Posts Tagged 'jesus'

Gotta Serve Somebody

“You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride.
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side.
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair.
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”.

From “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan.

My bro’, Keith, used this video clip recently.  It’s old-skool, but it’s so true.

I Came To Believe.

“And I came to believe in a power much higher than I.
I came to believe that I needed help to get by.
In childlike faith I gave in and gave Him a try.
And I came to believe in a power much higher than I”.

From “I Came To Believe” by Johnny Cash.

P8040022

I’ve been musing upon why I find it hard to share my faith.  What is my story when I distill it down beyond places and people and specific periods of time?

I think it actually involves realising that just like most people I wanted to believe that my life counted.  I wanted to harness my potential.  I wanted to believe that I could change things and make a difference.  I wanted to believe that there was more to life than getting a decent job, a nice car, a house in the right postcode and 2.4 children.  I wanted to believe that I didn’t have to conform to some conveyor belt mentality or appearance.  I wanted to think for myself.

That said, life seemed really big.  I was daunted by it.  I was fearful of the consequences of my decisions and the ramifications they might have on how life unfolded.  I lacked confidence and I worried about these things.

I met Christians who seemed to have something in their lives that I didn’t.  It was authentic and attractive.  It permeated every part of their everyday lives.  It was something I wanted more of in my own life.  As I watched and observed them, I found myself spending more time with them and reading the Bible and trying to grapple with what I believed it really had to say.  I committed myself to Christ and His teachings.

It’s not that life is always easy now or that I always make the right decisions, but I do feel anchored.  I have deep peace amidst the storms of life and all of the constant juggling.  I find a purpose in the big and small things of everyday life.  I have a sense of guidance and direction.  I see a bigger picture than just my immediate circumstances.  I feel enormously thankful for the way many of the big questions I had in terms of life decisions have panned out.  I have security and hope.  I have a real sense of not being alone.  I feel that I am growing into the person I was always meant to be.

I’m still learning, still questioning, still wrestling, but I think that’s what keeps faith alive.  I’m trying to see how to apply it and I am aware of my own short-comings.  It’s not been a bunch of rules or traditions that have hindered or shackled me, but something that has freed me.  Sure, I have plenty of off days, but I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything in the world.

Jesus’ Hands

Every August the city I have come to call home witnesses a transformation.  The Festival brings throngs of tourists who congest the pavements and slow the locals down as they try to get from A to B whilst muttering sounds of discontent at the inconvenience.  What do Edinburgh’s residents make of those who pack out the various events on offer?  What do they make of us, our great city and our culture?  What are they looking for as they roam our streets?  Do they find it?

The Festival brings a great buzz with it.  Back in 2003 we took a week off work to simply be tourists on our own streets.  It was great – to slow down, to savour the sights, sounds, smells and tastes…

The Festival is floods our city with streams of creativity because it brings so many people who are seeking to express something or make a connection whether through stand up comedy, theatre, music, performance or literature.  To create something and to share that with an audience is to embark upon an inherently risky venture.  It reveals vulnerability, but, just maybe it will resonate and create a moment of definition.

Today I strolled along to The National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street to see a free exhibition of Scottish artists called Rough Cut Nation.  Amidst the street art, graffiti, scribbles and paintings, a face looked out at me from a wall – huge, unassuming in it’s hooded top and, yet, strangely familiar.  A bunch of adjectives framed the upper border and a selection of ordinary and extraordinary faces and images peered through the streaks of running paint that bled down the walls. 

 IMG00290

The figure had huge hands stretched out which were punctured, enabling me to peer right through to the life and movement and bustle and flow of people in the adjoining installations. 

IMG00291

The photo’s snapped on my Blackberry don’t do it justice, so I’d recommend that if you’re in Edinburgh that you take the chance to get along between now and the 30th of August. 

The image reminded me of lyrics penned by one of my favourite singer songwriters.  The last time I saw the original line up of American Music Club play in a sweaty King Tuts in Glasgow, they finished the set with this song.  Mark Eitzel was lost in the music and delivery, rolling his head around, eyes shut, letting the distance he was creating between his vocal chords and the mic add to the intensity and earnestness of this hopeless song…

“Looking for love in all the wrong places –
The sidewalks and the sky.
Looking for something that no one can give me
And no one can help me buy.

Oh brother, oh sister.
Don’t you see a crack form in the dam?
For a loser, no one can touch him,
He’s out slipping through Jesus’ hands”.

From “Jesus’ Hands” by American Music Club.
 

Personal Jesus

“Your own, personal, Jesus.
Someone to hear your prayers,
Someone who cares.
Your own, personal, Jesus.
Someone to hear your prayers,
Someone who’s there.”
 
From “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode.
471544684_0a86fbacc1_m
I’ve learned about a really exciting project in recent weeks.  The National Portrait Gallery of Scotland will be hosting an exhibition later this year entitled Rough Cut Nation.  You can get the lowdown at www.roughcutnation.co.uk
This unique multimedia project draws together a group of young artists from around Scotland to create a dramatic collaborative installation. Rough Cut Nation will feature artwork and designs from Elph, Fraser Gray, Kirsty Whiten, Mike Inglis, Peter Martin, Jason Nelson, DUFI, Machism, Paco, Jo Basford, Janie Nicoll and Skint. The project will also feature artwork produced by young people working with Rough Cut artists on offsite projects. For the Edinburgh Festival they will construct a remixed version of Scottish history as informed by street art and graffiti culture, painted, pasted and projected directly onto the walls of the Portrait Gallery.

The project updates William Hole’s original decorative mural scheme of 1889-1898, depicting important events from Scotland’s past. This new installation exploits the empty space produced by the Gallery’s current closure for redevelopment.

The original mural by William Hole’s portrays elements of Scottish history with strong religious and at times Protestant overtones. 

As one of the artist duos involved, DUFI, are interested in exploring religious iconography and the use of Jesus as moral or social catalyst both within Scottish history and contemporary culture.   

With that in mind they would like to ask three questions: 
1)  In one word, describe who was/is Jesus?
2)  In one word, what does Jesus have to do with Scottish History?
3)  What impact has Jesus had on Scotland past, present and future?
The answers that DUFI collect from these questions will potentially form part of the final artwork, but will not be attributed to any one individual.
That is so cool.  So many of the great pieces of art that adorn gallery walls are full of religious imagery.  Whilst much of it is appreciated for its great craftsmanship – how much of it connects with us or grabs our attention?  Things that were deemed blasphamous or shocking in centuries past are often lost on us today.  Maybe it’s time to re-paint a modern image of who we think Jesus is or was?  I don’t mean just trite cliches, but who or what do we think of Jesus in the context of these questions?  How would our friends, colleagues and neighbours think about them?  This project has so much potential for us to see Jesus in a new and relevant and honest way. 
Can I commend this project to you?  Please send your answers to DUFI.JESUS@GMAIL.COM  or alternatively reply online www.dufi-art.blogspot.com
Peace.

Wonder (part 9)

This is the final post in a series of  posts exploring lyrics touching upon the notions of “Church” and “State” written during the eighties.

Post 1 can be linked to here.  Post 2 is accessed here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here.  Post 5 can be found by clicking here.  Post 6 is here, Post 7 is here and Post 8 is here.

Since the time of the song being penned we have lived through the terms of office of George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.  As we crawl out of 2008 into a new year, we also sit on the cusp of a new presidency in Barack Obama.  There is a quote that seemed to be everywhere toward the latter months of the year:

“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama is running so our children can fly.”

Yet, as I learned of the Civil Rights Movements and Martin Luther King at school, it seemed like ancient history rather than something that occurred within the past 50 years or so.  What fast progress to now witness America’s first Black president about to take the reigns.  Whilst there seems to be a sense of a new dawn, he inherits a financial mess, an economic mess, an environmental mess in our ever shrinking global village.  If ever we need to pray for our leaders it is now.

These posts have sought to return to ancient truths whilst looking at issues we see around ourselves today; church and state; war and peace; God and politics; faith and action.  It reminds me of lyrics penned by Woodie Guthrie and put to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.  Woodie Gothrie’s recording career was over by 1947, however, he kept on writing hundreds of unrecorded songs and these set of lyrics do not have a specifc date, but seem just as relevant to me today as they would have been when dreamt up by Guthrie:

37976177_b2cf07df60

“Let’s have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That they call the Nazarene

The only way
We could ever beat
These crooked politician men

Is to cast the moneychangers
Out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in

Oh it’s Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring

Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars

But with the Carpenter
On the seat
Way up in the capitol town

The USA
Be on the way
Prosperity bound”

From “Christ For President” – lyrics written by Woodie Guthrie

I guess that I am learning that Christ is my Saviour and My King.  If that is true, then He governs not just where I place my “X” on a voting slip, but how I vote in terms of what I consume, what I re-use, reduce and recycle.  It should determine how I vote with how I invest my time.  It should influence how I use my consumer vote with my money in terms of how ethical or otherwise my purchasing habits are – how are the goods I buy made?  What shops or manufacturers should I avoid (Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” might be slightly dated now, but still serves as an excellent manifesto and call to arms).  How many food miles have been involved in my food?  Do I buy fair=trade wherever possible?  Should I buy organic as often as possible?  Is my home properly insulated?  Do I use low energy light bulbs and do I switch them off when they are not needed?  Do I leave the TV on standby?  Do I take the plane when I could take the train?  Do I drive when I could walk or cycle?  Justice is a big thing.  Worship is a big thing.

Hopefully, this little series of posts have got you and I both thinking…

There was an old skateboarding sticker back in day with the slogan, “Don’t die wondering.”  Sometimes we need to stop procrastinating, to just act upon things or try them out.  At other times it’s good to challenge our beliefs or perceptions.  I think it’s good to grapple with how to really apply our faith in a myriad of situations we find around us – surely, that is what we are called to do?  The danger is that we just muse and talk and hypothesise. 

Whether you have found these posts helpful, interesting or irritating – then I would still recommend the following three books to you:

irresistable-revolution1a)  “The Irresistible Revolution – Living As An Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne.

 

 

jesus-for-presidentb)  “Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.

 

 

 

 

biblec)  The Bible.

 

Peace be with you all.

Wonder (part 6)

This is the sixth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here and post 5 is here.

3061403691_76868974ba_m

So as I mentioned earlier, the same day of the terrorist attach on Glasgow Airport in July 2007 we went to hear Rob Bell deliver a presentation in Glasgow entitled “Calling All Peacemakers”.  What does that look like?  Thank you Fourth space for sharing your notes from the talk which I have heavily plagiarised for this post!!!

Rob pointed out that the Kingdom of God is here, right now, and is present.  The message of Jesus is to return (to repent) and get back into a right life.  BUT: We live in an evil, dark world.  A world with fighting and turmoil and pain. What does Jesus say to that?

Jesus says if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one.  He helpfully explained that for the Jews, the right hand was the clean hand, used for eating and handshakes.  The left hand was used for…..well, not polite stuff anyway.  You’d want to wash your hand.  So the left hand was unclean.  So you would only strike someone with your right hand, as otherwise you would be unclean.  You had two options – a right hand fist to the right cheek (hitting with a fist was indicating that person was your equal – remember it was all about relative status) or secondly, to slap – to strike an unequal, with the back of your right hand; this would be done only to a slave, a minion, a soldier below you, to someone less human than you.  So if someone hit you on the right cheek, then it follows that it must have been a slap as they couldn’t hit the right cheek with their right fist.  To have been hit on your right cheek must have indicated that the person hitting you thought you were below them – a lesser human being.  So when you turn the cheek, they would have to hit you with the fist, treating you as an equal.  It was a simple way of turning things upside down of asserting that you did not consider yourself less than them and asking them to recognise that.  It moved the position of the person being struck from unequal to equal.  This simple action takes away power and coercion.   It says, “Treats me as equal.  Validate me”.

If someone takes your coat, then give your shirt also.  Remember that the Jews would have had 2 layers – a shirt, then a coat.  So if someone sues you and takes your coat (what if you have only that left, 80-90% tax rates at the time – Jews had been conquered, there was a big army, which was in need of high revenues, so there was a high tax on people conquered – e.g. census at Christmas for purpose of counting people).  People were losing family lands.  People were oppressed.  People who were poor and having to get hired out hourly to work on their own land.  These people were experiencing shame, humiliation and guilt.  All you have left is your coat.  You are poor.  Jesus says to give to them your shirt also.  Why?  Because viewing the nakedness of another was shameful in that culture for the person who viewed it – not the person who had been stripped bare.  Again, this turns things upside down.  The master would then say “stop doing that”, put your clothes back on.  The oppressed person is now acting, the master begging him to stop.  It offered an innovative, peaceful and practical way to deal with the situation.  The genius is that the aggressor may change his heart and give the coat back.

Jesus says if demanded to walk 1 mile, then go another one.  Romans mastered the place, these are the people who invented crucifixion.  These were not nice conquerors.  Roman soldiers could demand that you walked with them, to carry their pack – even if on Sabbath, you had no choice, even if it meant being apart from your family.  It treats you like an animal.  BUT Roman military rules restricted this to 1 mile per person.  So if you then walked another mile, the Romans had to beg you to stop – otherwise they would be in trouble with the military commanders and could face a court marshall.  The Romans would have begged you to stop.  A Roman wouldn’t want to be caught punishing a person who was carrying their pack.  So Jesus says be fearless. Go the 2nd mile.  Put the Roman in an awkward situation.  Ask him to do something.

The world we live in suffers from lack of imagination.

When we suffer wrong there are 2 approaches we usually take:

1)  Do nothing.  Pacifism.  Turn the other cheek.  Take it.  God loves you.  Jesus gave my spine to someone else.  This is not what Jesus is advocating.

2)  Strike back.  Pick up the sword and swing.  Corresponding level of aggression.  “Let me tell you about those gossips so you can pray better for them” etc. At that moment you have just lost.

Jesus is giving a 3rd way.  Not passivity.  3rd way theology.  Jesus pioneered non-violence.  Gives us imagination.

Turn the other cheek.  Do not co-operate with anything that humiliates you.  Preserve the image of God.  Protect the humanity.  He holds out the possibility that the aggressor may have a change of heart.  We can see it acted out in more modern examples e.g. Freeze practices of Danish resistance.  Chose a random time, e.g. Thurs 2.07, held a 2mins freeze.  Saved thousands of people, allowed thousands to escape WWII with their conscience intact.

Is there a 3rd way here today? Can I do things differently?

How can you get to the oppressor asking you to stop your innovative, non-violent and yet provocative action?

The 3rd way demonstrates tremendous creativity and  massive courage.

THE CROSS

This was first seen as an icon 300-400AD, funnily enough the same time as the Romans died out.  Crucifixion was a genius tool for oppressors – kills people, they suffer for a time, most people can see it and heed its warning.  The cross only became art when people who had seen crucifixion died out. – YET WE SING SONGS OF THE CROSS & ITS POWER. HAD COSMIC IMPLICATIONS FOR FIRST CHRISTIANS. GOD RECONCILES ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF THROUGH THE CROSS.  God makes peace with all things.  Very real reconciliation.  The work has been done, it’s about trust through the cross & resurrection.

BUT REMEMBER THAT THIS RECONCILIATION REFERRED TO ALL THINGS. Reconciliation – trusting Jesus is where it starts.  The cross is our personal encounter with Jesus.  Christ wants to put each of us back together.  The cross is the only hope.

As church experiences shalom together He works inside us, bonds us to others.  We then understand we need to bring shalom to the world.  God wants to reconcile himself to all things.

The world today

– 6bn people

– USA 300m

– UK 60m

This is only 8% of the world population.

  • 1 billion people do not have clean drinking water
  • 2.6bn people do not have adequate sanitation – leads to lower immune rates etc
  • 780-800m people are hungry due to no food
  • 2.2bn children. 1bn live in poverty (absence of basic necessities)
  • 2bn no electricity
  • 80% live in sub-standard housing
  • 1bn can not read or sign their name
  • Wealthiest 1% have same net worth as poorest 57%
  • 1bn people live off <$1/day
  • 2bn more <$2/day

THIS IS NOT SHALOM

  • 20% of the world consume 86% of world’s resources

In Rwanda there was a woman who was very poor – a micro-finance loan was given, she bought a stall, built house & owns it, uniforms & food for kids & they go to school.  She was able to pay the loan back. $40 loan.  Given to someone else. Etc etc.   For these particular series of talks Rob Bell was offering £1 off the ticket price and that £1 went to turami, to micro-finance in Burundi where $90 is the average annual income.  The repayment rate on micro-finance loans is 98-99% globally.

All the spare money from the speaking tour went to turami.  Lets set out to bring shalom.  Catch a vision for being a peacemaker.  Bring shalom to the world.

 Peace & Shalom.

Mercy

371599814_5bea84c1b6

On my previous post I asked what single song you would sing if you were lying out in the gutter dying and you had time to sing one song…One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on earth.  One song that would sum you up…

Whilst I often love clever lyrics, at the end of the day some things just need to be said as they are.  Whatever our life experience or standing in society, we all fall short and hide behind masks and ultimately there comes a time when we simply stop pretending…

Is there time when old hymnals come back to mind and we recite phrases like “amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”?  How seldom many of us see ourselves in that light.  And yet for untold numbers of others, they see themselves simply in that light with no hope of restoration.

I’ve been thinking it over for a couple of days and have concluded that I’d choose the same song as Scott.  So, when it all boils down to it the song I’d choose is as follows:

“Well I have wandered away from the narrow path

Have I gone so far that you won’t have me back?

You see my reaction to the world’s distractions.

If the apple is sweet, then I am bound to eat…

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me.

Well I came to you from that lonely place

At the end of the season from the sea and the sun

If you’re really there and you really care

Surely you will understand the depths of my despair 

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me.

Will you listen to me in my moment of weakness?

I’m your prodigal son and I’m looking for rest

Forever

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me”.

From “Mercy” by Gena Rowlands Band.

The above comes from the “Flesh and Spirits” album which I consider my best find of 2007.  I now regard it as one of the most important albums I own.  Whilst, the language may not always be the way in which I would articulate things, this record has helped me view life, love, attraction, temptation, sex, death, God and the human condition in a way like precious little other music has done for a long time.  If that has got you intrigued, then you can listen to some of the tracks at their myspace page here or order the album here.

One of my friends saw Gena Rowlands Band play a gig in Brooklyn last year.  They finished the set with this song.  Bob Massey sung the song whilst the rest of the band packed up their gear around him and those gathered in the venue began to sing along the refrain, “Lord, have mercy on us”.  I love that picture –  a small bar full of people, many of whom, I expect, would never consider entering a church and yet singing words together that they can understand and own.  It makes me think about how little time Jesus spent in religious places compared with how much time he spent with ordinary people in their everyday lives.

As Scott also recently commented in an email to me – church is more like a hospital for sinners than a museum for saints.  There’s a lot of truth in that and yet I wonder how many churches that actually rings true for?


RSS What I’m Listening To

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
Blog for Amnesty - Protect the Human