the blue fish project

Friday, July 31, 2015

Water for coffee

I love Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood's work. His coffee shop Colonna & Smalls in Bath is my favourite place to spend a morning with a cup of coffee made by his team and a good book. Sadly, I rarely have the opportunity to do this though that just increases its specialness.... Maxwell's related Coffee/Craft Beer house in Bath, Colonna & Hunter, is also great.

This is a world made beyond necessity with gratuity. Food could just deliver nutrients but it tastes! Maxwell's book Water for Coffee is coming soon and is the fruit of study into the way treatment of water has a bearing on the taste of coffee. I love that sort of attentiveness to the minutiae of life.

If you wanted to be really nice you could buy me a copy...  hopefully someday when the nappy bill falls I'll be able to afford the £26.99 price tag. Nothing that's worth having is cheap...

Water for coffee.
A taste here:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Beyond Necessity 3: The Hour - what's free costs


When Jesus’ mother says: “the wine has run out” (v4)

Jesus, before he acts says to her: “it is not my hour” (v4) Which as it turns out doesn’t stop him from doing something… but is a hint that there’s something more going on.

 Everything Jesus does here is a trailer, a picture, a foretaste of something more. When he says “it’s not my hour” he’s saying this is not my wedding, so this isn’t my responsibility. But, one day it will be. One day it will be his time not just to save the bridegroom of Cana from humiliation and to provide for his guests.

One day will be his wedding day and he will provide richly for all who are there. But, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to buy the bread. Someone pays.

When The Times newspaper took its website behind a paywall the readership of the site fell but they proved that people are prepared to pay – less people paying something was more effective than lots of people paying nothing for content that cost to produce.

To give life to the world is going to cost Jesus. John records more of Jesus talking about this hour. John 12:23-24 “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified… unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

Jesus will die to bring life to the world. This is awkward because John and Jesus are telling us that this is a world dying. Though we probably know that.

They’re telling us that we are dying. Though we probably know that.

John and Jesus are telling us that we can’t refill our own glasses, we need what only he can do. Which I don’t like at all…  I like to be comforted in my anxiety by Jesus, I'm not so keen on his confrontation: why don't you trust me?

My GCSE Science teacher told me I wasn’t going to get a top grade and so I shouldn’t be entered for the Advanced paper. I fought back. Got my head down. Got an A grade. I get kicks from trying to achieve. That's (sort of) fine for my Science GCSE but Jesus says: when it comes to your life, you really can't just kick through.

And Jesus says: “No. This one is beyond you. But that’s not the end.” The Wedding at Cana wasn’t the end game. John calls it Jesus’ first sign. A signpost. The destination: Jesus dying. Dying, to bear much fruit. The sign shows us something of his glory. The destination shows that glory more fully. The glory of Jesus: beyond necessity gratuity, lavish love. Death to him, to bring life to me. Because there’s nothing free that doesn’t cost someone else.


The storyline of the Bible starts with a wedding and ends with a wedding. It’s a great love story from beginning to end. The bridegroom of Cana is quite typical. A numpty. A fool. Tight-fisted. The Bible pushes for a deeper diagnosis. Hear this in the story of Hosea and Gomer. The story of this couple is told as a picture of God and humanity. Hosea like God, Gomer like humanity. He loves her but she betrays him. But, like God, even as Gomer gives herself to her lovers, Hosea makes the costly move to win her back from her slavery and selfishness and stuff-ups.

Hosea takes responsibility for his wife's waywardness. So too Jesus takes responsibility for our wandering hearts.

The generous hearted puritan Thomas Watson said: the capacious heart of Christ beats strongly for humanity, all the more as we run from him.

Back at Cana, what was meant to be a perfect day stood on the brink of ruin and there’s nothing the bridegroom can do to fix it.

 Jesus doesn’t do nothing; he doesn’t point the finger; he doesn’t humiliate. He confronts the situation. He acts. He provides. He gives. The launch of Jesus gives a window into the heart of Jesus. The man who goes beyond necessity into gratuity though it will cost him his life. The launch of Jesus gives a window into my heart. I’ve failed and fallen and I can’t fix it. There: Jesus comes, finds me, stops me, and points me to see his beyond necessity love in his death for me. His arms pinned open in love to fill my glass, to fill my heart. He takes full responsibility for me.

And that day in Cana Jesus friends – v11 – believed in him.

John calls them “disciples”. People with L-plates on. And their journey with Jesus will be like that. Here they see. But they’ll completely miss the next thing John reports about Jesus later in this chapter. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s clumsy and messy like a three-legged race. But, Jesus doesn’t check my track record or my story to see if I qualify for life. He doesn’t require me to be impressive enough.

No, whether I’m exploring faith or have journeyed with Jesus for years – a window into his heart reveals the same thing: From beginning to end, for all of life, the whole deal with Jesus is that he takes the cost on himself, beyond necessity and utterly gratuitous, to bring me to himself.

Jesus, I’m empty, thirsty, parched. You are lavish, generous, gratuitous. I receive you. Amen

Image: UCCF Uncover

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beyond Necessity 2: The Wine


Jesus’ mother says: “The wine has run out”

What happens next?

I. Jesus could do nothing. 
That would be socially acceptable and reasonable. It’s not the guests responsibility to act. Jesus goes beyond necessity and responds. Jesus could say: oh good. Now these people can stop being so happy. The term puritan describes 15th Century Christian believers. It’s been said “puritanism” is the fear that someone somewhere is happy. The characterisation is unfair but Christians can be a lifeless crowd at times. At the Uni bar with Christian students all too often they’ve all ordered water or a coke when the place serves beer.

 II. Jesus, in providing wine, could just make cheap wine. 
 That would be expected. The party is old and no one will notice if the booze isn’t very good. But he goes beyond necessity and makes fine wine, good wine. I was asked to speak on campus at a lunchtime lecture on how Jesus brings fullness of life while we were offered sandwiches made of the most horrible economy bread. Something was out of whack. But, that’s not to say we need to go all hipster/artisan/snobbish about food and drink. But we could learn from Jesus’ culture. Day to day simplicity about food, and then a regular practice of festivals and feasting. I suspect I could use more variety – more plain food, and then more richness. In Jesus’ world food is more than a means of delivering nutrition, we’re made beyond necessity with taste buds.

III. Jesus could make a fool of the Bridegroom of Cana. 
 The man is a numpty who failed on the most important day of his life to provide for his friends and family. I remember towards the end of our wedding reception seeing all the left over food and thinking “we could’ve invited more people” but wedding caterers know what they knew 2000 years ago. You do not risk running out of food. Cana’s bridegroom is a fool, neglectful, stingy… but Jesus doesn’t make a fool of him. In fact he offers him redemption. Quietly. He fixes the problem and only a few of the staff and his friends see it. The best man (chief servant) doesn’t know. The rest of the guests don’t know about it. The man is saved from humiliation. Jesus could take the credit and make a fool of the man – but he doesn’t. And John echoing the heart of Jesus could expose him and record his name but he doesn’t.

IV. Jesus could bring righteous judgement. 
 He’s come into a world that John has described previously as a dark place in which Jesus is a shining light. He could offer a cup of poison and be delivering justice. But he’s going beyond necessity and pointing to something more. He comes eating and drinking. He comes adding life to the party. It’s beyond necessity. It’s gratuitous. It’s lavish. John says: this was Jesus’ first sign (v11), and he revealed his glory (v11). Here is the launch of Jesus. A window into the heart of Jesus. Not stingy, not neglectful, but gratuitous, open handed, gracious. Jesus goes beyond necessity to gratuity. And Jesus is communicating to the careful observer that he is the one who will bring about a great feast. 500 years earlier Israel’s prophet Isaiah had said (25:6-9) that there would be a day when there would be a great celebration on a mountain, with the best meat, the best wine, a day when the people of the world say: this is our God. And we could leave this there and have seen something but there’s something more to catch…

To be continued....

Image - from UCCF Uncover John

Monday, July 27, 2015

For this is what it means to be a king

King Lune at the end of The Horse and His Boy articulates leadership:
“For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.” (King Lune)
First in. Last out. And in the bad years wearing your fine clothes to laugh louder at the little you have.

I love how Lewis voices the third of these through Lune. It strikes me as an easily missing component. The leader doesn't say - these are hard times so let me protect my plate, he doesn't say let me not worry that other lack as I feed myself. The true leader experiences the lack.

And the leader embraces a joviality with the circumstance rather than a misery. Kings know how to feast when there is plenty and they know how to feast when there is lack. They're thankful. They have joy. They are wholehearted. They're first in and last out.

In Lewis' story the exiled Shasta journeys through many struggles, accompanied unknowingly by Aslan. In the end he'll become a Prince, the royal son he was always meant to be but never thought he could be.

Shasta's twin Corin doesn't want to be King, he's happy to relinquish a long anticipated future for the carefree existence of remaining a prince. Shasta however has been trained for leadership through his impoverished childhood, through his dangerous journey. Wisdom grows slowly like fruit. The Horse and His Boy is exactly a book about wisdom, about journey.

Wisdom and folly. Or, pride and humility.

The theme continues in the varied stories of Bree and Rabadash encountering Aslan. Both are proud. Bree humbles himself - and is commended for being quick to do so. Rabadash remains defiant and is transformed into a donkey. Bree has learned wisdom on the hard road, scars and all. Rabadash has failed to become wise as he wielded his power against others.

Leaders are first in, last out, and rejoice even in the hardest times.

Image: Rex Boggs