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March 2014

TOMORROW IN FITZROY 30.3.14

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Tomorrow morning (11am) at Fitzroy I will miss my people but Jonathan will take us onward in John... Jesus feet smell (like perfume) and so does the house he finds himself in... just like the perfume section of House of Fraser. You will encounter a familiar story line and a familiar meal and ask what are we holding back... I'll be in Terra Nova Church in Delaware, Ohio speaking about Building A City Of Light from Isaiah 61 and Jeremiah 29.

In the evening (7pm) the fifth in the brilliant series Christainity and Modern Thought will see Prof. Stephen Williams open up the life and thought of Dietrich Bonheoffer. This is a man dear to Stephen's heart and this will be a special night. Mad that I am not there for it. I can't encourage you enough to go...


PHILOMENA - REVIEW PT 1 - Faith in God; Simple But Profound

Philomena

So it took a flight to America for me to get to see Philomena. Janice and I are not big cinema goers. Life in ministry is about people and evenings off are rare. Trying to add an evening out to our schedule is never easy and therefore a rarity. Even the Fitzroy Film Club heads out on nights that we are already booked and so I get to the end of Philomena and realise that I am way behind time in blogging about it now but boy does this movie need to be blogged about. Let me blog it in two parts. The issue of forgiveness that raises its head at the end of the movie is absolutely crucial to the Northern Ireland situation that I skirt around the edge of in my life, ministry and blog. We will get to that…

First, let me look at the issue of God in the movie. I often write about a transformative moment in my life in Cape Town when I touched the shoulder of Cindy as we prayed for her. Cindy was dying of AIDS and as I thought I was helping her I was suddenly infused with an energy from her that was for me redemptive and Divine. I suddenly realised what Jesus was on about when he talked about meeting him as we connected with the poor and marginalised in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25. God meets us in that connecting moment.

That is what happens to Martin Sixsmith when he helps Philomena Lee look for her lost son in an almost selfish means to find work, having lost his vocational credibility in a political scandal. The sophisticated, educated, wealthy and English secularist shows patronising contempt for the simple ordinary Irish Catholic. The film shows a turning of the tables as Philomena confronts Sixsmith with his prejudice and weaknesses. 

A couple of lovely moments to illustrate. As they are driving along Philomena pierces Martin’s cynicism about God by asking straight out, “Do you believe in God, Martin?” You can see Sixsmith ponder that around his mind and he responds with how complex a question that is and how difficult he finds it to give a simple answer. “What about you Philomena?” “Yes!”. It is beautiful. 

As the movie continues that simple “Yes” reveals a confidence and profundity. Sixsmith gets more and more frustrated with how Philomena speaks about it and lives it out. At another point she asks him to stop the car as she wants to go to Confession. By this stage Sixsmith is exasperated at Philomena’s faith in spite of what nuns have done to her in the past and indeed, as the movie progresses, even in the present. As she gets out of the car he gives an anti-God rant that concludes by asking her to ask God what he has to say to him. Philomena leans back in and says, “I think he would say you are a feckin’ eejit!” Utterly brilliant!

What we need to remember in these dialogues is that we are hearing them from Sixsmith’s perspective. Ultimately, through his own awakening to this women’s simple faith, he portrays Philomena’s faith as something that transcends the Church’s shortcomings. The movie is as much a deconstruction of his own arrogant snobbery, intellectually and spiritually, as about Philomena’s strength of faith in God and in other people, even in people who have badly mistreated her. 

Get to see it before your next flight to wherever!


UNIONIST WALK OUT...THE QUEEN WELCOMES THE IRISH... QUESTIONS TO US ALL

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On the week that Unionist politicians walked out of a Down District Council Meeting over the Irish language, the Queen has had a reception for 300 of the Irish community at Buckingham Palace. Is there something wrong with this picture? Had the Down District Council had a reception for 300 of the Irish community would there have been a walk out? 

Unionism is about a loyalty to Britain and ultimately the Queen. Is that loyalty to a figurehead or is to the leadership of the Queen? The Queen’s state visit to Ireland in 2011 and, ironically in the light of this week’s events, her use of the Irish language was a seismic change in relations between Britain and Ireland. The Queen modelled a leadership that overturned centuries of hostility and ushered in a new day of changed relationships. Is it not now right that those loyal to her and proactive in their desire for Northern Ireland to maintain the Union to Britain to live in this new dispensation? Should Unionists and Loyalists walk out of meetings because they believe that they are being ignored or are they indeed ignoring the lead of she who they are being loyal to and desire Union with? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have some sympathy with my Unionist and Loyalist friends who feel that the changes at work around them have somehow disorientated them and made them feel ignored. They might even have a genuine feeling that they are somehow being left behind. We need to be aware of such feelings but we also need to be asking what Unionism and Loyalism should now look like, if those are the names they wish to be identified as, in 2014. As the Queen and Britain’s lead shifts how does Unionism and Loyalism shift with their monarch and people? Are their leaders who can bravely lead in such a tricky terrain and navigate through? 

How does the Church pray for and pastor such leadership or those who feel the brunt of the changes in our Northern Irish society? Questions… many questions…


IS YOUR CHURCH USING LOVE TO ENSLAVE?

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“Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man, 
you were made to be                                                                                                                                                                                                                         There is a design, an alignment to cry,
At my heart you see, t
he beauty of love, as it was made to be.”

-      From Sigh No More by Mumford & Sins

Sigh No More is a song that begins with a declaration of serving God as the human vocation, reminds us of the frailty and failings of humanity before concluding with these words which in context can only be seen as God’s love bringing humanity back to ultimate fulfillment. The love of God will not betray you or enslave you. It will give you that freedom that all of humanity is yearning for. If Mumford and Sons are making this declaration to a world seeking Cosmic answers I can’t help but hear a prophetic challenge to the Churches who claim to be about God’s love. Is the love that the Church pumps out a love that will not betray and enslave? Many Churches who have claimed love have enslaved their people in a new legalism and conformity. That is not God’s love. To Test if your Church is living God’s love you can use the Mumford & Sons test – Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you/It will set you free.”  

 


CROSBY, STILLS & NASH Verses MUMFORD & SONS ON LOVE

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“If you're down and confused

And you don't remember who you're talking to

Concentration slips away

Because your baby is so far away

Well there's a rose in a fisted glove

And the eagle flies with the dove

And if you can't be with the one you love, honey

Love the one you're with

You gotta love the one you're with”

-       From Love The One You’re With by Crosby, Stills & Nash

I have been a late convert to the amazing harmonies and songs Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. How diod I get to 50 without them! The sixties idea of a better world rang beautifully through their harmonies and their guitar work outs raged at injustice. Their hippy dream appealed to my Christian eschatological hopefulness. This song, though, stuck in my throat and bugged my soul. This is where the soul of the hippy got so open minded that God leaked out and a promiscuity that might not have caused the HIV virus but certainly didn’t help when it crashed in.

“So love the one you hold

And I will be your goal

To have and to hold

A lover of the light”

 from Lover of The Light by Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons put a different spin on romantic love. With this song, love is about faithfulness and commitment. Thge Babel album, though in many places Old Testamnet lament, was written and released as Marcus Mumford was readying to marry actress Carey Mulligan and the joy and commitment to love is another recurring theme. “Light” in Mumford speak can with very little digging up of evidence, hint at the Divine. A different source for romantic protocol and our entire society might benefit from the living out.


TOMORROW IN FITZROY 22.3.14

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Tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy we will look at the Fitzroy brand 10:10... which comes from John  10 v 10, "I have come that they have life and life in all its fullness." We will look at the Good Shepherd who leads us into this abundence and seek with the help of John, Jesus and Mumford & Sons... and take a look at Fitzroy's Vision of how to make it happen in our community. We will also be interviewing Colin and Sims and Stephen Anderson, coming back from and heading out in missionary service. 

In the evening (7pm) David Livingstone will look at the thinking of French philosopher Michel Foucault in the fourth evening in our brilliant series Christianity and Modern Thought. Do not miss!


STOCKI IN OHIO NEXT WEEK - THE DETAILS

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WEDNESDAY  MARCH 26th - 7:00pm in the UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON  CHAPEL 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO… MUMFORD AND SONS

Whatever the label that they want or don't want to put of their music it is difficult not to label Mumford & Sons songs as spiritual works of art, creating re-imaginings at the heart of the human contradiction. These guys make melody for that place where human frailty and grace induced redemption meets. I will unpack their songs to find insights for life and theology. All wrapped in performances of their songs by the students…

details - Nick Cardilino ncardilino1@udayton.edu

THURSDAY MARCH 27th - 7.00 @ SPECKLED BIRD, NORWOOD, OHIO with WOVEN OAK INITIATIVES

THERE IS NO THEM, THERE IS ONLY US

 "There is no them... there's only us" is more than a new anthemic sing along in a U2 song. Every city has a them and us. Every city has the invisible. How do we transform that into the shalom of the prophets and the Gospels? Steve Stockman shares his story of bringing the 4 corners of his divided city Belfast together and shows how friendship and creative imagination can help bring the Kingdom of God in our beautiful broken cities. Expect a mix of Scripture, rock quotes and simple stories of one effort to stumble after Jesus.

Tickets here - http://www.eventbrite.com/e/there-is-no-them-there-is-only-us-tickets-10710201501

FRIDAY MARCH 28th - DELAWARE CITY VINEYARD

“HARMONY: MUSIC THAT UNITES”

For me there are many prophetic stimulants in art in general and music in particular. One of these is the force to unite. With the musical genius of Delaware City Vineyard musicians we will look two of my favourite subjects, music and reconciliation, and show how Christianity can weave both to help God bring the Kingdom.

details - ROBB MORGAN -robb@delawarecityvineyard.org 

SUNDAY MARCH 30th - 11am TERRA NOVA COMMUNITY CHURCH 

WHEN YOU COMMIT…

Preaching in this energetic Church in Delaware. Looking forward to it and though I could go every which way in this one, I think we will draw all kinds of my recent theological thoughts and Spirit driven experience hoping as always that it might resonate in the personal journeys and the community journey of the Terra Nova family. 

contact - info@terranovacc.com

…And then we will fly from Columbus to Birmingham Alabama via Atlanta

 


MUMFORD & SONS - LIFE IN ALL ITS FULLNESS

Sigh No More

“Love; it will not betray you

Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free

Be more like the man you were made to be



And there is a design, an alignment to cry

Of my heart to see,

The beauty of love as it was made to be”

   -   From Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

The more you listen to Mumford & Sons the more spiritual insights you glean.  Whatever the label that they want or don't want to put of their music it is difficult not to label their songs as spiritual works of art creating re-imaginings at the heart of the human contradiction. These guys make melody for that place where human frailty and grace induced redemption meets.

These lyrics, from the title track of their debut album Sign No More, have become my mantra and mission statement in pastoral ministry. I might be wrong but I wonder if Marcus Mumford is having a little swipe here at the legalists in the Christian Church? Is he accusing them of a false love that betrayed, dismayed or enslaved? Real Christian love, which is a recurring theme on the Sign No More album, is about setting free, another theme returned to more than once. 

God’s grace is not an enslaver but the great liberator. To be set free from society’s demands and expectations and find your true self, aligned to God, our fellow humans and all of God’s creation. This is the ultimate beauty of love and our true humanity. The role of the Church is to be the resource by which the individual and society can be shaped and honed into God’s design. My role is to plan and preach and pray that my congregation in Fitzroy are set free from all that would burden, hinder or curtail the Holy Spirit’s work of righteousness; a righteousness that does not enslave but sets its all free to serve.

Our branding in Fitzroy is 10:10. The youth and children have it all over their hoodies. Yes, it happens to be my birthday but it is John 10 verse 10 when Jesus says, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy but I have come that they may have life and life in all its fullness." That verse and these words from Mumford are what drives the ministry of Fitzroy - "the beauty of love as it was made to be" will be a resource for that "life in all its fullness."


STOCKI SURMISES THE CEILI AND THE SILENT DISCO AND THEIR CULTURAL IMPACT

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“The structure of certain Irish dances makes it impossible not to come face to face with everybody else on the floor at some time in the evening. Then it’s harder to maintain a feud after you’ve been dancing together.”

This quote from Fr. Dara Molloy from the Aran Islands is one of the many little nuggets that I picked up from reading Alastair McIntosh’s stimulating book Soil and Soul a number of years ago. The interconnection and interdependency of the Ceili dance and its contribution to community life fascinated me. Last weekend as I experienced a Ceili put on in Fitzroy I became convinced that Fr Dara was on to something culturally significant for our times. 

Fitzroy had put on Ceilis some years ago but hadn’t for some time. This year various people made the suggestion and my staff got it together as part of a wider Festival in the Holy Lands, the area our Church is situated. What happened on the night was not planned or expected. What I as a pastor surveyed on the night has had me surmising for days.

For a Church of Fitzroy’s size I suppose my initial impression was the low numbers that attended. However, when the evening got going I realised that big numbers at a Ceili in a hall of our size would have been a disadvantage. There was just about the right numbers to fill the dance floor. It was when that floor was filled that I saw something very profound and indeed quite moving. By no grand design the hall was an eclectic mix of people. The age range was the most notable thing. From 4 year old children to 70-something maturity and everything in between, there they were linking arms, holding hands, shifting partners. There are not many places in a Third Millennium culture where such generational engagement happens. Add to that the variety of visitors and suddenly the pastor realised that this was all that I dream of happening amongst us. There was community building, mission and even the work of reconciliation going on in the most joyous of atmospheres. Everybody needed everybody else and when everybody else engaged with the enthusiasm that was evident then everybody experienced the full potential of the evening.  

As an antithesis of our Ceili I heard today about the new concept of the silent disco. At such an event there is no music played by the traditional DJ. You play your own music on your own iPod or iPhone through your own earphones. It is genius. It is so obvious. It is a sign of the times. It is fiercely individualistic. Everyone living to their own soundtrack is a clue to why community is breaking down. A self obsessed world is the inevitable result. We experience such a breakdown in community on a daily basis as everyone lives for their own self indulgence.  

Not that this individuality or community breakdown is a new phenomenon. In the first century the apostle Paul was writing to a Church in Philippi and seeking that they would put away their self obsessions and start looking out for others. he wrote, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” He went on to show Jesus as an example of such a life, giving up his rights and comforts for others. 

I call it peripheral vision. A great soccer player has peripheral vision. It is this ability to see the team, know where the team are at any given time. It is about looking outside of yourself to see what would be best for others and the whole. Again, as in Ceili dancing, we see that interconnection and interdependence is vital, energising and a fulfilment of the potential. And so in life, whether Church community or the wider social order, living life like it is a Ceili will better humanity much more than dancing to your own soundtrack.


THE WELCOME AT THE RESTART - Mumford & Sons' Theology Of Grace

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“It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart”

From Mumford and Sons’ Roll Away The Stone

These words of Mumford and Sons made me literally jump in my kitchen the first time I heard the album. It is such concise theology, so well written and so profoundly true. It is the secret of Christianity’s uniqueness. Most religions have some kind of deal with karma and balancing the good and bad we do. Christianity sits out like a freaky sore thumb with a ridiculous truth; we don’t go on a spiritual journey towards enlightenment or salvation or holiness or however you want to define spiritual fulfilment but it is the entry point. The journey starts here.

Jesus spoke about it in that story about the Prodigal Son. When he faced up to his father after squandering his inheritance on all kinds of self indulgent hedonism he didn’t even get a chance to deal with his dad. His dad puts his arms around him and throws a party for him even before he can do anything to make amends. For the Prodigal Son it wasn’t the road that somehow earns his grace but the welcome his father gives him. Jesus didn’t only talk about this kind of grace. He shows it to the disciples who became his apostles. They were welcomed into belonging at the start of their long road to making sense of it. The woman caught in the act of adultery received the same warm grace filled welcome and then was told to go on the journey and sin no more!

Christians believe that it is not the work of a person that puts them right with God but the work that Jesus did in his life and particularly in his death and resurrection. Christ’s work puts the human right with God, we are welcomed in by grace and from there we get to work on God’s grand design to bring his Kingdom and his will on earth as it is in heaven.

As a preacher there is no better news to share than what Mumford and Sons declare right here. It is amazing grace that welcomes us in without having to earn it. Then that same grace leads us on the journey home.