Where is the far country? If you look on a map, you won't find it. But it's real. As real as China or America or any physical location, large or small. It's in your mind's eye, an ever present place. Let's explore it together using Christian thought and history to chart the map. This page is a video index of sermons broadcast on YouTube.  Each sermon here has a full page of associated material in David Bell's personal collection Sermons Old and New.  Use in conjunction with Creativity and Imagination in Ministry and  Creative Spaces>Resources.

Balaam's Ass Protests

Magic Keyboard Assembles Congregation

Scorpio rising | the time to tell

Ride the light beam

Your Travel Guide to the Far Country

Trouble in the Vineyard

Abraham and Habitats of Grace

Marx, Engels & Prophets of God

Mystical Science?

The Pulse of the Universe

Stone Tablets and Impossible Ideas

Prayer babble?

The Centre of the Universe

What's a camel between friends

Parables knock the world for 6

The Evil Eye filtered out

Coping with Pulpit bloopers

Write for Pleasure and Profit!

Martin Buber Extraordinary Human Being

Aquinas Meets Taiaroa & S.J. Gould

Monkeying with Chance?

Prophet for Our Times

The Book Of Esther

Paris Underground Revisit

You Make Christian Reality

What Does Faith Mean at a Wedding?

Sexy Goddess Encounters Christian Saint

Reading biblical miracles

Christmas Day Science Lectures

True and False Prophets | Amos

Billy Graham & Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Camel trains...or Something Else?

Now for something completely different

1987 | Year of the Supernova

Mister God, This Is Anna


Stuart Manins
08 June 2016, 11:48 AM

Scorpio Rising

Much good advice here.

In general, many points were made by analogy with secular activities. This is a healthy association. Elizabeth's background in Pharmacological editing and Max's engineering experience served them well for the views they held. Interesting discussion on whom to please in a diverse congregation. Unless one is primarily an entertainer, the success of communication for the preacher/worship leader is found in the degree to which the projected vision is understood and acted on. The need for what in Education is known as 'behavioural objectives' seems obvious.

In particular, the importance of rehearsing performance skills such as reading, telling a story, explaining a point, all need as much practice as every musician needs to practise musical expertise. All preachers/worship leaders are to a large extent performers. Preparation and practice, evaluation and improvement are essential. I warm to the comments about summarizing. I recently suggested to our church officials that it would be good to invite beforehand an Abstract for every sermon given, in the same way that secular conferences require of all people offering a paper presentation. This would ensure an orderly understanding of the content they were speaking on, and a succinct grasp of the main points. It would also allow for the collection of data to allow later analysis of what was happening over a significant time. It was not accepted.

One last point, in the church community to which David Bell and I both belong, and particularly in this Kiwiconnexion material, I have observed most of these ideas being worked out in practice. Well done!

David Bell
09 June 2016, 10:27 AM

Thank you indeed.

Stuart Manins
09 June 2016, 11:34 AM

Parables of Jesus

Fascinating analysis of the different voices 'speaking' in the parable narrative. You mention at least three kinds: the 'I' of the author; the narrator who says what he is sure God is saying to us; and  the voice(s) heard by the listeners as the voice of God to them.  I wonder if the later category could further be subdivided into what is perceived as said by God, and what is claimed to be, being said by God.

Does it matter? I know it all depends on what one means by 'God', but to understand that there can be different messages, of equal merit, which come from God to us, allows for others to claim and act on God's guidance with similar conviction to what we believe has been given to us. Because they hear and believe differently doesn't necessarily mean they are wrong and we are right, does it?  Just right for us perhaps at that time? And right for them at that time?


David Bell
09 June 2016, 10:40 PM

Stuart you ask "Does it matter?"

Yes indeed, it really does matter.  Most sermons and most worship occasions don't lend themselves to an exposition of the narrative art of the Bible. It's a complex subject and hence doesn't often get mentioned.

But it is important and there are ways to occasionally show what's meant.

Take time in the Old Testament, for example. Because Hebrew has only a rudimentary structure for tenses, it's almost impossible to say whether an event in the past was very recent or very far back. The famous understanding that God conveys to Moses "I am what I am" is sometimes translated as "I will be what I will be".

Now, who is conveying what in this story?

Which is the narrator's voice? Which is God's voice? Which is Moses' voice? Did Moses tell this story? Who put these words of God onto God's lips? God, Moses or the narrator? And so on.

And how complex it is because once the narrator's voice is understood or discerned, we then have to further decide on whether this is a recent past or along past event. And that requires other narratives - a collection of narratives. 

My head spins with possibility and probability. What do you think?

Stuart Manins
10 June 2016, 9:41 AM

Thanks David, you ask me again what I think. This encourages me to make more comment and ask more questions. Invite me to a Bible study and I'll be one of the first to turn up. But I'll also certainly want to know about the 'voice speaking' in the text  considered. So much of what happens, in my experience, is a reading of scripture without considering the language, social and cultural context, and expecting the Holy Spirit to 'guide us into all truth'. History affirms that this certainly does not always happen. I suppose that's why Hermeneutics and Exegesis are important. Mindless reading of any text has limited value.

Regarding Miracles

I commend the handling of the three-way discussion. Quite strongly different views were handled politely and with sensitivity. And folk were flexible enough to consider changes to their thinking. In the Nature miracles, the traditional positions of claiming faith as a sure-fire means of achieving a prayer request, that Jesus must have been omnipotent and omnipotent if he was God, and that all things are possible in the 'New kingdom' were seen as containing important insights without being literally true. All kinds of metaphor, including hyperbole need to be seen as part of the linguistic mix of the scriptural record.

A growing agreement of the importance of being honest and not avoiding awkward or baffling experiences developed. We need to be open-minded to all our own experience as well as to what is recounted by others. We don't have to end up having the answer or knowing all there is to know. We also need to be sensitive to other peoples feelings and differences without compromising our own intellectual and emotional integrity. A questioning mind is better seen as a means of discovering deeper knowledge, greater wisdom, and further truth than a threat to faith. If our beliefs are valid and helpful they will only become stronger with critical examination.

I think it is important to see scientific research as complementary to revelation and insight. After all, creativity, imagination, experimentation, change, compassion, play, articulation and communication are common to scientific method and religious experience. All worthwhile experience and reflection can lead to awe, and appreciation, and what the church often designates as worship.

Stuart Manins
06 August 2016, 4:13 PM

Martin Buber. 

An excellent example of how to 'hold your own ground without shutting others out'. This is needed universally but never so much as in finding some resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East today. 'Keeping the faith and holding the line' is good advice as long as one's beliefs are not ethnocentric to the point of excluding 'the other'.  Keeping the faith, to some people, can be conserving an inadequate bias towards self preservation and superiority. In avoiding this mistake, Buber was indeed a combination of truth and wisdom.


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