I asked a fellow Irish blogger today if he was going to post on the visit of the Queen to Ireland and he said something like it wasn’t of that much interest to him.

And maybe that’s the point. 

Despite those moaning about the cost of the visit and the sporadic attempts by dissident Republicans to pose a threat to the visit (we had a wee bomb alert in Maynooth where I live last night), the real significance of the visit is that it simply confirms Ireland’s evolution towards a globalised moderated nationalism – and that ain’t a bad thing.

‘Hot’ nationalist narratives in Ireland (whether Irish/Republican or Loyalist/British) have done enough damage and cost enough lives. I for one am glad to see an event that helps diminish the exclusionary and violent legacy of those stories.

What’s your take on Liz’s visit?


Transforming the World? The Gospel and Social Responsibility (3)

A third ‘quotable quote’ from this book, Transforming the World?: the Gospel and Social Responsibility, edited by Dewi Hughes and Jamie Grant.

I’m trying to prepare a series of 10 guest posts or so for Jesus Creed in June. This is the conclusion of a chapter that there won’t be room to discuss there, by Howard Marshall called ‘Luke’s “Social” Gospel: the social theology of Luke-Acts’.

It highlights the impossibility of ‘disentangling’ the gospel from its social implications.

Luke has a theology of a God who is generous and compassionate and condemns the way in which the rich make themselves rich at the expense of the poor. His Son Jesus was conspicuously  poor and called his disciples to beware of wealth and its temptations, and to practise giving, regarding their property and income as being held in trust for the good of others as well as themselves. To this end the early Christians encouraged charity so that the church was a microcosm of a society in which all shared together, the rich helping the poor so that poverty was eradicated. The faithful proclamation of the gospel includes its element of judgment on the selfish rich and the call to share with the needy. It also includes the expression of God’s compassion in care of the sick and disabled and the calling of rulers and ‘the mighty’ to practise righteousness (which includes compassion). (emphasis added)

Comments, as ever, welcome.

Sundays in Mark (57) Gethsemene (2)

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark and the events in the Garden of Gethsemene.

Jesus detaches himself from his three companions and prays audibly that he might be exempt from ‘the hour’ and ‘this cup’. Both refer to his betrayal, impending arrest and execution. Back in 10:38 Jesus had referred to ‘the ‘cup’ with which he would drink – a cup of suffering and wrath. His prayer to his Father here shows that this cup is a cup that ‘belongs to God’ – a cup of divine judgement.

His ‘Abba’ prayer reveals a unique, close Father-Son relationship, yet this closeness does not mean the Father takes away the cup, or that the Son refuses to drink it. Jesus’ mission is a triune partnership: the obedient Son, sent by the Father, empowered by the Spirit.

A joint mission that is now leading straight towards Jesus’ voluntary, self-giving confrontation with all the physical, spiritual and political powers allied against him.

So while Jesus appears to face this fate alone (the disciples fail to ‘get’ what is going on and are asleep every time Jesus returns), behind the scenes, and despite appearances, his Father is with him.

The looming cross will be no accident or merely a verdict of ‘sinners’ (vs 41). Against all logic and expectation, it will reflect the astonishing decision, planning and self-giving action of God.

No wonder Paul later would talk of the mystery of God’s salvation being revealed.

The cross? No-one sees it coming but the Son of Man.


35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Transforming the World? The Gospel and Social Responsibility (2)

A second ‘quotable quote’ from this book, Transforming the World?: the Gospel and Social Responsibility, edited by Dewi Hughes and Jamie Grant.

I’m trying to prepare a series of 10 guest posts or so for Jesus Creed in June.

Rather than replicate what will come there (discussion of 9-10 chapters or so), I thought I’d post a few quotable quotes to give a flavour of a thought-provoking series of essays in what is a very good and important book.

I’m cheating a bit with this example for a couple of reasons. First, I am quoting two quotes. Second, one of them is quoted in a chapter by Alistair Wilson ‘The Compassion of the Christ’ and is actually written by Chris Wright in The Mission of God, p.319.

It actually forms part of a curious bit of Wilson’s conclusion. He begins to criticise Wright’s 8 point proposal in that book for how to respond holistically to HIV/AIDS. Of eight responses, only one, says Wilson, involves specific presentation of the biblical gospel. His problem seems to be this:

Effective biblical instruction must be the foundation of a church’s response to the human tragedy it faces. As we observe Jesus’ portraits in the Gospel narratives, we find him devoting himself to the proclamation of the kingdom of God as least as much as he devotes himself to dealing with illness or hunger (see Matt. 9:35). Thus, recognition of the centrality of the message of the gospel is a significant aspect of what it means to have compassion as Jesus had compassion. (p.109)

But he qualifies this criticism of Wright three times.

– He agrees that Wright’s whole book is an extended exegesis of the biblical material.

– He agrees with Wright that a pietistic emphasis on evangelism accompanied by a lack of action is a travesty of the gospel.

And thirdly he cites approvingly this quote by Wright.

Mission may not always begin with evangelism. But mission that does not ultimately include declaring the word and the name of Christ, the call to repentance, and faith and obedience has not completed its task. It is defective mission, not holistic mission.

I think this exchange highlights the continuing tensions of how to frame the relationship of the gospel and social action. Wilson seems to be uncomfortable with how Chris Wright is framing a holisitc gospel, yet he’s also an honest and good enough scholar fairly to acknowledge Wright’s whole argument and he can’t find much to disagree with.

Is that how you read this? Comments, as ever, welcome. 

Transforming the World? The Gospel and Social Responsibility (1)

When I get a chance (on a train mostly) I’m reading this book.

Transforming the World?: the Gospel and Social Responsibility, edited by Dewi Hughes and Jamie Grant.

Hughes is theological advisor to Tearfund and member of the Lausanne Movement’s Theology Working Group. Grant is lecturer in Biblical Studies in The Highland Theological College in Scotland.

It has an impressive list of contributors, mostly but not exclusively within the UK.

I’m trying to prepare a series of 10 guest posts or so for Jesus Creed in June.

Rather than replicate what will come there (discussion of 9-10 chapters or so), I thought I’d post a few quotable quotes to give a flavour of a thought-provoking series of essays in what is a very good and important book.

 What do you think of this pretty bold statement opening line?

Evangelical Christianity has long been plagued by a dichotomy. In the last century liberals reduced the mission of God to social action and in response evangelicals reduced it to making individual converts by proclaiming the ‘gospel’. This was a case, common in the history of theology, of a bad argument being countered by an equally bad one.

Sundays in Mark (56): Gethsemene (1)

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. Today we’ve reached the crisis point of Gethsemene.

There is a lot to notice and reflect on, so just a couple of verses this week.

This is the third recorded occasion within Mark that Jesus prays – each time at crucial points and with a determination to continue with and fulfil his mission (1:35; 6:46).

It’s fascinating that Peter, James and John are invited to witness Jesus’ deep angst and troubled prayer. Peter had not imagined a Messiah who would be anything else but God’s agent of Israel’s liberation and has just confidently pledged undying loyalty unto death; James and John had asked for places of honour in the kingdom to come and also promised they could drink the cup Jesus was to drink (10:38-40).

Here they begin to witness close up the real cost of Jesus’ mission and are told to stay vigilant and keep watch.  Everything had been leading up to this.

Mark’s description of Jesus’ emotional state is exceptionally strong.  He seeks his Father in prayer but experiences only distress and angst. The full implications of the physical and spiritual horror to come are inexorably drawing together. The failure of the disciples to keep watch leaves Jesus on his own to keep going to the very end.

For Peter, James and John – and all who follow Jesus today – Gethsemene would in hindsight reveal the depths of the Son’s self-giving mission and call them to follow his example.


32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Seve: a loved great

Another digression into the world of golf, this time to mark the sad passing of easily (for me anyway) the most charismatic, exciting, dramatic, flawed, beautiful and brilliant player of them all.

I grew up idolising Seve. Watching him win the Open in 1979 is etched on my memory; his style, skill, courage and infectious extravagance overwhelmed his opponents that week, and would again and again during the 1980s – his victory at St Andrews in 1984 (pictured) the iconic moment of his career, but his final round 65 in 1988 to win for the third time was just as magnificent.

And none of this is to mention 2 Masters, Ryder Cups, over 50 European Tour victories, world No 1 for years and innumerable other achievements. He changed the face of European Golf in leading the way in taking on and beating the might of America.

His career was over all too quickly. He was undoubtedly a driven and difficult person. He was a fierce competitor and probably overstepped the mark on a few occasions.

But he always oozed dignity and class, in his painful career decline but also in his final physical decline as well. It was shocking to see the effects of the brain tumour, operations and chemotherapy on his body, making him almost unrecognisable.

His death at 54, more starkly than most given the intensity of his gifts, is a reminder of the fleeting and precious nature of life and how death in the end humbles us all.

Each of us will come face to face with God. Before him our greatest achievements will not count for much. The question is much more have we taken hold of his ‘greatest achievement’ –  new creation life in the Spirit through faith in the risen Christ?

Seve’s tumultuous life is a reminder of how beautiful and marvellous a gift it is. He lived passionately, he gave others such joy not only in winning but in how he won (and lost) – always with style and grace, mixed in with unpredictable drama and brilliance.

I think this is why so many millions of people not only admired Seve, but loved him.

And can you think of many (any) figures in modern sport of which that can be said?