Showing posts from March, 2013

The Testament of Judas Iscariot

Here's the third and final element of last night's event at East Belfast Mission. It's the story from Judas' perspective. I've published different versions of this before, as well as a verse version based on those found in various medieval passion plays.
he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. Luke 22:19-21 (ANIV)
I was there at the table with him… as I had been many times before… and I suppose it was me he was talking about… But  before we go any further, let’s get this clear, it had nothing to do with the money... I just had to do something. The others think the same as me, but they'd never do anything... All talk and no trousers. It’s always the same..…

Super-Sized Last Supper

Just over three years ago a story came out suggesting that artistic portrayals of the Last Supper have been "super-sized." There were a number of thoughts that occurred to me on reading it: the first was to check the date just incase it wasn't an April Fool prank... the second was one of despair regarding the usefulness of such research and the money expended on it... but the third related to the statement that: "Craig Wansink, who is a professor of religious studies, says the changes in portion sizes is probably a reflection of culture rather than theology." To how many things could that be said? And tonight, as people share, not in an artistic representation of the Last Supper, but a liturgical re-enactment of it, how much of what is said and done has been influenced more by culture than theology? Is the liturgy shared by the congregation, or predominantly led from the front? How much of that is out of a desire for extempore, Spirit-led worship (even tho'…

I'd been keeping that perfume for my wedding day

Here's the second of the monologues I'm using for the Maundy Thursday event at EBM. It's based on the anointing of Jesus at Bethany.
Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot." While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Mark 14:1-3 (ANIV)

I had been keeping that perfume for my wedding day… It was the most expensive thing I owned… even the jar itself was worth more than my other possessions… But the perfume sealed inside it had been brought from the far east… the mountains at the edge of the earth… Pure nard… the very best that my brother could buy for me… That was ba…

An alternative perspective on Palm Sunday

Originally one of my sabbatical tasks had been to write and direct a community Passion play. Got the writing bit done, but for various reasons the wheels came off actually staging it this year. Given the weather I'm fairly glad not to be contemplating a production that was to culminate in a semi-naked actor on a cross in the open air.
Instead, we've scaled things down and are staging 3 of the monologues within the play as a devotional event on Maundy Thursday night at East Belfast Mission. The first of these offers the perspective of a Roman centurion watching the events of Palm Sunday (I also used it as part of the Palm Sunday broadcast)

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to …

Will there be a thaw any time soon?

The last in this series of live Thought for the Days (as usual you can pick it up here for one week only at 25 and 85 minutes into the programme... I have one more to produce next Monday but it will be pre-recorded as I will be elsewhere next week). This picks up on one of the themes of yesterday's studio service for Palm Sunday, and, in many ways, a repeated frustration with the direction of travel in this province.
So we’ve just had a weekend where the province ground to a halt because of the unseasonable weather… Including the bizarre experience of an international football match between Russia and Northern Ireland being called off because of snow here… I wonder what the Russians made of that given the much worse weather they have to play through every winter? As I listened to Sunday Sequence yesterday morning it was also interesting to hear a lengthening list of Palm Sunday services being called off because of the snow… It’s not unusual to have services cancelled around Christma…

Palm Sunday Psalm

I was responsible for the Radio Ulster studio service for Palm Sunday this morning. You can listen to it via the link if you so desire. This is the psalm I included in it:
You are my God, and I will praise you For your love lasts forever! Pushed to our limits we cried to the Lord, and he responded by setting us free. The Lord walks with us; So we have nothing and no-one to fear. He is always at our  side, So we will triumph over our enemies. It is better to seek support from the Lord than to trust in others who will let us down. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in politicians and people in places of power. All our strength we owe to the LORD. He is the source of our singing; He is our salvation.
Songs of joy and shouts of victory fill the homes and hearts of the people he has redeemed: Hosanna! We are saved!
The LORD's strong hand has reached down to rescue us! Let us sing of all that He has done.
We have come into his presence, into his holy house Let us give thanks to t…

It's Only A Game...

Here's this morning's Thought for the Day on Good Morning Ulster, prompted by last week's superb BBC NI documentary about Alec Reid's role in the dramatic events of 25 years ago and how this prompted his ongoing efforts at peacemaking.

As noted in the comment below the image to the left apparently originated from the camera of Sam Knox. Check out his other work on Apologies to the artist for the previously unauthorised use...
Although yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, it was a mixed weekend for Irish rugby fans – The women won their first ever grand slam, but their male counterparts slumped to ignominious defeat. Yet despite the Celtic gloom that enveloped me I reminded myself that it’s only a game… and, that no-one had died. Because all through Saturday my mind kept going back 25 years. I was studying in Edinburgh then, having deliberately left behind a Northern Ireland riven by hatred and violence. That year, like this, Ireland had won their first ma…


Here is a written version of this morning's Thought for the Day on Radio Ulster, prompted by a number of recent stories including the furore over a lighting scheme that actually cut into the ancient walls of Derry,  a discussion with a friend who suggested writing a "fantasia" on the Orange Song "Derry's Walls" as part of the City of Culture (I still think he should have applied for a grant for it), and this slideshow on the BBC News website... As usual you can hear the audio version (complete with blooper in the earlier recording) on BBC iplayer at 25 & 85 minutes in...
“Something there is that doesn't love a wall,” So claimed the poet Robert Frost… But he clearly didn’t live in Northern Ireland… Here we have an enduring love affair with walls, believing, in the words that Frost attributes to his neighbour that 'Good fences make good neighbors (sic).' A wall could the symbol for this wee province, be it the picturesque drystane dykes that c…

The Power of Words and the World of Books

Yesterday was National Book Day, with its emphasis on children's writers, and encouraging young people to read. There is no encouragement needed with our second son... He has always got a book in his hand... indeed one of the problems that repeatedly emerged in his recent parent-teacher interviews was his (bad) habit of rushing through his work in class so he could get back to whatever book he was reading at the time. He's also doing a sponsored readathon at the moment, which is about as challenging as sponsoring the average person for breathing! I joked with his English teacher that I didn't know where he got it from, having just placed on her desk the book I was reading in the time I had to spend queueing at each teacher's door.
Both Sally and I read fairly voraciously. Sally is the daughter of 2 teachers and grew up with a house full of books. I didn't. My mum wasn't really a reader at all. My dad was a keen reader of cowboy books that my mum got him from t…

Eternity's Mark

During my reading this week I came across this short quote from Kierkegaard: "...the neighbour is eternity's mark on every human being."Soren Kierkegaard It prompted this short prayer/poem:

God help me discern in my enemy, your image; in the unlovely and unlovable, my own reflection; in the poor and oppressed, your presence; on the powerful and oppressors, your fingerprints; and in everyone, those near and far, like me, and unlike me, those who like me and those I don't like, eternity's mark.

The Sound of Silence

Have you ever heard the sound of silence. Not the Simon and Garfunkel song, which in many ways is the antithesis of what I am talking about, but the sound of REAL silence.
I've done a fair bit of radio work over the years and there is nothing that is dreaded more in that industry than  so-called "dead air." Silence... Nothing disturbing the air molecules around the microphone that can then be converted into electrical signals, which are then disseminated across the world to fill any gaping void in the soundscape around people's lives...
Thanks to radio, TV, ipods etc., combined with the unrelenting noise of modern life, technical tinnitus... the rumble of traffic, the muffled roar of aircraft all around, the hum of electricity, the whirr of computer and aircon fans... silence is a rare commodity... 
But perhaps in this Lenten season, with its central image of Christ in the midst of the wilderness, and my own period of sabbatical, a useful discipline migh…

Dundonald Foodbank

Following on from my Thought for the Day yesterday, here is an update on how things are progressing (in my absence) as far as our local Dundonald Foodbank is going. It is largely adapted from a newsletter for supporters prepared by John Lowry, a member of the steering committee who is now effectively the project coordinator.
For several months a group of local churches together with Tullycarnet Community Support Services have been in discussions regarding the need to help our some families in our community who are experiencing food poverty. The outcome of the meetings has been the establishment of Dundonald Foodbank, which will operate under the aims of Trussell Trust, a Christian based organisation that seeks to address the need to feed struggling families.

I would like firstly to thank all the individuals and the members of the committee that have and are steering this enterprise, stepping out in faith and seeking to glorify the Lord in this enterprise.

The most dramatic recent dev…

Successful Banks

I may be on sabbatical, but I'm not completely lounging around with my feet up... just taking a break from my circuit, connexional and chaplaincy responsibilities, freeing me up to to a few of the things that I enjoy doing and more reading and writing. Hence it was that I still found myself sitting in the green room of BBC Radio Ulster this morning at stupid o'clock to do the following Thought for the Day (for the next week you can listen to it here at 25 and 85 minutes in) It's on a theme I've been touching on more than once here recently...

Last week a number of banks posted their annual trading results, and as has been the case every year recently, the figures have been uniformly in the red… However, that hasn’t stopped bank executives being awarded hefty performance related bonuses, on the grounds that the losses weren’t as bad as last year! It strikes me that it’s a weird world where we don’t cap the bonuses of the bankers who got us into this mess, but do cap ben…

The Fig Tree

Prompted by today's lectionary reading from Luke 13:1-9, and with thanks to Mark Sweeney of EBM.

A landowner had a fig-tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the gardener who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' But the gardener said 'Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' The leaders of the Jews, the priests and the pharisees, kept an eye on Jesus to see what fruit his teaching would produce, but they saw nothing good and so they said to themselves, 'For three years now we’ve been watching this country rabbi but haven't found anything good in him.                                            We need to cut him down! Before he poisons the …

Saturday Supplement

Another round-up of internet articles that have caught my eye.
Pope Benedict's Resignation...  If you have been away on a mission to Mars this week you may have missed the extensive coverage and may need the BBC produced  list of 10 helpful facts about the whole thing... if not, you're probably bored with the whole thing and I'll not mention it again... But if you fancy going on a mission to Mars, you may get the chance soon, although you and your partner may appreciate this helpful article, also produced by the Beeb on how to avoid killing each other after 500 days in a confined space...
Lies, Damned Lies, the DWP and the Daily Mail...  I know, I know, I know, I said I would keep this positive over Lent... but there are some things that test my resolve to the uttermost... Especially the scapegoating of the poor, ill, infirm and immigrants for our economic ills... Yesterday the BBC (again) picked up on a report by the Methodist Church in Britain, the United Reformed Church, …