James’s Blog: Not Easy.

James’s Blog:  Not Easy.

He doesn’t make it easy for us. In John 10 you can read about a group who came to Jesus to ask him a question.

“Are you the Messiah, Jesus? Give us a straight answer. No games now. Yes or no. Are you the one?”

“I’m not giving you anything else, “ said Jesus. “I’ve said my piece and done what I’m going to do. The ball’s in your court. What are you going to do?”

How easy it would be if we all awoke tomorrow morning to see YES, I DO EXIST scorched across the sky in flame. How easy it would be if, in a coordinated effort, flag-waving angels appeared on motorways across the world. How easy it would be. Instead we find ourselves in a staring contest with God, but rather than submitting we stubbornly dare the creator to blink first.

There was no sign of the risen Jesus in Herod’s palace on that Sunday morning. He didn’t walk those halls, waving to the startled servants with a nail-scarred hand. Neither did he appear to Pilate during breakfast, disturbing him in his meal in order to say, “I told you so.”

Instead he appears only to the terrified, uncertain, defeated mob of those who had already thrown their lot in with him. A perfect moment to prove to the unbelievers that he had been right, but instead he wastes it by showing himself only to those who were already on his side.

“I’ll follow you Jesus. I’ll do what you want, but…well, I need a little more proof. It’s a big decision, isn’t it? I have to be sure.”

“I’m not giving you anything else,” says Jesus. “I’ve said my piece and done what I’m going to do. The ball’s in your court. What are you going to do?”

No wonder he said, “Blessed are those who believe without having to see.”

But He doesn’t make it easy for us.

James’s Blog: Going Back.

James’s Blog:  Going Back.

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

John 6:42

I’m not one who enjoys change, but I do quite like new beginnings. One of the best things about going to university was being able to leave the past behind. No longer would I be defined by my school’s social hierarchy – I could reinvent myself and start all over again!

But when you’ve moved away, it can be hard going back. When I return to an old church to preach I wonder how many people are actually listening to my sermon, and how many are dwelling on the mistakes I made fifteen years ago, or thinking “Ah, there’s James. He’s one of ours. What a lovely boy. I remember when he sang Walking in the Air to raise money for charity. Hilarious.” After all, how can you take a preacher seriously as a harbinger of God when you have warm fuzzy memories of him as an awkward sixteen-year old sweating through his first ever sermon?

Even though Canterbury is a new place for me, Ruth’s family has lived here for a long time. When we first arrived it was odd to meet people that I didn’t know, but who already seemed to know bits and pieces about me because of the news that had, quite understandably, trickled down the family grapevine. Sometimes your hopes for a fresh beginning are shipwrecked from the start.

People change, hopefully for the better, and sometimes in a very short space of time. We don’t do anyone a favour by assuming that they’re still the person that they were ten years ago and treating them as such. One of the kindest things you can do for someone else is to leave plenty of room in your head for them to grow.

James’s Blog: Self-Pity and Lolly-Sticks.

James’s Blog:  Self-Pity and Lolly-Sticks.

Like all the best people, I’m prone to self-pity. “Why me…?” I might say, or maybe “Everyone else has it better than me…” or “They never have problems, unlike me…” and sometimes “Why can’t I just get a break?” etc. It feels quite good, but it’s really just a way of saying, “Life isn’t treating me the way that I’m entitled to be treated”, and as such self-pity is nothing more than cleverly disguised pride.  Well, for me, at least.  I’m sure that for you your whining is entirely justified. Read more

James’s Blog: Newsworthy.

James’s Blog:  Newsworthy.

A friend of mine once told me about a small group of young people from his church that had gone and done some praiseworthy good deed. Local television sent a news crew to ask what had motivated them to do such a noble thing. Most of the group gave safe answers, but one girl talked about how her actions were an expression of her faith in Christ. I’ll let you guess which was the one piece of footage that they didn’t use when they ran the story. Read more

James’s Blog: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.

James’s Blog:  Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.

I was discussing with someone who suggested that, as an atheist, he at least was ‘…thinking for himself’. I pointed out that, unless he had invented atheism, he actually wasn’t. None of us really think for ourselves, I told him. There are thousands of years of history and debate and experience behind each of us, and all we can ever do is just pick a side. Read more

James’s Blog: Gam Zeh Ya’Avor.

James’s Blog:  Gam Zeh Ya’Avor.

Life has its own rhythms. There are creatively fruitful times, where the inspiration flows; there are times where I feel jaded and uninspired. There doesn’t always seem to be any reason for the transition. Sometimes, it’s just suddenly different. A couple of weeks ago, I had ideas. This week, I don’t have any, and the ones I had a couple of weeks ago sit there on my desk like paperweights. What to do when it feels like you’ll never have a good idea again? Read more

James’s Blog: The Wisdom of Old Ladies.

James’s Blog:  The Wisdom of Old Ladies.

When I was at Spurgeon’s, our Pastoral Care lecturer told us that he had spoken to his mother on the phone recently. She had told him that she had gone to an evening fellowship group at someone’s house, and when she had arrived, the young assistant minister was already there and had made himself at home in the most comfortable armchair available. “Tell your students not to do that,” she told her son. He passed this on to us, not because it had anything to do with pastoral care but because he was just doing what his mum had told him to do. My time at Spurgeon’s was very beneficial to me, but as far as practical lessons go, that was one of the few that I can remember.  I’ve always chosen my seat very carefully since. There’s wisdom in some of these old ladies. Read more

News from Elsa in Publishing: Second Listening Book out this Autumn

News from Elsa in Publishing: Second Listening Book out this Autumn

Following Rev Giblet’s illuminating musings on preaching, I thought another Summertime guest post on James’s Blog might work. I’m sure he won’t mind.

The Second Listening Book..

..will be released in October and continues James’s storytelling mission. There will be a whole load more fab tales with gorgeous line drawings from Carys Jenkins, Alice Journeaux and Josh Gauton, as well as lovely photos from Mark Lewis. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, these are rather good coffee table books. This time you notice it’s dark blue, so beverages of all description don’t show up on it. You can even put it on top of the first TLB to cover up any stains. But enough of my house tidying tips – the back blurb sums up what’s inside better than I can. Read more