Archive for December, 2017

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Posted: December 31, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

– In Memoriam (Ring Out, Wild Bells) by Alfred Lord Tennyson


Christmas Day – Still Waiting

Posted: December 25, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

In some ways the wait is over, and in some ways it has scarcely begun.

Christ is here, but his kingdom is still coming.

May you celebrate Christ today, and may you see his kingdom in the year to come.

Happy Christmas!


Advent 4 – Joy/Pain

Posted: December 24, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

The final week of reflections from Paula Gooders’ The Meaning is in the Waiting focuses on Mary, who was called to a lifetime of waiting.

After the visit of the angel, she must wait for the birth of this miracle child – wait for childbirth in the hope that all will be well, wait to see how Joseph will respond in the fear that she will be rejected.

After the encounter with Simeon at the temple, she must wait for the moment which he says will pierce her soul – wait without knowing when it will come or how much it will hurt, wait without knowing whether or not she will be able to bear it.

And after the death of Jesus, she must wait to see what will happen next – wait in the knowledge that those close to him may still be in danger, wait wondering if his cryptic words will come to something.

Luke portrays Mary as a woman who thinks deeply. She ponders the meaning of the greeting the angel brings, and she treasures up the words of the shepherds. I wonder if that thoughtfulness made her waiting harder, leading her anxiously into imagining worst case scenarios in the dark of the night, or if it enabled her to find great meaning in her waiting, bringing insights and glimpses that allowed her to hold fast to hope and expectation.

Either way, Mary’s lifetime of waiting surely brought her great joy and great pain. She bled and suffered through labour, but how she must have felt when she held that baby. Her heart was pierced at the cross, but how it must have soared at the empty tomb. And the joy must have won out in the end, because as Gooder notes, her presence with the disciples in the first chapter of Acts is her first act of voluntary waiting.

Jesus has been raised and ascended into heaven. Her role as mother is ended and she no longer has to wait for him. And yet she chooses to wait for the Spirit he has promised. The pain has been worth it, and if there is more pain to come she will accept it.

It was impossible to find a picture of Mary that wasn’t cloyingly sweet, but I believe she was tougher than the soft focus and warm glow of the portraits would have us believe. She was not just a woman of patient obedience, but she was also a woman of defiant faith. And for that I love her.


Advent 3 – Waiting/Meaning

Posted: December 18, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Last week’s reflections from Paula Gooder’s The Meaning is in the Waiting focused on John the Baptist, who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when Mary visited bearing Jesus in hers, and then seems to have waited most of his life to meet him again.

We thought last week about active waiting, and John’s waiting was certainly not passive, as he proclaimed the coming of the one who was greater than he, and preached the message of repentance and forgiveness that Jesus would later reveal the full truth of.

Gooder wonders if John fully understood who Jesus was, when they finally met face to face in the waters of the Jordan, then suggests that this may be the wrong question to ask, recognising that “John was who he was and, more importantly, he was who he was called to be. He stood, waiting, between the old and the new, because that was what God had called him to do and, perhaps in that waiting found meaning”.

I’m sure that at times it must have felt like a frustrating calling, having a message burning so fiercely inside of him that his whole life was oriented around sharing it, but perhaps never fully understanding what it meant, and never seeing the fullness of it realised. (John was killed early in Jesus’ ministry, and so did not live to see his death and resurrection.)

I’m sure of it because I feel some of it. For two years I have had the words “God in the mess and the dirt” seared into my heart, but I cannot possibly express all that those words contain, and I will only ever have glimpses of what they look like in our present reality. But those words and those glimpses are precious, and there is great meaning in  waiting to discover more of their riches. Like unwrapping layer after layer of the greatest pass the parcel in the world, much of the joy is in the process.


Advent 2 – Then/Now

Posted: December 10, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

I have to be honest and say that I completely failed at my daily readings this week. I was all out of sorts on Monday and it completely broke the pattern. I have however caught up this afternoon, so I can share a brief reflection from Paula Gooder’s The Meaning is in the Waiting with you now.

The focus for this week was on the prophets, whose words seem to speak of what was to unfold within the space of a few generations AND of what came to pass with the birth of Jesus AND of the restoration and recreation that we still await. By reminding us of the prophets, Advent “invites us to inhabit a swirl of time that stretches forwards and backwards but by doing so anchors us in the present” and so to think about what we have waited for and what we are still waiting for.

We focus on the messianic prophecies at Christmas, but another popular set of prophecies concerns what we call the end times. We often interpret these as referring only to a future moment, but then we can find ourselves falling into a very passive kind of waiting. The end times these prophecies describe are characterised by peace and justice, and we can don’t have to wait for those things, we can celebrate and create them. Love, forgiveness, generosity…”these are all end time moments, breaking into our world now”.

As Gooder says in the introduction to her book, Advent is the wait for a child, and that is a very active form of waiting, with preparations to be made and futures to be imagined. We should also be active, not only in our wait for Christmas, but also in our wait for all that has been promised, as we enter into the mad swirl of time.


Advent 1 – Come/Go

Posted: December 3, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

As I said in my previous blog, I’m reading Paula Gooder’s The Meaning is in the Waiting as an Advent devotional this year, and I started slightly early so that on each Sunday of Advent I could share a brief reflection on the week’s readings.

The thing that most struck me this week actually came during the first day’s reading. The theme of the book – if the title didn’t give it away – is waiting, and we started with Abraham and Sarah, who waited long years for the fulfilment of God’s promise.

That promise began with a command to “Go” – except that the Hebrew word can also be a command to “Come”. Did God send Abraham into the wilderness, or did he call him into his presence? Or did he do both, because God is both with us and before us? My instinct tells me it’s the later.

We have talked recently about the dissonant voices of the Bible, and sometimes the uncertainty can be frustrating, but sometimes the ambiguity is deliberate. God is rarely either/or, but more usually both/and.

Because I am an incurable nerd, this got me thinking about Jesus’ first command to the disciples.  “Follow after me,” he said to them, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) 

The Greek is more precise than the Hebrew, so there is no subtlety of meaning here, but instead the balance between call and commision is made plain to see. Jesus does not send us without calling us, and he calls us in order that he might send us.

Sometimes that will be a challenge and sometimes it will be an encouragement. Sometimes it will be maddeningly both at one. Whatever it is for you now, I pray that you will be open to it.


The journey so far…

Posted: December 1, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

I’ve been blogging our teaching as we’ve journeyed deeper into the Bible, and so as we take a hiatus, this seems a good time to collect all of those blogs into one place. So here they are…

Getting started

Genre in the Bible: Introduction

Genre in the Bible: Law

Genre in the Bible: History to Apocalypse

Genre in the Bible: Gospels and Letters

Thinking differently about genre: Myth

Thinking differently about genre: Narrative

Reading in the light of Jesus

Putting it into practice

Introducing the Old Testament

Violence in the Old Testament (and in the New)

Dissonant voices in the Old Testament

Good news in the Old Testament


And for those of you wanting to explore the terrain further, here are some of the books that we have used as guides so far…

The Bible Makes Sense by Walter Brugemann

The Old Testament is Dying by Brent A Strawn

The Bible Tells Me So by Pete Enns

Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood

Texts of Terror by Phylis Tribble

Not In God’s Name by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

And for other further reading on violence in the Old Testament, I highly recommend this series of blogs from Helen Paynter, who will be lecturing on this topic next year.