24 November 2015

Science and religion

I've written on this topic before, but I want to write again following a meeting last night arranged in Cambridge by the Faraday Institute. It was their annual reception and the first time I have taken part in a meeting. I plan to go to some of the public lectures as well.

The Faraday Institute Website
The Faraday Institute Website
The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion was created ten years ago to facilitate study and
discussion about science and religion.

It has an interdisciplinary, academic research program, but it also offers courses, lectures, seminars and conferences. Much of the material is online, available free of charge.

Last night's meeting began with something to eat and drink and a chance to circulate and chat. Then we heard Sir Colin John Humphreys, a physicist and Director of Research at Cambridge University, speaking on aspects of life as both a scientist and a Christian. He reminded us that it's important to read the Bible and pray.

Finally we had group discussions. Groups had been chosen so that people with similar scientific interests were gathered together. so my group was broadly biological.

The discussion was very helpful. We talked about the questions that people ask us, we discussed how to approach conversations rationally and non-confrontationally (being confrontational is a particular weakness of mine). And we considered the difficulties of a busy career in science and finding time for Christian actvities in the midst of it all. I was able to point out the dangers of dualism in our lives and how it's not about the proportion of our time that we spend on this activity or that, but whether we are kind to the person working beside us. In other words, do we reveal the fruit of the Spirit in every part of life; Christian ways of being and living should fill all that we do.

We heard about the opportunities the Faraday Institute has in British schools, answering questions that most concern young people. Our group's moderator was Lizzie Coyle who is the Institute's Youth and Schools Outreach Officer; she told us that the commonest questions she hears include  'Why is there so much suffering in the world', and the usual questions about evolution.

It was a great evening and I met some really good people. I would like to revisit the work of the Faraday Institute again on this blog; perhaps next time I can introduce some of the good thinking from lectures and seminars.

Useful link - The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

14 October 2015

Stone Ivy

What an astonishing process has brought this image to your screen. Just think of the steps involved. From ivy to carved stone to an electronic array in my camera to the internet to your screen. Here it is in a little more detail:

Ivy carved in stone
Ivy carved in stone
  • The ivy grew from an ivy seed at a time and place long lost in the past.
  • Sunlight illuminated the ivy and some of the reflected rays entered the eyes of a stone carver, living in a different age than ours.
  • The patterns of light in the mason's eyes allowed the neurons in his brain to interpret and comprehend the delicate shapes of the ivy stems, leaves and fruit.
  • The mason's brain coordinated the movements of his hands holding chisel and mallet as he worked.
  • A representation of the ivy was unmasked in the block of stone by the skillful mason.
  • Sunlight illuminated the carved stone and some of the reflected rays entered the lens of my camera.
  • The colours and intensities were recorded as patterns of data in a memory card.
  • The patterns were stored again in the memory in my laptop.
  • These same patterns were transmitted across the internet to you.
  • The patterns of light were reconstructed on your screen.
  • Some of the reconstructed light entered your eyes.
  • The patterns of light in your eyes allowed the neurons in your brain to interpret and comprehend the delicate shapes of the ivy stems, leaves and fruit.
If this is not miracle layered upon miracle - then what is it?

29 April 2015

Love and forgive, or forgive and love?

It's impossible to love someone you have not yet forgiven. Or, to put it another way, if you truly love a person you will certainly forgive them. So we cannot say which comes first, love or forgiveness. We must conclude that they arrive together, as a package. Love and forgiveness cannot be separated, if you have one you also have the other.

Reaching to touch
Reaching to touch
It's the same with the Father's love towards us. If he says he loves us - and he does - then he also forgives us. And if he forgives us, we know that we are already loved by him.

But beware, for hatred and condemnation (or judgement) go together in just the same way. Do not hate/condemn anyone.

We can't take any of this for granted. Remember that love and forgiveness must be received as well as given, and receiving requires repentance as the first step. We should be constantly grateful to Papa for his love/forgiveness and for sending his Son into this broken world to demonstrate that love/forgiveness. And we should also be grateful to our friends who show us the love/forgiveness we so badly need from them, a pale image of the love/forgiveness of the Father.

So praise you Father for everything you have done for us, praise you Jesus for coming into our world, and praise you Holy Spirit for remaining in us as a deposit of what we will inherit.

And thank you to all my friends (who are many) for everything you have done for me. Thank you for reminding me by your gifts of love, of that greater, heavenly gift of love that we all share.

And remember that this is also the root of mission. How can I receive this great gift without wanting to share it with everyone who will listen? It's just a matter of reaching out to people in ways that will touch them and cause them to search for spiritual truth and discover that Jesus loves/forgives them too.

28 March 2015

Watching the potter

Watching a potter at work can be very interesting. You will see a creator at work, a process of making, and you may see much more than that. If your eyes and ears and mind are fully open, who knows what you might see? So read on and pay attention.

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates
Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to the potter's house and watch him at work, and that he would speak to him while he was there. Read about this in Jeremiah 18:1-6.

Sometimes, seeing something acted out makes it very much clearer than just hearing the message. For Jeremiah, seeing the pot crumple and the potter start the making process all over again spoke volumes about Israel's future.

We can (and should) also apply this to our own lives as individuals. We are jars of clay intended to hold a precious treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). But Father will mould us and remould us as he sees fit, until we are suitable for his purpose.

In the words of an old song
Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him work the clay
Listen to what I say as you watch him

Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him turn the wheel
Know that's how I feel as I'm working.
Having said all that, I'd now like you to watch a video of Theaster Gates (a potter by trade) as he transforms more than a lump of wet clay. He takes what he's learned about making and moulding and transforms an entire city district. It's a work of redemption.

Jesus is the great Redeemer, he remoulds and remodels as necessary. We are made in his image, and we are learning to walk as he walks (we are his disciples). As you watch the video consider how it feels to be a redeemer, how it affects places and people. And ask yourself an important question:

What can I redeem? What places and people can I rescue, encourage, bring new life to? It's not likely to begin with an entire city block, but it might begin small and grow. Who knows where it will end?

It's easier than you think. Be brave, be very bold. Go and redeem something. Don't wait. Begin now, today! And as you begin, let Jesus lead you.

Here's the video...

13 March 2015

Pictures and music

I was delighted to discover some really great cards by Hannah Dunnett. I bought several of them for friends and soon found the Dunnett's website where Ben and Hannah provide more information and sell their material online. Hannah is an artist, Ben is a musician.

One of Hannah Dunnett's cards
Some time ago Donna and I visited the lovely old city of Bath, and we decided to have a coffee at St Michael's Without in Broad Street. And there we found a selection of Hannah's cards again.

I want to make you aware of Ben and Hannah's beautiful work because it deserves to be much more widely seen and heard. Not only is it all available to order and in a growing number of retail outlets, but Ben and Hannah have made everything available online, pictures and music too.

You will need to buy their products for the full quality, but you can also enjoy it for free. I predict that having tasted it, most people will end up buying prints or CDs.

Hannah's cards - Hannah paints stylised designs with words from the Bible in sweeping curves. She makes these available as greetings cards, high quality art prints, and posters. The picture above is a design called 'God of all Comfort'.

Because of the carefully chosen words these cards are not just beautiful in their own right, they also bear the stamp of a loving Creator. From the picture above we read, 'I will sustain you, I will give you rest, I will carry you, [I] will be with you, I call to you'. And there is much, much more. Words of great comfort from the One who is quick and ready to bring great comfort.

Ben's music - Ben is a music teacher and examiner. He writes some delightful melodies and is clearly a gifted pianist. If the worship albums and the children's album are anything to go by he's also very talented in laying down individual tracks to build up a full backing for songs.

You will find everything here from reflective, gentle melody to robust rhythms good for dancing, and great lyrics provided by Hannah.

St Michael's Without - I simply can't close this post without saying more about this lovely Anglican church in Bath. Everything about the place is delightful. The interior has been modified to make a quiet space for coffee, cakes, books and a comfortable place to sit. The website soon makes it clear that the people are delightful too.

They are evidently active in the local community in many ways. They seem to be conscious of the need for gentleness and peacefulness in everything. They are careful and deliberately slow in making changes trying to 'avoid the rush which undermines friendship'. They pray about everything in love.

If you are visiting Bath, try to make the time to drop in to spend a little while experiencing the peace and the fragrance of this lovely place and the people who make it what it is - a little piece of heaven right here on earth. Just like Hannah's pictures and Ben's music.

Questions: 
  • Are there ways you can be a little piece of heaven for those you meet today?
  • Might there be 'difficult' people in your life you could make an extra effort to bless?
  • How does Hannah's artwork and Ben's music make you feel?
  • Does it help you find the peace you need to become a blessing to others?

See also: 

28 February 2015

We've run out of wine.

< Drawn to the light | Index | No later items >

I'd like to introduce you to Jesus, but I don't want to persuade or cajole you. In fact, I don't intend to tell you what to think at all. Instead, I want you to see for yourself what he is like and then make up your own mind what you think.

An empty bottle
An empty bottle
We're going to begin with a bar malfunction at a wedding. The drink runs out. This particular wedding was two thousand years ago in Galilee, now part of northern Israel. But the planning was not thorough. I'm sure you know the feeling. You've laid on a big event. The invitations have gone out. The day has come. People are enjoying themselves. And then you run out of something essential - like 
wine.

A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’

‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from eighty to a hundred and twenty litres.

Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’

That's the story straight from the Bible - John 2:1-10, New International Version (NIV). I have four questions for you. Try to get the answers out of the story you've just read, you'll need to consider all the characters. What did they say? What did they do? What did they think?

  • What does this tell you about people?
  • What does this tell you about Jesus?
  • Is there anything here for you to follow or do?
  • Who else needs to hear this?

< Drawn to the light | Index | No later items >

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