Showing posts from July, 2009

Can God Spread a Table in the Desert?

The Gospel reading this coming Sunday continues to look at the fallout from the Feeding of the 5000 in John 6, so you could use the "Baps" skit this week if you so desired, but the Old Testament reading from Exodus 12 and set Psalm, which is a postion of Psalm 78 both point to the miracle of the Manna in the desert, which Jesus alludes to in his teaching. Here's my take on a responsive version of Psalm 78:
O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in stories of old, what we have heard and shared. what our fathers and mothers have told us, we will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation what the LORD has done, Praise his power and his wonderous deeds. We'll tell children yet to be born, so they in turn can tell their children.
Then they will put their trust in God and will not forget his deeds They will not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious people.
God did miracles in their sight in the land of …

Africa Too

In response to my fb posting of Africa by Pertpetuum Jazzile, Mark Charles pointed me in the direction of Andy McKee's version. Now given that I have a young man called Andy McKee in my own congregation, I wondered what light he had been hiding under a bushel. But no, different Andy McKee, and a very different version of Toto's Africa... Again, enjoy...


Blessed are the Geeks

Just came across this before I headed off on holiday, and it rings bells after a month or so of technical problems...

If anyone has a spare geek or two around their church, I'll gladly take them off your hands... It would save me an outrageous amount of time I waste tinkering with powerpoints, websites etc.

Nice Baps!

Today's Gospel reading in the lectionary is from John 6: 1-21; the Feeding of the 5,000. In John's version the people completely miss the deeper significance of the miracle and focus on filling their bellies. The following dialogue has a sense of this. It is my adaptation of an older CPAS skit called "Nice Rolls" which I adapted to add a little local colour. For the uninitiated "baps" in Northern Ireland are bread rolls, and a slang term for a significant part of the female anatomy.

(Young man and an older woman are standing eating baps)
Man: Nice baps Mrs!
Woman: I beg your pardon young man!? (folding arms over chest) How dare you !?
Man: No, sorry… (holding out bap) I meant these… They're great... I'm on my second one...
Woman: Sorry… I thought you were being rude…
Man : No… Not at all… Have you any idea what’s in them, Mrs?
Woman: I’m not sure. Fish I think...
Man: Do you know what time it is by any chance?
Woman: (Looks at watch, then holds it to ear sho…


Well, as promised, here's another of my placeholder posts, as I sit with my feet up in Brittany dv. Posted this on fb last week after the link was sent to me by Dick Bowyer in Virginia... Given that we were experiencing a thunderstorm at the time the introduction is particularly appropriate. Not a bit fan of Toto, or any other bloated American AOR bands from the 80s, but it's a great tune given a fabulous treatment here...


Word and Sacrament on Another World

Well, here's the first of my promised placeholder posts, and by this time we should be negotiating the final leg of our epic trek to our Brittany holiday hideaway... Not quite as epic as the trek to the moon and back by Apollo 11 40 years ago this week.
Apparently the crew of Apollo 8 had stirred up a "separation of church and state" hornets' nest when they quoted from Genesis 1 in their orbit of the earth, so for the momentous first landing on the moon the crew were warned that there were to be no Biblical quotations. Buzz Aldrin, however, an Episcopalian, smuggled a personal communion set in his suit in order to celebrate a silent communion on landing on the moon, and later claimed that he had written out and left the words of Psalm 8 on the moon's surface.
Here's my take on that Psalm (I've posted it previously here):
BOTH: O LORD , our God, your name is honoured in all that you have made!Voice 1: Beyond the boundless reaches of spaceVoice 2: Higher tha…

Holiday Service

Well, as of today I'm off on my holidays, and boy do I need one, as I am, frankly poopered! Although, since we are driving half-way around the world (OK... to Brittany) for holiday this year, I won't actually be able to put my feet up until Thursday afternoon... But from there on in it is 2 weeks of sitting around reading trashy books! I will mop up a few more serious ones that I've started but haven't got finished in my pre-holiday slowdown, but for the most part it will be non-theological, sub-literary fiction...
But due to the fact that my dear wife, somewhat irrationally, has banned me from buying a nice new incredibly cheap netbbok to take on holiday, I will not be posting anything here or on facebook for a time.
However, just to make sure that you, faithful readers (all 3 of you), do not feel bereft, I have set up a series of posts to tide you over until my return. Some are links to stuff that I've previously posted on facebook, in the misguided belief that so…

Hula-Hoops and Mickey Marley

Just a quickie... Awoke this morning to the joy-filled tones of Good Morning Ulster on Radio Ulster, to hear sad echoes of yesteryear with the news that an elderly couple had their home stoned in Workman Avenue, the street adjoining my previous church on the Springfield Road. Mind you, that was rarely news in my day, as it happened with alarming regularity, and I suspect that the only thing that made the media sit up and take notice today is the fact that the victims on this occasion happen to be Catholics living on the "Protestant" side of the wall, who were being targetted by Catholic/nationalist youths.
It was interesting that this news came through on the same programme that included Nuala McKeever's thought for the day (at 1:26:00 into the programme) which she introduced by saying she lived "inside a hula-hoop". I'm not always a fan of Ms. McKeever's oeuvre, but this was sharp, funny and pertinent. Give it a listen on BBC's iPlayer before it se…

Nice Rocks

Today is a big day for me personally. It is the 40th anniversary of my first conscious memory... The Apollo 11 moonlanding. Others have tried to tell me that I only "remember" it because it has been on TV so often subsequently, but no... I remember the TV coverage vividly... It was not "the greatest week in history since the Creation..." as Richard Nixon hyperbolically claimed at the time... But it was certainly a significant summer in my life, because, sadly, the next conscious memory that I have is of the TV coverage of the riots surrounding the Civil Rights marches in August that year... One was an image of hope... The other a portent of things to come... The sad thing is that the latter has shaped my life and the subsequent history of Northern Ireland more than the former, and all too soon the hope wrapped up in the Moonlandings petered out into the cynicism of the latter years of the Nixon regime and the Vietnam war...

But what we sometimes forget is that the m…

Bonfire Bonanza!

Yeah! For the pyromaniacs of Belfast we have had not one but two nights of bonfires this year. Due to the fact that the 12th fell on a Sunday, and therefore the Twelfth Parades are actually on the 13th, complete confusion reigned among loyalist communities (nothing new there though) as to what night the traditional bonfires should be lit. And so in our own area we had the children's bonfire on Saturday night and the big one the following night just after midnight. But talking to people about this over the past few weeks has shown just how far the traditions of the Twelfth have drifted from the Orange Order's professed Christian origins.
The bonfires have never been an official part of the Orange Celebrations, indeed they are simply an adoption of a widely held tradition here in Ireland going back to pagan times, that whenever you want to mark a celebration you pile up whatever you can grab and burn it! The name reputedly comes from "Bone-fire" - the fire in the ancien…

The Death of the Dipper

A monologue by Herod Antipas inspired by today's Gospel reading from the Lectionary in Mark 6: 14-29.

Why!? Why could the damned dipper not keep his nose out of my personal life?
And why could Herodias not simply ignore him? What harm could he do once I’d locked him away?
Yes, he went on and on about the immorality of our relationship, but what did she expect? He’s a religious fanatic… But if he is one of God’s prophets I don’t want his blood on my hands as well as my marital sins…
But she didn’t care… She wanted his head on a plate… Literally. And she knew just how to get it… The same way she got me in the first place…
I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of fine young female flesh… I’d taken her even though she was both my own niece and my brother’s wife… Keep it in the family is my motto…
But she then dangled her own daughter as bait to get what she wanted… Just one dance and I was slavering at the mouth… I offered her half my Kingdom… and I would have given it to her too (the dusty, …

Love and Faithfulness Meet in the Street

In my liturgical illiteracy, I got my lectionary weeks mixed up... But anyway, as a result here is a responsive version of Psalm 85 that I adapted for worship last week, when it is actually set for this week... (By the way the picture is by an artist called John August Swanson and was inspired by the liturgical use of Psalm 85)

Listen to what the Lord God says;
He promises peace to his people, his saints.
See how near his salvation is for those who fear him,
his glory will dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet in the street;
righteousness and peace embrace and kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
righteousness pours down from heaven.
The Lord indeed gives goodness and beauty,
our land responds with a bounteous harvest.
Righteousness strides out before him
and prepares the way for his coming.
From Psalm 85: 8-13

I wonder whether love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace will meet each other in the streets of Belfast over these next few days?



One of the things that men in the post-industrial western world have had difficulty coming to terms with is the whole idea of redundancy. Where the man was once the bread-winner, it is now often the woman who is the earner in working class areas, as the traditional "female" jobs cleaning and cooking etc. are still there while the male preserves of heavy industry and unskilled labour have contracted. Given that many men of previous generations defined themselves by their jobs (my own father left for work before 7 am and often didn't return home until 8 pm) this has had profound psychological effects as well as economic and sociological ones.
With the backing of the welfare state, many women don't see the obvious need for having a man around, even if he is the father of her children, and some of them are probably better off without the men in question, as they contribute little more than sperm to the making of a child. But that's part of the joys of sexual reproduct…

Shameless Advertising... In a Very Good Cause

Just incase you can't read the small print... Phone 90489822 for further details...
Its part of the madness that is our summer family Fun Week, with activities every day from Monday to Friday for 5-14 year olds.
There's a teddy bear's picnic for toddlers on Tuesday evening, and Hullabaloo Theatre Company for the same group on the Wednesday at 10.30am,
At the same time on Wednesday the Senior members of our community are invited to a Silk Screen Painting workshop. Seniors are also invited to join us for Coffee, Boccia and Indoor Curling on Friday at 10.30am.
Dads and Kids are encouraged to go orienteering on Wednesday night, while the whole family are invited to take part in Its a Knock Out on Thursday night, and go on a bus trip to Carnfunnock on Saturday, before returning for a barbeque back at the church and the finals of the Annual DFCI Soap Box Derby.
Everything then comes to a climax in the Sunday morning Family Week Celebration at 11am in the church.
After that I'm run…

I'm Alive and I'm Here Forever...

Now right at the outset let me make one thing clear. I am not, never have been, and am never likely to be a fan of Michael Jackson's music... I suppose that's a function of my age as well as my musical taste. Actually when I initially read about his death I was trawling through the internet and was more distressed when I learned that another Michael Jackson, the famed "Beer Hunter" had died two years ago without me realising it. So I really didn't get sucked into the hype concerning the King of Pop's death. I could understand why the media did, because they have been feeding off him for years, whether because of his musical output, or more recently because of his moderately bizarre lifestyle, but I was left on the outside looking in with no real interest. Until yesterday and I caught some of the footage concerning the mega-memorial at the Staples Centre in LA. Now I thought that Princess Diana's funeral was over the top, with her instant popular beatifica…

Comic Book Forgiveness

4 years ago today a series of 4 suicide bombs took the lives of 52 people in central London. Today a memorial to those victims was officially unveiled in Hyde Park. One of those involved in commissioning the memorial was Julie Nicholson, whose daughter Jennifer was one of the victims. Previously Julie was in the news when she quit her appointment as an Anglican parish priest, because she was unable to forgive those who had taken her daughter's life. I've written about her before, both on this blog and elsewhere, as an illustration of both the difficulty and importance of forgiveness. Sometimes as Christians we are very glib about the whole thing, yet it is central to the Christian message. It is also central to the plot of Spiderman 3 which I was watching with my son Ciaran earlier this week. There are many references to forgiveness in the script, and a central plot point is where Spiderman escapes the clutches of an evil alien symbiote, which is almost a metaphor for Peter Par…

Table Fellowship

This morning I will be leading a communion service as I usually do every month. Most Methodist churches in Ireland usually celebrate communion on the first Sunday morning in the month, where they have an ordained minister who can preside. Mr. Wesley would not be impressed. He argued for daily communion. I'm not sure whether this was out of his conviction that the outward and visible sign of communion should be a daily reminder of our fellowship with others in Christ, or simply because he was a High Church Anglican. I suspect the latter, as some of his writing on the sacraments (particularly baptism) were so esoteric as to be superstitious.
Throughout the history of the Christian church the importance of Communion/the Eucharist/the Lord's Supper/Breaking of Bread has vexed generation after generation. Within one generation of the Last Supper, Paul had to put the brakes on the traditional practice of commemorating this within the context of a community meal, because of selfishnes…

Interdependence Day

Today we're hosting a party at our house for something between 30-55 people (depending on who turns up and when). It is ostensibly to celebrate American Independence Day and to say thanks to Hannah Williams our Young Adult Volunteer from the PCUSA, who has been with us at Dundonald for the past year.
We had a great time in Michigan for Independence Day last year, but I continue to have difficulty with any heavily patriotic festival (believing with Samuel Johnston that far too often "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel") and nationalistic flag-waving of any flavour.
And whilst I can understand the reasons that the USA might want to celebrate their independence from British colonialism (even though the founder of Methodism, John Wesley would not have agreed), the myth of "independence" has seeped deep into the American psyche and mutated into a stubborn individualism, which, over the past century they have, in turn exported to the rest of the world, in the…