PEACE - GOD'S PRIORITY, COMMAND AND COMMITMENT

Peace day 21

 

The first time I heard Over The Rhine sing Another Christmas... 

“I hope that we can still believe

The Christ child holds a gift for us

Are we able to receive

Peace on earth this Christmas”

… something went off deep within me. It is not a new line. I have been living with this line most of my life. I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t hear it at Christmas time. I heard it for years before I even believed that what it was talking about was any kind of reality. For the last thirty years I have worked the phrase annually. One of my other favourite bands U2 even had a song called Peace On Earth and I have written about that song.

However, it was during one of Stormont’s far too many crises and I was surmising that peace was not high on some of our politicians’ agendas that that near over familiar line, “Peace on earth this Christmas”, struck a chord as loud as any Jimmy Page strum and as spiritually powerful as an Old Testament prophet or actually a New Testament angel on the night God came to earth! 

“Peace, Steve, Peace” is what my soul kept repeating. It is not about justice or vengeance, it is not about proving who was right or wrong. It is not about us and them and us winning. The point of this mission that God had in coming to earth was peace. That peace was not just for my soul. It was about peace on earth. Anyone following this Jesus whose birth is heralded in this angel’s song should be all about peace. 

This of course is not an out of the blue declaration of a God reaching for some Plan B or C. The Old Testament was all about this peace; shalom is how the Jewish people said it. Shalom was God’s intention in the law given, for the King’s to achieve and for the prophets to critique the lack of. A favourite verse on the subject that I have blogged often is Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (NKJV)

Those who claim to follow the baby born when the angels sang need to find that priority of peace. That God’s people would seek shalom wherever they were was a way of being God’s holy nation, a people set apart, different, in all the right ways, from the other nations. We need to not blend in to the world’s intuitive response to seek to be proven right, in control and avenging all who would come against us. We need to be about that ministry of reconciliation that God told us we would be about just as we are connected to God himself through that same ministry of his peace making.

On this International Day Of Peace, I am wearing my John Lennon War Is Over t-shirt. The strap line is “if we want it”.  The love, the reaching out across our divides, the scandalous forgiveness, the imagination to find ways to compromise. We need to want it.

God demands that we want it. Peace is high on God's agenda. He declares it. He commands it. He seeks that we would be committed to it. We need to see afresh this Gospel priority and commit to it with renewed courage, hope and all that grace that is intrinsic to the baby laid in the manger.

Ephesians 2 - 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Peace.


LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM - LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM

Lindsey Buckingham

It seems to me that Lindsey Buckingham’s eponymously named seventh album is as much about the drama of Fleetwood Mac as it is about the music. Three years after getting sacked from Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham lays down his most Fleetwood Mac sounding solo record and kind of says, “See what you missed?”.

Let’s look back at the drama…

The 1973 album called Buckingham Nicks set it all rolling. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, very much a couple, had made a record of harmonious songs but were already fighting over the naked cover photograph.

All that the two artists would become is right there on the tracks - Lindsey Buckingham’s instrumental invention and Stevie Nicks mystical voiced sugar coating. Crystal even found itself onto the couple’s first Fleetwood Mac record after Mick Fleetwood hears Frozen Love over the speakers of a studio he was testing and head hunts Buckingham immediately. He won’t jump without Nicks. I wonder how many times he looked back at that decision!

Rumours is the new amalgam’s iconic piece but as it is well documented the seeming harmonious west coast sound is coming out of love stories of utter disharmony. Go Your Own Way or Never Going Back Again. The message was clearly heartache even if the sound was almost joyous! 

Fleetwood Mac’s career since has attempted to out do the interpersonal dramas of Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. Original members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, who Peter Green named his band after have kept the back beat while one minute Nicks, for 16 years Christine McVie and for a time Buckingham have huffed, stayed away, gone to rehab or got sacked!

The 2017 Buckingham McVie record that should have been Fleetwood Mac, had Nicks not boycotted, was followed by Buckingham getting sacked. That was the last move. Fleetwood Mac touring with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn instead of their prime sonic consultant, arranger, producer.

So, Buckingham who has always called his own work “esoteric and a little left field’ brings ten songs right into the centre and makes them utterly Fleetwood Mac accessible. So accessible that Time is almost Pat Boone croon and Dancing is more fragile than anything he has ever done, ending the whole thing with a hushed whisper.

I Don’t Mind and Blue Light have the rhythmic signature finger picking while On The Wrong Side has the shiny guitar solo fade out. You can almost hear Nicks and McVie harmonies on Santa Rosa.

That last comment might sum it all up. This is a fabulous record. Yet, you feel that it could have been even more brilliant. As Buckingham screams “look what you missed by sacking me” there is a kind of echo that says “How good this could have been if they’d all been getting on in this particular year”. 

Oh the drama.


MARTIN & STEVE'S BIG 60TH BIRTHDAY FUNDRAISER FOR EMBRACE NI

Old Friends black and white

photo: Bernie Brown

 

"Old friends

Sat on a park bench like bookends..." (Paul Simon)

 

My good friend Fr Martin Magill was 60 back on September 13th. I honestly have no idea what it must be like to be his age! In less than three weeks I will. 

We have often found it so interesting, that though not meeting until we were almost 50, our birthdays are so close together. "1961 was a great year", Martin often says.

With such BIG birthdays coming up we thought that it would be a great idea to try and use such landmarks to raise money and profile for a small local NGO.

We chose Embrace NI for its work with refugees and asylum seekers.

We set a target of £1000. We met the target by the time Fr Martin had eaten all of his cake. We doubled our target last week and have passed it again. So today we are doubling it again and announcing a new target of £4000.

So forget sending us tokens and presents. Donate to Embrace NI and check out what they can do for you, your Church and your community.

We have had an amazing decade working together. We have helped create  Belfast’s 4 Corners Festival which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in February 2020. 

We pleaded for Jesus concept of grace to be used in peacemaking at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. Both of us can be heard regularly on the radio, we have written together for various publications and we shared a Saturday column, for the first year of Coronavirus, in the Belfast Telegraph.

In 2016 we were overwhelmed when we were presented with the Community Relations Council’s Civic Leadership Award.

Martin is involved all kinds of amazing causes, particularly Stop Attacks and we all still remember his prophetic speech at Lyra McKee’s funeral, when I was fist pumping as I watched on TV.

We both feel that God has really blessed us in our friendship, our lives and vocations. We also feel that they are blessed enough with things and so the idea the BIG 60th Birthday Fundraise

We have chosen Embrace NI because it is interdenominational and helps us fulfil a clear Biblical mandate to take care of the refugee. Watching the news footage from Afghanistan reminds us that all over the world people are fleeing terrible wars, oppression and poverty to find a better, safer life for their family. We are of course aware that Jesus was a refugee too. 

We see the work Embrace does, not only in its emergency response to refugees but also their role of educating and resourcing the church as being so crucial. 

We therefore encourage you, if you know Martin, if you have benefitted in any way from our individual ministries or our work together to make a contribution to Embrace NI at the link below.

DONATE TO EMBRACE NI FOR MARTIN AND STEVE'S 60th 

READ ABOUT EMBRACE NI FUNDING HERE


JESUS TURNING UPSIDE DOWN OUR SOCIAL INTERACTIONS

Stocki McCrea shot

photo: Philip McCrea

 

September 19th 2021's lectionary was Mark 9:30-37 and I found me looking deeper at a mantra verse of mine, down through many years.

Jesus revolutionary idea that“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” lives with me on a daily basis. It sums up the radical upside down world of the Kingdom and is also a description of Jesus himself - he who was first became last that we who were last could become joint heirs with God. Wow!

In this sermon I pan in closer and look at how such a Kingdom impacts our social decisions about who in the room, on the street, across the city and the world are the most important people. The world around us seems in Jesus view of a bogus idea of prestige. Let's look at how that should change our day.

Withs tories about singer Rich Mullins and an out of tune choir and author David Dark with a physically challenged young man I unpack what Jesus showed us when he brought children into the circle and embraced them. 

 


LUCIA'S STORY.. & A QUESTION OF YOU - On Organ Donation Week

EMB-Lucia-Quinney-Mee

photo: Jasmine Stockman

 

It is Organ Donation Week. Let me tell you a story and then ask you to do something.

Lucia Quinney Mee passed away a few days before her 21st birthday. Over the previous 12 she had depended on four families giving their loved ones organs that she might live.

For most of her life she was best friends to our daughter's Caitlin and Jasmine, living in the same cul-de-sac where our own house is in Ballycastle.

Along with Lucia's sister Alice, the four girls connected one sunny day and soon were all splashing in our kiddies pool. They were four buddies ever since, walking through childhood and their teens until Lucia would leave them in May 2020.

There were so many incredible happy memories. Yet, I guess Lucia’s story stood out in sad and wonderful ways. Around 2007 the girls came up to a Chaplaincy night at Derryvolgie Hall, where I was Chaplain. They did their dance routine, cute kids loved by our students. Lucia’s eyes were a little yellowish… within a week she was in an operating theatre in Birmingham Children’s Hospital receiving her first liver transplant. 

Lucia received her fourth liver in King’s Hospital, London the day before New Year’s Eve 2019. Sadly, she never quite made it through. For five months she battled with her amazing parents and sister by her side. We hoped. We prayed but as her dad told us “sometimes love is not enough to hold a body together.”

Through twelve years and those first three livers Lucia has lived the most incredible, inspirational life. She became a swimming star at British and World Transplant Games. Gold medals were plentiful. She carried the Olympic torch in 2012.

She set up a charity Live Loudly, Donate Proudly while ill before her third liver transplant that encourages people to donate organs. In 2016 she organised a Gala Dinner for Transplant charities and her speech was so mature and articulate. 

She also spoke at the 4 Corners Festival Banquet in January 2018 when we celebrated families who donated their loved ones organs to others. 

Her Live Loudly Donate Proudly blog showed an exceptional flair for writing for one so young.

In 2017 she was the youngest in the Queens New Year’s Honour’s List, receiving a British Empire Medal. Our Jazzi took the photo above for the press! She also got to have lunch with the Queen herself.

In between all of that there were parties and pop concerts and all the stuff a young woman does. In spite of all she had to go through Lucia lived loudly and more than that selflessly. In the pool she swam for her donors whom she never knew but never forgot. She wanted others to have the gift of life she was given for those twelve years. She was a world changer. 

We loved her. We admired her. Last night sitting in her parents house, a house filled with photographs of her bright, brave smile I was emotional again.

Today I want to thank again, though I don't know who they are, the donors' families that allowed Lucia to become so precious to us. Life. More days to love. What a gift!

So on Organ Donation Week, have the conversation. Tell your loved ones that should tragedy cut your life short that you want to give a longer life to all the Lucias. To give life through your death. It almost has a Gospel sized sense.

Do it. Do it this week. Do it now!

 

I remember you, tiny in the corner

Coming over to splash in the water

I had no idea that down the years

You’d become an extra daughter

I remember the Chinese lanterns

Going up in the New Year sky

Writing how you’d change the world

And wondering how they fly

 

I regret not seeing you in the pool

When, even second, you were a winner

Olympic torch and Empire medal

The Queen inviting you for dinner

I remember your big Gala night

When as well as your beautiful fashion

You spoke courage beyond your years

With articulate flair and passion

 

Live loudly donate proudly

Is exactly who you are

And in every dark night of my soul

I’ll go searching for your star

We loved you and we love you

You will always have our love 

But for holding bodies together

Earthly love is not enough

But we will love you

For love is the best thing

Love is the only thing

Love is the eternal thing

We love you. 

THE GIRLS