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January 2011

Lyric For The Day 31.1.11 from Kingdom Of Comfort by Delirious?


“Save me save me
From the kingdom of comfort where I am king
From my unhealthy lust of material things”

From Kingdom Of Comfort by Delirious?

I always felt that Delirious? suffered from being caught up in the new worship movement, which reflected a wider society of self indulgence. Where the world over indulged in materialism the worship industry gave a question free, bless me bless me song diet bereft of the prophetic or cathartic. Then, as the band came to an end, Delirious? made their big statement and this was the lead off lyric. Just as you think that you are on comfortable Christian cliché the lyric knocks you down from underneath. This was the song that the Christian “industry” needed to hear. This is a much more “deny yourself and take up your cross” lyric. A most needed antidote to what was going on around them. Challenging!


My mind has shifted and readjusted many times this past week as I reflected on those sexist comments of Andy Gray and Richard Keys before they commentated on the Liverpool/Wolves soccer game last weekend. Their comments about Sian Massey, the female assistant referee, not knowing the offside rule was most certainly prejudiced but my first reaction was caused by the stupidity of the remarks. The truth is that to be given the job of assistant referee in the best soccer league in the world Sian Massey had to come through some serious scrutiny and have shown some professional aptitude to get the gig. My question was how did Gray and Keys not know this journey from under 12 Saturday morning League to here? Was all their other soccer punditry as lacking in knowledge as this? Or did they think that Ms Massey would somehow forget all she’d learned and lose all her experience simply because of gender?

I don’t think so. What has happened here is that to fill the gaps in conversation Gray and Keys involved themselves in some meaningless, throwaway attempts to be humorous. You wonder how many soccer fans all over the UK made similar seemingly inane jibs when they heard that a girl was “running the line.” Should they all be sacked? Gray and Keys were not on air let us not forget!

No, sacking was harsh and Keys might be right that some other dark forces were at work BUT that doesn’t mean that the sexist comments themselves were not something of a dark force! I remember my Presbyterian students talking about how they got on so well with the Catholics in their schools or communities and seeing that as progress before realising that the comment meant that they were constantly dividing their class or their community into Catholics and Protestants! Whether a throwaway joke or not, Gray and Keys did raise our inherent sexism!

New Testament writers speak a lot about the tongue and words we say. They might seem a little pedantic on first reading, almost minor teaching. It was for moments like these they were written. What the Christian writers are concerned about is our objectifying or demonising of the other! That is exactly what Gray and Keys and whoever else were making loose comments about Sian Massey were involved in. It does not create a healthy community. I know that my own soul has been chastised by this news item. Asking my friend Tim whether we were involved in the stereotype cheap joke he assured me that we weren’t sexist BUT ageist as we wondered if Sian was old enough to be out on her own! I suppose what I have taken from this new overdose has been to be careful of even my throwaway private comments as they betray something deeper.

A final preach however! There has been an incredible hypocrisy about all of this sexism, highlighted by headlines in the Sun tabloid. Come on. Could daily exploitation of woman half naked not be doing a little more damage to women than a moment of Andy Gray male stupidity. And if Gray should get sacked for something off air how many should get sacked for the abuse of women to sell every product you can think of during half time breaks! Gray and Keys have highlighted a sexist society but more than their heads will have to role if we are to give woman back the dignity that their humanity demands!

Lyric For The Day 29.1.11 from Saint Dominic's Preview by Van Morrison


“All the orange boxes are scattered.
We get to Safeway's supermarket in the rain.
And everybody feels so determined
Not to feel anyone else's pain.

(You know that) No one's making no commitments
To anybody but themselves,
Hidin' behind closed doorways,
Tryin' to get outside, outside of empty shells”

          From Saint Dominic’s Preview by Van Morrison

I had loved this song for some thirty years, it had even given its title to one of my University soccer teams, but it was a cover version by Iain Archer at a Van Tribute night in Derryvolgie Hall when I was Chaplain at Queens that opened these lines up for me. Tucked away in the middle of this brilliant if meandering song Morrison gives the modern ill of individuality a real hammering; funny though as Van has never really ever come across as Mr Community Builder! Anyway, that determination to avoid other’s pain and lack of commitment to doing anything about other people’s needs is the great malaise of our time. Critical social critique!

Lyric For The Day 28.1.11 from In Christ There Is No East or West by Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples 

“In Christ now meet both East and West,
There is no black or white
Only one great love
Hatred cannot divide

Join hands and have faith,
Forgive your enemy
Surely we're all a part
Of one big family.”

From In Christ There Is No East Or West by Mavis Staples

Just a verse or two from this old traditional hymn that Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy spruced up beautifully for Staples’ stunning album You Are Not Alone. This will be part of our worship service this Sunday as we look at the Kingdom of the Son subverting the Empire in Colossians. The Empire is about self and power and protecting that power. The Kingdom is about vulnerably and humbly loving and forgiving. It is a power shift, from dividing through power taking to uniting by power sharing and enabling.

Lyric For The Day 27.1.11 from Refuge by Matthew Perryman Jones

Perryman Jones 

“Lord, I feel the weight of a mountain
Pressing down inside my soul
I can see the pillars fallin’
There ain’t nothin’ left to hold
The reigns are broken too
I can’t steer this
There’s nothing I can do
Except to throw my arms out

Take me to
A place where love can mend these wounds
Where mystery can dance with truth
And the broken soul finds refuge”
         from Refuge by Matthew Perryman Jones

 Nashville based Matthew Perryman Jones is a songwriter of poetic touch and spiritual depth. Refuge is the song that gave his first album Throwing Punches In the Dark its title and it is a stunning piece of prayer writing. Life can knock us all around without us asking for it and when it does we need this place of refuge that Jones seeks. A place “where mystery can dance with truth” is an incisive line that frees us up from clichéd answers that our out of place when souls are broken. Sometimes the truth shimmies and shakes and won’t stand still for us to grasp it. At moments like these holding mystery close as we are led on a merry dance is all we can do.

Lyric For The Day 26.1.11 from Blaze Of Glory from The Alarm


“The law of the jungle says
You look after yourself
But I remember this much
I love as I've been loved myself.

But you keep on
Setting your sights for the sky.
They can offer you anything at all
But your dreams must not be sold.
No price is high enough
I'm fighting back with feeling
I'm fighting back with love

When the nails are biting into your hands
And the cross is heavy on your heart
Now is the time to really make a stand

From Blaze Of Glory by The Alarm

Welsh band The Alarm came crashing into the big music scene with 1983’s Declaration album prepared to fight alongside U2 in making the rock revolution about more than throwing TVs out hotel windows. Declaration shouted at the devil and was about a commitment to something higher and bigger. Christian faith, as with U2, lay at the heart of their mission.

Blaze of Glory bristles with long term defiance and shows how big communal choruses, when sung in community, can fuel perseverance and resistance. The lyrics I picked for today’s pondering challenges the spirit of the age in looking out for yourself and brings the cost of Christ’s cross into play. Loving as we are loved is the Christian commission and challenge. God’s love and grace meet us in a warm caress as we believe that we are loved by the one who holds the Universe in place BUT the same love crashes into our self indulgence and knocks it on its head demanding that we fight the world into peace with the same unconditional love God showed us. Now... if I could go out on a blaze of glory doing that. Life in its fullness!

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF - Pause For Thought 25.1.11

(The script from this morning's Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2...)

The poet Steve Turner once wrote:

History repeats itself

Has to

No one listens.

How true and how tragic. We need history. It is the story of what made us who we are. It is also littered with lessons of how not to do it; lessons to help us act differently. But most times we don’t. I am from Northern Ireland so I’ve watched and been part of the suffering of a history that has never learned to listen. Looking back over centuries we have just repeated vengeances vicious circle and a perpetual cycle of hate. We disguise it all under names like “justice” and “our security” but as we lash out we just speed up the spinning wheel of humanity’s inhumanity, keeping our fields fertile for martyrs and ploughing up the breeding ground for terrorists.

Perhaps if we leaned in closer we might find history whispering something else to us. Maybe we would hear it scream out to us that someone needs to stop this spinning wheel of violence and war. Maybe we need to lean in and listen to some of the mad wisdom of Jesus too. He had the idea of turning the other cheek, of doing good to our enemies... He had this insane idea of grace. Bono from the band U2 speaks quite often about this grace and calls it an interruption of the karma default of the universe. The notion of loving people not for what they do for us or for what we can get out of them, but just because. Christians believe that this grace is sourced in God loving us as we are. He forgives our past and opens up a brand new future. That new future is about us then living that grace in our world.


How different would our history have been had people acted that way to whatever attack was hurled at them? And how could the future be different if instead of repeating our history we rewrote it with this explosive notion of grace? It doesn’t seem to be our natural inclination but it might be our only hope.

Lyric For The Day 24.1.11 from Alive In The World by Jackson Browne


Jackson Browne 2 
“I want to live in the world, not behind some wall
I want to live in the world, where I will hear if another voice should call

With its beauty and its cruelty
With its heartbreak and its joy
With it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change
Alive in the world”

      from Alive In the World by Jackson Browne

I remember watching Jackson Browne during a concert and asking myself, as he sang about justice, poverty and social transformation, what would he know? With his pop star good looks (even in his fifties!) Californian tan, wealth and fame, how would he know what was going on in the street? As I was pondering the band went into this song from his Looking East album and he almost answered me personally as if the gig had turned into a conversation. Browne has a real sense of music as a transforming force, whether he is informing us about injustices or trying to encourage us to play our part or draw us into a commitment to change. He has always been determined not to hide behind a wall but to experience the lives of everyman.

As he answered my suspicions at that concert it turned into more than an answer. The question turned on me and my faith community. I started asking if I could be accused of hiding behind the walls of the Church or the liturgy of the Church or the theology of the Church? It seems to me that Jesus has called us to be alive in the world and instead of me judging Jackson Browne he began to critique me! In the end the song is an inspiring song, inviting us out from wherever we are hiding to be alive in the world.



God, give us a confidence in you

But let grace keep us from arrogance

God, give us a strength of conviction

But let us share it humbly

God give us to believe courageously

But let us carry it gently

Lord, as we go forward in this vision

Make us careful that we do not abuse your grace to feed our own self righteousness

But use your grace to feed the world’s deepest needs.


Lyric Of The Day 21.1.11 from No Surprises by Radiohead

OK Computer 

“A heart that's full up like a landfill,
a job that slowly kills you,
bruises that won't heal.
You look so tired-unhappy,
bring down the government,
they don't, they don't speak for us.
I'll take a quiet life,
a handshake of carbon monoxide,

Such a pretty house
and such a pretty garden.
No alarms and no surprises.”

          From No Surprises by Radiohead

From Radiohead’s OK Computer just voted the best album in Q magazine’s lifetime, No Surprises is another perfect description of the modern spiritual malaise; always the heart of Radiohead’s work. The twenty first (I know it was recorded in 1998!)century has the west so soft cushioned that we really do not want any alarms or surprises to disturb our self indulgent snooze. To self indulge or self sacrifice is the human choice. A soul drugged by indifference is the great enemy of the revolution and transformation that Jesus suggests the soul was really made for!