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October 2012

BBC THOUGHT FOR THE DAY 24.10.12 - District 6 On United Nations' Day

District 6

Today is United Nations Day so let me take you to District 6 a haunting, sacred space in the middle of beautiful Cape Town in South Africa. District 6 is a green gash in the middle of the city. It is a strange phenomenon with quite a story. If you walk across the this gaping hole it conjures ghosts. You find a slab where a house used to be... a street grown over but the tarmac and white lines still there, underneath.  The story is that the Apartheid Government in South Africa declared District 6 a “whites only” area in 1966 and a wonderfully harmonious mix of all races, religions and colours on
the edge of the city centre, snuggled under Table Mountain saw the bulldozers come and level their community; flattening walls and gouging souls.

There is a District Six Museum in the building of an old Church nearby and it is a place where your soul shakes as it connects with the memories of other souls floating around the photographs, poems, and art. The story of streets, buildings and people at the mercy of unbelievable laws of government. The strange thing is that you feel good... not because of the evil that was... but because of the
redemption that has come... as you learn that some of the residents have started moving back. Apartheid was eventually knocked down and is now flatter than District 6.

If you lean in and listen to this Museum you can find yourself caught between the vision of the architects of apartheid and the vision of St. John recorded in the Book Of Revelation. As you read St. John’s vision of people from all races, languages and colours gathered around God’s throne, you find it clashing with these artefacts that tell you which colour is allowed or forbidden from sitting on “white only” summer seats. St. John’s vision is of rainbow colours and apartheid’s
was about black and white. St. John’s is about creating a new world order and apartheid’s is about destroying one. St. John’s is the gentle caress of organic love and apartheid’s is about cold sterile legal injustice. Apartheid is a loud clang and clash in the quietness of District 6. You can feel the pain of souls that once were crushed here... but now you can catch the little shards of heaven’s light as the vanquished are at last free and restored. Have a good United Nations Day!


( a new series in which Stocki picks out his favourite U2 live moments on CD/DVD or live...)

U2 Self Aid

#10 – SELF AID, RDS DUBLIN – MAY 17, 1986

For U2’s only European gig of 1986 I did a 22 hour day.
I remember Andy Anthony and I getting up for a 6.30am bus to Dublin and getting home at 4am the next morning. U2 were not the only attraction about Self Aid. Influenced by the previous year’s Live Aid, Irish musicians decided to raise the issue of Ireland high unemployment and had a twelve hour telethon gig that included anyone who was anyone in the Irish music scene of the mid-eighties. It was quite a day. Twenty nine acts made it an extraordinary event with lesser known acts like In Tua Nua, Freddie White and Cactus World News in the early half of the day before legends like Paul Brady, The Pogues, Rory Gallagher, The Boomtown Rats, Christy Moore, Chris De Burgh, Elvis Costello and Van Morrison led us into headliners U2 before Thin Lizzy reformed as a memorial to Phil
Lynott as a surprise encore. It was one special day. Bob Geldof announced on stage that it was the Rats final gig and they played their socks off and Elvis Costello married his girlfriend, Cait then a Pogue, who therefore made him an honorary Irishman. 

It was a unique time to see U2 live. It was their first gig of 1986 and just a couple of months before the Amnesty International Tour on which The Police would hand them the mantle as those concerts sped them toward the release of Joshua Tree, that would send the band into the rock music stratosphere. Still ten months from that release Ireland’s most famous DJ Dave Fanning in his introduced claimed it already, “Do you wanna see a band that you know and I know to be the greatest live rock band in the world.” We believed it before it was statistically true. In all the legends of music on stage that day
U2 were by far the most iconic. Eleven hours of support slots had the crowd in a frenzy. This, and not the protest against unemployment, was what they were all there for.  It was Bono’s hippy phase with his long hair and his brown suede cowboy jacket with tassels. He bounded on stage as one having authority, as the people declared Jesus after The Sermon On The Mount. “We haven’t got much time. Let’s make this quick,” he warned, or invited, the crowd and then straight into Eddie Cochran’s, early rock n roll classic, C’mon Everybody. In the course of the next 22 minutes or so he would
quote John Lennon and Elton John as well as cover Bob Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm. The U2 songs were the three chosen for Live Aid though Pride got left off that Wembley day when Bad went on a meandering in the crowd detour. Pride was the song that gave the foundational axis of Martin Luther King’s spirituality that matured U2’s spiritual vision after their charismatic rebirth in the Shalom fellowship.  Sunday Bloody Sunday was the song about their island’s Troubles and then eventually Bad about the drug riddled streets of the city this gig was being performed in became the encore, shorn
of its Live Aid length.

The intensity of the limited time added to the spectacle. U2 out played everyone else and anyone at the RDS in Dublin that day
knew that Fanning was right. This was the best band on the planet and they were our boys! Being broadcast on RTE all day I came home to all the videos, that someone recorded for me, and watched this performance for years to come. Maggie’s Farms was on the Self Aid album released later in the year. Millions of pounds and 1000 new jobs were also raised as a result. I remember walking back through Belfast from the bus stop in the middle of the night, exhausted
but musically very satisfied.

LYRIC (S) FOR THE DAY 22.10.12 from Forever Young by Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan

Forever Young

“May the good Lord be with you

Down every road that you roam

“And may sunshine and happiness

Surround you when you're far from home

And may you grow to be proud, dignified and true

And do unto others as you'd have done to you

Be courageous and be brave

And in my heart you'll always stay

Forever young, forever young

Forever young, forever young”

-     From Forever Young by Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart in prayer and quoting Jesus! To be fair he is ripping off Bob Dylan on this song more than he is being religious but something struck me as I listened this morning. Both this song and Dylan’s more crafted and defining prayer of the same name seek something that is probably a very modern obsession and ambition. Looking young, feeling young, staying young is the secular version of Christianity’s eternal life. Bootox, facelifts, nose jobs, tucks, hair colouring and the endless number of people out on the roads attempting to keep
that figure. We are a people who want to stay young and look on aging with distain. Indeed even in Church many retired people refuse to go events for retired people because of some cultural preconception that they are not that old!

Recently as I grew my hair again after a decade of close to the skull shaves, people ask with a little glint would say, “Is that gray hair I see Stocki,” as if I should be embarrassed or doing something about it. I love my gray hair and not only because I thought I wouldn’t have any to grow gray at 51. I would not be 25 again for all the money in the roll over lottery. Maturity and age are wonderful things. I love telling my 30 year old friends that they are only ten years away from having a clue. Yes, I am out running again but only for the sake of my health not so that I would look younger than I am. I am quite
content to be what the good Lord designed I would be at this stage of my life – 51!

The Bible does say that we shouldn’t let anyone look down on us if we are young (maybe I just did so forgive me!) but it clearly honours the place of the elder. The mature are the ones with wisdom. Old is good. Though perhaps if we don’t have any hope after we are old, staying forever young is our only hope. Maybe it is denial of the fact that death is inevitable and we are much closer to the time allotted
to us. Rod Stewart’s prayer has a few wonderful sentiments in it’s cheap skate version of Bob Dylan’s more exquisite work and Dylan almost gets it right...

May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong...”

Amen!... but for me, and I think the Scriptures back me up, those things don’t happen if we stay forever young!



My good friend and fellow Fitzer Gary Burnett put this up on his facebook status yesterday. I found it wonderful and used it in our Fitzroy worship this morning. It is from the Lausanne Movement website and as a definition of Church it doesn't get much better than this.

“By the church, we mean its local manifestation, a congregation gathered together in the name of Jesus. This is the Messianic community, a group of people on a spiritual journey, following Christ, seeking to become like Him. It has all kinds of people there, the young, the old, the sick, the well, the strong, the weak, male and female, smart and slow, rich and poor, Jews and gentiles, free and slaves...

Worship for them is punctuation in the long journey of
life – which says that in a fallen world, we can celebrate and exalt God because though life is hard and miserable, it is not the last word on life, God is the final word still. So every Sunday or festival, they come together to celebrate, sing victorious songs, eat a feast and drink beer and wine,
together, not to brainwash people out of their misery or sweep their sorrows under the rug, but, as they embrace completely the painful life in a fallen world, this day, this Sunday, they will declare with defiant fist raised to the skies, that Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Victor and Jesus is Eternal Life.”

Lyric For The Day 21.10.12 from Dreams Are Made Of Money by Sam Carter

Sam Carter

“Here’s the rainy day we’ve been spending for

Dreams are made of money

Now we’ve blown the loan and we still need more

Dreams are made of money

And we’re bailing out as the markets crash

Dreams are made of money

When we’re strapped to a parachute that’s made of cash

Dreams are made of money”

-         From Dreams Are Made Of Money by Sam Carter

I heard this for the first time on Friday’s edition of Later... With Jools and I wondered how I hadn’t hear about this guy. Tracing his history it would seem that he is one of the very many young 20s and 30s who grew up in Church and have struggled with the faith element. Seemingly distancing himself from the Creed of that Church background, Carter’s work is full of Christian humanist thoughts without the Divinity. As well as those value of his upbringing, the sounds of his upbringing have been held onto too. Gospel
music and the Spirituals blend with folk to give Carter this unique fusion.

Dreams Are Made Of Money is everything that Sam Carter is about. Tasty guitar playing, folk sensibilities,  and brilliant
songwriting full of social comment sharply observed. This is a song about austerity Britain but not just vitally contemporary it could cover the hold that money has had on society since the Jesus, of Carter’s early Church years, said that you couldn’t serve God and mammon!   

Lyric (Poem) For The Day 20.10.12 from Die Slowly from Pablo Neruda


"He who does not travel, who does not read,

who does not listen to music,

who does not find grace in himself,

she who does not find grace in herself,

dies slowly.


He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,

who does not allow himself to be helped,

who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck,

about the rain that never stops,

dies slowly.


Let's try and avoid death in small doses,

reminding oneself that being alive

requires an effort far  greater

than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead

to the attainment of a splendid happiness.”

-     from Die Slowly from Pablo Neruda


My friend Fr Martin Magill shared this poem with us on Facebook this morning. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is better known for his communist politics than his Christian spirituality but his poems regularly appear in the Religion and Spirituality section and again we
are reminded to welcome light from all quarters. Die Slowly is a powerful and poignant piece filled with profound proverb.  

The theme of dying before death by living bland constrained lives has been a theme of every art form since those first artists appear on the human scene in Genesis chapter 4. My favourite quote, among many quotes, is from producer and singer songwriter T-Bone Burnett who puts it well on his song PrimitivesThe frightening thing is not dying -- the frightening thing is not living.”

What Neruda does in this poem, however, is give meat to the bones of that idea. He details throughout the things that slowly kill us and
inspires us to an antithesis of life in its fullness. Jesus was about similar critique. Jesus was quick to encourage the passionate dreamers, often befriending those living recklessly out of the box, and constantly condemning those confined to systems, traditions and straightjackets. Jesus came to bring us life in all its fullness!  


Fitzroy Day

In the morning (11am) we will be having a Family Service where I will be introducing our congregation to Max Lucado’s Wemmicks. Wooden people who mark each other with stars if you are part of the culturally defined beautiful people and dots if you are uncool and lacking in the talents that society have chosen to judge you by. One of the number, Punchinello, meets a girl called Lucia on whom the marks won’t stick. Why? Where could you find a world where you are not at the mercy of your peers.... Find out! Music by the Youth Band and a choir of our young ladies, readings and prayers by children
and youth. Short, sharp and child friendly. There will be a bread and cheese lunch afterwards for Christian Aid and TEAR Fund.

In the evening (7pm) we will be showing Live58 a new movie from TEAR Fund about the reality of life in sub Saharan Africa. This is a moving and provocative film that will dig deeper into your heart and
soul than the sermon or seminar on poverty. From there Isaiah 58 will bring us to the heart of God. This is the launch of a month in November when as a congregation we will use the 30 day TEAR Fund prayer diary, written by partners in Africa. The showing of the film and the feedback in two Sunday’s time will be led by Chris Hunter our Youth Director.   

ZUMBA MEDITATION 2 - Planks! Specs! Laughter! More Lessons on Following...

Zumba Fitness

At yesterday’s Zumba we had two new recruits, Ruth Harron and Jonathan Abernethy-Barkley. The immediately caught the fun and soon after that the hard work that is embedded throughout the fun. Early on there was much laughter, not so much at each other as at themselves. However, that others are struggling along with you means that our laughter is communal and if you interrogated the situation with any great depth we do laugh at one another’s stumbling and tumblings after Lorna McIlwaine, our fit and fleet of
foot leader! For myself, three week in, I have discovered that knowing a few of the moves from previous weeks helps me learn new moves every week. There are still enough missteps and out of steps to laugh about BUT you learn to follow the leader better the longer you follow. My analogy of the leader and Jesus made me think that you don’t start following Jesus and have all his moves immediately, indeed you never have all his moves but growing more like him is a
steady progressive discipleship.

That, however, is not the main gist of my thought yesterday. As the morning went on, indeed by the second song, Ruth and Jonathan
had stopped laughing. That got me thinking, as I somehow seem to be able to do while juggling my mind and my feet! Could it be that the more we concentrate on following Jesus ourselves the less time we have to laugh our neighbour or ourselves for that matter. When Jesus told us to be more interested in the plank in our own eye than we are with the spec in our brother or sister’s eye, was that what he intended. Concentrate on what you and I have to do with this
plank and then the spec is out of your view, to continue the analogy! When we see the spec and laugh at the spec then we have taken our eye off the leader and his ultimate aim for us. We need to get so engrossed in our following that we see less of the stumbling and tumblings of those around us. We have enough stumbling and tumblings of our own to keep us concentrating.

SLAVE TO FAKE- poem for Anti-Slavery Day

Anti Slavery Logo

(today is Anti-Slavery Day in the UK and Anti-Trafficking Day in the EU. As we campaign for slavery on the outside there is a slavery deep within all of us that needs highlighted too. This was written in May 1994 in my then Dublin home 78 Eaton Wood Green. It is very much the work of a Youth Worker preacher, that I was then, but I think it makes a point! I am proud to say that Iain Archer nicked the title for a line in a song on his debut album Playing Dead)


Is that a pretty face I see

Or just an hour and a half you spent

The design of a fashion magazine

Or the beauty that heaven sent

Is that a confident swagger

Or the stagger of a frightened man

A cool alcoholic Romeo

Or the impotence of an empty can

Are you freedom’s perfect sales pitch

Or Flannery’s monkey suit mistake

Is that you I’m looking at

Or just a slave to fake.


Is that a perfect soul I see

Or someone guilty of a greater sin

Do you want to be judged by the cover

Or the tattered soul within

Is that a satisfied smile I see

Or some dressed up righteous code

How can God carry your burden

If you don’t admit your heavy load

Are you freedom and grace incarnate

Or a Pharisee-like mistake   

Is that you I’m looking at

Or just a slave to fake.

Lyric For The Day 18.10.12 - from Babel by Mumford & Sons


“Know my weakness, know my voice.

I believe in grace and choice.

I know that perhaps my heart is farce

but I know that I'll be born without a mask”

-     From Babel by Mumford and Sons

Number 1 record Babel is another theology strewn record from Mumford and Sons and this line “I believe in grace and choice” has been a much quoted line. God’s grace and human choice is a tension that theologians have debated over for centuries. In Mumford’s context it is a subjective line of a man who is acutely aware of his own human weakness and vulnerability, his responsibility for the things he does. However, alive alongside his weakness there is this transcendent interruption of God’s grace, God’s love, God’s redeeming intervention. In the end the absurd disguise that his actions reveal will eventually be rid of and he will be born again as his
real self. In the end the song is about hopeful grace in a confession of slavery to fake.