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  • Third Week in Advent:Friday

    By the wonders of advance posting (I am in Manchester graduating, as one does) ...

    The readings:

    Psalm 137:3

    Nehemiah 2:2

    John 21:24

    You know that old joke about opening the Bible three times at random?  Well these verses are of that ilk...

    For there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

    So the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid.

    This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

    Misery unbounded, it seems... just what we don't need in the final run up to Christmas.  Yet more unjoy?  Or is it actually something about truth and honesty?

    Jolly Christmas carols and songs everywhere we go... but how does it feel inside?  Are we forcing ourselves to sing along through the pain of bereavement or illness ot unemployment or uncertainty or...  Do we have the 'sadness of heart' the powerful King observed in the terrified Nehemiah?  After all, these words are true...

    From fake jollity that denies reality

    To real joy that transforms it

    From forced smiles that fail to reach our eyes

    To inner joy that makes them shine

    From denial of truth

    To indefatigable joy

    Lead us, God of joy


  • Third Week in Advent: Thursday

    Today's readings:

    Psalm 38:4

    Exodus 11:14

    Matthew 5:21 - 22

    Yet again we are landed with some rather 'odd' readings, devoid of cheer, and riven with what I am coming to recognise as 'unjoy'... The psalmist is overwhelmed by guilt, Moses murders and Egyptian and Jesus equates snide remarks to murder... The only saving grace, is, I think, the gospel, which reminds us that the inner attitudes are every bit as significant as the outer expressions... Moses murder is not worse than my muttering...


    Unjoy through the world

    Until He comes

    To change our hearts and minds

    Til then we mutter graceless words

    And grumble loud and long

    And call each other names

    And wish each other ill

    And loveless thoughts pervade our minds


    Joy in the world

    For he has come

    To change our hearts and minds

    To love our neighbours as ourselves

    To pray for our enemies

    And try to live in peace

    And speak and be Good News

    Until the Kingdom in fulfilled



    Does not quite fit the tune, sorry!  Got an extra line from somewhere, oops

  • For Fun...

    Yesterday I was preparing a communal, interactive reading of Luke 2 for Christmas Day.  I just need you to know this cos once you've watched this viedo you will think I copied (and adapted) the idea.  Independent zapping by the Spirit I assure you!

    HT ASBO Jesus

  • O Come All Ye Coffee-Drinkers...

    Sing songs merrily today,

    The coffee club is meeting:

    For our carol sing-along

    People their way are winging...


    or tea if you prefer it!


    Looking forward to to jolly morning of carols and cuppas and general jollity as we meet today to celebrate.

  • Third Week in Advent: Wednesday

    Today's Northumbria Community Bible readings...

    Psalm 91:1 - 16

    1 Samuel 5: 1 - 4

    Luke 4: 1-13 (again!)

    Unusually we seem to have some fairly substantial chunks of Bible today, even if one is a repeat of yesterday (I suspect there is a transcription error online but as I don''t have my real live book version of Celtic Daily Prayer here I cannot check).

    Reading them, just as they are, letting my mind go whither it wanders, I fond a sense of underlying mischief, if not in the readings themselves, then in their conjunction.

    First Psalm 91.  Many readers know I spent a year of my training working alongside a Roman Catholic priest in Manchester.  For some reason, Mgr Paul decided I had a good enough voice to be used to cantor the psalm on their cantor's rota.  This meant standing up at the front of the church, in front of two to three hundred people before worship began to teach them the response, and then during worship singing the verses solo!  The first time my turn arose, the psalm for the day was Psalm 91, and the response was 'be with me , Lord, in my distress'... don't think I've ever found a more apt set of words!

    S/He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."  Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,  nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.  If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge--  then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.  "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him/her; I will protect him/her, for s/he acknowledges my name.  S/He will call upon me, and I will answer him/her; I will be with him/her in trouble, I will deliver him/her and honour him/her.  With long life will I satisfy him/her and show him/her my salvation."

    (Source: Northumbria Commuinity website, pseudo-inclusivised by me)

    The second reading is just plain funny, in my opinion.  The Philisitines capture the ark of covenant and carry it onto the Temple of Dagon where there is a giant status of said deity.  Next morning the statue is lying face down before the ark, so the Philistines stand it up again.  The next day it is face down and broken.  The idea that either Dagon bows before God's presence, or God causes the statue to fall over, I am not going to explore; simply to notice the comedic value of this little incident.

    And lastly the repeat performance of the Luke passage.  Well, there's something endearingly human about that isn't there?  Is it that God thinks we need to hear it again (a spiritual explanation) or is it that the person who did the cut-and-paste job made a mistake?

    I find myself wondering if a key element of joy is a sense of humour, a lightness of spirit that chuckles at the ridiculous, that smiles to itself at the memories, that refuses to get wound up by fallibility.


    She who dwells in the shelter of the Most High...

    ... though her knees knock and her alto trembles...

    Says to the Lord, "you are my rock and my salvation:

    Be with me Lord, in my distress"

    (Smiles at the memory)


    The Philistines thought they had carried away God

    And placed the 'holy thing' beneath the gaze of a statue

    Which fell, prostrate, not once but twice

    With shattering obeisance

    (groans at the pun)


    The scribe makes as error...

    ... Or the Spirit says 'repeat'

    We read again of the allure of un-joy

    And acknowleged our own potential to criticise

    (wry smile of recognition)


    Joyful, humorous God

    Stir up our memories of your goodness again

    Make us smile as we recall your enjoyment


    Joyful, humorous God

    Help us to spot the ludicrous, the ridiculous

    And laugh as we recognise our own folly


    Joyful, humorous God

    Speak to us through the seeming glitches

    And teach us to rejoice once more