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Showing posts from December, 2012

A December Lament

Earlier this month I posted "Accentuate the Positive" which was the first song I heard on Radio 2 that morning, but I could equally have posted the last one I heard that night, which was this haunting lament by Alison Krauss, "Get me Through December" because, if truth be told, that was closer to how I felt, with the hectic run-in to Christmas after a bruising year.





How pale is the sky that brings forth the rain
As the changing of seasons prepares me again
For the long bitter nights and the wild winter's day
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away

I've been to the mountain, left my tracks in the snow
Where souls have been lost and the walking wounded go
I've taken the pain no girl should endure
Faith can move mountains; of that I am sure
But faith can move mountains; of that I am sure

Just get me through December
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again

No divine purpose brings freedom f…

Herod's Last Request

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Prompted by some of what I've been writing over the past few days here is an adaptation for two voices of part of Godfrey Rust's "Herod's Last Request":













HUSBAND:  When Herod came to dinner we locked up the silver cutlery- though king of God’s own chosen nation he had a certain reputation. One thing we were grateful for - his guards remained outside the door. They said they didn’t mind it snowing and whiled away the time by throwing javelins at next door’s cat the neighbour’s curtains twitched at that. The wife set an extra place or two for the Ethiopian eunuchs who he brought along to taste his food. I said “His timing’s very good, dropping by on Christmas Day; we were entertaining anyway. Herod chewed the turkey fat and chatted about this and that- the cost of temple services the relative advantages of burnt offerings and frankincense -


HUSBAND:  We seemed to have his confidence and in a weak, unguarded minute (just like me to drop us in it) I brought up, casually aside, the subject of…

Rachel weeps the world over...

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I suggested yesterday that American society and the church within it, needs to look at itself very, very seriously in the wake of the Newtown massacre, and other such events...
But I say that from a society that also needs to look at itself very seriously... another society that, whilst claiming to be democratic, thinks that violence or the threat of violence, is a way to achieve its own ends... And that applies to those on both sides of the constitutional divide, whatever flag they may choose to drape themselves in and dishonour. My own analysis of the recent spat about the Union flag flying over Belfast City Hall, is that it has less to do with honouring the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the UK (which it is), and more to do with both Sinn Fein and the Unionists trying to assert their particular credentials over and against Republican dissidents on one side and the "Lundyite" Alliance Party in the middle... We've been here many times before, with the Unionist l…

Rachel still weeps...

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As I said yesterday I've stayed broadly silent for the past fortnight on the events in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown Connecticut, first because I'm an outsider and second I don't believe that engaging in polemic in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy is helpful to anyone... But, as you may imagine, I am not devoid of opinions... So, let me put my cards on the table...

Whilst I am commenting from a distance, I do live in a land which has known more than its fair share of gun related deaths, but have also witnessed the work of police and street-workers seeking to address gun-crime in gang-ridden Providence, RI, the adjacent state to Newtown. As such I cannot, for the life of me, understand why intelligent politicians cannot find a way of respecting the historic aims of the second amendment to the US Constitution (because God forbid you would want to change such a holy document), whilst protecting society at large, including children, from people having easy access …

Rachel Weeps

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Today is the first of 3 days commemorating "The Massacre of the Innocents" (Matthew 2: 13-18) - today  the Syrian Church marks it, tomorrow the western church, and then on the 29th the Eastern orthodox churches do... and over the next few days there will doubtless be much blogging on the recent massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown Connecticut... I've stayed broadly silent on this subject on this blog over the past fortnight, largely because I believed that it would have been somewhat self-indulgent and crass to be commenting on a situation thousands of miles away, during a period of mourning and I remember my annoyance at American commentators pontificating from across the pond about our little local difficulties.

But the parallels between the Biblical account of what happened to the children of Bethlehem and what happened in that smalltown school  are painfully obvious for all to see, right down to the fact that most estimates of the number of children to …

No Room, We're Full

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Was going to leave things fallow for a couple of days, but then I was pointed towards this story in the Daily Mail, peddling their usual brand of xenophobia, with tales of waves of Romanians ready to come and claim benefits in the UK... The journalists (and I use that word liberally) on that paper, which prides itself in standing up for the UK as a Christian country seem to have missed out huge chunks of the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke... about there being no room in the inn, and Jesus' parents being asylum seekers...  But they're not too keen on lots of the Old Testament either... the bits that talk about looking after the poor and the alien...

Anyway, it reminded me of this poem that I adapted a couple of years ago:
No Room: We're Full
There's no room in this country, we're full up In fact we're overcrowded, there's hardly room for us (well, for our cars, at any rate) so we really can't take you or anyone else Sorry. No really, believe me, ther…

Santa and Stuff

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At this time of year the newspapers usually come up with a story about some cleric who has disabused children of the existence of Santa and his place in the Christmas story... "Spoil Sport Vicar Equates Santa with Satan!" and that sort of thing... It goes hand in hand with the "Keep Christ in Christmas" stuff that also starts circulating from late November on... This year, not only did a couple of blogs kick back against the "Keep Christ in Christmas" thing, with "Keep Chi in Xmas", which I posted on facebook this time last month, but there was also at least one post offering a partial rehabilitation of old St. Nick... But thanks to my friend Lynda Gould, I also came across, on facebook, the following "Anti-Santy Rant" by Glen Scrivener which offers a reflection on our attitude to God and Jesus in the light of our attitude to Santa Claus... You can see a version with Glen Scrivener delivering it to camera, here... But this is the vers…

Advent Candle Liturgy 5: Christmas

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The culmination of our advent candle liturgy at Dundonald Methodist for this year. It can be used at a Christmas eve service or on Christmas morning... We'll be using it tomorrow...
Hope, peace, joy, and love. Four weeks, four candles, four promises made by God, and all of them find fulfillment in the one we light this morning: the Christ candle. In Christ we find the hope of transformation, the peace that this world cannot give, the fulfillment of joy and the love that embraces us in all our diversity and fallibility.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world d…

Give a Little Love

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I came across this video earlier in the month on facebook, and nearly posted it then given that I saw it against the backdrop of community tensions in Belfast over the flying of the Union flag. But I thought I would hold it over to play in the light of this week's Advent candle theme of "Love."
I also do it in the light of the act of thanksgiving for the work of Dundonald Family and Community Initiative  that we are having today in church because it is unfortunately having to close because of lack of funds. There were those who objected to having that as part of this morning's service incase it took the focus off the message of Christmas, but actually, for me DFCI's closure puts the message of Christmas into stark relief...  God so loved the world that he didn't establish a "programme" or "initiative" - he sent his son (John 3: 16). He took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood (John 1: 14). There are times when we, as Christ…

Advent Candle Liturgy 4: Love

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Number 4... The week beloved of all Two Ronnies Fans and the "Four candles" sketch... Indeed I laughed and reposted this picture earlier in the month... But I am reminded again this morning, as I head down the Ards Peninsula for the rehearsal of a wedding in my former church at Glastry, that the love we mark with the lighting of this candle is not a "candlelit dinner, chocolates and roses" type of romantic love, but a sacrificial, messy, vulnerable love, that was reflected first in a baby born in a byre, swaddled in cloths to cover his newborn nakedness, and ultimately revealed in the brutal death of an innocent young man, stripped naked and nailed to a cross...

Over the past three weeks we have lit three candles—for hope, for peace, and for joy. Today we light the fourth candle - the candle of love. With this flame we signify the love of God that reaches out to embrace us and all the world. A love that is stronger than kings and empires, stronger than grief or de…

Jonah's Psalm

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I've always had a real love of the Book of Jonah... perhaps it's because he is such an appalling prophet - God uses him despite himself - giving hope to all of us preachers and pastors who are all too aware of our failings...I've preached my way through the book a couple of times and, way back when wrote a series of monologues based on the 4 chapters that I've performed in various settings (sometimes to the detriment of my health). But the mention of Jonah and the Whale in "Accentuate the Positive", which I posted yesterday, sent me scurrying back to Jonah chapter 2 where the prodigal prophet finds himself in the belly of the whale and composes a psalm - Is it genuine thankfulness for his strange salvation, or a piece of "cod" piety cobbled together from bits of various psalms? It is hard to say, indeed the whole book in places reads like a satire on hypocrisy.  But here is my take on Jonah's psalm:

In deep distress I called to the Lord,  and h…

Accentuate the Positive

It's been a busy day, in a crazy week, at the end of a bleak year, in a province that seems hell-bent on self destruction... So it isn't the best breeding ground for joy.
But it began with me driving the kids to school in the pouring rain, and Chris Evans playing the superb version of "Accentuate the Positive" (or should that be "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive"?)by Jools Holland and Rumer...
This is the best recording of it I could find on YouTube... please forgive the inclusion of Andrew Marr at the beginning of it (he's rarely a harbinger of joy himself), as it is from his Sunday morning show... but it should be enough to inspire you to go out and buy a copy of the album it is from, the "Golden Age of Song."



Shalom

12 Glimpses of Grace

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A couple of times this week I've come across this site offering "26 Moments that restore your Faith in Humanity this Year." Once a fortnight... that's not a bad average... Check it out, it might brighten your day...
This year has been a real stinker for me and my family, what with multiple major injuries to Owain, necessitating him having to miss his AS levels and go back a year at school, another football injury to myself which had major complications, DFCI having to wind up because of the lack of funding, resulting in Sally losing her job, never mind the whole stress of the school transfer system for Ciaran... and a few work-related "complications". It will be a real pity if the Mayans were right and the world ends next week, because it wouldn't be a great one to finish on...
But against the background of that let me offer 12 glimpses of grace that have helped us through the bumps and grinds of this year... averaging once a month...
1) The generosity…

Joy from Peace

Well, the advent theme for this week is "joy" yet, from a human perspective there is little to prompt such joy, especially in the light of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, the thuggery on the streets and council chambers of Northern Ireland draped in a Union flag, the ongoing economic woes and, from a personal perspective, more than a few "issues."

So I thought I'd try to get the day off on the right footing. I was going to post a video of Quincy Jones' version of Handel's "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion." But I couldn't find a decent version. However, I always find it interesting that for the lyrics of this part of what has become a Christmas staple, Handel chose words from the prophecy of Zechariah which are more often associated Palm Sunday and the subsequent passion than Advent and Christmas.
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!See, your king comes to you,righteous and having salvation,gentle and ridi…

Joy, Joy, my heart is full of Joy - A partial reblog

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A couple of years ago I reposted a pair of Ben Myer's posts, one on sadness (that spoke profoundly to where I was at the time, and where many will be today - indeed I nearly reposted his prayer for Newtown Connecticut),  and another on "Joy." As I said at the time I firmly believe in what Gerald Coates (always interesting, frequently bonkers) said at one time: "If the joy of the Lord is our strength, it's little wonder that the church in Britain has been so weak and ineffective." Gerald Coates (1984) But recently for some reason this repost has been appearing in the weekly top read list on my side bar, and I thought, in the light of yesterday's Advent Candle theme of "Joy" it was probably worth dusting off Ben's "12 Theses" on the subject. 1. As icons are painted on gold, so the lives of saints are written on a background of light.2. Evelyn Underhill knew a saintly man, Father Wainwright. ‘He was an indifferent – and in later year…