Faith is unpredictable

Faith cannot be taught by any method of instruction; we can only teach religion.  We can know about religion, but we can only expand in faith, act in faith , live in faith.  Faith can be inspired within a community of faith, but it cannot be given to one person by another.  Faith is expressed, transformed, and made meaningful by persons sharing their faith in an historical, tradition-bearing community of faith……the schooling-instruction paradigm works against our necessary primary concern for the faith of persons.  It encourages us to teach about Christian religion by turning our attention to Christianity as expressed in documents, doctrines, history and moral codes”
John Westerhoff ‘Will our children have faith?’ (p 35)

The Realm of Possibility & the World of Accountancy

>I have just started reading a book called “The Art of Possibility” – which talks about us living in the “realms of possibility” as opposed to living at “Measurement central” governed by “survival thinking”. The authors, Zander and Zander write:

“In the realm of possibility we gain our knowledge by invention. We decide that the essence of a child is joy, and joy she is. Our small company attracts the label, “The Can-Do Company” … We speak with the awareness that language creates categories of meaning that open up new worlds to explore. Life appears as variety, pattern, and shimmering movement, inviting us in every moment to engage. The pie is enormous, and if you take a slice, the pie is whole again…

The action in a universe of possibility may be characterised as generative, or giving, in all senses of that world – producing new life, creating new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning, contributing, yielding to the power of contexts. The relationship between people and environments is highlighted, not the people and things themselves. Emotions that are often relegated to the special category of spirituality are abundant here: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion.”

People and things increasingly have price tags. They are entered on balance sheets and they are counted in and counted out. (Horrible thing the Government, when they talk about the “head count” being affected by the promised cuts (aka redundancy)). The accountants can’t get their hands on what happens between people. The generation of ideas and life defies logic. We are in the world of mystery rather than accountancy when we focus on the relationship between people and environments. It is sheer magic the way the pie becomes whole again.

Nota Beans

>Nota bene from Rev Ruth’s blog about preaching:

The Church Times is talking about preaching this week. The College of Preachers (of which I am a paid-up member, don’t you know?) commissioned a study into preaching at various denominations.

17% said that they frequently heard sermons that made them change their lifestyles. In my humble experience, whenever one is tempted to have someone in mind when writing such a sermon they invariably don’t turn up that week.

97% said that they looked forward to the sermon each week and 84% agreed that they should be closely connected with the bible. 55% said their knowledge of Jesus was frequently improved by sermons. But only 16% said that sermons helped them to understand events in the news or controversial issues.

Looks like a case of great expectations to me – in spite of what we preachers are sometimes led to believe.

Nota Bene from Bishop Alan’s blog – this poem by Kaylin Haught:
God says Yes to Me

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

which made me think who is right and who is wrong. God says “yes” to those who see him face to face, heart to heart and eye to eye. To others he says “look at me – through Jesus”. That’s the verdict we have to live with.


Miroslav Volf in Free of Charge (subtitled “Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace” expands on the theme of God the Giver who continues to give in a world inclining towards “gracelessness”. He speaks of faith:

Faith is not something we give to God. In that case, faith would be a work, and a silly kind of work because it would be work we do even though it deosn’t benefit anyone. But exactly the opposite is true. To have faith in God is to be “without works” before God (Romans 4:5). Faith is the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as the giver. It is empty hands held open for God to fill…. In contrast good works offered to God dishonour God; they tell a lie about God and our relation to the divine Giver, and they take away God’s due.

I remember David Lunn, on hearing of his appointment to be Bishop of Sheffield speaking of his surprise because he felt “he didn’t believe enough”. Who hasn’t thought that?
The faith that expresses itself with hands outstretched trustung God’s gifts is something of the heart. When I say something like “I’m not sure what I believe” part of that is to do with my head and perhaps is saying “there are loads of things I don’t understand”.
Being empty handed before God suddenly makes that not matter. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing more we can say which will make him love us less. All we can give to God is delight or pain.
Rowan Williams likened the giving of God to the Niagara Falls. Love cascades to us – that’t the empty hands bit – but it’s only living water if we release the gifts to others. If we don’t the water stagnates and becomes poisonous.


One of the greatest acts of faith is to believe that the few years we live on this earth are like a seed planted in a very rich soil. For this seed to bear fruit, it must die..

How different would our life be were we truly able to trust that it multiplied in being given away! How different would our life be if we could but believe that every little act of faithfulness, every gesture of love, every word of forgiveness, every little bit of joy and peace will multiply and multiply as long as there are people to receive it … and then – even then – there will be leftovers!

Imagine yourself convinced … that your kindness to your friends, and your generosity to the poor are little mustard seeds that will become strong trees in which many birds can build their nests! Imagine that, in the centre of your heart, you trust that your smiles and handshakes, your embraces and your kisses are only the signs of a worldwide community of love and peace!…Could you ever be depressed, angry resentful or vengeful? Could you ever hate, destroy or kill? Could you ever despair of the meaning of your short earthly existence?

Henri Nouwen – Life of the Beloved


[Faith] is not a well-fluffed nest, or a well-defended castle high on a hill. It is more like a rope bridge over a scenic gorge, sturdy but swinging back and forth, with plenty of light and plenty of air but precious little to hang on to except the stories you have heard…All you have to do is believe in the bridge more than you believe in the gorge.

Barbara Taylor Bradford