Way back in the day, when I was not so grown up (!!) I loved to talk of transformation, of city-shifting (not easy to say, and did on more than one occasion got it wrong… though we do need to see a whole lot of that sifted and shifted!) influences. A straight line from strategic prayer that would change the effects of history and open up a new spirituality where the church would prosper was my focus. As the years go on beliefs are refined, honed, and even sometimes abandoned. In my case a core continues unabated… Jesus poured out his Spirit redemptively on a growing number of followers, not simply so as those followers could grow in numbers, and certainly not so as they might have a ticket to somewhere else, but so that they might take responsibility for the world around them. So that that world might change.

I have been away for the past week engaging with two interesting scenarios. Both in the South West of England. Both with a focus on entrepreneurship so that there can be a societal, an environmental change. The first, based in a city and focused on that region looking to re-open what had been abandoned, looking to spark leading-edge technology. The other coincidentally meeting in that area of the UK but with a strong emphasis that all of us, that is us communicating animals, carry the image of God, and that we are to be changed in order to bring about change. I resonated very strongly, with no emphasis on the financial outcome being the bottom line, but health and well-being being the gauge of progress.

Two environments, both looking for transformation.

I am deeply grateful for the strategic (and sometimes in my case I am sure un-strategic prayer) that has gone on. I consider that it has opened up so much space during these past decades. It has also contributed to some of the crises, for the Western house that has been built, at least in part, on sand was never going to be fit for purpose.

My vote is for those who are engaged beyond the congregation, those who take the call to business, health care, the arts etc., seriously. There is space now. Space that is visible, sometimes space in the midst of the mess for engagement.

I am aware that every scenario is different. We might not always see those situations correctly. Some we might be over-optimistic about, others where we have despaired might be the very ones where there is hope.

Over the past 5 years we have taken responsibility to pray for the political scene in Spain. We are not those who believe that change takes place through legislation, through influence from the top down (a christendom value). Yet we are looking for that political realm to come into health, to create a shape where there can be true prosperity. A kind of ‘we hold a shape’ so that there can be a ‘healthy political shape’ so that people can prosper, with great grace for the marginalised being expressed. An unhealthy political shape then is an offence and we take it as a personal insult.

2019… they shall not pass!

There are times we are caught out, not seeing what is coming and as a result we end up playing catch up. However, in 2019 it seemed that we were so ahead of what was coming. We saw the patterns of history and understood the geographical ground where that was expressed, were able to go there and be ever so strategic (!) with our timings, actions, prayers and declarations. Then… what a set of blows came our way as one aspect after another went against us. History just seemed intent on repeating itself with intent. We saw the number of fascists in parliament go from 0 to 24 to 52 in the course of 7 months. We saw divisions appear and hostility against one another be vehemently expressed by those who should have known better. I could go on… To be honest it proved pretty tough and insulting. Seemed almost personal when the ultra-right proclaimed ‘we have passed’ when entering the parliament. I still ask – could we have done more.

2020… a level see-saw?

It has been a battle to see something healthier come through. Just as the year turned a promising coalition, the first in 80 years, where a level of maturity has been shown., has been voted in. It made it in by 2 votes – had one person gone the other way (and there was huge pressure on those sitting in the middle) we would have been headed to yet another election, and with the growth of the ultra-right this would not have been something we would have been optimistic about. In the government, one of the ministers is a card carrying communist! Neither Gayle nor I are of that persuasion (as if!!), but given the history of Spain what a sign. (Ultra-right and ultra-left carry the same spirit – people are subject to a centralised and depersonalised power, a true principality or god.)

I am not suggesting that where I started – the business realm, nor where I am now focused – the political realm – is where it is at. I simply find it interesting that there are evidences of a level playing field appearing. Not everything is reversed, indeed one could suggest the political scene, for example, in Spain is worse than ever. Perhaps. Or perhaps game on. I consider it is the most dangerous yet with the most potential in the past 80+ years.

Let’s look for the gaps, the places where we can squeeze in, or make space through some spiritual elbow work for others to enter that space. I am convinced we are not going to see things just shut down, keeping the space open though will require our engagement.

Time – no time

Been a while since I blogged, just been too focused and busy on other things, though I do have a Romans 13 thought, in the light of ‘of course Boris [replace with ‘whoever’] is appointed by God, the Bible says so, so no disorderly conduct here then by you’.

But Time… the magazine. N.T. Wright has an article in there from Dec. 16th. The opening paragraph and opening sentence of paragraph 2 reads:

One of the central stories of the Bible, many people believe, is that there is a heaven and an earth and that human souls have been exiled from heaven and are serving out time here on earth until they can return. Indeed, for most modern Christians, the idea of “going to heaven when you die” is not simply one belief among others, but the one that seems to give a point to it all.

But the people who believed in that kind of “heaven” when the New Testament was written were not the early Christians.

The link is here:

Alignments for the future

Some while back we had a confirming word sent us while we were focusing on the removal of Franco’s body from the valley of the fallen. It was during the time when the process seemed stuck. We had begun to home in on the release of three groups of people: the students (youth), the women and the pensioners as key in that process and the wider picture of Spain. After a number of weeks without knowing about our focus Michael Schiffman called us to say we needed to release 3 distinct groups of people and the shift on Franco would come.

Today Greta Thunberg will arrive in Spain and will be present at the climate crisis change conference in Madrid over the coming days. She is a sign in these times. A young woman. And with her are rising an army of youth. It is their future that they are calling for. Recently while presenting a small paper on politics and theology I touched on the ‘touchstone’ issue for many Christians, the issue of abortion, which for sure is a major issue, yet I suggested there is a spectrum that it sits on which has to include that of creation care (also war, nationalism and immigration are on the same spectrum). Both the issue of abortion and climate care are to do with the future and how we relate to those not yet born and those who are yet to live – true life being defined as becoming those who contribute to others, that being the real test of how much glory is present.

Columbus Square

Some years back we made a small visit to Columbus Square where the adventurer(*) is honoured and it has become one of the centres for nationalism (Spain Day), the military and power displays. Since our little venture into that square we have noted some wonderful shifts in the response to such celebrations of power. And just after that time this wonderful focused statue of the woman has been there. And in this photo with the juxtaposition of the woman and the Spanish flag surely speaks loudly! Love for nation and nationalism are not one and the same. It is the same as equating evangelism with seeing people as objects to be evangelised… no good news there!!

The woman, the feminine. There is a future that is held at this time in the hands and hearts of women. In the same way as there were good men at the time of Jesus, so there are ‘bad’ women today, who use power and ungodly position for their own ends. Yet Jesus died as a man – he nailed where the central corruption of humanity lay. So I suggest there is a new centring in of hope to be found in and among women in this time.

In Spain since 2003 there are over 1000 women who have been killed in domestic violence situations. Many more physically and emotionally beaten. Yes there is a violence that at times has gone the other way, but this is not a level field.

In parliament yesterday

Pensioners. Some who have made their contribution, have lived through trauma to help give a future (and some of course who have not been contributors over their years). Care for the elderly. Honour those who have walked before, otherwise there is little genuine hope for a better tomorrow. Many pensioners are going to find a new lease of life. Their time is not over, even if the money (in Spain) set aside for them has been raided by previous governments. (Not a surprise when so much financial basis is founded on debt, the way to ‘create’ wealth!)

Yesterday in parliament – yes still no government here, and a total police barricade so we were not able to get to the building yesterday – Agustin Zamarron (70+ and still seeking to serve as an MP) with great dignity spoke of the responsibility to Spain and the deep embarrassment he felt that to date there has been no success in forming a government.

An army that is different. That has a different spirit. I am looking at this when I think of the 2010 -2020 dream and the final level playing field. I am not a student, nor a woman nor a pensioner… but I am and need to be involved. There is though a centre, and maybe it is just Spain but there is something congregating around youth, women and pensioners.

Madrid, with the work of the last mayoress, despite reversals being activated by the new administration has seen pollution drop by 20%, the most of any major world city. The climate conference is here, and the TV news spoke of this conference and ‘the planet is looking for her salvation’. That is a quote from someone I read… where then are the daughters and sons of God? And maybe we also have to ask who then are the daughters and sons of God? The opening day one of the biggest Spanish polluters of the environment were on the front page of most of the main papers. Money can buy publicity, as always. It buys elections. Power wins. Or it has, but here comes 2020. A level playing field. Could love find a way?

Before 2020, comes tomorrow (literally). The streets will speak once again in Spain, so we need to be there as wisdom cries out in the public square. Walking boots on and with many thousands others we will walk.

*I very generously described Columbus as an adventurer. Read the stories as he left in the service of God and Spanish crown, accompanied by a priest who preached in Spanish, giving all an opportunity to respond to the message of salvation (I know some preaching is hard to understand but this takes the cake!), then those who did not respond were ‘legitimately’ killed or enslaved. I called him an adventurer, and I do that not to excuse him, but to allow the challenge to be ours of clearing up the mess, for those who have conviction that something is wrong surely must be those who seek to shift the effects of what has gone before.

Not many smart

Gayle and I are in London for a couple of days, hosted by Adrian & Pauline Hawkes. They, their colleagues and friends are great to hang out with. Always challenging, inspiring and refreshing. I am not quite as young as I was, and they are not quite as young as I am, but when they talk about what they are going to give themselves to for the next 30 years it does kind of encourage one not to complain but to make a half-decent attempt at aligning with God’s direction.

Very graciously Adrian asked me if I would seek to address the subject of ‘theology and politics’. Graciously as I know almost nothing about politics, and on theology rumour has it the proverbial significantly sight-challenged bus driver was very confident of driving the double-decker through my various arguments without hitting anything in the process. As I explained last night my politics were shaped when I saw, in the 1960’s, a prime minister of the UK from Yorkshire smoking a pipe. I thought somehow that looked cool, so basically that party had my vote from then on. There are, dare I suggest it, deeper approaches to political issues, hence the graciousness of Adrian.

I will post here over the next few days the gist of what I shared. A perspective, a biased one, but nevertheless a perspective.

Of course a certain amount of what I adhere to is shaped by our social and geographic context, and springs from a clear sense some 5 years ago this month that the Lord was asking us to ‘take responsibility for the politics of Spain’. So often (did I hear ‘always’?) we do not understand what it means when the Lord speaks, as our great resource of knowledge does seem to get in the way, and we certainly do not know the journey that will entail. Five years later we are still pretty clueless and certainly do not believe we are qualified.

Crazy – not qualified, and as immigrants not even able to vote in the national elections. Just hope there is something in Scripture about not many smart people being called.

If I point to our geographic context there are some BIG negatives and a few positives in terms of what we see. Maybe the negatives are not so negative, maybe there are more positives than seem to be visible… and maybe the negatives are even BIGG… No don’t go there. My point is that it so difficult to assess. And sometimes there is little point in seeking to assess. If ever we gain a victory it is always time to push again, and if there is a real ‘failure’ time to push again. I like that as for someone fairly simple to condense things down to a simple activity is very helpful. And hopefully that is our approach.

My final disclaimers are that in what I will post I will use the term ‘church’ for shorthand for those who self-consciously follow Jesus – by using the term I am not limiting it to any specific expression nor am I denying it to other sets of relationships.

In approaching theology we can quickly make one aspect the whole and when we (as I will) suggest that the call of the church is sharply focused on shaping politics it can be easy to ignore other aspects of the call of the church. However, I make no apology in focusing on the issue of church, theology and politics as, for too long, the church has either:

  • been silent on major political issues, or
  • or complicit with the powers, or
  • only interested in a narrow set of issues.

The church has also often chosen to support the party that has a proposed bias toward ‘family values’, or is pro-life, turning a blind eye to any criticism that could be brought against that party. No political party can be baptised as ‘Christian’, nor can we remain uncritical of those who exercise authority. The critique of power is essential to the Gospel and with the demise of Christendom (the supposed domain over which Christ reigns) we have a fresh opportunity to find new ways of engagement.

OK enough for now.

But finally… We do not have a vote in Spain. Elections took place on Sunday, and a dear friend sent us a note saying ‘you have voted’. I thought surely he understands that we do not have a vote. In various text exchanges he repeated this the following day. So eventually I wrote back with

we do have a biased vote in the court of heaven but not a biased vote on paper in the land.

Then he clarified – he did not vote based on his choice, but knowing we could not vote he put the cross where we would have put it. We voted!

Any silver lining?

Four elections in four years… Spain, but typical of so many places where there is political turmoil or lock up. A coalition did not come together as a result of the elections in April, and given the results this time round a coalition will be even more challenging. The big news is the phenomenal growth of the extreme right. In 8 months a growth from 0 to 24 and now to 52 seats. Around 7% of the new parliament will be from that party – the largest percentage from that wing in any European country… and from 0% a few months ago. Absolutely gutting… as it has taken place on our watch.

We physically went to the geographical setting in Madrid months ago where there would be a threat of entrance. We declared ‘no pasarán’ (they will not pass), and some of the first words proclaimed by the far right in parliament in April were ‘we have passed’. We, this past week, went to a street, prayed and went round the whole block scattering salt on the road. The evening of the election, and we did not know this would happen, the very corner where we began the prayer was where the extreme right met to celebrate. Hard not to see it as personal!! And struggling with the results and our focused activity and prayers. Where did we miss it?

Our perspective is that coalition was not possible last time round because the financial institutions, the day after the April election, declared that there was one coalition that would be acceptable. The very coalition that the supporters of PSOE (the party who won in April but without an overall majority) shouted on the street was not acceptable to them. They shouted that specifically the night before the institutions declared what was acceptable.

Money, so controls. (Why was it again that Jesus appointed a thief? Why are so many of the OT laws about economics? Who is that says you will not buy and sell? Note to self – must go and read that book that seems intent on giving us answers to those kind of questions.)

Meanwhile there never was a desire for a coalition. The intent was always to go for a re-run of the election. This has backfired on the acting president (PSOE). It has not strengthened his hand but weakened it.

In the campaign a strong anti-Catalan independence was used by all the main parties (except one) as that gets a vote. Now any coalition will only be possible with some measure of support from the pro-independence parties from Cataluña.

Are there any silver linings? Of course there is always the possibility of positive spins. What was there is revealed – yes for sure. BUT, BUT when results come through as we have seen what was already there is strengthened, permissioned and multiplied. Our responsibility is to see that does not happen, and here we are!

Maybe the most positive is that for any move forward it will mean some humility, embracing of others (Cataluña for example, where dialogue is so needed).

Silver linings… Always but the clouds were dark.

Here though are a few great aspects in the latter stage of the campaign (with a biased viewpoint, but maybe one with some accuracy?).

The mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, came to Madrid, on the final evening of the campaign. She addressed the crowd in Catalan, saying the place where she wanted to be was Madrid, there being no better place to be, as an act, of reconciliation at this critical time. She came bringing a hug from Cataluña.

Between the two elections there was a significant split in the Podemos party with a new party being formed. This, of course, split their vote and if the voting numbers were added together (of Podemos and Mas Pais) they would have been the third voted for party by percentage of votes, not the extreme far right party as ensued. Sure it was damaging. Mas Pais did not do well. Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, sent a note to the leader of the party that split away, saying – I know this will have been a tough day for you with the disappointing results so I send you a big hug.

There is a politics at grass roots, a politics that might not be to everyone’s liking, but one that shouts that ‘love’ is the only way forward. I don’t know if that is a silver lining or not. Maybe… but even if there is no silver lining, when there are people (and ones who don’t profess a faith in Jesus) talking ‘love’ and willing to reach out hands across divides, there remains hope in a divided land.

PS… As I write some breaking news with a change of tone from Pedro Sanchez. First step… maybe silver linings!

A little humility?

Most of us will have read about the sentencing of the Catalan leaders, and quite a few will have also seen the manifestations and stand-offs between demonstrators and police with a focus at Barcelona airport. I have my not-adequately-informed perspectives, and being neither Catalan nor Spanish am limited as to what I can really say.

Maybe though a few personal perspectives. I have always been right in all my opinions. I am convinced of that because I see what I see, and my sight… Oh no! All that just came out before I could press the delete button. How often we would love to find the delete button before our own inadequacies, weaknesses and arrogance are revealed. Yet not possible.

Things happen and then we are right there in the situation with our history and weaknesses delightfully manifesting. I had a situation this week. Here we are with two guests and it comes to paying the bill at the cafe. The bill comes, clearly totalling up what we have had and I pay exactly what was on the bill. Two minutes later as we stand up to leave, across comes the waiter with the manageress. ‘You owe us another 6.00€. You had two more drinks, and they were 3.00€ each.’ I look at the bill in her hand – 21.00€ and a list of exactly what we have just had, and there she is standing with 21.00€ in her hand that I have just given her! We also know exactly what we have had… A water-tight case and I will need no defence lawyer in this situation. Gayle is beginning to open a sensible dialogue and everything will be within seconds clear. However, there is a better way of doing this. In fact there is a right way of doing this, which has nothing to do with the money of who owes who what, it is about everyone being clear that I am right. So I quickly take over, and absolutely make sure that that my perspective becomes the only one. Stuff the money, I now have a platform for all my gifts. A God-opportunity handed to me on a plate. What God has opened no-one can shut.

On this rare occasion my perspective was the right one (nice for once), but now with reflection, why did I have to do it that way? The manageress did not have a leg to stand on. The best part of the experience was going back a little later to find the manageress to apologise to her for being too aggressive. I have no idea if she needed an apology or not, she graciously insisted she did not, but I needed to do that.

I am convinced change is easy. A little humility goes a long way. If I took time to reflect I would quickly understand the blockage to my six decades of slowness to change. A little bit of humility goes a long way, so I guess my lack of change and my wonderful double portion gift of revealing my immaturities just might be connected to a lack of humility. However, surely not, so I will move on very quickly.

A personal perspective because when it comes to something that really matters how difficult change becomes. Prison sentences, separated from families, histories being recounted that go back generations… it is hardly surprising that there are stand-offs. After all I can have a stand-off about 6.00€.

Dialogue and de-escalating potential conflict is not easy, and in Spain right now it will not be easy. Maybe though I will have a few opportunities to add just a little bit of humility to my prayers for the land. I don’t have to know too much about the rights and wrongs of the current situation; I probably won’t have an opportunity to have any level of influence at a visible level, but there will always be something I can do.

We certainly cannot stop what is beneath the surface manifesting. That is clearly a good perspective to hold. But by the grace of God there are aspects beneath the surface that can be so dealt with that they do not manifest, as the soil of history is cleansed.

These next 26 days in Spain running up to yet another election will be so key. We certainly cannot sit back and tick off what manifests. There are events that will take place that turn the outcome, but the nature of those events will be key. Who wins the election is not at all important; the outcome is what is important. A greater level of listening, co-operating, laying down personal agendas – the outcome is what is important.

These are huge days for Spain. There was a ‘transition’ over the years 1975-78 in the move from dictatorship to democracy. In a few days time there will be an event that has been described (and I believe prophetically described) as closing the loop of the Transition. A major door in and through the Transition of 75-78 was a tragic political shooting, right in the area where we live – that being one of the main reasons why we wanted to live here. As the loop closes there will be events. If we can shift something the events can take place in the heavenlies. That would be great. We do not need yet more manifestations of what is there. Enough is visible.

God, Land, People and Personal Maturity

Busy, buy, busy we have been. I have had a full-on week in the UK in Wales and the South-West; while away our area had the strongest storm in 140 years and co-incidentally (or otherwise?) Gayle hosted a very strategic time on ‘the feminisation of politics’. I am convinced that feminisation is absolutely key and there is a connection there to the shifts that are needed at this time, and somehow that will enable a push back against the demonisation of the ‘other’ and open up a receptivity in lands to the enormous enforced people-movements that are currently taking place. I am exploring the death of Jesus being to the distorted image of maleness and the perversion of what it meant to be chosen, and to the allegiance to nationalism, hence dying as a Jewish male.

Frutifulness is very difficult to measure. If an evangelist goes to an unevangelised area and there are a phenomenal number of personal responses to Christ then that might register easily on our ‘fruitfulness’ meter. Maybe church growth is a measure? However, where there is church growth there is also often church shrinking – other expressions go down in number. And how does one measure in a situation where there is little outword personal response to the Gospel? Beyond ‘fruitfulness’ of course faithfulness is the criterion by which we will be measured.

I have been reflecting that perhaps there are four elements that need to come together to produce something of a shift. Taking these in order:

God: being in the place and situation that God has appointed is #1 on the list. The complication with assessing this is that God, being God, shows up where we are… even if we are not where s/he would really like us to be. The presence of God does not signify an approval from heaven as s/he will maximise every situation for blessing. One of the prime examples of this is the anointing of the king when the very choice of kingship was a vote against God! However, let’s assume that the more responsive we are to being in the place or situation that God would desire for us the greater the shift likely around us.

Land: with something over 1200 biblical references this is not a second-rate theme. Where land has been cultivated in a certain way for centuries we can find a real resistance manifesting to those who come in the opposite spirit. Using the metaphor of ‘marrying the land’ in such situations there will be a process. First those coming in a different spirit will find extreme resistance and a whole season where the land seems to bring junk into their situation and home. If those people can hold through eventually – and how long is eventually? – there will be a shift, with the righteous position beginning to flow into the land.

People: those who live in the land have incredible authority. If they welcome those coming in the name of the Lord they open up their immediate situation to the miraculous. (‘Eat what they eat, heal the sick…’; ‘if they welcome you, they welcome me…’) Should they not receive those coming then there is a judgement they bring on that area – Jesus using the comparison with Sodom’s destruction. (Those stories indicating the power of hospitality and the presence of the angelic where there is hospitality.)

If we had a lining up of all three above there remains a fourth element. The personal response to the provocation to grow in maturity.

Through divine help we have been located in Oliva for just over 5 years. We have been blessed that dreams took us here; that over and over we have recognised how good the land has been to us. It was while we were here that we both simultaneously (at a moment of time while we were driving to Zaragoza) that we recognised the land could not evict us. That was an important shift and one we were grateful for. Maybe had we stayed where we were geographically prior to Oliva we might never have reached that stage, or it might have come a lot later, and perhaps if we had moved directly to Madrid (we planned to do so in 2011 and again in 2014 but had our two ‘diversions’) we might have discovered that we could not have continued. We have found such a welcome here, people have pulled us in, befriended us… so there is more to come.

God, land and people. Nicely lined up. It is early days for us in Madrid. Certainly we have had an enormous battle to get into the city, the vision that our entry would be up a sewer pipe has proved to be so accurate. We have had so many challenges to our prayers and prophetic declarations. Proclaiming that Madrid will align to ‘true north’ while watching as on many fronts it has aligned to any direction but.

We have no doubt God has led us, we will have to work hard and consistently for the land to respond, and we pray that there will be those with authority, those of the city who will receive us. Yes, we will need to be focused but some of that is beyond our say so. There is one element that remains… personal maturity! Now that is a challenge. Better stop writing and keep my head down.

PS. In July I wrote about not believing one’s own advertising / publicity and so wrote that I have a new resume to send out..

Martin Scott has had it pretty easy in life so has not learnt so much. He often thinks he knows better and so can be somewhat stubborn. Maybe it is reasonable attribute not to be overly-impressed by the opinions of others, maybe he is just a reticent learner. Many times quick to try and give an answer, can be guilty of pontificating beyond his understanding. (Photo can accompany the above publicity when the invite comes.)

While recently in Plymouth I read this out so that people might know me better. It was responded to by someone as ‘I think you have embellished that somewhat!’ OUCH!!

The Churchill spirit

For some Winston C. was a hero who stood up to the nazi spirit, and it is easy to go along with that – even if one espouses non-violent resistance. There are those who have prophetically and conviction-wise seen the entrance of a certain Mr. B as one coming to the scene (I could not use the ‘kingdom’ there) for such a time as this, and he is anointed with the Churchill spirit. Maybe.

Given that the Spirit of Jesus is pure, but the ‘spirit of Martin’, or the ‘spirit of Churchill’ (or ‘anointing of..’) is mixed what if the ‘spirit of Churchill’ is great in a certain situation and setting – such as when there is the advance of nazism which manifests as domination, crushing and eradicating all difference – but in another setting is anything but in the right direction, such as working with neighbours, hearing and appreciating difference?

Ends the thought for the day.

A (maybe) relevant post

This article might not be of relevance to anyone other than myself, and given that I end it with ‘the relevance of the article is that this article might just not be relevant’ I am not sure who I expect to read it, but here goes…

Been a challenging year to say the least; maybe the most personally insulting of any of our now (almost) 11 years in Spain. I don’t expect anyone likes to face failure, and truth is failure is very hard to define. In the important areas of life, that of personal relationships and for those of us who are married, those familiar relationships are not easy to assess. I consider I get an ‘average’ in those set. Anyway the areas of husbanding and parenting are not two areas where a ‘failure/ success’ category seems appropriate, and my mantra has been , ‘just muddle along’. Indeed a lot of life I seem to have approached in that way! It is more when we get into the areas of doing something that we should be able to do but come up short that the ‘failure’ category seems to kick in. And that is where the sentence of this paragraph has relevance – been a tough year.

We had some simple tasks, and not just some simple tasks, but revelation with them to enable the tasks to be fulfilled. The signs that we had done something close to fulfilling what we were to do would be visible in the public arena. On both fronts the signs have either not manifested or even the opposite has become visible. That makes for a tough year. Maybe even the ‘failure’ label is justified.

There are some riders which I hope I do not make into excuses:

  • The apostolic vision is marked by ‘patience’. A long term vision is required in which there will be setbacks and advances.
  • No kingdom activity is wasted. Harvests are reaped after seed has been sown. Seed ‘dies’ when it enters the ground. Jesus (Jn. 4) informed the disciples that they would reap where they had not sown, but it is not possible to reap where no-one has sown.
  • Sometimes aspects we want to shift get visibly stronger before they shift. There is a final manifestation (or series of final manifestations) before the change.
  • We see in part, no-one has the whole picture.

In life we all fail but two key things seem to be important. To fail does not make us a failure. Thank God for that! And secondly, we can only make tentative responses as our assessment is warped.

Might have been a tough year. In some ways that is almost irrelevant. So the relevance of the article is that this article might just not be relevant.

Without languages the world languishes

Sub-title: Would Jesus get a PhD?

Reason for this post: writing helps me think and also Steve Lowton and I have just had an hour or in conversation, so he is partly to blame.

There are so many languages spoken, so many combinations of words and sounds used to communicate.

Gayle and I are very interested in how movements grow and develop. In Spain there is a political movement that pushes back strongly against the status quo. We do not expect any movement to be perfect, but some of the aspects of this movement have impacted us. At the core, and at the roots of its birth, are a set of relationships that were involved together at the University and academic world. Iron has sharpened iron in that environment. So often movements for change have a strong philosophy at their roots, a philosophy worked out in the academic world.

Maybe this is how it is meant to be… Maybe the academic world is the place that initiates change. However, there is a difficulty for many of us in this. If we are not versed in the literature, and do not have the intellectual ability to access it, we will find it hard to critique what is being presented. Let me give a simple example. I have been hugely influenced by N.T. Wright. Why? Is it because I have judged what he presents as being on the ball? Or is it (and much more likely) I do not have the means to see where he is missing it and therefore he must be right? If I had been exposed to someone else maybe they would have convinced me.

Remember the days of debate on women in leadership? (Thank God so many, many years ago.) A pro-women in leadership could present the biblical material one week, the ‘male is leadership’ person the next. Then the rest of us could be convinced one way on week 1 and the other on week 2. Or the current debate on same-sex unions. Read author 1… and I am so convinced; read author 2… I have changed my mind. Truth is on many issues we do not simply have the ability to work it out intellectually.

Back to N.T. Wright and other such genuinely bright (and humble) people. There are many aspects of N.T. Wright’s writings that I like, and I respect enormously that he can write at an academic level and a popular one. If I can (just about) access the popular level it does not make me his equal!

I am sure the academic world is important. The world of analysing and dissecting, thesis, counter-thesis etc. But is it the only voice we need to hear?

A movement I am very keen on is that of Liberation Theology. Birthed in the favellas of South America, allowing for interpretation of Scripture that was not academically based but a ‘how do you read this from your oppressed situation?’ That kind of question is so important. I am sure not the only question that needs to be asked, nor the only people who need to have a voice, but people and voice that is seldom heard.

Much is often made of the uneducated nature of many of the disciples of Jesus – a number pulled from the world of the norhtern fisheries, not from those who had completed first and second degrees. Maybe because of that some of their writings are not as theologically dense as we might think… Maybe even in the case of Paul, someone who was probably pretty intellectual, we might find him pulling a face if he could see all the theologies written that explain what he was really saying. What if he was unable to access the theologies on his writings because what was written was just simply beyond him?

And back to the sub-title. Did Jesus have the intellectual ability to obtain a PhD? I don’t think we should automatically assume he did. He certainly had wisdom beyond any other wisdom, but that does not mean he had the intellectual ability to access the academic world at that level.

OK, coming in to land after such a waffle. There are many voices. Most are very small. Most of us have learnt so little, but the voice has value, and it is in the multiplicity and diversity of voice that the voice of God is heard: the sound of many running waters.

God bless the academics, but if I have a say on it at any level, let’s have a strong breath from heaven to amplify the voice on the street.

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