Archives For Gospel


September 22, 2017 — Leave a comment

No one does His Eye is On The Sparrow, as well as M.J.

For me, it’s the octave dip. The overall chilled dynamic and the presence heard in her voice, as heart meets sigh, song becomes prayer, and another broken heart is lifted to an awareness of God’s embrace.

It’s said that when Martin Luther King Jnr. was overly troubled, he’d ring Mahalia and ask for her to intercede through song. I can see why.

Afternoons deserve a little Mahalia.

Related reading:

A Voice Like This: Mahalia Jackson

Advent Day 4: A glorious light, suspending Night

Coleridge Carol111

Coleridge: A Christmas Carol.


The shepherds went their hasty way,

 And found the lowly stable-shed

Where the Virgin-Mother lay:

 And now they checked their eager tread,

For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,

A mother’s song the Virgin-Mother sung


They told her how a glorious light,

Streaming from  heavenly throng,

Around them shone, suspending night!

While sweeter than a mother’s song,

Blest Angels heralded the Saviour’s birth,

Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.


She listened to the tale divine,

 And closer still the Babe she prest;

And while she cried: ‘The Babe is mine!’

 The milk rushed faster to her breast:

Joy rose within her, like a summer’s morn;

Peace, Peace on Earth!

The Prince of Peace is born.


I find the phrase ‘sweeter than a mother’s song’ interesting. I immediately wonder, what could be sweeter? Then with a jovial tone, I imagine, its author, both a poet and a theologian, answering me: “Why the euangelion! The Gospel. For without Jesus there could be no gospel. The shepherds, now evangelists proclaim the Good news heralded by Angels. In a sense both Joseph and Mary’s choices have been validated. This.Is.For real. The Angels message sent through the shepherds confirm, that what was, now is!…now pass to me the eggnog!”

There are eight stanza’s to this poem. Morning Sun_STC_0012In the first three which are presented above Coleridge focuses heavily on motherhood, in the remaining five he shifts into a discussion about war, poverty, and the veneer of Christianity sometimes used by those in power (nominalism & injustice).

Unlike other works of his, thankfully, it is easy to catch the depth of his meaning. In a sense, this is evidenced by language that unpacks the story of a real, very human mother, present with her new-born child. Compared to some of his earlier poetry it doesn’t get any more real than the raw way in which Coleridge describes the relationship between mother and son. For example: Coleridge’s description of breastfeeding; a hint at the nurture, or real work ahead.

On the surface there appears to be a contrast between the mother’s song before shepherds, and the herald issued by Angels to them; a contrast between a human and angelic being. However, it is quite probable that Coleridge’s use of the phrase “mother’s song” is a metaphor for the joy, care, hope and vulnerability.This is supported by the phrase ‘joy rose within her, like a summer’s morn’. Human elements that would have been present in what we have come to know as the Nativity.

If I had more time, I would love to dig more into this poem. For the moment, I’m content to reflect theologically on the image of a ‘suspended night’, and wonder about answers to the question, what could be more sweeter than a mother’s song?


Coleridge, S.T 1997 The Complete Poems, Penguin Classics, p.273
Images: Both background photos are mine. Text and overlays: Picmonkey

When the task of defining preaching is put before me I favour Walter Brueggemann’s concept of ‘funding imagination’ (1993, p.20).This task, he writes:

‘is to provide the pieces, materials, and resources out of which a new world can be imagined. Our responsibility, then, is not a grand scheme or a coherent system, but the voicing of a lot of little pieces out of which people can put life together in fresh configurations’ (The Bible and postmodern imagination 1993, p.20)…It is sparking ‘the human capacity to picture, portray, receive, and practice the world in ways other than it appears to be at first glance when seen through a dominant, habitual, unexamined lens’
(The Bible and postmodern imagination 1993, p.13).

Preaching is about lifestyle, it is about creating (homiletics) a platform for the Gospel to transform, criticise and impact us instead of us transforming the gospel. As John Webster writes ‘if the Gospel does not do this it cannot be regarded as the Gospel, but as human isegesis’.

The power of this statement should impact our ideas of preaching because whatever form preaching may take, the content must be the Good News, the Euangelion-proclamation where we ‘encounter God’s action’ (David McGregor, 2012). In this way ‘Church becomes a spiritual event and a not only a structure of human society’ (McGregor, 2012).

Preaching as ‘funding imagination’ leads to a practical ‘theology of confrontation whereby the Gospel has a platform to sharply call into question the presuppositions of secular culture…the Gospel is not added to what humanity already knows but, instead, overturns human knowledge and calls men and women to break with their past orientation (lifestyle)’ (Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical theology 2006, p.287 emphasis mine).

In addition Charles Spurgeon pointed out that preaching is intrinsic to lifestyle. This is found in his caveat that

‘our characters must be more persuasive than our speech’
(Lectures to my Students 1954, p.17).

Spurgeon’s caveat here is reinforced by the notion that ‘only the Holy Spirit can make the message, act or art credible and knowable’ (Bloesch 2006, p.72). Whilst my reflection here is not entirely definitive, it does serve to prove that a central element in preaching is that it ‘funds imagination’. Preaching, whether that is through art, music, dance, memes, chatting over coffee or simply sharing a testimony proclaims Good News.

This Good News ‘disorientates us in order to reorientate us towards God’s commanded orientation’ (Barth, Brueggemann, Webster, McGregor). This Good News is that Jesus the Christ is for us and His acts in life, death and resurrection summon us to respond. In sum perhaps preaching could be viewed as something we do when we ‘wonder at something, then invite others to wonder with us’ (Austin Kleon Blog: Notes on writing and drawing, 2011)


Source: Austin Kleon Blog: How to steal like an artist: notes on writing and drawing, 2011.