Showing posts from March, 2010

I Thirst

At first glance this is one of the least profound of Jesus’ “words from the cross." After losing a large quantity of blood through his flogging and crucifixion, Jesus was bound to have experienced extraordinary thirst. So it is not surprising that Matthew and Mark record, along with John, that somebody offered Jesus some sour wine in a sponge (see Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:34). But its only John that notes Jesus’ simple statement of need (John 19: 28).
We on this island have so much water to spare (especially given the downpours of the past few days) that few of us have ever felt REAL thirst… perhaps coming round from an anaesthetic or after a tough sporting event… But few of us will have experienced the same level of physical thirst as Jesus has… However, around the world, then and now, real life-threatening thirst is a daily human experience. We barely noticed the loss of millions of gallons of water from a leak in the Mourne reservoirs last week, yet across the world 1 billion peo…

Behold Your Son

Though most of the men who followed Jesus deserted him at the cross, his female followers remained to observe his death. All four gospels mention this striking fact (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; John 19:25) despite the fact that this would have been seen as discrediting Jesus and his mission as being "only for women." Some things never change!
Only John specifies that Mary, Jesus’ mother was among the women who remained near him until the end. Perhaps this is because he is the “disciple whom Jesus loved” who appears time and again in this gospel account, including at the cross. He writes:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:25…

This Day in Paradise...

He wasn’t just a thief… Given that the Romans were crucifying him, he was much more than that… he was probably a rebel, a thug, a murderer… a threat to the state… He had lived a ruthless life and was dying an equally ruthless death…Yet at the last minute, he found it in himself to turn to the man unjustly crucified beside him and say: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
There's actually nothing in the text to say that he said this with any less mockery than his co-condemned had used when he said: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But most believe that he was genuine… That this was the clearest example of a last minute conversion in history.
Some people leave everything to the last minute. There’s even a famous website dedicated to finding theatre tickets, gifts and holidays for those who don’t plan ahead… But as has been pointed out by many preachers before me, few of us have the luxury of knowing when our very last minute will be… There may be websites…

Over the Bridge Again...

Over the weekend I got my Christmas present from my wife... No, it's not that the post is particularly bad here... it's because my Christmas present was a ticket to see Martin Lynch's adaptation of "Over the Bridge" by Sam Thompson, at the Waterfront Studio. This was a romantic gesture on her part, in that it was after the opening night of a production of the same play which I directed as a student in Edinburgh back in 1987, that she and I started going out together. I believe my opening gambit with her was "Do you fancy dandering down to the Scotsman with me?" as I was going down to pick up the reviews from the local paper... The reviews were middling, which sent me into a slough of despond, but she sought to pick me up, and so began a long and happy relationship...

So this play is important to me... but not just for personal, sentimental reasons. Also because I think it is one of the most important pieces of theatre ever to be written and staged in Nor…

Father Forgive...

This week on both Downtown Radio's "Just a Moment" at the unearthly hour of 6.55am and in my own church in Dundonald at a breakfast prayer meeting at the barely better hour of 8am, I'm reflecting on the 7 final words of Jesus from the cross. In the 17th century the Jesuit Missionaries to Peru devised a special 3 hour service for Good Friday, focused on theses 7 words of Christ from the Cross… it has since spread across the Catholic and wider Christian world… The words are drawn from all 4 gospels, because no one account contains all of them… each gospel has its own emphasis… But we begin with the first one in Luke’s gospel....

'When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."'
Luke 23:33-34 (ANIV)

This word is as good a place to start as any when considering the events at Calvary, because…

A Book for Holy Week

Just finished reading another of the books chosen for our church's "Good Book Group": "Jesus - The Final Days." It must be said that one of the deciding factors was the fact that it was relatively short, and at little over 100 pages its a quick read, but contains a lot of scholarship within it. It's essentially 3 lectures looking at the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, with Craig Evans covering the first 2 and Tom Wright dealing with the third (does anyone else write about the resurrection from an evangelical perspective these days, and indeed, does Tom Wright write about anything else without bringing the implications of the resurrection into it?). Whilst the scholarship is rigorous, the writing style is accessible and, especially with Wright's section, engaging. So if you're wanting to read something relevant over next weekend, or indeed if you're a preacher panicking about their Good Friday/Easter sermons, then you could do worse than…

No Pope Here!

I awoke this morning to the "news" that the Orange Order is objecting to the state visit of the Pope to the UK this coming September. I hardly expected them to be welcoming him with open arms given the history of tension between Orangism and Catholicism here in Ireland over the years, and the particular attitude of the Orange Order to the Papacy, which is an un-diluted 17th/18th century analysis of the person and position of the Pope both as "Anti-Christ/Man of Perdition" (a position which John Wesley himself espoused) and the head of a foreign state which actively sought the overthrow of the "Protestant" monarchy of Britain. However, given their recent attempts to "rebrand" Orangism as a cultural grouping which stands for religious tolerance, I might have expected their position to be a tad more nuanced. But then, over recent years the leadership of the Orange Order have never ceased to surprise me with their ineptitude in dealing with most thi…

Oscar Romero's Hope

Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero was assasinated 30 years ago today while celebrating the eucharist. This piece by Romero, like Martin Luther King Junior's "I have been to the mountaintop" speech, is remarkably prescient, aware that any of us are only part of a much bigger picture, but is also pregnant with the resurrection hope that we will be celebrating in a few days time, not a "cross you fingers" or "touch wood" type of hope, but the sure and certain hope, which is not just about pie in the sky when you die, but God's kingdom come, his will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be sai…

History in the Making (Again)

And so the deal has been done... But what a palaver it has all been and few have emerged with much credit from the morass.
I'll lay my cards on the table... I wanted the devolution of police and justice powers simply because without it the whole shakey political side of the peace process might have ground to a complete halt. But I'm not naive enough to believe that this will bring huge improvements to policing and criminal justice here overnight... far from it... the political incompetence that the folks on the hill have demonstrated over the past few weeks suggests that they shouldn't be put in charge of a murder mystery dinner party, never mind a bribe/budget of £800 million (why does every significant political move here need to be oiled by collosal amounts of cash? Maybe Harold Wilson was right... maybe we are a nation of spongers). Their performance on other issues including education, job creation, planning, water rates etc wouldn't fill you with confidence either…

The Gospel According to Glee

I don’t actually watch much TV at the moment, apart from the occasional snippet of "Bargain Hunt" or "Doctors" while eating my lunch (daytime TV... designed to drive people back to work), although I and all the other members of this household can't wait for Dr. Who to return this Easter.
But late Monday night after I’ve got home from playing football, I switch on to watch my current guilty pleasure. Glee… the hit show about an American high school show choir or Glee club… Yes it’s corny, saccharine and crammed full of stereotypes… but it is very well done… and I say it loud and proud "I am a Gleek!"
However, it has recieved a certain amount of criticism recently as being anti-Christian… Certainly much of what goes on would not be what I would recommend for teenagers (such as boosting club funds by holding a bake-sale of cup-cakes augmented with weed), although it is no worse, and a lot better than most TV programmes these days. So far as I can see the o…

What is Friendship Worth?

I only became involved in facebook because of my son Owain. He was wanting to find a way of hooking up with his friends easily while we were on an extended exchange in the USA a few years ago and signed up for Facebook, on the understanding that I would sign up too as his "friend" and thus be able to keep tabs on what he was involved in. However, he rarely used his account, and I didn't touch it at all for the first 2 months... then whilst checking my emails in the US, one day there were 4, then 14, then 20 then over 70 emails arrived in my inbox with the senders asking to be my friend... I was very discerning about my acceptances, restricting them to people I actually knew... whether they were friends, or I'd even talked to them, in the real world was only a secondary concern. My wife, coming later to the party, is much much more discerning... if you are on her list you're part of a relatively select band.
Whether these can REALLY be termed friendships, however, …

The Emperor's New 3D Clothes

Last night was one of those rare evenings when my wife Sally and I had no childcare issues, and had cleared the diaries of work, so we headed off to see a film together. For ages I've wanted to see Avatar in 3D, and so wanted to catch it in the cinemas before it disappeared forever, or I have to spend thousands of pounds to install a TV/DVD system in the house to watch digital 3D at home if/when it arrives.
Only problem... Sally booked the tickets and went ahead of me to get them while I found a parking space for the car, but didn't realise that it was Avatar 3D I wanted to see. So I arrived at the cinema and asked where we picked up the glasses? "What glasses?" asked Sally. Cue one enormous huff... If ever there was proof that I am an unreconstructed spoilt brat in a middle-aged man's body last night was it.
I was determined I wasn't going to enjoy the film... And you know what... I didn't... But actually it wasn't simply because of a bad attitude... I…