The Work of Christmas - Continued...

I had never before come across a piece entitled "The Work of Christmas" or "When the Song of the angels is stilled" by African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, until a few days ago, when I chased up the origins of a facebook meme, which turned out to be a reworking of this poem by Michael Dougherty, co-chair of the Social Justice Committee at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse, Yukon. The original has been used as the basis for a choral carol which seems to be popular in Amrica, but which, despite it's subject and sentiment, leaves me cold. But given that it has been reworked at least once and that I barely have an original thought in my head, I thought I would us both as the building blocks for a 2 verse poem of my own: 
When the angel choir has gone home to heaven When the last notes of their song has faded away When the shepherds are back to watching their sheep When Bethlehem is no longer so busy When…

Bethl'em Road Revisited

Another Christmas in a new congregation, another outing for this oldie and another reblog. The tune is "Raglan Road..."
I chose it mindful of the thousands of people on the move this Christmas, seeking safety and prosperity for their families and of the journey which we as a church are on at present. But Jesus' life from before his birth was a story of journey... Why should ours be any different if we are seeking to follow him?
Down Bethl’em road from Nazareth, Came Joseph and his wife
Within her womb God’s promise bloomed
His Word, the Light of Life.
He came to take on flesh and blood
To show us all the way
And through the night a star so bright
Hailed the dawning of His day.
And on the hills round Bethlehem,
Some shepherds heard the song,
The angels sing of a new born King
Awaited for so long.
They find him midst the filth and grime
In a bed of straw and hay,
Ignored by the earth that he brought to birth
The Lord Almighty lay.
And from the east to Bethlehem
Come men who saw the sign.

We Were First!

Another old favourite that got another outing this year. This started out as part of New Irish Arts' "I Witness" show in the Waterfront, many years ago, but it has been delivered by a number of different "shepherds" in a variety of contexts since then, most recently at the Grosvenor Hall "Toy Service" at the culmination of their 2018 Christmas Gift Appeal last Sunday. Surprisingly I don't seem to have blogged it before... But even if I have, here it is again...
It was damn near freezing out on that hillside… What’s wrong!? My language a bit strong? Or is it the smell of the sheep… Ah, you’re all the same you holy joes… Aye, you’re glad of the wool from our sheep for your prayer shawls and our best lambs for your feasts, but us… we’re unclean… You may sing about God as your shepherd… but if one of your daughters wanted to marry one of us… You’d  have a hairy fit! Admit it! But just remember… God sent his angel to us… not you and your like…On the hil…

Incarnation – Reflections of an Older Mary

A monologue used as part of today's service for the 4th Sunday in Advent in Grosvenor Hall. Not sure whether I have blogged it before, but whether I have or not, here it is...
He who was there when the universe was formed… took form inside my womb… He who is the source of all good gifts suckled at my breast… He who walked in the Garden of Eden… I taught to walk as a toddler… He who carved the commandments on tablets of stone with his finger, learned them from me at the kitchen table… He who inspired the psalmists learned their songs on my knee… It was amazing… I saw the son of God grow into a man… I know every mother thinks that their child is perfect… Particularly their first… But my son was… Why me? I was little more than a child myself when the angel came to me… Yet he said: “Mary you have been singled out by God. You are going to have a child!” “But that's not possible,” I said “I'm a virgin!” "Nothing is impossible with God!" He said... “Just ask your cousi…


And we're off... After much plotting and planning behind the scenes the theme for next year's 4 Corners Festival has been announced... Scandalous Forgiveness. Some, who know me better and have experienced/suffered under my ministry might well say "Oh, are you off on that old hobby horse of yours again!?" I have reflected, spoken and written a lot about this subject and particularly how it applies to this wounded little part of God's world, but I consistently suggest that it isn't my hobby horse but Jesus' hobby horse... he consistently pointed to this as a key teaching, and if we are authentically trying to follow him then we need to take this seriously... 
Well, not always too seriously... My friends and colleagues Steve Stockman and Jim Deeds have already shared their reflections on this in different forms... Here's my starter for ten... I've posted it before and it owes something to both John Bell and Graham Maule and Riding Lights... but most …

Playing our Part for the Sake of Peace

Here, as promised, is my "Thought for Yesterday". If you prefer to hear it, here it is... they even went to the trouble of producing it as a stand-alone clip this week... That's my last TFTD for a while, and given my frequency of blogging recently it might be my last blog for a similar period...  

My role as a Methodist minister means that I often end up moving from one event to another, hastily changing the hat that I am wearing, and sometimes other items of attire… The juxtaposition is sometimes stark. Moving from celebration to consolation to confrontation, from business meetings to baptisms to hospital bedside, from infrequent weddings to sadly more frequent funerals, from BBC studio to board table to the occasional windswept building site.
Yesterday evening put two very different events side by side in my diary… First, I was “networking” with business and other civic leaders on the observation deck of the new Belfast Grand Central Hotel in Bedford street… Then I wen…

Time to Stop Dreaming?

Ooops... This is actually last week's Thought for the Day on Radio Ulster. I only discovered that I hadn't pressed the "Publish" button when I went in to upload this week's offering... I suspect that the few readers that this blog has will not have been waiting with bated breath for it, but I thought I would still publish it for the sake of completeness... If you are interested in hearing my dulcet tones, the broadcast versions are still available at the time of publication here at 25 and 86 minutes in. The news cycle has moved on, but the issues I touch on are sadly timeless... 
I will publish today's "thought" tomorrow... If I remember...

I don’t often pay much attention to speeches at Annual political and union conferences… They are usually, to use an ecclesiastical metaphor, an exercise in preaching to the choir… nor, if truth be told do I often pay much attention to the public pronouncements of Bishops or Archbishops, with the possible exception…