14 April 2014

Thinking biblically about Scottish identity: some resources

A couple of years ago the Scottish Evangelical Theology Society held a conference entitled, ‘A Godly Commonwealth? The Gospel and Scottish Identity’. With the referendum on Scottish independence approaching, they have now made the talks from that conference available as mp3s or pdfs. Their hope is that Christians will use this material as they think and pray about the ethical, moral and theological implications of independence.

SpeakerTitleMP3Bulletin PDF
David FergussonChristian Scotland: A Theological-Historical OverviewFergusson MP3 (38.4 Mb)SBET 31.1 (2013): 19-32
Jamie GrantA Biblical Basis of NationhoodGrant MP3 (40.4 Mb)SBET 31.2 (2013): 115-26
Panel*Scottish Nationhood: Personal PerspectivesPanel MP3 (42.0 Mb)
Dewi HughesMaking Sense of Being Welsh (Finlayson Lecture)Hughes MP3 (42.1 Mb)SBET 31.1 (2013): 5-18
Angus MorrisonChristian Witness in Postmodern ScotlandMorrison MP3 (29.3 Mb)SBET 31.1 (2013): 43-60
Doug GayIs a Christian Vision of Scottish Identity Viable in the Early 21st Century?Gay MP3 (40.4 Mb)SBET 31.1 (2013): 33-42
* The participants in the panel discussion were: John Mason (Scottish National Party), Michael McMahon(Scottish Labour Party), Rose Dowsett (Chair), Graeme McMeekin (Scottish Liberal Democrats), and Murdo Fraser (Scottish Conservative Party)

13 April 2014

Poem for Palm Sunday: ‘The Donkey’ by G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

06 April 2014

Poetry for Lent 5: ‘Ecce Homo’ by David Gascoyne

Whose is this horrifying face,
This putrid flesh, discoloured, flayed,
Fed on by flies, scorched by the sun?
Whose are these hollow red-filmed eyes
And thorn-spiked head and spear-stuck side?
Behold the Man: He is Man’s Son.

Forget the legend, tear the decent veil
That cowardice or interest devised
To make their mortal enemy a friend,
To hide the bitter truth all His wounds tell,
Lest the great scandal be no more disguised:
He is in agony till the world’s end,

And we must never sleep during that time!
He is suspended on the cross-tree now
And we are onlookers at the crime,
Callous contemporaries of the slow
Torture of God. Here is the hill
Made ghastly by His spattered blood

Whereon He hangs and suffers still:
See, the centurions wear riding-boots,
Black shirts and badges and peaked caps,
Greet one another with raised-arm salutes;
They have cold eyes, unsmiling lips;
Yet these His brothers know not what they do.

And on his either side hang dead
A labourer and a factory hand,
Or one is maybe a lynched Jew
And one a Negro or a Red,
Coolie or Ethiopian, Irishman,
Spaniard or German democrat.

Behind his lolling head the sky
Glares like a fiery cataract
Red with the murders of two thousand years
Committed in His name and by
Crusaders, Christian warriors
Defending faith and property.

Amid the plain beneath His transfixed hands,
Exuding darkness as indelible
As guilty stains, fanned by funereal
And lurid airs, besieged by drifting sands
And clefted landslides our about-to-be
Bombed and abandoned cities stand.

He who wept for Jerusalem
Now sees His prophecy extend
Across the greatest cities of the world,
A guilty panic reason cannot stem
Rising to raze them all as He foretold;
And He must watch this drama to the end.

Though often named, He is unknown
To the dark kingdoms at His feet
Where everything disparages His words,
And each man bears the common guilt alone
And goes blindfolded to his fate,
And fear and greed are sovereign lords.

The turning point of history
Must come. Yet the complacent and the proud
And who exploit and kill, may be denied–
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry-
The resurrection and the life
Wrought by your spirit’s blood.

Involved in their own sophistry
The black priest and the upright man
Faced by subversive truth shall be struck dumb,
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry,
While the rejected and condemned become
Agents of the divine.

Not from a monstrance silver-wrought
But from the tree of human pain
Redeem our sterile misery,
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry,
That man’s long journey
May not have been in vain.

05 April 2014

Poetry for Lent 4: ‘Pied Beauty’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
     For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
          For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
     Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
          And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
     Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
          With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                              Praise him.

26 March 2014

Marked by ashes

Here is a prayer by the Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann. I meant to post this on Ash Wednesday, but didn’t get around to it. However, it seems equally appropriate this (and every) Wednesday.
Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
    halfway back to committees and memos,
    halfway back to calls and appointments,
    halfway on to next Sunday,
    halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
    half turned toward you, half rather not.
This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
  but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
    we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
      of failed hope and broken promises,
      of forgotten children and frightened women,
   we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
   we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.
We are able to ponder our ashness with
   some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
   anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.
On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
  you Easter parade of newness.
  Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
    Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
    Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
  Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
   mercy and justice and peace and generosity.
We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

You can find it and more of his prayers in his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008).

23 March 2014

Poetry for Lent 3: ‘Mid-Lent’ by Christina Rossetti

Is any grieved or tired? Yea, by God’s Will: 
Surely God’s Will alone is good and best: 
O weary man, in weariness take rest,
O hungry man, by hunger feast thy fill.
Discern thy good beneath a mask of ill, 
Or build of loneliness thy secret nest: 
At noon take heart, being mindful of the west, 
At night wake hope, for dawn advances still. 
At night wake hope. Poor soul, in such sore need 
Of wakening and of girding up anew, 
Hast thou that hope which fainting doth pursue? 
No saint but hath pursued and hath been faint; 
Bid love wake hope, for both thy steps shall speed, 
Still faint yet still pursuing, O thou saint.

16 March 2014

Poetry for Lent 2: ‘Lent’ by George Herbert

Welcome deare feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie,
                                                    But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
                                                    To ev’ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos’d of love and fear
Begins at home, and layes the burden there,
                                                    When doctrines disagree.
He sayes, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandall to the Church, and not
                                                    The Church is so to me.
                              
True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
                                                    When good is seasonable;
Unlesse Authoritie, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it lesse,
                                                    And Power it self disable.

Besides the cleannesse of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
                                                    A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulnesse there are sluttish fumes,
Sowre exhalations, and dishonest rheumes,
                                                    Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
                                                    And goodnesse of the deed.
Neither ought other mens abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
                                                    We forfeit all our Creed.

It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
                                                    Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.
                                                    In both let’s do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
                                                    That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
                                                    May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast
                                                    As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor,
                                             And among those his soul.