Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jeremiah questions

Jeremiah was a brave man. I'm not at all sure I'm like him.
In Judah, in Jeremiah’s time, there were two rival views of God’s relation to His people.
The first was certain that God would protect and champion His people no matter what. Had God not made promises to David and Solomon? Their house (dynasty) would not fail and God’s house (temple) would stand forever as a sign of this protection. Scribes, psalmists, even prophets, had expressed this belief in their writings. Judah’s rulers promoted it.
By Jeremiah’s day it was seen as treason to contradict it.
But Jeremiah stood against this view. Standing in a prophetic tradition that went back to Moses, he insisted that what counted was faithfulness to God expressed in lives of justice.
It was no good quoting the bible’s promises or relying on systems of worship if God’s heart was being ignored. Bravely, Jeremiah stood in the temple itself to declare this.
Jesus stood in the same prophetic tradition. In His day, He also stood in the temple, quoting Jeremiah as He condemned it as having come to stand for a false, even idolatrous, security for Israel. This was a key reason He was sent to His death.
Ironically, through that very death, Jesus was also the fulfilment of the promises made through David and Solomon: in His resurrection and ascension, He founded a house – His church – that would endure forever.
As so often with the bible I'm left asking myself some searching questions.
 In what ways might we misuse the bible to back up our wrong or self-seeking views?
What have we built - literally or theologically - that God may need to dismantle? Am I prepared to put radical trust of God ahead of even those things I and others have built in what we thought was faithfulness?
How can we express God’s heart for justice today in a way that cuts through all my and our and your agendas and reaches the real thing?
God help me be more like brave, prophetic, heretical, traitorous, faithful Jeremiah.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A little prayer that makes use of big words (not entirely seriously)

May Your omnipotence make up for our incompetence
Your omnipresence annul our non-attendance
(Your omniscience atone for my F in science?)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flight MH17 - a poem

In memory of Sister Philomene Tiernan, who I never met

'Her entire existence was to bring good into this world'
said your pupil
the day after you were taken out of this world.

In the heavens above Eastern Ukraine you were shot
down with the others in a not-quite war
in not-quite Russian airspace.
We cannot quite take it in.
It is not quite real.
Not quite

But you were real
and you are real

Sister Philomene.
Did you pray for those sinners in the hour of your death?
I expect you did.
'She seemed like a grandma that everyone just loved'
said another.
'She taught people that faith in God,
in themselves, and in the world
would carry them through the journey.'

As you ascend with those 298 souls
dear sister, grandmother, good-bringer,
pray for us - who are left behind.

(Read the news story in the Huffington Post here.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

A right royal poem

On seeing Prince William at Coventry Memorial Park

I saw the heir to the throne today.
He grasped my arm, seized my eye,
and urged me to pray for him and for the realm.

In truth, he didn't. That isn't true at

all, though thronging behind the barrier I did thrust
close enough to see the sun smiling from his
bald spot, admire his purpled tie, and hear
my wife say Isn't he

tall? They've learnt a thing or two
since Smithfield in '81
(thirteen, that is), the royals:
when tall Wat Tyler got too close
and kingship hung on a thread.
He grasped King Richard's arm
all right and nearly made
off with his head.

And the close shave that time
at Boscobel Wood in '51
(sixteen, I mean), with the roundheads:
when a tall hollow oak was all
that cloaked King Charles's arse from an axe-swing.
That soldier would've wasted no time,
by God, were it not that
God saved the king.

No, they know what's what in the Memorial Park (for '14
to '18, World War I). Obscurely obvious and all very
smooth, all very twenty fourteen.
Men in black with spaghetti in ears; boys in blue
dressed as highlighter pens.
I'd not have got close had I wanted a shot,
was I the regicide type
(which I'm not).

But it did make me think
if I was, if I had, what would happen?
If I reached in my pocket for a gun I don't own
taken aim at the bald spot and fired?
Would some satellite signal take me out quick -
expunged, expired?
Would my wife be adjusted and returned
to our house with a mind wiped quite clean
of her spouse?

But no-one thought it, I think, on that day:
we were all much too happy to see him:
a grinning Muslim beside us giggles,
a cyclist cheers, mums with buggies beam.
"We love you William, we love you, we do"
sing some girls
and I know what they mean:

something within the heart of a human
wants a human who's like us - yet more - an icon of the possible
however improbable
a token that there's something to rule.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jesus at the centre

Love this video about the work of the Jesus Centres. I'm particularly involved with the Coventry Jesus Centre, but have been to then all, and think they're all great.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Send Him victorious

Really, I should be a republican.

Equality, liberty, fraternity, and other revolutionary and broadly lefty values – inspired by my take on what it means to follow Jesus – these are what I tend to set my compass by.

But when I discovered Prince William was coming to Coventry Memorial Park this coming Wednesday I found myself scanning the internet for details (so that the missus and I could go and wave union jacks or something, I scarcely know). And when I read today’s article in the Independent about controversy over the Royal Family being granted a new right of secrecy, I found myself sympathetic not to the lefty-liberal voices of protest, but to Ma’am and her family.

I sympathise with the succession of Labour Prime ministers accused by Helen McCrory’s Cherie Blair in the film, The Queen, of throwing out principle and going ‘gaga over the Queen’.

It goes a long way back. I’ve been reading about the Peasants’ Revolt in the 14th century. Incensed with the injustices they faced, the lower orders declared war on the ruling classes. But not the king. Oh no: ‘King Richard and the true commons’ was their rallying cry. (Richard II, the king idolised by the revolting peasants went on to be a tyrant of the worst kind, before being toppled by Henry IV.)

But I sympathise with them, too.

And before we rush to paint these medieval rustics as dwellers in a cruder, more superstitious age, remember those Labour Prime Ministers. Remember the flowers for Diana. Remember ten million annual Queen’s Speech viewers.

So I don’t think I’m all that unusual regarding my strange hypocritical royalism. I think royalty has an enduring appeal. And not just our British Royalty, either – royalty per se.

Even when human beings get rid of kings, they replace them with pseudo-kings. Mr President, perhaps. Or Mrs Iron Lady. Or Mr or Ms rock/sports/film star.

Something deep within the human psyche longs for a monarch, someone with power, who knows what’s best and will make it so.

Could it be that human beings long for a Messiah? A once and future king?

To quote some 12th century words still sung today:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.