From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Disconcertingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Thursday, 19 January, 2012, 08:22 AM - JamesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
The Artist has turned out to be a surprise success story. It's a movie that reminds us that words are not the only way to communicate. A great deal can be conveyed by facial expression. Take the exchange of glances between Sarkozy and Merkel when asked about Berlusconi.
Then there was a widow, only a few years into her bereavement, who said "I can't picture his face any more." It added to her grief.
Which brings me effortlessly onto everyone's favourite founder of Christianity, Saint Paul. He said that when he dies and goes to heaven, as he most surely would, he'd get to see a great big smile on the face of the Invisible Magic Friend. What's totally unique about Christianity is that the Invisible Magic Friend (whom we refer to as "The Word" because it sounds more mysterious and profound and theological and stuff, and definitely a whole load better than "Invisible Magic Friend" does) briefly became visible and is believed to have made some facial expressions. Although no one thought to sketch them at the time so they mainly just wrote down his words.
You get people who just like to look at statues of "The Word" on the cross. There isn't much in the way of verbal communication in these exchanges and the statue generally has a fairly fixed expression, but I think one expression is better than none at all, don't you?
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Incandescently Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 08:28 AM - JamesRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Happy one hundredth anniversary of Scott not reaching the Antarctic first and everybody dying on the way back everybody!
Scott's example is a testament to the bravery, endurance, stoicism, toughness, fortitude, tenacity, backbone, courage and many other fine thesaurus entries of the human spirit. Yes, everything went hopelessly wrong and everybody died, but is survival to be the only measure of success? I mean winning at things, coming out of it all alive, well, it's just not very British is it?
Where's the inspiration in people who just go around achieving things all the time? There's got to be failure, tragedy, humiliation and death. These are the things that inspire us all to follow in the footsteps of those who have failed before us.
This explains why Christianity has been so popular. People like a good story of torture and death but where the good guy eventually comes out on top. In fact, the story is so well designed that you might even think that it's an entirely fictional account which appeals precisely because it includes all the right story telling elements, plus some extra goodies like eternal life and so on.
So let's hear it for Captain Scott and Christianity, the very best of British!
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Mind-blowingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
The rules regarding adoption are to be reviewed.
Parents. Babies. Adoption. It's Christmas Eve. I wonder where I should go with this story? Hmmm... difficult one. I hadn't anticipated such an awkward news story appearing. Somehow I've got to relate parents, babies and adoption into what I was going to say about the True Meaning of Christmas.
I mean, if one of Jesus' parents had been an adoptive parent then I think I might have had an angle on this. Oh, wait! Joseph was! Phew, that was a bit of luck! Brilliant! That means I can talk about the visible bit of the invisible Magic Friend becoming visible after all.
Joseph was initially going to split up with Mary due to her having a baby that he couldn't recall playing any part in. Fortunately, the Angel Gabriel informed him that she'd been blessed by the particularly invisible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and that the baby was in fact going to be the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. This came as considerable relief to Joseph who decided to stay with her while she remained a virgin for the rest of her life. Presumably Joseph did too.
With all their fussy rules about protecting children, those politically correct bureaucrats gone mad down at the town hall, probably wouldn't have allowed Joseph to adopt nowadays, even when he told them about the Angel Gabriel. Joseph wouldn't have learned about the way children mess up your life. My wife and I had to constantly cancel our wild parties and boozy nights down the pub.
And that is the True Meaning of Christmas.
Happy Christmas to you all!
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Bombastically Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
It's Armistice day today. Lots of people will observe the two minutes silence at 11 o'clock: at home, in the office, at the supermarket, on the train, in cafés, shops and restaurants, in car parks, at airports, in police and fire stations, in hospitals, in libraries, in bowling alleys, at sports grounds and many, many other places too.
The two minutes silence was invented by Edward Honey, except he called it a five minutes silence. It was reinvented by Percy Fitzpatrick, who decided that a two minutes silence would be better if it was called a two minutes silence. George V, who was the head of the British Empire at the time, thought this was a really good idea.
Quiet people are usually very nice people. Monks are quiet and they're really nice. Who ever heard of a monk doing anything bad? Jesus was really nice too and I can't recall him ever saying anything at all.
So, wherever you may be when you observe the two minutes silence today, just think how much nicer it could have been if we'd had a five minutes silence.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Stupefyingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Saint Paul's Cathedral remains closed. This is a direct consequence of the land disputes in the Middle East. Libya, on the other hand has got lots of land, but will they have peaceful elections? Which brings me to the money changers in the Temple, where Jesus got angry and quoted Isaiah.
The clergy in Saint Paul's are united in their support for the protesters that have caused it to close. They just rather wish they'd go and protest somewhere else. There are arguments between neighbours about fences. Which brings me straight back to Libya. United by their hatred of Gaddafi, will they remain united now? Or will they not be united but still remain loyal to Libya?
From this we see that bankers and traders are not gentiles, which means that health and safety is not the issue. We need to make more space.
I trust I make myself clear.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Bewilderingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
Dictators are toppling all over North Africa. They're not toppling in Zimbabwe however. Robert Mugabe, a member of a totally different branch of Christianity, and therefore nothing to do with us, recently lost one of his political rivals in an "accident" - this tends to happen to his political rivals rather a lot.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is going to Zimbabwe next month, so that should sort things out. As well as sorting out Mugabe, he'll also want to deal with the renegade Anglican bishop, and full time Mugabe supporter, Nolbert Kunonga who likes to beat up Anglican priests for a hobby.
People seem to understand the concept of "justice" even when there is very little of it in their society. Anyone would think it was instinctive.
It says as much in the Old Tasty mint. Right there in the Psalms it says, "Oh your mighty incredibleness, could we have some justice please? It's just there hasn't been a lot of it about lately and if you could give us just a little bit, we'd praise you even more - not that we weren't going to praise you an awful lot anyway."
So there you have it, it says in the Big Book of Magic Stuff that people yearn for law and order, so it must be true.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Staggeringly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
And in breaking news, we can announce that the Roman Empire has fallen. I repeat, the Roman Empire has fallen.
The great Libyan city of Leptis Magna now lies in ruins. As I'm sure you will all recall, North Africa was the bread basket of the Roman Empire. It was intellectually rich too as it had many Christians even before it became officially Christian. These great Christian intellectuals, intellectualised a great deal about Christianity. It's thanks to them that Christianity is as intellectual as wot it is today.
One citizen of Leptis Magna even went on to become Roman Emperor: Septimius Severus. He died at York. He told his sons, "Get on with each other, be generous to your soldiers and scorn everyone else." Septimius Severus, despite coming from North Africa, which was just packed full of Christian intellectuals, was not himself a Christian intellectual and so can safely be ignored.
Libya shows a shocking lack of Christian intellectuals these days. The new leaders of Libya should take some advice from the New Tasty mint, where Saint Paul wittered on, as ever, about Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend. Here we have no enduring city, but wait for the city that is to come.
The fall of the Roman Empire reminds us that all things pass. Fortunately, its great Christian intellectual tradition didn't die with it and I am still here to remind you of it.
New guidelines for school trips have just been released. Teachers are recommended that they use their common sense in relation to pupil safety. The previous 150 page guidelines dwarfed the ten commandments, although the Big Book of Magic Stuff as a whole was rather larger.
Children have to be allowed to take risks. Sticking their hands in boiling water teaches them that steam contains a lot of energy. Sinking below the water in a bath reveals Archimedes principle. Injecting themselves with pus from cow diseases will eventually allow them to discover the benefits of vaccination.
I took a risk once. My children persuaded me to try out a water chute at a water park. As I careered down the chute, the words of the great Kierkegaard came to mind "Weeeeee!!!" I took this risk because I had faith, faith in the engineers that constructed the water chute.
In a similar vein, the protesters in Syria are taking risks. Like me, they too have faith, faith that together they can dismantle dictatorship and build a new tomorrow. You see what a good thing "faith" is. Saint Paul agreed with me about this, so I must be right. As we're all agreed that "faith" in general is such a good thing, faith in an Invisible Magic Friend must be a good thing too.
I've mentioned engineers, scientists, naturalists, theologians and saints. I've just got time to throw in a quick philosopher: Plato.
It's people who take risks that make the future. If bankers hadn't taken risks with other people's money, where would we be today?
Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 08:37 AM - JamesRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
And in today's reflection on the news from a faith perspective, I'm going to be meeting some future priests today! Why do people still want to become Church of England clergy? Is it the comfortable accommodation? The guaranteed pension? The constant invitations to weddings, wakes and other ceremonies with tea and sandwiches? The fancy dress? The Church of England is certainly not fashionable or glamorous. As churches go, it's one of the dullest there is. You wouldn't believe how drab and uninteresting the Church of England is.
Like teachers, lawyers and doctors, priests are professional people with a vocation, a calling. Teachers have a calling to pass on learning, lawyers have a calling to squeeze as much money out of their clients as possible, doctors have a calling to heal the sick. It's the same with priests. Not everyone wants some amateur humanist performing their funeral, eating their cucumber sandwiches and sipping their Earl Grey. They want a fully trained professional who knows how to hold a sandwich properly, who knows how to sip tea without making those horrible slurping noises, who doesn't get nervous around fine bone china tea cups.
Church of England priests do all this because they love their jobs. They don't do it for the money or the prestige, or the fact that they get to come on the Today Programme and tell everybody that they don't do it for the money or the prestige. It's such a shame that the people who do things simply for the sake of it aren't appreciated any more. The word "amateur" should be cherished and celebrated... er... except in connection with funerals, where you definitely want a trained professional and not some clumsy amateur who just does it because they like doing it.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Swashbucklingly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
A recent study suggests that women need to speak more forthrightly in the testosterone filled environment of British board rooms. There is also evidence to suggest that women are less risky investors.
It's not so much this alleged male/female divide that should concern us. As a Swashbucklingly Reverend Lord Bishop, what bothers me is that aggressive, spontaneous style of leadership is regarded as decisive and strong, when more thoughtful, questioning management is thought of as weak and dithering.
Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend, sometimes chose a male style of leadership and sometimes a female style. It all depended what sort a mood he was in really. "I'm God, so you just do what I tell you to," he would sometimes say. At other times he preferred to maintain his air of mystery and ineffableness by answering a question with a question and not really saying anything. Then there was his famous self deprecating style. "I'm such a lousy visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend," he would say. "I'm not at all sure I'm going to be any good at dying to save the world."
We need more leaders like Jesus in our investment banks.