdale

November 12, 2013 1 comment

Just back from a marvellous weekend away at Sunningdale chilling out with church family while learning about the church.

Church isn’t a building but a gathering of God’s people, people who trust that the blood of Jesus Christ has saved them from the penalty for their sins. And what’s surprising is that it isn’t merely a group of people with similar interests, a support group, a good-to-have bolt-on after one becomes Christian. Nope – in fact, the church fulfils God’s plan for humanity.

SunningdaleAll gospel presentations are inherently limited. So while the ever-popular Two Ways to Live is clear about what sin is and how we can be saved from the consequences of sin, it fails to accurately reflect the place of church.

God’s plan for humanity
Humans were made for dominion over the rest of creation. This was not because they deserved to (since they were quite insignificant in relation to the cosmos), but because God chose them to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every living creature.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honour.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:3-8)

But in man’s own rebellion against God, he allowed a serpent to rule over him (Genesis 3) and so, although he still has dominion over the rest of creation, it is a tenuous rule – the ground will not always produce the harvest that is expected etc.

acorns on moss

God’s plan for humanity is fulfilled at Jesus’ resurrection

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honour,
    putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5-9)

conkers everywhere
God’s plan for humanity fulfilled through Jesus’ body – the church
When we put our trust in Jesus, we are brought into the universal church (that spans generations and nations) and are part of his body. Being “in Christ”, we go wherever he goes. We died with him and will be raised with him to reign, as all humanity was made to, on the last day.

20 … he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-22)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7)

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:1-6)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)

Currently, we express this heavenly and future reality of a universal church through membership of a local church. (Though mere membership of a local church is of no use if we do not believe that Jesus died to save us from the just judgement of God.) This is why the ultimate sanction is to be cut off from the local church:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

So meeting with the church family isn’t something we need to drag ourselves to on Sundays; we have been saved individually to be part of Christ’s body, and it is corporately that we fulfil God’s plan for humanity.

Categories: the church Tags: ,

Angela Hewitt and Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, Honest Burgers in Brixton, The Fellowship of the Local Church

May 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Angela Hewitt, Southbank Centre, London Angela Hewitt, Southbank Centre, London

Last week, we were in the cheap Platform seats at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, listening to Angela Hewitt on a Fazioli piano. On the menu for the evening, Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A Flat (final notes hanging dramatically in the air),

Angela Hewitt's score on iPad, Southbank Centre, London
and after the interval (when they’d brought out an iPad loaded with scores and a wireless transmitter possibly for the page turner backstage? Martin Kettle of the Guardian suggests control-by-foot pedal) Bach’s Art of the Fugue. Masterfully clear playing. Chatting after the concert, it was clear that many appreciated that instead of diva-esque behaviour, she took the trouble to increase overall enjoyment by explaining what she would be doing with the fugues and how they might work.

Honest Burger, Brixton. Blackboard menu. Honest Burger

And then the search for good grub at Brixton, where Honest Burgers at Honest Burgers were suitably juicy and beefy (patties from Ginger Pig) and chips were fresh and hot out of the fryer and well-seasoned with rosemary salt.

Quite a few people from Singapore have asked, in the last few days, how working at the Local Church is going. Thinking over the past week has made me immensely grateful to be part of a church family rich with the maturity of older saints who have been willing to love for us transient folk (who will be of little future use to the Local Church) by investing time and energy in really getting to know us, in sharing their lives (knowing that this relationship will soon end), and in training us:

  • Monday and Tuesday were spent at the School, with the after-hours dedicated to frantically writing up talks and bible studies. (Fortunately, one housemate cooked dinner.)
  • Wednesday started at 7.20 a.m. with bible study for City workers, followed by a one-to-one session at 9 a.m. on doctrine with someone who has been proclaiming the gospel since the Local Church was only made up of 6 people in the 1960s, followed by a meet-up at 11 a.m. with the Supervisor, then lunch and prayer with the Prayer Partner at 1 p.m., followed again at 2.30 p.m. by a work-through of what godly behaviour might look like (based on Scripture) in different difficult situations with a 70+ year-old with vast experience in leadership politics (both secular and church-y), then a long slot of wine-waitering (and drinking in-between) for a guest event, chatting with other wine waiters.
  • Slept in a bit on Thursday, chatted with housemates over a late breakfast, then went to help out that the lunchtime talks for City workers. Continued talking to one of the wine waiters from the previous night, helped a tourist find the tombs he was looking for, cleared up, then found a room to eat sandwiches and read in. Someone came in to chat. And soon, it was time for security duty at the Local Church reception desk. The Outreach Minister came in to print off booklets and, over the noise of the photocopier, we spoke quite honestly about certain challenges in church and training. Then the Rector came in the door fresh from a teaching trip to North America, with some stories to tell. The exhausted Assistant Cook brought us very nice salmon and creamed spinach left-overs from the ongoing guest event, and the Outreach Minister acquired some unwanted sauvignon blanc.
    R.C. Sproul's "Chosen by God"
    Several people came and left at different times. There was amused approval that the Rector, being most concerned only about whether the gospel was preached faithfully, could happily leave a big week of events to run on their own while he was away, where Rectors with other concerns might have insisted on staying on to micromanage things. Later, the pianist came in having sneakily played Disney princess songs during the event, followed by speaker whom we ribbed gently (who of course pointed out that I was far worse than he in the same areas of weakness). We talked about how brilliant it was that the leadership at the Local Church did not require the Ministers to fit in certain moulds and that they wisely related with each differently, according to their temperament and gifts (or lack thereof in certain areas). Good modelling of an understanding of 1 Corinthians 12?

    Somehow, i managed to finish R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God in the midst of all that. It was a great little book that dealt clearly with the predestination and double predestination. But more of that another time perhaps.

    Immensely thankful to God.

Singapore’s National Day and An Asset Light Strategy

August 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Singapore’s National Day, being a public holiday, was a day for farewells in people’s houses:

Untitled Untitled
Untitled Untitled
Extra Aged Choya   Bubble Tea   Reverso and Chendol Ice-cream from Island Creamery   IKEA Daim Cake Icing Cupcakes

catching up, being drooled on by new additions to families, decorating cupcakes, sharing hopes and fears and encouragements, then saying goodbye; and

Untitledwatching the National Day Parade on television with Malaysians and Indonesians and assuring them that no one thought of them as Foreign Talent (with all that the term imports, especially to Singaporean jingoists). They were all appreciated greatly, like the delicious roast chicken from near Senai Airport, Johor Bahru. Then, alternately laughing at and cheering on the contestants in Sasuke Singapore, sharing and being prayed for, capped off with a nice study on Luke 2 – a reminder that Jesus is the long-awaited saviour promised by God, according to his plan formed since the beginning of time.

Adam Road Food Centre Ice-kachang. Adam Road Food Centre
Adam Road Food Centre
Adam Road Food Centre Indian fried bee hoon with egg. Adam Road Food Centre

A brother and some sisters drove down from Malaysia bearing yummy snacks and good news. Exciting times for all. Slightly heated discussions over excellent finely-ground ice kachang and ice cheng tng and fried bee hoon at Adam Road Food Centre.

Have had to explain this several times in the last few days, to deter any untoward excitement about supposed generosity and forestall any suspicion that i am exhibiting symptoms usually evident before a suicide attempt.

      1. the whole world is the Lord’s and everything in it. Therefore, not only has God given us our jobs, but everything – including the money earned from our jobs, are his as well. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, 1 Timothy 6:17)
      2. Since nothing i have is really mine, i am therefore a steward of these assets on behalf of God.
      3. A trustee must invest the assets for the purpose for which the assets have been entrusted to him/her. So after setting aside some money for sustenance for self and family (1 Timothy 5:8), the best ways of stewarding resources would be to do good works – that is, invest in helping people be saved and to help those in need first within the church then without.
      4. Additionally, because nothing belongs, ultimately, to me, there should be little personal hoarding of resources; they should be shared amongst the church community.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6)

Liquid luggage - vodka, whisky, port in a luggage bagTherefore:

  • literally hundreds of Christian books and Bibles, all neatly catalogued into 22 A4 pages, went to the local church for loan to anyone who might want them. They’ll get misused, dirtied, dusty, lost, but at least they’ll benefit more people than if they stayed on shelves that I may/may not return to;
  • the alcoholic stash of wines, whiskies, vodkas, ports, to a couple who host boozy book clubs (reading rooms) at their place where people can come and ask questions about life and Christianity;
  • sports stuff and toys: basketball, volleyball, Nerf guns, remote-controlled helicopters, dress-up stuff – all catalogued and lodged with a couple who would be able to make them available for youth camps;
  • cameras: the old Polaroid cameras went to someone some time ago but i don’t think she uses them so that was a misjudgement on my part; Nikon D300 and zoom lens with parents of a new baby, the 50mm fixed lens is with someone else but i suspect one of his two boys has already killed it;
  • two-year old Macbook Pro: to a good home where four boys with enquiring minds will use it to its full potential;
  • kitchen stuff: to three parties who’d just moved into new digs who are stressed about raising young families on one income;
  • stringed instruments: Baby Taylor guitar and Makala ukelele (ah, sweet sounds), both nicely-sized for people ministering to the youth and people who go on mission trips;
  • bags: the very handy and durable Freitags went to more good homes.

i write this in the expectation that this blog is more or less anonymous and i will therefore not be tempted to take pride in noting this for my own reference. In fact, it is embarrassing that i have so much stuff that is only benefitting people because i am leaving!

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