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The End Times

Posted on 24 May 2011, 22:00

Recent rumours of the end of the world - again - reminded me of a snatch of conversation from my ‘Conversations with Jesus of Nazareth’.

As ever, my words are mine, but more importantly, his words are his.

Like everyone else at the time, Jesus used apocalyptic imagery about the end times. But two things struck me as we spoke. First, he said no one knew when the end would be, except his father in heaven. (A truth that seems to have by-passed a number of pulpits.)

And second, and quite unlike anyone else, he was forever dragging the end times into the present, and indeed into the past, the eternal moment.

Our origins are both our present and our future, he claimed, as this brief dialogue reveals:

S: So tell me teacher, what will be our end?

J: What do you know of the beginning so that you now seek the end?

S: I don’t know. Is the beginning important?

J: Where the beginning is, there the end will be also.

S: You mean we return to where we started?

J: Blessed are those who abide in the beginning, for they will know the end and not taste death. Become as children.

S: You make me think of the circle, teacher, in which each beginning is an ending. Every point in the circle is both a beginning and an end, as is every moment; a taking up and a letting go. If we attend to the present in this way, the end looks after itself.

J: The heavens and earth will roll up before you.

S: Is that so? I understand, of course, that we must use picture language.

J: The living who come from the Living will experience neither fear nor death, for as it is said: the world cannot contain those with self-knowledge.

Conversations With Jesus of Nazareth is published by White Crow Books and is available in Hardback, Paperback, Audiobook, and eBook.

Conversations With Jesus of Nazareth

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Appointing prelates

Posted on 12 May 2011, 13:14

The appointment of bishops has always been, if not a dark art, certainly an obscure one. Why some triumph and others don’t is never entirely clear. But is the fog lifting on the process?

Nick Holtam has recently become bishop-elect of Salisbury. How did he achieve this? By interviewing for the job. Instead of a nod and a wink from godly power-brokers who ‘take soundings’ for a living, Nick saw off the opposition in a three way fight – in a terrifying ordeal by questions. Interestingly, the panel of 14 included six representatives from the Salisbury diocese. Locals, it seems, are acquiring the right to add ‘No’ to the list of possible answers when it comes to appointing their next overseer.

But amid the revolutionary excitement of old ways overthrown, comes responsibility. Suddenly the ball is in our court. If Anglicans are now to interview bishops who seek residence in their diocesan palace, what on earth are we to ask them? Here are five questions I’d want resolved: 

1) What has the candidate done with their suffering? The presence of pain in their past: do they understand its legacy in their present life? We hurt others and ourselves from our unacknowledged and unexamined suffering; people in power need to be especially aware of this. It would be helpful if the candidate had befriended their personal sadness.

2) What is the overall disposition of this person? What climate do they create? Do people blossom in their hopeful and peaceful presence? Or do folk wither in either spoken or unspoken criticism? The successful applicant should live rather than preach Jesus’ ‘beam in the eye’ story. A judgemental spirit, tempting for those in religious authority, is the property of a damaged soul which can create fear but not virtue.

3) Does the candidate make the panel homesick during the interview? The best art, philosophy and religion is concerned with a strange longing for home; with an inner flame we have glimpsed, but seen smothered along the way. We do not need a bishop to construct something new. Merely to help us stir embers and recover that which we’ve lost.

4) What is the nature of their vision? True vision does three things: it sees things as they are, both the sorryness and the grandeur; it connects people to each other in both curiosity and solidarity; and it arises from the being of the leader. God spare us from untimely death and power-point visions. People can only create around them what they themselves are.

5) And finally, does the applicant know that their words are a bright shade of nonsense, a collapsing staircase, a vanity of inaccuracy? Truth cannot be told in formulations – merely noticed in passing and greeted with a smile. The successful candidate will not want anything built on their words; they’ll hope only that life will grow in the gaps in between.
The mitre would fit one such as this.

Simon can be found at


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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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