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Showing posts from January, 2015

Messy Women in a Crazy week

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"The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley..."
So wrote Rabbie Burns in his poem "To a mouse", and among the best laid plans that have gone agley for this man this week has been any attempt to celebrate Rabbie's "immortal memory" with a some haggis, neeps and tatties... A combination of pastoral issues, health problems, computer glitches and other things have derailed a number of things that I had planned and put me under more pressure than usual... And that is without taking into account the hectic whirlwind of events associated with the 4 Corners Festival that are about to start tonight with the opening of Bronagh Lawson's "20 artists: Religion and Spirituality" at the Duncairn Arts Centre. Do check out the festival programme, as there is plenty there to interest people from all sorts of perspectives...
Tomorrow night I am helping to re-stage Wendy Johnston's wonderful "Night with Messy Women" which pr…

Prophetic Imagination...

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Another 4 Corners prompted post before I go back to my reflections on Living under Empire, although like that series this draws on the wisdom of Walter Brueggemann... After my slightly frustrated read of his book "Out of Babylon" and because of the themes of Imagination and Generosity that stand behind this year's 4 Corners Festival, I have turned back to Brueggemann's inspirational "Prophetic Imagination"  where he says:  "It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one." For king we can read zeitgeist/powers that be/popular culture/tradition... But I believe that we as Christians have a responsibility to offer an alternative hope-filled vision to the pessimistic, apathetic and/or selfishly individualistic perspectives of much of the media and/or political parties at present. And in terms of our we…

A Gift to the City

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Before I return to further thoughts prompted in part by Brueggemann's "Out of Babylon" I just want to point you in the direction of another wonderful book, entitled "GiftED: The Tale of 10 Mysterious Book Sculptures Gifted to the City of Words and Ideas." This slight but beautifully illustrated book tells the story a series of book-based paper sculptures created anonymously and left in various literary venues across Edinburgh and subsequently Scotland, starting in March 2011, with a "PoeTree" left in the Scottish Library of Poetry and inspired by its motto "by leaves we live" (taken from a poem by Patrick Geddes). As well as being an act of artistic grace this was also a profound political statement in the face of austerity-based cuts to education, libraries and the arts. On Goodreads I gave the book a 5* rating, as much for the generous, creative imagination behind this one person campaign as for the book itself. I have already been recomm…

Living under the Empire... (2) Where is Babylon?

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We were driving back from school last week, talking about books that we had been reading and my younger son, Ciaran, asked me "Where is Babylon?" I have to confess that my history is better than my geography, and I said that it no longer exists as an inhabited city, but its ruins were to the north west of the current capital of Iraq, Baghdad. When I checked however, I discovered that it is actually about 50 miles south of Baghdad and the modern town is the administrative centre of the province of Babil...
But just as the modern city is but a shadow of the historic capital of 2 ancient empires, first under Hammurabi in the 18th century BCE and then the "Neo-Babylonian" empire (under Nebuchadnezzar etc) in the 6th century BCE, so the earthly Babylonian empire/s was/were fleeting in comparison to the enduring metaphorical idea of Babylon. The original Empire under Hammurabi was probably the ultimate origin of some of the early Biblical stories, including the "Tower…

Living Under the Empire (1) What Stories Shape us?

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Prompted into lurching back to the blogosphere for a series of short thoughts by a number of things... Recently reading Brueggemann's "Out of Babylon" with my church Book Group which looks at living with the reality of empire... reading a number of pieces on Martin Luther King Jr. last weekend... currently reading Tom Hartley's book on Belfast's City Cemetery "Written in Stone" which points up how intertwined the history of industrial Belfast was with British Imperial history... thinking about the J.G. Ballard book/film "Empire of the Sun" about a boy living under the Japanese occupation of China... talking with my lounger son about "Lord of the Flies..." the letter of the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to British imams asking them to explain how Muslim values fit within British values... preaching last weekend on the politically provocative proclamation of the nearness of the Kingdom of God by Jesus at the beginning of Mark'…

It's Our Time

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A brief thought for this weekend where many in the USA and elsewhere are remembering Martin Luther King Jr. Some remember his legacy and seek to build on it, others bewail the lack of prophetic leadership that seeks to bring people together for the sake of justice and peace, in the face of those who chose to peddle fear and foster division. But just today I was reading a passage in Ruth Patterson's book  “Looking Back to Tomorrow” (Veritas 2009) where she quotes from Coretta Scott King’s “My Life with Martin Luther King Jr." (Hodder & Stoughton 1970) and the record there of Martin Luther King's funeral. At the funeral Benjamin E. Mays, President Emeritus of Morehouse College, where King had been a student, said:
“No man is ahead of his time. Every man is within his star, each in his time. Each man must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else's time — Abraham leaving his country in obedience to God's call; Moses leading a rebellious …