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Aldridge Road/Birdbrook Road

Perry Beeches, Great Barr


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Published on 15 March 2019


February 2019

Dear Friends

I hope everyone is praying hard for the government, at this critical time before the Brexit deadline.  Even more urgent is concern for our climate and environment.  If governments and peoples do not pay attention that, then Brexit and most of our other preoccupations just look like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

During this period before Lent, the Church of England encourages us to reflect on the theology of creation.  So, from St Luke’s Gospel, we shall have the story of Jesus calming the storm.  From Jeremiah and Psalm 1 we will hear again the image of the tree planted by the water – that we thought about not long ago when we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord.

Encouraged by these texts, I am about to embark on reading the prizewinning novel “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, “a monumental novel about reimagining our place in the living world” (says the New York Times).  After all, the Psalm encourages us to try thinking about ourselves as trees.

Which leads me to confess a heresy that I preached, in a not-very-clever moment, at the Crematorium the other day.  I was talking, at the funeral of a dog lover, about the importance of our relationships with non-human creatures.  This really can help us think about our place in creation.  Thinking about how my dog and I can be on the same wavelength has helped me think about communication that does not depend on words, and deepened my appreciation of wordless prayer.

The heresy was that I accidentally referred to God as a creature (which God is not, as nobody created God – God is a being).  I didn’t correct the heresy at the time, as it would have taken away from the main point I was trying to make in a very short homily.  So I am correcting it now.  I humbly trust that God, who in Jesus took on creaturely existence in order to save us, will pardon the error.   More important to God is that we prioritise right relationships not only with our fellow humans, and with God’s own self, but with all our fellow creatures.

No doubt “The Overstory” will appear in a sermon or two, if it fulfils the promise it seems to have.  On my recent reading week I managed four other books I’d recommend:  (1) Keith Ward’s “Love is his meaning” (about how we cannot, and nobody does, read the Bible completely literally);  John Fenton’s “More about Mark” (short essays about the Gospels, a good preparation for our Lent course – copies available to borrow from church bookshelf);  (3) Tom Wright’s “Paul: A Biography” – I’ve never been a fan of Paul but this really helps by presenting a view of the big picture of the New Testament world; and (4) John Green’s “The Fault in our Stars” (the late Nathan Preston found this resonated with his experience – it’s a powerful book full of teenage honesty).

Happy February!  Your servant in Christ