Re-thinking Mary – A Guest Post by Lizzie Glover

24 12 2021

What if she wasn’t just mild? What if she wasn’t just gentle and calm? What if she was strong? Courageous and brave. Like a warrior marching into battle, like a knight preparing for war. What if she was determined , focused and alert, with the strength of mind to pursue this mighty mission she had been given.

What if she was fit? Healthy and committed – walking in her pregnant state to a place she didn’t know, to settle in a home that she didn’t yet own- to give birth alone – away from her family and friends. With a husband she didn’t yet know.

What if she was decisive? A mother able to move when her child came under threat. Ready to act when God spoke to her husband. Decisive and trusting in her Father’s care. What if she was unshakable? Unflappable! Fearless! Bold! Steady like a ship in a raging storm. Pushing forwards looking up at the Father – following his lead.

What if she could be described as all these things and more? A young woman who pushed the boundaries because God asked her to. Who said yes when culture dictated no. Who pursued what others only dreamed of. Who believed beyond doubt in her Heavenly Father.

Would she laugh now? Hearing herself described as gentle Mary, meek and mild! Words that perhaps place her back into that feminine realm. More accessible? Easier to comprehend, less of a challenge….

More of a woman?

A woman who took the sword when it was handed to her and instead of laying it down in humble surprise, lifted it high and ran forward- leading the way for all mankind – yes and womankind too. So what if we learn from this person of strength? Of character and perseverance. Of anointing and power.

What if WE said yes and followed God’s call with passion and intent? What if we – man, woman, child- believed that we too are called to make a difference? To stride into battle with our eyes on our Father – in trust and obedience- what then? What now?

Lizzie Glover is the children’s pastor at Cirencester Baptist Church, and a passionate and courageous woman.

we the people are tired

21 12 2021

Comfort, comfort my people, says the Lord…
You don’t say that unless somewhere there is trauma
somewhere the need for comfort
somewhere that speaking tenderly is needed
for hearts are bruised and we the people are tired 

When the shadow of covid looms over us
like the brooding darkness of king Herod
Which like a dementor has stolen the joy
We are meant to know 
In the birth of this baby boy
our hearts are bruised and we the people are tired

The angels weren’t bending their songs to earth
Because we were all fine
Its the people walking in darkness who have seen a great light
The voice calls in the wilderness, in the loneliness
Prepare the way for the lord
For our hearts are bruised and we the people are tired 

And in this finally, maybe, we begin to see how
We are invited into the story
A story in which 2 pregnant women plot the overthrow of an empire
A story in which the unexpected happens
The weak are raised up and the strong pulled down
The hungry are fed and the full go empty
The person of God dwells among us 
This is a story for us because
our hearts are bruised and we the people are tired 

It is into this that the voice of hope speaks tenderly 
of comfort and joy
It is into this world of uncertainty that the voice of hope 
Speaks of peace, deep inner peace 
Because even now there is a place for joy, 
the deep joy that comes from knowing
The creator of the world is here..
the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God, is here
Our hearts are bruised and we the people are tired

Into the darkness,
the laughter of a baby,
the babbling talk of new parents,
and the silliness of the faces we pull at babies… 

That, like a candle lit in a dark room, changes everything. 

It is into the silliness and the seriousness 
that God in the form of Jesus arrives
Because as a wise person once said,
Jesus isn’t part of the Christmas story; 
Christmas is part of the Jesus story. 

Don’t let the wonder and joy of Jesus stop at Christmas 
Don’t see the trailer and think you’ve seen the whole film
Don’t stop with a single candle 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Our hearts are bruised and we the people who are tired 

May you know that thrill of hope
The inner strength of comfort
And the deep depths of joy
For though our hearts are bruised and we the people are tired
His heart is for you, for us, and we his people are loved.  

This was my address at our Carols By Streetlight 2021, moved outside at short notice due to Covid-19 concerns.

the terrible and wonderful reasons why I lead

14 12 2021

A few years ago I was given a brilliant book about running, except it wasn’t really about running, it was about cupcakes and suffering. It’s a comic, its very funny and surprisingly deep, and its called “The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances.”

If you hate running stick with me. The basic premise is that whilst runners often talk about hitting ‘the wall’ when running, ‘the wall’ being an obstacle you power through when you feel defeated, the author says he does not believe in the wall. He believes in ‘The Blerch’, which he describes as ‘a fat little cherub who follows me when I run. He is a wretched, lazy beast… he tells me to slow down, to walk, to quit.”

The Blerch represents all forms of gluttony, apathy and indifference that plague my life.

The terrible and wonderful reasons why i run long distances

The Blerch is ever-present, and whilst the wall cannot be silenced or outrun, you can silence The Blerch. And you silence it by running. More. I often joke that I run so I can eat cake, and this is his point. These are the terrible reasons why we run long distances. We run to eat. To shortcut to endorphins. To look good. To achieve mental clarity through pain. Because we want to stand still. And eat.

Last week as I was planning how to lead our group of local church leaders in our monthly breakfast together, this jumped into my mind. What are the terrible and wonderful reasons why we lead churches. For like all people we church leaders are randomly assorted bunch of odd-bods, right? Of course there are good and holy reasons why we do what we do. But what if we pressed into the terrible reasons.

Like, what if am only a church leader because I am a narcissist? A control freak? What if it’s because I am incapable of getting any other kind of job? What if its because I truly believe every other church is badly run. Because its a crazily risky idea and it was 8am on a Friday morning just before Christmas, I threw it out there to the group. And to my relief they went with me.

Why did we do this? Because there is truth in our shadow sides, and I think it is good to be honest about them. God uses us through who we are, not some idealised version, no matter what we try to show people. If we are a bit of a control freak, admit it. If we are deeply critical of other leaders, admit it. If we like power, or find it impossible to follow, admit it. God can change us, use us, and transform us.

It is also good to remember the wonderful reasons too. What was interesting was that the ‘terrible reasons’ were quite honest and practical – the ‘wonderful reasons’ because very ‘spiritual’. Because in a way they have to be – you shouldn’t just be a church leader because you can, you do have to have a calling – and yet, it is because of what we can do, or are learning to do, that we are called.

We ended by singing the song “Living Hope”, largely due to the line that I think gets to the heart of our vanities and insecurities and failings as leaders humans:

Through the darkness your loving-kindness

tore through the shadows of my soul

Living Hope, by Phil wickham

Be honest, be hopeful, be real. Admit to The Blerch, confess our gluttony, apathy and indifference, and lead bravely, courageously and vulnerably.

How is your heart?

25 03 2021

Where do we put faith, forgiveness and bruised hearts after a year of COVID?

A year on from the first lockdown, I was preaching the lectionary and focusing on Psalm 51. What seemed to come out of that passage, and Jeremiah 31.31-34, was that how we see God, what we think his character is like, will have a profound effect to us as we begin to navigate the next few weeks, months and years. We will need forgiveness, patience, humility, and grace, and if we cannot see them in God, how can we show them to each other?

This was what I said, and it includes a beautiful song by Porter’s Gate that can be found below.

mountain of the mundane

17 02 2021

I wrote this poetic spoken word when preaching on the transfiguration (Mark 9), at a time of COVID when many (not all) are suffering from a mountain of the mundane, and we pray for God to show himself as he did on that mountain all that time ago. Here it is in video and word form.

Are you living your life
On a mountain of the mundane
Layer upon layer of the same
Going round and round again and again
Relentlessly and unstoppably like
A red sock in the washing machine window
On a white wash
Where you press your nose against the glass
It simply laughs

Are you living your life
on a mountain of the mundane
Where the demands of home learning
And working
Mean that you’re burning out
And yearning for an end
But like the unstinting demand for printing

Are you living your life
On a mountain of the mundane
Where no matter how lovely your house
The fact you haven’t been out
for a year is getting you down
And you see more of Judge Rinder
Than your grandchildren
Who are growing up
Without knowing you
And the pain of the absence of your presence
Bursts any pretence that

Are you living your life on a
Mountain of the mundane
Trudging daily upwards to a never-ending peak

Come with me then, on this mountain of sadness
And sameness
On this shrine to mundaneness
Come with me and come with Jesus
Because he is the only one who can change this
Mundaneness to the numinous
Do you know that word?
Like when Jesus went luminous
Up the mundane mountain with 3 of us
And the normal became paranormal
The natural, supernatural
When instead of one he became three
And the the three who were seeing
Were suddenly disbelieving
but instead of running
Considered staying, tenting, camping
Because Jesus went weird and the best thing about weird is
not mun

Peter James and John
have gone
Together with Jesus up a high mountain
A mundane trip you might think
But with Jesus the risk is always there for a crazy healing
A restoring of mental health well-being
Or giving the religious leaders an uneasy feeling
He knew what they were thinking
But here, on a mountain alone
He was about to show them something they

First he was transformed, his mundane face
Becoming luminescent – it radiates
His mundane clothing impossibly white
Then Elijah
Then Moses
And clouds and the voice of god on high
And the three disciples are terrified
The mountain of the mundane
They weren’t

Whats it all about then?
Here’s some biblical allusions you may have missed:
Moses was a prophet who
Told Pharaoh to stop it
And left the Egyptians to mop it up
The Red Sea I mean
And after he had seen to the mean-minded Pharaoh
Up a mountain called Sinai he would go
And there was a cloud of god’s presence
And God’s voice and Moses’ face was radiance
The supernatural, the numinous

Elijah was a prophet who
Told Ahab to stop it
And afterwards was exhausted
And terrified for his life
And ran away to mountain called Sinai
Where there was wind and earthquake and fire
And in a still small voice
God’s presence, the numinous

Here we are on a mountain of the mundane
Yet the transcendent presence of God
Irrupts in
And in a flash reveals Jesus transformed
Like pulling back a veil on his humanity
To reveal his divinity
And despite fearing insanity
The disciples afterwards clearly see
Jesus as he will soon be

2 Peter 1.16-18
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

So they saw Jesus transformed
The greek is metamorphed
And because of who this revealed Jesus to be
Fully god, tangible divinity
Mundane but supernaturally
Peter and the others want us to see
That we can also be
That the mountain of the mundane
we climb Again and again
Can be the place by his grace
To the human race
He shows

Do you want to see him unveiled
The mundane derailed
Do you want to be so caught up in his glory
That when others tell your story
They’ll have a laugh at your expense because
You too wanted to build tents
To keep this precious moment forever?

You can. Such experiences are free
But that doesn’t mean they are not costly
For to see Jesus unveiled
Is for us to be changed

There’s two places the same word is used for transformed
Or transfigured
Can you figure out where?

2 corinthians 3

Romans 12

Many of us are living on a mountain of the mundane
We know that and we don’t shy away from its name
And then
and then
and then
we turn our eyes away from the day to day
Because whilst god is always there
He is also THERE
Supernatural, unbelievable, transformational
We see the places where the veil is lifted
And in them our attention is shifted
From clouds of despair
To the clouds of gods presence
From faces so grey
To faces of radiance

This is what the transformation of Jesus on that
Mountain of mundanity can show us
That there are thin places
Where the kingdom of heaven
Is right there
Even in the midst of the greyness and drudgery
If we could only see it
If he would only reveal it
Sometimes we need to plead for it
So together we ask
Jesus, show yourself
Though we know the consequences
The ever-present risk is
We will be transformed

From the mountain of the mundane show yourself

Rend the heavens? An advent argument with God

2 12 2020

What do we mean when we say we want God to come? And what if he already has? And what about the rabbits?

This was my reflection for the beginning of Advent.

tarnished hope

24 09 2020

tarnish is the way we describe a certain type of loss
not a stealing or an absence
for the object still has presence
but without its previous magnificence
there’s a sense it is living only a half-life

like silver that has lost its lustre
in tarnished life it’s hard to muster
for though hope cannot help but shine
tarnish like a mask veils it, hides it
steals from it all its dancing gleams of light

life may feel like tarnished silver
veiled, covered and defined by the loss of lustre
from isolation, loneliness, boredom
or pain, or death, or fatigue
or endless impossible decisions that
grind us down

the hope we have in Jesus and his Spirit
that dwells within us
may help us to see that the tarnish we feel
covers our life
covers a life still present

what lies beneath still has the capacity to shine
it has not been stolen or ruined beyond repair

it is just that previously our lives of silver
simply shined
without thought
yet each moment of gathered prayer
or doorstep conversation
of meeting those who bring us joy
and of worship in community
and the Spirit’s touch
was like polish on a soft cloth

if your life has lost its lustre
like tarnish on silver
come sit with me
come speak your fears
to a god who hears and does not wish you
to be unaffected or relentlessly positive
but to invite him into our tarnished hopes
to lament our losses
and to walk with us the long road to hope

in speaking these things we begin
to allow the Spirit to remove the suffocating mask
and replace the tarnished hope
with the shine the waits beneath

© 2020 Kevin Lewis

If you are finding faith without gathered church a struggle, or are looking for resources to bring some shine to your prayer life, I recommend Lectio365, a free app from 24/7 Prayer that takes you through 7-8 mins of stillness, bible, prayer and reflection each day.

doing nothing well

14 05 2020

Preaching in lockdown is a whole new experience for me. I am so used to seeing people, to gauging how we are doing, for changing the words and the nuance depending on what the Spirit is doing. You don’t get that through an iPhone lens. Last week I was trying to write, and couldn’t. I soon realised why.

I needed to have two very different Zoom meetings. One, with mostly retired members of our church; the other, with mostly working parents. Two contrasting experiences of lockdown. Using John 14 and 1 Peter 2, this is what I felt the Spirit prompt me to say, into despair, boredom, and the feeling of doing nothing well. May it be an encouragement to you.

I am the place where heaven and earth meet, and I now dwell in you, which means your conference-call-home-school-kitchen-media-centre home is a sanctified place, a holy place, I am there with you, and your colleagues are welcome to my temple, the thin place where earth and heaven meet.

fragile breath

5 05 2020

breath is so fragile and yet we view it with the mirage of strength. pumping chests post-exercise or in the slow stillness of sleep we barely notice the endless, timeless, seasonless gift of life in, breath out.

until its fragility is revealed in the shallow breaths of half-life, when panic replaces what was unseen and the enveloping of fragility in the mirage of strength becomes opaque, see-through, then gone.

our need for breath so primal, the great leveller, the unwelcome reminder of our vulnerable nature, that despite our great power and influence and homes filled with things we still need the fragile breath, each second, each day.

fragile breath, our saviour and sustainer.

in our endless, timeless, seasonless yearning for stuff, the mirage of strength, money in, money out, things in, things out, the life-giving breath of our hungry souls so fleeting. the shallow breaths of a half-life, unsustainable, yet the ventilator continues. busy in, busy out.

a re-thinking, re-framing, fragile breath and mirages of strength. we are reliant, on others, and they on us; this is our strength, that we forgot. our breath is not to breathe demand, consume, mine at the expense of yours; our breath is to breathe life out to others, and to breathe in theirs to us.

we cannot all be strong. though we are all fragile. yet in this fragility is revealed our strength, in breathing life to others, in abandoning the mirage of strength for the truth of the fragile state of our hearts and homes and our endless, timeless, seasonless yearning for love.

give love that we may all live more than a half-life, that we may breathe deeply and be deeply; healed from the shallow breaths and the mirage of strength; and remove ourselves from the stealing of breath from those we have chosen not to see; and breathe in the life of the first fragile breath.

fragile breath, our saviour and sustainer.

The Christmas Presence

24 12 2019

Look up look up and what do you see
As we sit here in the stillness and the calm of night
Beneath the starry sky
Because around us
In the darkness
I have a sense
Of a presence
The essence of which
I cannot explain

Look up look up my friends and feel
Something is watching us as the night runs deep
And all the sheep
Around us sleep
In the darkness
I have a sense
Of a presence
The essence of which
I cannot explain

And so the shepherds who knew the hills
The sounds and could read the skies
Found themselves surprised
against their usual inclination
Believing without hesitation
They had had a visitation
Which would change them

And this is the mystery of Christmas
On the one hand shepherds with sore bums
Sitting on stones
Alone but for the night and their sheep
Passing the time as they eat
Like modern day builders in a cafe
Suddenly believing that they
Of all people had seen something
They could not explain 

The practical conundrums of sore bums
Nothing next to encounters with angels
And being taken for fools
By those who don’t believe them
The practical and the mystical
Are an uncomfortable

So how easily we lose the mystery
And retain only the comedy or the fantasy
Of the childhood nativity
But if consider the reality
If we hold to the truth of the story
Christmas presents us with
A story of God’s presence with us
Mystical, spiritual,
radical, political
And like the shepherds we cannot help but be changed 

Mary knew it wasn’t all angels and halos
But from the beginning she knows
That this child is both mystical and spiritual
And radical and political
The word became flesh
The divine enmeshed
And yet she gave birth to him
As he found his place in the mess
And this is what we can easily miss
At Christmas
With all its palaver and gifts and presents
That the essence of the story
Is a presence we cannot quite explain

God, we so often think, is so far away
in the clouds maybe
And not allowed to be
here, near, with us
Why would he want to be, we might think
If he got to know us
With our messy lives and underground addictions
Our broken hearts and public fictions
Of perfect lives
Of questions unanswered that we dare not address
Because we’d be like the emperor with no clothes,
Why would he want to see that
His royal highness
Our dark and tangled mess
And hang on
Where are we going?
What has this got to do with Christmas?

This is everything this moment is about

As he who created light in the beginning
Is spinning a new kind of story
Of darkness overcome
And we have come
To be among
The birth of the divine son

Because God is not up there
This is the importance of the story we tell
Which is why we sing of Emmanuel
Which means God with us
Or actually more accurately for any Hebrew scholars
The ‘with us God’

Jesus was born into the darkness that binds us
And Luke’s detail of Quirinius census reminds us
That is really happened in history a practical event
Yet a mystical moment God himself heaven-sent 

So we go back to the shepherds under the stars at night
And Mary and Joseph and Gabriel’s fright
And the magi and Herod and their refugee flight
And we see they had a sense
Of a presence
The essence of which they could not explain
And it changed them 

And so to my prayer for us
That this Christmas presence
Cuts through the pretence
Of relevance or reverence
Is discontent without the element
Of fact
That god slipped under the radar
In so much more than a fairytale fable
But got itchy in a stable
To enable
The untenable
The indefensible
To be holy with him
To be holy as this holy night
Freed from darkness
Bathed in light 

That that which holds us in guilt or shame
Has no power because in this same Jesus name
We can be free
That’s the nativity 

And if you remember nothing else
Remember Jesus is God’s Christmas presence with us.  

Kevin Lewis | Christmas 2019 

This was written as the ‘talk’ for our Carols by Candlelight service this year, and like most poetry probably works better when hearing it out loud. May it bless you as you read it, and may you know that you can be free – that is the nativity.

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