Tuesday, 10 April, 2012, 07:54 AM - WilkinsonRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
The ceasefire plans in Syria are falling apart. This is what happens when people don't trust one another.
The Dalai Lama says we shouldn't destroy our neighbours. He's not a Christian, but he's very religious and holy so I think he's worth listening to when he says we shouldn't destroy our neighbours.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Syria and the Dalai Lama, that's exactly the same as Easter, what a coincidence! Jesus dying on the cross is where trust begins. I'm a Rev Dr Dr Prof, you can trust me on this.
I know a senior clergyman in Nigeria who wants to learn about Islam. He wants to learn what we both have in common. [Ed - hint: homosexuals.]
That's the kind of courage we need to bring faiths together. The question is where might I make the first move? I rather fancy I might try one of the many inter-faith buffets that are often being arranged.
Monday, 9 April, 2012, 06:59 AM - BellRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Is it easier to celebrate a tragedy or a victory? This is the question I asked myself this weekend: Is it easier to celebrate a tragedy or a victory?
I'm going to give you a few examples where it seems to be easier to celebrate a tragedy than a victory, but given that it's Easter and I'm mentioning the words "tragedy" and "victory", you probably already know where I'm going with this.
The Titanic was a tragedy, having to restart the boat race was a tragedy, an over ripe banana is a tragedy, but the greatest tragedy of all is seeing an innocent person persecuted. And so we finally come to where you all knew I was going all along, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend being tortured to death for our sins was a tragedy. But he came back to life again, which is a victory. Hurrah!
I am now going to end with an insight that was really worth getting out of bed early for on a damp Bank Holiday Monday morning.
Jesus loves you.
Today is the most boring day in the Christian calendar, which I'm sure you'll agree, is really saying something. It's so dull. It's so drab and dull and tedious and boring. There's nothing for us priests to do. I know lots of you will be wanting to go to church today to enjoy a nice mass. Well don't bother, there isn't one.
It was even worse for the disciples. All they knew was that the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend was dead. They didn't know he was going to resurrect himself tomorrow. Such was their despair that they went shopping, or did some DIY around the home.
That's a bit like me after my resignation from St Paul's. I haven't done any proper priesting since then. I've been reduced to writing columns for The Guardian. You feel so useless when you can't do any priesting. Fortunately, I'll soon be doing a proper job again, bringing the Good News to the desolate waste of Newington, a place so remote that it's actually south of the river.
My career will be resurrected there, just as Jesus was resurrected. Yesterday's speaker foolishly said that this was all a fact. It's not a fact. It's more than a fact. It is definitely, unquestionably, 100% certainly as more than a fact than it is possible to be.
I'm not going to wish you a Happy Easter, because you're all still supposed to be miserable or bored, preferably both.
Happy Maundy Thursday everyone! Yes it's the day we've all been looking forward to, when the Queen performs the ritual of washing poor people's feet. Of course she doesn't do that any more. That sort of thing would be alright for Jesus, but it's not really appropriate for the head of the Church of England and head of state.
Some people think of rituals as being empty and meaningless but there is another side to rituals. They can show us a different world, where the powerful do something lowly, like washing a poor person's feet. That's why the Maundy Thursday ritual would be really meaningful if we actually did it.
"Maundy" comes from the Latin for "new commandment." The new commandment was this: be nice. What could be nicer than for the powerful to wash the poor's feet? This is the kind of ritual, the kind of tradition, that had it been performed for the last 400 years, would be really meaningful.
So, given that Her Majesty can't be expected to wash people's feet, who should? People that we all hate or, at the very least are extremely jealous of, would be good. Bankers, CEOs,
Hurry on along to the Tate Modern where you can see Damien Hirst's exciting new exhibition for the fantastic, value price of only £15.50 (concessions available). You'll be able to buy your very own rolls of Damien Hirst wallpaper for only £250 each. That's right, for only a few thousand pounds, you can turn an ordinary, dull, bedroom into a work of art! Don't forget to keep the off cuttings.
But that's not all, David Hockney has an almost as good exhibition at the Royal Academy, at the equally fantastic, knock down price of only £15.50 (concessions available). In the gift shop you'll find a wide array of David Hockney books, prints, catalogues, mugs, designer bags and serving trays, some for as little as £195.
Even better still, why not round off your day with a large collection of wrinkly, unflattering portraits by Lucian Freud, for the amazing price of only £15.40 (concessions available). Don't forget to visit the National Portrait Gallery shop where you'll find even more limited edition prints, books and souvenirs.
Anyone would think big art had become big industry, but I refuse to be cynical about these things. It's all too easy to be cynical about art, but many of these artists only sell exorbitantly priced trinkets as an ironic statement on modern day, grubby commercialism, which is all most of you seem to think about these days. Big art, like big religion, isn't really about money, but about raising people's awareness, and being able to join in on arty conversations at dinner parties. If you're the kind of person who queues for hours to buy plastic replicas of jewel encrusted skulls, then religion is definitely for you.
Alternatively, you could visit any of hundreds of galleries around the country, where entry is usually free, and buy an original painting that you actually like by a struggling local artist.
There are lots of new Titanic exhibitions and museums for people to go and see. For those of you who haven't heard, Titanic was the largest ship in the world in her time, but sank on her maiden voyage.
There were three classes of passenger, first class paid £79 per ticket, second class £13, and third class £8. You certainly got what you paid for in those days, with survival rates in the three classes of 60%, 40% and 24% respectively.
An inquiry concluded that excessive speed was to blame. It didn't feel the need to call any second or third class passengers to give evidence.
That seems shocking to us today and is an indicator of how our moral sense has improved in the last century. We are not less moral than we were. We are far more aware of issues like bullying, racism, poverty and corruption than we were in the past, when people worshipped the Invisible Magic Friend more.
As the Titanic sank, the bandsmen played the hymn, "Nearer my God to Thee." People found great comfort in drawing near to the Invisible Magic Friend in those days, especially if they were travelling third class.
And in Argentinian sports news, River Plate beat Boca Juniors 6-5 in their Superclásico match three weeks ago. I was there and the Boca Juniors were stunned that they did not win when they thought they had the right to win.
The John Bell American tour then moved on to the United States, where a lot of the "Grand Old Party" as the Republicans think of themselves, are looking forward to winning the presidential election later this year. They too think they have a right to win. With such leading candidates as Mitt Romney, a man with admirably flexible opinions, and Rick Santorum, a man with no flexibility whatsoever, who can blame them.
But it's not just sports fans and politicians that think they have the right to be heard without criticism, religious leaders do too. Some even think they should have a reserved slot on the radio where they can talk, uninterrupted, every morning at just after 7.45 in the morning.
They're precisely the sort of people who had Jesus executed. They think they know all there is to know about the Invisible Magic Friend. When the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend comes along and tells them the truth, they can't handle the truth. He's not the genocidal, Jewish maniac god that the Chief Rabbi told you about last week. He's actually the god of peace and love and all things cuddly.
You can trust me on this, I know all about the Invisible Magic Friend.
It's fifty years since the publication of Silent Spring. This warned us that if we don't start working with nature, soon there won't be any nature left.
Fifty years on and insecticides are killing all the bees. No bees means no pollination of crops. No pollination of crops means no food. Once again, if we don't start working with nature, soon there won't be any nature left.
Has anyone mentioned the Garden of Eden lately? Thought not. Anyway, it all started in the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is a parable since we now know that it definitely didn't happen. It's a parable about Adam being tempted by a talking snake into eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. It's been downhill ever since, with humanity working against nature to the point where there's no nature left, except for one brief interlude by the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes who planted some gardens by the sweat of his brow.
Adam, from the fictional Garden of Eden, was a bad gardener who set us all on the path against nature. Fortunately Jesus came along and rose from the dead. This repaired the damage done by the fictional Adam. In fact Jesus was so good at repairing the damage done by the fictional bad gardener that he was even mistaken for a gardener. That's why Mary Magdalene told him to stop loafing about and get on with his work.
So Jesus made everything better and we don't have to worry about working against nature until there's no nature left any more. Except that we do because that's what I started off telling you.
Anyway, next week is the anniversary of Jesus rising from the dead, which is great news for environmentalism. Hurrah!
The big Jewish festival of Passover is well under way now. This is a feast that's all about children. I'm sure you're all having a great time celebrating the mass slaughter of Egyptian children. It's a time when we get the youngest child to ask questions such as "Why is our Invisible Magic Friend real when everybody else's is just made up?"
It's thanks to Jews having families, families with children in them, that we've survived as a culture. Despite many persecutions over the centuries, we've gone on having families with children in them.
45 years ago I heard someone say something bad about families. That was very wrong. I still think that was very wrong. Families are good things. Just look at all those people who went rioting last year. That's because they weren't part of families. Good Jewish children didn't go rioting, because they had families.
As Big chief Rabbi of one of the oldest, yet youngest, civilizations, let me give this advice to younger civilizations: if you want to be as successful as we have, have children. I can't emphasize this enough: children are so important. Won't someone please, please think of the children.
The Egyptian civilization didn't look after their children properly and look what happened to them.
From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Illustriously Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich
It's becoming increasingly difficult to buy a meal with the Prime Minister and keeping it all hush-hush. What no one denies is that having a meal together is a sign of warmth and friendship, or at the very least, a six figure sum of money.
Sometimes an occasion is ruined by the person who insists on foisting their opinions on others. They talk right over everyone, never letting anyone else express an alternative point of view. It's almost as if they think they have some god-given right to be heard to the exclusion of everyone else at the meal.
Communal meals - I wonder where I'm going with this? Let me see, I'm a bishop talking about communal meals, I'll bet you can't guess what particular Christian communal meal I might be about to talk about. I can just imagine you all, sitting out there, the anticipation building to a frenzy, wondering what Christian communal meal I'm going to mention.
OK, I'll put you out of you're misery, it's the Eucharist! The Mass! Holy Communion!
I was at a communal meal that wasn't the Eucharist, the Mass, Holy Communion. I overheard a poor man telling a rich man how difficult it was being poor. The rich man replied by telling the poor man how difficult it was being rich.
This is what we need: rich meeting poor over a friendly chat. We need more poor people paying six figure sums to have a chat with the PM.