Couldn't have said it better myself...

"We are all made in the image of the God we choose to serve."

Blaise Pascal



Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Beloved Little Lamb

This morning the lectionary readings contained what might be said to be an over-familiar passage, so I decided that instead of reading it and then preaching on it at Belfast South this morning, I would retell it as a monologue by Jairus in the light of the leactionary Psalm. So here it is...




Old Testament Reading
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lordfor with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Psalm 130 (NIV-UK)
Gospel Reading
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.  Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. 
Luke 8: 40-41
My Beloved Little Lamb
I was down in the depths and time was of the essence. He was our last chance. We had tried everything else… but she just kept getting worse and worse… I didn’t go to him lightly… I’ve got my position to think of. As a leader in the synagogue you can’t give credence to these itinerant wonderworking rabbis… Most of them are charlatans. And whilst we had heard about all the amazing things this one had done since he had come down from the hill country, he still kept strange company and said perplexing things… Challenging the traditions that I was sworn to uphold. But by the time he came back across from the other side of the lake this morning I was ready to try anything… Because she’s my life, my only daughter, 12 years old and so full of the joys of life… It seems like only yesterday that her cries as a newborn had filled our home and melted my heart… I had rocked her to sleep and bounced her on my knee. Her first word was Abba… I was her Abba… she was my taleh katan… my little lamb… my Rachel… and it was my fingers she held onto when she’d taken her first steps…
And now here she was about to take her first steps into adulthood... a beautiful young woman, and out of nowhere illness had struck her down… It started as almost nothing, a sniffle, a headache. We put her to bed; and we figured she’d be up and about in no time, but no, she just kept getting worse, day after day, developing a hacking cough, sweating and complaining that light hurt her eyes. She couldn’t keep anything in her stomach… Not even her mother’s broth, and that is usually the cure for all ills... Then she slipped into a deep, deep sleep… and her breathing, laboured at first, became shallower and shallower…
I’d seen it before… I’m sure we all have… and there was no reason to think that we should be immune… The angel of death was just as likely to visit us as any other house… And we felt his shadow looming over us.  But I still prayed “Why my little lamb?” I cried out to God for mercy… Did he not understand how much I love her? I would have done anything to save her...
So as I said, by the time news came that this rabbi Jesus had come  back to the town this morning I was completely distracted… I fought my way through the crowds to the shore and threw myself in the dust at his feet… I didn’t care about my reputation, all I cared about was my little girl. I begged him to come with me and heal her if he could.
And he reached down and helped me up, simply saying “lead the way…” 
But we had got no distance at all before he stopped dead in His tracks and asked “Who touched me?” It was ridiculous, I mean, there were people all around him, trying to get a piece of him, so there must have been hundreds who had “touched him”. But then a woman steps forward, and explains that she had reached out and touched just the hem of his garment, hoping that somehow this would heal her. She gabbled on saying that she’d suffered from bleeding for 12 years… And at that there was an intake of breath and a step back from most of the crowd around her…
A whole storm of emotions broke over me… I thought “How could she? She’s unclean. She shouldn’t even be out in public… Never mind going out deliberately to touch someone else…” And here she was stopping Jesus from getting to my little lamb before it was too late. I was appalled and angry…
But he just said to her “Go in peace; your faith has healed you”. Just like that! Faith. But she hadn’t been faithful. She had broken the law. And just at that moment my brother in law appeared, and I knew what he had to say before he opened his mouth.
‘Your daughter is dead, so don’t bother the teacher anymore.’
My world just dissolved…  I let an inhuman howl out of me… I was distraught… But in the same tone of voice he had used to that woman a moment before he said, “Don’t be afraid; she’ll be okay, just have faith.”
Again, faith… Of course I had faith… I am the leader of the synagogue… I have been faithful to God all my life… But right then I was angry at God for taking my daughter, angry at that woman for stopping us, angry at Jesus for spending time on a woman who had been unclean for the same time my innocent little lamb had lived…
I rushed back home… I didn’t care whether he was coming or not… I just had to get back. But he did come, and when he arrived he chased off all those who were wailing and weeping inside the house. ‘Stop wailing,’ he said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’ He went in to her bedroom with my wife and I and a couple of his followers… and, right enough, she did look just as if she was sleeping… But I’ve seen that before and it was no comfort at all, But then he just took her by the hand and said, “Child, get up!” and her eyes opened, and she smiled that smile that I always thought was only for me… and she sat up in bed! He then just turned to my wife, and said “You’d better get that girl something to eat!” She rushed off saying “I’ve got just the thing… some broth… would you like some yourself rabbi?”

But he’d gone again, with his followers. I didn’t even get the chance to say thank you… But at least I got the chance to tell my little lamb once more how much I love her. 

Selah

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Trinitarian Creed (Reblog)

Again, something from the earliest days of this blog, this time a  little something for Trinity Sunday... That Sunday when all sane preachers fein illness, and congregations stagger out of church after sermons that try (and invariably fail) to "explain" the trinity... A day when I am happy to live with mystery rather than try to comprehend the fullness of God in my tiny mind.





We believe in one God,
A Community of Three in a Unity of Being.

We believe in the Creator,
Creator of sky, earth and sea,
Creator of birds, animals and fish,
and us…
Creator of all that is, seen, unseen and unimaginable.

We believe in Jesus Christ,
Born of God…
Born of woman…
Born, lived, died, and rose again,
Born to teach, save, and give us hope.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The all pervading breath of God.
Who breathed life into us in the beginning
Who breathed life into the church at Pentecost
Who brings gifts and strength, and encouragement.

We believe in God, the Three in One.
The One in Three
The blessed, sacred Trinity.
An eternal dance of personality;
Diversity in unity
Creator, redeemer, sustainer.

We believe in the Church
Diversity in unity
A community stretching around the globe
And through the ages
And stretching out to all creation
Redeeming, sustaining.

We believe in God
We live in God
Three in one, one in three.
The living, loving trinity.

Shalom

Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Church (Reblog)

Next Sunday is Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church. It is also Aldersgate Sunday/Wesley Sunday in Methodist churchianity, and as of last year it is also the day when we in Ireland are supposed to remember the Methodist/Church of Ireland Covenant, AND its our local church anniversary and Presidential visit... So my head might be addled by the time I get that far... But I thougth I would post this wee skit for anyone looking for something for pentecost. I wrote it years ago and posted it in the early days of this blog. It's based on Ephesians 4: 7 which says:

"Christ has given each of us special abilities—whatever he wants us to have out of his rich storehouse of gifts." (The Living Bible)

All:            (Standin in a line and singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you...
1:              Happy Birthday... (Offering gift to number 2 out of a sack of gifts)
2:              O thanks... (taking gift and putting it straight down behind him)
1:              Aren’t you going to open it?
2:              Open what?
1:              The gift!
2:              What gift?
1:              That gift!
2:              Where?
1:              There!
2:              I don’t see any gift?
1:              There... I just gave to you...
2:              No you didn’t...
1:             Yes I did...
2:             Don’t believe you...
1:             Oh I give up!

All:           (Singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you...
1:             Happy Birthday... (Offering gift to number 3)
3:             O thanks... (taking gift and ripping off paper... finding tambourine) Amazing just what I always wanted... (starts banging it without any sense of rhythm... until finally throws it over his shoulder...) Anything else?
1:             What?
3:             Any other gifts?
1:             No... That was yours... You just threw it away...
3:             I was tired of that one... You must have others in there...
1:             No... They’re for others...
3:             Aw... Come on...
1:             No...
3:             Spoilsport!

All:           (Singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you...
1:             Happy Birthday... (Offering gift to number 4)
4:             No thanks...
1:             What?
4:             Don’t need it...
1:             What?
4:             I’ve got lots of great stuff... Why would I need your cheap gift?
1:             Well... I... Oh, never mind...

All:           (Singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you...
1:             Happy Birthday... (Offering gift to number 5)
5:             O thanks... Thanks very much (taking gift and unwrapping it to find a big tin of Quality Street)1: You’re welcome...
5:             That’s so kind... There’s so much here... Do you mind if I share them out?
1:             No... That’s why I gave them to you...
5:             Would you like one yourself...
1:             Don’t mind if I do...

All:             (Singing) Happy Birthday to you... Happy birthday to you... Happy Birthday dear church... Happy Birthday to you...
1:             Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
© David Campton 2005
Shalom

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Psalm for Sunday: the Not so Old 100th

It's been a while, for various reasons. But tomorrow we will be starting our service with this responsive reading based on Psalm 100, and given that, surprisingly I found that I hadn't paraphrased this Psalm previously here, I thought I would share it with the few of you who are still perusing these pages from time to time:




Everyone, everywhere shout with joy to the Lord
We worship the Lord gladly,
singing our way into his sanctuary.
Know this: The Lord is the one and only God.
He made us, so we are his.
We are his people,
He is the shepherd and we are his sheep.
Enter with thanks on your lips and praise in your heart;
We thank him for all he has done
And praise him for all that he is.
For the Lord is good and his love endures eternally;
his faithfulness extends to each and every generation.
Praise him
from Psalm 100

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Revisited

Palm Sunday is one of those Biblical stories that we are almost over-familiar with, so it is a good idea to look at it through someone else's eyes. A couple of years ago I posted this piece lloking at it through the eyes of a Roman centurion. I initially wrote it for an event in Skainos during Holy Week, but delivered it in the Agape centre this morning as part of our Palm Sunday celebrations, following this reading:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:‘Say to Daughter Zion“See, your king comes to you,gentle and riding on a donkey,and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
Matthew 21: 1-11 (NIV-UK)

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Call that a king!? Where’s his army? That rag-tag bunch of misfits and malcontents!? Oh I’m quivering in my boots. One platoon of proper soldiers could take that lot out in a matter of minutes. That’s what’s needed to keep the peace in this God-forsaken province – a firm hand… and a sharp sword…
Though why the Emperor could be bothered with this place I don’t know… The weather is lousy… the food is awful… and the people are obsessed with religion… They’re convinced that their God is the only God and that he has given them this land… I suppose in comparison with some of the other desert wildernesses around here it’s not a bad bit of real estate, but to hear them talk about it you would think it was the centre of the universe…
Because they think that their God has given them this land they don’t want us anywhere about the place. The only thing is that as much as they hate us, they seem to hate each other even more… They fight among themselves over their religion… Don’t understand a word of it myself – but if they’re fighting each other they’re not bothering us…
Mind you, messiahs are still two a penny in this province. There’s always someone ready to throw off the oppressive yoke of the empire… But they all end up the same way… Nailed to a cross so that the people can see what happens to the enemies of the empire.
But the Emperor needn’t be worried about this so-called King… He doesn’t seem up for the fight… 
We keep an eye on all these rabble rousing rabbis…We’ve got informers following all of them… reporting back what they say. With this one its all sorts of talk about loving your enemies and forgiving those who hurt you… Hardly the words of a revolutionary!  And his entrance there today bears that out… Not exactly a triumphal entry…
Now the Emperors… they know how to make an entrance… A golden chariot… Slaves captured in battle dragged along in chains… Soldiers in their parade ground best…
But this King… All he had was a bunch of northern fishermen, and some women and children… Singing old songs about salvation…
No… you mark my words… in a few days, weeks at the most, we’ll have forgotten about this guy and will have moved on to the next saviour…


Prayer:           
Jesus, Messiah…
Come to save us, not through conquest but by sacrifice
Forgive us where we forget that your Kingdom is not as the kingdoms of this world, 
where we follow the way of the world in seeking to overpower and dominate others to get our own way.
Forgive us where we cheer and celebrate when things are going our way, 
but forget that you call us to follow you along the way of the cross.
Forgive us where we are happy to lay down symbolic palm branches , 
but our not prepared to truly sacrifice our preferences, our priorities and ourselves
For others and the sake of your kingdom.
Hosanna! We are saved!
Blessed are you who came in the name of the Lord our God, AMEN.

Selah

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Psalm for World Church Sunday

I haven't posted a responsive Psalm for a while, but this is one we a re using in tomorrow's 11am service at the Agape Centre, when we will be reflecting on what the Apostle's Creed says about us us believing in the "Holy Catholic Church", and how teh Methodist  Missionary Society helps us to be a more effective part of the catholic or universal church.






Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous deeds among all peoples.
Honour the Lord, all you families of nations,
Honour the  Lord for his glory and strength.
Honour the Lord, giving the glory due to his name;
bring your offerings and come before him.
Worship the Lord in his holy splendour;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’
he will judge all people with equity.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
From Psalm 96

Selah

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The God of Carnage and his Wolfish Worshippers

Yesterday on facebook, my friend Ali White, who is one of the actors in Prime Cut's production of "The God of Carnage", plugged the last few shows by posting:
"Four more chances to see God of Carnage in the MAC in Belfast if you fancy it. It even made David Campton laugh and if that's not a recommendation of hilarity I don't know what is."
As I commented, I'm not sure whether that is a compliment or an insult... but to be tagged by Ali is flattering enough, and given that she is basing her comment on my carefully cultivated image as a grumpy old man (indeed Ali first knew me when I was a grumpy young man), I suppose it is a fair comment...
Because I did laugh... loudly (loudly enough for Ali to identify my laugh)... But I was genuinely disturbed that I had found it funny, because in many ways there is nothing funny about it. Indeed as the play began I felt slightly ill-at ease given that it begins with the repercussions of a violent encounter between two children, and this week had one young person in Enniskillen being arrested for the manslaughter of a younger boy in a playground altercation.
I also couldn't disengage my "drama-nerd" circuit and was wondering why the director hadn't changed the Parisien placenames to more local ones... But as the play went on an the nice, middle-class sniping spiralled downwards into Neanderthal brawling (both verbally and physically), I was drawn deeper and deeper into the mess of it all, and I laugher louder and louder.
But I was still asking myself, after the show ended, why a show which exposes the superficiality of polite society and has such a cynical view of human relationships, left me smiling at the end...
Part of it was that it was because it was so well acted and directed - and the director made the right decision in keeping in the Parisien placenames, because it prevented me and other members of the audience from righting off the attitudes and behaviours of the characters as being "typical of people from that part of town." Instead there was plenty for everyone to identify with in all the characters... although I particularly, and uncomfortably, identified with Michel, the middle aged self-confessed Neanderthal, played with his usual guto by Dan Gordon...
Good plays, well staged will usually leave me with a smile on my face... but not all comedies will leave me thinking for as long as this one has... It was not just Ali's post on facebook that prompted this post... It has been percolating since I came home from it on Tuesday... and it was probably exacerbated by the 5th episode in the wonderful "Wolf Hall" that I watched last night...
I didn't really enjoy Hillary Mantel's books... I just couldn't get into her idiosyncratic approach to dialogue... But in a dramatisation all that problem is removed... And the combination of a compelling story and superb performances, especially by the mesmeric Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell has left me transfixed week after week... And yet there is little to commend in the actions of many of the key players in this story. As another actor friend Roddy McDevitt, who knows and admires Mark Rylance said:
"Everyone loves it... Clearly there is something deeply dodgy about it... Sympathy for psychos... It somehow validates our murderous present day rulers..."
In the book Wolf Hall Cromwell refers to the Latin phrase "Homo homini lupus est" meaning "man is a wolf to man" in reference to how other courtiers preyed on his master Cardinal Wolsey... And this could be a subtitle to the whole story (including the third part of Mantel's trilogy which is yet to be inflicted on us.
Normally I find little joy in such stories... I avoid gangster stories (and is the story of the Tudors not a gangster story with codpieces and stockings?), and don't enjoy soaps, and thrillers that seem to wallow in the grimmer side of human existence. It's not that I am squeamish. It's just I see enough of it in my day job without watching it on TV, film or indeed the stage... For exactly the same reason I don't tend to watch Question Time or listen to Nolan... I don't enjoy watching people tear each other apart wolfishly, worshipping the God of Carnage who has an insatiable appetite for human sacrifices. But "The God of carnage" and "Wolf Hall" both point to our tendency to worship this cruel deity... whether we dress him up in Biblical clothes or deny his existence (or the existence of any deity) as nice modern secular middle class people tend to do these days...
I have no time for middle-class pretense and pretensiousness and the moralising that often comes with it... Nor do I have any time for the fanaticism of those who are so certain of their belief (or non-belief) that they will seek to destroy (physically or intellectually) those who believe differently.
I seek to serve a God of grace... revealled in Jesus of Nazareth, who reserved his anger and ire for those who used religious and political power to profit from and oppress others; who was prepared to die for others but not kill others... Not a wolf, but a lamb...
But a lamb wouldn't last much longer than a hamster in the plot of "God of Carnage"... Go see the play to understand that reference... you now only have 3 chances to see it... You will laugh, but you might end up asking yourself "why"?

Shalom