Monthly Archives: January 2017

Who touched?

Mark 5:25-34 (CEB)

A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

A short blog today as I am on the road for the day with just this brief stop in Bideford library using a blogging phone app. Hence differences in my house-formatting style – which is making me stupidly anxious!

There is a tendency today for secular people to take centuries-old religious wisdom and practice and “rediscover” them under a new name except with much of the depth stripped away…

One example (among many) is mindfulness. In the recent revival series of Cold Feet, the depressed Pete discovers mindfulness – but when describing the sessions to Jenny, mistakenly calls it “mindlessness”. He tries to show her what it is all about and they sit at the kitchen table discovering, with the help of his mindfulness app, the inner beauty of a raisin.

Calm down, Phil, you may be thinking! Where’s the harm?

My worry is that this secular rip-off of religious meditation (for that’s what it is) strips away the “other” that us the focus of religious meditation (and contemplation) – and that makes it all focussed on meeeeee – it becomes meeeee-focussed self absorbtion. True enough it does sometimes include at the end some pseudo religious guff about “radiating compassion to those around you” but there is no emphasis at all and no accompanying discipline embracing a self-sacrificial life, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, seeking justice for the oppressed…

Melanie McDonagh wrote in the Spectator:

Sitting concentrating on your breathing is a good way to chill out and de-stress, but it’s not a particularly good end in itself. Radiating compassion is fine, but it doesn’t obviously translate into action. Where’s the bit about feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, all the virtues that Christianity extols? Where in fact is your neighbour in this practice of self-obsession? Given a toss up between going to church, where you rub shoulders with the old, the lonely, the poor, and anyone who cares to pitch up, and a mindfulness session where, for about 25 quid a pop, you can mingle silently with congenial souls in flight from stress, I know which seems more good and human to me. Mindfulness may be the new religion — but it’s no substitute for the old one.

Right on Melanie!

So how on earth did I come to be even thinking about Mindfulness, never mind ranting about it?

Well, the crowds are pressing in – any number of people might have touched his cloak – yet he knows – he is intensely “present” in the moment – he is intensely mindful of the people around him – their hopes and dreams and fears, the quiet desperation of their lives. Does he need to ask who it was? Probably not – but he wants to reassure her.

Jesus’ mindfulness reaches out to touch and heal the untouchable, the moment is not about him but about her. This is about as far away from the self-help, me-focussed, empty-headed, pretentious, middle-class cult of secular “mindfulness” as it is possible to be. You know where you can stick that raisin!

posted from Bloggeroid

no more heroes anymore…

Hebrews 11:32-40 (CEB)

What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.

But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.

This, of course, is where Barak Obama got his name from.  (not this particular passage – but from the biblical character – Barak.)  Barak is a biblical name, unlike other names, like (errrr) Donald.  His story is all part of the incident where Jael whacked a tent-peg through Sisera’s head… sisters went for it back then – Tarantino should be making a film of it…

Barak comes from the Arabic: al-Burāq which means “lightning”, which – come to think of it – is kinda like a superhero name!  (again, unlike Donald.)

The book of Hebrews identifies a whole long list of characters as “heroes”.

The obvious question is “who are your heroes?” – general heroes and/or “faith” heroes.

But I find question very hard to answer.  I have never been someone who has had “heroes”.  Other people ask the question as if it is the most natural thing in the world to have heroes – and it is a bit like naming your desert island discs…  but I have never had “heroes”, not the ordinary kind, not the faith-kind.

Of course I have known people who I have admired and whose faith has impressed me – but “heroes” suggests something a bit stronger than that.  It does to me, anyway!

I’ve been thinking about this today.  Why don’t I have heroes?  (I just mistyped that as herpes!  That might have been an easier question to answer!)

I suspect that I am suspicious of people who appear to be “perfect”.  I think, rightly or wrongly, I have the idea that “heroes” are impossible characters, they must be hiding something.  Or maybe I have the idea that people who HAVE heroes are ignoring the obvious flaws in their heroes.  The “hero” didn’t set out to be one, but the hero-lover idealises her/him and I think this is dehumanising.  I can see that the problem is probably with me – and that I have a false idea about what the whole hero thing means to people, but that’s where I am, it’s who I am and consequently, I don’t have any “heroes”.  (Or maybe I have just got “heroes” mixed up with “super-heroes”?)

“But isn’t Jesus your hero?” I hear you protest….

Maybe you’ve got me there, though “my hero” is not something I think I would ever say of Jesus.  Looking back at that list that the author of Hebrews writes, though..

  • they conquered kingdoms, 
  • they brought about justice, 
  • they shut the mouths of lions, 
  • they put out raging fires, 
  • they escaped from the edge of the sword, 
  • they found strength in weakness, 
  • they were mighty in war
  • they routed foreign armies
  • they were tortured and refused to be released


There’s a kind-of odd one out in there that doesn’t look immediately to me like conventional “hero” behaviour alongside all the lion-taming and army-vanquishing….

If finding strength in weakness and inspiring others to do likewise is “heroic” – then I guess Jesus IS my hero and it turns out I have known LOTS of people who match that description.  Maybe I DO have herpes heroes after all!

What about you?

PS “they brought about justice” is also an interesting one in the list.  hmmmmm…..



yeah – convincing live performance boys!!!!  🙂

First world storms

Mark 4:35-41 (CEB)

Jesus stops a storm

Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.
Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”
He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

I love this reading!  There are all sorts of questions to be asked, chief among them – “was Jesus an amazingly heavy sleeper who could sleep through WW3, or was he pretending to be asleep just to see what the disciples would do?  I’ll leave you to ponder that…

What I want to say today is not really about the content or specifically the meaning of the text, but rather my approach to it.  It is VERY easy to ease into a sermon about Jesus calming the storms of our lives…

However…  my life is not especially stormy at the moment.  In fact, compared with the lives of millions of people around the world, my life has NEVER been particularly stormy.  I always feel like a fraud when I have to preach on this passage, as if I have to talk up the storms that I face and my congregation face in order for Jesus to be the dramatic solution.  

(and – yes – I know many people have stormy lives and that many of them have been in my congregations and that not everyone will disclose the storms they are facing…  etc… but I can only tell it like it is, I still feel a bit of a fraud!)

So – how to approach this passage about Jesus calming a storm if your life is not that stormy?

Here’s some options:

  1. Just leave it out – move on – read something else.  Maybe this isn’t for you today!
  2. Invent some fictional storminess or exaggerate a minor squall so you feel part of the stormy gang.  (ridiculous as this may sound, I think this is far more common than you might think… see the whole of fb!)
  3. Take another look at the passage.
     

OK – no surprises, I’m going with number 3.

For me, today – I can still imagine Jesus turning towards me and asking: “Phil, why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Why is so much of my life lived in the shadow of fear?  What if it goes wrong?  What if people don’t like me?  What if I just end up looking stupid?  What if they laugh at me?  What if after all the effort I put into ministry, nothing seems to change?  What if nobody comes?  What if…
And my fears are not just about me – far from it!  Most of my fears are about my kids and where their futures will lie – and will they ever get the breaks they need to spread their wings and move on with their lives.
These fears keep me awake at night sometimes – literally.  (First world fears?)
And Jesus turns to me and asks:  “Phil, why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
And I reply…  I don’t really know. 
 While you think about it, here’s a flash video animation if the incident made by my son Hywel when he was nobbut a nipper many, many years ago!  🙂

Mustard seeds and scabby bushes…


Mark 4:30-32 (CEB)

More parables about God’s kingdom

Jesus continued, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? 
Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. 
It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.”
OK – just a small think to get out of the way first.  We have all grown mustard seeds (usually with cress) – and, yes it is a small seed – but it is far from the smallest.  Poppy seeds are smaller for starters!  Also – what grows can hardly be described as having large branches!

Yes – you got it – we are not talking about the same plant at all.  Even the Bible one is not that impressive, though – certainly not cedar-of-Lebanon territory, more of a scrubby bush to be honest.  We may come back to that, but what I wanted to say today is really quite simple.



Jesus is trying to find language to describe the Kingdom of God…

Did he say that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed?

NO.  People like to abbreviate things and in this case it is really unhelpful.  The message is not that – the message is not that the Kindom of God is really, really tiny.

Did Jesus say that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a big tree?

NO.  Again – an unhelpful abbreviation.  How many of us have heard preachers tying themselves in knots trying to squeeze some kind of Gospel message out of the idea that something small grows into something big.  Stop it!

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a big tree AND THE BIRDS COME AND FIND REFUGE THERE.

You need the whole thing.  The whole thing is the point.  When we put our tiny (mustard seedlike) efforts into Kingdom Work – then God can make us really effective at doing Kingdom things – being a refuge for all who are oppressed and downtrodden and need safe space.  God won’t make our efforts into huge cedars – just scabby bushes will be fine – not grown to impress or amaze but to be the places in community where people come for refuge.

That’s it!

in this place…

I offer something different today…  I was distracted by a song during my morning prayer and whilst the reading was interesting and I did reflect on it, it was the song that has fed my soul.

On my sabbatical some time ago I reflected on what it is that makes us call places “holy” – why we expect to perceive God’s presence in some places rather than others. I won’t repeat all of that – you can scroll down my blog and find plenty of posts that explore that further…

here’s one

and here’s another…

Packaged with my Jesuit morning prayers came this song:

You, Lord, are in this place
Your presence fills it
Your presence is Peace.

You, Lord, are in my heart
Your presence fills it
Your presence is Peace.

You, Lord, are in my mind
Your presence fills it
Your presence is Peace.

You, Lord, are in my life
Your presence fills it
Your presence is Peace.

The Lyrics are a prayer by Chief of all things Celtic – David Adam – and the setting was by someone called Keith Duke.  I love simple prayers and simple songs – and this hits the button for me.

Every night in my Examen prayers a lovely gentle-sounding lady tells me to relax and remember that God is in this place and – more than that – however neglectful I have been of God through the day, God is pleased that I have come.

I find it makes a difference to my day to be reminded that God inhabits it – even places that are not magical mountain tops where everyone (for some reason) says they usually encounter God!  Even THIS place…  this sitting room, this desk with a computer on it, this coffee shop, this car park…

Which brings me to that photo.
 

In the late 13th century, the explorer Marco Polo travelled to the region that comprises modern-day Azerbaijan and reported seeing gushing oil geysers, some of which ignited and lit up the night sky. These days, the sky above the capital Baku is more likely to be illuminated by spotlights from stadiums or skyscrapers paid for by the country’s black gold.

A year or so ago the city hosted the inaugural European Games, an Olympics-style multi-sport tournament for athletes from 50 countries, and Azerbaijan’s government spent billions on glittery decorations and lavish ceremonies. Yet rumours of a further devaluation of the country’s currency, dipping oil prices, and discontent over the Games’ ballooning costs exposed the vulnerability of a nation whose economy is one of the most oil-dependent in the world.

A few kilometers north of Baku’s $640 million Olympic Stadium — which hosted a lavish opening ceremony that featured fireworks, Vladimir Putin, magic carpets, and Lady Gaga — a shepherd named Ibrahim gazed at his flock next to a clump of reeds growing improbably in the wastelands of the Balakhani oilfields.

“I’m so proud,” he told VICE News. “Before the games, nobody knew where, or even what, is Azerbaijan, but now everybody will go back to their countries and tell their families about us.”

It’s unlikely that any European Games spectators will make it to Balakhani, yet the coveted crude that fuels what was the world’s first oil industry was originally dredged from this exact spot. In 2013, while Europe was still bleakly trudging through recession, Azerbaijan sold an average of 880,000 barrels of oil per day, and was one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for several years.

The picture accompanies that news article with the headline: “Even God forgot this place”

I found it when I typed “God is even in this place” into Google Images…  and all the results (except this one) were misty mountain tops and tranquil lakesides.

I want to affirm that!  YES – even in this place.  And you can be sure of it too – even in the place you are – physically and metaphorically.  You could easily memorise this prayer and use it as a mantra – you could make up your own words up…   “You, Lord are in this storm/room/park/etc…”

If you want a vague idea of how the song goes – I’ll have a go at singing it for you…

God texted me…

Acts 22:6-9 (CEB)

“During that journey, about noon, as I approached Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven encircled me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice asking me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are harassing,’ he replied. My traveling companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ 
‘Get up,’ the Lord replied, ‘and go into Damascus.

We’re sidetracked off into Acts today, presumably because it is (I’m told) the feast of the Conversion of St Paul.  This is what happened as I prayed this morning having read that passage…

So – I went and prayer visited on the Okeymede Park mobile home site in Kingsteignton – not everyone was in but I knocked on every single door in the park…

family matters…

 

Mark 3:31-35 (CEB)

His mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent word to him, calling for him. A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”

He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”
Here endeth the first reading on this special Sunday at St. Warthog’s Under the Bush, Mothering Sunday…. 

OK – at first reading – if you are not expecting it – it can sound a bit harsh.  Take a breath….

Here’s a question: Why do you think Jesus’ family called to see him?

There are no right answers here – so let your imagination run wild!  Nobody knows – nobody can disprove your theory – let your hair down and paint yourself a mind-picture of the scene.

Jesus is at work – it’s what he feels called to.  Maybe his family doesn’t accept that this is a “proper job”.  He’s the oldest son, he must be if Mary was a virgin before she had him, no?  So, as eldest son, in them there olden days, he had special responsibilities and duties.  It probably caused family and family business problems for the first son to wander off and play about at being an itinerant preacher.

Mark describes virtually the whole family coming – mother, brothers and sisters – but not Joseph.  Maybe this is something to do with Joseph having died and business needed to be sorted out.  It has the feel of what today might be called “an intervention”.

In my mental picture of this scene, the family have come to put Jesus straight – to tell him that he’s had his fun and now it is time to settle down – find a wife, continue the family name, take responsibility for the family building business, see to his family duties.  In my picture this is not the first attempt they have made – maybe it’s not the last.

And Jesus makes it clear where his responsibilities and duties lie – with those he has been sent to save.

So – no, not so harsh if my picture is anywhere close.  In fact – entirely normal in the experience of all those who have stepped out to do something unexpected and in the process have shattered the expectations that others around us had for them.  Sometimes we NEED to step away from the expectations that others have for us, even if it is family – and especially if we feel that this is God’s call on our lives.

Maybe Mary has Simeon’s words haunting her mind, “This child will be like a sword piercing your heart.”  Maybe she naively thinks that if she can draw him back to herself, keep him close, get him into a safe job and a safe marriage, then she can protect him – what parent would NOT want to do that?

But there she is at the end, at the foot of the cross.  This encounter is not the family-shattering disaster that some might imagine, she doesn’t shun him or abandon him, nor does he abandon her.  Ultimately she knows who he is and what he must be and she knows she cannot stand in his way…  but what parent wouldn’t at least try?


unforgivable??

Mark 3:22-30 (CEB)

The legal experts came down from Jerusalem. Over and over they charged, “He’s possessed by Beelzebul. He throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons.”

When Jesus called them together he spoke to them in a parable: “How can Satan throw Satan out? A kingdom involved in civil war will collapse. And a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. If Satan rebels against himself and is divided, then he can’t endure. He’s done for. No one gets into the house of a strong person and steals anything without first tying up the strong person. Only then can the house be burglarized. I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” He said this because the legal experts were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”
 
  • Leaving the toilet lid DOWN
  • Not emptying bins when they are overflowing – balancing rubbish on top instead
  • Damp towels on the bathroom floor
  • Not squeegeeing the glass after showering
  • leaving hair in the shower plughole (clearly not me!)
  • Putting stuff that could be recycled in the wrong bin
  • Taking the last piece of toilet paper and not replacing the roll
  • Leaving the radio tuned to Radio 2

There are lots of things in life that are simply unacceptable.  But Jesus appears to go much further in this passage – he appears to say that there is a sin that is not only unacceptable but UNFORGIVABLE.
Lots of words have been written about this – and I am told that there are lots of Christians who are genuinely worried that they might have inadvertently committed this sin and are therefore now in a state of eternal unforgiven-ness.
I usually say to people that if they are worried they have committed this unforgivable sin, whatever it may be, then that is a sure sign that they haven’t.  I’ll stand by that!
I suspect that this is a precis of a longer encounter – it reads as if it is an argument that has been seriously condensed, and only the highlights and the punchline recorded.  You might say it’s cheating to assume that – but it’s my blog and it seems that way to me!

What I THINK Jesus is trying to say here is that there appears to be no hope for those who would follow him around and paint with their words the very opposite of what they witness before them – good is evil, love is hatred, hope is despair, the Christlike is demonic.  “You see this light here, banishing the darkness?  Well, it’s actually just more darkness.”  I think Jesus is despairing at the sheer stubbornness of will that is capable of seeing the world like that, denying the goodness that lives and breathes before them.  In refusing to acknowledge the light right in front of them – shielding their lives from it so they no longer even see it – they are (in a way) cutting themselves off from an encounter with God – it is a separation, a serious separation.  “Separation from God” is, of course, one of the core understandings of the effect of “sin”.
Ultimately, though, nothing can separate us from the love of God…
Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.   (Romans 8)
I am equally sure that ultimately nobody will fail to recognise the light that is in Christ.

as Einstein once said….

Matthew 4:12-17 (CEB)

Move to Galilee

Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee. He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, which lies alongside the sea in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. This fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
        alongside the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,
    the people who lived in the dark have seen a great light,
        and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death.

From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”
The interwebnet is full of wise quotations, often attributed to famous people.  Too often the attribution is entirely false, and I still struggle to understand why it is that people do it.  The originator must usually know that it is a lie even if the many millions of subsequent sharers and likers may do so unwittingly.  Are the words somehow wiser or more worthy of attention because a famous person’s name is attached to them?

Worryingly, the same could be said of Matthew when you check out his gospel.  True enough, Isaiah does say that bit in italics – in Isaiah chapter 9:1-2, but Isaiah does not say that Jesus (or the Messiah) would be going to live there, so the fact of Jesus going to live there does not really fulfil what Isaiah said, except in the most general sense that Jesus brings light into the world.
Maybe I am being picky – it does happen! – but this certainly isn’t the only occasion that Matthew could be said to be playing a bit fast a loose in his attempts to connect things Jesus did with Old Testament prophecies.  Of course, he is writing for a Jewish audience and you can see WHY he does this – but it does leave me feeling a bit dis-satisfied.
This approach has inspired generations of eager “proof-texters” who will quote bits of the bible at you out of context in order to prove an opinion of theirs that has nothing to do with the verse they are quoting in its proper context.  This is simply dishonest and should be called out when it happens.
However…

Matthew is writing in a world very different to ours.  Don’t get me wrong, they understood just as we do what happened and what didn’t happen, but they were immersed in literary techniques that are not part of our 21st Century Western culture.  Matthew was writing to an audience who were thoroughly versed in what Isaiah said – many of them would have known Isaiah’s words off by heart – they would have spotted discrepancies and liberties FAR quicker than you or I might.  They were used to the rabbis’ technique of “midrash” and “Pesher” – an approach to Biblical interpretation found most notably in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pesher is based on reading scriptural prophecies as allegorically referring to one’s present situation. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls interpreted biblical prophesies addressing the Babylonians to actually refer to the Romans, since for the community which wrote them, the Romans were a real and present source of oppression, the Babylonians distant and irrelevant to their lives.
Taken this way, Matthew’s Gospel is part “this is what happened, what Jesus said and did” AND ALSO “this is what we think it means” – which (if you think about it) is “preaching”.
I’m OK with that!  As you were, Matthew!  🙂

The Jeezmeister? Jeezikins?

Mark 3:13-19(CEB)

Jesus appoints twelve apostles

Jesus went up on a mountain and called those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve and called them apostles. He appointed them to be with him, to be sent out to preach, and to have authority to throw out demons. He appointed twelve: Peter, a name he gave Simon; James and John, Zebedee’s sons, whom he nicknamed Boanerges, which means “sons of Thunder”; and Andrew; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, Alphaeus’ son; Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.

Aaaaaaand we’re back in Mark’s gospel!  yay!  🙂

This blog (overall) is called “Little Things Please Little Minds”.  That’s because I am often distracted by small details that lead me up rabbit warren tunnels of random thought!

It might be that there is lots to be said about this passage – not least about “call” and how it happens and why this is up a mountain whereas Matthew and Luke have their “call” narratives by the lakeshore with fishnets (no… don’t go there!) and boats…

BUT…  the detail that caught my imagination this morning was the idea that Jesus gave some of his disciples nicknames.  Of course – that also makes me wonder how that made those who didn’t have nicknames feel – but let’s stick with the nicknames idea.

Jesus gives Simon the nickname “Peter” – which on the face of it doesn’t seem like a very good nickname – until you realise that it would have been better written as – “Rocky”.  And he also gives James and John a joint nickname – Boanerges – “sons of thunder”…

Those are disciples not to be messed with – it sounds like Jesus is hanging out with a boxer and a motorbike gang!

I’ve had various nicknames through my life – none of them given to me directly by Jesus.  I have been known as “revnev”, “bish”, “rev-the-bike”, and in less pc times, “chinky” because the other schoolkids thought I had chinese-looking eyes…  Some people try to adopt their own nickname to be in control of the process, but it rarely works – nicknames have to be bestowed upon you by others – you don’t get to choose.  “Studmaster Phil” never really took off despite all my best efforts!

I love the idea that Jesus gave them nicknames because it implies a closeness and an intimate knowledge of who they were and how they acted – and giving someone a nickname often (not always!) suggests closeness and affection.

So – using your imagination…  what do you think Jesus’ nickname for YOU is?  Why?

I suspect Jesus calls me “nearly Phil” because I am so often nearly there, but not quite, nearly faithful, nearly fruitful, nearly effective in ministry, nearly prayerful, nearly the Phil God wants me to be…. but not quite.

your turn…