Hope to Wrath – Doing Public Theology in a Time of Public Anger – William Storrer

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From Barrack Obama to Saffiyah Khan, from a moment of hope to someone unafraid in the face of anger.  It’s not just alt-right anger.  There’s liberal anger out there now.

William Storrer took a different approach in his lecture at the University of Otago on Tuesday, May the 9th.  His movement across the world: From the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to Cape Wrath in northern Scotland.  Cape Wrath comes from Norse Hvarf, where the ships from Norway turn to follow down the seaboard of Scotland.  Maybe a pivot or a gyre.  A way of seeing differently.

A place where his people came from, who told him two stories by which to live:  The Gospel “an idle tale told by women”, and “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage”.

The people who voted for Trump are white working class people whose life expectancy is in decline. Their theology and pastoral care has become invisible.  The anglophone world is drifting toward authoritarian democracies.

It’s time to take civic democracy from the grassroots – organise the parish as people of good faith, non-violent faith bases.  The best leaders are those where the people say “we did it ourselves”.  What we do is better than what we don’t do.

“Always leave open the possibility of entering a rightful condition”

– Kant

Living before the messianic age the best we can hope for are provisional goals, our politics is justified by grace.

Prayers for Pentecost 13

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Ah, dear lord, at this time and in this place we come to prayer.

Be welcome here. Bow your head and sit with us as we pray.

Lord, you are the god who protects us, you are the god who keeps our heads down in the heat of the moment. We see the puff of smoke and hear the ricochet of the bullet. It misses us by inches. We are deafened by the percussive force of the explosion, its heat singes the hairs on our necks. You cradle us and keep us safe, god of the foxholes.

Thank you that you have given us a safe country to live in, free from war, and civic violence and corruption. We are citizens, at home in our own country. Keep the dangers far away from our islands. Remember us here. As we come closer to our elections give us wisdom and discernment to make our democracy and our institutions work favourably for our world, our environment, and for the sustinence of all living creatures. Keep our country at peace. Guard our children, guide our leaders, grant us peace.

Lord, we have looked overseas, and we have seen the Olympics, the competitions, the games, the drama, and the colours. We have seen the beautiful people, the athletic and the strong, the best of the nations. We have seen the triumphs, and the humility. We have seen the defeats, and the disappointments. We know the promises: Higher, Faster, Stronger; and in your kingdom of heaven, you include: Deeper, Slower, Gentler, Older, Wiser. Grant us your blessing to nurture the gifts of your spirit. We have disciplined ourselves in our training, we are running your race. In your coming reign you promise us all a crown and a new name. Bring in your kingdom.

Lord, we are coming through the winter. We count every minute as each day lengthens. Save us from the slippery frost and the treacherous ice that will send us sliding down the hill. Give us our breath as we breathe in the sharpness of the cold air. Keep away the coughs and sniffles, especially the flu. Provide for us the warmth and hospitality of our homes in the day, and snug in bed at nights. Grant us thanks for fine frosty mornings. May there be grit under our wheels to give traction as we spread your Gospel. Give us warm hands, warm toes, and warm hearts.

We pray for us who are Church. Let us find the silence between words, the white space between lines. Let us listen. Let us see the breadth of the diversity and find ourselves in good company. You are the god who salts the earth with words of fire. Teach us to love, to speak words of life and truth, teach us meaning and beauty, teach us to learn together. And together we share the words that you taught your disciples, we sing together…

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen.


Hobbit-spotting 13 June 2016

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I’m a month in to living at my new flat, for which I’ve taken out a mortgage.  So far, so good.  Nearly everything is set up as I would want it.

This weekend, visits from Southern Dave, and from my mother.  Dave was here two nights, he has secured my bookcases to the walls.  He was here for the Regent Theatre’s 24 Hour Book Sale.  This year I left the sale with only two books: The Maestro, by Hoffnung; and The Algebraist, by Banks.

Mum was here for Turandot, the Metropolitan Opera performance at the Rialto Cinema.  My new couch is now more colourful with a blanket throw and cushions from Mum and family in Invercargill.

I went to the volunteers meeting for the Midwinter Carnival, which is this weekend.  I visited the Public Library on the way back, just in case the books I had been looking to borrow from there were in.  They were.  I am set up to spend time reading for the next month, in the comfort of my own home.  All good.

The Jihad of Jesus

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This is a summary of my thoughts from Dave Andrews’ address in Dunedin a couple of weeks ago.

I found what he had to say worked in with Jihad al-madina, a suggestion for a Muslim understanding of non-violence that I heard some years ago at the Abrahamite Inter-faith Peace lecture; not just not-violence, but a positive value of civic discipleship.  The cultivation of such a discipline works for Christians as well as Muslims.

Dave Andrews identifies the following values:

  • recognise that the God of Abraham is also the god of the Other in this dialogue
  • don’t start with identifying the Other as false, or yourself as superior
  • affirm the good in the other – confront what is bad in ourselves (otherwise that beam in our eye is going to do someone an injury!)

Jihad does not equate with war in the Koran. That is a different word, qital.  Jihad is the non-violent struggle for justice.  Jihad needs to be taken back from dangerous people of both sides.

Jesus should not be the poster boy for crusade.  He is the kalimatullah, the word of God.

Andrews introduced the vow of the Kudai Khidmatgar, written by Badshah Khan, an advocate for non-violence alongside Gandhi in pre-independent India.  It deserves to be better known:

I am a Khudai Khidmatgar; and as God needs no service, but serving his creation is serving him, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God.

I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. 

I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty. 

I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity. 

I promise to treat every Pathan as my brother and friend. 

I promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices. 

I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil. 

I promise to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness. I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work. 

Non-violent change needs extravagant impropriety.


Hobbit-spotting in March

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I’m distracted at the moment.  I’m in the process of buying a one-bedroom flat in North East Valley.  I take possession at the end of April.  I have made the 10% deposit.  I’m talking to a mortgage broker about things like income insurance.  It’s going to take up most of my savings and I will probably have the mortgage for the rest of my life (I’m 50 now).  Still all is good and I am hopeful.

And I’m secretly excited.  I will have my own home!

I went to my first lecture for the Centre on Research on Colonial Culture.  Re-Configuring Government Houses, given by Martina Ghosh-Schellhorn.  Lots of notes about the details of government houses which I want to include in my imaginary city, Lamborough: the architecture, the servants, the lack of privacy.

I came away with two ideas:

  • the stone masons that built Government House in Kolkata then went on to build the Astana in Singapore.  The idea that Tony Ballantyne introduced of the internet of empire works, and needs to be explored further in this context.  Just as in the same way rhododendrum seedlings were introduced into New Zealand before they arrived in Britain, on the way from China.
  • Cultures interact in hierarchy.  Cross-cultural communication can happen.  It’s a word du jour at the moment, alongside multi-culturalism.  But white male anglophones (like me) still remain the privileged culture.

John Swinton – Practical Theology

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I think that this is my first lecture report for 2016, John Swinton’s inaugural address to the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership.

I guess Practical Theology is something like practical witchcraft.  It has moved on from the days of “When you throw a clump of earth on the coffin make sure it doesn’t contain stones.  The sound will offend the family and other mourners.”

It’s a contrast of academic and faith-based theology.  Academic theology is knowledge of god; systematic, observed knowledge, scientia. Faith-based theology is knowledge about god, wisdom based on loving god and the people who love god, sapientia.  (Is this knowledge subjective?)

What is love? Whoever does not love does not know god, for god is love, 1 John 4:8. Love is god.  An action.

Doctrine shapes our imagination. Take every thought captive to Christ.

What happens when personality changes?  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in god, Colossians 3:3. We are who we are in Christ — and that is hidden from us. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known, 1 Corinthians 13:12.  Self is always a mystery. We tend to create our identity in self-sovereignty, what we know about ourselves.  Jesus Christ is died and risen again for us. Christ has done it all. Life is hidden for now.  Uncle Karl’s new orthodoxy speaks again.

We move from what was to what is, the bridge is Jesus.

The river washes downstream — the riverbed remains.


John Swinton, University of Aberdeen, at Knox College, Dunedin, Photo: Steve Taylor


Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession for Pentecost Sunday 24

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Ah, dear lord, we come to pray, for ourselves and for others.

We have come to talk to you, and to listen.

Ah, dear lord, we are listening, bend down and listen with us.

You are the living god, who cannot be pinned down, you are without boundary.

We cannot accept you into our lives; you accept us into your boundless life.

You are the god of  Abraham, the god of Isaac, the god of Jacob, the god of all who have come alive.

Tell us the words to say. We want to pray with you.

We are in this world, and it attempts to distract us.

One day it tells us that the quest is won, the cup is ours;

The next day we discover that our world is not changed;

There are no unicorns and dragons and rainbows; and we must continue to listen;

And to seek you out.

Each day has its own problems, and tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own.

We have shaped the world in our image; we have contributed to the distress of the world;

Make us new, and let us be your agents.

Lord, we have filled our world with dross; teach us to simplify our lives; to work for peace;

And to renew the world; teach us your peace; awaken us to encounter you;

Awaken us to encounter our neighbour;

And recognise the humanity of those who live outside our walls.

Lord, we pray for your mercy for those who venture out on the oceans, have mercy, Lord,

Especially for the refugee, who are running from a home that has become the mouth of the shark;

And the open sea is safer for them than the land they leave behind; bring them safely to shore;

Let us open our doors to welcome them home;

In our land, watered and refreshed under the wide starry sky; gather in all your people.

We pray for the leaders of our nation, of our city, and of our Church.

Guide them in their decision-making to be people who see visions, and dream dreams;

A community of people who say YES!

Yes to all forms of life, and yes to all good ways of living together.

Lord, we are coming to the end of the year; you have shut the doors of hallowe’en;

The cold and dark are bound behind fireworks and crackerjacks and long spring evenings.

As we enter the busy time of the year, of giving, and receiving, and celebration;

Do not let us forget you, the living god, be the annunciation,

The promise of the new life we live in you. Let us be reborn in the spring-time of the world.

And we pray together the prayer your taught your disciples, we sing together

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, aw we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen.

The Widow's Mite, Ravenna

The Widow’s Mite, Ravenna

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