Couldn't have said it better myself...



"We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are."

Anais Nin




Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Giving the Government the Finger


This is not a story to read immediately after your breakfast, but apparently a Serbian union official has cut off his little finger and eaten it, in protest at unpaid wages. Zoran Bulatovic used a hacksaw to cut his finger off and said "it hurt like hell". Surprising that!
The prophets in the Old Testament realised that words were not enough at times, and did some dramatic things to make a point... Isaiah walked around naked for 3 years while Ezekiel lay on his left side for over a year before turning over onto the other side for a further 40 days, and Ahijah tore his coat into twelve pieces, giving 10 to Jeroboam. But this is something that may even have given the most fervent Old Testament prophet pause before doing it.

Apparently some workers at the Raska Holding textile factory in Novi Pazar haven't been paid for years, and currently have nothing to eat, so he ate his finger to make an example.
His colleagues threatened to follow suit, one at a time, but further auto-cannabalism has been put on hold until talks are held with the Government on Tuesday.

It's pretty extreme... but Mr. Bulatovic was literally prepared to put his finger where his mouth was... In this time of economic crisis what are we prepared to do to speak up for the poor and powerless? Because words may not be enough.
(But if you are up for stories that make you queasy... try this one about a man with a fir tree growing in his lung...)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Star Performers PS


As a brief postscript to my previous posting, I've just been pointed towards this appropriate post by Brian McLaren. And before you McLaren-sceptics dismiss it out of hand, he says a lot of important things here, especially when it comes to what is missing from our contemporary worship diet.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Star Performers

Now I'm not very cool... I know that will come as a shock to many, but, I must break it to you. I'm a sad middle aged man who only keeps vaguely up to date with modern beat combos in order to embarass his teenage son. And because of this I managed to miss out on Nickelback's "Rock Star", which is a relatively good rock track which manages to satirise the excesses of modern rock culture...
Here it is in its video-based glory.

Rockstar Video

I actually only came across this track because I was trying to find the "inspiration" behind the "Shekelback" version below which has been doing the rounds among friends over on Facebook... You can judge for yourself which is best...
I suppose the Nickelback song is a bit superfluous as part of the whole idea of rock, particularly in its modern American form, is to be narcissistic, hedonistic and amoral... So why should we be surprised?
The Shekelback version however, points up an appaling trend in modern Christianity, not only with worship leaders, but with preachers and the whole Christian "industry" of aping modern celebrity/performing arts culture... It has ever been thus, although it has definitely gotten worse recently... But a lot of the problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of worship... The seeker sensitve trend definitely exacerbated this, but it has been evident at least since the time of the gloomy Dane, theologian Soren Kierkegaard, who pointed out that whilst we tend to see preachers and choirs etc as the performers in worship, the congregation and God as some sort of prompter whispering into the ear of the person or people up front, actually worship, if it is to be seen as a performance at all is the work of the whole people of God. Therefore the congregation are the performers, the preacher/worship leader/choir are only the prompters and God is the audience of one...
But no-one ever got a million dollar record or book deal following that kind of advice!




Sunday, April 12, 2009

You’ll Never Believe who we Met…


Another dialogue that I wrote a few years ago now... But appropriate any Easter.

Both: You’ll never believe who we met…
Cleopas: Really…
Persis: You’ll never believe it… It was amazing…
Cleopas: Astounding…
Persis: We didn’t recognise him ourselves at first…
Cleopas: Now I had a wee inkling from the time he started talking to us…
Persis: Actually Cleopas was really cheeky when he asked what we were talking about…Asked him what planet he was on over the past few days that he hadn’t heard what had happened in Jerusalem…
Cleopas: I told him all that had happened over the previous few days…
Persis: I’m really embarrassed… There’s us telling him what had happened… As if he didn’t know!!!
Cleopas: He genuinely didn’t seem to know what had been going on…
Persis: It was dreadful to really think what had gone on… We were really devastated… All our hopes seemed to have been nailed to that cross with him… Then to add insult to injury… some of the women said that they had just come from the tomb and they couldn’t find the body…
Cleopas: Things had looked bleak, but when the women came back from the tomb talking about the body being gone, I knew there was something happening…
Persis: When he heard this he said: “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! It’s all there in the prophets…”
Cleopas: It’s all there in the prophets, you see. We talked about that as we walked along…
Persis: He explained it as we walked along… How the Messiah had to suffer before entering into his glory…
Cleopas: The seven miles to Emmaus flew by…
Persis: Before we knew it we had reached our destination…
Cleopas: It was late so we asked him to stay for supper…
Persis: We asked him to stay for supper… but it was only an excuse… He looked as if he was heading on and we didn’t want him to leave us…
Cleopas: So he came in for a bite to eat… I had hoped to talk more about his fulfilment of the prophecies…
Persis: But he didn’t stay long… Only until he had given thanks to God for the food and broken the bread… And then I remembered…
Cleopas: I remembered what he had said a few days before…
Persis: This bread is my body, broken for you… this wine is my blood, poured out for you…
Cleopas: As often as you do this remember me…
Persis: I remembered…
Cleopas: And he disappeared. Persis sat there with her eyes wide as dinner plates and her jaw dragging on the ground.
Persis: Cleopas was just as astounded as I was… but he would never admit it…
Cleopas: Once she came to I was keen to talk about all that had happened to us…
Persis: Once I came to, I wanted to tell the others what had happened to us…
Cleopas: We headed back to Jerusalem…
Persis: We almost ran the whole way…
Cleopas: Got there in half the time it took us in the other direction…
Persis: Yet, it seemed so much longer without him with us…
Cleopas: But by the time we got there others had seen him too… It was old news…
Persis: It was amazing news… Jesus was alive…
Cleopas: But Jesus had walked with us to Emmaus… I’ll hold onto that until my dying day…
Persis: We had walked with Jesus to Emmaus…
Cleopas: Maybe I’ll write a book… Seven Miles with Jesus…
Persis: But the journey isn’t over yet…


© David A. Campton 2004


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Yeshua Saves...


We've had a good, if busy, week at church. But after all the activities of Holy Week and particularly the intensity of the various Good Friday services and events, we, along with most of the Christian world, take a liturgical breather, on what is variously called Holy, Low, Black, White, Silent, Still or Great Saturday.
My professional activities this week have meant that I have not had much time to devote to much else, including this blog, or watching football, which, in the case of the midweek debacle between Liverpool and Chelski was a mercy. But today, even as I type the football commentary in on the radio in the background... (And Torres has just scored for the second time)...
But there was a strange juxtaposition between 2 football stories I read this morning. One focusing on the ire of Aston Churches Working Together towards the Premier league, because of the scheduling of the Aston Villa v Everton fixture tomorrow, at a time which may disrupt local church services, and harking back to a time when Easter was treated in the same way as Christmas by both shops and football leagues. It is certainly a sign of the secularization of the other island, which is further down the line than we are here... but it will come. But the best response to this is not moaning and protesting, as it will simply convince a spiritually ambivalent football crowd that Christians are killjoys... Rather, if they feel the need to say something, why not organise people to give a small Easter Egg to every attending fan, together with a piece of football-themed Christian literature?

The other story was a million miles away from this... or rather 2,300 miles... in Northern Israel, where a piece in the Times was discussing a programme to support the use of Aramaic, the everyday language of Jesus, in the small Maronite Christian Community. It notes its use by children when playing football. Makes a change from the Anglo-Saxon used far too frequently in the UK.
Maronites, a Christian sect dating from the 4th century, are scattered in small communities all across the world, with the largest group in Lebanon. Until the end of the 19th Century most Maronites in Palestine spoke Aramaic, but the establishment of Israel as a nation state has contributed to the decline of the Maronite community there, partly through the erosion of their language. The Israeli Education Ministry recognises two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic, which are taught in schools. In addition Maronites have long been barred from returning to their ancestral village of Bir’im on the border between Israel and Lebanon.
“We are fighting to maintain our identity. Aramaic is a central part of that,” Mr Khalloul said.

It's only a matter of time before some buck eejit here uses this programme as an example of what can be done to bolster the use of the Ulster-Scots pseudo-language, and Ulster Protestant identity.

However, there are mixed motivations for using Jesus' language, as there are for reinforcing Ulster-Scots identity. May Shkhady, an 8 year old girl said that while studying Aramaic had enlivened church services for her, she mostly enjoyed using it among her friends. “I love learning Aramaic because it is the language of Jesus. It’s like a secret language that we can talk between us.” That has very practical implications on the football pitch, where it is used by young Maronites to shout intructions to each other that the rival team can’t understand. “It’s good to know that if Jesus were playing football, He’d be on our team,” said one boy.

So what team would he be on in the Premier league? Or in the Irish League? And would he speak Aramaic, Irish or Ulster-Scots?

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Man Must Die



I've been a little busy lately. But then as my friends who think that I only work one day a week say, the shock of being "on duty" throughout Holy Week is fairly extreme. But anyway, what follows is one of the pieces we used in our Walk of Witness around Ballybeen today at lunchtime, with the other churches. I wrote it a few years ago based upon John 11:47-53 & 18:12-14... I removed the "b" word for the public performance, but this is the original post watershed version.


The man must die. He is worse than that madman in the desert that Herod disposed of a few years ago. John the Baptizer... We breathed a sigh of relief when he “disappeared”... Then this Galilean started stirring up trouble, I almost believed that the Baptizer had risen from the dead... Apparently they are cousins...
Well, that explains it... We all know that madness runs in families. But if we do not act quickly the whole nation may run mad.
He may not seem mad... He talks of loving God and loving others... If only it were that simple. But he hasn’t shown much love towards us... He has undermined our authority, with his sermons and his stories and his sayings... Both us and the Pharisees... Now I don’t care what he says about those religious nit-pickers... But when he attacks the priesthood he is attacking the heart of religion in this nation... The heart of the nation itself.
He showed his true colours when he burst in to the temple with his rabble and chased out the temple traders... Called the holiest place in Israel a den of thieves. How dare he! Now I admit that I wasn’t best pleased because those traders pay a percentage of their profits directly to my family for the privilege of serving the pilgrims in this way. And Passover is usually their most profitable time... But its not just the money, it’s the principle of the thing. If everyone had a say about what happened in the Temple where would we be then?
What right does he have? I Caiaphas, am High Priest of the Temple of the God of Israel; I stand in a line of priests that stretches back to Aaron himself... What is this man’s pedigree? Who is his father? A Galilean carpenter, some say. Others say that he wasn't really his father... That he was actually illegitimate... Will this backwoods bastard bring down the temple? Then how will the people atone for their sins if the temple is discredited and destroyed?
When he was challenged he claimed that if this temple were to collapse he could rebuild it in 3 days... It took King Herod 10 years to build it in our fathers time... and this man will rebuild it in three days!!! I thought he was a country carpenter, not a world record stonemason!!!
Three days. If I have my way in 3 days he will be mouldering in a pauper’s grave... But then maybe he can rise from it like his friend Lazarus. Oh, I admit he has done some amazing things... I don’t know what trickery he has used, but he is good... I’ll give him that. But it is giving the people unfair expectations...
How can they get on with everyday life if they expect God to intervene all the time? To wave a magic wand and make everything better.
This world is a hard place... And it takes hard men to take hard decisions. And my decision, reluctantly, is that this man must die.
It is better that this one man die than the whole nation be destroyed. If he continues his attacks on us he will destabilise everything... and then the Romans will take over completely... And none of us want that... Do we? But if we act quickly, as soon as the feast is over... When the people are sleeping soundly after too much food and sweet wine... We could get someone to lure him to where we can arrest him without too much trouble and then we can have him tried and handed over to the Romans for execution as a rebel. And then the Romans can take the blame. It may even unite the nation as never before... In a way he will be the saviour of the nation.
One death instead of many... It is a price worth paying...

© David A. Campton 2002

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Cracking Good Weekend Gromit!



Well, after a week's silence, I'm back... Did you miss me?


Towards the end of last week I was insanely busy trying to clear stuff up to allow Sally & myself to get away to London without the kids for the weekend. Then I managed to stay off t'internet all weekend (almost harder than coming off heroin I would think!) and things were a tad busy on my return... More of that anon.


But it was all worth it... We had a great time... Not restful, but certainly relaxing. One friend at church asked why on earth we were going to London instead of going off to chill at a hotel in Donegal? But the truth is, that I have been so busy & stressed recently that if I had gone somewhere where there was nothing to do, I would have ended up churning stuff over and over in my head in a totally unproductive manner.


Instead we enjoyed a weekend in the comfortable surroundings of the Rembrandt Hotel, which I would heartily recommend. We were practically able to fall out of bed into the Victoria and Albert Museum, which despite our pretensions of being cultured, neither Sally nor I had visited before... And on the Saturday we nipped across to the Science Museum for the brand spanking new "Wallace and Gromit" exhibition being put on by the Intellectual Property Office... It had only opened that morning, so all the attendants were as excited as the children attending. We hadn't realised it was on, but were sold two cut price tickets by someone who had been organising a larger party and had some spares.


Getting to that exhibition made up in part for missing the Darwin's Big Idea exhibition at the Natural History Museum, which was one of the reasons I wanted to go in the first place... But it was booked out... But we still enjoyed wandering around that wonderful museum.


It has always struck me as grossly unfair that the most priveleged borough in Britain bar none, has the added luxury of 3 of the greatest museums in the country, if not the world, on their own doorstep, and they are free!!! As my mum would say, "The world is ill-divid!"


But whilst not wandering around museums, we also managed to take in a matinee of "Wicked" which was, in that street parlance that I so often use, "Wicked!" Mind you, Sally almost needed to administer oxygen to rouse me from the shock of the price!


We also ate outrageous amounts of great food, from the hotel breakfasts, to lunchtime tapas, and evening meals a la Thailand and Lebanon... And spent some time with friends on the Friday night in a local pub, "the Anglesea Arms" which I am assured was the local to Dickens and D.H. Lawrence, neither of which would have impressed me, as they are two of my least favourite authors. But they served good ale, including a bizarre concoction called "Dark Star Espresso" which was a coffee flavoured dark ale.


Whilst chatting with our friends, one of whom we hadn't seen for 19 years, we were afforded the luxury of watching the beautiful people of Brompton getting well and truly wasted... WHich they did with great gusto...


Two days later we saw another batch (and perhaps some of the same group) of the beautiful people, at worship, as we went to Holy Trinity Brompton... I'll return to that experience in due course, but here's a word of warning for faithful readers... what I have to say will not be in the least cynical... Honest!


No... the whole weekend was a splendid success... Even the food in Luton Airport on our return journey was delicious...


A much needed and appreciated break, and thanks to all those who made it possible, by minding children (my wonderful mother-in-law) and covering Sunday worship.