Monthly Archives: November 2017

Hoots! It’s St. Andrew’s Day!

It’s St Andrew’s Day!  The story of how St Andrew came to be associated with the town – and ultimately Scotland is a strange one (and a little unlikely if you ask me).  You can read a potted version here if you like!

My Sabbatical a few years ago took me to St Andrews and I wrote a little ditty about him and his “presence” in the town and how it was that both he and I got washed up there…

Andrew…
Called from your nets with your brother Peter
washed up on the shore at the feet of Jesus

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
One of the inner circle
you were the one who told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
Going out to the ends of the earth
Scythia, along the Black Sea and the Dnipper river as far as Kiev and Novograd

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
On to Byzantium and Thrace and ending in Patras – crucified
bound, not nailed, on an X not a +, you didn’t want your death compared to His

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
your bones kept safe in Patras (so the story goes)
treasured relics – handed from guardian to guardian, revered and honoured

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
three of your fingers, your upper arm bone, one of your kneecaps and a tooth
packed into Regulus’s trunk and setting sail for the western ends of the earth

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
shipwrecked, washed ashore at Kilrymont, welcomed by Pictish king Oengus
your bones destined to spawn a pilgrim hotspot and inspire the scots to wave your flag

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
are you here?
The inner-circle disciple, so close to Jesus – you touched Christ
The missionary who took that touch of Christ to the ends of the earth
The dead crumbling bones – what was left of them- shipped to Scotland
The dust of your bones scattered to the four winds by Henry VIII
Are you still here in any real sense?
Were you ever here?
Is this place changed by the touch of your remains that once in turn touched Christ?

Andrew…
if you are here – how watered down is that original touch of Christ?
A handshake with history? Is this the homeopathic saint effect –
so diluted as to be less than negligible?  As if the air holds a mere memory of a passing touch?
it certainly feels so…

Andrew…
you are now the property of the nationalists
who cut and paste the image of your cross all across the land

is this who you are?

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

Andrew…
the home of golf
proud wrapping paper for electoral success
curiosity for tourists who half-heartedly try to guess the spot your bones might once have lain

I bet you never expected to get washed up here…

but you did – get washed up here – and so did I

May God grant me a measure of that closeness to Jesus that so changed and inspired your life
that you were willing to get washed up wherever God and man might take you in service of the Gospel.

Rest in Peace, Andrew.

I have enough.

During my morning prayer this week I was introduced to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Ich habe genug.”  (I have enough.)  It was written for the feast of the purification of Mary and based on the encounter that Mary and Joseph had with Simeon.  Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and proclaims that he can now rest in peace for his eyes have seen the God’s salvation.  “I have enough, I need nothing more from life.”

In Genesis chapter 33 we have the fabulous scene where after many long years Jacob and Esau are reconciled.  Jacob is feeling guilty and he has brought many carts full of expensive trinkets to give to his brother.  But Esau responds:

“I have enough. Keep what you have, Brother.”

I am very conscious as I reflect on this that I am probably presenting a world-view that simply doesn’t apply to everyone – there ARE so many people who absolutely DO NOT have enough, and I hope that nothing I say in what follows will give the impression that I am not aware of that – but in the lead-up to Christmas I am always struck by the fact that I DO have enough and that I don’t really need more STUFF, even if I think I do.

Partly this is because year by year I find it ever harder to write my Christmas list so that my long-suffering family don’t have to make wild-guesses in the dark – but I know they struggle too.  I am blessed with children who have never been grasping or acquisitive and have always been very modest with their Christmas lists.  

This year I am increasingly saddened by Advent calendars and how the idea has been gleefully grasped as a commercial opportunity, so that we cannot even retreat into Advent away from Christmas to escape the increasingly mad dash for more STUFF.

There is a rare whiskies advent calendar that costs £10,000!

A few years ago now (and used as the basis of some of my Christmas sermons last year!) George Monbiot wrote a searingly brutal, yet honest piece about the accumulation of STUFF – you can read it here.  It only gets more true as each year passes.

Is knowing I have enough a gift?  If so, I think it might be called the gift of contentment.


Lord, help me discover that gift of contentment.


Why not pray that short prayer for yourself as you listen to “Ich Habe Genug”…



I support Glasgow Athletic United Wanderers City, honest!

Richard Leonard has been elected new leader of Scottish Labour – he’s English (his wife is Scottish.)

Immediately the press is onto the crucial question facing the Scottish nation: “If England were playing Scotland, who would you support?”

Every week politicians are lambasted for not giving a straightforward, honest answer.  We hate fudged avoidance of “simple” questions – or so we say.  Yet when he answers this question in a totally honest and straightforward way – guess what? – he is lambasted!

He answers that he would support England.

Perhaps the most famous political footballing gaffe in recent times was the cringeworthy incident when David Cameron (a self–proclaimed lifelong Aston Villa fan) was speaking about the benefits of a multi-cultural Britain.  He told an audience in south London: “We are a shining example of a country where multiple identities work. Where you can be Welsh and Hindu and British, Northern Irish and Jewish and British; where you can wear a kilt and a turban; where you can wear a hijab covered in poppies. Where you can support Man Utd, the Windies and Team GB at the same time. Of course, I’d rather you supported West Ham.”

Offering an explanation for what many conclude is an unforgivable blunder, Cameron told reporters: “I had what Natalie Bennett described as a brain fade. I’m a Villa fan… I must have been overcome by something… this morning. But there we are, these things sometimes happen when you are on the stump.”

I’m sorry, David, but football fans do not forget who they support!  That’s never how it works!

Politicians have looked like complete idiots by pretending to be fans of pop groups that they have clearly never heard.  Chancellor George Osborne declared a 1990 NWA gig the best concert he’d ever been to. Or when Gordon Brown shared his love for the Arctic Monkeys, despite being unable to name any of their actual songs.

“David Cameron’s musical selections for Desert Island Discs in 2006 seem unquestionably designed by committee. Cameron’s playlist reads like a string of overtly iconic British bands cross-checked with some Wikipedia lists of their bestselling songs. There’s Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, The Smiths’ This Charming Man. With some REM and The Killers thrown in, it’s practically an A-to-Z of unrelenting, personality-free blandness. Do we believe any of it? Not for a second.”  (huck magazine)

Jesus was never asked who his favourite bands were or whether he’d support Galilee United or Lebanon Rangers, but he was asked dozens of questions designed to trip him up.  I think of all the examples mentioned above, he usually took the Richard Leonard approach and just told it like it was – except that he’d go much further and turn the question back on the questionner.  What if Jesus were interviewed on the Today programme?  I suspect that he would turn the focus directly onto John Humphries and that Humphries would not get away with a lame protest that it is his job to ask questions and Jesus’ job to answer them.  Humphries would not be able to hide behind BBC impartiality.  Either that, or Jesus would tell a story and that story would end with a direct challenge to the listener and the questionner…  there would be a pause, Humphries would cough and suggest we had run out of time and we had to go to the weather report.

If we want our politicians to be honest and open and straightforward then we have to be honest and open and straightforward in our questionning.  If a question has an agenda and is an attempt to trap a politician, then we have to expect the politician to be evasive.  When interviewers badger politicians for a “simple yes or no answer” to a ticking timebomb of a question – then we know it is never that simple.  Politicians are bland because it is safer to be so.

I am holding out some hope that people are getting tired of this whole media-politician game – it’s a charade.  I am holding out some hope that people are so thirsty for some genuine thought and opinion in politics that they will find ways to cut through.

I’ll just leave you with this  🙂

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e parties are desperate to get the youth vote. But I hate it when politicians try to actively engage the youth. “When a 10 year old boy told her that he was reading the fourth Harry Potter, she actually top trumped him by bragging ‘I’ve read them all’.” Every time they try it’s as excruciating as when your dad turns up at a house party wearing a backwards baseball cap and saying ‘groovy’ to anyone that will listen. There has been a ‘Vote here, get free beer’ campaign, which could have come straight out of Men Behaving Badly. And that’s a sitcom millennials won’t remember. See how hard it is? The Lib Dems revealed their manifesto in a nightclub. Presumably while everyone downed WKD and Tim Farron wowed the crowd with his ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’. Every time someone announced a policy a rave whistle went off. We want more money for the NHS, whoop, whoop! Theresa had an excruciating five minutes with some school children. When a 10 year old boy told her that he was reading the fourth Harry Potter, she actually top trumped him by bragging “I’ve read them all“. Later it got very awkward as Theresa, in her strong and stable bicycle chain necklace, was pressed on which character she was most like. She refused to answer directly, which made me think she hadn’t read them at all and was just showing off. Everyone knows she is Dolores Umbridge. Maybe she should take a lesson from her and write ‘I must not tell lies’ 100 times.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/politicians-grab-the-youth-vote-embarrassing/

All the parties are desperate to get the youth vote. But I hate it when politicians try to actively engage the youth. “When a 10 year old boy told her that he was reading the fourth Harry Potter, she actually top trumped him by bragging ‘I’ve read them all’.” Every time they try it’s as excruciating as when your dad turns up at a house party wearing a backwards baseball cap and saying ‘groovy’ to anyone that will listen. There has been a ‘Vote here, get free beer’ campaign, which could have come straight out of Men Behaving Badly. And that’s a sitcom millennials won’t remember. See how hard it is? The Lib Dems revealed their manifesto in a nightclub. Presumably while everyone downed WKD and Tim Farron wowed the crowd with his ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’. Every time someone announced a policy a rave whistle went off. We want more money for the NHS, whoop, whoop! Theresa had an excruciating five minutes with some school children. When a 10 year old boy told her that he was reading the fourth Harry Potter, she actually top trumped him by bragging “I’ve read them all“. Later it got very awkward as Theresa, in her strong and stable bicycle chain necklace, was pressed on which character she was most like. She refused to answer directly, which made me think she hadn’t read them at all and was just showing off. Everyone knows she is Dolores Umbridge. Maybe she should take a lesson from her and write ‘I must not tell lies’ 100 times.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/politicians-grab-the-youth-vote-embarrassing/

All the parties are desperate to get the youth vote. But I hate it when politicians try to actively engage the youth. “When a 10 year old boy told her that he was reading the fourth Harry Potter, she actually top trumped him by bragging ‘I’ve read them all’.” Every time they try it’s as excruciating as when your dad turns up at a house party wearing a backwards baseball cap and saying ‘groovy’ to anyone that will listen. There has been a ‘Vote here, get free beer’ campaign, which could have come straight out of Men Behaving Badly. And that’s a sitcom millennials won’t remember. See how hard it is? The Lib Dems revealed their manifesto in a nightclub. Presumably while everyone downed WKD and Tim Farron wowed the crowd with his ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’. Every time someone announced a policy a rave whistle went off. We want more money for the NHS, whoop, whoop! Theresa had an excruciating five minutes with some school children. When a 10 year old boy told her that he was reading the fourth Harry Potter, she actually top trumped him by bragging “I’ve read them all“. Later it got very awkward as Theresa, in her strong and stable bicycle chain necklace, was pressed on which character she was most like. She refused to answer directly, which made me think she hadn’t read them at all and was just showing off. Everyone knows she is Dolores Umbridge. Maybe she should take a lesson from her and write ‘I must not tell lies’ 100 times.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/politicians-grab-the-

Woman finds a hat in a tree.

I have always LOVED the sheer creativity of local newspapers.  They HAVE to be inventive because their brief is to be “local” – so they have to write about local things, yet most of the time NOTHING is happening locally.  Most local newspaper reporters will find themselves spending entire days standing in a muddy field while a town councillor ceremoniously plants a tree to mark some vague local event, or interviewing yet another old lady in a nursing home who is 100yrs old today and has the secret of longevity to share with our readers!  They will frequent dusty church halls and stand with small groups of assorted protesters in deserted town centres trying to find words that will grab the readers’ attention and make it all seem like news.

My father-in-law’s regional paper – the Western Mail is famous for its creativity in finding a local angle to just about any story happening anywhere in the world.  If a distant friend of Justin Bieber had an uncle who once visited Swansea – then ANY story about Justin Bieber is basically a local story about Swansea!  (I kid you not!)  This does at least give a bit more scope!

Local Newspapers are struggling for all sorts of reasons, the print media in general is struggling, and maybe people think that they get their “local” from social media groups rather than in print today.  But parents will always want to see pictures of their school nativity play in the local paper – or local births/deaths/marriages announcements in the local paper and there are plenty of local photographers for whom the thrill of seeing their photo in the local paper is unbounded.

There is something very endearing about local newspapers – they make the news human, like you and me, down MY street, in MY town.  Because this stuff is happening where I am and it is deemed important enough to write about, then it must mean that I am significant and important enough to be written about.

The world is cranking itself up to celebrate christmas.  Local reporters will be gearing themselves up for an endless succession of local village hall christmas fetes and (if they are lucky) a juicy crime story about all the presents being stolen from a charity collection…

At the heart of that story is a God who is determined to be LOCAL.  Every church in the land will at some point reflect on those glorious words from the beginning of John’s Gospel: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)

There are two alternative translations of that verse that bring it right into the world of the LOCAL.

“God pitched his tent among us”  and “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.”

That’s what Christmas is about – incarnation – God taking on human form and moving into our neighbourhood – moving in next door, down our street, pitching her tent among us.

None of the details of your local, seemingly insignificant life are beyond the scope of God’s interest.  God is interested in the detail of your everyday world, wanting to be a part of it, wanting to walk every step of it with you.

This is the mystery and the glory of incarnation – the miracle of Christmas!


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Tuesday review: Murder on the Orient Express


WARNING: this is a review and it contains SPOILERS – it reveals who did it in no uncertain terms.  If you read beyond this point then you accept that you will be reading PLOT SPOILERS!  Do I make myself clear?  🙂

There is a lot of talk about this film.  I reckon you should prepare yourself for a lot more as this is clearly an attempt to manufacture a new franchise of Agatha Christie films based around Kenneth Branagh and his infeasibly HUGE moustache.  Next on the list will be Murder on the Nile – presumably in time for Christmas 2018 when folk seem disproportionately susceptible to nostalgia films with all-star casts set in some kind of olde-timey world.

I admire the work of art-critics (literature, film, painting, sculpture…) because they have a skill that I don’t possess.  All of us can watch a film and then say whether we liked it or not.  In our family we always give it a score out of 10.  That’s easy.  I know what I like!  A friend once bought me a postcard of a classical nude with the caption “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like!”  Clearly I have a reputation!

Critics have the gift/skill of being able to put into words what it is they like or don’t like – why they feel as they do about a piece of art.  Critics have developed language and concepts to put “gut-feeling” into words.  It’s not a very interesting conversation, after watching a film, to simply say “that was a stinker” and not be able to express why you think that.

My three kids are all massively more capable in this area than I am – they can all articulate what it was about the plot, the consistency, the “story-arc”, the inbuilt prejudice – you name it – they have a whole language and skill-set that I have been too lazy to develop that they can deploy after watching a film that make the post-film de-brief MUCH more interesting.  My kids are ace! 🙂

So – having said that – here I am writing a review!

I don’t wish to compete with any of the professional reviewers of films out there.  Suffice to say, this film is an absolute stinker and you should give it a miss!

If you do insist on watching it yourself you’ll find yourself agreeing with me that the characters are so poorly developed that (if you stay awake long enough) you simply don’t care which of them did it or didn’t do it, and you wouldn’t really care that much of the whole lot of them was wiped out by a random werewolf attack, not because they are unlikeable – rather that they are not given any space in the film at all to develop a character in which you might invest any emotional energy at all.

I say this, because some professional film critics have simply got this wrong and say they like it.  They are mistaken! 🙂

Beyond that though, I wanted to deal briefly with an issue that DOES properly disturb me about the film, namely – the ENDING. The bloke who was murdered on the train (it turns out) was stabbed by everyone – they were ALL involved – shock twist!  In the book, Poirot solves the case and then quietly leaves the train – job done.

That ending has been changed.  Branagh decided this would not do for a modern audience – so he devises a more complex ending with lots of faux hand-wringing soul-searching.  Branagh has decided that a modern audience would not be able to accept or deal with Agatha Christie’s simple “I solved whodunnit” ending.  In Branagh’s new ending, Poirot decides to tell the police that the murder was commited by a mystery stranger who secretly boarded the train and then fled undetected.  The murderers walk free. (true: this theory was in the book, but it is not Poirot who tells the police this – it is the police who decide to present this theory.  Poirot tells the police the true story.)

In Branagh’s new ending, Poirot – the hero of the story – judges that it is justified that all of these passengers should have stabbed this bloke because each of them has been hurt in some way by his past crime, so he absolves them.  Furthermore, and perhaps even worse, Branagh’s new ending is interspersed with glimpses of the damaged characters somehow finding peace and new life BECAUSE of this act of violent stabbing revenge.  (They literally crowd together in a train compartment and take turns to stab a drugged man.)

It is this that I find so bizarre – that it is judged necessary that the ending is changed to suit modern sensibilities – and that it is thought that those modern sensibilities will have to include the idea that violent murderous revenge is such an obvious way to find peace and healing for past hurts.

Every fibre of my being – and every facet of my faith – wants to shout out that I don’t think this is true.  I simply do not believe that people traumatised by loss so obviously find peace and healing by engaging in further traumatic violent murder themselves.

Incidentally, the same is true of the story of my own faith tradition.

Some tell the story of Christian faith quite crudely as follows:  “Humans have sinned – God is angry – God needs to punish someone – God decides not to punish us but to kill his Son instead – so Jesus is crucified and we are forgiven.”  (You see the similarity?  Anger at wrongdoing is assuaged by violent bloodshed.)

If God is angry about human sin, I don’t believe that God finds any peace or reconciliation or fulfilment in any act of murderous revenge.  I think this narrative has been hugely damaging to western thought and might even be very remotely responsible for Branagh’s conviction that the ending had to be changed.

I think the oft-peddled “ending” of the christian faith-story needs to be retold…  there are good ways of doing this – not new ways, but ancient understandings that have simply been eclipsed by this crude and fairly modern (in church terms) “substitutionary atonement” interpretation.  I may write more about this in the next few weeks – but this paragraph gives an idea what that ending looks like – why did Jesus die?  Answer:  as a consequence of his passion for life lived justly and compassionately and in tune with the Kingdom of God.

Jesus and his disciples, proclaiming the Kingdom of God was at hand and living lives of compassion and justice were a threat to the domination order created and maintained by Caesar and his Jewish client king and priests. To eliminate the threat, Jesus was crucified, executed by the Romans. His death was the consequence and fulfillment of the passion of his life, living the compassion and justice of God. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is reported as saying “Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them, “Anyone who wishes to be a follower of mine must leave self behind; he must take up his cross, and come with me.” (8:34) To be a follower of Jesus is to “leave self behind” and take up compassion and justice as the passion of your life.  (ProgressiveChristianity.org)

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Sermon: Torn Apart and Remembered…


Remembrance Sunday is a hard day. It is a day when we choose to remember. As individuals, as a nation we make a conscious effort to keep a memory alive. Yet, so many of those memories are painful memories. They bring back to mind people and places and events that most of the time we want to keep hidden away because they bring back feelings of sadness, of hurt, of loss, of bitterness, of anger even. It is not easy to control memory and remembrance, we cannot select the bits we want to bring to mind.
If that is true, then why is it that every year we make this conscious effort to remember? Why do we insist on dragging up the past, year after year, reopening old wounds, reliving past nightmares? Many voices urge us to live for the moment, or look to the future – leave the past behind. Why don’t we listen to them?
Think back to the first reading that we had, the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of captivity and into the desert. The people had been living a nightmare. They had been welcome in the land of Egypt, but a new king perceived them as a threat. They were growing in number and strength. Something had to be done. His plan was this – to put them into forced labour, labour that was so hard that the people of Israel cried out to their God. But that was not enough. Pharoah also decreed that every male Hebrew child be thrown into the Nile, I think we might call it ethnic cleansing today.
And out of all of this came Moses, and he led them out of the nightmare and into safety, and together they made elaborate plans to help them remember. They instituted a meal called the Passover meal. Each part of the meal was to be significant. They would eat unleavened bread to remind them of the haste in which they left Egypt – not enough time to cook the bread for the next day. They ate bitter herbs, to remind them of those days of pain and suffering at the hands of the Egyptian task-masters. They remembered not just the joy of liberation, but also the pain that had gone before. Moses promised to lead them through the wilderness and into a land flowing with milk and honey. When they arrived I’m sure there must have been voices raised saying, “Let’s put the past behind us now. Let’s make a new start, a clean page. Why continue this feast of remembrance, there’s no-one alive now who was actually there.”
And yet, to this day, Jewish families and communities observe the feast of the Passover every year. It was during the feast of the passover that Jesus made plans to remember with his disciples – to remember as all Jewish families did with a meal, to remember how God saved his people through Moses. Both Moses and Jesus were born in times of great human pain and cruelty. As Moses was born, the midwives had been commanded to throw all hebrew babies in the river. As Jesus was born, Herod’s soldiers were ordered to kill all new-born babies. Both Moses and Jesus escaped death where thousands did not and their lives were used to bring liberation, liberation from Egypt, liberation from sin and from death itself.
And so at the heart of their faith, the Jews and the Christians have meals of remembrance – the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper. Jews and Christians are remembering in two ways. On the one hand, they are remembering and honouring the great heroes of the faith – Moses and Jesus, and many others who have given their lives in the service of God. But on the other hand, they are doing something much deeper – they are presenting their history as a story of God’s involvement with humankind.
Remembering in this sense is re-membering – a putting back together of all the various parts of the past, an attempt to make sense of what has happened, what has gone before. The Passover meal and the Last Supper both make sense of the past by showing God intimately and passionately involved in the lives of his people – even through those times of extreme horror and human cruelty that we would often like to forget. And what’s more, they show a God who brings liberation and life through all of the pain and the suffering, through all the horror and the cruelty.
This day, Remembrance Sunday, like the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper is meant to be a day to remember. Like those meals, it brings to mind human acts of great human cruelty. Wherever you look – be it the great wars or any of the smaller conflicts that have been fought right across the world, part of our remembrance will be in regret and penitence for the outrages that have been committed in our name and for our failure to find other ways to settle our disputes.
Like the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper, today’s acts of remembrance are a celebration of the bravery of individuals. The selfless way in which people risk their lives to save others.
Like the Passover meal and the Lord’s supper, today’s acts of remembrance will be times of personal mourning. As Mary wept for the loss of her son Jesus, as Rachel wept when the soldiers killed her bairns, as the Hebrew women wept when their healthy baby sons were thrown into the Nile, so many will shed a tear today for loved ones lost through wars and conflicts all around the world.
In this place, a community of God’s people, together at Brixham URC, our remembrance will be all of that, but it will be much more. For our remembrance today should also a re-membering, a putting together of the past, making sense of the past as we put it alongside our Christian Faith.
Like the passover meal, like the last supper, this day of remembrance is an opportunity to affirm our faith in our God who chooses not to be distant and unapproachable, but who chooses to be intimately involved in all that we do. God is not only with us in the fine architecture of our church buildings, or in peaceful monments of quiet reflection. Our God is with us even in the blood and dust and mud of human conflict. And it is our human conflict that tears God apart.
God suffered with the troops in the trenches, God was blown out of the sky in the Battle of Britain. 
God stood nervously on the street corner with the soldier in Northern Ireland. 
God was torn apart between Serb and Bosnian as they glared at one another with hatred. 
God is also with the U.N. soldier, who doesn’t really understand the conflict he is part of, and is longing to be home with his family. 
God weeps with the mother and child as they are told that daddy has been killed on exercise on the other side of the world, he won’t be coming home anymore.
You see, God does not take sides, he is there on both sides, weeping with those who weep, sharing the fear of those who are in danger, feeling the pain of those who are wounded, knowing the anxiety of those who have to make painful decisions, offering to bring healing and peace to those who know they have done wrong.
Our remembrance reminds us that our God chooses to do all of that, to be torn apart by our weakness and failure, to go through it all with us, because he is a loving God, because he is our Father God, because he counts each one of us as His children. He will always be there to help us pick up the pieces.
And our remembrance will be one more thing. It will not be a mere recounting of the past, it will not be a passing glance at fading photographs and lists of half-forgotten names and deeds, it will be a remembrance with faith and hope for the future. If we know where we have come from, we know who we are. If we can see the paths that our past has taken, we can choose wisely paths for the future. But most of all, when we have seen our God sticking with us, despite everything, then what better foundation can we hope for to build our future together?
Let us pray…
Loving God, we remember today with regret, the evils of war;
we remember today with thanksgiving, the selfless bravery of so many;
we remember today with pain, all of the people war and conflict have taken from us;
we remember today with faith, how you have been there with us through it all;
we remember today with hope, for you have proved your promise that there is nothing that can
separate us from your love in Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Monday Review: Thor Ragnarok

A genuinely funny film.  Smart, sassy dialogue and a few laugh-out-loud moments.

However – I just wanted to focus on a couple of very strongly “Biblical” themes in the film.  I will try not to give away spoilers that are not given away in the trailer – but, caveat emptor! – the responsibility is yours if you choose to read further!  🙂

First theme:  “I will be with you”

Thor is in an epic tussle with a deadly foe, Hela – the godess of death.  As his battle seems lost and hopeless, he receives strength and wisdom from a vision of his father (Odin).

Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”  (Genesis 31:3)

“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him.” (Psalm 91.15)

Second theme:  “Once you were nobody…”

This is perhaps the most overt.  There is plenty of action on the planet of Sakaar where all the waste and junk of the universe ends up – including people.  A way out is offered with the accompanying phrase “Once you were nobody, now you are somebody.”  This is pretty much a direct Bible quote:

Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  (1 Peter 2:10)

It might seem that the world has thrown you away; it may seem that the world considers you worthless; but we don’t inherit our worth from the values of the world – we are worth something because God makes us his children.  Once we had no name – now we have a name – the children of God.

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by your name;
you are mine.

Third theme:  “Whence cometh your strength?”

The very thing Thor is famous for – his invincible hammer (Mjolnir) – he loses.  He believes that without it, he has nothing.  It is easy for us to imagine that our strengths (wealth, career, relationships, skills, health – all manner of things) are the things that sustain us and are the things we can rely upon, our insurance against disaster.  But they are not.  Odin asks Thor – “are you the god of hammers?”  NO! Thor is the god of thunder!

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  (Psalm  121:1-3)

 Fourth theme:  “a people, not a place”  (ALERT: possibly the closest to being an actual spoiler)

The premise of the film is that there is a lurking threat – the prophecy of Ragnarok from which the film gets its name – of the complete destruction of Asgard (home to Odin and Thor and family).  You assume as you watch that this will come perilously close but will be averted just in the nick of time ready for the next Thor film.  But that is not what happens.  Thor realises that the only way to save Asgard is to allow the prophecy to unfold – and the PLACE Asgard is totally destroyed by the fire-monster Surtur while the PEOPLE (Asgard) are taken to safety. 

Odin reminds him – Asgard is not a place, but a people.

Likewise, the Kingdom of God is not about a geographical or even metaphysical PLACE – it is a people living Christlike lives.

So – there you have it – a great film packed with familiar biblical themes – what’s not to like?

Here’s the official trailer – ENJOY!  🙂