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February 2019

January 2019

PAUL SIMON SONGS COVERED - A STOCKI PLAYLIST

Paul Simon 2

Another of my carefully crafted playlists... the length of a good CDR...  this time the songs of Paul Simon, covered by a range of brilliant artists... 

 

AMERICAN TUNE - THE INDIGO GIRLS

(from Closer To Fine CD EP)

 

AMERICA - FIRST AID KIT

(from America EP)

 

GRACELAND - CHRIS MARTIN

(from BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge 2017)

 

HOMEWARD BOUND - STREET LIGHTS

(single)

 

THE BOXER - MUMFORD & SONS

(from Babel - Gentlemen Of The Road Edition)

 

SOMETHING SO RIGHT (Live for BBC Radio 1) - ANNIE LENNOX

(from Something So Right CD single 2)

 

50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER - HEATHER SMALL

(from Close To A Miracle)

 

BOY IN THE BUBBLE - PETER GABRIEL

(from Scratch My Back)

 

ONE TRICK PONY - HOLLY COLE

(from Romantically Helpless)

 

BORN AT THE RIGHT TIME - ERIN BODE

(from The Little Garden)

 

THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK - MARC COHN

(from Listening Booth: 1970)

 

BLEECKER STREET - JONATHA BROOKE

(from Bleecker Street; Greenwich Village in the 6os

 

ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOL YARD - LUKE SITAL-SINGH

(from The Greatest Paul Simon Covers)

 

KODACHROME - CONOR OBERST & The MYSTIC VALLEY BAND 

(from One Of My Kind)

 

YOU CAN CALL ME AL - THE FLYING PICKETS

(from Big Mouth)

 

ONE MAN’S CEILING IS ANOTHER MAN’S FLOOR - ROBBEN FORD AND SUSAN TEDESCHI

(from Truth)

 

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS - ARETHA FRANKLIN

(from Soul Queen)

 

QUIET - CHRISTINE COLLISTER

(from Into The Light)

 

HOMELESS - SARAH MCLACHLAN & LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO

(from Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Viol 2)


WHEN CHRISTIANITY ROBS US OF THE WONDER OF OUR HUMANITY - IT'S A SIN!

Water Wine

My Christian journey almost robbed me of the wonder of my humanity.”

The words of artist Colin Davidson to a class of Calvin College students meeting in Fitzroy, recently. 

Sadly, the words rang true, for me. I grew up in a Christian faith influenced by a narrow legalistic puritanism. It was judgemental. Indeed, the theological belief that you are saved by grace was almost nullified by the fact that you had to then work like the clappers to keep that salvation. There were hundreds of dos and don’ts, very like the spiritual oppression that Jesus fought the Pharisees over.

The heresy of dualism, rife across a large swathe of Christian spiritualities, also played its part. The things of the spirit were good. The things of the material world were bad. There was a demarcation between scared things and secular ones. 

In such a world a friend gave up sport after his conversion. It was secular. He was gifted but God, he was told, wouldn’t want him in those secular places that came with it. A little of the wonder of his humanity was robbed. 

Bono, Edge and Larry from the rock band U2 were told by their Church to give up music. It tormented them for a time before, thank God, they made the right decision to keep on following their musical vocation. The  wonder of their humanity was almost robbed from them.

I had friends who were banned from listening to certain music, going to certain places and following certain vocations because they were judged to be worldly. Sadly, I know many many people whose wonder of their humanity was stolen by faulty theology and Christian practice.

I was fortunate in that I never understood such thinking as I read the Gospels and attempted to follow Jesus. Yes, I was curtailed for many years but eventually I broke free to live in the fulness of our humanity that Jesus came to bring.

Recently, I preached on John chapter 2. It is Jesus first miracle. John calls them signs. Jesus turns water into wine. That is immediately a problem for many wonder of humanity stealers. Wine has often been described as the devil’s vomit. Alcohol is of the world. 

Wherever such an idea came from, it was not the Bible. Jesus wine was the best wine. Grape juice doesn’t quite compete with real fermented wine. Believe me. I enjoy a glass. If this was not fermented wine then it was no miracle. Blasphemy. Hersey actually. My mother turned water into grape juice every Sunday lunchtime! 

Don’t get me started on grape juice in communion. Not anywhere near a symbol of potent sin killing blood Christ. When Jesus used wine he knew what he was using and why. 

John’s account of the miracle of the water turned into wine follows on from John’s great theological prologue in chapter 1. We are given that poetic description of incarnation - “the word became flesh.” We are then told “and moved in amongst us.” 

Jesus did not separate himself from the world. He set up residence right in the heart of it. In chapter 2 in Cana of Galilee, he is doing just that. A wedding was a drink fest for a few days. Jesus didn’t remove himself . He was right there at the heart of it. He broke down any sacred spaces verse secular places debates right here. 

Whatever “come ye out from among them” means it is not to negate the entire message of Jesus incarnation. As Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper put it, “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

The sign of water turned into wine is one of fulness. It was the best wine. It is also sign of abundance. 

Grace is only mentioned four times in the Gospel According To John. All four mentions are in the first 17 verses of the book. Then, for the rest of John’s account of Jesus life, people get to see it, taste it, smell it, touch it, feel it. 

Jesus did not come to rob us of the wonder of our humanity. God becoming human was about exactly the opposite. Jesus came to give us the fullest possible wonder of that humanity and give it to us abundantly. My mantra of John 10:10 - “I have come that you might have life and have it in all its fulness.”

Some might be concerned about this freedom I am advocating. They might accuse me of leading us all into sinful living. Absolutely not. Sin’s end is to rob us from the wonder of our humanity. Jesus end is to lavish that wonder upon us. It would be a sin, maybe the greatest sin, to in any way curtail the fulness of life that Jesus was born, died, resurrected and ascended to give us.

That Colin Davidson experienced a Christian journey that almost robbed him of the wonder his humanity is a terrible sin. God forgive us!

Discipleship, spiritual formation, following Jesus - whatever we wish to call it - should never be about robbing the wonder of our humanity from us but should instead have an end goal that sees us experience this human life in its most abundant wonder.


PLAY THE OTHER SORT'S SPORT - A GAME OF THREE HALVES; 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Game_of_3_Halves01_rdax_80

Our house is in Ballycastle, where we escape from the Manse as often as we can. Twenty years in a hurling town has had me resenting my Protestant upbringing, where I never had an opportunity to pick up a hurley and smack a slioter between the posts. 

Ballycastle is a hurling and camogie town. Every child has a hurley. They are knocking a slioter to each other at the sea front or on the beach. The sectarianism in Irish sport meant GAA was out of bounds for me in Ballymena in the seventies. I have an ever present urge to go up and ask some ten year old if I can have a go.

Gaelic football too. My mate Frank played because he went to a Catholic school. We used to practice running with the ball, carrying and kicking but Frank moved to Dublin when I was twelve. With that removal van went my opportunities at GAA.

How I would have loved my dad to take me to a Game Of Three Halves when I was a sports mad kid. All young people between the ages of 8 and 16 are invited to take part in playing GAA, soccer and rugby. 

The event is run by Peace Players who run Belfast Interface Games annually. The evening will see friendships forged at these games renewed but new players are very welcome. It will be a great opportunity for young people to try games, not played in their community, to make new friends. The Peace Players will also explore the concept of forgiveness in sport as well as giving insight into the values that can be instilled through participation in team sports.

 

The 4 Corners Festival Game Of Three Halves, takes place on January 30th between 6pm and 9pm at Ashfield Girls’ High School, Hollywood Road, Belfast BT4 2LY

Register on the website - https://4cornersfestival.com


TOMORROW IN FITZROY - 20.1.19

Fitzroy Board

Tomorrow morning (11am) I am excited to be preaching about wine. Not just wine. The best wine. Now that wasn't Ribena! We will be in John 2 where we will see John set out his stall for the rest of his account of Jesus life and ministry. That first miracle of the water into wine was not coincidental. It was a big statement from John about Jesus and what he had come to bring. Life in all its fullness. My mantra! 10;10! Tomorrow is 2:10 and will be wrapped in guitar edged worship and a cover of a Lucinda Williams' song.

Tomorrow evening (7pm) the world renowned Clonard Fitzroy Fellowship will host our event for the Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity. We are delighted to be hosting Brother Thierry from the Benedictine Monastery in Rostrevor and students from Calvin College, a Dutch Reformed college in Grand Rapid, Michigan. Thierry will chat to me and give us an epilogue. Calvin students will show us the art they have created while studying reconciliation in N. Ireland over the past two weeks. 


BARBARA DASS'S THE PASSAGE OF PEACE EXHIBITION

BDASS

What I love about artists is their eye to see things that the rest of us miss. I could stand by the shoulder of artists all day long, given the chance, intrigued by what their eye catches that mine misses. The art that the artist creates might not be, in the end, as important to me as those brilliant things they see.

Barbara Dass sees things. 

For The Passage Of Peace Exhibition it is crosses. Barbara sees crosses where I don’t. Barbara sees crosses where there actually are no crosses… as such. She sees the cross within something else. Then she uses her art to capture what we all might have missed.

If it is possible, Barbara has another eye. Her artistic eye allows her to see things which then her spiritual eye uses to illuminate the soul. Barbara’s transition, from what she sees to what she creates, then becomes a devotional act where prayer and Biblical reflection come alive.

This exhibition shows a great love for the 4 Corners of Belfast. The project began to be imagined during Belfast's Passion Walk on Good Friday 2016 when Barbara, along with walkers from diverse communities of faith journeyed through the streets of the city centre, meditating on Jesus’ final hours.

Over the next two years Barbara walked the four corners of Belfast exploring public spaces, parks and playgrounds, wandering through alleyways and streets, and recalls that her journeys sculpted a landscape of strange artefacts in the imagination, declaring the presence of the scandalous forgiveness of Christ’s cross.

Visiting the exhibition has various layers of benefit. You will enjoy beautiful art, you will notice bits of your city that you have missed for decades, you will be encouraged to look with fresh eyes at the nooks and crannies you have missed and in it all you will be led into a spiritual dimension. 

Don’t expect that spiritual dimension to be some ethereal other place. This is art inspired by the fabric of tar and steel and stone. It is earthed. 

Barbara’s spiritual engagement then connects the soul to the flesh and blood injustices on the streets of our city. All four corners! there is suffering. There is the hope of redemption. 

Barbara writes herself:

 

“Each cross a defiant declaration of the powerful presence of Christ’s forgiveness across the city. Sculpted and honed from the unobserved and ignored, everyday objects and artefacts, traces of Belfast’s citizens…the subversive Kingdom of Christ…Kingdom dwellers forgiven and forgiving!”

 

info for the Exhibition and more... https://4cornersfestival.com


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S 4 CORNER'S FESTIVAL PRAYER - MY CITY OF RUINS

My City Of Ruins

Released on The Rising album, Springsteen's cathartic, pastoral and hope filled response to 9/11, it would be obvious to think that My City Of Ruins was about New York city. It wasn't. It had been written before that horrible New York morning about Asbury Park but oh how it fitted:

"There's a blood red circle on the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door's thrown open, I can hear the organ's song
But the congregation's gone

My city of ruins
My city of ruins"

Of course it could have be about many hometowns and it is very easy for me to set it in my wonderful and wounded Belfast

So, I do. As the 4 Corners Festival 2019 approaches in just two weeks time, I am listening to My City Of Ruins and using it to focus the intention of our mission. We are a city divided, still rising out of the ruins of thirty five years of Troubles. The buildings may be restored from their bombed out ruins but our deepest emotional, spiritual and psychological  rubble are still needing redeemed.

The 4 Corners Festival is our contribution to such redemption. The spirituality and prayer at the heart of the Festival and its audacious aims is what draws me to My City Of Ruins.

Bruce Springsteen turns this song's catharsis into a musical prayer that not only pleads that God would “rend the heavens and come down” as Isaiah once prayed but then make ourselves available for the way God answers.

Come on, rise up

Come on, rise up

Now with these hands
I pray Lord
with these hands
for the strength Lord
with these hands
for the faith Lord
with these hands
I pray Lord
with these hands
for the strength Lord
with these hands
for the faith Lord
with these hands..."

In the past, I have criticised Yoko Ono for suggesting, as she has, that imagination in itself can change the world. Of course it can’t. We need to imagine the transformation needed but then we need to go out and make the dreams we conjure happen.

Christians can use prayer in Yoko Ono ways, believing that the prayer itself changes things. We need to always remember that God’s way is that we should pray and then get up of our knees and offer our lives to be instruments by which he can answer them.

Prayer should stoke our imagination for prayer and for what then should happen after we get up off our knees. The 4 Corners Festival is a ten day prayer for re-imagining.

 So let us use Bruce’s words to seek God’s help, without which nothing can happen, but then let us offer our own hands and ask God to give strength and faith as we use them to bring his kingdom and his will to the streets of the four corners of Belfast... or indeed whatever city you find yourself praying in!

info about https://4cornersfestival.com HERE!


SHOULD WE FORGIVE GAVIN WHYTE HIS LEWD ACT

Gavin Whyte

Northern Ireland soccer player Gavin Whyte is all over the news having been caught on video doing a lewd act in public.

Today, Whyte has responded with an apology:

"I apologise to anyone I offended - I was stupid and completely regret being part of it. I hope Oxford and NI fans can forgive me for a moment of real stupidity.”

Whyte goes on to say,

”It was wrong, I know that, but it happened and now I have to try and move on. I have so many good people around me.”

How should Oxford and NI fans, and indeed the public in general, respond to Whyte?

There is almost a classic Biblical repentance in his response. He actually uses the word forgiveness. If we take a Biblical template to repentance and forgiveness, it is all here.

In the Bible repentance is not always necessary before forgiveness but forgiveness always follows repentance. 

Gavin Whyte’s hopes of forgiveness should not go unfounded. We need to accept that he has acknowledged his wrong doing and learned from his mistake. 

That should be the end of this newspaper story. That should erase the black mark against his name. It should not be held against him or dragged up at any time. Not even by away supporters! He should get a fresh start. He should be allowed to move on as he has asked for.

The press and indeed wider society is not good about such things. Away fans even less so! We hold something done decades ago against people whose lives have radically changed since their misdemeanour. That lack of forgiveness paralyses individuals and society. Those of us who don’t forgive get caught up in the bitter stagnation of the society they themselves have paralysed. 

A Biblical model for forgiveness would be such a helpful force to the transformation of individuals, like Gavin Whyte, and society as a whole. 

Gavin Whyte you are forgiven. Or you should be. I wonder if God would find it unforgivable not to forgive a repentant footballer!

 

note: for the theologically squeamish, this article has nothing to do with Gavin Whyte and God. What he does in that realm is up to him and God. This is about societal forgiveness.

This year's 4 Corners Festival from January 30 - February 10th is all about forgiveness. Info here -  https://4cornersfestival.com 

 


DREAMING SCANDALS

Scandals

Dreading the scandals of 2019

The celebrity mogul who sexually assaulted a teenage client

The sportsman who throws a punch in a night club

The school principal with porn on his school computer

The politician who frauded their parliamentary allowances

The CEO who sexually harassed her mail boy

The Scandals of 2019

Like the scandals of 2018

With different names in the headlines 

And underneath the photographs

 

Dreaming of the Scandals of 2019

Scandals of forgiveness

Where Republicans and Nationalists forgive the British

For 400 years of brutal Colonialism

And Unionists and Loyalists forgive the Republican terrorists

For the bloody paramilitary campaigns of the Twentieth Century

Like Jesus forgiving those who nailed him to a cross

"...for they don't know what they do"

Scandalous forgiveness

Dreaming of scandals in 2019

Scandals to build a future on.

 

Scandalous Forgiveness - 4 Corners Festival 2019


STOCKMAN AT GENEVA COLLEGE, BEAVER FALLS, PA - FEB 14-15, 2019

Geneva.jpg

Some of you  who live near Geneva Geneva College have been asking for details of my visit in February. Here's the skinny...

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO... U2

February 14th @ 7pm

The Sky Lounge

The title gives me a wide remit but I will be hoping to show a video or two and bring some substance to the library of theology that can be found across U2's catalogue. My thought at the moment is to show their vocational arc from Boy to Songs of Experience but perhaps concentrating on the last two records that reveal so much...

 

That would seem to be the best event for the public to attend but I am speaking again the next morning...

 

TRANSFORMATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS: ONE COFFEE AT A TIME

February 15th @ 10.10am

The Sky Lounge

At this talk I will be talking about my reconciliation work in Northern Ireland that is centred on a friendship across the traditional divide with, Catholic priest, Fr Martin Magill. I will be sharing how the simplicity of friendship is a depth charge that ripples all kinds of transformational waves from its centre. I believe that there are clear applications for contemporary America. 

 

I am not imagining that these are advertised as public events so those of you interested should get run touch and I'll bring you in as my guests.

 

 


CLONARD/FITZROY for WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

Fitzroy Ashbridge 1

for the Week of Prayer For Christian Unity

CLONARD/FITZROY FELLOWSHIP 

presents

BROTHER THIERRY

from the Benedictine Monastery in Rostrevor

and

THE STUDENTS OF CALVIN COLLEGE, GRAND RAPIDS, MI

who will show art work from their current study trip to N. Ireland

SUNDAY JANUARY 20, 2019 @ 7pm

FITZROY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, UNIVERSITY STREET, BELFAST

(enter by Rugby Road entrance)

We will talk to and listen to Brother Thierry tells us about the reconciliation ministry of the Benedictine Monastery. We will also hear about Calvin College's trip to N. Ireland in the art that they have been working on inspired by their time in here.