Sometimes, you meet someone who longs for change but just keeps defaulting back into the old bad habits. Meet Derek:
A little sideline I have is to write a few music reviews for the Cross Rhythms website. I have just written reviews on another four, and thought I would take a moment to highlight two of them. Christian music gets slated in some circles for being inferior to the mainstream, and there is some justification for this criticism. Art gets reduced to propaganda, and an ‘it will do’ attitude sometimes has to prevail for budgetary reasons. However, the two releases I am about to mention stand worthy comparison with anything I have heard anywhere in the last year. No bones about it.
The Redemption Center‘s album Land Of Plenty is top-class Americana. It has joy and melancholy, personal devotion and social concern. If you like the Jayhawks, Steve Earle, the Vigilantes of Love or Lost Dogs, this is for you. Go to their listening room to hear the album.
The other album is vastly different – from The Redemption Center, from anything else I’ve ever heard. Jason Carter is a virtuoso guitarist, particularly known for playing a baroque instrument, the harp guitar. Along with his twin neck acoustic classical guitar, he adds looping and sampling from around the world. So his CD Falling has influences from Germany, Finland (professional female funeral singers), Afghanistan and the North Korean Military Orchestra and Choir. Yes, really. The more western stuff can sound a little like Phil Keaggy‘s instrumental albums, but it’s largely quite demanding stuff to listen to – I think one track had fourteen beats to the bar, for example. So it is very surprising when he ends with a reading of Abide With Me!
Here is the relatively conventional You Shine
and here is the more demanding Pühajärve
What was the first gig you ever attended? Mine was in 1976 at the Picketts Lock Centre in my native Edmonton. I was a brand new sixteen-year-old Christian, and the local churches were about to hold a mission with the evangelist Don Summers. In the run-up to the crusade, a concert was staged by a mainly American Christian band called Liberation Suite. Originally from Texas, they for a period of time lived out their faith in Troubles-torn Belfast. None of the money-and-luxury-grabbing lifestyle seen latter on the Contemporary Christian Music scene in some quarters for them. Here is later footage (1991) of them performing a medley of Irish Jig and Emerald Isle, their song about their heart for the people suffering in the Troubles:
They had another Irish connection. They had recruited Stephen Houston on keyboards, a Christian convert who had been playing in Irish prog-rock band Fruupp. Because of that, I had expected their music to be quite proggy. It turned out more like Chicago – not the sappy, sentimental Chicago post-If You Leave Me Now, but the brassy, earlier version.
The band had been recommended by a church youth club friend who had recently gone off to study at Surrey University in Guildford (only a few miles from where I am now). He had seen them perform there. In particular, Dave Goodwin raved about a song called Run Run Lucifer, and it became my favourite song by the band, too. Again, here’s a YouTube clip of the band performing that song (again, later – this is 1990):
Why write about this now? A few months ago, I discovered that LibSuite, as they were often known, had issued a Live In Europe CD that commemorated a gig they had played in 1976, the year I had seen them play. I ordered it from the only available source, CDBaby. However, after several weeks, they emailed me to say they could not supply it. I decided to contact the band via their website, to see whether there was any other way of obtaining it. To my great joy, drummer Randy Hill sent me a copy, and it arrived yesterday.
I’m not suggesting every LibSuite fan contacts Randy! But it was a lovely sign of a band that has always had a good heart.
I don’t think I’m going to preach a brand new sermon this week. The Lectionary Gospel and Epistle are both fascinating: both Luke 7:36-8:3 amd Galatians 2:15-21 (especially if you take the latter in its context from verse 11 onwards) raise the question of table fellowship being used as a sign of who is included in or excluded from the people of God. In the case of the Luke reading, I don’t think I can yet improve on a sermon I preached three years ago on it, despite yesterday reading the chapter on the incident in Michael Frost‘s recently reissued expanded edition of Jesus The Fool. (Highly recommended, BTW.) When it came to Galatians, I again dug out Tom Wright‘s book from last year, Justification, which inspired my recent sermon about justification based on Romans 5:1-11. However, this time, much as Wright enlightened my understanding of the text, I didn’t come away feeling I had something to share with a congregation in a sermon.
So I thought I’d point you to something else on the web. Someone else, actually. Last year while I was on sabbatical, I blogged about my encounters with the extraordinary George Kovoor, current Principal of Trinity College, Bristol. Well, George has just launched his own website, Kairos Global, and I commend it to you. At this stage it’s rather sparse, but you can start to gain a feel for the ministry of this remarkable man. The lead article that begins on the home page will certainly give you a flavour. There are also a couple of videos, showing five-minute extracts from longer presentations. One is also available on YouTube, so by the magic of WordPress I reproduce it below:
I can’t say I can work out what he’s doing broadcasting on TBN Europe in the company of the Creflo Dollars of this world, but Jesus didn’t worry who he mixed with (any more than the late Rob Frost worried about broadcasting on God TV) and at least it gets some sound teaching out there.
I think George’s site will be well worth watching, especially if it is updated frequently. If his admin can put on some of his talks, whether text, audio or video, in full, it will be invaluable for all of us who care about the evangelisation of the West – and, indeed, the entire world.
Oh, and for something lighter, you can always join the Facebook group George Kovoor Is Mad.
I’ve been aware through mailshots and emails for a few months that the Christian missionary charity Focus has been putting together a new resource called ‘God: New Evidence’. With contributions from scientist-theologians such as John Polkinghorne and David Wilkinson, there are videos you can embed in your own blog or site free of charge, which are also available on a DVD for £14.99 (currently UK PAL only – NTSC following later). You can view them on the site or on YouTube by searching for the user ‘godnewevidence’ (omit the quotation marks). Here by way of a taster is the first one:
You can also become a Facebook fan or follow the project on Twitter. Bible translator and former biologist Eddie Arthur commends it here, as does Anglican priest Doug Chaplin here (with the reservation that he thinks cosmology might be more sympathetic to faith than evolutionary biology).
This is an encouraging and worthwhile resource. We should be careful not to claim too much for it in response to Dawkins hysteria. Just because Dawkins and his friends claim science can disprove God, we shouldn’t rush to assume scientific research can prove every aspect of Christian doctrine. (Not that I’m suggesting Focus think this, I’m more thinking about how people might try to use the material.)
What can we claim? Passages such as Romans 1 make it clear that an appreciation of the world carries with it a basic revelation of God – but no more. The Focus material is therefore an excellent argument for the existence of God, and forms a foundation which the Holy Spirit can use in further revealing the Good News of the Kingdom in Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection. In short, rational evidence gives us not complete proof but enough evidence for trust in God. The latter requires the work of the Spirit in a person’s life.
I am not posting a new sermon this weekend. I’m preaching a couple of old ones tomorrow. Blogging also remains light, due to personal circumstances behind the scenes.
However, I have created a simple video of images for a harvest psalm (Psalm 67) and set it to Ian White‘s son ‘May the peoples praise you’. Facebook friends will find it on my profile, but I have also uploaded it to YouTube, so courtesy of them I thought I’d share it here. For those who like the song, it was released on his CD ‘Holy Ground‘.
I may have been critical of our current Labour Government again on Wednesday, but I am generally supportive of them when it comes to the NHS. Some of the recent attacks from the States (and even here) look dumb in the extreme. Can we just remind the Investor’s Business Daily that Stephen Hawking is both British and alive, for example? (Even the corrected version of the article, to which I have just linked, doesn’t fully correct all the facts and still leaves room for doubt about the role of the NHS with respect to the brilliant scientist’s health.) And as for the views of Conservative MEPs Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer that we should abolish it because 80% of Americans get better health care, well hang on: for all the faults of the NHS (and I’ll come to some of them), a Christian has to remember not just the 80% but the 20% – that is, the poor. Oh, and twice as much GDP is spent on health care in the US than here. Who is going to campaign to double our spending, even on top of the rises under the current administration?
So it’s not surprising that Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister who ‘got down wiv da kids’ by making policy announcements on YouTube, has now sent a message of support to the Twitter campaign #welovethenhs. Of course it’s political that he does so, but – hey – I actually agree with him here. (Just as I do on his concern for the welfare of the poorest nations in the world.)
Why? For theological reasons. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. That has to be seen corporately. I have had it argued to me in the past by conservative American Christians that it is the sole preserve of the church to offer healthcare and healing to society. Yeah, right. Because that is going to cover everyone, isn’t it?
Less cynically, although I come from the Arminian theological tradition and am therefore meant to view almost everything John Calvin said with suspicion, I find value in his concept of ‘common grace’ – that the sun shines on the righteous and unrighteous, as Jesus said. Surely health and healing would be among such common blessings.
Personally, I have benefitted from the NHS. Most recently in major terms, it was the nasal surgery I had in May (a septoplasty and submucus resection, for those who like the medical swearwords). That surgery corrected a lifetime’s breathing problem. Nobody questioned me about the level of my medical cover, or whether my premiums were paid. I was simply treated. Then, a week ago, on the night before going away on holiday, I began to suffer pain in the right rib area. A phone call to NHS Direct led to advice that I should attend our nearest Accident and Emergency unit at a nearby hospital. They soon reassured me I didn’t have the feared spontaneous pneumothorax (OK, I’m showing off, that’s a collapsed lung) but had something close to a torn abdominal muscle. Triage, chest x-ray, time with a doctor, all without question, through until 2 am from dedicated professionals. Then away on holiday the next morning. First class.
No, it isn’t perfect, and I have some issues with it. The ‘postcode lottery’ is a common concern. For the uninitiated, this refers to differing policies in different areas, resulting in some people being eligible for treatment in their location but others in another area not being, perhaps due to age or general priorities.
Then there are issues of the budget being used up for causes that give me moral problems. The widespread use of abortion is the obvious one. Some uses of cosmetic surgery might be another. I could easily add othercontentious treatments to this list, and I apologise for just brief comments – however, the purpose of this paragraph is not to go into fine detail, but simply to mark up the fact that I have concerns about several significant areas.
But let’s get it straight. Supporting the NHS does not make you a Marxist, so let’s ditch that bit of ignorant propaganda that seeks to label people rather than engage with the issues. That kind of nonsense makes it sound like McCarthyism is back from the dead. Most Christians in the UK of various political and theological persuasions would concur that being in general favour of the NHS (whatever particular quibbles we have) is thoroughly consistent with Christian principles.