BLUE ROSE CODE - BRIGHT CIRCUMSTANCE

Bright Circumstances

Two social media messages, from two different places, in one evening. One was about the band’s spirituality. The other was about their love of Hibernian FC, my favourite Scottish team. Two songs, Do Not Be Afraid and Edina. Suddenly I had a new obsession. A new favourite band. I bought 3 records within an hour.

How I missed Blue Rose Code is a mystery. An annoying one. They even performed at a Festival I spoke at in 2015. I must have been too tired.

My new addiction comes at a perfect time as only last month the band released a new record Bright Circumstance. As I am only now deep diving their back catalogue, and only skittering across, I cannot say for sure but I am going to surmise that this is their most complete record.

Main man Ross Wilson suggests an unholy trinity at work in his music - Morrison, Martyn and Waits - but here so much more in this eclectic set that for me overall has a Scottish version of the Irish Hothouse Flowers in its hard DNA. Caledonian Soul perhaps to steal another Morrison moniker. 

The piano bedding to all that sits above it, the Gospel/Soul spirit to it. It always feels that they are not just playing the songs over again but creating and recreating as it goes. 

The drive of the opening Jericho, the brass of Never Know Why, the very Van Morrison Amazing Grace that would have sat nicely on Into The Music. Imagine it coming after The Healing Has Begun! 

The spiritual is as omnipresent as the piano. Jericho makes the Old Testament story personal. I could use Peace In Your Heart in every pastoral visit and the closing Now The Big Man Has Gone On is a prayer for a lost mate. Do Not Be Afraid is  a little sermonette full of proverbs. 

Around this faith base we can move into the sadness of Sadie, a friend where redemption looks far off and the more mournful Thirteen where we get a political critique of thirteen years of Tory austerity. 

Bright Circumstances is just that. Songs plugged into the reality of a dark world now lit up with hope and mercy and daring to head towards joy. 

I am addicted and on a journey into the depths of Blue Rose Code.


GRACE CAUGHT IN A MOMENT

Isaiah 6

Readings: - Isaiah 6:1-8 and Isaiah 57:17

 

Isaiah went as usual

BUT this time

He met God

God beyond him

Beyond his imaginings

Beyond his morals and ethics

Beyond his highest efforts

God majestic

Holy

Powerful

 

Isaiah froze stone still

I am ruined

I am a man of unclean lips

Among a people of unclean lips

I am ruined

 

Isaiah was so aware that he had nothing to offer

There was nothing he could do

To bridge the gap of

Holy and unclean

Stone still

He waited 

For judgement

 

BUT God acted out Grace

God moved first

God built the bridge

Grace was unconditional

Grace was all God’s work

Grace forgiveness and atonement

Grace gave Isaiah a new start

And when he could move again

He responded to God’s call 

By Grace he had been equipped

To say

Here am I, send me…

 

To listen to the entire sermon - STOCKI SERMONS PODCAST 


FRIENDS AT DINNER

Dew of Hermon

We reconvened 

Like we’d never parted

Or missed each other

The evening so easy

Differences listened to

Vulnerabilities heard

Confessions understood

Hearts relaxed in belonging

Connection warming souls

With the deep redemption within

Cultural critique

Social insight

Spiritual pass codes

Into slightly clearer revelation

And all served 

With good food

And wine  

 

Even when it was pitch black

Not even a cats eye

Danger moving towards us

We gave direction

Encouraged hope of lights ahead

Laughing and giggling through fear

Together

 

It was as if a holy dew 

Was falling

God’s blessing bestowed.

 

I have been inspired by John-Paul Flintoff's book Psalms For The City. It has caused me to look for cathedrals down our alleys to paraphrase Bruce Cockburn. 

So, here is just an ordinary evening with a few friends. An every day night with real evidence of blessing if we look closer. 

And the shorter second verse is a whacky drive home!


BLUE LIGHTS 2

Blue Lights 5

When Declan Lawn and and Adam Patterson, writers of Blue Lights, were interviewed at the 4 Corners Festival in February discussion turned to a world between idealism and pragmatism. Adam and Declan smiled as if the audience was really getting the point. 

In a world where we might hope of heaven we are very much weighed down to a messed up earth. You can’t switch a perfect light on to undo the consequences of a dark world. This side of heaven there are always shadows and our favourite police men and women navigate those shadows on the streets of Belfast.

My daughter Jasmine was chatting to a cook in the school were she works and the cook told her that they didn’t like watching Blue Lights as it was too close to home. You don’t want to watch the dark troubles of your streets rolled out as entertainment. Should those of us in the leafy suburbs be entertained by the life that our neighbours actually live across the same city. 

It was Marshall McLuhan who suggested that anyone who thinks that there is a difference between entertainment and education doesn’t know the first thing about either. 

We need to remember that Lawn and Patterson were formerly journalists. They want to do more than entertain. They want to make comment about the society that they live in. There is much to say about the streets of Belfast in 2024, nearly three decades after some sort of peace. 

That is why we are finding Blue Lights and the issues it raises being discussed in government committees as much as school canteens or wherever.  A Tweet from SDLP MP Clare Hanna says all we should know - 

 

“Not for the first time, Blue Lights has come up in discussion at Northern Ireland Affairs Ctte. On this occasion for showing how embedded the ECHR is in day to day decision making in public bodies inc policing. 

Part excellent drama/part degree level analysis of this region”

 

Perhaps drama writers can make comment in ways that journalists cannot. Maybe this is the robust foundation on what Blue Lights is built.

How things are in loyalist communities ruled by paramilitaries is well documented in this second series. Who can take control in those areas to make it better for all. How can the transition of these streets be policed. 

I was taken too by how they looked at our legacy issue. Perhaps we’ll never heal the trauma, sense of injustice and indeed the sense of guilt of the brutal acts of the Troubles by legal avenues. However bringing victims and the guilty together in the humane faltering way of Robin and Happy’s storyline might help many. 

At the 4 Corners Festival Declan and Adam also spoke of the importance of the characters in their writing. If they don’t develop over the series then something is wrong. Over two series now we have watched the characters in Blue Lights grow, find themselves, interact more intimately, sometimes very intimately with each other. They have down us in. We love them. We’d have their back. We worry about the next scene.

The characters are strong. The writing is strong. The entertainment and education is finely balanced. I cannot wait for Series 3. 


STOCKMAN SERMON PODCAST - A SERIES ON GRACE

Me on First Thoughts

LOVE GOD AND DO ANYTHING YOU WANT; SERMONS ON GRACE

THE STOCKMAN SERMON PODCAST

Over recent months we have been uploading my Fitzroy Sunday services as PODCASTS. You can listen on APPLE, SPOTIFY or AMAZON. Only 20 minutes of your week.

I am particularly plugging this particular series as it has had quite a response.

I was taking a few extra days off after easter but hadn't got a Sunday sermon cover. I dragged an old one out. It wasn't exactly random. David A Dunlop's novel When The Light Gets In about a sectarian, pietistic judgemental village in the northern part of Northern Ireland. A few conversations as I was reading led me to an old sermon on Grace Killers influenced this time by Charles Swindoll's The Grace Awakening.  

Anyway, the response was amazing. So many people approached me, texted me, emailed me or whatever and spoke of the sermon's helpfulness and healing. I decided to do a series. 

There are 6 podcasts already up and a few more to come. The last one even got a round of applause. 

To find the series press HERE and follow the title:

APRIL 14 - GRACE #1 - GRACE KILLERS

APRIL 21 - GRACE #2 - GOD’S POSTURE - YES FACE

APRIL 28 - GRACE #3 -  POSITIONAL HOLINESS

MAY 5 -  GRACE #4 -  LOVE GOD AND DO WHAT YOU LIKE

MAY 12 - GRACE #5 - THE LIFE OF THE KINGDOM

MAY 19 -  GRACE #6 - LIVING IT OUT