Friday 10 December 2010

Punctuating My Day With Theology

david kerrigan A quick early morning glance at Catriona’s blog led me to David’s blog…and then I had to make myself stop and get on with housework! [any excuse to procrastinate]

David Kerrigan [General Director of BMS World Mission] said this in a post entitled ‘Cosmic Comma’

We spent a day with Stuart Murray-Williams looking at Anabaptist history, theology and spirituality and its possible implications for BMS. It was a fascinating day, well presented, easy to engage with and highly relevant…

For example, we are familiar with the line from the creed “…born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…” to which Stuart added ruefully “the whole of life between birth and death reduced to a comma!”…

Maybe our mission, 'should we choose to accept it', is not to mention the death of Jesus in a Christmas sermon this year. When our message is condensed to ‘he came... to die’ we perpetuate the mistake of the cosmic comma.

David went on to suggest that our Advent sermons should be about Jesus’ LIFE on earth – How he walked where we walk, he lived as a man, went to weddings and funerals, shared in the joys and sorrows. That we should focus on his life, rather than go straight from the stable to the tomb. He concluded

Tell people about the comma! Tell them about life. There’ll be time enough for death

So I have pottered about, reflecting on this as I decluttered and tidied and cleaned [theological reflection is a good thing to do on a morning like this, it takes my mind of the dull and depressing side of housework!]

There is much good stuff in what David says, but I have added this comment to his blog

David, I take your point. I am glad our children's nativity play this year begins and ends in the carpenter's workshop in Nazareth, stressing that Jesus didn't stay a baby but grew up to be a man etc. [Although I do admit the very last line mentions his death for us!]
What concerns me about your challenge to 'omit the cross from Christmas sermons' is that many of the people who will come into our building over the next few weeks will genuinely never have made the connection between the cradle and the cross.
Whilst I agree that it is VITAL to help them see the glory of the Incarnation [thanks Chris Duffett, for the brilliant Get In The Picture initiative, which has helped with that] surely it is also CRUCIAL to share the joy of the Resurrection?

If we are talking about commas and punctuation, I think it is wonderful that for a Christian, a sentence of life doesn't end with the full stop of death.
He rose again!
The future is assured...
So how then shall we live?

But then it is easy for me to comment – unlike David, [and all the many clergy-persons who have commented on his post] I do not have to prepare and preach a dozen Christmas sermons over the next 2 weeks!


If you ever get the opportunity to hear David preach, I recommend you do. He’s good! [and he is doing the KMFC Church Anniversary here, in November next year]

Now back to the cleaning…


  1. Very interesting (as always) Angela! It is brave to step away from talking about Jesus' death when people will only hear one sermon a year, but perhaps we're forgetting that God is in control of what they will hear/experience/understand the rest of the year, not us.

    A preacher came to our church recently and talked about how God had told him to give a stranger a hat one day (long story), on the condition that every time this chap wore his hat, he would remember that God loved him.

    The preacher was content that God was in charge of the big picture of this man's life, and that he himself was just one of the players God used, at that particular minute. He suggested that we try to control people too much, giving them everything we think they need to hear, when in fact only God is in control. If we are content that we answered God's instructions, we shouldn't worry about filling in the gaps that seem to be left. Those gaps aren't for us, they're in God's hands.

    Perhaps it is the life of Jesus that will draw people nearer to him, so that in time, they will also come to understand his death for them.

    These aren't certainties in my mind - you've just got me thinking!

  2. Thanks for that truly helpful comment, Floss. I think this is a train of thought that will run and run for a little while yet...

  3. Interesting - maybe at Christmas we should also be singing 'He Lives!' Lots of food for thought here.

  4. Do you know Angela, as we say the creed each week I have never given much thought to the "comma" as we pause at it. I will be thinking about it all day!
    Our Rev always tells us to pretend, during Lent, that we do not know what is coming.You would think that it is impossible not to, but Maundy Thursday and Good Friday arrive and lo and behold, we are able to be 'in the moment'.
    As Floss said, it is God who is control of what we feel and experience.
    Jane x

  5. Good to hear other's thoughts on David's post.

    Well done for doing the evil that is housework... I hope heavenly mansions are dust free!

    Isn't it great how we can be made to think and to focus on just how enormous is the mystery of Christ and find ourselves both challenged and reassured in the process?

  6. Very thought provoking Angela - thanks for passing it on and adding to it. Blessings!

  7. Such an interesting post, and so many interesting replies. I especially liked what Floss had to say.

    Now I will always think of the comma when saying the creed ...



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