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Not the Superhero we Imagine.

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among[b] you.”
22 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Luke 17:20-25

This week we heard of the sad loss of Stan Lee, the creator of the Marvel Comics and The Marvel Universe.
Stan Lee is a unique figure in the comic book, a legend really.. who helped revive a flagging comic book industry in the 1960s into a strong and culturally significant force through the last 40/50 years.. His comic book heroes, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Spider Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-men etc, etc, etc  enliven the minds and imaginations of children, youth and adults alike… and the growing film franchises only continue that powerful unleashing of imagination and wonder….

But there is more to Stan Lee’s superheroes than spandex suits and ‘Wahm, Kapow and Klunk!’…
they are flawed.. all of them.

In fact it is now widely recognised that the very thing that made Stan Lee’s characters so convincing and awe-inspiring was the subtle depiction of their broken lives… Stan Lee’s characters had as many problems as they had powers; they argued with each other, had fallouts, had ego-issues, were often scared, reluctant, and .. like us were very human. It was the humanisation of these superheroes which made them far more appealing… that turned comic-books into art!

His most famous character of all, Spider Man, (true identity – Peter Parker) would regularly save New York city from ghastly and destructive foes. Yet Peter Parker was scared to ask Mary-Jane on a date, and struggled to balance work and school, and to fix his acne! Spiderman was very human.

Stan Lee was also keen to explore difference within his stories; he opposed bigotry and racism.. showed the damage that comes from excluding others who are different. The X-men are all ‘mutants’ whose fight is as much against prejudice and fear, as it is with nefarious forces.

Which brings me to Jesus …

The Marvel Superheroes show us a world where people could achieve great things, but often with and in spite of their flaws and inconsistencies. They open the possibility of wonder and awe found within the present day and the humdrum. Where dreams dance with depression.

Jesus seems to be point the same way too..’don’t be looking out there.. don’t be looking for the next big thing, the next revival.. it’s not there’. This kingdom, will turn your lives upside down, will transform the entire world .. but you cannot define it, or hold it. It’s not about a superero rising above this life; it is found within it.. within you.’ God is not outside but inside our very human lives.. stirring, inspiring, cajoling and comforting.

The kingdom – and the God – Jesus is speaking of is far more elusive, and cannot be pinned down to doctrine, tradition; we too cannot say ‘look there it is…!’
This God defies all we expect of her … and yet surprises us with the possible in impossibility, with silence and thought and art and friendship, and in the ‘suffering and rejection’ which must come..

The God Jesus speaks of – the God he reveals – excites the wonder in the everyday; the good and the bad, the mess and the magic.. This God turns up in unexpected places – walks beside us… within us.. knows us flaws and all.. and still calls us Super.

GS Collins. Cafe Eucharist. Nov 18

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Staying Afloat

During the Soviet era in Russia many churches were put to alternative uses.  One that particularly stood out for me was a church that was converted into a swimming pool.  The dim lighting, the pictures of saints on the walls, the deep blue of a ceiling painted with stars, all contributed to an atmospheric swim.  The water in the pool was pleasantly warm.  Those swimming there commented on how rested and refreshed they felt after leaving.  Although I would not be pressing for our churches to become swimming pools (and that church in Russia has now been restored to its original use) I think that the image of the church as swimming pool is surprisingly apt.  At its best it’s a place where we can let go of some of our protective layers and take delight in allowing God’s love to bear our weight, just as water does when we swim.  Peace can seep into our hearts and minds, melting our worries and putting us in touch with a bigger picture where not everything depends on us.

Floating in God’s love requires practice in letting go.  We don’t necessarily trust the water to bear our weight.  We have to test it.  Someone may have to help us.  In the same way the church can encourage us to try out God’s love and to practise trusting in him as someone who loves us.  Our songs and prayers, our receiving bread and wine all encourage this.  They can lead us to experiment with bringing our whole selves to God, warts and all, trusting that he welcomes us as we are.

We can join with one of the saints, who addressed God as follows; ‘Dear Lord, you are a deep sea, into which the deeper I enter, the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek…my soul delights in you, Eternal Trinity, Sea of Peace’.  Catherine of Siena

May we, like St Catherine, discover that ocean of God’s love and learn to revel in it.

 

Christine Bainbridge

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Lent Film Series begins

Once again the Lent Film Series will explore the power and challenge of great film-making. This year our films all speak to the theme of dreams… what dreams drive us as humans? What dreams disapoint? Are dreams messages from the
soul or the unconcious? How do we exist within our own dreams?

Five excellent films are showing;

Loving Vincent    February 22

On Body and Soul    (snowed off)  now re-scheduled for 12 April

The Death of Stalin    March 8

God’s Own Country    March 15

The Florida Project     March 22

All showings in the Church Gallery.
7.30 Doors open  8.00pm Start
Entrance Free

Film Discussion Meal   April 19th

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Zygmunt Bauman

 

A fascinating thinker died this week, the man who left us the term ‘Liquid Modernity’

” things which are plural in the postmodern world cannot be arranged in an evolutionary sequence, or be seen as each other’s inferior or superior stages; neither can they be classified as “right” or “wrong” solutions to common problems. No knowledge can be assessed outside the context of the culture, tradition, language game, etc. which makes it possible and endows it with meaning. ”

Bauman, Intimations of Postmodernity, p. 102.

 

Quite how we learn to hold this ‘Liquidity’ in an era now cynically known as ‘Post-Truth’ might be the next big challenge for both church and society.

NEW PATHS FOR CHRISTIANS: Four innovative voices (in ten papers)

NEW PATHS FOR CHRISTIANS 

Introduction

 During all the years when Reading Jubilee Debt Campaign was operating, I have had at the back of my mind a vision of Jesus – inspirational, charismatic, a leader with a clear message, central to which was a care for the poor. A message signalled by St Luke at the start of his gospel account:

 He has put down the mighty from their seat and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.

 I assumed that folks in our churches would be similarly inspired, But, although we have been so fortunate in the untiring commitment of a few people and a few churches, the picture that emerges ten years after we started is one of tiredness and a general  lack of enthusiasm.  Why should this be?  It might be due to normal human frailty amongst our Christian fellows but my reading indicates something more specific. (more…)

THEN THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY – NOW FACE TO FACE. Hamish Preston

PAPER 1

 THEN THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY – NOW FACE TO FACE

(Apologies to St Paul. 1 Cor; 13.12)

 Based on

 THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD  (SPCK 1992)

and JESUS AND THE VICTORY OF GOD  (SPCK 1996)

by N T Wright

               This is the story of  how Jesus and his Ministry have come to the centre stage in the world of the scholars. The story is told in  the opening chapters of both  the texts referred to above, beginning with JESUS AND THE VICTORY OF GOD.

 Chapter 1

Jesus Then and Now

 Most scholars in the twentieth century have shied away from attempting a full-face portrait of Jesus; they have felt the need to distance themselves from a whole body of earlier commentaries which had portrayed Jesus in loving, but spurious detail, based on the imagination of the writers rather than on historical data. Instead, scholars have preferred to attend to the rise of the early church a generation or more after the time of the ministry of Jesus. This is because the gospel texts have been held to reflect the concerns of the evangelists themselves as they wrote for the later generations of Christians. The texts were not to be relied on, the scholars judged, as historical data concerning Jesus himself.       (more…)