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Showing posts from 2018

Art Lester's Anniversary Sermon 2008

(I'm reproducing this sermon here just because I worry it might be lost if it's taken down from other websites, and I think this sermon shouldn't be lost, because it still says it all for me. It was delivered at the Unitarian Annual Meetings in 2008) "Reasonless Hope and Joy" Art Lester There are some things I'd like to tell my friends and companions on this odd pilgrimage we are making together. When I was first invited to preach this sermon there might have been some thought of grand words, of raising issues that affect the whole world. But in the end I decided that I really just wanted to talk about us, about who we are and where we're heading.  Right now, maybe we're all feeling a bit vulnerable. There has been recent news of a predator that seems to be stalking us. This predator's ghastly breathing is audible over our hymns, and its fearsome head can be seen through our stained glass windows. You know this beast. Its name is  demographix

The Womb of God

When I was in prayer a few years ago I found myself stumbling across an image that has stayed with me - the image of the womb of God . While trying to meditate I was concentrating on my breath. In and out. In and out. Then I began to try to experience that every breath was a gift from God, every breath an expression of love, every breath the holy spirit going in and of my lungs (I think I got this practice from Anthony de Mello). The image that came to mind from this was to think of every breath as coming from a divine umbilical cord. I began to think of myself being supported by the body of God. I thought of every sound I could hear (distant traffic, birdsong, the hum of my fridge) as being the heartbeat of God (or maybe the rumbling of God's stomach).  The world around me is the body of God. The universe around me is God. I am supported and fed by the very body of God in every moment of existence. I return to this image (though it's a feeling more than an i

Reflections on "A New Mecca"

The following words are a slightly extended version of the words I spoke as part of a performance event called “A New Mecca” marking the eightieth anniversary of the opening of the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff on 23rd November 2018. If there's one thing that struck me about the opening ceremony of the Temple of Peace in 1938 is that it's basically a Christian service. There's Bible readings and there's prayers and there's hymns. It's a perfect example of what we call Christendom – where church, and state power, and culture are seen as being in alignment: one God, one power, one empire, one culture, one story. Of course it was never that simple, there were always different realities, different stories. But only one story got told. When this place was opened – this was the one story that they told. Eighty years later that reality has been fractured. Some may regret it, but the truth cannot be denied. And today some of us look back with

Believing in God is totally nuts

It seems to me that believing in God is totally nuts. I mean, it's totally nuts, isn't it? It sort of surprises me that "religious" people don't admit this, but talk like "oh yeah, this religion stuff totally makes sense, how silly to be an atheist." But it really, absolutely doesn't make sense. I mean, "religious" people talk like there's this person in their life, who's in charge, and who has plans for them, and who they love, yet there's no one there . I mean, obviously there's no one there. This person is invisible and can't be seen or heard, you can't point to them, and say "there they are, let me introduce you to my friend God." There's no one there to be introduced to, no one to shake your hand, not a human, not an anything. It seems to me that any person who is not insane has to admit that this is true. Trying to say, "oh no, you see, it's really logical to believe in God, and her

Mission, pioneer ministry, and climate change

I increasingly feel a kind of a disconnect with a lot of what I read in the realm of pioneer ministry, fresh expressions of church, and that kind of thing. I try to keep up with a few books and articles and websites. I certainly have a lot to learn and I'm always grateful for anyone who is able to share their experience and reflection. But when it comes to the foundational questions of what we're doing and why, I feel a kind of disconnect. Not just because I'm liberal and pluralistic, though of course that is a difference. But because I have a totally different sense of what is urgent and important. Christian writers on fresh expressions of church and mission seem to talk as if the greatest problem is secularisation. As if the greatest problem in the world is that people don't go to church, that denominations are in decline, that there are generations and cultures of people missing from our churches. This is true of liberal churches as much as conservative ones.

Twelve Years to Stop the Climate Crisis

As has been reported this week , we have twelve years to keep climate change below a 1.5 degrees increase. Twelve years to stop a climate catastrophe that will kill millions. Twelve years to turn things around. This will require a "unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society" - in other words it will require the kind of sacrifice, massive effort, and pulling together we last saw in the Second World War. It will require a complete transformation. So basically if every business, political party, faith community, government is not putting climate change as their number one priority, they are being irresponsible. We have twelve years - what are you going to do in the next twelve years? There are certain lifestyle things we can do, sure: vegetarianism, stop flying so much, all that stuff, but that's not enough. Indeed, as some have argued it is a deliberate con to make us think we can stop climate change through personal consumer choices . It is a deliberate

The climate crisis is a spiritual crisis (video)


The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’… Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’ In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew li

The Challenge of Cultivating Boundless Goodwill

Le t us cultivate boundless goodwill. Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none in anger or ill-will wish another harm. Even as a mother watches over a child, so with boundless mind should one cherish all living beings, radiating friendliness over the whole world, above, below, and all around, without limit.  The Metta Sutta   During my final year in seminary, I decided to do a chapel for the faculty and students at the school, at which time I planned to expound on this pure and lovely gospel of universal human affirmation. The morning of the chapel, I arose early and poured over my powerful and polemically perfect text. I was privately proud in advance of the depth and passion with which I grasped the essence of my Universalist heritage. As I walked the mile or so from my home to the school, my head was down as I silently rehearsed to myself all of the beautiful phrases I had crafted to make my sermon on Universalism come alive. As I approache

Ar Antur Arloesi yng Nghaerdydd

Ar Antur Arloesi yng Nghaerdydd Mae’r Undodiaid wedi penodi Stephen Lingwood i fath gwahanol o weinidogaeth yng Nghaerdydd. ‘Gweinidog Arloesi’ yw ei deitl ffurfiol ac yma mae’ n esbonio’r antur ... Nid dim ond mater o fynd i rywle ar ddydd Sul yw ffydd, ond ffordd o fyw. Dyna pam fy mod i’n cael fy nghyflogi yn “Weinidog Arloesi” yng Nghaerdydd, nid i wasanaethu’r eglwys, ond i wasanaethu’r ddinas gyfan. Fy ngwaith yw byw yng Nghaerdydd a bod ar gael i bwy bynnag sydd eisiau siarad รข fi, gan chwilio yr un pryd am gyfleoedd i greu cyfiawnder a heddwch yn y ddinas. Sut beth ydi hyn? Weithiau mae’n golygu bod gydag eraill ar y strydoedd yn casglu sbwriel; weithiau mae’n golygu protestio yn Ffair Arfau Caerdydd; weithiau mae’n golygu eistedd mewn bar a siarad gyda phwy bynnag sydd o gwmpas (wedi’r cyfan, onid oedd Iesu wedi treulio lot o’i amser yn gwneud yr un peth?) Y pwynt yw defnyddio fy amser i arddangos ysbrydolrwydd bywhaol trwy fy ngeiriau a’m gweithredoedd. Mae’r ysbr

God - My Imaginary Friend

I hold the Lion's Paw Whenever I dance. I know the ecstasy of the falcon's wings When they make love against the sky, And the sun and the moon Sometimes argue over Who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun Than anyone on this planet You are absolutely correct. But Hafiz Is willing to share all his secrets About how to befriend God. Indeed, dear ones, Hafiz is so very willing To share all his secrets About how to know the Beautiful One. I hold the Lion's Paw whenever I dance. The psychologist Eileen Kennedy Moore tells the story of a friend of hers who was backing out of her drive one day, with her three children in the car, when one of them cried out “STOP!!” She hit the brakes and looked around wondering if she was about to hit, or be hit, by something. “What?” she asked, “You’re about to run over Boopsie!” was her child’s reply. Boopise was the child’s imaginary friend. I’ve noticed over the

Edward Carpenter - Prophet of Body and Soul

(This a reflection of mine from a few years ago) “Do I contract myself? Very well then I contract myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”   Imagine yourself in vast museum or art gallery in the pitch black dead of night. You have one torch which shines a narrow beam of light in front of you. You can view the objects and images all around you, but only one at a time by shining your light. Now imagine that each picture in the gallery shows an experience of your life. One picture shows your first day at school, another your first kiss, your wedding day, or when you had children, or the thousand million other individual moments that make up your life. Which picture truly represents who you are? Which experience defines you? Or, do all of the images, all of the experiences, make up who you are? Or is the true “you” the one who carries the torch and who gazes on all these experiences from some other level of existence? This is an image that is