Couldn't have said it better myself...

"We are all made in the image of the God we choose to serve."

Blaise Pascal

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It has nothing to do with me...

At present I'm preaching a series on the Apostles' Creed, and today we looked at the clause referring to Jesus suffering under Pontius Pilate. One of the earliest and most effective Bible-based monologues I ever saw was one on Pilate by Riding Lights... But below is one that I wrote myself a good few years back, which I hauled out of retirement for this morning's service.

It has nothing to do with me...
It is a Jewish matter... Nothing to do with Rome. If I had my way I would have left them to it. Another spat between religious fanatics. So what if he claims to be the son of this Jewish god? What difference does that make? Sons of god are two a penny in the lunatic asylum... We’ve even had one or two on the throne of Rome... Sons of god, that is, not lunatics... Though some might say... No!! Don’t quote me on that. I’m in trouble enough as it is. I can’t afford another letter of complaint going to Caesar. That’s why I finally decided to try this man... The priests said that he was claiming to be the rightful King of the Jews... If I hadn’t acted on that I’d have had Herod up in arms as well as these damned religious fanatics.
I tried getting Herod to deal with him... He’s a Galilean so strictly speaking he is Herod’s problem, not mine. And he got rid of that other rabble rouser, the Baptiser a few years ago... I thought he would be glad to get his hands on this one... But he passed the buck straight back to me...
And the people... I thought they would be glad to have me release him. I invented a little tradition... releasing a prisoner in honour of the Jewish holiday... These holidays are always trouble... Passover... I wish I could just pass over it and forget it... But no... every holiday season the pilgrims pour in from all over the Empire, bringing their problems with them.
Well, I offered to release Jesus to them in honour of the holiday... And they threw the offer back in my face. I don’t understand these people... Last week they were praising him to the heavens when he waltzed into the city on the back of a donkey... They were taking the very shirts off their backs and laying them down as a carpet of honour for him. This week they were baying for his blood... They demanded that I crucify him... And then they had the gall to ask for Barabbas, a convicted murderer and rebel to be released in his place...
I don’t know how I’ll ever explain that one to the senate... The guilty goes free and the innocent is executed... There’s justice for you.
But what could Jesus have done in a week to turn the people against him? Mind you... He doesn’t exactly help himself. One minute he was refusing to answer my questions... The next he was admitting that he was a King... Him standing there, bruised and bloodied, covered in what looked like spit, and wearing clothes that weren’t exactly the highest quality before they had been torn to shreds. Him, a King! And then when I tried to explain what a dangerous situation he was in... That I had the power of life and death over him, he reminded me that my power was given to me from above... And that those above me would share responsibility for any of my actions... What was he trying to do? Absolve me of responsibility... When none of it was my responsibility in the first place...
So I just washed my hands of him... Literally... If he wants to die, that’s his choice...
It has nothing to do with me...


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Eighth Day

And finally, when you thought it was never going to end, here's my little personal postscript to our Harvest Celebration of Creation and Creativity, partly inspired by those practical deists who will die in a ditch over a literal belief in a 6 day creation but don't give a thought to the ongoing stewardship of this wonderful but wounded world... (There is also a line that owes more than a little to the late great Humphrey Lyttleton on "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", which speaks volumes to my lack of real poetic pretensions!)

On the eighth day he arose…
And the work goes on…
With us as his apprentices
Implanted with his seed
The soul-seed of creation and salvation
Creativity and re-creation.
And so it continues day and night
The living word bringing order out of chaos  
Day in day out,
Week in and week out,
Resting from work and working from rest
Until the last minute of the last day…
When the hands of time tip over into eternity
When all creation bows before its creator
And once more he says
It is good… 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

After Word...

We are coming near the end of this series of posts drawn from our Harvest Celebration of Creation and Creativity, and here I post another poem by someone else, in this case Ann Lewin, from her anthology "Candles and Kingfishers" (ISBN-10: 0951298232). I post this after watching the denouement of "The Great British Bakeoff" and am convinced that not only music, but good TV, cakemaking and all other creative endeavours, with a good leaven of fun, are God's gift to "enlighten duty and enliven praise" - and that is very important to me at the moment...

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.  This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
Genesis 2:1-4

Thus the heavens and the earth were
Finished and were good, But
In the middle of the night, God woke.
“It might be burdensome” he thought,
“To give dominion over all created things
To earthling folk: lest they should
Take themselves too seriously,
I’ll give them music and a
Sense of fun, to enlighten duty and
Enliven praise.”
So in wise mercy did Creator God.
And all the seventh day, he rested,
well content.
by Ann Lewin


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Mirror - Again

I've posted this twice before, but used it as part of our Harvest Celebration of Creation and Creativity, so here it is again for the sake of completeness...

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."       
Genesis 1: 26

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror of a morning
And wondered
What does anyone see in me?
God looked at himself in a mirror one morning
A mirror which he had made…
A mirror fashioned out of clay
Transformed into flesh and bone…
And in the mirror of man’s eye
God saw himself…
But it was not good.
He was alone
And God was never alone.
He was always “us.”
So God made another
To make the picture complete…
And that morning he saw himself in the mirror of mankind
Male and female
Loved and loving
Created to create


Sunday, October 5, 2014

There was I...

Continuing the series on Creation and Creativity, but once again, what follows is not my own work, it is a dramatisation of Stewart Henderson's "When there was nothing" from "Homeland" (ISBN-10: 0340591188)

And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.
And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1: 20-25

Actor 1                  When there was nothing, there was I
                                Lighting volcanoes, stretching the sky
                                Sketching the veins of an acorn leaf
                                Painting the gloss on the tiger's teeth
Actor 2                  When there was nothing, I was there
                                Buffing the buffalo, grooming the bear
                                Curling the cobra in his coiled-up cave
                                Rippling the river and frothing the wave
Actor 3                  When there was nothing, there was Me
                                Expanding the girth of the Redwood tree
                                Moulding the moon whilst counting the bugs
                                And no matter if you're squeamish
                                But I even made the slug
Actor 2                 When there was nothing, just I AM
                                Before I'd even offered you my punctured lamb
                                I juggled all the planets, then equipped the frog
                                With the energetic means to leap from log to bog
Actor 3                  When there was nothing there was I
Actor 1                  When there was nothing, I was there
ALL                       When there was nothing, there were always three
Actor 3                  Spirit
Actor 1                  Son
Actor 2                  And Me


Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Variety of Creation

When I restarted posting last weekend my plan was that I would post today's piece on Thursday, which was National Poetry day here in the UK... But as another poet said "the the best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley..." And so today, in this continuing series based on our Harvest Celebration of Creation and Creativity, I post one of my favourite poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins... Enjoy both it and the wonderful world it describes... And praise the one who made them both possible...

 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the third day.
Genesis 1: 11-13

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pierced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.


Friday, October 3, 2014

When I stare into the heavens above...

So here is part 3 of my series of posts based on last Sunday's Harvest Celebration of Creation and Creativity, inspired by Genesis 1. The main part of this blog, a dramatised paraphrase of Psalm 8, I have posted a number of times before in different forms... and I was going to skip it, until on Tuesday a colleague used Psalm 8 and the Casting Crowns below as part of the devotions at a training day I was at. On Sunday we also used a version of the same song, but sung by the wonderful Melanie Johnston. Great minds think alike... or something like that...

And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.
Genesis 1: 6-8

Dramatised Reading: Psalm 8
BOTH:          O LORD , our God, your name is honoured in all that you have made!
Voice 1:         Beyond the boundless reaches of space
Voice 2:         Higher than the heavens where the angels offer you their symphony of worship;
Voice 1:         While here on earth even nursing infants gurgle in adoration
Voice 2:         Toddlers shout songs of praise
Voice 1:         Silencing the cynical sneering of the enemy
Voice 2:         Drowning out the godless chatter of the age.
Voice 1:         When I stare into the heavens above,
                        I see your fingerprints all over the sky…
Voice 2:         I see jewellery of the finest of workmanship
                        with the moon mounted in an almost infinite setting of stars…
Voice 1:         And I feel so small…
Voice 2:         I sense the expanse between heaven and earth,
Voice 1:         Creator and creature…
Voice 2:         And I wonder why you bother with me?
Voice 1:         Why you would look once, never mind twice, in my direction?
Voice 2:         Yet I am always on your mind
Voice 1:         You care for me night and day…
Voice 2:         You have made me little less than a god…
Voice 1:         The crown of all creation,
Voice 2:         A jewel that brings joy to your heart.
Voice 1:         You charged me with looking after your handiwork
Voice 2:         You laid everything at my feet:
Voice 1:         All creatures great and small;
Voice 2:         domesticated and wild
Voice 1:         The flocking birds, and shoaling fish
Voice 2:         and the whales whose songs of praise circle the seven seas.
BOTH:          O LORD , our God, your name is honoured in all that you have made! 

ps. for all fact checkers, forgive the wrong attribution at the end of this video, the Psalm cited is It's actually Psalm 143:5, not 145: 4