I love doing the Saturday morning Thought For The Day. People are so much more attent...
Olympics... work from home... can't build a car in the kitchen... I've never had a proper job... dentist... snacking... coffee... Gary Cooper...
Spirituality... chaplains in shopping centre... office... spiritual... time chatting... Saint Augustine said... work... pray... God... which means work... pray... God...
Ratko Mladic, who ordered the massacre of Srebrenica, has been arrested and should now stand trial. Horror and brutality on this scale is rare but still shocking.
That's where the Big Book of Magic Stuff comes in helpful. The Old Tasty mint is just full of stories about how war and killing and massacring are very, very bad - except when it involves taking control of the promised land from the wrong people - that's just doing the will of the Invisible Magic Friend. It even says in one of the psalms, "Please, please don't let them hurt us, Invisible Magic Friend!" In the New Tasty mint, evil King Herod slaughtered thousands of babies in case one of them grew up to be king. This definitely happened and was a very bad thing.
I don't think introducing fictional massacres to illustrate ones which still cause nightmares for many, is in any sense poor taste, so let's plough on. The visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend died on a cross and then resurrected himself. All the people who got killed in the Balkan conflicts will get resurrected too, so you see, there's a silver lining to every cloud. I'm sure this is what kept people going during those terrible times, or at least the Christians who were doing the massacring.
The Muslims probably kept going as well, thanks to their (wrong) faith. So you see how really useful faith can be in a conflict defined almost entirely by two sides of different faiths.
I think it would be appropriate at this point to quote from a Christian prayer. If any Bosnian Muslims who lost relatives in Srebrenica are listening, I'm sure this will be a great comfort to you - "deliver us from evil."
It's going to be a lovely sunny weekend. If you're like me, with ginger hair and freckles, you'll be spending it safely indoors, away from all that horrid sunshine. But not everyone is so sensible when it comes to dangerous ultraviolet radiation. Many teenagers use a sunbed every week, risking skin cancer in later life - all so that they can look healthy and tanned.
People have between 12 and 20 feet of skin. This would be even more useful if they had it in square feet so that it could cover a finite area. It is composed of about 70% water with most of the rest being protein. What a useful thing Thought for the Day is. Not only do you get the weather forecast, you also get scientific information about skin cancer and the composition of skin.
Skin gets mentioned in the Big Book of Magic Stuff. Bones get mentioned too. They even get mentioned together. The Big Book of Magic Stuff reminds us that our skin and bones are only temporary vessels that hold us before we go on to the afterlife. As an Anglican priest, let me just assure you that this definitely exists, despite what Rev Dr Grumpy Giles Fraser says.
And now, a brief song by Neil Young that mentions skin. It also mentions God and religion, which makes it a very good song.
Happy day before Mother's Day! I would have wished you happy Mother's Day on Mother's Day but we don't do Thought For The Day on Sunday, which is when Mother's Day is, as we all have far more important things to do on a Sunday.
Many of us either have, or have had a mother. I'm a big fan of mothers. Aren't they just fantastic? They really do the most splendid job. Without mothers we wouldn't have children and aren't children just fantastic too?
But let us look past the secular, and therefore rather superficial, tradition of sending your mother cards and flowers, taking her out to dinner and basically just treating her for the day. As we do so, we naturally turn our thoughts to something more profound: to Jesus. Jesus had a mother you know. She was called "Mary" and she was the best mother there ever was. You may think your mother is just great but actually she's complete rubbish compared to Mary.
Mary didn't have a midwife at Jesus' birth, but that's OK because she was just such a fantastic mum and Jesus was the Invisible Magic Friend. Sadly, many mothers don't have midwives, which is a great shame. Ordinary mothers, ones who aren't giving birth to the Invisible Magic Friend, could very well be killed by the Invisible Magic Friend during childbirth. So they had better make their peace with him before giving birth.
The iPad2 is here. Isn't it wonderful? People were queuing outside, early in the morning, to get hold of this latest piece of technological wizardry. I wouldn't be that geeky myself of course, but this beautiful new tablet computer, is so elegant, so seductive, so light and delicate, all other, inferior, hardware manufacturers are racing to try and keep up with it. You can move things around on its touch sensitive screen without a mouse!
But the iconic iPad is not the only alluring tablet style device. Amazon have their amazing Kindle. It's said that even Norman Lamont has one, and if that isn't a recommendation I don't know what is.
The Church, always keen to take advantage of technological innovation, can even use ebook readers on the altar to say the mass, touching, rather than turning the pages. Isn't that just fantastic!
This isn't the first time sacred text, held on a tablet, have appeared on an altar. The tablets of stone containing the ten commandments got there first. The ten commandments weren't quite as light as an iPad and there was certainly a bit less flexibility in terms of reading material than modern ebook readers. On the other hand, contrast was great and there was no need for regular recharging. You could look on them as a sort of iPad beta. Nevertheless, I still have no hesitation in recommending all Apple and Amazon electronic products and services, available at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Everyone's been saying that it's floods of biblical proportions. That's just ridiculous. The Big Book of Magic Stuff clearly states that the floods covered the whole earth, higher than the highest mountains. There are lots of flood stories from around then so it must be true, even if the Egyptians, who had just finished building the Great Pyramid, didn't spot it.
The great flood, that the Egyptians never noticed, just proves that Creation is powerful and humans are vulnerable. I say "Creation" rather than "nature", because creation implies an Invisible Magic Friend to create it all, whereas "nature" sounds a bit sciency and not needing much faith or anything.
But don't worry people of Brisbane and people of Brazil, I have been praying for you! Your faith in the Invisible Magic Friend will get you through. I'm not bothered about the floods in Sri Lanka though - they're the wrong faith.
Humans with faith can display courage, bravery and resilience but in the end Creation is unbelievably powerful, even though the Invisible Magic Friend is very believably powerful.
The Old Tasty Mint speaks of floods, power, creation, devastation, war, challenge, deep waters, more challenge, death, vulnerability, shock, more vulnerability, even more challenge. This is exactly what happened in Brisbane and Brazil where the power of Creation has unleashed floods, power, creation, devastation, war, challenge, deep waters, more challenge, death, vulnerability, shock, more vulnerability, even more challenge.
You think you're all safe and hunky-dory, but any minute now Creation could unleash floods, power, creation, devastation, war, challenge, deep waters, more challenge, death, vulnerability, shock, more vulnerability, even more challenge. So you just quiver in fear before the Invisible Magic Friend. As long as you've got faith and courage, but especially faith, you'll get through it - except the ones who don't of course.
The role and place of faith in understanding that positive tension between God, Creation and individual freedom becomes ever more apparent.
Isn't the English defeat of the Aussies at cricket just fantastic! It's all so spiritual and theological and philosophical and stuff. I mean I don't want to be accused of hyperbole or anything, but this is probably the greatest victory for England in the history of anything. This glorious victory of the invincible England Cricket team will be written into the annals as our finest hour. What a humiliating defeat for poor old Australia. No, really, you mustn't laugh.
It's all about endurance, you see. It's about continuing to play cricket even when you don't want to play cricket any more (if such a thing were possible). The Australians just don't have that willpower to strive for ultimate victory.
Jesus was, of course, a big cricket fan. Together with his twelve man cricket team, he could often be seen having a quick innings by the Sea of Galilee, or bowling a maiden over on one of his frequent stopovers at Jerusalem. Being an Englishman himself, Jesus would have taken enormous pleasure at the pounding meted out to the Aussies. As Jesus himself said, "Blessed are the English Cricket Team, for they shall win the Ashes."
Saint Theresa [Ed: which one? ] was also a fantastic cricket fan.
David Sheppard, the late Bishop of Liverpool, often said that captaining the England Cricket team was what prepared him for being Bishop of Liverpool. "Frankly," he said, "I don't understand how anyone can be a bishop without first having captained the England cricket team."
Cricket is all about hard work, persistence, endurance, determination, forbearance, only breaking for tea. And it's not just true of cricket, the same can be true of some other sports too.
It's the New Year, a time when we think about the future, but also about the past and how the past affects the future. We may have regrets about the past and be optimistic about the future, although some cynics have regrets about the future and are optimistic about the past.
The New Year is a very spiritual thing involving lots of complex theology about the past and the future and how the past leads to the future. It's about creation renewed, about resolution, transformation of the past into the future, a new heaven and a new earth, a new commandment.
Jesus thought the future was very important, so it must be. He also thought the past was very important too because the past leads to the future and he didn't come to abolish the past or abolish the future. The past is critical to the future because without the past there cannot be a future.
Early Christians learned from the past and had faith that there would be a future. Love endures in the future and is not weighed down by the negativism of the past. A famous Catholic theologian said not to ponder the failures of the past but to trust that the invisible Magic Friend would make the future better.
So as 2011 gets under way, why not resist your natural urge to cynically wallow in depression about the past, where you were such a miserable failure, and be optimistic about the past leading to a bright new future.
It's really important to learn to read. The younger the better.
Michael Gove says it's really important to learn to read.
Victor Hugo said it's really important to learn to read.
C.S. Lewis said it's really important to learn to read.
I say it's really important to learn to read.
Learning to read can open up young minds to all sorts of possibilities.
Then, as soon as it's open, we'll fill it up with stories of angels and shepherds and wise men, that we'll tell them is the truth and they shouldn't ever question it.
The clocks go back tonight, ushering in the dark nights.
The Celtic festival of Samhuinn gets celebrated tomorrow. Pagans will light fires and cast spells to prevent evil spirits from crossing between worlds on the day when the border between them is at its thinnest. They do this to protect us all from what lurks on the other side and also because they get to dance around naked together in the woods.
This has led to our modern festival of Halloween, or "All Hallows Eve" as it is more properly called. I have no problem with "Halloween", no problem at all. Doesn't bother me in the least. In fact, it bothers me so little, that I don't even know why I'm mentioning that it doesn't bother me.
So, unbothered as I am, let's move on to discuss the end of summer and the approach of winter, the passing of the light and the descent into darkness, of good and evil, of justice and the opposite of justice, of this world and the next world, of these really, really, deep spiritual questions that have haunted mankind since before the incarnation of the Invisible Magic Friend that definitely happened, of mystery and faith, of the souls of our ancestors and our ancestors' ancestors, of all kinds of mystical, magical woo-woo sort of stuff.
This is precisely the kind of thing that Jesus and John were talking about.
Alternatively, it might just be that the tilt of the earth's axis means that the northern hemisphere now points away from the sun.