Friday, November 30, 2007

Festive Frolics

The time is once more upon us when tinsel is wrapped around any possible protrusion and snow-flakes and other non-denominational symbols are hung from the ceilings.
I've been working all over the shop recently and I've found out a few things.

Drunks are more prevalent this time of year. With the sun going down early and various christmas get togethers going on people are getting more drunk, earlier. This just means more vomit, more staggering and stumbling, spilling drinks, and more escorting to the door, more rejecting on the front door and more poorly targeted verbal abuse.

Young ones are under the belief we are stupid. Those in their final year of school are suffering from the fact that the older of their classmates can go out and legally drink. This places a social obligation on the younger ones to join in the tomfoolery. The UK driving license is not easily forged. The UK passport even harder to forge. Anything else we take with a strong pinch of salt, UK/GB/EU ID cards are just ridiculous and we do laugh about them. We also like photos to look like the people who present them, just call us cynical but it could so easily be your brother, sister or other close family relative.
What gets my goat is young ones, who show their driving licence with their real date of birth and it shows them as under-age. It gets the whole flock, goatherd and the grazing.

I've noticed that with the worsening weather, chavs are taking to layering in a big way. Two T-shirts followed by a sweater, then a jacket, with hat, scarf and gloves. It's becoming a fun little game to see how many visible brands you can spot on any individual. The down side is that when you eject or reject a spanner they can alter the layering sequence and try again in a couple of minutes. Not too difficult to reject them, that is 'til theirs more than a dozen of them at it. Then it's just a sea of horizontal stripes and chav labels everywhere.

The final thing to note is, it's bloody cold. I've been snowed on, sleeted on and rained on, all in one night. Not a great night, but at least it keep the chavs at bay.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In praise of mentors, again.

I finally get a sneaky shot of the Revd. Jim, via daughter two. Jim is another member of the Curry and God club, where we put the world to rights and share experiences of vocation, church, life, the world and the universe over a beer and a madras. Jim describes himself as an Evangelical Anglican. He is an Anglican and he is an Evangelical, but he is not at all what I understand an Evangelical Anglican to be. At one stage he had the choice: professional rugby or Clergyman. Impressive, huh?
Jim is a father of two at pre-school stage, approachable and cheeky; a former Doorman, rugby player, shaven headed; Evangelical but nowhere near as conservative as he thinks he is and refreshingly unaware of his charisma. Has all the building blocks to be insufferably arrogant but isn’t; humble – a showman but humble none-the-less.
Curry time soon, I think.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Preparations for Christmas: Part 2

It’s Saturday morning, which means I have to shoot off to the school Christmas bazaar: how good to give something back to the school by exchanging all your unwanted rubbish in that relaxed period in the run-up to Christmas when no one has anything very pressing to do. This is good, because in addition to my two daughters I have my two teenage nephews to entertain.

Business is slow, though it is not long before the takings start rocketing, as a result of the children’s ingenious sales technique of buying everything themselves with my money.

Certainly by the time we have hung around for hours and assiduously avoided the blandishments of a marauding Santa, the little scamps are loaded down with more than enough 91-piece jigsaws and single-mother packs of Happy Families to start practising getting bored ahead of the official gift disenchantment date of 27th December, and at only a fraction of the cost. Why, I hardly have enough money left to try my luck at the ‘Bring a Bottle’ tombola, with its array of beers, wines, Advocaat, east European turnip liqueurs and (as it turns out, when my ticket finally comes up trumps) Radox Herbal Bath, with its essential aromatic ingredients, none of them, sadly, being alcohol.

‘It could have been worse,’ says another parent, as we head for the cars.‘You could have won the paint stripper.’

O joy!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas Preparations Part 1:

On the bus, during our Christmas shopping trip into town, my elder nephew makes the slightly alarming announcement that there might be time to visit SegaWorld in The Corn Exchange and use up the virtual-ride vouchers he won in the Leeds Metro phone-in as a chance result of knowing what the capital of France was, though only on condition, I stipulate, that the children bring to a speedy conclusion their vigorous public debate over a) who was the last person to vomit on public transport and b) what happened to the bag of sick afterwards.

By the time we surface at the Town Hall we are straight into the shopping scene from Ben Hur and are fully horde-acclimatised, though I am a firm advocate of tides of humanity being where they belong – i.e. on page 1,875 of the Old Testament – and not on the stretch of pavement separating us from the entrance to Primark.


In that oxymoron – “Christmas Hell” which is Marks and Spencer food hall, I notice a hand dip into my basket and remove a pack of mince-pies. “Well?” the culprit challenged. “There aren’t any left on the shelves.” It occurs to me at this point that “Mary’s Boy Child” has been on a continuous loop in the background. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Harry Belafonte is a lovely man and is probably on the verge of a UK comeback tour but enough already.“But it’s Christmas” the vacuous sales assistant beams. Her name badge proclaims her as PAGAN (Happy to Help) which seems oddly appropriate.“No, Pagan it isn’t Christmas: it’s Advent.” The smile doesn’t flicker but the eyes show real fear. A result!


At last we emerge at SegaWorld clutching our free vouchers, and although the whims of my younger daughter could be met simply by staying on the escalator, it’s a blow to find that, due to circumstances beyond the passing interest of whoever owns this place, an astonishing four out of the five virtual rides are out of action, with the remaining one in the incapable hands of someone with all the communication skills of a person who spent his childhood locked in a cupboard.


Understandably, this ride is very popular and we spend the rest of the week queuing for it, which then means having to leg it back down the Headrow, assisted by the younger nephew with the slightly irritating habit of elbowing his way to the front and then causing a pile-up by stopping to complete an important move on his handheld entertainment facility. We miss the bus by the skin of our teeth. Excellent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jerry Springer the Opera and the unrepresentative nature of "Christian" protest

About a year ago I went to see Jerry Springer the Opera in Bradford. I was aware of the controversy surrounding this production and the fact that it seemed to be polarising people, both churched and unchurched. I probably wouldn't have bothered but for the fact that a friend organised a group and also because I was angry at an organisation called Christian Voice who had followed the televising of the show here in Britian by publishing the names and addresses of BBC executives on the internet in a deeply irresponsible and sinister act.


Following this I had contacted Christian Voice - hereto called "Christian" Voice - to object to their behaviour and to their misappropriation of the name Christian to express a view. I have had this same issue with the so called Moral Majority.


Who gave any of you the right to speak on my behalf and in doing so use a name that implies that all right thinking people must subscribe to your view?


A few days later I received thanks from "Christian" Voice for my support. I contacted them again and told them in no uncertain terms that I would "rather lick my own arse" than be associated with their self important little organisation.


It was in this spirit that I headed to Bradford for the show. I had to run the gauntlet of picketing Christians - none of whom had seen the show, but all believed they knew what its content was because they had read the (frankly ludicrous) leaflet that they were handing out. I told them how much I resented their making assumptions and pointed out that I was a Christian too, but that I would make up my own mind. "Its people like you who give people like me a bad name."

The show was a blast. I tried so hard to be offended but couldn't manage it. On the way out there was no "Christian" presence to debate with on the basis of first hand experience of the show, which was a shame as I was ready, able and willing to refute the silly and totally misleading claims in their leaflet.


I mention this today because I have read in the newspaper that "Christian" Voice - there they go again claiming a mandate to speak on my behalf - are intending to sue the Producer and Broadcaster of Jerry Springer under Britain's outaded, little used and discredited Blasphemy law, (discredited because in our multicultural society it only protects Christianity).


I pray they lose and I pray they lose big-time and are forced out of business. I suspect, though, that other pious but ignorant book-burners will put their hands in their pockets to fund the significant legal costs that will accrue.
Talk about a storm in a teacup.


Christians eh? Don't you just love 'em?

Meet the clan


Time to stop being coy about identities. I am pleased to introduce Katherine, Leo and Louise at a recent wedding. They do scrub up well don't they? Mrs. D.P. declines to waive her right to anonymity.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh maybe

From reading the musings of a doorman over the pond I read this and it got me thinking.

How often do I see lads squaring off on the dance floor where they know we'll be watching. How they'll look up to our fixed points and non-verbally plea for us to get down there and split them up. It'll save them face and in the end make less work for us to do so nine times out of ten I'll wander down or make my presence known and that'll just leave it as pointed stares and muttered threats. I'll keep my eyes on them but that'll be it.

Now the one time in ten I let it develop is more interesting. If there's a chav who's been a dick before, or a care in the community who looks like they've gone off their meds I'll watch and wait.

The chav will either clock I'm watching and leave it out or do enough to get himself barred, probably with a ripped shirt and a sore shoulder or two by the time he's taken a rapid trip through the nearest fire doors with 40 stone of momentum.

The special lad, thats always interesting. Not likely to go off, more likely to run away and be adamant about getting out of there. Can be surprising if they just hug everyone or insist on making up and buying a drink but then spending two hours trying to talk at their new best friend. Always entertaining and far less effort to watch and be safety net than get in early and find I've got a new best friend for two hours.
Made that mistake before. There's so little I want from someone who lives in sheltered accommodation on benefit with so tenuous a grasp of reality and proportion that nothing they say can be believed and is so unlikely to be interesting.

Getting in early is usually the lazy option. You can walk over and get your message across and wander back without raising your adrenaline level above nearly asleep. If you let it stew you'll be shouting down the radio and arriving at full tilt across a busy club with spilled drinks down your shirt. Those alco-pop stains soon to be joined by aerated blood from shouts through bleeding noses and split lips. Not necessary or worth the effort unless it's been a night so boring you'd let anything happen rather than have your eyes drawn again and again towards the minger and the special need couple 2 minutes from needing condoms and a private room.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday 18th November. Luke 21.


There is always a great deal of emotion in anticipation of “the big day,” whether that’s a wedding day, the first day of a long anticipated holiday, the first day at a new job or whatever. In such cases, we don’t just enjoy the day for itself; it also promises many more such days.

On the other hand, there are some days that strike fear and dread in our hearts, such as the day we lose our job, the day of the death of a loved one or the day our country goes to war. These days thrust us into sadness and struggle with little or no light at the end of the tunnel.

Today’s readings, which deal with the big day: The Day of The Lord, fall into that second category I think, and these readings leave many Christians ill at ease and puzzled. Partly, I suspect, because the interpretations we hear most loudly are the voices of fundamentalist street preachers shouting their version of the coming of the end of the world.

Malachi thought that the day of the Lord was coming, and it did not come; Jesus said that “this generation will not pass away” until all the predictions about the return of the Son of Man were fulfilled, and Paul expected still to be alive at the return of Jesus. None of these expectations would be fulfilled, and ever since then even the most fanatical predictors of the Last Times have regularly had to revise their timetables.

Now, for the Jews, the Day of the Lord was always a day of anticipation, originally perceived as a day of fulfilment. It was that moment in history when all of the promises of God would come to completion and the people of God would enjoy them forever: promises of peace and prosperity, of contentment and harmony. Many of the prophets looked forward to that time and Jesus claimed that this long-awaited day was dawning as he inaugurated the reign of God.

A lovely picture, but sadly not that simple.

You see the sinfulness of the people required that there be a period of purging before that fulfilment could come to pass. For this reason, some of the prophets warned that the Day of the Lord would first be a day of suffering. They even compared that suffering to the pangs that preceded childbirth: a symbol of new life coming out of suffering - and today’s readings focus on the painful aspects of “that day.”

Our Gospel passage begins with a prediction of destruction: the temple renowned in the ancient world for its beauty would be destroyed. Now for Luke’s hearers Jesus’ prediction about the destruction of the temple had already become a reality; in addition they had already experienced the death of the first Apostles, and even betrayal by loved ones.

So the only possible sense that could be made of that destruction and persecution was that in some way God's will was being accomplished, and most importantly, God's people would have the opportunity to witness to their faith because Luke’s Jesus promises that their perseverance will sustain and save them.

This sort of apocalyptic language is most often seen in the Bible in times of national crisis and often among persecuted people. Its purpose was never to foster speculation about when God would intervene, but to encourage dispirited people by proclaiming that God is in control of history and that punishment of the wicked will come about by God’s doing.

Of all the Evangelists, Luke grappled most with the tradition of an imminent Second Coming. But as this expectation began to wane, he developed instead a growing sense that discipleship would be played out over the long course of history and, of course, that includes us today. In Luke the Spirit will guide the church during the time of Jesus’ absence but it is Jesus remembered and Jesus present by his Spirit, rather than Jesus expected, which began shape their communities as it should ours today.

O.K: enough context.

What does it all mean for us today? Because unless it has some relevance its nothing but a bit of specialist history for University Challenge. It needs to have the power to touch us and make a difference to us. How can we apply this passage?

First of all, I think, we need to consider whether we are suffering in any sense in the language of these passages? And I would venture to suggest that we are not.

So how does one preach apocalyptic literature to people who are not suffering? If this type of passage was written during periods of great persecution and suffering to encourage the believers to remain faithful through the ordeal, can it speak to comfortable people like us today?
That assumes, of course, that we are still able to be totally comfortable after earthquake, tsunami, war, car bombs and our continuing struggle against terrorism? Could such evil be a sign of the end times?

Well, Luke links past sufferings and prospective sufferings together. Together they generate the cry: how long? When will deliverance come? People today who are pushed to the extremes of despair are perhaps best able to connect with our passage. We need to walk in their shoes. Burma - how long Lord? Zimbabwe – how long Lord? Darfur – how long Lord?

So, during this Advent perhaps more than many in recent history, Jesus’ predictions of the destruction of the Temple, war and natural disaster—all bringing persecution in their wake—seem hauntingly contemporary.

Coming so early in this new millennium - following the events of September 11th in New York, July 7th in London, the South East Asian Tsunami, the attempt to blow up Glasgow airport, runs on banks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - the bright skies of our consciousness have been darkened with threatening thunderclouds. A culture of fear pervades, heightened by round-the-clock media saturation and rampant Islamaphobia.

The point Luke is making is that we should not be panicked by such events: the time of our text has always been present. When haven't we heard of wars and insurrections somewhere in the world? When haven't nations and kingdoms fought against other nations and kingdoms? When haven't there been great earthquakes and famines and plagues on earth? The same danger exists today except that the reports come via the media and are sometimes packaged by the media for good viewing and interpreted by following someone’s editorial agenda. The panic whipped up is highly volatile and has the potential to ignite and explode into irrationalities, religious and otherwise. The casualty is usually truth as racist and other generalised claims are made and people drive themselves into doomsday fantasies and conspiracy theories.

Perhaps we need to recognise this more, and that it is most likely that we live between the times, not in anticipation of the end of time. T. S. Eliot may better express our thoughts: The way the world ends (for us is most likely to be) not with a bang but a whimper.

In the same way that Luke gave words of wisdom to his community, the church is summoned at this critical time to find words of hope for the future and a wisdom that will guide our lives. And that wisdom comes from God’s Spirit. It is a way of saying: let your responses to the hype and horror of accumulating disasters not be determined by the one-liners of media editors or by slick religious leaders, but by the same Spirit who is now the centre of our lives.

Trust in God has profoundly personal implications. It also has important political, social and religious ramifications. Luke still wept for Jerusalem and longed for its liberation. He was prepared to tackle the madness of fear and hate and the fanatical theologies it also generated. He keeps our feet on the ground about abuse and oppression. He stands in a tradition which tackles enmity in a way that is not distracted by hate or fear, but informed by the stillness and wisdom of the Spirit. The shift is then away from pointless discussions about the quantity of time left before the End Times to the quality of being in whatever time is left.

Today’s psalm response yearns for a God who will govern the world with justice and equity. Human suffering and even human sin can offer a privileged time for renewal, reflection and new directions that may give birth to the hope that in Malachi’s words “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays”.

Terrorism, war, natural disasters and financial instability should give us the opportunity to reappraise where we are as individual disciples and as a world-wide Christian community.

So, to conclude: as we face the wars, the hurricanes and the revolutions, and as we fear the end times, we can give into those fears, follow leaders who promise us safety when there is none, or we can trust this person who is called Jesus who, as God's gift, came to help us understand that God has never deserted us, will never leave us, even when death comes close. He confronted all of that. He has destroyed death and he has said that we should trust him and him alone.

It is Luke’s reminder to live lives of trust in God because our future is in God’s hands whatever that might mean in reality, but ultimately we do believe it means that we will be taken into the heart of the God of Jesus, the God who loves and, therefore, even in the worst adversity, we can set our faith in Him.

Amen


Saturday, November 17, 2007

The winter

That time of year is upon us again where the long coats, hats, leather, wool or fleece gloves come on. The sight of doorstaff shuffling their numb feet on the frozen front step is ubiquitous.

Don't be surprised if we're short with you when you prat about in the opened doorway as you try and rally your drunken herd into moving to another bar.
Don't be surprised if you find we won't lend you our ears as you whine about the unfairness of life after we've declined you entry.
Don't be surprised if we're more interested in where that hot cup of tea we were after half an hour ago has gone rather than your claim that your mates are all inside and you really are 18.
And don't be surprised, offended or threateningly violent when you ask and we decline for the n-
th time in our shift, if you could have our hat, coat or gloves.

It's cold, we can't head inside and warm up, we can't wear beer jackets, we can't sod it and get a warm cab home. We don't find lines we've heard a thousand times before interesting, funny or serious. If you're going out on a night in winter, wrap up warm or get
anesthetized on mulled wine or stronger, don't bitch about it to us. We bitch about it enough without you chirping up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eschatology

I was preparing a sermon and I got confused. (Fancy that - and me being literate and all.) I started to discuss the end times and realised that I wasn't exactly sure when they began/begin. I also realised that this is something of a theological nightmare and an issue about which feelings run high. It seems that your personal understanding of Eschatology is deeply revealing and is likely to hold you up to ridicule if you let it slip in the wrong company. Fortunatley the company I keep is largely athiest and so couldn't give a stuff.

Looking into it further I realised that somewhere along the way my own understanding had slipped from one view to another taking in a third along the way.


So easily led.


So, which is it?


  • Realised Eschatology: It has already happened with the incarnation.


  • Inaugurated Eschatology: It has begun to happen for each of us through our receiving of the Holy Spirit.


  • Future Eschatology: It is still to happen at the second coming.

Ah. I see.

Weddings


At choir on Thursday Gerard said "I've got some news. I'm getting married on Saturday." Consider the backs of your legs well and truly slapped for sitting on that for four months and then telling me when its too late even to get a card for Saturday (12.00 noon)!

Gerard and Cal have been together for some years and have two young daughters so they wanted a low key family affair. Knowing Gerard's absolute horror of making a fuss or being the centre of attention, I am not surprised by this low key arrangement. Good for them and prayers ascending.

This followed close on the heels of Nalayini and Frazer's engagement and it occurred to me that all my unhitched friends have suddenly realised that I will soon be available to officiate at their nuptials, which is clearly such a horrifying prospect that they are falling over themselves to get married now. Still, I can be grown up about this.
Bastards!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Evening Moment for Peace



Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5.1)

A Prayer of Commitment:

Lord, we believe that you have called us together to broaden our experience of you and of each other.
We believe that we have been called to help in healing the many wounds of society and in reconciling man to man and man to God.

Help us as individuals or together to work, in love, for peace, and never to lose heart.
We commit ourselves to each other in joy and sorrow. We commit ourselves to all who share our belief in reconciliation, to support them and stand by them.

We commit ourselves to the way of peace in thought and deed.
We commit ourselves to you as our guide and friend.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World,
the light no darkness can overcome.

Stay with us Lord, for it is evening,
and the day is almost over.

Let your light scatter the darkness,
and illumine your church.

We light a candle

We attend to the sound of a bell

We listen to music that speaks of the futility of war

The earth is full of anger; the seas are dark with wrath.
The nations in their harness go up against our path:
Ere yet we lose the legions, ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the thunders, Lord God of battles aid!

High lust and forward bearing, proud heart rebellious brow,
Deaf ear and soul uncaring, we seek thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore thee, the fool that passed thee by,
Our times are known before thee, Lord grant us strength to die.”

(Hymn Before Action: Karl Jenkins “The Armed Man”)

We pray with words inspired by Psalm 121

May help come from you, O God,
You made Heaven and Earth.

You do not let my foot be moved,
You watch over me.

You are my keeper, my shade.
The sun shall not strike me by day,
nor the moon by night.

You preserve me from all evil,
You keep my life.

You watch over my going out
And my coming in,
From evening until morning,
now and always.

Amen.

We listen to a short reading from scripture:

He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest.
“Let us build up these towns," he said to Judah, "and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side." So they built and prospered.
(2 Chron 14. 5-7)

May we remember the lesson of this reading that peace and prosperity came to your people when they sought you, the Lord their God. Give us, too, your rest on every side.

As we meditate on this passage, we listen to some music: The Agnus Dei from Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man”.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give us peace.

God our Creator and Protector,
you illumine the world
and breath life into us.
You heal the world with your outstretched arms.
You rescue creation and inspire your church.
We thank you for this day.
Let us remember your gifts and your promises
in our thoughts and actions,
in our homes, our workplaces, among friends and in this congregation.
Amen.

On our hearts and on our Houses,
The blessing of God.

In our coming and our going,
The peace of God.

At our end and new beginning,
The arms of God to welcome us and bring us home.
Amen.

Go in the peace of God.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pockets (ptI)

You find all sorts of things in peoples pockets.
Occasionally I'm at the special table by the front door asking people if they would mind having a random search. I ask them to empty out their pockets onto the table and after a great deal of faffing about I'll ask them if that's everything out of their pockets. I'll look through what they've placed on the table, pat them down and ask them to properly empty their pockets. This I repeat til either I'm satisfied that I've thoroughly searched them or I find something interesting.

Most folks are familiar with the idea, and I don't find anything on them. Sometimes I just wonder about the sanity of folks.
Most notable has been, 6' of steel chain in the back of someones trousers, the police picked him up quickly after that. Not the kind of thing you'd ever want to see wielded in anger in a crowded area.
Some folks have actually placed first time on the table, a bag of magic mushrooms, film wrapped cannabis resin, small bags of pills, pre-rolled joints and just hoped they'd get over-looked. They didn't.
Some disguise their naughty goods. A lip-salve dispenser that rattled, full of little white pills.
A silver bullet on a keyring, that unscrewed to show white powder and small spoon.

Also when checking a wallet, I'll run the edges of cards along a finger to see if white powder remains. I'll check the bill fold sections to see if grains of white have fallen off notes, I'll tip cig packets up to see that only baccy falls out. I'll turn phones on or take the backs off and get to see what could be hiding inside.

It's not perfect, if you're serious, you'll get it past us. If you're stupid, you'll not be getting in, you'll more likely be getting barred.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Remembrance Sunday: 11 o'clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month......


....remembers the Armistice.

Prayers for Remembrance Day:

See me march past with the others who remember,
but not with my legs do I pound the parade pathway.
Wheeled am I for I am old
but the memories do not die as my comrades did.

Little Tommy Tomkins the Yorkshire farmer
died with his head blown off.
It rolled towards me,
and I froze, and then I ran.

And Fritz, who in another life I would have called friend,
died in a mortar attack.
There was nothing left to send home
so they sent back anyone’s to keep the widow’s memories.

The list goes on and here am I alive
when I should be with them -
a forgotten body in a Flanders field.
Yet here I am.

I am the record keeper of the Great War -
a war to end all wars they told us.
But on they rage like an unchained animal that has tasted human blood.
But not mine

I ask myself “why not me?”
And then one day an answer -
"Keep these memories and pass them on
That the young may learn and remember"

So here I am being wheeled again
past the memories of a nation
and I remember Tommy and Fritz
because few else alive do.

Lord Jesus Christ who said to your followers “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you":

As your people we have gathered on this Remembrance Sunday. We may be discouraged by current conflict; wounded by past grief and memories; discordant with life through the raw emotion today brings to us.

Let us sit together sharing the solace of shared mourning and let us possess the peace of God’s presence, wrapped in the warmth of His love. Let us be comforted and quieted.

Lord, strengthen the hands of those who work to draw together people of different nations. May the children of today remember and avoid the mistakes of their elders as they grow older. May we enter more deeply into each other’s worlds and stand in each other’s shoes. May we who live as neighbours in a shrinking world strive to create truly human bonds. You have broken down the partition between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female; break down all the barriers that divide us: remove all hindrances to understanding between nations; reveal to each of us our pride, our jealousies, our self interest; cure our alienation; open up our narrowness and shatter our national prejudices.

Though we have different histories, different cultures, different politics, different religions and different viewpoints, may we live together as peaceful neighbours. May we who are now friends, but two generations ago were fierce enemies, recognise the futility and waste of war, putting our energies and our resources instead to the good of all.

We long to see an end to the conflicts which divide, the conflicts that scar families and societies, that debase religions and embattle nations.

May you, O God, who crossed the line between heaven and earth, work a miracle in the hearts of humans and in the destinies of all the nations and give us the courage to offer the hand of forgiveness to those who we believe have wronged us, and to receive it in return. Give us the vision to see you in our neighbour, that neighbour of different nationality, race or religion, that neighbour of whom we are suspicious, because suspicion breeds fear and resentment which in turn breeds conflict. Give us the courage to reconcile the differences which divide us and give us the joy to celebrate the diversity of nations so that we may all work together to build a peaceful future for our children.

O prince of Peace, confound all those who seek to change the world through violence and prosper all those whose hearts are set on reconciliation. Bless those who speak a careful world between neighbours and in the corridors of power wherever they may be.

We lift before you now, as we remember past conflicts, the conflicts and flashpoints of our time, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Burma, in Israel/Palestine, in Pakistan, in Darfur, in Georgia and we pray for peace – lasting peace with justice, self determination, security and prosperity.


I went to see the soldiers, row on row on row, and wondered about each so still, their badges all on show.
What brought them here, what life before was like for each of them? What made them angry, laugh, or cry, these soldiers, boys and men.
Some so young, some older still, a bond more close than brothers: these men have earned and shared a love, that's not like any others.

They trained as one, they fought as one, they shared their last together: that bond endures, that love is true and will be, now and ever.
I could not know, how could I guess, what choices each had made,
of how they came to soldiering, what part each one had played?
Each one silent and in place, their headstones line up row on row, they guard this hallowed place.

Lord in your mercy….
Hear our Prayer


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Updates

I've been poking around the blogroll and killed off some oldies and landed in some new ones.
If you've joined the list, thank-you for the entertaining content.
If you've left the list, sorry you've probably stopped posting.
If you want to get on the list and I haven't seen your blog, just link it in the comments and I'll have a gander.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Search and Rescue


As a method of mission, Search and Rescue is a model which dates back to the early church, living as it did in the shadow of an imminent second coming. Why bother to reform society when the end was near and all is about to be swept away? Instead, live in community with shared posessions and preach, baptise and add to the number of the faithful. On the day of Pentecost, Peter uses the theme of Noah when he talks of "a crooked generation" and the need to be disassociated from them by jumping into the ark of salvation.


Today we do not live in the shadow of an imminent second coming and we have lost some of that sense of urgency. Although we know intellectually that the end may come at any time we no longer act as if that is an imperative. We shy away from those who seek to use Revelation as a clue filled timetable of doom.


So, in a post modern age, as far away from the early Christian apocalyptic paradigm as it is possible to get, how much relevance should Search and Rescue as a mission model have?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Your choice

A long time blogger whose musings I have enjoyed and whose veracity I'm pretty damn sure of is in dire need. See her plea, it's up to you to give or not.

Update: Merys has raised her money and her thanks are given.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Am I hard?

Now this is a question I don't really ask myself. I'm big, strong, fast, competent and confident.

Which is the most important? Without much doubt, the confidence. I don't get people starting on me, I don't get people taking the piss out of me and I don't get many people not listening to me. I don't get much bother. When shit does happen I get stuck in, but don't lose my head. If you're not fighting, me or someone, else I'll not take my frustration out on you. If I fly in and it's all over in two seconds, I'll come off the boil fast and not be in a hurry to use your head to open the fire doors. This all means I don't get much bother.

This however doesn't reflect well with my bosses, I can get through nights where people don't need more than a word here or there to get them through to the end of the night. I don't end up having massive brawls with large groups of punters. I just get the job done as quickly and simply as possible. This means I don't stand out but the job gets done all the same.

Am I hard? Don't try to find out and you'll never need to know.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Residential Revelations

Another weekend away - just my year group. Deepening relationships and a lovely group dynamic, some challenging theology, experimental worship and a kind invitation from the good Anglican monks to share their amazingly atmospheric, deeply spiritual and plainchant based worship.

I am shattered!

Two things struck me very profoundly and that has been like a Damascus Road experience. Despite the odd British ambivalence towards mainland Europe, it has become clear that we share the same religious landscape. That we often choose to identify with American Christianity is not helpful to us, understandable as it may be with a shared language (even if they insist on spelling it wrong!) Our shared history with Europe and some very striking parallels today make Europe our point of comparison for Christian trends.


Secondly - and this thanks to Grace Davie of "Religion in Britain since 1945" fame (see photo) - in a consumer age we need to think much more about people exercising choice in a wide range of areas of which religion is one. It is not so much that we aren't as religious as we once were as that we have fewer people attending church. The old sense of obligation about church attendance is what has declined more than religious belief. We don't recognise enough that a significant proportion of worshippers in that "golden age" were not there because they wanted to be, but because they felt they should be, even that they were socially required to be.


Church attendance in relation to the population of Great Britain is about as steady as the regular attendance from its whole membership as that of the local gym. Now that I understand.


Decline? Yes, of course. Terminal disaster? Absolutely not. Challenges? Most certainly.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Geographical Hazards

Now this is a little issue that personally makes me stressed.

It's the venues that have balconies, open staircases or god-forbid stages. These all present an opportunity for a punter to drop, throw, spit, fall, get thrown or throw up over. The poor victims underneath suffering the fallout.

They make nice features in pretty buildings but are not things highly confined drunk people should be allowed to encounter without very high levels of supervision.

On the up-side, they provide punters with platforms with a high visibility setting for their dancing skills in very small skirts or belts or just tops that nearly cover their backsides. The poor victims beneath suffer the fallout along with the view.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The problem of certainty


I have been sitting in the staff room with a scientist, and two mathematicians, one of whom is a fundamentalist Christian. It strikes me that many of the assumptions they make are based on the false premis that there is certainty in the world. They see things in a very binary, black and white sort of a way whereas I am trying to deal with the various textures of grey.


Heisenbergs Law says that there is no certainty, only the restless potential between black and white. The world is shot through with areas of uncertainty and ambiguity side by side with areas of certainty.


My colleagues talk endlessly of objectivity and dismiss religion as subjective. They demand empiracle evidence and say that religion can not provide it, therefore religion is wrong. The fundamentalist uses the same arguments of certainty to achieve the opposite outcome.


I disagree with both camps.


We operate in a world that seems to be objective and yet much of what we value most is subjective: relationships, values and emotions for a starter. The point is that those things are like God to the believer: everything in our brains is real to us whether it can be proved or disproved. How can we be sure that the subjective is not valid?
No more posts before Monday as I am on a residential this weekend.