Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad

OK, you’ve probably seen it before, but here’s a little festive joy from the wonderful North Point Ministries iband.


The unseen (but not always silent) audience

A few years ago I took a class in Biblical hermeneutics (how we interpret the texts of the Bible) for an MA degree. One of the things that hadn’t really occurred to me until then was to consider not only the intended audience for a text, but also the audience who might be “listening in,” and what their reaction might be. So, for example, the writer of a psalm might address his composition to a king. But when it is recited at court, there are others – courtiers, ambassadors, the king’s family – who also listen and receive a message from the text. Similarly, Paul might write a letter to an individual (say, Timothy) or a congregation like the one at Ephesus (OK, I’m taking a viewpoint on authorship here I know, but bear with me). He has things to say which apply to a particular situation. But he is also aware that others may also read or hear the contents of the letter and apply it to themselves, maybe in a slightly different context. Whether he had any inkling that, almost 2,000 years later, people hundreds or thousands of miles away might try to work out a meaning to apply to their very different context is, I would suggest, rather unlikely.

The Gospels depict Jesus in conversation with individuals and with groups like the Pharisees and the Sadducees. But very often we are aware that there is a large audience surrounding them. Sometimes the audience sides with Jesus, at other times they are put off by what they hear. Sometimes their reaction is in marked contrast to the primary audience. A disabled man has words of forgiveness spoken to him, is healed and goes off rejoicing, while another group starts muttering about the implied theology of what they have just witnessed. A group comes to score debating points off Jesus, but go away to the jeers of the crowd.

But this post is not really about Biblical hermeneutics at all. The question of the “unseen audience” is one that we need increasingly to be aware of in these technologically driven times. On a personal scale, we need to be aware that that photo we posted on Facebook of us being rather silly on a friends’ night out might have an audience that includes our employer, and that it might be interepreted in a way we might not particular wish. Or that tweet we posted that mentioned that we were off for a three month jaunt around the world might as well have said, “Please burgle me.”

When we hear politicians speaking, we often ask just who it is they speak to. Is it a home audience – their own electorate – or a foreign government or global enterprise? These days, there is an increasing awareness that if an MP gives a speech locally, say, concerning her views on some aspect of Islam, those words may well be reported not only in the UK but in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

So when it comes to blogging we need to remember the unseen audience, too. Whether posting on our own blog or ocommenting on someone else’s, we need to remember that our words are becoming public. They are not simply a private conversation between two people. This needs especially to be remembered if the two people actually know one another in real life. Other people are “listening in” to the conversation. And, being a public medium, they are perfectly entitled to join in the conversation themselves, whatever their point of view. And if you don’t feel they have quite understood, correct them gently and factually and don’t assume they have nothing of value to contribute if they don’t agree with every word you say.

Doctor Who and Belgian Jazz

Talking with the younger sapling last night, the subject of the inimitable Bill Bailey came up. We both felt the urge to listen to one of my favourite pieces of his – accompanying a very clever edit of clips from the various series of Doctor Who. Sci-fi meets cool piano jazz meets O-Level/GCSE French in a very witty way. What’s not to like?

Or for those who prefer a live performance, try this:

Saying sorry – Canadian style

Our Christian faith is big on forgiveness – particularly on our need of God’s forgiveness, and on God’s willingness to extend it. In the Church of England, most of our liturgies include a section for confession of our sin and a declaration of God’s forgiveness for those who are truly penitent. In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer these prayers of confession rather dwell on our unworthiness and wretchedness; which may be true, but I have begun to wonder what the long-term effects of reciting this language week after week have been in congregations where this has been regular practice. To me though, New Testament doesn’t seem to encourage quite this level of introspection. Rather, it encourages us to receive and rejoice in the forgiveness freely offered. Is our liturgical practice part of the root of the lack of self-confidence one finds in many congregations and congregants?

On the other hand, we have recently seen the growth of the non-apology in public life – the sort of thing where a politician regrets that others have been hurt/offended by some words or action, but makes no real apology or change in behaviour or attitude.

Lesley Fellowes has some observations about saying sorry here, including this wonderful example (H/T  Simple Massing Priest):


Image by Ian Britton courtesy of

Checking the site stats this morning, I notice that traffic to this blog has now reached 1,000 hits. Over a period of 9 and a half months (with a bit of a hiatus in the middle of the year) that isn’t a huge amount compared with some of the high-ranking members of the blogosphere (but hey, that’s not why we do this, is it?). However, it does mean that on 1,000 occasions some of you took the trouble to check out the site, read a little, and one or two of you were even kind enough to leave a comment. And for that I thank you.