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- Page 5

  • Interpretive Choices

    Today I'm heading off to St Andrews for the annual ministers' conference.  I am looking forward to catching up with colleagues and friends in lovely surroundings and hoping for a good few days.

    One thing troubles me, even before I go, which is the title of the event, "A Mighty Fortress".  I am sure it's been chosen because it's the title of Martin Luther's hymn, 'Ein Feste Burg' and because there's a lot of stuff around at the moment relating to the 500th anniversary of Luther's 39 theses nailed to the door of the Wittenberg church that history tells us began the protestant Reformation.  I get all that.


    The focus is on Psalm 27 which, in English translation doesn't use the word 'fortress' at all:

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (KJV)

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid. (GNB)

    The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? (NIV)

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold/refuge of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (NRSV)

    God as refuge, shelter, strength, even stronghold - this is a very different image from a fortress, at least in contemporary English usage.

    In a world where there is so much violence and suffering, use of militaristic imagery isn't helpful.  God as fortress - as a military power to quash enemies, however they are defined, doesn't seem a good idea to me.  And I don't think it's what Psalm 27 says anyway.

    I am fearful that such langauge encourages a form of Christian defensiveness and aggression that troubles me deeply.  The world is not our enemy, we are not to flee from it, rather we are to be salt and light, sacrificially entering ther world to transform it.

    I'm hoping to be very pleasantly surprised...

    I hope, I genuinely hope, that this will be an opportunity to encounter something fresh of God.  So I'm going with an open mind and an open heart.

  • The least of these...

    The contrast between a Hebridean beach and the Emirates cricket ground in Old Trafford could hardly be more stark.  A lone piper plays laments as the flag-draped coffin of a 14 year-old girl is carried across the beach en route to its final resting place.

    Today a family laid to rest their beautiful daughter, one of 22 people killed in Manchester.  Today their reaonsable hopes and dreams for her were buried in the rich earth of the place where she had played a child.

    There are no words to speak in the face of such tragedy.  There is nothing that can begin to touch the pain the sorrow of those who knew and loved Eilidh MacLeod.

    Eilidh is one person, and in some small way symbolises the countless people who, world-wide, are innocent victims of terror attacks.  She is one of "the least of these" of whom Jesus speaks - and the way we treat them, the things we do or fail to do for them, are done to him.

    Rest peacefully, Eilidh.  I never knew you, you are, to me, just a name, just a photograph on a television screen.  To your family, and to all who knew and loved you, you are more precious than gold, more beautiful than diamonds, and leave an unfillable gap in their lives.  May God hold you - and all vitims of terror and violence - safely in the arms of love.

    Eternal rest grant unto her, oh Lord,

    And let perpetual light shine upon her

    May she rest in peace


  • Love Wins...

    Some eagle eyed OB crew member spotted this wonderful moment when a police officer was dancing with children at the #OneLoveManchester event last night, and managed to get it broadcast.  The video lasts just about one second, but speaks volumes.

    Personally, I don't want to see more armed police on our streets.  Armed response can be summoned very swiftly if needed - and can be targeted where needed.  Others of course may think differently.

    This image is defiant and fun and utterly-British (I'd say Mancunian but I know the same spirit exists in London and Glasgow and Warrington, all places I've lived and all of which have known tragedy).  It says that evil cannot defeat good.  It says that fear cannot defeat enjoyment.  It says that love wins.

    Last night Ariana Grande fronted an event that was a peaceful and joyful rejection of evil.  Many profound - and apparently faith-based - words were spoken by young performers.  That this response was possible gives me hope.