Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taking your time

When I ask someone to leave it's not likely that they are the only person in the venue.
It's very likely there are a lot of people in. Some of these others will require my attention shortly, some I'll already have in mind, some won't have done something to catch my concerned eye yet.
I do have a lot of patience. I don't like to use it all at once, on any one customer.
When I've told someone three or more times in differing ways that they are leaving, I've given them time to let their mates know they're on their way out, I've waited while they get their cloakroom ticket out of their pocket, always finding it in at least the fourth place they look, I've waited while they stumble and wrestle their way into their outer garment and I've waited as they make it down to to the front door and stumble off the front step. I'll brief the front door folks and turn tail back to the many others awaiting my consideration.
What I'll not do is spend any-more time talking, arguing, listening to the insults, the excuses, the grovelling, the cheapskate attempts at bribery or the fantastical threats. I'll just leave them there and they can wander in in their own time, I've got better things to take my time. There may be a soda water to be gotten from the bar, or a toilet check or maybe, just maybe another drunk to be shown the door.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Two approaches to scripture


One is much shorter than the other. In the first extract we need to concentrate on the attitude expressed in the commentary voice-over not the words being spoken.





Compare, contrast and discuss.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thomas: doubter or visionary. Sunday Sermon.



Well, Easter has come and gone and I am sorry I wasn’t here to share any of it with you. I would have preferred to have been here but the organisers of my course decided that we would all be away for Easter week – all 70 or so of us, from all year groups and from all three sites, Manchester, York and Mirfield. We stayed at Sneaton Castle in Whitby with the nuns of the Holy Paraclete - and I have some good memories: the nun wearing rabbit’s ears on Easter morning, only revealed as the sun came up; the very affirming response to the Lutheran vespers I led; the fellowship of my fellow students; the day on the media and the exercise we were given to write a “pause for thought” on Jesus washing his disciples’ feet as if for a Radio 2 broadcast; the Taize service by candlelight and so on.

But now we are in that in between stage: in between the Resurrection and the Ascension but where we know the outcome: we have already sung our Easter Day Hallelujahs as the solemnity, sadness and the desolation of Holy week turned to the joy of new life and hope. In our in between stage we already know and rehearse in our liturgy the return of Jesus to his followers and anticipate the Ascension.

But for those affected by the events as they happened: well, that is another matter. Imagine in your minds that you are there now.

The palms are gathered away, the crowds have dispersed, the Jewish religious authorities have regained some authority after a particularly difficult Passover, the Roman civil authorities are congratulating themselves that a spot of local insurrection in a volatile outpost of empire has been nipped in the bud, the plotting is over, the threat has been removed, the followers of Jesus have scattered, one is dead by his own hand and at least one has publicly denied knowing him. There is disbelief and shock and a strong sense of betrayal. How could things have gone so badly wrong? Rumour is rife: will the authorities now tidy up the loose ends by searching out Jesus’ followers and subjecting them to the same fate to really close that chapter? It is hardly surprising that most of them cower indoors, fearing every footstep outside and every knock at the door, as they deal with the trauma of the death of their leader and the end of their hopes.

And in to this heady mix of fear, emotion and conspiracy theories come the women with their perplexing story of an empty tomb and Mary Magdalene’s preposterous story of talking with the risen Christ. So Peter and one of the others pluck up the courage to go and take a look and confirm that the tomb is indeed empty. What on earth does that mean?

It would hardly be surprising if the disciples didn’t exhaust all the rational explanations before giving Mary’s account more attention and it probably says something about everyone concerned that they aren’t all celebrating and proclaiming: “He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!” and sharing it with all and sundry.

This is a story characterised by fear. Whether or not their attitude is justified, it is clear that fear dominates this group. And that, of course, puts them in the company of so many people today. Those dominated by fear include many of the people we see around us every day and perhaps some of us here this morning. These disciples have plenty of company on the evening of the first Easter Day when fear keeps them inside a locked room.

The period after Easter represents a return to the old routines: the break - the “holiday” if you like - is over and the return to what for many of us is the tedium of the everyday sinks in, with all the problems that may be associated with it for some. That may be illness, relationship problems, concerns about children, money worries in the current climate together with fears about job security and any number of other issues.

Encounters with reality are hard to take because they destroy both the hopes and illusions on which we often rely. It is such an encounter with reality which our Gospel reading today describes: the disciples cowering in their self imposed prison because they believed their hopes had been shattered.

And then – and John describes this in a very matter of fact way – Jesus came and stood among them. Disappointingly John doesn’t say how. Did he just walk in through the door as he must have done a hundred times before or was he just suddenly amongst them one second, when the second before he had not been? John also, tantelisingly, doesn’t tell us their first reaction: wouldn’t you just love to have been a fly on the wall?

“Peace be with you.” And they knew him at once and rejoiced. Well of course they did! John is so deadpan in his recount of this event. We’ve just been through the resurrection experience, but the emotion we felt last Sunday must have been a pale shadow of the joy felt and expressed by those gathered in that room then. Just think about it for a moment: a shattering experience just dealt with by John in a couple of sentences.

And who misses it? Poor Thomas misses it. When he turns up on the scene Jesus has already departed and Thomas is greeted by a crowd of lunatics all giddy with overexcitement claiming that Jesus is risen from the dead. Not that he somehow survived the crucifixion – although that would have been unbelievable enough – but actually risen from the grave: alive today when yesterday he had been dead.

Spare a thought here for the folk we speak to: it is the same message of resurrection and I suspect that, like Thomas, many we speak to think we are deluded.

Don’t you have sympathy for Thomas? I know I do. I am sure there is a little bit of Thomas in all of us. Actually, there is a great big dollop of Thomas in me. He knows he’s missed out on something significant but he can’t quite bring himself to accept what the others tell him at face value. He can not take it on trust: at least not at first.

This isn’t the first time Thomas has stood apart from the other disciples: remember when Jesus had been asked to go and heal Lazarus and the disciples had warned him that it would be dangerous to go because the Judeans were out to stone him. Thomas then speaks up. He says something which is odd, confusing but brilliant: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ Is this the voice of a pessimist or is there more to Thomas?

He cuts across the cautious approach of the others. He knows the risk of returning to Judea with Jesus and his comment was intuitive and brilliant. Looked at in the longer term, from the perspective of the post-Apostolic church, he was right because years later, long after Pentecost, many of the disciples would be martyred.

This is the same Thomas who seemed a bit further on in his understanding of Jesus than the other disciples. "Lord”, he asked on another occasion, “we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Thomas wasn't doubting at this point, just seeking direction, knowing Jesus would tell him. And how did Jesus answer?
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John gives us one of Jesus’ most famous sayings as a response to the growing perception that Thomas has.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Is his famous response but this is not Thomas the doubter, but Thomas the visionary. He has been unfairly categorised through history as a doubter. There really is something of the visionary in Thomas: Thomas required no more proof than the other disciples, after all Jesus had already shown them the marks of his crucifixion. Is it possible that Thomas' incredulity grew from his understanding that, if what his friends told him was true, then this man Jesus, with whom he had spoken and eaten and travelled, must be God? And at his moment of greatest need, Thomas had run away. No wonder Thomas, having missed the first post-resurrection appearance, is feeling raw and vulnerable and quite probably hurt. But he has something that the others have overlooked in their excitement: a growing realisation of an earth-shattering revelation.

Thomas is left a full week to mull this over, to think and contemplate on the reality of the resurrection in the lives of the others before he discovers for himself the truth of the resurrection. When Jesus appears again he does not rebuke Thomas for being different from the others: Jesus must know that Thomas is already ahead of them. So much so that when Jesus does appear again to Thomas he provides a direct answer to the question that Thomas had asked, but at an unexpected moment and in an unexpected way. For Thomas the appearance is a gift of grace and in a moment of wonderful intuition confirmed, Thomas cries out “My Lord and God” and in doing so voices a new title for Jesus, God, not one of the more common ones the other disciples regularly used. And in identifying Jesus this way, Thomas points the way for the church in an understanding of Jesus as God which it would not fully come to for some hundreds of years. And did you notice something else about Thomas in this incident? So overwhelmed is he in the moment that he does not attempt to touch Jesus wounds even though invited to. He doesn’t need to. He knows.

So, what has this to do with us?

There are so many themes in this passage. If you take comfort from the disciples being released from the bondage of fear, because for whatever reason you too feel fear, go with that. Rediscover and accept the strength and power that comes with the resurrection and the possibility of a renewed life in the peace that Jesus offered his friends.

Or perhaps this says something to us of the ways in which people come to faith: the resurrection stories that conclude the four gospels are a bit of a scramble, testifying to how people come to faith in different ways. The beloved disciple believes when he sees the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene believes when the Lord speaks her name, even though her report is not accepted by the others. The disciples believe for themselves once Jesus appears alive among them and Thomas has an intuition he needs to struggle with and work through.

Have we come to the Easter stories afresh in one of these ways?

It was interesting being with the nuns in Whitby. Seventy of us closeted together for a week acting out and living the Easter story together at the same time as discussing “Communicating the Gospel”. People experience Easter in different ways. People come to faith in different ways. They did then. They do now.

Jesus often startles us, as he did those disciples in the upstairs room, and one week later, Thomas. He may come to us afresh when and where we least expect him. Jesus returns and promises us our resurrection. He comes to break the chains of fear and we have different ways of recognizing him. He comes back to reconcile us with God, and make us instruments for reconciliation in the world.

How ready are we to share that joy with others?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More thoughts on Easter boot-camp


My yeargroup: What a team

Revd. Stephen led us in meditation each morning, concentrating on a character deeply involved in the Easter story. His analysis of Martha and Mary was very thought provoking. Stephen related these studies to the Enneagram: Martha came out as a 2 and Mary a 1. (I know I need to look at the Enneagram in more detail: it has been a while since I did and at least one blog-friend encourages me regularly to do so. There are other terms I am familiar with, though. To me Martha is a "Critical Parent" and Mary a "Free Child".) Stephen's point about the use and value of this tool is about recognising how our public personas are often in deep conflict with our inner lives. If we can gain that level of self-awareness we come to see ourselves as God sees us and we can begin to accept ourselves as God accepts us.

"How do you spell Enneagram?" someone enquired during the session.

"H.E.R.E.S.Y." Replied the Anglo Catholic to my left. I love this group.

How much of worship is cultural? Just asking. It was a point made in passing.

If the church's views are synonymous with those of the host culture, it can not be a missionary church. It has no mesage to proclaim. Discuss.

I saw this title in the bookshop. "Dog Collars: Inspirational stories of clergy and their dogs."

Dear God!

Worship was planned and delivered by the students. Morning worship tended to be from Common Worship - Daily Prayer, and if I never chant a responsorial Psalm again, it will be too soon. Evening Worship tended to be more varied. On the first night Ian led a wonderful sung Evensong from the BCP. I had volunteered Lutheran Vespers - chanted, which seemed like a good idea at the time but as the Monday evening approached, less so! Hilda, Vicky and Karen who are in my prayer group participated with me and we changed some of the liturgy into a three voice dialogue. I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback. Even on the last day someone told me how spiritual they had found it. One even went as far as to say that it it had been the most spiritual service she had participated in since she had started the course.

I really needed to hear that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First thoughts from Easter School

Sneaton Castle, Whitby. Home of the Order of the Holy Paraclete.

Principal Dr. Christine's starting point to the gathered 70 was something to the effect of: "You are here because of who and what you are." That came at just the right time for me: I needed to hear that what with the difficulties I continue to face with my sponsoring organisation.

My call and the church's recognition of that call is a call and recognition of who I already am. It is not about making me conform to the image or stereotypes others have of the priesthood. God has called me as I am now and I am likely in my ministerial formation to become more, not less, me. God does not want to put me in a box. "Priest" is a generic term but it does not mean "clone".

The theme of the week is "Communicating the Gospel" and Dr. Christine in her opening address, talked about that very much in terms of continuing the story. We have had the Old Testament times and the New Testament times. We are in the intervening times but we know how the story ends.

The intervening times are exciting times because they are uncharted: we are not called to atrophy nor to repeat old patterns of being church. We have to be faithful both to the Gospel and to our context and culture: former patterns are not of our context and culture. We are still writing the story because the Holy Spirit continues to work in the life of individuals and the life of the church. I was put in mind of my own guiding principal: "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil 2.12) As we gossip the gospel we inevitably subvert the worldviews of others.

The castle is a lovely setting for a period of study, just a short walk from Whitby itself. Room allocation seemed starangely random: I have a twin room, which seems odd as I am an only child and my door number was 007. Well, you heard it here first! The rooms were nice, but unlike the police college where we often stay there were no en-suite facilities. Daphne, Hilda, Ann and I shared a bathroom: what visions of loveliness we each presented to the others on that first morning as we vied for position in the bathroom queue in our jim-jams, sleepy eyed and hair awry.

So here I am wide awake on the first morning at 5.00 am and wondering why no retreat house I have ever stayed at has curtains designed to combat the dawn. I send a text to that effect to my beloved. Some hours later she responds: "Stay at a place run by gay men next time. They do curtains very well." Good point.

Quotes of the day: "The chaplain won't be available tomorrow as he will be hearing the confessions of the sisters. All day." Those nuns eh?

Barry: "I've not been on your blog for a while. I understand you owe me royalties for the last lot of jokes."

Barry again: An elephant said to a mouse: "Why am I so big, strong and powerful and you are so small, weak and puny?"

"I've not been very well recently" replied the mouse.

I can see it is going to be a long week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The good guy

When two or more idiots decide to let their testosterone run free and uninhibited from alcohol decide to attempt some non-invasive reconstructive surgery some other folk often get involved. We as doorstaff are paid to get involved and de-escalate the situation.
Sometimes a decent punter wades in and then it's a whole different story. Some rare occasions, these interruptions act to de-escalate the situation. Without the uniform and some of the Milgram experiment type authority that comes with it, its not usually successful. They can at best slow it down and allow us to get there before it's A&E for all parties. They can at worst be holding back one of the aggressors arms as he gets twatted by someone else.
Sometimes a prick of a punter wades in and that is an all too common story. They see the chance to land a cheeky punch or kick as the main protagonists tangle. Maybe the lead muppets had knocking into them as they were getting knock down, or maybe they'd crossed earlier and not been strong enough in spirits to start anything. They may just be scrotes who get a kick from smacking someone they vaguely know when they can get away with it.
When we've gone in and folded them all up into uncomfortable shapes we sometimes get the chance to unwrinkle them and their stories. If they are genuine, honest and not riled up so far that to let them back in would be dropping a firecracker in a bath full of petrol, they may be allowed back in. If they're scummy, drunk, shifty or just huffing and puffing a bit too much they'll be let loose to wander on. Not to keep on scrapping, we hold them back enough to stop them scrapping on our street. We try and send them that way and the other with enough of a head start.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is this the Jesus of popular imagination?


Rowan Atkinson Amazing Jesus - A funny movie is a click away

We were looking at sharing our faith, "Communicating The Message" if you like, at Vicar School. This extract was used and although it is very funny, it does raise an important point. Is this the Jesus people think we follow?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter insights


Before I set off to Easter School my beloved gave me a book. It is called "The Last Week" and it is by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. It has been a wonderful read on a day by day basis. I share with you some of the things that have struck me.

Palm Sunday:

Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30. It was the beginning of the week of Passover. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives. His message was about the Kingdom of God and his followers came from the peasant class. On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate the Roman governor entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Pilate's procession proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus' crucifxion.

Pilate's military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology. It was standard practice for Roman governors to be present in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival: not out of religious sensitivity but to be in the city in case there was trouble. There often was at Passover, a festival that celebrated the Jewish people's liberation from an earlier empire.

According to Roman imperial theology the Emperor was not simply ruler of Rome, but the Son of God. For Rome's Jewish subjects, Pilate's procession embodied not only a rival social order, but also a rival theology.

Jesus' procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate's procession embodied the power, glory and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus's procession embodied an alternative vision, the Kingdom of God. The confrontation between these two kingdoms continues through the last week of Jesus life.

Mark makes it starkly clear thet the ruling Jewish elite worked via the tacit approval of the Roman authorities, the domination system, and were therefore collaborators. The local people were oppressed not just by the Romans and their taxes but by the puppet authorities - which included the Temple Authorities whose primary obligation to Rome was loyalty - and their taxes. Caiaphas must have been particularly skillful as he lasted in office for nearly twenty years.

This was the Jerusalem Jesus entered on Palm Sunday. His message was deeply critical of the temple and the role it had come to play in the domination system of empire and Jesus pronounces forgiveness apart from temple sacrifice. Jesus's message and activity put him in conflict with the temple authorities from the moment he arrived in Jerusalem.

As we consider Palm Sunday we need to be clear that the conflict which led to Jesus's crucifixion was not Jesus against Judaism. Jesus was part of Judaism not apart from it. His protest is about a domination system legitimated by God. Jesus's is a Jewish voice arguing about what loyalty to the God of Judaism meant.

Two processions entered Jerusalem that day. Which procession are we in? Which do we yearn to be in? This is the question of Palm Sunday and of the week that is about to unfold.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Foot-washing for the layman


Here at Vicar School we had a day on the media - and very good it was too!

One of the tasks was to prepare for presentation a two minute broadcast for radio on the topic of the foot washing. This would be for BBC Radio 2, at 6.30 am and with a target audience of lorry drivers and other early starters.

So, here goes:

Now then: feet.

Aren't they gross?

No, really. Aren't they?

I could never be a chiropodist. There is something deeply unattractive about feet. If ever I was an actor called upon to do a nude scene I'd have to have a foot double.

Spreading midriff? Well, that comes with the territory I supppose. I can live with that - and the man-boobs too, but feet?

No way!

We've reached the point in the Christian calendar when feet are in.

Big time.

Today Christians celebrate the occasion when Jesus washed his disciples' feet and some churches act that out with the vicar washing the feet of the congregation.

What's that all about?

I was quite uncomfortable the first time I ever saw this done but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Really?

How?

Well, think of it like this: forget about feet. What unpleasant thing would you be prepared to do to show how much you cared for someone?

Well, it's like that. Simple as.

The disciple Peter tried to resist Jesus washing his feet. I like Peter. I didn't like the vicar washing my feet. It didn't seem right. And yet it makes real sense this week in the lead up to Easter. Jesus does something loving and humble for those he loves and it confuses and upsets them.

Later this week we remember a more significant event where Jesus does something else for those he loves and again it confuses and upsets them.

He goes to his death.

Jesus washed his friends feet as one day, when I'm a vicar - dispite all my misgivings - I will too and, in doing so, I will stand in for him.

I will do something seemingly off-the-wall but at the same time deeply personal and intimate and yes, something a bit unpleasant.

Why?

Because its not really about feet is it? Jesus wanted to say something about himself: about compassion, about love, about friendship and committment...and about the fact that he was going on to do something even more disgusting to do with love, compassion, friendship and committment.

Die.

So, other people's feet: corns, bunyons and the ugly rest. And what am I left with now?

A vision of another's feet: bloodied, bruised and nailed together to a piece of wood as a way of showing love.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Here comes the

Sun.
Here come the drunken groups of gents who've spent all saturday afternoon in the beer gardens. Turning up to nightclubs to be singled out for their wearing of sandals and shorts with an all over body burn. The little patches of rain that fill a UK summer, even on a weekend, seem to do little to dampen their spirits, even if it does dampen their T-shirts.
Here come the hen nights, readying for the inevitable summer season of weddings. When fancy dressed and full of alcopops, wandering about the town from unsuspecting bar to unsuspecting pub or restaurant, terrifying the tourists.
Here come the tourists, in a long drawn out season of sight-seeing, over-indulging and re-capturing lost youth before encountering their real age in a club mainly packed with young locals.
Here come the mornings of walking out of the club when the sun is coming up and the chicks in the nest are squawking loudly. Trying to sleep as the sun stabs shafts of bright heat through my closed heavy curtains.
Here comes the seasonal sporting event guests to the city who always mean more hours and a load more bother.
I love the summer me.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Off to Whitby



There probably won't be any posts for a week now as I am going to Vicar school for a week with the nuns at the Convent of the Holy Paraclete. (You can play with the name for yourselves and are bound to come up with the same version. Pieces of eight anyone?")

As I understand it nuns are very aesthetic. At the Wakefield Police College, where we went last year, they are used to feeding police cadets huge quantities of food and we had en-suite shower rooms. At the convent I expect cold showers, over cooked cabbage and lumpy beds. Nuns, in their holiness, don't notice such things such is their perpetual devotion to God.

I feel gloomy already. Not even the sunny personalities of Dr. Bob and Young Mike will, I fear, be able to raise the depression.

Woe is me. For I am a worm and no man!

I shall sit and look at the sea and think of Grandmere Mimi who loved this place.

However today Mrs. D.P. and I celebrated 26 years of marital thingy and went out for a lovely meal where, in anticipation of over cooked cabbage, I ate twice my body weight in Greek food. My beloved was more restrained.

And we met Les Dennis in the restaurant fresh from rehearsals at the West Yorkshire Playhouse: "When we Were Married" by J.B. Priestly. (Oh you name dropper you.) Mrs. D.P.came home and bought a ticket, such was his charm when we bumped into him again in Boots and I accused him of stalking us.

Face to Faith


The events of Palm Sunday remind us that spin is no modern invention, says David Monkton

Rev Dr David Monkton The Guardian, Saturday 4 April 2009

Palm Sunday began an intensely dramatic and significant week in the life of Jesus, marking the climax of his work and ministry. The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was a staged event designed to gain maximum effect. The gospel writers make no secret of this. The clue to the pre-planning lies in the words spoken to the owner of the "beast of burden". The phrase "The Lord has need of it" was a password to a prearranged agreement.

This journey into the city is seen by the early church as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah, where the Messiah will ride into Jerusalem on a young colt. Saint Matthew, in his enthusiasm for relating the story and its link with the prophet, leaves us with the impression that Jesus was riding both a foal and an ass at the same time! His triumphant journey on this most versatile of animals is symbolic of the kingdom that Jesus proclaims.

Christ's rule is not to be heralded like that of a mighty, conquering, war-like leader. The kingdom He represents is "not of this world". The procession into Jerusalem aroused interest and expectancy of the highest kind, aimed at substantiating his claim to be the Messiah. Misunderstood perhaps by some like Judas who hoped that his kingdom might take on a political as well as a religious meaning, it was nevertheless seen as representing the true nature of his divine calling, orchestrated by the crowd with their cheering, taking branches from the trees, and laying their garments out before him along the way. Sadly this peaceful understanding of his role has not always been respected by some militant forms of Christianity.

This symbolism left a strong impression on the mind of the crowd. The Pharisees present at the scene pleaded with Jesus to tell the crowds to be quiet, but in reply Jesus says "even the stones will cry out". In other words, what he has done speaks louder than words.

The use of symbolism in order to get over a religious or ethical message was something that several former generations of great religious leaders had done. The prophet Jeremiah, for instance, publicly wore an ox yoke to convey to the people of Israel that they must submit to Babylon. Eventually, however, even the "yoke" of the king of Babylon would be broken, and they would be liberated again.

We saw a good example of a religious leader performing an "acted oracle" recently when Archbishop Sentamu, on a television programme, removed his clerical collar, cut it up and declared that he would not wear another until he saw justice in Zimbabwe.

There are times when situations in the religious world are very similar to what we see in political events. The famous saying of former prime minister Harold Wilson that "a week is a long time in politics" could certainly apply to the last week of Jesus in the religious climate of Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is only a prelude to what happens in the rest of the week. His trial, betrayal, his last Passover meal with the disciples, crucifixion and death, followed by the experience of resurrection, are all important parts of the Christian understanding of salvation history.

There is, however, another parallel with politics. Jesus went to a great deal of trouble to present his claim to Messiahship and His divine mission in the best way possible. The "in" word today to describe the effective and successful communication of a message is "spin". Jesus here is reminding us all that there is good spin as well as bad.

• Rev Dr David Monkton is a Methodist minister in Nottingham

Friday, April 3, 2009

What a nice young Man!

Ishaq arrived in school yesterday to take over from the fragrant Elizabeth as my student teacher in Religious Studies. Ishaq is obviously a Muslim and Elizabeth had already told me that he wears traditional dress. I had e-mailed him and warned him that he might face culture shock as the Knowledge College is a pretty mono-cultural environment to work in.

I am pleased to report that he and the kids took each other in their respective strides. One quite revealing question to me from from a group of my Yr 11 girls:

"Are you taking us today Sir?"

"Yes. Why?"

"There's another man in the classroom."

"I know. He'll be around for a while."

"O.K."

I was pleased more by what they could have said but didn't. Or am I guilty of projecting?

I am also pleased that there was no suggestion from senior management that he "dress more professionally", which apparently other Muslim students have been asked to do.

"Why Religious Studies Ishaq?"

"Because its the most important subject for helping people to understand each other."

He and I will get along just fine.