PS…February festivals

Fasting and feasting holidays are the events in the Jewish calendar around which life is orientated.  Many of these ‘festivals’ have their origin in the laws which God gave to the people of Israel after they left Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land.  Others developed out of key events in their history, for example, Purim, a day of fasting in February which goes back to when Esther obtained freedom for the Jews who were under threat in Xerxes’ reign. Continue reading

THE VIRTUAL ROAD TO JERICHO

When I was a small boy living in a rural County Down bungalow in the 1960s, the question posed by the gospel narrative, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ seemed easy to answer. The Ferguson family lived a field away, the Rooney family had a farmyard which was visible from our living room window and the Lowries and two other families lived in the nearby terrace of houses known as Calvert’s Row. Continue reading

‘Fake news’

In my early years as a professional Geologist and a Christian, I was dismayed and puzzled by the defence of the literalist interpretation of Genesis 1 stating that scientists were in a conspiracy of deception. Why scientists might do this was never articulated, as the premise of those involved in scientific research is to discover truth.

Later as a practical theologian I wrote a number of texts on the dialogue between science and faith to demonstrate the complementarity between these two ways of exploring the truth about creation and the burgeoning environmental crisis. Those denying the reality of climate change have also disappointed me with the suggestion that environmental scientists are seeking to mislead the world.

Does this help in our understanding of today’s ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories? Continue reading

Where does our comfort come from?

You could describe 2020 in lots of ways; disastrous, tragic, or calamitous, maybe shocking, surprising or unexpected. It’s certainly been unusual, never mind historic and of course, that word that is thrown about all too often, unprecedented.

If I was summing up the past year, I might say that 2020 has been a year of discomfort. Why might I say that? Continue reading

How many too questions are too many questions?

Like a good evangelical Christian, every morning my day starts with quiet time. The Lord’s prayer, then other prayers, setting my day up, giving it over to God. And from prayer I go to Scripture, helped in that discipline by Bible Reading notes. A verse or a question to find my way in; then the passage; then the reflections; then a question or challenge at the end, to chew on and turn into some praise, prayer or new resolve. Continue reading

Every little helps

It’s November and I’m sad.  Over the years I have come to dread November, because if anything goes wrong, it goes spectacularly wrong in November.  Perhaps this was a self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps it’s SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but it always seemed to become easier to feel more cheerful in December with its Christmas lights.  This year is no exception and I’ve found that recently my optimism has evaporated somewhat.  The Covid virus is surging again, and I doubt if we’ll adjust our lifestyles enough to learn to live with it.  Initial enthusiasm for, and commitment to, a green recovery, which emerged when we saw how the natural world, and ourselves too, benefitted from lockdown, has all but disappeared under concern for looking after the economy. Continue reading

Why the news needs to be good

The Queen rarely makes comment on matters of public debate, but a few weeks ago she gave a message of support to the British newspaper industry, praising traditional media outlets.  She said that “having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital”.  This is very important, for in our democracy we rely on trusted news sources to inform us, challenge us, investigate wrong doing, and hold governments and public services to account. Continue reading

Christians in a Post COVID-19 World?

As we begin another period of lockdown with the number of cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths rising relentlessly, people are losing hope. There is concern about the effects on employment, the economy and our individual freedoms.

There have been positive community responses: local care groups; support for elderly neighbours; people generally being obedient to the requests and advice of Government; Christians lighting candles to affirm the light of Christ in a dark situation; and scientists across the world collaborating in the search for a vaccine against the virus. Continue reading

Thinking about the colour of my skin

Galatians 3:28 is one of the better-known verses in the Bible: 

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Christians, rightly, rejoice at its liberating truth – all joined ‘in Christ’ through faith are ‘one’. This unity transcends the great religious, socio-economic and gender divisions of the ancient world. The implications are astounding – in God’s eyes all human beings are of equal value and dignity regardless of religion, ethnicity, net-worth, social standing, intelligence, physical disability, education, gender, age, or skin colour. Continue reading