Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celebrating dads

Here's a thought for father's day (one I'm sharing in a completely form at messy church this morning)

There’s an ad on TV at the moment featuring a father bringing his baby girl home from hospital in the rain and then protecting her from a variety of hazards as she grows up. Finally, he sends her off to uni in her very own car; a make and model that will protect her as he has. It brings a tear to the eye and threatens to create a large hole in the bank balance…

It reminds me of the closing track on Paul Simon's lovely Surprise album where he sings 'I'm gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow; gonna paint a sign so you'll always know. As long as one and one is two, there could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you'. As the father of two daughters I know just how he feels.

A lot of dads will have woken up today to be greeted by cards and gifts and approximations of breakfast served in their beds. We’ve all had a dad; some of us are dads; and today we celebrate that – but why (other than to boost the profits of the greetings cards industry)?

It’s a chance to remember what our dads do for us – shoulder rides, making things, help with homework, rough and tumbles; lots of things to make us smile; the support offered through difficult times, the apparently constant presence when we're caught in a whirlpool of change...

And if we’re a dad, those memories serve as a reminder of what we’re meant to be: we want to be all the good things our dad was/is (and none of the bad ones!). It’s a blast being a dad but it’s also a huge responsibility. To some extent we’re the people we are because of our dads, so what kind of dad will I be to my children.

The book of Proverbs reminds us (in chapter 22 verse 6, according to the message) 'Point your kids in the right direction—when they're old they won't be lost' Or, as the NIV has it, 'Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it'.

And, of course, it’s a chance to recognize how grateful we are for dads who helped us on our way and tell them how much we love them.

And perhaps it’s also a chance to realize that however good our dad was and however well we’re shaping up in the fatherhood stakes, no human father is perfect. Maybe this is why when Jesus was looking for a term to sum up who God is, he chose ‘dad’. God is the perfect father who loves us outrageously, unconditionally, absolutely and completely each and every day.

So today, we have a chance to say thanks to him as well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Anyone seen the elephant in the room?

So, here's the thing: this evening we reach chapter five in our journey through Ephesians. The commentators tell me it's about sex (in one illicit form or another) as an expression of the darkness that pervades society.

And it's true there is reference to immorality, unwholesome talk, and even the telling of dirty jokes. But there is also the strongest denunciation in Paul of greed 'which is idolatry' (5:5). Indeed, greed it seems is as much a manifestation of darkness as unholy sex.

Yet the church seems besotted with the 's' word and largely silent about greed. We constantly hear how the sexual revolution has undermined family life and values and led to the ruin of society. But we don't hear much about how greed in the form of an economic system that has lauded profit and debt at the expense of any other economic outcome has similarly undermined families, corrupted social values and impoverished all of us.

It is great to read Michael Sandel challenging the marketisation of everything and Paul Krugman continuing to point out that there is an alternative economic story to the Gordon Gecko creed of 'greed is good'. But where are the Christian voices on this issue?

Barely a day goes past without some row erupting in the corridors of ecclesiastical power over sex - gay marriage, women bishops, the sexualisation of children in the media - and yet weeks pass without a Christian voice being raised questioning what greed is doing to our children, to our social values, to the fabric of our neighbourhoods.

Is it just me, or is the Christian community, in its obsession with sex, missing the elephant in the room that is actually trashing the culture, namely the economic story that says greed is the path to salvation?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Catching up

Back from a lovely few days in France - we were staying near Amiens and enjoyed great weather and lots of lovely stuff to see (Monet's garden, Amiens Cathedral with a wonderful exhibition of sculptures and the river front with its cafes and relaxing walks...).

As usual I took some new music away with me. The new Soulsavers album, The light the dead see, featuring Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode, is one of this year's highlights (though it already has stiff competition). It's a collection of songs about life, death and faith (the usual Soulsavers terrain to which Gahan brings a fresh eye) and is wonderful.

I'm also really enjoying Damon Albarn's Dr Dee, his latest opera about the Elizabethan alchemist and mystic who was an adviser to the queen. It's an idiosyncratic mix of styles that features some of the loveliest tunes Albarn has ever penned. I'm really looking to seeing it performed at the London Colosseum in early July.

Of course, I was back in blighty for the jubilee flummery (that's quite enough waving...). We had a great street party on Monday that was barely rained on and went on well into the night. We sat around a bbq doubling as a brazier in the middle of the road, throwing logs on, toasting friendship and chewing the fat. Good times.

The trouble with going away is that work piles up in your absence. I have a stack of marking that I'm getting stuck into and an anniversary Sunday to plan for.

We also have a houseful of family - which is great.