Tag Archive: theology



During my recent sabbatical I went on pilgrimage, did some Bible study and had a retreat. Alongside that I decided to reflect on my experiences and studies in a way that did not confine my response to “head knowledge” – useful though that can often be. So for part of my theological reflection I painted my response.

The challenge was to find a way of planning and executing the work well without over-thinking it; in fact, I tried not to spend much time consciously thinking about the subject matter if I could help it. That did not mean donning a blindfold, waving my arms about and hoping that paint would land on canvas rather than on the floor, walls or ceiling. What it did mean was that I started out with a vague idea of the shape but otherwise painted randomly on the canvas. Colours were selected according to my mood or what I felt about the subject, rather than according to an accurate representation.

Of course this means that the results say as much about me at the time of painting as it does about the putative subject. However, there were some surprises along the way. For example, my first “Out of the Whirlwind” picture has a face and a two birds on it. They emerged from my random slapping on of thick acrylic paint when I was simply trying to break up the plain background. When I stepped back and saw them I decided not to paint over them but to go round them and let them stand out with a little extra colour here and there. The theological point is that while trying to convey the chaos of the whirlwind of Job chapter 38 verse 1, I ended up with something that made a kind of sense. You may recall that chapter 38 in Job is where Job hears God’s reply to his various complaints. God spoke out of the whirlwind (or storm). Chaos does not stop God being God – God brings order out of chaos (see Genesis chapter 1, for example). What the pictures mean will in part be up to each viewer.

The other pictures relate to the letter to Philemon and to the life of St Francis

Take a look here.

Gladstone Library

From my top floor bedroom I could see across the treetops to Queensferry on the river Dee in the distance and the tower of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on the far horizon. To be honest, I only confirmed this using the zoom function of my camera; the photo was not especially clear.

I was staying at St Deiniol’s which houses the Gladstone Library founded by a Victorian Prime Minister at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. It houses his original collection of books and papers though the library has grown over the century to provide a resource of theological books; not quite the size of a university library but certainly larger than any diocesan library I have known. This is a good place to do some private study whether Biblical or other Christian topic. Having said that, I would not expect to find anything to help plan next week’s Sunday School or an All Age service – though you might find a book or two on the theology of them.
The grounds in the village of Hawarden are pleasant and the bus link to nearby Chester (about 20 minutes) was regular with generally several buses an hour (check times for Sundays and bank holidays, of course).
The most obvious indication that you are in a different country is seeing all the signage in two languages: Welsh and English in the one, English alone in the other. On the bus, crossing the border, you would be none the wiser that you had left one country and had entered another unless you were paying attention to, for example, the road signs. The second clue is that after you passed the Airbus factory at Hawarden airport, the road leaves the flat Cheshire plain and starts the climb the first of many hills that characterise the Welsh countryside. The elevation gave an extra boost to my view (see above).
A week was long enough for my purposes; other residents were there for a retreat, some for conferences. If you wish to find out more try this link to the library.

I think it pretty obvious to say that God does not have a wicked sense of humour, but does God laugh, did / does Jesus laugh? does holy joy include having fun, enjoying yourself and laughing?

I don’t see why not, except there is a school of thought that says that laughter is for fools and that if you are making fun of something you are not taking it seriously – that you are mocking. Mockers do not rate highly in the Bible. On the other hand, laughter can break the tension, make holes in the barriers that people set up between themselves and help people get along. It can contribute to making harmony. Sharing a joke can be a way of building relationships with my neighbour – an expression of love for my neighbour. Unfortunately, humour can also be used as a weapon by making certain people, particular characteristics, the butt of a joke. In that instance humour breaks bridges rather than knock down walls between peoples.

The occasion of these thoughts comes from reading “Does God LOL?” compiled by Frankie Mulgrew. This book contains a collection of short articles from a range of comedians and comedy writers. It will come as no surprise that all bar one of the thirty plus contributors say “Yes” one way or another. That one of them says “No” is a bit of a surprise until you realise that his tongue is firmly in his cheek.

What struck me most about the book was the number of people who saw their comedy-making as a vocation. Many referred explicitly to their own Christian faith, but there was no one pattern. Comedy can help lift the burdens one carries in life. Comedy, jokes etc., provide one way of sharing joy – which is a spiritual gift. Some of the writers went as far as to show where there is comedy or laughter in the Bible. In a reverse of mediaeval tradition they ask “How can Jesus have not laughed?”

Whether or not you agree with the writers, the book was easy to read and I enjoyed the cartoons. I don’t know whether it would repay rereading but the profits from the book go to charity in any case.

Four stars, I think, or 7 out of ten.

“Does God LOL?” compiled by Frankie Mulgrew, published by Darton, Longman and Todd 2013

I think the answer to my original question is “Yes, God has a good sense of humour”.

… it would be better if it were a communicating door.

Thomas Aquinas. He was commemorated on 28th January and is remembered for his intelligence, his faithfulness and for his part in helping the Christian Church to develop its understanding of the faith.

Another quote from him is perhaps a warning to theologians and other intellectuals:

“Not everything that is more difficult is more meritorious”

2 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 5

25th January is St Paul’s day (or rather the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul) in the Church’s liturgical calendar hence the bit of theology for today’s post.

What’s in a name?

An almost throw-away comment at last year’s clergy conference set me thinking. It was to do with the phrase “we proclaim Jesus Christ Lord” which doesn’t sound  quite right in English. Most translations put in either ‘as’ or ‘is’ before Lord. Put that way, what the apostle Paul is proclaiming (the Christian gospel, if you like) is that Jesus Christ is the Lord.  Therefore, if we know what is meant by ‘lord’ then we know what he is talking about.

Except that that is not what it says. A better translation (and I asked Dr Paula Gooder  about this) might be “we proclaim Jesus the Christ the Lord”. The word “the” is used slightly differently in English and in New Testament Greek but used here helps to get away from the impression that “Christ” is Jesus’ surname.

This translation then tells us that each of the names has something significant to say.

“Jesus”, which can also be translated as Joshua or Jeshua, means “he saves” in the sense of John chapter 3 verses 16 and 17: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved.” So “we proclaim” the person who saves the world.

“The Christ”, can also be translated as the Messiah or the Anointed One. Anointing with oil is associated with being marked out for some special Divine purpose and that an “anointed one” has God’s Spirit present in a powerful way.  Mark chapter 1 verses 10 and 11 illustrate this: “he saw the  heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased’.” So “we proclaim” the person specially chosen by God who is filled with God’s Spirit.

“The Lord” here is not a title for the nobility in the upper house in Parliament. The Lord is a euphemism, you could say, for God. In order not to accidentally misuse God’s name, “the Lord” is used instead. To call some one “Lord” in this context is to say that they are God as in John chapter 20 verse 28 when Thomas says to Jesus “My Lord and my God”. So “we proclaim” the person who is God.

Saviour, Spirit-filled, God in person: Jesus, the Christ, the Lord.

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