Saturday 25 January 2014

LECTIONARY EPIPHANY 3: Saying and Doing - A song for the Son (Matthew 4:12-23)

One lantern fades into the prison cell’s shadows and another lantern begins to burn bright,

Brighter than the sun,

And the message is spoken with hands as well as mouth,

The kingdom comes nearer with every step taken, with every outstretched hand embraced, with every fishing net laid aside,

And in the steps and words and moments of heaven’s treasure crystallizing in the experience of the broken and the poor and the withdrawn you bring glory as you are glorified,

These precious moments are the ones that clog synapses and stuff hearts to overflowing with wonder and delight, compassion and excitement,

You stepped out with those words of call,

And the forgotten followed,

You stepped out with those words of hope and healing,

And the wounded walked free,

You stepped out with those words of repentance,

And the lives of so many were transformed,

Conformed to a power beyond this world and its delicate delights,

Reducing sin to repackaged waste,

Ready to be laid to rest in vaults never to be found again,

And all this while the sermon you’d preach on that mountain gestated in your heart,

Liberation’s baby getting ready to draw breathe,

The world changed and changes still on the crest of these words and actions and moments,

This narrator speaks from experience, as one who heard the call with Simon and Andrew and James and John,

You bring revival,

You bring the embodied hope of the kingdom to bear,

And your bare life before the broken bore the kingdom with every breath,

From the first to the quaking last,

And beyond,

How precious were those uttering’s that called history to stop and refocus itself on the son at the centre,

Who walked the margins,

Who would welcome the meek and walk as one of them to Calvary’s skull,

Stepping out from sunlight into something beyond beautiful,

With every step and every word and every action and every motion and every intention and every breathe and every glance and every pause,

Life was brought into focus,

Filters and screens and scanners hidden in darkness blown to dust by the integral integrity of your word and deed,

From this moment, as words and actions spilled out of you like blood and water, eternity was erupting into some new phase, creation’s dance not an echo but an ongoing encapsulated moment,

Shards of light and life brought with every moment and the real became realer,

The hopeless were filled with hope,

The downtrodden could look up,

The lacking were filled,

The wayward were refocused,

And history couldn’t hold all this in place,

These words tear from the pages, in which they are bound,

They multiply into a million books,

And a billion good deeds and kind words,

Throughout history felt and heard,

This is it,

This is the spark,

This is the light that shines in the darkness,

And everything was altered,

Everything that had gone before was seen through this lens,

And countless billions slipped to their knees and knew.

The kingdom had come near. 

NOTE: Matthew 4:18-22 changed my life. These words brought new meaning to everything for me.
And since that time, Matthew 4:23-25 has become ever more important to me as I have grown in my understanding of the mission of God.
And verse 24 of this reading is utterly devastating given what is happening at this moment in history.

Sunday 19 January 2014

LECTIONARY EPIPHANY 2: If you call I will follow (John 1:29-42)

If you call I will follow,
If you say the word I will try my hardest,
And I’ll bear the tension,
That whispers grace to my ears,
And tells me that trying isn’t what it’s about,
The tension to know that in you is rest,
And a future that is cross-shaped,

Just to hear your voice is enough,
Or it should be,
Though sometimes I’m not so sure,
Whether it’s your voice that I hear,
My concerns with the world’s ways,
Or perhaps a predisposition to deftly doubt,

The cost of the call can feel insurmountable,
And leave me reeling,
But worse still,
Is when the cost leaves me yawning,
And with nonchalance I turn away,
Busying hands and heart with the whirr of life,

Meaning is on your lips,
And the promise of real,
Actual life is in your hands,
There are no excuses you seek,
Only a real re-orientation,
Which is what I’m so often afraid of,

But if you call I will follow,
I will turn my face towards you,
I will empty my hands,
I will refocus my thoughts,
I will seek you out,
And once again - I will try to follow.

Saturday 11 January 2014

LECTIONARY BAPTISM OF CHRIST (Epiphany 1): A voice (Matthew 3:13-17)

LECTIONARY BAPTISM OF CHRIST (Epiphany 1): A voice (Matthew 3:13-17)

How fitting that the Church,
The body,
Should so publically be tearing pieces off itself,
Off its members,
Of all inclinations,
When today we remember the rite,
At the centre of this institution,
One of those awkward signs of grace,
A sacrament,
That tears a hole in eternity,
And strips back the veneer of the seen world,
To something sincere,
Such a sacrament that turns eyes and lives,
Towards a new destination,
Cross-shaped and requiring devotion,
And perseverance and hope,
This sacrament that batters the barriers of life and death,
Mixes them like paint,
And spreads them afresh across a canvas,
Filled with a kaleidoscope of creation’s colour,
How fitting that as we the gathered crowd,
Remember the water from which Christ rose,
We forget the unification that that water makes,
All dragged from death to life,
And in the newspapers letters pages,
Dragged back into death again,
Living God wash us clean,
That we might live the life,
Of those who have died and been birthed again.

From The Heaven came word.
As Christ rose from baptism’s water.
And God was pleased.

Friday 3 January 2014

An edited confession from the Beat Eucharist



Jesus who prayed and loved among us proclaimed that the first commandment is this:
‘Israel, the one above, below and beyond, the Divine is our God and is the lone Divine.
Hearers, love the Divine, with everything you have.’


The second commandment is this: ‘be devoted to all peoples and you are devoted to yourself.’
No other commandments pack more weight than these,

For everything stands or falls by these two commandments, no exception, no hesitation.



The Divine loves what he makes,
So much that he gave up the Christ, who walked and talked and healed among and with us
to reach down into our hearts and beings and to guide our hands and mouths, from all that destroys us from within,
to speak on our behalf and to bring us to eternal life, that life, where the Divine reigns and the people glorify and shout out and raise up voices aloud, calling out the rebel yell of praise to the one.


So turning from all the dirt which flows through our lives, let us own what we have done and what we have wanted to do and let us turn back on those things,

and let us state with integrity that we will turn to the Divine whose words conform not to this world, but to the truth that is shouted,

That we would exist beyond ourselves in our charity and opulent self-giving, live in aspirations of the recreation of Eden in our midst, that the poor will eat and know plenty, that whole communities would stand strong in the everlasting hope.


To the one who dreamt up hope and charity and love and time and space,
we, your foolish proud crowd have through our chatter and lies and actions have looked elsewhere

and openly held back from others
in our failed behaviours and beliefs,
with our lack of self-worth, through the fears that creep within us,
through our blatant capitulation to corruption.
To our openly bleeding knees we fall and scream from the pit of our guts that we are self-sickened

And that no more will our personal degradation grip our actions, thoughts and gutter mutterings.
All for the one Christ, the Jesus who lived and talked and healed and spoke among us,
Heal our undeserving hearts from what has gone before and by your unfathomable, rich power proliferate within and among us a resurrection hope that we can be your people, a people of action, love, mercy, faith, grace, friendship, hope, truth and compassion
to the shout out wonder of your name.

The one above, beyond, who has all of time and space within his grasp,
who has pity where no pity is deserved, who purifies all of us who feel utterly sickened by our own failings,
pour out grace and hope and forgiveness on you, me and all of us,
weld the cracks in all our lives, making you, me and all of us whole again,
Affirm us in our longing for you and in your hope-filled flamboyance build you, me and all of us up,
and keep you, me and all of us within the confines of your graceful, hopeful, all encompassing love;
by the sure way of the son, the Christ, who lived and walked among us, who longed for justice and cried out, this Jesus.


A review of 2013.

Okay, so here is my belated review of year for 2013.



I confess, I haven’t seen many new movies at the cinema, but of the ones I have seen three stand out:


3. Gravity 3D. I’m with Mark Kermode on this. Not many films deserve 3D but this did. Watching it on a cinema screen (even a relatively small one) was an utterly immersive and disturbing experience. Utterly claustrophobic and beautiful.


2. Upstream Colour. Very “indie”, perhaps trying a bit too hard but really immersive. I found myself drawn into the story, the plot zips and zaps back and forth, the viewer is left wondering what is actually reality which adds to the power of the movie wonderfully. Just over 90 minutes when it could have been hours too long, the film is fantastically intriguing and I through the central actors did brilliantly.


3. The Place Beyond The Pines. This movie could have been the best thing just about ever on the big screen, but it wasn’t. The three part storyline had a great start, a not quite great middle and a slightly less great than that third section. On my first viewing I didn’t quite believe one of the teenage actors in their role as the son of an upcoming politician, but it was really good.



Broadchurch - naturally!


Lost Kingdoms of South America. So fascinating. Made me want to travel.




Norma Jean - Wrongdoers. Screamo, mathcore, whatever, Chariot-esque, wonderful, with a combination of styles.


Daughter - If You Leave. Fragile and yet uplifting, this set of songs draws the listener in. I delight in the song, “Youth”. Like a mellowed out song of youth angst. Live they are fabulous and full of nervous energy.


Tegan and Sara - Hearthrob. My favourite Canadian duo go all synth-pop, electro and its fantastic.


Mogwai - Les Revenants. The soundtrack to The Returned. Mogwai play the quiet - loud game beautifully as always, a great album to work to.


Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe. Having been on a list for Sound of 2013 I loved what I heard straight away and waited until the album’s release to buy it straight away. An out and out pop album, full of clanging synths and just wonderful melodies. With a darker heart than might be expected. Superb!


College - Secret Diary. Synths, electro, great collection with some stand out tracks.


Sigur Ros - Kveikur. Sigur Ros do the Dark Night of The Soul and its brilliant.


Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt (Deluxe edition featuring 2012 album American Weekend). Loved this for the new album but the inclusion of her debut album was a stroke of genius. Lo-Fi fabulousness like the early 1990’s on the debut with a more post-grunge circa 2000 for the second LP. Great stuff. Understated and wispy brilliance.


Listener - Time Is A Machine. My best album of 2013. Not an instant killer hit, like Wooden Heart but full to bursting with slow burners. Favourite lyrics change week by week, but it is so so so so good.



Chagall Modern Master (Tate Liverpool). An honour and privilege to see such great works present in one place. There were a few pieces I would like to have seen there, (White Crucifixion), but great to see the chronology of his themes and practices develop. Red Roofs and The Village and I were highlights.




Peter Stanford, How to Read a Graveyard: Journeys in the Company of the Dead. Not morbid, a delightful reflection on rhythms of life, on mortality, on cemeteries themselves. Great.


Christine Valters Pintner, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. An informed book by the author of the fantastic, The Artist’s Rule. A wonderful short book to encourage encounter with the divine in the mundane.



Michael Symmons Roberts, Drysalter.  150 poems, each of only 15 lines. So beautiful.



Chloe Aridjis, Asunder. This book stays with you!



Sigur Ros at the Manchester Apollo. Like a piece of performance art being unravelled over the course of 2 hours. Best staging for a concert I have ever seen. It was sensory overload and such a worshipful experience. All we needed was some incense.


Sigur Ros at Jodrell Bank. Projections on the telescope and a festival feel in comparison to the above gig. Splendid.


Tegan and Sara (with Waxahatchee) at the Ritz in Manchester. Again. Brilliant live. (Like everytime I see them!)


Annihilator at Sound Control Manchester. Could have gone to see Chvrches. But this was amazing. Jeff Waters thrashing through the riffs.


Mogwai performing along to the movie Zidane at the Albert Hall in Manchester. Mogwai wrote the soundtrack to the great football film Zidane. In this incredible (urban decay-ish) space they played the album live along with the film. So amazing.


Listener at the Kraak Gallery in Manchester.  Felt like being part of a new movement, this was utterly incredible. An old office now a music and arts venue. So intense. Loved this so so so so so so so much!