Friday, June 30, 2006
The Mini-Twelfth was held in Dromore on Wednesday night. This year was thefirst time in a long time that I got to see it, as normally it was the same day as the Choir Trip, and we would arrive home as it was finishing. This video is taken in Princes Street just before the arch was opened.
The reason I talk about it again, is that we were in Newtownards the other day and met up with Adrian. He was on his way to visit some parishoners, so was all dressed up (thankfully in a Presbyterian blue shirt)...
But all this begs the next question... how weird is it going to be when I wear my collar for the first time?!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The Ball was really good tonight - it was held in the Cultra Manor, in the grounds of the Folk and Transport Museum. On arrival, we stood around outside for a while, watching the style arriving and talking to folks, before moving inside for the meal. Four courses later, and we were stuffed! However, the food wasn't the major excitement of the evening.
This year's event was shared with Knock Presbyterian Youth, who brought along some extra guests, namely the NI Fire and Rescue Service (Formerly known as the Fire Brigade)... The centre decoration on the tables was a mirror, with tea lights on it, and some of the fellas thought it would be fun to see how near they could hold their napkin to the flame. Yes, a minor fire started at their table. But it was quickly dealt with, by throwing their jug of water over the flames!
After the fire was put out, all was quiet (after the cheering had ceased), but it wasn't the end of the troubles - the fire alarm started, and went on for ages. It being an automatic system, the call went through to the Fire Station, and behold, the fire engine arrived! Eventually the alarm was turned off, and we could continue on with the meal... but for ages after, I could still hear the beeping of the alarm in my head!
The evening continued with some 'LOUD MUSIC' and dancing in a tiny room, but we stayed in the front hall and chatted, before coming away on home.
All this talk of the ball leads in to a question about Cinderella... Why is Cinderella no good at football? Well, because she has a pumpkin for a coach, and she keeps running away from the ball!
Monday, June 26, 2006
But why is this posting entitled 'Squirrel', I hear you ask... Just as we entered the park from the Belfast Road end, we saw a grey squirrel under the trees at the side of the path. It saw us, and ran a bit closer, then stopped, looked about, ran behind a tree and out of the other side, and wasn't at all afraid. We must have watched it for about a minute. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me, as it would have made a good photograph.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Yesterday's service was in St Columb's Cathedral, for the diocese of Derry & Raphoe, and David McBeth (as well as Katy McAteer and Mervyn Peoples) were ordained deacon. The Cathedral was packed, and the service was good. The preaacher was excellent - Mike Hull, the bishop of Bristol. However, the litany was sung - which seemed to last a lot longer than when it is said! The other slight downer was that people round me weren't singing... but I'm sure I made up for the whole back half of the cathedral! I had been in the cathedral several times to have a look around, but yesterday was the first time I had attended a service in the place.
Then tonight, the ordination of deacons (Paul Bates, Craig Cooney and Adrian Dorrian) took place in the Church of Christ the Redeemer, Parish of Shankill, Lurgan. Despite being a bit longer (this one was about 1 hour 45 minutes), it was slightly better than yesterday's! The preacher was Jim Rea, former Methodist President, and he was good - speaking on John 1:4-6.
The really crazy thing over these past couple of days has been in seeing the third years in collars and robes and all... as we release them into the wild (sounds a bit like Free Willy or something...). Please continue to pray for the guys as they begin their ministry in Bangor, Lurgan and Newtownards respectively.
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On other news, then... this morning we got a bit of an embarrassment, at the Dollingstown morning service. Before the service started, the announcement was flashed on the screens about our engagement and suddenly people wanted to see the ring and giving us good wishes and all... well, everyone except David Luckman who missed the screen! But it's all good!
Another reason to go over to Dollingstown was to see James Boyd preach, as he starts his official summer placement in the parish. James did really well, preaching on David and Goliath, and what we can learn from David.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
This year's Synod was slightly different, in that we started with the afternoon session for the main business, and then the evening session with a young person from each parish invited along. The evening session dealt with the topics of Confirmation and the emerging church (two separate issues, not necessarily Confirmation in the emerging church!). All in all, I think it was a useful day, and seemed to go quicker than the same meeting last year.
Today was also exciting in that I met my biggest fan... a lady called Catherine Murphy, from the parish of Ballymacarrett! So Catherine, hello, and keep on reading!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Well, the day has arrived, the question has been asked, and Lynsey has agreed to marry me - we are engaged!!!
The events of today started several weeks back, of course, when I asked permission from her parents to marry, then we went shopping for rings. After looking at lots and lots, we finally got one. But the asking was still a surprise, as Lyns didn't know I had it in my possession (as we waited on the right size).
So today we went for a drive, and started off crossing Strangford Lough to Portaferry. We called in at the aquarium, seeing all the wee fishes etc, and even got to hold a starfish! We then came away from there and went along the coast road to Dundrum and then inland to Tollymore. By this time, the rain was really heavy, but we set off for a walk anyway... and we as started off, we got a text from Standeley saying that he and Sarah had got engaged today! Congratulations to the both of you!
We walked on, and came to the Hermitage, which provided some shelter from the rain, and I popped the question, bringing out the ring. The answer was yes - thankfully! Hehe! So then this evening has been the visiting of the parentals, and the grandmothers to inform them of the news... a busy time indeed!
Monday, June 19, 2006
The big plus is that it is free - no admission charges, which generally for NT properties can be quite high. The bad news is that to see anything of Belfast, you have to go for a good long walk - maybe about 45 minutes, partly uphill. The end result, though, on a slightly overcast day, was the following:
The only other complaint I would have is that the paths are poorly marked. We set off on the path for Black Mountain, which most directly looks out over the city, and was the easiest route for walking, and shortest distance. However, at one point you're meant to leave the tarmac road and go along a path - which wasn't marked at all... So come on National Trust, get your act together and mark the paths, please!
Last night in the Cathedral we had the ordination of four Presbyters - Denise Acheson, Rory Corbett, Robin Harris, and Aonghus Mayes. Which means that for this week, there are no deacons in the Diocese of Down and Dromore, until Adrian Dorrian (a regular reader and recent comment contributor), Craig Cooney, and Paul Bates are ordained (DV) on Sunday night in Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan.
Anyway, back to last night for now. The anthem by the choir was 'Jubilate in B Flat' by Charles Villiers Stanford - for a taster, check out the link from the title. Some of the other hymns weren't really well known - or with unusual tunes, but we managed to get through ok.
The ordination season is bringing it home to me again about how soon it will be my turn - as the third years from college are ordained deacons over the next week or so...
I'm really pleased with my P1 (equivalent of the QUB 2:1), and am glad I can relax now until second year begins in September. Now to make the most of the summer!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
The service was great, with some well known hymns, two anthems from the below-strength Cathedral Choir (six of the choir were in the Bridal Party) sounded really well, and then Maeve sang the recessional. We then had a bun-fight in the Cathedral Hall, before moving on to the Stormont Estate for photographs, and then the Stormont Hotel for the wedding reception.
Thankfully my speech seemed to go well, and that was nearly all the duties of best man completed - except for dancing with Kirsty, the chief bridesmaid. The other speeches were good too - especially Harvey, who was worried about it beforehand, but did well. The party then went on until the early hours, with a LOUD disco, which was good craic.
Friday, June 16, 2006
|You scored as Herald Model. Your model of the church is Herald. The organization of the church is much less important than the urgency of announcing the Good News of salvation to all the world. The Holy Spirit moves the individual to belief in Jesus Christ and to do the will of the Father by sharing this message with others. As with other models, the narrowness of this model could be supplemented by drawing on other models.|
What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with QuizFarm.com
Why not have a go at it, and see how you score? Leave your scores in a comment!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Sunday was a busy enough day, but very pleasant, all said. I was over in the parish of Magherain again, preaching (as the sermon in one of the recent previous posts shows). And once again, one of my famous blunders happened... I had launched into the sermon, and suddenly realised lots of people were trying to signal furiously at me - the radio mic wasn't working and I couldn't be heard (no bad thing, maybe!). After all, I thought I had turned on the mic - move the button on the top from 'mute' to the other setting, and away you go...
Alas, sadly I didn't realise that on the mic in Dollingstown, there is a hidden button on the inside to turn it on and off, before the mute button works! But I eventually managed to get it sorted, and continued with the sermon!
After that, it was over to the Bann Road Presbyterian for a barbecue after church - granted, we hadn't actually been to that church, but we had been to church! The food was good, the sun was bright, and the company was excellent. We then took a run over to Newcastle in the car, going over the Windy Gap, and coming back by the horse-shoe bend and Banbridge.
In the evening, then, we went to the service in the Bann Road church - Aaron Chestnut was speaking on 1 Peter 2 and 3 in a good, lengthy Bible exposition. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it might even come in useful, as the requirements for the Proc Trust Summer School include preparing a passage from 1 Peter to contribute to a discussion on it.
Yesterday I was at the John MacArthur conference 'A Passion for Preaching' at Newtownbreda Baptist church. The speakers were quite good, with Stephen Lawson being the best speaker in my opinion, bringing a helpful exposition of Nehemiah 8.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Due to a few skillful moves (ahem), and many mistakes by Standeley and tremendous swerves and spins by Dave, I managed to come second overall on points in the heats! We were then divided into two groups for the quarterfinals, which then gave the starting line-up for the semi-finals - I had pole. On the first corner, Standeley dunted me so hard that I spun right round and was facing the wrong way... The wee man had to come and get me turned again and I was away again. Brian was very gracious, and allowed me to pass him - having seen what Standeley had done to me, he thought he should give me a chance to get my own back in the final!
So in the final, I was at the back of the grid... but due to a few sneaky overtaking moves, as well as Standeley and Dave spinning a couple of times, I managed to come third. We even got medals for our effort! All in all, the winners were: 1st Ian Purdy, 2nd Charlie Sherwin, 3rd Gary McMurray.
From there, it was on to the Halfway for a meal - big steaks almost all round!
The Trinity in Salvation: A Sermon Preached in Dollingstown and Magheralin on Trinity Sunday 11th June 2006. John 3:1-17
As the chapter opens, we are introduced to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a member of the Jewish ruling council. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have known the Old Testament really well. The ruling council was made up of the leaders of the Jews, the top religious men. It was this group, you might remember, who later on reached the verdict of blasphemy in Jesus’ trial. They were certainly important people, as Jesus calls him ‘Israel’s teacher’ (10). Yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (2). Was he coming in secret to find out more about Jesus? Did he not want others to know? Or did the ruling council want some extra information on who this new boy was?
After all, Nicodemus starts off by saying ‘Rabbi, (Teacher) we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’ (2). It’s probably not a bad start. He’s gently praising Jesus, recognising that he has come from God, because he couldn’t do the miracles he’s doing if he weren’t from God. But in reply to Nicodemus’ gentle opener, Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter.
‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’ (3). You feel like saying, Jesus, where did that come from? Nicodemus only wanted a nice chat, and to learn a bit more about you, and there you’re starting into the hard gospel, about being born again? After all, for some people, the talk of being born again is unimportant, or for other people, or for other denominations… Certainly, it wasn’t what Nicodemus was expecting, or even what he could understand immediately. But we’ll come back to it shortly, when we think more about the Holy Spirit, because Jesus says that it is the Spirit’s work, bringing about the new birth.
As I said earlier, we’re thinking about the Trinity’s work in our salvation, and in order to get to the start of the work, we have to go to the end of the passage, to verse 16. I’m sure most people in church know this verse, because it is pretty well known, even among non-Christians, but we’ll hear it again: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (16).
Here we find the starting point of our salvation, the place where it all began. Or rather, the One with whom it began. ‘For God so loved the world.’ God the Father, saw our need of salvation, and out of the heart of God, which is love itself, he loved us. Remember that at the creation, ‘God saw all that he had made and it was very good’ (Gen 2:1). But as you and I know only too well, things didn’t stay perfect, as we messed up. We rebelled against God, went our own way, and sin and death entered the world.
But the Father didn’t shrug his shoulders and say, oh well, I tried, but it didn’t work out… He loved us, he cared for the world so much, that he acted: ‘he gave his one and only Son’. The Father’s special role in our salvation was to see our need, and to provide the Saviour for us. Out of his love, he sent Jesus into the world, he gave him up, and delivered him into the hands of sinners, to the death on a cross.
It is here that some celebrities who should know better completely misunderstand. Steve Chalke, for example, has spoken of how the cross seems to him to be a form of divine child abuse; that God beats up his son to pay for the sins we committed, and Jesus is the victim of the Father’s anger and our sin. Yet the point that Chalke misses in this picture of the cross is that he sees Jesus as being an unwilling victim, punished by his Father through no fault or choice of his own.
We do well to remember that the love of God isn’t just the love that the Father has. The Trinity together are love, as they interact in fellowship together. Just as the Father loves us, so Jesus loves us, and came to the earth to die for us, willingly. As the song says ‘You chose the cross.’ In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, we read that Jesus ‘set his face toward Jerusalem’ as he told the disciples that he was going to be killed and would rise again on the third day.
We see the same determination, and the same willingness to die on the cross here in our reading this morning, as Jesus says in verse 14, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that every who believes in him may have eternal life.’ (14-15). The Son of Man must be lifted up…
But what was his illustration about? What was the serpent lifted up in the desert? Keeping your finger in John 3, flick back to Numbers 21, as we look to see what Jesus was talking about. The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for almost forty years by now, and were getting a bit fed up of the whole experience. Once again, they rebelled, they complained against Moses and against God about the conditions they were facing. As a punishment, God sent venomous snakes to bite them, and people starting to die.
The rest realised their sin, and came to Moses asking that the Lord would take away the snakes. Instead, God told Moses to make a bronze snake, to put it on a pole, so that when someone was bitten by a snake, they could ‘look and live.’ When they looked at the bronze snake, they would be healed, but if they didn’t, then they would die in their sin. Their healing was on the basis of their faith – if they believed they would be healed when they looked at the snake. (The healing wasn’t actually in the bronze snake on the pole, but was in the faith of the individual. Yet the image is still around today – in the badge of the Ambulance Service).
Can you see the parallels? We also have sinned, and have been ‘bitten’ with the consequences of that sin – we face death. Jesus, the one lifted up on the cross, tells Nicodemus that, just like the bronze snake, anyone who looks to him in faith will be saved.
And as we look in faith to Jesus, so we become ‘born again’ by the Spirit. So what is this being ‘born again’ all about? We’re back to the start of the passage again, as we think about the work of the Holy Spirit in our salvation, and in our need of being born again. We certainly need it, because Jesus says that ‘no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’ (3).
If it sounds strange to you, it did to Nicodemus as well. He just can’t get his head around it, wondering how anyone could be born again, by re-entering their mother’s womb… But Nicodemus was getting it all wrong. Yes, as Jesus says, we must be born again, but it doesn’t refer to a physical birth, but rather to a spiritual re-birth –‘Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit’ (6). Here we find the role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation, working for conviction of sin, bringing the new birth, and creating us anew.
So what about this being born again… is it just for some people? Is it only a thing that members of other denominations talk about, or experience? Jesus’ words show us plainly that to be a Christian means that you are born again, whether you describe yourself as that or not… All Christians are born again! As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 - ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’
And what is the change in us when we’re born again? Are there signs that there has been a change of ownership; that the new creation has begun? Jesus says in verse 8: ‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’
What Jesus is saying is that, even though you can’t see the wind, you can see its effects, as the leaves are blown about, and you hear it blowing. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit – you can’t see the Spirit, but you can see the effects on those who have been born again, who are driven by the Spirit. These effects are the fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ As Paul says at the end of the list, ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit’ (Gal 5:25).
So on this Trinity Sunday, we have seen that the three persons of the Trinity are all involved in our salvation – as the Father saw our need and sent his Son, as Jesus gave his life in sacrifice for us on the cross, with the picture of the bronze snake on the pole; and as the Spirit brings the new birth when we come to faith and look to Jesus. The challenge for you today is this – have you known these things in your life? Have you looked to Jesus and known life? Have you experienced the birth of the Spirit? These things aren’t opposites, or optional extras – they are the heart of the matter.
Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. It all seemed a bit strange to him, and he couldn’t get his head around it. But by the last time he appears in John’s Gospel, he has become a follower of Jesus, and comes with Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus. While up to this point they had been secret disciples, now they make their allegiance known publicly.
Let’s pray that we all will look to Jesus and live, knowing the birth of the Spirit, and the increase of his fruit in our lives.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The main sign that summer is here, though, struck me as I was driving home from Dromara this afternoon. The farmers are trying their best to produce a bumper crop, as always, and so invest in applying some extra stuff to the fields... The other signs of summer were more visual, whereas this one goes for the tastebuds, as well as the smell bits in the nose... (olfactory glands - is that what they're called?). Yes, you've guessed it... the summer is here, because the slurry has been spread!
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
So, to get there, click on this link: Gary's band videos. Enjoy!
You might even wish to become a member of YouTube but check out the videos anyway!
Monday, June 05, 2006
It was just slightly strange not thinking about Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit...
For the evening service, we went to the Cathedral, where Pentecost was on the agenda! Stephen was preaching on Ezekiel 36, a really good sermon on how the sign of the Holy Spirit's working isn't just in the extraordinary events of Acts 2 and speaking in tongues etc, but that the Holy Spirit can be seen more in the 'ordinary' as people obey God through the Spirit in them, and that the Spirit comes to bring glory to God first and foremost.
In SNYF, I was looking at Daniel, and conducted a whistle-stop tour of the first 6 chapters of Daniel (the narrative section), including the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar's dreams, and the lion's den... which reminds me, I'm meant to be writing some more of those for the blog... they'll come in due time!
Stott preached on Luke 14, the cost of discipleship, and was very clear and ordered, although being 85, he was very frail and got lost in his notes a few times. All in all, it was great to see him in the flesh and to hear him preaching. And his accent wasn't quite what I was expecting - I was thinking it would be more the posh English accent of Dick Lucas, but he wasn't!
However, the evening turned into a bit of a fundraiser for the work of the Langham Partnership, with them plugging their membership and donation packages so many times... Yes, they're doing good work, but it seemed a bit of a money-grabbing exercise. And as someone said after, it was wonderful to be in the holy huddle in the hall, but how many of the 700 would be so keen to go out onto the streets afterwards to take the message of the gospel to the homeless and drunks etc?
I ended up seeing lots of people I knew though, which was good, and we even managed to have a bit of an ordinands conference, as four of us were there - the four remaining Down and Dromore ordinands in college, as it turns out!
Friday, June 02, 2006
Yesterday was my last day in Dublin, and I had my viva voce (oral) in the morning. We looked at the sermon I had prepared for homiletics class, talking about such things as resources to be used, how I had prepared the sermon, and the things I think I need to become more skilled in preaching. We then discussed the pastoral visit element of our course, and how the visits had went. All in all, the oral seemed to go well, and nothing to worry about!
The afternoon was then spent trekking up the stairs a few times, carting my furniture and books and sundry items up to my new room - 21 - in preparation for September. In the evening, then, we had our final Communion service of the year and then a quare dinner in the Principal's garden. Alan and me then got packed up, and it was up the road north and home, arriving just after midnight!