Showing posts from June, 2009

5 Theological Books Meme

Came across this meme on Scotteriology. I wasn't actually tagged... Scott Bailey its author wouldn't know me if I bit him... but a number of things about this meme set me thinking. First, I've been doing far too many Facebook "5 of" quizzes recently (I'm weaning myself off), but this involves a bit more thought. Second, the word meme was devised by Richard Dawkins to describe an idea that develops a reproductive life of its own, and given his well know antipathy to religion, I thought that the fact that this meme is about theological books was particularly ironic.
The rules to this particular meme were originally that you should name the five books that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favorite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree, but what five books have permanently changed the way you think. After this the idea was to tag five others.
But, as appropriate with m…

With a Father's Help...

If you haven't come across Team Hoyt before, do yourself a favour and check our the story of Rick Hoyt and his father Dick. The story has become a little over-egged in the telling, but check it out on their own website. It is a tale of real love and determination.

There is, as the Team Hoyt website says, some grounds for making Dick Hoyt the dictionary definition of what a father should be and voting him the father of the century. Certainly he is setting the bar pretty high for the rest of us. But as I said to my own congregation this morning, even Dick Hoyt's love for his son is only a pale shadow of the love that our heavenly Father has for each of us. That is the reason for Paul's prayer in the letter to the Ephesians: I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through fa…

They Tuck you Up...

Philip Larkin's famously misanthropic "This be the Verse" will probably not be quoted much in Fathers' Day Services tomorrow... Although there is a certain truth in it, and whether mothers or fathers do more of the ****ing up in general is debatable. However, I discovered a few weeks ago, thanks to Maggi Dawn, this more positive riposte to Larkin... They tuck you up, your mum and dad They read you Peter Rabbit, too. They give you all the treats they had And add some extra, just for you.
They were tucked up when they were small, (Pink perfume, blue tobacco-smoke), By those whose kiss healed any fall, Whose laughter doubled any joke.
Man hands on happiness to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. So love your parents all you can And have some cheerful kids yourself.
Adrian Mitchell

To be honest, I can never remember being tucked up, or tucked in, by my own Dad. He wasn't that kind of man, or from that kind of social background. But I do hope that my own kids will have positive…

All in White Shall Wait Around...

"These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Revelation 7:14-17 (ANIV)
I used this passage at one of the two funerals I have conducted this week but I never realised that at least one council in England is making sure that the departed are kitted out in their white robes before they are committed to God.
Apparently Kirklees Council have banned people from being cremated wearing their own clothes, instead requiring that bereaved relatives pay an extra £60 for a …

Happy Boxing Day

So what did you do for Christmas?

Remember last December, a number of papers covered the story about astronomers calculating the actual date of the birth of Jesus, as per the story of the star in Matthew's gospel? Well, supposing that the star was a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the constellation of Leo, according to their calculations it was 17th June 2BC. So that makes yesterday Christmas and today Boxing Day. So I hope you didn't overdo it on the turkey, stuffing and pudding.

But if we DID move the Christian celebration of Jesus' birth to 17th June, then perhaps that would throw off the scent of the hedonists and capitalists who have completely trashed the current one, and stop the endless bleating about "Putting Christ back into Xmas". Let them have their Winterval... it was only ever a pagan festival with a little Christianity sprinkled over the top anyway...

However, even that might be sunk by an event being run in an office where a member of my congreg…

Shame and Irony

Awoke this morning to find that Northern Ireland was back in the national and international news for all the wrong reasons, with racist attacks in South Belfast having increased to such an extent that around 20 Romanian families (approximately 100 people) had to be evacuated from their homes last night and spend their night in the premises of City Church, about a mile from the area.
There's been lots of coverage on most news media and phone-ins, as well as much blog traffic. As ever I would point you in the direction of Crookedshore, as well as the post by Alan in Belfast, with at least one of the follow-up comments reminding us that most of these people are Roma, rather than ethnic Romanians, noting (without, I trust, seeking to justify their treatment here) that they are not likely to return to Romania itself with any sense of security, because of the persecution that Roma routinely experience there.
I am not going to make any profound statement, except to say that such persecutio…

From Slavery to Freedom

This morning my colleague David Cooper preached at the first of a series of anniversary services in Dundonald Methodist. He had been minister to that congregation over 40 years ago when it was still a church plant operating out of a temporary hut. He spoke on "Celebrating the Journey with Jesus" and was excellent. But what he said reminded me of this piece that I wrote for an event at the Methodist Conference the last time it was in Dublin 5 years ago.

From slavery to freedom;
A long road through the desert.
No short-cuts, but
Made longer by a lack of trust
And a longing for the past;
Pots of meat at the end of a day.
Ah! The good old days…
It may have been slavery,
But at least you got your supper.

But despite their disobedience
And their grumbling
You travelled with them.
They thought they carried you in a box
But you carried them in the palm of your hand.
You provided for them.
You protected them.
You fought for them.
Stood behind them to guard their backs.
Went ahead of them to blaze the t…

A Gesture of Love

I've already posted this on facebook but it is worth an outing here as well...


Egging on the BNP

I have stated before how anxious I am at the rise of the BNP on the back of political disaffection in England, but yesterday's pelting of them with eggs, was, as another blogger put it, "a waste of perfectly good eggs." In fact it was worse than that... It will help to reinforce their mythos of being a persecuted minority in "their own" country. The way to counter them is not with violent action, even something as monor as throwing eggs, but with non-violent protest and rigorous public debate.
It was interesting to hear that the policy of the BNP is not to use their MEP windfall to further the cause of the party or to feather their own nests (or build an island in their moats so that ducks can feather their own nests) but to give a tithe to community ventures, such as the celebration of St. George's Day (the celebration of a semi-mythical Syrian soldier in the Roman army) or a Christian Christmas... Skip over to the Unfinished Christian's blog for his ta…

Election Results

Tis' the season for elections. Last week's council and European elections seem to have sealed Gordon Brown's fate. The parliamentary Labour Party are unlikely to try to topple him now, but most commentators agree that this is only because no-one else wants to lead Labour into the electoral rout that the general election is likely to be next year. An instant economic miracle seems to be the only thing that will save them.
The European results here were equally demonstrative, with the republicans topping the poll for the first ever time, whilst the Unionist cut each other to ribbons... the only thing that Unionism has to be thankful for is that they managed to get two representatives elected despite this. There was a very real possibility of SDLP taking the third seat. There are many lessons to be learned here. I only hope that it will not result in the DUP running further to the right again, stirring up yet more anti-republican/nationalist/Roman Catholic feeling as a means o…

Holy Conferencing Batman!!!!

Today the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland begins in Dublin, and I shall be attending with my usual good grace, expecting great things.
No... Those who no me know fine well that I am grumbler in chief, although I feel that there are many in conference who run a sweep on how long it will take the pent up frustration within me to bubble up and lead me to vent steam from every orifice over some inconsequential matter. I really don't like conference, and although it is shorter this year, by a half day, the daily sessions are longer.
But I am genuinely trying to go with a different attitude this year especially after a colleague in Grand Rapids, Laurie Haller (who is a relatively sane individual) posted on her blog site a comment in advance of the West Michigan Annual conference, referring to 'John Wesley's notion of "holy conferencing"' which he saw as "a means of grace, along with reading the Bible, attending worship, praying and receivi…

Come hear the Music Play

On Saturday night while most of Britain were watching SuBo, Stavros Flatley and others on Britain's Got Talent, and a few other discerning citizen's of Belfast were elsewhere in this fair city watching a modernised mystery cycle, my wife and I went to the production of Cabaret at the Grand Opera House.
As we crossed the road to get to the theatre we passed a pink fire engine which had been converted to a luxury limousine, packed with well-oiled young "ladies" out for the night. And one of these delightful creatures reversed herself into the small, open side window of this vehicle and treated me and other passers-by to a proctologist's-eye view of her... But it was a suitable introduction towhat was to come...
I've never seen the stage version of Cabaret before, despite seeing the Bob Fosse/Liza Minnelli film many times. They are completely different beasts, not only in terms of plaot and characters, but also because the play is much more "in your face&quo…

The Reality of Diversity

You might have hoped that we had got back to reality by now. REAL reality not the virtual kind or the bizarre variety offered up on TV. Britain’s got Talent may be over for another year, but we’ve still got the denouement of the Apprentice this week, "Celebrity" Masterchef returns next week and on Friday Big Brother is crawling out from the stone it’s been hiding under.
I loathe Big Brother, and most other "reality" shows, although I am a big Apprentice fan and got sucked into BGT this year, but with all of these attention hungry behemoths, there is a tendency to get things totally out of proportion. Last week, in the run up to the final of BGT, despite plenty of other news to report, we had headlines about Susan Boyle cracking under the pressure (which sadly seem to have come true), while the tears of one (undeserving) child finalist prompted much wasted airtime about the cruelty of putting children in for such competitions. We need to get a grip… It’s ONLY a TV ta…