Showing posts from May, 2008

The Antioch Church Council

It's that time of the year again when every space in my diary is taken up by church councils, meetings, and conferences and I wonder what would have happened, if the church in Antioch, that we read about in Acts 11: 19-30, worked the same way as our churches today...

Chair: OK... OK... Order... I’d like to welcome you all to the Antioch Church Council meeting. And lets just open with a word of prayer: Lord Thank you that we’re all here... We pray for those who aren’t and we pray that you’d keep our minds on the job in hand... Amen. Right... Lets get down to business...
Alexander: About time too... there’s a gladiatorial show down at the Amphitheatre... I want to see the second half...
Chair: OK Alexander... Now I would invite our secretary to read the minutes of the last meeting... Secretary: Meeting of the Antioch Church Council, on the ides of March 35 AD. Those present: Alexander, Anna, Simon, Thomas, Barnabas, Agabus...
Chair: I think we can accept the names as read can’t we...

Sign him on a Free Transfer...

My morning routine once I hit my desk is, check mail, check email, schedule tasks for the day, then run my eye over the news on my internet homepage, and any blogs that I have bookmarked, an eclectic mixture of sport, politics and religion.
It isn't often that the news stories in my varied strands overlap, but this morning a story was flagged up on both my football gossip column, and religious world news, and that is that BBC pundit and former Chelsea and Newcastle midfielder Gavin Peacock is moving to Canada after he has done his stint commenting on the Euro 2008 finals, to do further theological study in preparation for a career in the church. Not being into "celebrity Christians", I didn't actually know that he was one, but he's already done his stint as a "Songs of Praise" presenter... although these days you only have to have been to church once for a flower festival to be touted as a regular church-goer by the BBC.
But Gavin has apparently been a …

Pretty Unamazing Grace

I am being driven slowly insane by the current “hit” by Neil Diamond, entitled “Pretty Amazing Grace.” The poppy melody allied with lyrics that are trite, pseudo-spiritual, second-rate, second-hand poetry (the sort that I write but generally don’t get the opportunity to fob off on the paying public) is forcing me to change channel every time it comes on. Is it about a woman (called Grace)? Is it about an encounter with God (in Jesus)? Don’t know… And his website or sleevenotes don’t make it any clearer.
Neil Diamond has a history of using Biblical language in secular pop songs… And despite being Jewish, he doesn’t restrict his vocabulary to the Hebrew Scriptures… Among his more famous oeuvres are “I am, I said,” “Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show” or “Holly Holy”, “I'm a Believer” “Lady Magdelene,” but his less well known songs include titles like “Save Me,” “Walk on Water,” “The Way” and are littered with allusions to John the Baptist and Christ... But this latest offer…

The End of One Season and the Beginning of Another

The football season is coming to an end... Wednesday saw the two English teams I hate most competing for a cup in the middle of the night in Moscow... and I am afraid I found myself supporting Scum Utd... I felt dirty after it... But better them than Chelski buying the cup.
Then tonight saw Rangers lose to Aberdeen and thus hand the Scottish Premier league to their arch rivals Celtic... And as I watched it out of the corner of my eye with friends in East Belfast, I breathed a sigh of relief, because I knew that in West Belfast, where my previous charge was, local Protestant and Catholic youths would be using this as an excuse to vent their frustrations on each other, and the interfaces would be littered with bricks, bottles and stones. And sure enough, when I came home and checked the internet, it turned out that there had been an outbreak of violence on at least one Northwest Belfast interface...
And so the football season gives way to the season of recreational rioting...
I thank God t…

An Older Song

WOMAN: A night for singing songs… MAN: Old songs and new songs All based on an older song… WOMAN: THE song… MAN: The song of all songs WOMAN: The song of a lady for her lover MAN: The Lord for his beloved… WOMAN: A song which began before creation… MAN: A song of love which called light into being A song of love which breathed life into clay WOMAN: A song of love which gave us liberty… Yet pursued us when we went astray. MAN: I have loved you with an everlasting love… I have been eternally faithful to you. WOMAN: If only I could say the same. Yet I have not loved you as I should; I have not lived the life I could. I have sought out the shadows Rather than living in your light Yet still you love me… Why? MAN: I am love… No more… No less…
And you were created to be loved. To be loved and to love…
WOMAN: Yet love turned to lust For luscious fresh fruit
For knowledge, for flesh,
For riches, for power
For fresh tasting morsels to devour…
Love became lust;
Lust became lechery;
Liberty became license
License be…

Would you Employ Any of these People?

It is time to confess to a guilty pleasure... Currently I don't watch much TV, but one programme I really do try to see at one time or other during the week (and no I can't record it, because I've forgotten how to work the DVD recorder I use it so infrequently, and for some reason it isn't on BBC i-Player) is BBC's The Apprentice... And its little sister "You're Fired" with the ubiquitous Adrian Chiles.
I feel a little bit uneasy about this, because it is really only a version of Big Brother for people with MBAs... but for some reason it has captured my attention in a way that none of the other unreality shows ever have... And I am no "Johnny-come-lately"... I became addicted to it from its first incarnation in the USA with Donald Trump as the Apprentice-Meister...
But hardly a week goes by when I am not left foaming at the mouth with the various contestants... It is hard to believe that such a bunch of arrogant, incompetent, unpleasant indiv…

Your Name is Honoured in All that You Have Made

The Psalm for tomorrow under the revised Common Lectionary (for those who pay attention to such things, is Psalm 8. What follows is a paraphrase of Psalm 8 for 2 voices that I wrote for the New Irish Arts 10th Anniversary Show, entitled Genesis: A Celebration of Creativity.

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 crea…

One Movie...

Ben Myers on his Faith and Theology blog has initiated a "One Movie that..." meme... Here is my list, for what it is worth... Draw up your own and pass it on to 5 people to see what they will make of it...

1. Made me laugh: Shrek 2
2. Made me cry: Its a Wonderful Life
3. Loved as a child: The Forbidden Planet
4. Seen more than once: Star Wars (the original)
5. Embarrassed to admit I liked: The Quiet Man
6. Hated: Meet the Fockers
7. Scared me: Jaws (the last time I jumped in a cinema... I just don't go to "horror" films.
8. Bored me: Hoodwinked
9. Made me happy: Singing in the Rain
10. Made me miserable: Presumed Innocent
11. Afraid to see: 3 and Out in case it really was as bad as everyone said.
12. Character fell in love with: Rachel Weisz's character in the Constant Gardner
13. Last movie seen: Iron Man
14. Next movie hope to see: Speed Racer, Prince Caspian or Indy IV (I've got kids)
I tag Glenn, Mark, Ross, Gareth, and Jools in anticipation of much more interesti…

A Trinitarian Creed

A little something for Trinity Sunday... That Sunday when all sane preachers fein illness, and congregations stagger out of church after sermons that try (and invariably fail) to "explain" the trinity... A day when I am happy to live with mystery rather than try to comprehend the fullness of God in my tiny mind.

We believe in one God,
A Community of Three in a Unity of Being.

We believe in the Creator,
Creator of sky, earth and sea,
Creator of birds, animals and fish,
and us…
Creator of all that is, seen, unseen and unimaginable.

We believe in Jesus Christ,
Born of God…
Born of woman…
Born, lived, died, and rose again,
Born to teach, save, and give us hope.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The all pervading breath of God.
Who breathed life into us in the beginning
Who breathed life into the church at Pentecost
Who brings gifts and strength, and encouragement.

We believe in God, the Three in One.
The One in Three
The blessed, sacred Trinity.
An eternal dance of personality;

The Fastest Baptism in the World

Check out this link for a very practical reason for infant baptism...on this and a number of other blogs some people are somewhat distressed at the lack of respect shown for the sacrament of baptism... I just laughed. But that probably shows that I'm damned!


Happy Birthday Church

It's that time again so here is a sketch I wrote for Pentecost a few years ago. It's based on Ephesians 4: 7 which says:
"Christ has given each of us special abilities—whatever he wants us to have out of his rich storehouse of gifts." (The Living Bible)
All: (Singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you...
1: Happy Birthday... (Offering gift to number 2)
2: O thanks... (taking gift and putting it straight down behind him)
1: Aren’t you going to open it?
2: Open what?
1: The gift!
2: What gift?
1: That gift!
2: Where?
1: There!
2: I don’t see any gift?
1: There... I just gave to you...
2: No you didn’t...
1: Yes I did...
2: Don’t believe you...
1: Oh I give up!
All: (Singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you...
1: Happy Birthday... (Offering gift to number 3)
3: O thanks... (taking gift and ripping off paper... finding tambourine) Amazing just what I always wanted... (starts banging it without any sense of rhythm... until finally throws it over…

What is the Future of Methodism?

Again, while browsing the "Ship of Fools" website I came across this discussion strand on the future of Methodism in Britain ... I wonder what a similar discussion strand here in Ireland would produce... get your crystal orbs out!

Happy are the Conservatives

No, this isn't another blog on the results of last week's local elections on the other island, but a reflection on a report I found via the satirical Christian website, Ship of Fools, which suggests that those of a more conservative bent, socially, politically and theologically are more content than those who have more liberal tendencies. Conservatives apparently reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than more left-leaning individuals and scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person's tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.
Now this doesn't explain the right's tendency to moan, and stir up fear about everything from asylum seekers to the World Council of Churches, but certainly is borne out by the tendency of most social activists I know to slip into a collective slough of despond every time they come together.
The issue for me is not one of theological orientation, but complacency, feeling that everything is black and …

Sacred Space

Visited Durham Cathedral for the first time last summer, and quite an impressive edifice it is too, embodying a millenium of Christian worship on a single site.

It also features in Stuart Maconie's travelogue around the north of England "Pies and Prejudice" that I have been reading recently, and whilst he shows little awareness of a "spiritual" dimension to life elsewhere in the book, he writes this about Durham Cathedral...

" is truly stunning. I thought, as I always do when entering one of those places, of how powerful, how ferrifying even, the presence of God must have been in the lives of rich and poor alike to make them build these edifices - not just build them, but so skilfully and impressively, that just entering makes you feel oddly godly. The sheer authority of the place almost forces you to your knees, like a giant hand on your shoulder. Durham Cathedral is religious certainty written in unyielding stone and stained glass; a vast, daunting em…

A Psalm for Ascension Sunday

Sing songs to God,
sing praise to his name:
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

Let those made right with God be glad,
Let them rejoice before their Lord:
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

His name is the Great I AM,
Let us rejoice before him:
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows,
is God whose home is on high:
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

He creates homes for the homeless
And places the lonely in a loving family:
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

He leads prisoners to freedom, singing for joy;
but leaves rebels to rot in the heat of the sun: Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

Sing to God, all you nations of the earth,
sing praise to the Great I AM,
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!

Proclaim the power of God,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Lift up a song to the one who rides upon the clouds!
Praise be to God! Amen

Adapted from Psalms 6…

St. Boris's Day

Apparently, for members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, last Friday was St. Boris's Day. So I suppose it is appropriate that Friday was the day that Boris Johnson took over as Mayor of London for the next 4 years… Just the person you want representing your city when the Olympics come to town! But that is the democratic choice of the people of London… Mind you, with a choice between "Red Ken" and "Bumbling Boris" who would you choose?
Certainly, one of the things that worked in Boris’s favour is the groundswell of opinion against Gordon Brown’s Labour Government… A combination of the 10p tax-band botch-up, the credit crunch and the colossal hike in petrol prices has conspired to make Gordon Brown the most unpopular Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain… Some of that unpopularity may well be the product of media hype, but at least the British population have the opportunity to express their feelings at the ballot box.
Think of the people of Zimbabwe… A full mo…

Looking for a Super Hero

Last night I took my son Owain and his friend to see the new film "Iron Man", but the kids were only an excuse. I have been busting to see this movie for months. OK! OK! It sums up everything that is wrong with Hollywood film-making... real artistic creativity supplanted by big names, big budgets, big bangs and CGI. But this was "Iron Man."
Now for some people their super-hero of choice is Superman... But he was of the wrong era, and wrong planet for me... And that costume was way too camp! Others prefer Batman... either in the form of the 1960's Adam West send up, or the later brooding "Dark Knight"... But again that wasn't quite me... Didn't quite get the buddy-thing going on with Robin. Then of course there is Spiderman... For my other son Ciaran, no other superhero quite matches up to the webslinger... and he isn't alone in that... Do you know that there are apparently more Spiderman pyjamas sold than any other type?
But my favourite sup…

Building the Church

Last Sunday was the 40th Anniversary of the stone-laying ceremony of the premises of my current church in Ballybeen, and I was preaching on the nature of the church as described in I Peter 2: 4-10 in the light of Jesus' response to Simon Peter's confession in Matthew 16: 17-18, and I was reminded of the following dialogue that I wrote on a previous exploration of these same passages:

Peter: Eh... Jesus...? Jesus: Yes, Peter? Peter: Its about that church... Jesus: What church Peter? Peter: The church... your church... the one you’re going to build on me. Jesus: Oh that church... What about it? Peter: I was just wondering what it was going to be like... Jesus: That depends... Peter: Depends on what? Jesus: The building material... Peter: Oh right... See I fancied a big cathedral, a basilica... Made out of marble. I’ve been and seen the architect and he says... Jesus: No I think you misunderstand me Peter... Peter: Oh, you fancy something smaller... More cosy and comfortable... Ma…