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Advent Sunday and Prophetic Challenge

Advent Sunday and Jesus Shaped People Week 13:

Jesus’ Prophetic Challenge

picture from wikipedia commons

picture from wikipedia commons

Here is an account of my sermons this morning preached at St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle and St Bede’s, Brandwood.  It was delivered dialogue fashion and without a script.  More details of Jesus Shaped People here and here.

We reflected on the coincidence of Advent Sunday and this section of Jesus Shaped People which deals with Jesus’ passion for prophetic challenge.  We noted the darkness that is around us at the moment, the helicopter crash in Glasgow, a young boy killed in a road accident locally, continuing bad news from abroad, suffering in our own lives.

We thought about what it meant to be a prophet in the Bible – someone sent by God to tell society to change its behaviour, usually because it was treating people in poverty badly.  We told the story of Jonah together as a way of remembering this.

We named a few people in our own time who we have seen acting prophetically.  Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Janani Luwum and Mother Teresa came to mind.  Pope Francis is showing God’s love and humility through a series of wonderfully simple symbolic gestures.  Archbishop Justin has shown prophetic courage in campaigning against the evils of pay day lenders and trying to ensure everyone has access to credit, especially those in areas like this.  We looked at our first Advent Candle shining on this dark December day and thought of these lights shining in the darkness and the hope and love they bring.

We thought about our Gospel reading of the call of Levi the Tax Collector from Mark.  We remembered that, unlike now, taxes were a bad thing because they financed Roman oppression and ground down the poor.  Like the people of Nineveh in Jonah, Levi changed his ways when he heard the call of God.

Jesus then gets into trouble because he spends time with tax collectors and sinners rather than people who regarded themselves as religiously pure.  We remembered how easy it is for us to forget the areas in our lives we are not proud of and need change.  We remembered that the Church needs to be a place which opens its doors in generous love and welcome to everyone.

We used our commitment to Food Banks as a means of reflecting more deeply on what Jesus’ prophetic challenge means to us.  We started by being thankful for the generosity so many of us have when faced with people who are hungry.  Responding with love to those in need is an essential first step.

But then we remembered the anger we have over the fact that so many people do not have enough to eat in our society.  We are even angrier that many of these are people in work who are not paid enough to make ends meet.  It is important to keep this anger going – the right place for the Advent Candle is underneath the anger to keep it hot.

We thought about organisations like Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam who are campaigning against food poverty.  We want to be involved in this too, doing what we can to ensure that our society becomes a place where all have enough to eat and life echoes the Kingdom of God.

a slew of connections
November 16, 2013, 1:33 pm
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Pondering a slew of connected things.

A day of practical work today offering welcome and raising money for the Philippines through Christian Aid (Quiz tonight at St Bede’s if anyone wants to come).

Philip Gross’ question of “Is it wrong to be delighted by the sun-glitter on the sea, on a day of grim news?  Or does loving the world of sense sharpen our tenderness?” sits in my mind and heart alongside a very moving and deep discussion of angry prayer in one of the Jesus Shaped People Groups at St Gabriel’s this week.

Roy Fisher’s remark that “Birmingham is what I think with” on Radio 4 this week suggests so much to me

and returning to words of David Scott “From prayer to prayer involves a dwindling …”

Perhaps all this comes together in a question I was once taught to ask at the beginning of each day:

What am I supposed to do today for the sake of the Kingdom?

and how do we (or I) navigate my way through all this in a way that is loving, effective, purposeful?


desmond tutu
October 6, 2013, 3:36 pm
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Over the past weeks I’ve had the deep privilege of sharing deeply with folk from Church in several small groups each week as part of Jesus Shaped People.  This had often been at a very profound and beautiful level, for example, as people reflected on what it might mean to be a Church that responds to Jesus’ command to not worry.

It’s got me thinking about who has been influential on me and why.  A key figure for me (who I have only met for 5 minutes, but who helped me sort out the direction my life should go in) was Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I’ve been re-reading John Allen’s excellent biography of Tutu, Rabble Rouser for Peace, and enjoyed this passage which showed Desmond Tutu, in his childhood, that society could be built in a just way:

This white man in a big black hat and a white flowing cassock (either Trevor Huddleston or Raymond Raynes) swept past … You could have knocked me down with a feather … He doffed his hat to my mother.  Now that seemed like a perfectly normal thing I suppose for him, but to me, it was almost mind-boggling, that a white man could doff his hat to my mother, a black woman, really a non-entity in South Africa’s terms.

from Wikipedia Commons

from Wikipedia Commons

jesus shaped people

St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle and St Bede’s, Brandwood have just begun Jesus Shaped People, a season in which we work in a concentrated way to be the sort of people the Church could be if it followed the model that Jesus gave his disciples.


I will post some more detailed reflections on this later, but I have set up a new blog:


that will contain material from Jesus Shaped People.  This will include notes from the sermons each week and the groups meeting during the week.  This is as a resource for those taking part.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please ask.  And if you are a person who prays, please pray for the parishes.