Showing posts from August, 2009

Seek Peace and Pursue it...

The responsive call to worship that we used last Sunday morning and will be using again this week as we explore what it means to seek peace and pursue it, in the wake of the upcoming 70th Anniversary of the beginning of World War 2 and the recent 40th Anniversary of the beginning of our most recent batch of "Troubles" in our own back yard.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed are those who take refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, all you his people,
for those who fear the Lord lack nothing.
Even lions grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
From Psalm 34: 8-14


The Parable of the Good Samaritan and Privatised Health Care

Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead.... a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
Luke 10:30, 33-35 (ANIV)

Its a good job that the Samaritan didn't have to cope with privatised health provision or 2 silver coins wouldn't have been enough.
According to the Sunday Times last weekend, German driver Resul Mor was flagged down by a man who asked him to take his desperately ill wife to hospital in Hamburg. On arrival hospital staff asked Herr Mor to…

Do I Love the NHS?

Back in the Ulster Hospital yesterday in my role as Chaplain there, and it made me think again about the "good old" NHS that has been recently so badly maligned by US right-wing reactionaries and renegade Tories. Now, as both an employee and a frequent user (both on my own behalf as a Type-2 diabetic, and the parent of a particularly accident-prone child) of the National Health Service, I am more than aware of its short-comings. But I am also personally thankful for and a constant observer of its strengths, and have been getting mightily ticked off by repeated ill-informed criticism from the other side of the Atlantic.
At various times I have also had the opportunity to get a close up look at some of the health provision in different parts of the USA, and there is no doubt that at its best, the provision there IS the best in the world. But after all it IS the richest country in the world (at least for the moment) and yet, despite that, there are an inordinate number of people…

To the Left of Trotsky 2

On further reflection, the findings of the aforementioned little tool re foreign policy would perturb me a little, as I wouldn't regard myself as being "non-interventionist" just not wanting to intervene purely on the basis of national self-interest. There are plenty of places that I wish we would intervene in some way, eg. Darfur, and when I talk about intervention I am talking about something more positive than military action and something more long-term than emergency aid. But if the whole talk about foreign intervention is just about securing sources of oil, or exporting an American variety of democracy, then count me out.

I should also have flagged up this other little tool from MIT that I came across through Alan in Belfast. It supposedly produces an artistic impression of your areas of interest as interpreted by limited googling of your name on t'internet. Unfortunately it doesn't quite work for me as there is another more famous David Campton who is a pl…

To the Left of Trotsky?

Found this little opinion plotting tool through the dreaded Facebook... And when I answered the requisite questions it threw up this analysis of my opinions:

My Political Views
I am a left social authoritarian
Left: 5.2, Authoritarian: 3.83

Political Spectrum Quiz

Me? Authoritarian? Never!

In terms of foreign policy, this apparently places me here:

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -4.57

Political Spectrum Quiz

Which is well to the left of average (and more authoritarian) overall and more so for my age-group, although on the whole "culture wars" thing (gay marriage, abortion, drugs, evolution etc) I am Mr. Average...

My Culture War Stance
Score: -1.98

Political Spectrum Quiz

This all rings relatively true to my self-image, and, if the wider results are true suggests that the "popular" press/media are much more right wing than the man/woman in the street that they claim to represent. Maybe people do only buy the Sun and the Daily Mail for the sport! But then maybe it is no more accu…

Gold Medals and Mercy

I was back on Downtown Radio this morning for the first time in ages, after their decision to completely axe the input from their erstwhile religious advisors was rescinded. This is (more or less) the somewhat idiosyncratic review of the week that was broadcast...

Well… it’s been a good week for sports fans, with the World Athletics Championships, the resumption of the English Premier League and the culmination of the Ashes (for those of you poor benighted fools who consider cricket to be a sport).
Watching Philips Idowu and Jessica Ennis win gold for Britain in the athletics was brilliant, but the efforts of all other athletes were put in the shade by lightning Bolt shattering both the 100 and 200m world records. Then of course there have been the controversies: the perennial drugs issue and the question as to whether Castor Semenya, the South African winner of the women’s 800m is really biologically a woman…
Meanwhile in the Premiership some are wondering whether the massive injection…

The Home of Alpha...

I've been promising for some time now to share some reflections on a visit I made in March to Holy Trinity Brompton, the home of the ubiquitous Alpha Course.
The background to me going needs some brief explanation.
I was exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Spiritually. I was as tired, crotchetty and cynical as I have ever been (and for those who don't know me... that is bad). So Sally and I took ourselves off for a short break to London, to meet friends, do a few museums, take in a show, and enjoy some good food. The hotel we booked was just across from the V&A and we spent most of our time there and the other 2 big Kensington museums. But that also meant that it was just across the road from HTB, so we thought (admittedly rather reluctantly) that we really should go over on the Sunday and check it out.
See, whilst I have used Alpha in all of my ministerial appointments to date, I have an abiding suspicion of all that is trendy and popular, and whilst many of my friends and c…

Powerpoint, Worship, Mega Churches and a Whole Lot of Other Stuff...

Maybe it's just my learning style, which is highly associative, picking up cross-cutting themes in a number of different disciplines, but recent reading in the blogosphere has been raising a lot of related issues regarding the over-all direction of modern worship and the use of technology in the same, and how that in turn shapes our corporate and personal spiritual lives...

For starters, the whole issue of powerpoint... I am a convert if not a devotee... I use it in most services in my home church but do not feel disabled without it. I have however, both in worship and in other settings experienced the "death by powerpoint" phenomenon (142 slides in 90 minutes in a presentation on "The Review of Public Administration" by way of an after-dinner speech on one occasion). So these two salutory warnings regarding the inappropriate use of this technological tool in worship are very helpful (See Alan in Belfast and Scotteriology).

But, as Alan in Belfast points out it g…


I've written repeatedly on this blog and elsewhere about the nature and theology of forgiveness, including my belief that we are wrong to make forgiveness conditional on the repentance of the one to be forgiven. If that person is to experience the full benefits of forgiveness and for there to be any real possibility of reconciliation then they must repent, but to make repentance a condition of the offer of forgiveness is something alien to the classic Christian doctrine. But one thing I have not said in previous outings on this subject is that not only do we often have a deficient doctrine of forgiveness, we also have a deficient understanding of what repentance is. It is not, as the old joke puts it, asking forgiveness on a Sunday for what we have done on a Saturday and intend to do again on Monday. It must involve a real change of direction, a U-turn in our lives, which I am led to believe the Greek word "metanoia" infers. It is certainly not simply saying "Sorry..…

Lies, Damn Lies and...

Statistics... Don't you love them.

As a long term participant in the Northern Ireland Household Panel Survey (I'll do anything for a £10 gift voucher... well, I'll spend half an hour answering relatively simple questions anyway...) I received the latest findings today.

This is based on the 2008 returns, before the current economic downturn really gathered momentum here, but already it has shown a leap in those feeling financially worse off than the previous year (up to 31% from 14%), which in turn has manifested itself ina decrease in the number of people going to the pub once per week or more, down to 14% from 22% back in 2002. However, that trend may be exacerbated by the smoking ban in pubs in the intervening period... although I for one have been happier to go to a pub since that legislation. Whatever the reason these statistics certainly lend substance to the licensees bleating about the downturn in their business.

That is until you look at some of the other findings. …

Lost and Found

On our recent holiday our faithful old digital camera developed a fatal flaw... it refused to focus, which given the quality of my photographic skills wasn't a great problem, but in the hands of someone like my wife who takes great pains to get all kinds of weird and wonderful architectural oddities into razor-sharp focus, it is a major draw back. So, on the way back home we called in at one of those HUGE hypermarkets in Cherbourg and picked up a replacement.
Now given that any purchase by me of a technological nature, over about £5, normally only occurs after 3 months research on the internet and comparisons in various outlets, the idea of going in to a single shop and buying something cold off the shelf left me a little jittery. But we compared what was on offer, regarding price, features and brand name, and ultimately went for the up to date version of our previous 6 year old camera. As with everything technological I was astounded by how much things had progressed in that time…

The Pendulum is Revolting

Just back from my holidays, but not quite back at work yet, so uploading various bits and pieces on to the blog and facebook. Got through a pleasing number of books during my stay in Brittany, most of which you can see in my "recent reads in the side bar." Most of them were pieces of undemanding pap, and deserve no more thought than a line or two on a side bar, but one or two deserve a bit more attention. One of these is "The Revolt of the Pendulum" by Clive James, an anthology of his essays from 2005-2008.
I've always enjoyed his writing, whether it be his newspaper columns about TV, collected in previous anthologies, or his memoires (whether or not they were unreliable), as well as his Radio 4 "thoughts" which fit, from time to time, into the yawning gap left by Alastair Cooke's demise. I never really enjoyed his "On TV" shows however, as I thought they tended to be slightly xenophobic and low rent (a tendency which unsurprisingly incre…

Taste and See that the Lord is Good

Tomorrow's Psalm according to the lectionary is Psalm 34. Here's my take on it:

Voice 1: I will bless the LORD every chance I get;
Voice 2: his praise will always pour from my lips.
Voice 1: I live and breathe the LORD;
Voice 2: let those who face troubles hear me and rejoice.
Voice 1: Join me in praising the LORD;
Voice 2: let us lift up his name together.
Voice 1: I looked for the LORD, and he found me;
Voice 2: he freed me from my anxious fears.
Voice 1: Those who look to him reflect his glory;
Voice 2: their faces are never clouded with shame.
Voice 1: I called for help to the LORD and he heard me;
Voice 2: he saved me from all my troubles.
Voice 1: The Lord’s angel stands guard over those who follow him
Voice 2: and protects them from all harm.
Voice 1: Taste and see! The LORD is good;
Voice 2: Happy is the person who hides in him.
Voice 1: Follow the LORD, you his special people,
Voice 2: for those who follow him have everything they need.
Voice 1: Prowling lions grow weak and hungry,

The Priest

Another disposable little monologue, this time based on the story of the encounter between Amaziah and Amos in Amos 7: 10-15. If I was liturgically correct I should have posted this a month ago to fit the lectionary reading for 12th July, but strangely enough living in this part of the world, my mind was on other things...

The cheek of him. Coming up here from Tekoa and telling us how to worship God...

I was just in the middle of the midday sacrifice, up to my elbows in entrails, when one of my helpers nudged me and said "Hey, Amaziah, what's happening here..."

One of the crowd had walked up the steps, and turned his back on us. How dare he, I thought. He began to speak to the crowd and then it was clear from his accent that he wasn't a local. In fact he was a southerner, a Judean. You don't see too many of them in Bethel these days. Not too popular with the locals. But the crowd listened to this one. At first it sounded quite good. He was telling about God's ju…

The Zookeeper

A wee monologue for anyone visiting a zoo over this holiday period... I don't know whether it is more inspired by the story in Daniel, or Animal Magic with Johnny Morris... For those of you too young to know what that is, you don't know what you missed!

It’s not a bad job. Bit smelly at times, specially when I’m on elephants. But recently I’ve been on the lions. Fine so long as you keep them well fed and remember to go in armed with a sharp spear and a bullwhip. As you can see, I have all my limbs intact and fully functional. No. Lions are badly misunderstood. Kings of the jungle they may be... but like all kings they like to just lounge around all day and have other people do everything for them...

Not that I should complain about our King, Darius. He's usually very good. Ever since Darius became king he's taken a real interest in the Royal Zoo... and especially the lions. No, he's a good King... But recently he fell hook line and sinker for the flattery of some o…

Grace and Beauty in the face of Brokenness

Another of the You Tube sites I posted on fb a couple of weeks ago, this one courtesy of Unfinished Christian, it is beautiful. I could get all metaphorical and parabolic about the broken body of Christ etc, but that's entirely superfluous. It is simply worth watching for its own sake...


Journey in the WIlderness

As I said a couple of days ago the Old Testament passage and the Psalm set for tomorrow both look back to the wilderness experiences of the people of Israel. I touched on the relevance of thatstory to us in my poem "From slavery to Freedom". But Joy Dine does it better in her hymn "God who sets us on a Journey". I haven't been able to find another source for it on this side of the world, so here it is:

God, who sets us on a journey to discover, dream and grow, lead us as you led your people in the desert long ago; journey inward, journey outward stir the spirit, stretch the mind; love, for God and self and neighbour, marks the way that Christ defined.

Exploration brings new insights, changes, choices we must face; give us wisdom in deciding, mindful always of your grace; should we stumble, lose our bearings, find it hard to know what's right, we regain our true direction focused on the Jesus light.

End our longing for the old days, grant the vision that we lack. Once we'v…