Thursday, 29 July 2010
The Guardian's obituary summed up Plater's significance and character succinctly:
"Alan Plater, who has died of cancer aged 75, was one of a handful of writers, including Jack Rosenthal, Dennis Potter and Simon Gray, who truly made a difference on British television in the golden age of comedy, drama series and the single play. Like the other two Alans – Bennett and Bleasdale – his name guaranteed a quality of humour, heart and humanity, usually matched by high standards of acting and production values. And like them, he was definitely "northern"."
BBC Four say:
"Spanning four decades, writer Alan Plater's work has been described as a meeting of Coronation Street and Chekhov. With his spare dialogue and irreverent attitude, Plater helped introduce an entirely new voice to the world of television drama.
He is perhaps best known for the Beiderbecke Trilogy but has written in all forms and is especially known for his radio, stage and television work and also for his passion for jazz. The principles of jazz are at the very heart of the man and his writing."
Home Cinema has an excellent review of Plater's "gentle, whimsical and very British" classic comedy series The Beiderbecke Trilogy, which is where I first encountered Plater. The dialogue - "Are you eating, boy? You should know by now that eating is forbidden. That's why we supply school dinners" - is particularly sharp in a comedy thriller where there are a couple of brisk walks and a car chase, at slightly less than the speed limit, around a roundabout several times.
Bix Beiderbecke - I'm Wondering Who.
As the publicity for the event explains, we are surrounded by music and image, and our everyday lives are permeated with words - both spoken and written. Creativity - our own and that of others - fills the space around us all the time. So, this year’s Exploring Spirituality Day, offers space and time to explore and ponder and wonder at all that surrounds us and all that fills us - calling us to respond with hearts and hands and voices.
You may recognise the phrase which forms the title of this year’s Exploring Spirituality Day from the hymn, Now thank we all our God, written by Martin Rinkart and translated by Katherine Winkworth. It is a wonderful hymn that recognises God’s wondrous works, calls us to praise His name, and prays for God to be with us through life in all its various ways.
The organiser's hope that the Workshops on this day will provide space to find new ways of exploring the Creative Arts and how we might pray and worship with and through them. Looking across the range of the Creative Arts, at the end of the day, they want people to go away with tools for the journey that will inform and enhance the spiritual journey - the journey with God.
Doctor Nicholas Cranfield is the keynote speaker. Nicholas is a parish priest in South East London (Diocese of Southwark) and for the past fifteen years he has contributed regular art reviews to the Church Times and led gallery tours and exhibition visits. He is a member of the Southwark Diocesan Advisory Committee for the care of churches (DAC) and is currently Hon Secretary of the British Section of the UNESCO body the International Association of Art Critics (AICA UK). He is writing a book on Roman Art from 1600 to 1610.
As last year, I will be leading one of the workshops. This year, my theme will be Writing the blues: The Psalms for our own age. The Psalms have been, through the years, the ‘back bone’ of Christian worship: many hymns and prayers call upon their imagery and language. How might we respond to them today and, more importantly, how might we create our own?
Other workshops are: What can you see? What does Jesus show us? - led by Nicholas Cranfield; Touch me and see: An invitation to prayer using all our senses - led by Ruth Pyke; To be in your presence: Movement to speak the presence of God - led by Carole Selby; Sing your heart out: Singing the passion and emotion of faith - led by Deborah Snowball; and Images or Idols: Exploring the use of images in worship - led by David Ridgeway.
Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, Maria Muldaur & Bonnie Raitt - Trouble In Mind.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
1. Your first post – Glory Days was a meditation on the song of the same name by Just Jack.
2. A post you enjoyed writing the most – I've most enjoyed doing the Windows on the World series because I've enjoyed taking the photos and having a focus for my photography. Here is the 100th Windows on the World post.
3. A post which had a great discussion – The series of posts which generated the most interesting and continuing discussion was The Bible - Open or Closed? where Philip Ritchie and I had an ongoing discussion about the nature of scripture. The first post in the series is here. The single post that generated the most discussion was my second post about the Holy Spirit in the World Today conference.
4. A post on someone else's blog that you wish you'd written – This is hard as there is so much that is interesting which is being written. Posts that have been influential have included Sam Norton on Peak Oil and Peter Banks on music but the one post that I want to highlight is Some thoughts about the shape of the church to come... by Paul Trathen, simply because I agree with all that he writes in it.
5. A post with a title that you are proud of – The value of pointlessness which highlighted a quote from Armando Iannuci about spirituality.
6. A post that you wish more people had read – My short story A Disappearance, which I rate both as a story and in terms of its conceit; that fast living literally wears out your body. The four posts are here, here, here and here.
7. Your most visited post ever – New Church Art Trail has had the most visits. Encouraging that a recent post has been getting the most attention.
Here's an addition to the list:
8. Your most serendipitous post - Annie & Bernard Walke - I posted about this artist & priest couple at the same point that Paul Trathen was reading Bernard Walke's autobiography and posting about it on facebook.
I tag Tim Goodbody and Paul Trathen.
Bob Dylan - Saved.
Huxley-Jones was a sculptor in a variety of materials who studied at Wolverhampton School of Art under Robert Emerson, 1924-9, and at the Royal College of Art, 1929-33, under Richard Garbe and Gilbert Ledward. He was married to the sculptor Gwyneth Holt. He exhibited RA, NEAC, RSA, SSA and RBSA. Huxley-Jones' sculpture is generally smooth and simple in profile, as depicted in Arthur T Broadbent's monograph Sculpture Today in Great Britain 1940-43, and in Eric Newton's companion volume British Sculpture 1944-46. Huxley-Jones completed a large volume of public work, at the BBC Television Centre, London, in Chelmsford Cathedral, outside Hornsey Library and in London's Hyde Park. Aberdeen and Wolverhampton Art Galleries hold his work.
Other works by Huxley - Jones include the fountain and gilded figure of Helios, the sun god of Greek mythology, located in the central courtyard of BBC Television Centre in London. Sea Fantasy in Aberdeen is a bronze sculpture of two dancing figures at the centre of a water pool. He also cast a bronze sculpture of David Livingston, the African explorer, which stands in a niche on the Royal Geographical Society building, London. In 1953 Huxley-Jones won the Jean Masson Davidson Medal; the Society of Portrait Sculptors’ highest award for distinguished services and outstanding achievement.
The Christ figure above the South Porch of St. Martin Le Tours church, Basildon, is a fibreglass figure of our Lord pierced by shafts of light his hands outstretched towards the town in service of the people. It is an invitation of welcome to all to enter designed and constructed by Huxley-Jones and erected in 1968. Just a few months after the statue had been officially dedicated, Huxley-Jones was admitted to St. Johns Hospital, Chelmsford with a heart condition. He died there four days later on Dec 10th 1968, making this figure the last work he did.
Aaron Neville - Saving Grace.
Monday, 26 July 2010
New library interior
PCSO Ames with the Book Bear
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Nine Inch Nails - Just Like You Imagined.
Drawn from the artist’s estate, the paintings and watercolours in this exhibition explore five decades of prolific output during the course of which Adams evolved an intensely original and personal style in which the poetical and Romantic landscape traditions of Blake and Turner are infused with the broader currents of European Modernism – Van Gogh and Ensor, Nolde and Picasso among others - to create one of the most deeply felt and emotionally intense expressions of the Northern Expressionist sensibility in late 20th Century British art."
Friday, 23 July 2010
"A 9-foot sculpture of the crucifixion, made from 3,000 coathangers, was briefly on show outside St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh on Wednesday. David Mach, a Scottish artist acclaimed for his massive sculptures created from waste products, is developing four crucifixion figures including a Calvary scene for a major exhibition at the Scottish capital’s City Art Centre next summer. He is also producing up to 120 large-scale collages giving his ‘artist’s version’ of biblical events. Fife-born Mach (54) was spurred to work on the project because it was at Burntisland, Fife that James VI agreed to commission a new Bible in 1601. Although Mach has no personal religious belief, he said, ‘The King James Bible communicated its message so effectively that its language still resonates through our speech.’ The ‘richness’ of ‘biblical imagery is as fine a subject as I could wish for’ he added."
Regina Spektor - Samson.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Fr. Ben with the final Station in the series
Through wall-paintings in catacombs and homes, visual art very quickly became a significant feature of the Christian faith. Such art was about inspiration and instruction for followers of the Christian faith and throughout much of the history of the Church this continued to be the case; because most people were not literate, the fundamental doctrines of the faith were conveyed through art. By contrast, today Christian Art often seeks to convey, through colour, shape, sign and symbol, something of the mystery of God, who is Spirit and therefore, ultimately, invisible.
The visual arts can contribute to the mission of the Church by: speaking eloquently of the Christian faith; providing a reason for people to visit a church; providing a link between churches and local arts organisations/initiatives; and providing a focus around which local people can come together for a shared activity.
I hope the Art Trail will provide people with another reason to visit their local churches in order that they can be inspired by the beauty of the artworks and of the buildings themselves. I hope, too, that those who do will be pleasantly surprised to find that these churches are also vibrant community buildings hosting a wide variety of community activities and events which benefit the whole community.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
The full opening hours commence from 9am on Tuesday 27 July but a special preview afternoon is being held on Monday 26 July which is open to all those who have worked on the development of the library, and to members of wider community networks.
People are welcome to come down between 1pm and 4pm on Monday to see the library, meet the staff and see the services on offer. There will also be storytelling and free facepainting for children.
The Leader of the Council, Cllr Keith Prince, will officially open the library at 2.30pm and press are being invited for around this time.
Space is slightly limited, so people should RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to help in estimating numbers.
The opening hours from Tuesday are as follows:
- Tues 9am-8pm
- Weds 8am-5pm
- Thurs 9am-8pm
- Fri 8am-5pm
- Sat 10am-2pm
- Sun 10am-2pm
The library at 679, High Road, Seven Kings is fitted with folding shelving so it can be used as a small meeting room outside library hours. Around 5,000 books, talking books and DVDs will line the shelves and any titles not available can be requested free of charge from other library branches or other libraries in the London libraries consortium. It will also be the first library in the Borough to have Sunday opening hours, and will be open a total of 48 hours a week.
Regular library activities will be available including story time sessions, reading groups, children's activities and computer and internet tutorials. The library is also set to offer wireless internet access in the coming weeks and has four computers available for free public use.
A library working group, made up of local residents, Councillors and Council Officers was set up after the decision by Cabinet in September 2009 to agree to fund the temporary library. The group has been meeting regularly throughout the process to make sure the new facility works well for the community.
The temporary facility is expected to provide a library service to local residents for a number of years pending plans for a new leisure centre in the area which would include a library.
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - Morning of Our Lives.
This was a well attended event at Westminster which saw politicians and political activists from each of the main parties speak passionately about the faith motivations for their political careers. These ranged from the influence of Catholic social teaching to Evangelical urban missions.
Stephen Timms equated Wilberforce’s campaign for the abolition of slavery with the Church’s involvement in the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns. Jon Cruddas commended the attempts by Rowan Williams and Vincent Nicholls to change the language of political discourse and to re-emphasise the significance of ‘virtue’. In addition to contributions from Simon Hughes and David Burrowes, Caroline Alabi and Sister Josephine Caddy spoke about their involvements in the Hope not Hate and London Citizens campaigns respectively.
Bishop David has said, "After the past eighteen months confidence in political life in our country has reached an all time low. The Christian community needs to take responsibility in calling out vocations to public life and supporting politicians in this high Christian calling."
The evening saw my continued engagement with local politics as, together with Tom Platt of Living Streets, I presented the Community Street Audit report prepared by the Seven Kings and Newbury Park Resident's Association to the Area 7 Committee in the London Borough of Redbridge.
Our report highlights issues of traffic speeds, pavement parking, damaged paving, renewal of signage, litter, and seating in public areas along Aldborough Road South. We are calling for greater enforcement of the 20mph speed limit; traffic calming measures; a review of parking in the whole area; and additional signage to local amenities. Alongside these requests, we are offering to help fund new public seating and to organise community events to clean up the area and promote pride in the upkeep of front gardens.
Runrig - City Of Lights / Dance Called America.
Monday, 19 July 2010
Welcome to our regular TASK mail out on news from around Seven Kings, including feedback from our first regular monthly supporters session, news on the upcoming library opening, an interesting idea from our founder and former leading member, Cllr. Ali Hai, on declaring Goodmayes Park a 'village' to help preserve its distinctive character; and some other nuggets from further afield. So, read on.
TASK is now committed to holding an open monthly supporters meeting, which aims to bring local people together and to agree our campaign focus for the next few months. The first session, in June, held in the garden of St. John's Church, with a healthy 9 attendees, included a mix of established supporters and some very welcome new faces.
The session was entirely focused on setting out attendees key issues for future action, which included the:
- Lack of youth facilities locally;
- New library;
- Long-term use of the lorry park;
- likely- further- expansion of the private rented sector here following new housing benefit caps which will see many tenants priced out of many inner London boroughs;
- campaigning for a new swimming pool;
- policing; and
- supporting local businesses
We are hoping that August’s meeting will allow for us to decide where we most want to invest our energies this autumn, and as ever, we would like as many of you to be there to be part of our conversation. If you have other issues you would like us to raise, remember that it is not too late so email me your thoughts, or just come along on the night.
The next supporters’ session is on Monday August 2, from 7-8pm at St. John’s Church, which sits at the junction of St.John’s Road and Aldborough Road South.
Area 5 meeting: Monday July 26 at 7.15pm/Barley Lane School
Redbridge Council Area 5 committee meetings bring together all the councillors from Seven Kings, Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath Wards every 8 weeks or so to consider local issues, and to give local citizens a chance to have their say on how they would like their neighbourhood to develop and grow.
With two thirds of the area 5 councillors newly elected, we are hoping for a more easy going and welcoming approach. So, come along, see how local democracy Redbridge-style works, and maybe chip in yourselves. On the agenda this time is an innovative item from the Goodmayes councillor team looking to protect the distinctive character of attractive Edwardian housing near Goodmayes Park by way of declaring it a designated residential precinct they would like to call Goodmayes Village.
Seven Kings Library opening: July 26 at 2pm
It is now just a week away. The culmination of our three year cross-community campaign to get a library back here in Seven Kings, to right the injustice of the 1992 Carnegie Library closure and ‘sell off’.
Initially, the politicians said it could not be done but a massive petition and door to door campaigning eventually helped change their minds, leading to Monday’s historic opening. The formal ribbon cutting by Council leader Keith Prince happens at 2pm, with normal opening starting at 9 am on Tuesday July 27th. Do pop by for both if you are around.
The new Seven Kings library is at 679 High Road, between Costcutter and Asha Jewellers.
It is all very exciting stuff, and is happening just in time for the summer holidays so local youngsters can take part in the legendary summer reading scheme on their doorsteps for the first time in a generation. We are also delighted that at least one of the new staff team lives locally and that the library has special Seven Kings friendly opening hours including early mornings, late nights and- for the first time ever in a Redbridge library- Sundays.
As TASK see it, distinctive arrangements for a distinctive place.
Lorry park school plan: latest news
Word reaches us that a planning application has been lodged by the borough for portkabin classrooms on the lorry park, the last major development plot in the area and one that TASK has campaigned should be dedicated to community use, such as a permanent library, hall and/ or pool.
Our enquiries with the borough planning department reveal a two year proposal for classrooms and play space for the John Barker referral unit, serving pupils removed from mainstream education.
TASK will be scrutinising the proposals carefully to ensure that our long- term preference is not thwarted, and to ensure that any even temporary use allows for a high quality and appropriate development.
As ever, we welcome your views
Your Square Mile website
This is an interesting new idea from the government, picked up in yesterday’s Sunday Times, which flags plans to develop a nationwide website called Your Square Mile this autumn, allowing for more local involvement in community projects. The site will apparently cover all 94,000 square miles in the UK, and will allow a whole range of community transactions from details of local clean ups and volunteering to promoting discount services, reading groups and babysitting opportunities. A prototype scheme in Southwark, the Southwark Circle, now run independently of the council, and even offers locals access to both volunteer and charged DIY and care services, in a project they call “the neighbourly way to sort the everyday”.
Keep watching this space for more.
That’s it for now. Keep sending us your local stories, ideas and suggestions.
Tom Jones - Did Trouble Me.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Have you heard of any of them? I found out about these women through the website of Women and the Church (or WATCH) who point out that though they were all icons in the campaign to get women ordained, as with many women’s lives, they are in the ‘hidden gallery’ of history.
To give you a very brief flavour of some of their stories: "Elsie Chamberlain was the first female full chaplain in the RAF; Una Kroll famously shouted, ‘We asked for bread and you gave us a stone’ (a reference to Matthew 7. 7-11) when in 1978 the General Synod refused to allow women to be ordained, creating the momentum for the Movement for the Ordination of Women to be formed; and Florence Li Tim-Oi was the first female Anglican priest, ordained during the war to serve behind Japanese lines in China."
WATCH argue that, although women have been a majority in the church, they have mostly been hidden in the background, carrying out children’s work, making tea, cleaning, in the office, caring for neighbours, letting the vicar know when someone needs a visit. In other words, fulfilling the sort of role that Martha was playing in our Gospel reading (Luke 10. 38-end) today.
Martha opened her home to Jesus and his disciples. Providing hospitality and welcome to strangers was of vital importance within Judaism and in Middle Eastern culture generally. The rabbis taught that Abraham left off a discussion with God and went to greet guests when they arrived at his camp. He ran to greet them during the hottest day on record and served them the best food he could put together. Based on this example, the rabbis say that taking care of guests is greater then receiving the divine presence.
When Jesus sent out his disciples to prepare the way for him to come to towns and villages on the way to Jerusalem, he told them to look out for and stay with those, like Martha, who would welcome them. So, Jesus’ words to Martha are not a denigration of the role she is fulfilling, which has a vital place in Middle Eastern culture, but point instead to an alternative role which has led to the point that we have currently reached in the Church of England of seeking to ordain women, not just as priests, but as bishops.
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what he said. This was the usual posture of a disciple of any teacher in the ancient world. But disciples were usually male, so Mary would have been quietly breaking the rule that reserved study for males, not females. Martha was possibly not merely asking for help but demanding that Mary keep to the traditional way of behaving. Jesus, though, affirms Mary in the place and role of a disciple: “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Jesus refused to be sidetracked by issues of gender when faced with women in any kind of need and consistently puts people before dogma. Luke’s Gospel not only reports that Jesus had female disciples, but specifically names them in Luke 8. 1-3. Throughout his Gospel Luke pays particular and positive attention to the role of women presenting women, not only as witnesses to the events surrounding the birth and resurrection of Jesus, but also as active participants in God's Messianic purposes.
This sense of the equality of men and women in God's plan of salvation and their equal importance in the new community that was the Church, has inspired women throughout Church history to active service of our Lord and to leadership roles within his Church. Including the many women whose ministries we celebrate and remember in relation to the history of St Margaret's Barking.
The example of commitment to Christ, despite mockery, torture, and martyrdom, which is found in the story of St Margaret of Antioch led to her becoming one of the most popular saints among the laity in medieval England with more than 250 churches dedicated to her. Many churches housed side altars or images of St Margaret and had guilds dedicated to her. Her story also became one of the most common subjects for wall paintings in England.
St Ethelburga was the first Abbess of Barking Abbey and epitomises a strong woman who exemplifies the virtues of committed social action and self-sacrifice. She is especially noted for her heroic conduct in caring for the sick during an outbreak of the plague in 664 which eventually killed her and most of her community. During this time she is said to have had a vision of a light "brighter than the sun at noonday" which inspired her and her community to works of great compassion in caring for others. The Venerable Bede wrote of her: "her life is known to have been such that no person who knew her ought to question but that the heavenly kingdom was opened to her, when she departed this world."
We can rightly add to that list, of inspiring women associated with this church, Pat Nappin; who was the first woman Honorary Secretary of the Central Reader’s Council of the Church of England appointed in recognition of her vision and commitment which enabled her to see through a number of significant developments in Reader ministry.
These, and other women (including those named by WATCH), are examples to all of us of what real commitment to Christ entails and involves. This is particularly so because current campaign to see women take their place alongside men as bishops and at every level in the Church of England is not about women gaining an ascendency which men have had in the past but, instead, is about the full equality of women and men in the Church as part of God's will for his people, and as a reflection of the inclusive heart of the Christian scripture and tradition.
Mary shows all of us the importance of making Jesus the central focus of our life and learning. Martha shows us all the value of welcome, hospitality and service. Margaret, the ability to remain true to Jesus despite great opposition and personal suffering. Ethelburga, the inspiration of sacrificial leadership in times of crisis and need. Pat, of the vision needed to bring about significant change and development.
The ministries of each one of us can be enhanced by reflecting on the examples that each one provides and through that the recognition that the saints are not special, super-human people but: sisters, like Martha and Mary, who become frustrated with each other’s choices; a daughter, like Margaret, in conflict with her father; a sister, like Ethelburga, given prominence as a result of family favours; and a Reader with a national role, like Pat, who continues to immerse herself in local ministry.
What we see through their lives and examples is that each one of us are saints; whatever our gender and ministry, its prominence or hiddenness. The only saints to feature in the New Testament are each and every member of local church. The saints are simply those who are church members whether in Ephesus, in Jerusalem, in Rome, or wherever including, today, those of you here in Barking.
A Patronal Festival is a time to reflect on the example of the Patron Saint of this church but only as inspiration to live as saints ourselves. Current developments in the Church of England, our Gospel reading for today, and the significant ministries exercised by women associated with this church have all led to my focus today on the ministry of women but, again, only as a inspiration to us all to work towards and work within the full equality of women and men in the Church that sees us all as being saints.
So, to you the saints in Barking, the faithful in Christ Jesus: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(Sermon preached at St Margaret's Barking for the Festival of St Margaret).
Laurent Mignard Duke Orchestra - Something 'bout believing.
Friday, 16 July 2010
The newest works featured in the Trail, the Stations of the Crown of Thorns, a series of 'Stations of the Cross' created by Henry Shelton for St Paul's Goodmayes as a commission gained through commission4mission, are to be blessed and dedicated by the Bishop of Barking on tomorrow at 4.00pm.
Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch - I'll Fly Away.
Monday, 12 July 2010
Created in 2005 by director Caroline Redman Lusher, Rock Choir™ is the first choir to offer a very different experience in contrast to the traditional classical or community choir, pioneering a new approach to singing and entertainment for the general public to experience. It offers fun and entertaining weekly rehearsals using contemporary well-known hit songs but with an exhilarating range of original vocal arrangements and performance elements which appeal to both the member taking part and the audience watching.
Rock Choir™’s first album Rock Choir Vol. 1 features the voices of 1,000 Rock Choir™ members singing well-loved songs including Can’t Hurry Love, Valerie, Walking on Broken Glass and Something Inside So Strong. The album has been described by the Head of A&R for Universal’s label, Decca Records, Tom Lewis, as “The feel-good album of the year.” Profits from the track Something Inside So Strong go to the UK charity Refuge.
Rock Choir - Dancing in the Street.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
The Salvation Army band of the Ilford Corps led by Captain John Smith played a wide selection of popular hymns including: Kum Ba Yah, Lord of the Dance, Sing Hosanna, Thine Be The Glory, and To God Be The Glory, among others. A selection of local ministers led prayers and Monica Abdala spoke about the concern of Redbridge Street Pastors to engage on the streets with young people who feel themselves to be excluded and marginalised.
The Salvation Army is an international Christian church working in 118 countries worldwide. As a registered charity, The Salvation Army demonstrates its Christian principles through social action and is one of the largest, most diverse providers of social welfare in the world.
Hellboy is a comic book character created by Mike Mignola who has then appeared in two films directed by Guillermo del Toro. In these stories, Hellboy is a demon brought to Earth as an infant by Nazi occultists but is discovered and brought up by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who forms the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense for which Hellboy fights against dark forces of evil. In the stories, he is identified as the "World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator."
In these stories this gun was given to Hellboy at a young age by the Torch of Liberty and it is named ‘The Samaritan’ after Jesus’ parable. The gun was built specially to fight evil and supernatural enemies. Its metal was formed from silver church bells, nails from the crucifixion of Jesus, various blessed chalices, and other forms of silver and copper (known elements for fighting evil) with its handle being carved from the cross to which Jesus was nailed.
I mention all this because what has occurred in the use made of Jesus’ parable in the Hellboy stories is that the meaning and point of Jesus’ parable has been completely reversed. The parable challenges us to love our neighbour and, through the story he tells, Jesus specifically identifies our neighbours as being those in need; more specifically still those who have been attacked by others.
Hellboy, by contrast, uses a gun called ‘The Samaritan’ made from elements of the cross and church silver to attack and to kill others. There is no love of enemies in what he does instead he is engaged in a fight to the death with the forces of evil. So, invoking the Samaritan and Christ’s death in what he is doing is a complete reversal of the parable and of the meaning of the crucifixion.
Coming across this misuse and misunderstanding of the parable led me to question whether there are other ways in which we misunderstand and misuse this parable. One way in which I think we can do this is that we overlook the extent to which Jews and Samaritans were enemies, partly because they were people of different faiths.
When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well they discussed aspects of their different faiths, in particular the different locations where worship took place in their different faiths. Jesus’ disciples were shocked to find him talking with this woman, in part, because she was a Samaritan; the writer of John’s Gospel tells us that Jews did not associate with Samaritans. In Luke 9 we read of James and John taking the Hellboy route by wanting to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village which had not welcomed Jesus. Their response reveals the enmity which existed between Jews and Samaritans. So the parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable about relationships between people of different faiths who are also enemies. It may even have been the case that Jesus began composing the story in response to this incident with James and John.
Dinah Roe Kendall has painted a version of the Good Samaritan which sets the story in South Africa at the time of apartheid. Doing so is an accurate parallel with the kinds of emotions and cultural practices that were at place in the relationship between Jews and Samaritans and it shows up clearly the sting in the denouement of Jesus’ story. Jesus didn’t illustrate his point - that people of every race, colour, class, creed, faith, sexuality, and level of ability are our neighbours – by telling a story in which a Jew was kind to someone else. Instead, he told a story in which a Jew receives help from a person who was his enemy. The equivalent in Kendall’s painting is of the black man helping the white man who represents the people that have oppressed him and his people.
So Kendall’s version of the story brings out part of the sting in the tail that Jesus gives this story; the sense of receiving help from the person who is your enemy. What her version doesn’t deal with, however, is the idea that the enemy who helps is someone of another faith. The Jews were God’s chosen people and a light to the other nations and faith, so what would have been expected from this story would have been for the Jew in the story to bring the light of faith to the Samaritan. But that is not how Jesus’ story unfolds. Instead, the person who is one of God’s chosen people receives from the person of another faith.
To find a contemporary equivalent for this aspect of the story, we have to think about relationships in this country between Christians and those of other faiths, and within these relationships, recognise that relationships between Christians and Muslims are those which are currently most conflicted with some Christians believing that Islam represents a threat to the Church and Western civilization.
Within this context, the parable of the Good Samaritan challenges Christians as to what we can receive from those of other faiths and, particularly, those who we might view as enemies. Jesus says to us through this parable that loving our neighbours is not simply about what we can give to others but also about what we receive from others. If our focus is just on what we can give then we are in a paternalistic relationship with our neighbours or enemies. If our focus is just on what we can give then we are saying we hold all the aces and we will generously share some of them with you. In other words, we remain in a position of power and influence. Immediately we acknowledge that we can receive from our neighbours or enemies, then the balance of power shifts and we make ourselves vulnerable. In this parable, Jesus says that that is where true love is to be found and it is something that he went on to demonstrate by making himself vulnerable and open to and through death on the cross.
So, where have we got to with all this? We began with Hellboy and the idea of blowing our enemies out of the water using the Samaritan in order to see that that is the absolute reverse of Jesus’ teaching in this parable. From there we thought about the aspect of the story that is to do with our neighbour as being those in need.
But that aspect of the parable does not get to the heart of the parable because our neighbour is also portrayed here as being our enemy, and more than that an enemy of another faith. But even Jesus’ teachings about love for enemies don’t get us to the heart of what he is portraying in this story because, if love for enemies just means our giving to others then we remain in the moral ascendency towards them.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the twist in the tail is that one of God’s chosen people receives help from his enemy who is of another faith, Jesus is taking us deeper still into the heart of love and saying that we will not truly love our neighbour until we understand and accept that we have much to receive from those that we perceive to be our enemies. In other words, true love of our neighbour means that we receive as well as give.
30 Seconds To Mars - A Beautiful Lie.
Saturday, 10 July 2010
As we heard last week (Luke 9. 51-62) some could not rise to the challenge but this week we hear that there were at least seventy or seventy-two who were disciples and ready for Jesus to send out to prepare the way for him to come into the lives of those in the villages and towns that he was to visit before he arrived in Jerusalem.
We see from this that disciples aren’t just followers; they are also those that are sent out and entrusted with playing a part in bringing in the kingdom of God. This passage challenges us regarding the call of God on our lives. There is still a large harvest to be reaped? Just as Jesus sent out his disciples to tell others that he was about to arrive in their midst, so we are called to do the same. Do we hear that call? Do find reasons to put it to one side? Are we responding as fully as we might? At St John's Seven Kings, we are currently planning a Vocations Sunday for September which will provide lots of information about opportunities to develop the ministries that each of us have in church and community so that we are better able to play our part in bringing in the kingdom of God. But don’t wait until then to say yes to the call of God on your life and do let others know how you are thinking and responding.
Interestingly the numbers at our services regularly mirror the number of disciples that Jesus sent out. This passage is headed up ‘Jesus sends out the Seventy-Two’ in our pew bibles but it should really read as ‘Jesus sends out the Seventy or Seventy-Two’ as there is a little asterisk after the first mention of 72 men and in the note at the bottom of the page it says that some manuscripts on mention 70 men.
Why the difference? Tom Wright has explained that it is most probably to do with the story of Moses choosing 70 elders during the Exodus from Egypt who were “given a share in God’s Spirit and thereby equipped to help him lead the people of Israel (Numbers 11. 16, 25).” On that occasion, two others who were not part of the original 70 also received the Spirit.” So, whether it’s 70 or 72, it is a sign from Jesus to the people of his day that a new Exodus is happening and they need to get on board if they are going to be set free from slavery to sin and led to the Promised Land of life forever with God.
In the original Exodus the Israelites rebelled, grumbled and didn’t want to go the way God was leading. Jesus prepares his disciples for a similar reaction from those he sends them to saying that he sends them out as lambs among wolves. Jesus even mentions the town of Sodom when he speaks about the judgement which is to come on those who don’t welcome his disciples. The destruction of Sodom is the most frequently mentioned Genesis event in the whole of the Hebrew scriptures and it is a symbol of every sin that stands in contrast to covenant with God.
There is a story told by Jewish rabbis that helps in understanding this aspect of the passage. The rabbis teach that Abraham left off a discussion with God and went to greet guests when they arrived at his camp. He ran to greet them during the hottest day on record and served them the best food he could put together. Based on this example, the rabbis say that taking care of guests is greater then receiving the divine presence.
This story gives a sense of the importance of hospitality towards strangers within Judaism. The fundamental wickedness of Sodom, however, was their hostility to vulnerable strangers and the violence they enacted on the innocent. The people of Sodom had a moral responsibility to offer protection and hospitality to vulnerable strangers, as all the ancient laws of the east demanded, and they stand in scripture as an example of extreme wickedness because they attacked and abused those they should have protected.
This links too with Jesus’ talk of Satan. Satan literally means ‘the accuser’; the one who points the finger at others in condemnation of them. Jesus is then saying that Satan (the accuser) falls like lightening from the sky at the return of the disciples from their mission because they have not been accused but welcomed during their mission.
So Jesus, here, is highlighting the importance of welcome and hospitality. Before the disciples go Jesus warns that those who fail to welcome them are not only turning God’s messengers away from their homes and lives but God himself too. As he says, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” When they return, he rejoices at the welcome which they have received and the sense, in the verses which follow today’s reading, that the Gospel has been received from “the diverse and motley group he has chosen as his associates.”
The emphasis in this passage is on the hospitality provides by others to Jesus’ disciples. We have already thought of ourselves as being called like them to take the good news of Jesus to others, so we will naturally identify ourselves with the disciples in the passage and think about the response we receive from others when they know that we are Christians. But to really get the force and challenge of what Jesus is saying in this passage we have to put ourselves in the shoes of those the disciples went to and ask ourselves how well do we receive others? The challenge in this passage is about the quality of the welcome provided to others. The great sin here is to be inhospitable and to be inhospitable is actually to reject the divine in our lives.
So, how do we rate on that basis? I know we think of ourselves as a friendly, welcoming church but let’s not rest on our laurels and instead ask ourselves how we can be more welcoming, more hospitable to those who come for the first time and those that we don’t know well. When we are here in church, let us make those people our priority, always seeking to speak first to those we don’t know, don’t know well or haven’t spoken to for some time.
God calls us not just to be those who follow him but also to those sent out to prepare the way for him to come into the lives of others and challenges us too to be those who are also welcoming, always hospitable towards others.
James MacMillan - A Different World.