Tuesday, October 31, 2006


There we are... another Hallowe'en has come, so the goose must be fat by now...

Today has been rather strange, in fact, most of this past week, with the good weather - today I was down in the city without a coat, just wearing shirt and a hoodie... if this is global warming, then is it all bad???

Hallowe'en isn't really all that important for me... I've never, I confess, been at a fancy dress party. Never! The closest thing to a fancy dress thing were probably the fireworks nights in Dromore years ago, organised by the Dromore Civic Group (I can't mind their real title)- where there was a dressing up competition, a parade through the Square and then fireworks - at the Fire Station, appropriately enough, so the fire fighters wouldn't have too far to go if there was a problem! And even then, dressing up was a 50p witch mask and a 10p bin liner... hardly pushing the boat out! Glenn and me even made it onto the front page of the Dromore Leader one year in our costumes...

In more recent times, my only fancy dress experience was Lynn's 'big' birthday the other year, when it was 70's gear all the way...

Oh, and I might as well say it before someone wisely comments on my dressing up as Cilla Black at the BB Display about 4 years ago... I'm not sure that any photos exist - I hope not anyways!

But Hallowe'en this year for me is going to be leading the Sung Compline service in Chapel at 9.15pm. And I suppose I get dressed up for it - if you'll allow the cassock to be considered dressing up!


Have you ever felt like this? As the evening draws on, you get tireder and tireder (if indeed, there is such a word). Then once you get to bed, you feel more awake than ever... and sleep just will not come.

Of course you have... most people can't sleep from time to time. What's unique, I suppose, is that most people don't blog about it.

For all intents and purposes, I should be sound asleep. I've had a good day, some walking (albeit in and around Belfast), enjoyed the company of friends, had more driving tonight than normal on the way to Dublin, as there was serious traffic on the Newry bypass and right through the border to Ravensdale - so we took a circular route out round by Omeath, Greenore, Lordship and coming out at Ballymascanlon roundabout. As I was reading in bed, my eyes got sore and slightly watery - not tears, but a sort of flushing phenomenon that happens from time to time (as any good phenomenon should!)... so I turned out the lights. But to no avail. Tossed and turned for a while, shifted position, went to the toilet, adjusted the covers... but still sleep aint coming.

So I thought I would check emails, counter stats, forums, and at the last instance blog. Partly to share my tale of woe, and partly to try to make me tired again! But also to remind myself of the unsleeping One, the One who watches over us all:

I lift my eyes up to the hills. From where doesmy help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will notlet your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:1-4)

If God's doing the night shift, then there's no point in me being awake! Rather, with the Psalmist I will 'remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night' (Ps 63:6)

Good night!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bank Holiday

Just about to set off down the road to Dublin again... nominally a day late, although it's because we were off today. There's something good about having a Bank Holiday at the end of October - the Irish have got some things right!

Today was spent with a bit of a lie-in, and then off to Belfast with me ma... her urgently needing things that couldn't be got elsewhere, and me just having a look about the bookshops (surprise surprise!)...

So while Union College and the rest of Queen's University Belfast are embarking on a reading week, it's off back down to Dublin tonight as classes start again tomorrow at Dublin University, Trinity College.

Tomorrow is also Reformation Day, being the 489th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Hallelujah for the Reformers! Sadly we neglected (by forgetting) the passing of the 451st anniversary of the marytrdom of the Bishops Latimer and Ridley earlier in the month (16th October 1555)... But they did indeed light a candle that day for the reformation in England.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Heaven and Hell

After following another circuitous route, I've come across some interesting stuff...

Reuters had a story on the selling of hell.com or rather, the not selling of the domain... it's been up for auction several times and nto been taken yet. So, having had a look at it, the next step would be to look at heaven.com - nothing much to report there. Apart from the link at the bottom of the page to here. 'Click here to become ordained' says the link...

Here's the main bit of blurb:

Rose Ministries is a non-denominational ministry committed to the rights of the individual to experience the divine according to their own personal beliefs.

John states, in the New testament, that "you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

We believe women have the same right to be ordained as men. (See Judges for supporting scripture.)

As a minister ordained by Rose Ministries you can start your own church, officiate at weddings, or conduct any religious ceremony. Whether for a single ceremony or as a business, ordination grants you the full rights and privileges accorded ministers and priests of any major religion. With the credentials granted as part of your Rose Ministries ordination, you can legally provide all manner of religious services, and form a church, as a full or part-time business. You can qualify for tax-free status, and even accept money for your services.

So ordination is, to them, all about whatever you think of God, experiencing God according to your own beliefs, rather than any doctrinal foundation? Then the quote from John 15 with a dodgy link to their purpose... the point of it being that ordination, or bearing fruit, or being a Christian isn't about our choosing, but about Jesus choosing us and sending us. How does he do that if we suddenly decide to get online-ordained?

Interesting, then that they cite Judges for the ordination of women... is it the whole of Judges? Or are they trying to draw a link from Deborah being a judge to ordaining a woman to be an elder in the church?

Then the big business paragraph cracks me up... on all the financial privileges such an ordination affords - tax free status, and running a church as a business... dear oh!

So I clicked through... for the bargainous price of $30 you can get the basic ordination package - which gets you - Official Ordination; Certification of Ordination imprinted with your name and title; Wallet ID card imprinted with your name and title; Presentation Folder to protect your credentials.

It suddenly puts three years in Dublin into perspective!

Oh, and for the post-grad students, you can get a PhD for $89... based on life experience!

In all things God works for the good of those who love him: A sermon preached at the Magheralin Healing Service 29/10/06 Romans 8:18-39

When you come to a healing service, what is it you expect? Are we looking for the miraculous? Do we expect the unexpected? Are we disappointed if healing doesn’t come in the manner we expect?

And what do these disappointments mean in terms of our faith? Do we run into doubt, doubting God’s power, or God’s goodness? After all, if God was both powerful and good, then he would heal everyone right now. What is it we’re looking for?

Our passage this evening assures us that God is both powerful and good. Even though these attributes may not immediately appear to us as we pass through difficult circumstances. Even though it might seem that God isn’t in control, or that God doesn’t care.

God has a plan, and a purpose, and all things are moving towards that purpose. Before we look in detail at our reading, it’s good to put it in context. Where has Paul been going with the argument up to now? Having started Romans speaking of the universal sinfulness of humans, he told us about the salvation of God, through faith in Jesus. As he moves on, then, he speaks of what life for the Christian is like – the struggles with sin, and living in the Spirit. In 8:17, he talks of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

In verse 18, there’s a continuity, but also a shift, as things look more and more towards the end – as he says ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’ Yes, things are tough now, as we struggle with sin, and suffer in so many ways – illness, doubt, bereavement, marriage break-up… but as Paul looks forward, he sees that when they are put in eternal perspective, they just don’t compare with the glory to be revealed – not just in the world, but ‘in us.’

The rest of Romans 8 is concerned with this looking forward, this hope of future glory. It’s something that we look forward to, but we’re not alone in our hope. The creation also is looking forward, eagerly waiting for the end, when we are liberated and redeemed; when Jesus comes to call time on time.

So for Paul, the creation can be seen to be groaning as in the pains of childbirth, as it looks forward, as it waits for the end. Can we see these groans? What else can we make of the volcanoes and earthquakes, and the tsunamis which rock our planet?

In a similar way, we look forward and groan, as we wait for our adoption as sons. We have this hope, and we await for it, yet we’re still in the midst of the struggles. Just as we’re not alone in our hope and in the groaning of expectation, so God doesn’t leave us alone – giving us the Spirit, as the firstfruits of eternal life, and also to help us to pray- especially when we don’t know what to pray for.

Romans 8 has been described as the pinnacle of the Bible, as we climb the heights of God’s word to us. And so, as we consider all that has gone before we come to one of the high points, in verse 28. It’s this that we’re going to be thinking about: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

These words are full of hope, and comfort and assurance for us, so let’s take time to unpack them, to see exactly what Paul is saying. But where to begin? Our obvious starting point is God! Notice what it says about God – ‘God works.’ So as Paul looks at his circumstances, and at what is happening, he sees that ‘God works.’ As Jesus tells the Jews in John 5: ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working’ (Jn 5:17).

So when is God working? Jesus has already answered it for us in John 5, when he said ‘My Father is always at his work’, but as Paul tells us in Romans – ‘in all things God works.’ God is working in the full scope of everything that happens. Nothing is outside of his work.

What is the outcome of his work? ‘In all things God works for the good.’ Just as God is perfectly good, so his works are good, and the outcomes are for the good. But it’s not just an abstract good… it is the good of specific people.

So who are the people God works for the good of? ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ This group of people is one and the same- not two different types of people, some of whom love God, and some of whom have been called. Rather, as verses 29 and 30 go on to explain, the ones who have been called according to his purpose are the ones who love God. We see the process of God’s work, as he foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified.

And what is God’s purpose? The good that he is working towards for those who love him and are called, is to ‘be conformed to the likeness of his Son.’ This is the outcome of God’s plan for us – as he first justifies us by his grace through faith, and as the Spirit lives in us, sanctifying us, and making us more like Jesus.

So to put this all together, then, what can we say of verse 28? ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.’

Firstly, we are assured that no matter what we’re going through, God is in it with us, and God is working for us in it. I used to think that the verse said ‘all things work together for good’ – a sort of whatever will be will be attitude. But better than that, in all things God works. He is personally involved in our needs and struggles.

It isn’t that God has started the world up, like a wind-up clock, and left it to wind down, leaving us to whatever fate brings. No! God is intimately involved in his creation, as he works in us, through these difficult situations, working for our good.

God is ultimately in control, even when it may seem that he isn’t. Sometimes our circumstances can block out our vision of God being on the throne. Imagine if you had asked Joseph as he sat in prison if he thought God was in control, that God knew what he was doing? He had been promised the position of power with his brothers bowing down to him, yet he was so far from home, languishing in prison. Yet God was working in that situation, so that by the end, he could say to his brothers ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good’ (Gen 50:20).

Or what about the disciples? If you had asked the disciples on the evening of Good Friday if they thought God was in control, would they have been confident of what would happen just two days later? No, to them, Jesus had failed, their hope was gone, and God couldn’t be in control. Yet God was working in that situation too.

Being assured that God is working in all the things that happen – what is it he’s working for? Our reading says it is ‘God works for the good of those who love him.’ But what is the good? As we go through the hurt or pain, we might think that the good God should be working for is the removal of pain, the miraculous healing and putting right of all our wrongs now.

Yes, sometimes he does do the miraculous ,and chooses to heal. But if he doesn’t, does it mean he isn’t working for our good? This is not easy to talk about, or to think about, but sometimes God’s ultimate good for us means that we have to put up with the bad things, and keep trusting in him – because our ultimate good is to become more like Jesus.

It’s like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, as he talks about his thorn in the flesh. ‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”’ (2 Cor 12:8-9).

Paul thought his good would be the removal of the thorn, yet his ultimate good would be served by growing in faith, so that Jesus’ power could be demonstrated through his weakness.

In all things God works for the good of those who love him. Allow me to share a personal story as a testimony to this. It may seem like a small thing, but it goes to show how God can work in all things – not just the big, but also the small. After doing GCSE’s, I moved schools, and wanted to do English at A Level. My heart was set on being a journalist, so I needed to do English. But the head of year came to me on my first day and told me I couldn’t do it, because my grades hadn’t been good enough. I had to go home and think about an alternative subject – maybe politics. It seemed as if my future plans were crashing in round me…

But I did politics, and in that first class on the Monday met one of my best friends – ended up doing it at university, and getting a job out of it! My best friend is now in training at Union for Presbyterian ministry, and here am I, in training for ministry too. Out of the seeming bad situation, God has worked so much for good.

In all things God works for the good of those who love him. As if all that were not encouraging enough, the rest of chapter 8 continues to build this theme. Sadly we don’t have time to look at it now, but as Paul adds to the argument again and again, he shows that the complete basis of our trust in God working for our good is that if we are in Christ, then God is for us and will give us all things; that no one can bring a charge against us or condemn us; and that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As we come tonight for prayer ministry and prayers for healing, we are right to ask in faith that God will heal us. We are assured from God’s word that he works in all things for our good. But lets not get discouraged if healing doesn’t come in a visible way – God is still working for our good on the inside as well, as we who have been called according to his purpose are those who love him.

The Bad Vicar

Oh dear oh...

Is this how the church is being portrayed today in comedy shows? Dear help us...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Not mush-room

I'm referring in the title to my bedroom at home, in that there's not mushroom (much room)... You may have gathered I'm a bit of a hoarder, and nothing really is thrown out. This is perhaps a bit of an understatement, as you can only see a tiny portion of the carpet.

The situation was made worse the other week (when I was in Dublin) by Neil pulling out the old computer to see if it was working. Previously, it had sat neatly under my desk, not doing any harm... but Neil left it sitting in the middle of the room, and by now stuff has accumulated around and on top of it...

Every so often I try a scheme of re-ordering - moving stuff about to see if I can get everything to fit better elsewhere, or even clearing stuff out... so I'm presently trying that - now all the clothes that hung on the door handle are actually in the wardrobe, so that's a positive start!

The problem with my re-ordering, though, is that stuff is placed on the bed until a new space can be found for it. But that means that it all has to be removed or re-ordered by bedtime, as I have to get into bed!!!

Oh what fun times we have!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

We're so delirious, we don't notice the dodgy theology

Ok, so we're almost a week since the Delirious concert in the Waterfront, and the other people I've talked to seemed to enjoy it. We were at the back of the standing area, where it was hot, loud and crowded... The general reaction to Delirious is that they're cool... and that the atmosphere they generate with the noise, the songs, the lights, their personality etc is amazing.

However, Delirious might just be the appropriate name for them. The delirium they can create in their audiences, who get caught up so much in the moment, may mean that they don't actually take in what the words are saying. One example for now, which certainly jarred with me:

Show me a vision like Isaiah saw,
Where the angel touched his lips and he sinned no more.
Let me hear your voice saying “Who shall I send?”
I’ll say send me Lord, I’ll follow you to the end.

This is the first verse of one of their epic songs in the 'Mission Bell' album and concert, called 'Here I am, send me.' Did you notice the dodgy line? Did Isaiah really sin no more when the angel touched his lips? Was he guaranteed sinlessness from the day of his call til his death? Did he achieve the perfectionism so beloved of certain Methodists?

Somehow, I doubt that...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blown away at Flagstaff

As you come north on the M1/N1/A1 from Dublin, just after you cross the border, there's a signpost to the right for a viewpoint. The turn off is at the Killeen railway bridge, and points towards Flagstaff. 2 miles. Not far.

You may already know, but my favourite type of driving is on country roads, where you always have to be alert and ready to deal with the corner, or bumps, or oncoming cars, or tractors... much better than sitting on a Motorway or dual carriageway. Of course, when it comes to going places (like Dublin), then the motorway is essential... but when you're out for recreation, then country roads are best!

So it was two miles of wee country roads and up hills to get to Flagstaff. And what a view!!! It looks out over the Newry Canal and Clanrye River as it meets the Irish Sea at Narrow water castle and Warrenpoint. The sun came out, the view was excellent... but the wind was bitingly cold, and quare and strong! I was nearly blown away... but not quite, as is obvious by the fact you're reading this blog!

Photos will follow when I get a chance to get them onto the computer...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hot Chocolate

No, this isn't going to be a posting on a formerly successful pop group, whose most famous hit was probably 'You Sexy Thing', part of the Full Monty soundtrack... But rather, it's just a few words on one of our survival techniques in college.

While most people drink tea or coffee in copious quantities during the day, evening times seem to be reserved for the consumption of hot chocolate. In fact, this evening, I've had two mugs - one between dinner and Compline, and one after Compline!

Given our tendency for hot chocolate, there's a certain rivalry about who makes the best, and which brands are the best. My favourite has to be Galaxy, although the Areo one I got last night on the ground floor was quite good. But then everyone has their own way of customising them... Maltesers floating and melting; or marshmallows; or both!

So the quest is on... have you any other things to add to hot chocolate? Or do you know of a better tasting brand? Answers in a comment!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The generation of Caleb

I don't know if you've ever seen the episode of Father Ted in which our hero encounters a priest who delights in telling him that "I'm ninety-three" in a broad, high-pitched Irish brogue.

That's the image that came to my mind as I heard one of the lectionary readings from tonight - Joshua 14:6-14. It is the story of Caleb, as he comes to Joshua to claim his own inheritance, promised to him 45 years early by Moses. Caleb, you may or may not know, was one of the heroes of the Sunday School song 'Twelve men went to spy in Canaan, ten were bad, two were good'. In fact, we have both the good spies in the story, because Joshua was the other one.

Caleb and Joshua and the other ten went into the land to spy it out - just as they had come out of Egypt and received the Law on Mount Sinai. The other spies were afraid, but the two were bold and strong in the Lord and wanted to go in and take the land (Numbers 13). The end result was that Israel was condemned to walk in the wilderness for forty years, until the rebellious generation were all dead, and their children would move into the land. Moses was also dead (Josh 1:1), which means that not only were the two heroes of faith together, they were also the two oldest men in the land, by a margin of forty years!

Notice Caleb's words: 'Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.' And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day... It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.'

What a witness to the faithfulness of God, and the vindication of those who trust in him! Forty-five years earlier, Joshua and Caleb had trusted in God, and they were vindicated by moving into the land (all in God's timing). And there he was, Caleb, at 85 ready for battle, strong in the Lord!

Lord God, I want to serve you, and be strong in faith not just now, in my twenties, but for all of my life. Strengthen me for your service, and increase in me your grace and faith. Help me to be like Caleb, strong in your might, even into his eighties! Amen

Jesus better than Aaron: A Sermon preached at Holy Communion in Magheralin Parish on 22nd October 2006. Hebrews 5:1-10

At first glance, the letter to the Hebrews can seem slightly alien to us, with all its talk of priests and sacrifices, and even the reference to Melchizedek in this morning’s reading. Yet it is a wonderful part of the Bible, which shows us the greatness of Jesus, and how he is ‘better’ than the Jewish system of sacrifices.

Why is it we meet together to share bread and wine, rather than sacrificing an animal? Why don’t we practice the Jewish system of sacrifices any more?

As we join the writer this morning, he is in the middle of an extended argument about how Jesus is a better high priest than the line of Aaron. Just before our passage begins, at the end of chapter 4, we read: ‘Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavenlies, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.’ (4:14) This is because Jesus, our great high priest knows our weaknesses, having been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Our passage this morning, then shows that even though there are similarities between the two, how Jesus is better than Aaron. Notice the similarities. Aaron was selected from among men, and appointed by God. So was Jesus, as the writer illustrates by the use of two Scriptures – ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’ from Psalm 2, the first part of which is the word spoken to Jesus at his baptism, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke. The second Scripture is where God says ‘You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ We’ll come back to this in a moment.

So if Aaron and Jesus were both called by God, and both became high priest, what is the difference? Why is Jesus’ priesthood better than Aaron’s?

Well, because verse three applied to Aaron, but not Jesus: ‘This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.’ (5:3) Aaron’s priesthood was beset by sin. Remember when Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, and seemed to be taking so long? Aaron was making a golden calf for the people to worship, leading them (albeit at their own initiative) into idolatry. (Exodus 32) Before Aaron could offer the sacrifices, he had to get rid of his own sin.

But Jesus is a better high priest because he was sinless. As verse 8 says, ‘Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.’ (8-9) Now, this doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t perfect at a time and was only made perfect - rather, it means that he was shown to be perfect through his completed, total obedience to God.

And yet, the original readers of the letter to the Hebrews would be wondering how Jesus could be the high priest. After all, he wasn’t part of the priestly line, he was descended from Judah, not Levi. He wasn’t a son of Aaron. But as we have already read, he was designated by God as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. This was the priest-king of Salem, the priest of God Most High, who met with Abraham, bringing bread and wine and blessing him. (Genesis 14:18-20). He is seen as a ‘type’ or picture of Christ, fulfilled by Jesus, as he also fits the prophecy of Psalm 110. We don’t have time to go further with Melchizedek now, but read Hebrews 7 later to find out more!

Through Jesus’ perfect obedience, he is the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. Aaron’s sacrifices could never take away sin, as Hebrews tells us later… but Jesus’ sacrifice of himself offers us salvation. We who gather around the Lord’s Table remember and celebrate that perfect sacrifice. It is indeed the good news of the gospel.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Just heading out in a few minutes to the Waterfront Hall for the Delirious and Tim Hughes concert... should be a good night, although very loud for one such as myself!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Blogging in the climate

As some of you may know, there has been a CITC blog set up, commenting on the college, and its theology. No one knows who is behind it, and it has to be said, it's making life interesting, but also puts the pressure on those of us who are there.

I read several ordinands' blogs, some from here, and some from England. I came across this posting on anonymity on one of the English blogs - he tells of another ordinand blogger who had his bishop reading his blog... so, Harold, hello!

Although I don't really mind who reads my postings... the more the merrier, as I notice we're approaching 8000 blog views!


So here goes, another quick update... Thankfully at home the internet works so much better, and the blogger posting page comes up in a matter of seconds, rather than hours! But I'll not complain here...

I seem to be always busy nowadays, and am literally on the run here - just about to head out to my placement parish for lunch and visiting. Although, I've been working this morning on placement too, writing up the sermon for the Early Communion service this Sunday. We're looking at Hebrews 5:1-10, and how Jesus is a better high priest than Aaron. As always, the text will appear here after the service - so my college buddies can read the sermon and see what I'm preaching about! I'm wondering if I should charge some of the friendly third years who have joked about copying or using the sermons at some point in the future!!!

This week in college went really quickly, with a House Meeting on Monday night, and then the opening meeting of College Fellowship on Wednesday night. Bishop Ken (Fanta) Clarke spoke on 'A call to holiness' and was very good! The highlight of the week, though, was having Lynsey in college. Her 'reading week' was on, so she was able to come to Dublin and reside in the college, meeting the varied people...

And with that, I should be off... I'll hopefully write more later on, perhaps!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Quick update...

Hi there... just a quick update to say I'm still blogging! The reason for these long periods of absence is that the wireless network in college seems to take forever to load up pages... especially blogger... whcich means I never have a chance to update the blog.

I will try to get something written over the weekend when I'm at home with the good quick broadband!

Anyways... time for breakfast. Keep checking back for my latest random thoughts and happenings.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Brown Thomas mystery revealed

Just a quick update on the Brown Thomas mystery from the other day... The person the crowd was waiting on was Elizabeth Hurley. This from the BT website:

Trinity's Michaelmas Term

So there we are... the first week of the Michaelmas Term of Trinity College has been completed, and all our new lecturers have been met. Impressions have been created, for good or ill!

It's nice having the academic stuff all done by midday on Thursday, and then having Friday in the placement parish back home in Northern Ireland.

Now it's just a matter of planning out the essay schedule and get cracking on them!

In the meantime, though, we have a few bits of excitement this incoming week - the House Meeting on Monday, and the inaugural meeting of the College Fellowship on Wednesday. And to make it even more special, we have a special visitor to college this week!!! Hurray!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


No, I'm not being vulgar... I'm only phonetically spelling the transport system in Dublin - or rather, the Birmingham accent's phonetic spelling of the pronunciation of the Dublin transport system!!!!

To explain - the tram system in Dublin is called LUAS - which is the Gaelic word for 'speed', or so I'm told. And one of our lecturers is from Birmingham and has a strong accent, leading to some fun times!

Anyway, the reason for this short blog is that today was a rather interesting day on the Luas. Going in this morning at about 9am meant that it was jam-packed... There was no free space at all... all seats full, and people crowding together! Crazy stuff, and all to get into the city.

The way back was more pleasant. I was still standing, but I was right at the very back, which meant I could see into the cab (which wasn't being used as the driver was properly at the front!). So many buttons, levers and screens... and all just to go along a railway track. The most interesting bit though was the speedometer. Rather quick acceleration on the Luas... and the top speed we managed today was about 65 km/h. Quick enough... which means it's possible to go from Trinity to our college in half an hour.

The BT Eschaton

It's amazing what you see when you're wandering about Dublin. Yesterday I had a wee bit of time to get lunch before classes started, and visited a few bookshops - no surprise there! But as I came up towards Grafton Street, suddenly I saw a huge crowd of people standing outside the Brown Thomas store. For those who don't know Dublin, this is one of the biggest and poshest shops on Dublin's main and poshest shopping street.

The crowd was all standing, evidently waiting on someone or something. The crowd control barriers were out, and a 'pink carpet' was lined along the shop front. The top-hatted doorman was standing talking to several employees, and even the Garda were out. Further down the barrier were several photographers on step-ladders, hoping to get the photographic scoop of the moring. All looking down the side street - presumably where the awaited person would emerge from a car for photographs and smiles and a walk along the pink carpet.

I have no idea who was arriving - my hunger was more pressing than my curiosity - but it made me wonder. All those people obviously thought highly of the person who was coming, and wated to be there for them. The preparations had all been made; everything was in place.

We have One who is coming - he has promised he will return - but are we ready and watching for him?

'For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, uproght and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.' (Titus 2:11-13)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pastorally placed

The first weekend of the parish placement has been completed! Some visiting was done on Friday, and then some service-leading this morning. All in all, I enjoyed it - although part of Friday spent with the rector's sore throat thing made me catch it. Which meant last night I got little sleep with my own sore throat, and I needed a glass of water to get through the service this morning! But we made it. Here's to the remainder of the semester!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Rapture Captured

Following on my recent blog posts and comments on the rapture, a friend from YouTube (Kilsally), who I didn't realise was reading my blog, forwarded on this video to me. So have a look and see what you think.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Just a quick posting to say that Proclamation Trust are coming to a village near me! They are holding their first Northern Ireland Ministry Assembly, and it's going to be in St Saviour's Dollingstown (or as the ad in The Good Book Company's publication The Briefing says, 'Bollingstown').

The speakers are David Jackman and Kent Hughes, and the dates are 13th and 14th November. More information can be found here.

Should be a good two days, and hopefully I will be there!!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Week Two

Well there we are... week two of college almost over, and then the fun stuff of the Trinity term starts on Monday. I'm concious that this blog is turning more into reports from college, and I don't want it to be solely that - maybe I'm forming an alternative to the unofficial college blog - not that I want to though. I promise I'll get onto more interesting topics soon enough...

Last night, Compline went rather well - even with the unexpected visit of the Principal! The firsties got onto the way of it ok, and with another week or two of hearing it sung (and having some more people who know the responses better), we'll even get up to full speed!

This week we have been doing our 'peace and reconciliation' week. It has been really interesting, as we look at the causes of conflict, conflict resolution, and all that. Today was the Northern Ireland day, and brought it all back to home a bit more. Not that we really have any answers... but the point was made that sectarianism isn't just what the paramilitaries do - but in some way, we are all involved. Plenty to think about, anyway.

The sessions have been long and tough though - always jam-packed with information, and questions, comments and new stuff to take on board. Possibly too much to take in all in one go, in one week - but then the timetable is pretty full... Tomorrow we finish at lunchtime, so I'll be up the road home again. Then Friday starts the parish placement - slightly nervous as it's gonna be slightly new to me, things like hospital visiting or going to people in homes, or whatever my placement rector has lined up for me.

But I am looking forward to it, as well!

Off to sleep now, and I'll dream up something more interesting to talk about than non-stop college...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Compline without complaining

Morning and evening services in chapel are normally Morning / Evening Prayer, or else a student-designed Service of the Word. But come the night time services, there is more variety and liberty available. So, I've already written about Monday nights - with Late Praise... last night a sort of revival broke out, with it lasting an hour longer than normal as people didn't want to leave, just wanting to keep singing and praising - something I missed as I had already left. Ah well...

Tuesday nights in the chapel take us back to a more traditional type of a service - Sung Compline. It is one of the services of the Monastic day (of which another two were merged to form Morning Prayer, if my liturgy from last year serves me correctly). So anyway, yeah - it's a sung service to plain chant, and no accompaniment. Rather fun, but slightly haunting at the same time - former students who attended will probably still remember the series of notes involved in 'keep me as the apple of thy eeeeyyyyyyeeeeee'

Last week, Sung Compline didn't happen, cos the first years were being entertained at the Principal's... so this means that tonight is the first night of it... and yours truly is on the rota! Even more fun, is that the third years are waltzing off for an evening of bowling (a very Christian thing to do), which leaves me and the new students who have never heard it or sung it before! fun times lie ahead tonight!!!

But I've been having a look over it, and am trying to take a few notes to let them know how things need to be done - when to change notes, and how to go up and down etc... and how to do the Psalms - they are rather unusual.

But I'm looking forward to it - it is coming back to me, after an absence of about 4 months - so here goes nothing!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Foolish Farmer - Luke 12:13-21 - A Sermon preached at Quilly LOL Harvest Thanksgiving on 1st October 2006

I wonder if we have any fools here today? You may not like to admit it – no one likes to be called a fool, after all. And yet, the Bible talks about fools quite a lot – especially in the Psalms and Proverbs. In Psalm 14, we read ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Ps 14:1).

Now you might be thinking that that can’t apply to you – you know there’s a God. But do you always remember there is a God? Is he the highest thing in your thoughts? Does the way you live show that you believe in God?

In our New Testament reading today, we heard a parable that Jesus taught. Someone in the crowd had come up to him and asked him to make his brother divide the inheritance with him. The man was acting out of self-interest – he only had his eyes on the money.

Jesus’ reply sets up the parable, and gives us the key to understanding it. ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ Even at the outset, Jesus is saying that your life isn’t about what you earn or own. That there’s more to life than getting all you can. But even more than that – you have to take care and be on your guard – covetousness can creep up on you. Isn’t it so easy to see what your neighbour has and to want it? Yet Jesus calls us to be watchful against it.

He then goes on to tell the parable. It’s probably a familiar one, but let’s hear it again.

"The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' 18And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 20But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

At the start of the parable, we are introduced to the rich man, a farmer, whose land produced plentifully. He had been working hard that year, and was pleased to see that he had harvested a bumper crop. And yet there was a problem. The barns he had used in the past suddenly weren’t big enough for all he had produced. He couldn’t store away all he had – what would he do?

So he thought to himself and eventually came up with his plan. Pull down the old barns which were too small, and instead, build new ones. Bigger ones that would hold all his grain and goods. That way, all his goods would be safely stored. Nothing would go to waste. What could possibly go wrong?

Indeed, as he continued to think to himself, I have so much here now that there’s no point in working again. He considered himself so rich that he would never work again. Instead, he would retire early, and take things easy. As he told himself, ‘I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.’ Eat, drink and be merry. What more is there to life than getting enough money and goods so you can retire and take things easy? So you can enjoy the good things of life.

And watch him as he rings the builders and arranges the contract for demolishing the old barns and building the new barns. All seems to be working out well – the builders even promised to come the next day! And yet, he’ll never see them come. Because God said to him that very day, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

After all his plans for the rest of his life, he would see none of them, because God took him that night. And the things he had worked hard for, all his possessions and the grain and goods – he would never see the benefit of them.

Notice how God addressed the man. ‘Fool!’ God called the man a fool. And why was that? The fool says in his heart, there is no God. The man had forgotten God. Firstly, he forgot God who provides all the good things he had – the bumper crop came only because of God’s care and provision. As we heard from Psalm 65 earlier, ‘You provide their grain… You crown the year with your bounty’ (Ps 65:9,11).

Yet the man doesn’t thank God. He doesn’t acknowledge God. He only cares about getting the crops and then storing them up for himself.

He forgets that anything he has comes from God – he views himself as the owner of what he has, rather than a steward, given a trust to manage for a short time. So when he has so much, he only thinks of himself.

Notice also that as he forgot about God, he remembered his soul – or rather, his body. As Jesus summarises at the end of the parable ‘So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.’ The man had been so concerned about his own welfare, and taking things easy, that he had forgotten about God, and had taken no steps to be rich toward God. The man remembered he had a soul, but hadn’t put things right with God – he was rich materially, but was spiritually bankrupt.

The man also forgot about God in terms of the future. As the book of James reminds us, we can’t make plans of our own – it is God who holds the future. ‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”’ (James 4:13-15).

And in terms of the ultimate future, the man had forgotten about God, who will sit in judgement on each person. And so, when the man would stand in front of the judgement throne, what would he have to show? His wealth counted for nothing, and he was not rich towards God. As Proverbs 11:28 tells us, ‘whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.’

The man had totally forgotten and ignored the first and great commandment – to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Notice that when he came upon his storage problem, he only thought about it himself, he didn’t involved God in it by praying.

But the man also ignored the second commandment – to love his neighbour as himself. Certainly, he was loving himself, as he planned out his life of wealth and ease, making sure he would have nothing but the best. But was he loving his neighbour? Was he thinking of those around him who were less fortunate, who were facing a bleak winter?

Even a quick glance at his thoughts show how selfish he was: ‘what shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul…’ I, my, I my…

He was so concerned with laying up treasure for himself – material wealth, and yet ignored his soul. Did you notice that he thought he was addressing his soul when he told it to eat, drink and be merry? Yet he was mixing up the physical and the spiritual, and was actually neglecting his soul.

So what can we learn from the Lord’s parable? What is God’s word to us today, in Quilly? Jesus’ warning still stands today: ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And we need to hear these words today, as materialism seems to be out of control.

Someone has summarised our society as thinking ‘the one with the most toys wins’. What is our response to issues of money, wealth and possessions?

Jesus calls us to be on our guard against covetousness. Yet how often do we compare ourselves to those around us – both looking to see if we have more possessions or the better car, or looking at what others possess and envying them? Have you ever caught yourself wishing it was you had that latest gadget, or the bigger house?

Jesus calls us instead to have a proper perspective on matters of wealth. How do you manage the money God has entrusted to you? Will you worship it, or will you use it for good?

Let’s learn from the man in the parable – firstly in recognising that God provides us with all we need. He had thought the bumper harvest was his alone – but we should remember that all we have comes from God and still belongs to him. So our attitude to money should first be that of thankfulness to God. Today in this harvest service, do we truly mean the thanks we offer?

Which leads us into the next attitude – if the money has been given to us by God, then we should ask how he wants us to use it. We should be using the money for God’s purposes – investing in gospel work. And remembering the needs of those around us.

Our reading isn’t telling us though, that it is wrong to seek to improve your circumstances through hard work – the man was condemned because he wanted to store up all he had earned and only use it for his own desires. He was worshipping money, and ultimately worshipping himself by putting himself at the centre of the universe.

But the key question for us is this – how can we avoid being seen as a ‘fool’ by God? The man was called ‘fool’ because he had stored up treasure for himself, but was not rich toward God.

As Jesus said in Matthew 16, ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?’ (Matt 16:26). These words could have been spoken of the man in the parable – he gained so much, yet forfeited his life, because he was not rich toward God.

You see, we focus so much on this world with its wealth and riches, that we forget about the world to come, and we fail to store up riches for it. How can we shift our focus to the heavenly? How can we be rich toward God?

You see, our pursuit of wealth is setting up idols in God’s rightful place. And our promotion of self as the object of our desires is a rebellion against God – it is removing God from the throne and putting ourselves in his place. Both our idolatry and our rebellion are sin. Sin is so terrible that it demands and deserves the wrath of the Holy God, who cannot abide evil or sin.

But thankfully Jesus came as the sacrifice for our sin, dying in our place as our substitute. By his death, we are made right with God, we are reconciled, forgiven, ransomed, redeemed, liberated and revived. And we receive all these benefits by trusting in Jesus, by putting our faith in him. By trusting in Jesus, we can store up treasure in heaven.

Paul tells us in Ephesians that all these blessings from ‘the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us’ (Eph 1:7-8). Later they are described as the ‘immeasurable riches of the grace’ (Eph 2:7) and the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Eph 3:8). By ourselves, we cannot store up treasure in heaven – we are poor and bankrupt when it comes to the Bank of Heaven. But Jesus offers us the riches of his grace, and provides the means for us to have treasure in heaven.

If you have never trusted in Jesus before, I invite you today to begin trusting in him. Recognise and confess your sin, and God will indeed forgive you, give you new life, and grant you the riches of Christ.

And if you are a Christian, but know that you have disobeyed Christ in worshipping the money God has given you, then confess your sins and return God to the throne of your heart, ruling over all of your life.

And please, don’t be a fool as you leave this hall today.

The Craziness of the Weather

Weather is sometimes a crazy thing. Take for example the almost proven fact that as soon as the kids go back to school, the weather will improve. I have another example from this weekend.

Friday in Northern Ireland was really good. Warm and sunny. Whereas in Ayr, it was sunny in the morning, then really wet in the afternoon and evening. This piece of news was important, as I was going on a day trip to Ayr. So on Saturday morning, before the scrake of dawn (which is extra early!) I was getting ready to head off, and wore my big raincoat. In Larne it was just cold - about 6 degrees or so... but I knew I would feel the good of the bulky coat in Scotland.

Except I didn't! The weather in Ayr was fantastic... really warm and sunny, so that the coat was carried for most of the day, as the first hour or so made me far too warm and a bit damp on my back. Too much information, I'm sure. It had been 12 years since I was last in Ayr, but I did remember wee bits of it - not how to get to the seafront or the beach or anything, but I recognised Tam O'Shanter's thatched pub, and the way the roads were. All the shops were changed, I think.

A really good day had in Ayr, where the weather was great. However, a couple of phone calls from home told a different story. Heavy rains, miserable conditions in Northern Ireland.

And so it was when I was coming home... there were some bits of the A8 from Larne to the M2 that you would almost have thought Mr Noah would be out starting to build his ark... so much water lying on the ground, and so much falling at the one time that you could hardly see out of the windscreen!

Thankfully I made it home all in one piece, and dry too. But it just goes to show that the weather across the narrow sea can be so different... Maybe we should try to keep to the good weather by hopping across the sea to where it's good? Or else move to somewhere that it can be sure of being good!