God of the Gaps

I got derailed from my series on parables... I may return to it at a mythical point in the future when I have time, but over the past couple of weeks I've been reading a few books and articles that touch on the physical/neurological nature of thought, perception and existence (as well as watching the gloriously dated 1960's film version of "The Fantastic Voyage"). All that "sparked" this poem/prayer... "God of the Gaps" is the disparaging term used both by atheists who see the idea of a deity as a simplistic explanation for physical phenomena that science has not yet explained, and by some conservative Christians who use it to describe the God they don't believe in, suggesting that the revelation of God as they interpret it in scripture, trumps all scientific "theories." As a Christian with a scientific bent and a love of words I thought it was time to "redeem" this insult... Pretentious!? Moi?
God of the gapsGuide me as I n…

First Thoughts: The Seed and the Soil

This is a slight departure from my proposed series in Holden Village, but this morning my friend Father Martin Magill asked me to contribute to the "First Thoughts" series he has developed for the Parish of St. John the Evangelist over on the Falls Road, offering daily reflections on the Gospel reading from the Catholic Daily Lectionary. This morning it just happened to be Matthew 13: 18-23, Jesus' "explanation" of the Parable of the Sower, so it seemed appropriate to include it here. Normally when I do a "Thought for the Day" or even my Sunday sermon I prepare a relatively tight script to avoid me disappearing off on tangents... But this morning, as per my brief from Martin I performed without the benefit of such a safety net... so these are my unexpurgated first thoughts.


First Century Socialism?

Returning to stories firmly set in the agrarian setting of 1st century Palestine, the theory was that today at Holden Village I would be looking at the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard later in Matthew's Gospel, under the title of "First Century Socialism?" with the "s-word" always an interesting one in the context of the USA. For a change the dramatic introduction I planned to use would not be a new piece but one I wrote for my friend Micky Youngson's installation as President of the Methodist Church in Great Britain that year (hence MCGB News), and if I can crank my old computer into gear I may post the video we recorded for the event. ps. I'm back to using Van Gogh images to illustrate, having failed to find an appropriate one for yesterday's Parable of the Leaven. This one "The Red Vineyards near Arles", was painted in autumn 1888 and is thought to be the only painting Van Gogh actually sold in his lifetime.
Reader:The Gospel accor…

The Great Galilee Bake-Off

Another parable of growth, this time set in a more domestic environment. The lecture I had planned to do  today in Holden Village was entitled "In Praise of Corruption", given that a number of commentators point out that leaven (a fermenting "sourdough starter" rather than the little packets of commercial bakers' yeast that were in such short supply at the beginning of lockdown) was usually a metaphor for corruption in the Old Testament and rabbinic texts. Others point out the scandalous nature of using a "woman's task" as a metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven in a highly patriarchal society. 
However, Amy Jill Levine, the Jewish New Testament scholar casts significant doubt on both those readings of the text, perhaps leaving us with a relatively simple tale of someone getting their quantities completely wrong, leading me to imagine to this short scene:
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mix…

Growth is Good

Carrying on from where I left off on Sunday with the next two parables in Matthew's account, "the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds" and "the Parable of the Mustard Seed" (Matthew 13: 24-32). There is little doubt that Matthew, in compiling his gospel has grouped these two parables together with the previous one because they are all about seeds. However, most commentaries, sermons and indeed modern Bibles with their editorial subtitles, split these two up and group the second short parable or saying with the next one "the Parable of the Yeast/Leaven", Actually in the current RCL readings "the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds" was last Sunday's Gospel reading while the two subsequent parables, which I am preaching from on RTE, are next Sunday's. But all of these parables, with their agricultural and domestic origins are about growth, but there is a common theme in a number of Jesus's stories about growth and abundance, yet the iron…

The Parable of Parables

Had there been no such thing as Covid-19 I should have arrived in Holden Village yesterday to begin a fortnight of lecturing, this year on "Perplexing Parables." My plan had been to offer eight lectures over the course of  2 weeks looking at different parables or groups of parables, encouraging people to see them as they were originally intended, ie. as Eugene Peterson pointed out, something "subversive", sending our imaginations off in unpredictable spirals that will sometimes be unproductive, but ultimately result in miraculous harvests, rather than the simplistic "earthly story with a heavenly meaning" that sees them as little more than "sermon illustrations". As such the Parable of the Sower and his Seed, in Matthew 13: 1-9 and the subsequent "explanation" in v10-23 is widely regarded as a Parable about Parables (and frequently, in my not so humble opinion, misinterpreted) and that was where I was going to start each week, with a s…

The Ballad of the Big Fish

A piece I originally wrote for an event that didn't take place, it was used as part of the Wonderful Wander in this year's 4 Corners Festival and included in the small anthology of poetry we produced under the title of "Building a City of Grace." Today I was taking part in a meeting of the festival directors discussing some of the issues associated with what may be a very different festival next year, but one that is no less needed, we believe. 
Anyway, earlier in the week some of us who had poems published in that anthology recorded ourselves reading our contributions for an online church service this weekend, and off the back of that I produced this short video rendition of the poem. 
As I have said in previous blogs it owes its form, (and at least one line) to the Ballad of Amergin, reckoned to be the oldest extant poem in western Europe. However my version stands in a long line of Irish Christian writers who have thoroughly "Chritianised" their pagan sour…