Sunday 21 December 2008

William Hague, Neil Kinnock and Rory Bremner bop to Obama Moneygall song!


PHOTO:JEFF OVERS/BBC

Yes - It's true! William Hague, Neil Kinnock and Rory Bremner were seen live on BBC this morning bopping and singing along heartily to the Corrigan Brothers' There's No one as Irish as Barack Obama'. The clip which features below is from the Andrew Marr show, cult viewing to those of you who unlike this blogger has other things to do on a Sunday morning!

Watch it Here

And if you want more of this tune in to Podge and Rodge tomorrow night (Monday 22nd December 2008)  at 10.30pm on RTE 2 when The Corrigans will be special guests in Ballydung Manor. Not for the faint hearted - Beware!

Monday 15 December 2008

How President Obama would have handled the Shoe throwing incident


Next time this happens we will have a US president better equipped to deal with incoming shoes! President Obama, as the descendent of Moneygall shoemaker Joseph Kearney, will realise that was simply a dissatisfied customer. He was returning his shoes for repair and assumed that all American presidents were experienced cobblers. All that was needed was a little heeling! (Or should that be healing?)

TESCO: A Tale of Two Porkys

As customers of Tesco’s Online Grocery service the Neill family value being spared the weekly slalom through the supermarket aisles. Normally the service works flawlessly but recently the wheels have come off the trolleys! Last week, a full 24 hours after the pork ban, Tesco in Nenagh delivered our order with no less than 5 pork products including sausages and ham! The driver was completely oblivious to the ban which was a little bizarre. I decided to phone the store and asked to speak to a manager only to be told by him that the ‘picker’ probably hadn’t heard about the ban! I pointed out that this was surely the responsibility of the management and he said that they had been under pressure lifting the stock off the shelves all night! Bearing in mind that the Pork products are largely confined to two aisles one wonders how on earth they managed to spend all night removing pork products and missed the sausages, the ham, the rashers, the hawian pizzas and the pork chops!

Forgiving folk that we are we persevered, putting last weeks faux pas down to an aberration and patiently waited for yesterday’s delivery….and waited….and waited…and gave up waiting and rang the customer service line. They were hugely apologetic and promised to sort it out. I pointed out that our account status was showing ‘delivered’ when I accessed our online account! Apparently as soon as the van is loaded it is shown as delivered on the system! Anyway a few minutes later a phone call came from Tesco in Navan! Yes Navan! They were wondering why we were expecting them to deliver! Having clarified that we were waiting on Nenagh not Navan we got another call, this time from the driver in Nenagh who was just leaving and would be with us in 20 minutes and laboured over the fact that it was his day off! Not our problem but anyway we waited and waited and waited and almost an hour later the driver arrived with the correct order – Thank God for small mercies! On his day off he had been in the shop as a customer and was asked to do a favour by the manager and do the delivery! The explanation - Wait for it……The rostered driver had gone home to Poland on holidays and hadn’t returned! Far from being on the truck when I rang customer service, the shopping wasn’t even picked!

These two experiences have one thing in common: In the first we were being sold porkys and in the second we were being told porkys!

Friday 12 December 2008

Moneygall - Obama Single launched - Every Picture tells a story




Peter Creighton, Donncha, Gerard & Brian Corrigan performing live at the single launch


The Obama Set Dancers


Fran Curry of Tipp FM interviews Jennifer Donovan-Carter - a cousin of Barack Obama's


Ger Corrigan performs at Moneygall National School for the children



Peter, Donncha & Brian perform at Moneygall National School


Fr Pat Mulcahy (PP Moneygall) & Henry Healy - One of Obama's Borrisokane cousins



Autographs in demand!



Ger, Diamond Ebbs (Irish Americans for Obama) Brian & Donncha



Diamond Ebbs & Noel Coonan TD



Paddy Anglican & Noel Coonan

More pics here from friend and fellow blogger ShaneTucker and here

Corrigan Brothers Single launched today in Moneygall

Moneygall 12Noon today  sees the launch of the Corrigan Brothers single: 'There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama' by Universal Records - Watch this space later today for the new video which was commissioned by Universal - A few surprises including a walk on part for PaddyAnglican!



And here is the video - Enjoy!



DOWNLOAD/BUY IT HERE

Saturday 6 December 2008

This is my kind of Judge!

A DISTRICT Court judge was given a round of applause yesterday when he criticised the law which prevents young people working after 10pm........At Edenderry District Court Judge John Neilan said: “Stand on street corners, scratch your backside, take drugs but whatever you do, don’t go working. “Young people in gainful employment even an hour over time should not be penalised. It’s far, far better to have them working than floating around, standing on street corners, insulting everyone who passes by.”

This Judge Rocks! Read more Here

Friday 28 November 2008

Moneygall, Obama & The Corrigan Brothers - From CD to DC



Moneygall, Co. Offaly, already the undisputed centre of the free world and ancestral home of U.S. President –Elect Barack Obama is now in the race for the Christmas Number One. Corrigan Brothers, Gerard, Brian and Donncha, formally known as Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys have had huge success and worldwide coverage with their infectious song: “There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama”. The song is to be released as a single on 12th December, following the band’s recent signing to Universal Records, one of the world’s leading labels.
(Song now available: Click the button:Corrigan Brothers - There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama - Single)

New video below:


News of this broke on RTE’s ‘The Afternoon Show’ on the 18th November (See below), where Gerard & Brian were interviewed shortly after they were approached by Shalit Global management who represent among others Mylene Klass and introduced the band to Universal Records.

The song (click here to see the video), which has achieved over half a million hits on YouTube has come to the attention of the Obama team and even prior to the historic election of Barack Obama the lads were invited to play at an eve of Inauguration Ball in Washington organized by the Irish American Democrats. They are also to play on the day on the parade route itself.
Yours truly has been invited along with Henry Healy, one of Obama’s Moneygall cousins, to accompany the band on this trip of a lifetime. I see this as a vocational imperative – these lads need a chaplain and I am happy to accept the challenge! It’s a tough job……..you’re not convinced are you?......Truth is I wouldn’t miss it for all the bacon and cabbage on the planet!
We fly into JFK on Sunday 18th and after a quiet night in New York hit the road for Washington on board our temporary home, an 8 berth winnabago!

All the hotel beds in Washington are booked up but not to be outdone we have secured this fine specimen of vintage accommodation and a parking spot in the Rose Garden on the White House Lawn.

This will be especially convenient as we can empty our portaloo on the rose beds and give them some additional nourishment. Perhaps this horticultural contribution will be acceptable in lieu of rent. We are also preparing an invitation to the new president to visit this mobile Moneygall embassy after his inauguration and have even arranged for a Guinness tap to be installed to complete the homely feel. Obama will we are sure come to Moneygall one day but not before Moneygall comes to Obama. To support this pilgrimage – Go out now and buy the CD that will bring Moneygall to DC!

Tuesday 25 November 2008

What County is Moneygall in?

A trick question you ask? Read on: (Yes another lazy blog post but there is a big one coming - watch this space!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008
MIRIAM LORD'S WEEK

IF BAD luck, like a recession, comes in cycles, then Taoiseach Cowen has to pedal twice as hard these days.

In the midst of the nation's financial woes, at least Brian could console himself with the comforting thought that some day soon, as senior man in the constituency, he may be welcoming Barack Obama to Offaly. Obama can trace the teensiest piece of his roots back to the village of Moneygall, which has been en fete ever since he became president-elect of the USA.

A problem has arisen for Biffo, though. Should the day ever dawn when America's first black president pays a visit to his Irish "home place," he will, of course, be greeted by the senior man in the constituency.

Step forward, so, Deputy Michael Lowry.

When the electoral boundaries were recently redrawn, Moneygall, along with places like Shinrone, Dunkerrin and Brosna, was moved from Laois/Offaly into Tipperary North.

A blow, make no mistake, to Brian Cowen, who has seen a sizeable chunk of his personal vote cross the border along with his hopes of squiring President Obama around his personal political stomping ground.

But fear not. Deputy Lowry is up to the challenge. "I'll go out and brief Obama, fly back with him and introduce him to all the local characters. My contacts in the White House tell me that, subject to FBI clearance, Brian Cowen will be allowed to cross the border into North Tipp on the big day." Michael has already done a reconnaissance of the Moneygall area in readiness for the visit and the next general election. Already, with suitable ports of call in mind, he has been seen measuring up the counter in Hayes's bar and grocery.

Meanwhile, the Moneygall connection has sensationally thrown up what may go down in history as the first difficult and diplomatically sensitive decision to be faced by the Obama administration.

Will Barack support Offaly or Tipp in the hurling? While Moneygall is situated within Offaly, its hurlers play in the Tipperary county championship. Now, to add to the confusion, the village remains under Offaly county council for the local elections while switching to Tipperary North for the general election.

"It's confusing up there now," says Michael Lowry. "They won't know where to turn, what county to shout for or who to go to for a twist." Somebody will have to inform the president-elect. Or maybe Biffo explained the situation to him when they talked over the phone last Tuesday night, and he proudly extended the invitation to Barack to come and join him in Moneygall.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Irish America - A broad Church

This from today's Irish Times:

Why Obama's Offaly roots help shatter Irish-American myths

Sat, Nov 22, 2008

ANALYSIS:Irish America was first seen as Catholic, then Presbyterian and now Church of Ireland too, writes BRIAN WALKER

PRESS COVERAGE of Barack Obama's election as US president has drawn attention to his connection with Ireland. His late mother Ann Dunham was a descendant of Fulmouth Kearney who left Moneygall, Co Offaly, for the US in 1850.

This connection is of special interest, however, because it casts an important light on the subject of the Irish diaspora in the US. Indeed, it provides an answer to some of the mystery about this diaspora, the full character of which has often been obscured by widely-held myths about both the Irish Americans and the Scots Irish.

Fifty years ago the number of those with an Irish background in America was put at about 16 million. It was assumed that most of these were Irish Americans who were mainly descendants of Catholic Irish who had come to America from the time of the Great Famine on. The family background of Joe Biden, the incoming vice-president, falls into such a category.

This picture, however, was upset radically in the 1980s. The American census results of 1980, which for the first time stated ancestral backgrounds, recorded a figure of about 40 million people who gave Ireland as their ethnic background or country of origin. This figure was much greater than had been expected.

A second surprise followed with publication of a number of opinion polls which revealed that a majority of those who indicated an Irish background were Protestant and not Catholic, as had been widely assumed. For example, a survey by Gallup in the 1980s put the proportion of Protestants at 54 per cent.

To explain this situation attention now focused on the Scots Irish. The first waves of emigrants from Ireland to America in the eighteenth century consisted largely of Ulster Presbyterians, numbering about a quarter of a million people, who were descendants of 17th-century Scottish immigrants to Ireland. Due to their early arrival and thanks to a multiplier factor, it was argued, their descendants made up a major part of those in America with an Irish background.

This conclusion, however, was dramatically challenged by the outcome of the 1990 census. For the first time, the census allowed people to declare a Scots Irish background. The results recorded a figure of 38.7 million Irish, but only 5.6 million Scots Irish. Again we may note that the National Survey of Religious Identification, published in 1991, confirmed that a majority of people who acknowledged an Irish background were Protestant.

This raised very interesting questions. Who exactly are these people who make up the majority Protestant section of the Irish in America? The assumption had been that they were mostly Scots Irish, but only a small proportion chose to identify themselves this way. From a total figure of 44 million Irish and Scots Irish, self-identified Scots Irish were only about 12 per cent and not half, as we might have expected.

A number of explanations have emerged to try to explain who they are. One of them is that many in fact are Scots Irish, part of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century emigration from Ulster. When we look at recent US census returns we discover that the area with the largest number of those who describe themselves as Irish is not the north-eastern region (which includes Boston and New York), but the southern region. We know from nineteenth-century census figures that relatively few of the famine and post-famine emigrants went south, so most of these people are a result of the earlier emigration.

Canadian academic Michael Carroll has argued that these people retain what is often a very distant link with Ireland because of their origins and because the Scotch Irish image of individuality and self-reliance linked to the American Revolution accords with how they see themselves. Why don't they call themselves Scots Irish in the census? While the term Scots Irish was sometimes used in the eighteenth century, many from this background called themselves Irish rather than Scots Irish. This has remained the case.

Republican John McCain has written with pride about his Scottish Presbyterian ancestors, who came from Ulster in the eighteenth century, and included John Young, one of Washington's staff officers. His wife, Cindy McCain, recently acknowledged this Irish background in response to a question about race in the presidential election by saying: "Yes, you know, Mr Obama is an African-American man, and yes, we're Irish. And isn't that a wonderful thing for America?"

Another explanation is that these figures of Irish with a Protestant background include descendants of people who were Catholic. Several historians have argued that numbers for the Irish in the 18th-century American colonies include Catholics, who became Protestant because there were very weak Catholic Church structures. During the 19th and 20th centuries, in predominantly Protestant America, people from a Catholic background became Protestant. A good example was Ronald Reagan whose father was from an Irish Catholic background, but who followed the Protestant faith of his mother.

Bill Clinton claims a Protestant Irish link from his mother who was a member of the Cassidy family, originally from Co Fermanagh. In 2004 on BBC television, in a reference to David Trimble, Clinton declared: "He's a Scots Irish Presbyterian and so am I... but my state of mind [ is] more like the Irish Catholics. I am more rosy and loquacious."

In fact, Cassidy is a Gaelic rather than a Scots name, and most, but not all, Cassidys in Fermanagh are Catholic. Perhaps this explains Bill Clinton's personality!

Finally, we must consider the explanation that there are people in America who have Irish ancestry and are Protestant, but who are not from a Presbyterian Scots Irish or Irish Catholic background. This is where Barack Obama's Irish ancestry casts a special light on the diaspora.

In Ireland, there has been, and still is, a sizeable section of people from a Church of Ireland background whose roots are often English, but also, sometimes, Scottish or Gaelic. Significant numbers of these people have emigrated to America from all parts of Ireland, but their presence has often been overlooked.

Recently, however, historians have acknowledged that serious attention must be paid to this Irish group. Barack Obama's Irish ancestor, Fulmouth Kearney, is a good example of such emigrants. Thanks to the research of Canon Stephen Neill, rector of Cloughjordan, we know that he and his family were members of the Church of Ireland in Moneygall, Co Offaly. A shoemaker by trade, he left in 1850 to settle as a farmer in Ohio. In 1960, his direct descendant, Ann Dunham, married a Kenyan student, Barack Obama. Their son, also called Barack Obama, will be the next US president.

The latest indicators of Irish identity make interesting reading. The 2000 US census recorded 30.5 million Irish and 4.4 million Scots Irish. This drop in numbers is explained largely by an increase in those who register simply as Americans.

Recently the National Opinion Research Centre published its 2006 general social survey, which included an Irish but not a Scots Irish category. It revealed that of those who described their first ethnic identity as Irish, 48 per cent were Protestant, 29 per cent were Catholic and 23 per cent were unaffiliated or other or no religion.

Numbers in this last category have grown in recent years. It may include vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Her mother's name is Sheeran and her family came from Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century. An evangelical Christian, she has been described as "post denominational". Links between religion and identity are now fluid for many Americans. Early this year, the Pew Forum survey found that more than a quarter of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favour of another religion, or no religion at all.

All this serves to demonstrate the great diversity of those with an Irish background in the US. Contrary to a commonplace Irish American myth, it is Irish with a Protestant background who make up the largest single component of the Irish in America. Contrary to a popular Scots Irish/Ulster Scots myth, the majority of these people identify themselves as Irish rather than Scots Irish. The example of Barack Obama's ancestors reminds us of the danger of viewing the Irish diaspora in America in a simplistic, two-dimensional light.

In Banbridge Church of Ireland parish church there is a memorial plaque, dated 1920, to James White, Chicago, and his father John White, Banbridge. The plaque states that the White family presented a clock and chime of 10 bells to the church, with the proviso that at Halloween the air of "Home sweet home" should be played on the bells. A few weeks ago, as in every year since 1920, this tune rang out over Banbridge.

• Brian Walker is professor of Irish studies in the politics school at Queen's University Belfast

© 2008 The Irish Times

Monday 10 November 2008

Power V Authority - You choose!

Click on the link below to hear Dr Tony Campolo address the subject of Jesus and Politics. This sermon was preached at Harvard Memorial Chapel on 26th October and is a vision of how things should and could be.

Click here for the sermon

So this is what Christianity looks like!

You might describe the video below as 'interactive worship' or alternatively 'When Priests Attack'
This from last weekend in Jerusalem - I think the most ironic thing is the Israeli soldiers having to intervene to stop them killing each other! I visited this church as a teenager and found it a perfect illustration of ecumenical relations at their worst!

Saturday 8 November 2008

Late Late Last Night - Moneygall opens the show!


The lads from Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys get Pat rocking!

Remembrance & Hope - A Sermon

Sermon for Sunday 9th November 2008

It would be impossible to get up and preach today and say nothing about the events of this past week, and I am not talking about the events in Moneygall, but rather the focus of those celebrations.
Barack Hussein Obama, an African American man with a very suspicious sounding name is president elect of the United States - Just in case you missed it ;-)

Whatever happens from here on in, the world is changed by an event such as this. Regardless of whether he is a good president or a bad president, the very fact that he will be president changes the shape of the world. In a nation that within living memory refused black people the vote, the right to travel on public transport and in some cases burned and lynched them for the simple crime of being black, the sons and daughters of the perpetrators of such evil have in the privacy of a poling booth proclaimed their trust in one who was not so long ago ‘The Enemy’!

In his victory speech Obama talked about a 106 year old woman Ann Nixon Cooper from Atlanta, Georgia whose grandmother was a slave and who had lived through all the turmoil of the civil rights movement and now had the opportunity to vote for an African American president. He talked about the pain she had endured in her life due to the colour of her skin and in remembering these bad times in the context of his election there was a sense of closure, a sense of the healing of memories and the breaking of the chains of history.

Memories, or more specifically Remembrance is an important theme for many people this week. Today is Remembrance Sunday and Tuesday is Remembrance Day, a time when we call to mind all those who have died in war both long ago and more recently. As a observance it is becoming less and less politically sensitive as people acknowledge the importance of remembering those who suffered so much for a cause that they believed in, and in some cases for a cause for which they were forced to fight! We could get hung up on the rights and wrongs of war but essentially this is about largely young men and increasingly women as well who pay the ultimate price..... ‘Greater love has no one than to lay down down their life for their friends.’

So why do we keep remembering? We remember for the same reason that a 106 year old woman in Atlanta Georgia remembers; we remember because those who have gone before us live on in our hearts and in our lives and sometimes the healing of their pain and the completion of their story is something that may take generations to accomplish. One of the essential elements of our Christian understanding of death is that we share a fellowship with all the Saints, living and departed which transcends time and space, and it is this understanding of death which allows us to find healing for our memories.
But this is only half the story - In remembering what others have done in their lives there is a challenge for us to learn from these memories and act in response to them. That is what RE - MEMBRING means! It is a call to action! Not just words but action! Today’s Old Testament reading from Amos 5: 18-24 puts it so well:
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


I cannot help but think of the similarity of this sentiment with the criticism of Barack Obama; He is all rhetoric and flowery speeches, the critics say! Well that remains to be seen, but it is a genuine concern - Will he walk the talk? I personally believe he will but if he doesn’t a lot of people will be very disillusioned - There is of course far too much expectation put on one man’s shoulders and the reality is that it is only together that we can achieve lasting change in our world. We are not spectators and words alone will not suffice.

But what motivates us to act? As a Christian it is a desire to follow Christ, but we live in a world that asks us to park our faith as soon as we leave the church or the home. It is seen as something private that is only to be shared with those who wish to experience it and it is to play no part in the politics of the world. And so if we are to compare ourselves to the bridesmaids in todays Gospel, not alone would we have no oil for our lamps but we would not even be carrying them in the first place. As children of the light we are only allowed to light our own little corner of the world!

But the events of the past week have changed this too - I am not going down the road of comparing Barack Obama to a Messiah figure - He is not that - he is mortal human being like the rest of us and there is a real danger of setting him up as the answer to all the worlds problems. Or Hope is in Christ alone! But in Barack Obama we find a man who is not ashamed of his faith in Jesus Christ, a man who believes that faith is an integral part of who we are as human beings and that we cannot turn off our faith when we go out into the world. Faith in Jesus Christ has political implications, not party political but political in so far as informing our respect for the dignity of all humanity and the creation in which we exist. If we believe like Jesus, that the outcasts in our society are every bit as important as the people of power then that will change our politics and how we relate to our fellow human beings.

Things are changing in the world and all is not doom and gloom. This just might be the beginning of a change in direction that is sorely needed. Perhaps it signals a world emerging that is not so antagonistic to faith and belief. On this Remembrance Sunday we remember not only the dead of war but primarily the life, death and resurrection of one whose story is our story and who has the capacity to bring healing and hope to a new generation.

Friday 7 November 2008

What cost a life in Ireland? Cervical vaccination plan scrapped!

This from RTE News:
The planned national cervical cancer vaccination programme for around 75,000 young girls, due to start next year, has been scrapped by the Health Minister Mary Harney due to Budget cuts.
The vaccine was to be offered to all 12-year-old girls in primary schools from next September, at an estimated cost of under €10m.
The HSE recently completed and submitted its implementation plan for the vaccination programme to the Department of Health.
But Minister Harney has said this evening that because of scarce resources, she will not be proceeding with the programme and intends to focus on cervical screening.
Around 90 women die from cervical cancer each year, making it the eighth most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in Ireland.
Two vaccines are available which prevent infection with the human papilloma virus, known to cause most cervical cancers.
In August, Minister Harney announced that she had approved the start of the vaccination programme following the advice of an expert body.
At the time, due to budgetary constraints, the minister decided not to proceed with a recommendation also for a catch up programme for 13-15 year old girls. Story from RTÉ News

So let me get this straight.....We pay our Taoiseach more than the American President - We waste 50 million Euro on E-Voting machines and we withdraw preventative cancer treatment from adolescent girls - We have arrived! We are truly a nation without principles!

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Tuesday 4 November 2008

The night before the morning after.........


The tension is increasing. All day long the media have been descending on Moneygall and capturing the mood of the village as preparations are made for tonight's election watch party. A couple of satellite trucks sit on the side of the main street preparing to beam the good wishes of the residents of Moneygall to a land far away, but to a son of Moneygall who is close to their hearts. Senator Barack Obama is the only name you here in this town - and tomorrow they hope to wake up to hear that their Senator is to be President Barack Obama, the first Irish-African-American president of the USA!

Faith in Financial Freefall

My thoughts on the implications for the churches of the current global economic crisis - from today's Irish Times. Click HERE to read in the online paper or see below:

Tue, Nov 04, 2008

RITE AND REASON:The economy is dead but, in these times of financial freefall, what are the funeral arrangements, asks Stephen Neill?

IT WOULD be very tempting in the current economic crisis to jump on the bandwagon of hysteria and fear, and present a "return to faith" as the path to calm and stability. In the Irish context, some might say that this is an opportunity for Christianity to reassert itself.

The truth is, however, that Christianity is part of the problem! As the inheritor of the mantle of Christendom, the church still bears the scars of its prolonged flirtation with powers and principalities, whereby the Gospel that brought offence to the establishment and spoke the truth to power became a bastion of that same establishment.

Patently dishonest systems not unlike our failed global economy largely went unchallenged as long as the church had its own space in which to operate. Christianity, once the champion of the marginalised, withdrew from the margins and built walls around an increasingly exclusive centre.

And so today we have a church that is more concerned with its own survival than its mission, a church that has lost its prophetic voice and become an exclusive club rather than an inclusive movement. The frequently deafening silence of the church on issues of systemic injustice confirms a deep public cynicism towards institutional religion, compounded in Ireland by the clerical sexual abuse scandals.

The church has responded by retreating into a self-centred focus on personal salvation and private morality that has only increased its isolation and impotence. It is increasingly reluctant to wander too far from safe ground, concerned more with its own brokenness than with the brokenness of the people of God.

As part of the establishment, the church has not been immune to the global financial crisis, and is finding it difficult to fill the void left by the failure of global economics. Until last year, my own denomination, the Church of Ireland, counted among its major investments a substantial holding in the tobacco industry.

One of the strongest arguments for keeping these investments was their profitability, but at what cost? We are an integral part of this global economy that is in meltdown, and we cannot expect to emerge unscathed.

The church needs to rediscover its radical voice and present an alternative vision of how things should and could be. There is a model already. The Green movement is fulfilling a role in society that was once the preserve of the church. In a fragmented and highly individualistic world it provides a global community of shared values.

It affirms our interdependence and it calls people to concrete and often sacrificial action. With notable exceptions, people of faith are not well represented in this movement and in some cases are hugely cynical of it. Could it be that this antagonism is rooted in guilt, conscious or otherwise, that the church is not at the forefront of responsible environmental stewardship, or perhaps jealousy that someone else got there first?

However deeply repressed, there is a consciousness within the church that things are not meant to be this way. We are reminded every time we open the Scriptures that being a follower of Jesus is not about safety, security or respectability. Jesus spent his whole earthly life with failures and misfits, counting among his followers terrorists, extortionists, traitors and prostitutes.

These assembled misfits were the genesis of the church. If these "failures" could change, then there was hope for everyone. That is what the church is or should be about - showing people that they are not slaves to the past or to any system, economic or otherwise. To borrow a phrase from a once marginal American presidential candidate, the church should be about "change we can believe in".

When it ceases to present that challenge it is no longer a church, but a sterile and impotent body destined for destruction. The church is not the seat of power, but the agent of bringing God's love to the powerless. The current global economic crisis is about far more than collapsing markets - it is about the collapse of a toxic world view and with it perhaps, and even hopefully, the church as we know it.

• Canon Stephen Neill is rector at Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary

© 2008 The Irish Times

Saturday 1 November 2008

ARTISTS UNITE FOR OBAMA!

This has just been sent to me:

PRESS RELEASE:
Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys (Ger, Brian and Donncha Corrigan) and Shay Black are pleased to announce that they have resolved all of their earlier differences regarding the song 'There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama,' written by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys with additional lyrics added (by permission) by Shay Black and others.

Both Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys and Shay Black have posted their respective video versions of the song on YouTube.
Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys
Shay Black

Following a telephone conversation between the band and Shay, the band now know that Shay's intentions are sincere and that any confusion that might have been caused was not of Shay's doing. The band are happy to allow him to continue to perform the song and happy to wish him success with his YouTube achievements.

Ger Corrigan of Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys says 'We respect Shay, and his sincerity was made clear to us during my call with him. This is now behind both of us and we will get on together ensuring that the spirit of the song helps elect the great Irish Democrat Barack Obama!'

Shay says 'I am proud to perform the lads' song as my contribution to enlightening (and entertaining) the American voting public about Senator "O'Bama's" Irish roots.'

The band will work with Shay and intend to perform the song including Shay's verses with Shay both in the USA and Ireland. Ideally they hope to host Shay as their guest in Moneygall, Co. Offaly, the birthplace of Obama's Irish great-grandfather, and to hold a real Obama Fleadh when Mr. Obama makes a successful return to his Irish ancestral home.

Shay Black
USA: 510-393-7429
Shay_black@hotmail.com

Ger Corrigan
Ireland: 00353 61 330994
the_corrigans@eircom.net

Tuesday 28 October 2008

If you happen to be in Moneygall on Election Night


I'll be there! Make sure you are too!

Click HERE to see the first major US coverage of the story back in early 2007

Friday 24 October 2008

Why we shouldn't give benefits to those who don't need them!

A cry for help!
Not unrelated to the ongoing medical card debacle - Read this and tell me that giving medical cards to wealthy pensioners is justifiable in a time of limited resources - In the face of real need such as this we need to target resources to where they are needed.

The Horse at the end of the Rainbow!

Just saw this interesting sight on arriving home this afternoon. (Not a great pic as taken with camera-phone) The horse is in the field next door to my house - Incidentally in this same field the great Danoli, former winner of Cheltenham was born and was ridden by my other neighbour Charlie Swan.  I wonder is this a sign of future greatness - Not a betting man me, but one would almost be tempted to have a flutter next time he runs.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Suggestion for Medical Card Means Test – And a Postscript

Now that it seems certain that we are to have means testing for medical cards for the over 70s I thought I might suggest the following (which was in a round about way inspired by this post from Grannymar) to make the experience as simple and painless as possible.  After all if we are to believe various reports, once we hit 70 we spontaneously loose all our faculties and become blubbering eejits wandering around terrified of anything that involves putting  pen to paper.

So what can we do to spare our poor helpless pensioners from the government’s latest tool of oppression, the medical card means test form, soon to be released into the wild?  There is an alternative and it is not just for the sake of the pensioners that we should be glad of it – Can our capital city withstand another attack by the Grey Panthers? The debris is still being cleared up from the storming of the Dail.  The remains of improvised weapons made from zimmer frames, false teeth and knicker elastic litter our streets.  St Andrew’s Church on Westland Row is being re-consecrated after the shocking behaviour of our senior citizens who had the audacity to use the Church for political ends! (Nobody has ever done that before – have they?)

This is the alternative: The two Brians will go on an all-Ireland tour where they will grab all our senior citizens by the ankles and turn them upside down and shake vigorously!  Using a previously prepared formula, based on the contents of the pockets of each pensioner they will determine their eligibility for THE CARD.  Any evidence of foreign travel (an unnecessary luxury), such as non-Irish Euro coins will mean instant disqualification.  Any pensioner with one cent coins will also face disqualification, as the ability to pick these up off any surface known to humanity is indicative of a dexterity and fitness most gymnasts could only dream of!  Pills will also mean no card – we certainly don’t want to give the card to druggies! Where tissues are found in a pensioners pocket a very dim view will be taken and unless evidence of a medical allergy to Lidyl’s budget 1 ply toilet roll can be produced this will usually result in refusal.  Though this process will cause temporary discomfort and a rush of blood to the head it will be less stressful than the ordeal of filling out the proposed means test form.   And like the proposed means test the ratio of 20:1 will be preserved, the only difference being that only one in twenty will qualify! Now isn’t that much better?

 PS: On a more serious note:

What the government did re the Medical Cards was monumentally clumsy and stupid!
 For a very small financial saving the government have lost all the political capital and credibility they had. However I think common sense would say that the universal medical card for 70+ should never have been introduced. It was a cynical ploy to buy an election and poor stewardship of the nations resources no matter how well off we thought we were!
 People are too angry at the moment to listen to reason and I think the Grey Panther march yesterday was about more than medical cards - I think it was more about a sector of the population who are increasingly invisible in our rapidly changing and disconnected society. However there are better ways of making them visible than giving free medical care to those who can easily afford it themselves. There is a lot of talk about rights, but our rights are of necessity affected and circumscribed by the rights of others who also deserve a piece of a shrinking economic pie. There is scandalous wastage in our welfare and health delivery systems and these need to be addressed but the reality is that if we give out free medical cards to the wealthy there will be less beds in our hospitals and less resources to help those who are really needy and marginalized.  Taken to its extreme people who need resources will die if some of these resources are given to those who don’t need them. If we all got what we deserved we might have even more to complain about!

UPDATE: Check out the excellent editorial in the Irish Times (Saturday 25th October) which puts all of this in its proper context.

Of Rupees and Rockets

Just reading a church discussion forum which is discussing the lunar rocket launched from India today.  My first reaction was bemusement but on reflection and reading the contributions on the debate I think it raises questions that need to be answered by the Indian government and charities that continually pour aid into India. Are we subsidizing the Indian economy to feed the hungry or to fuel moon rockets? Whatever about medical cards for the over 70s (this is a major issue in Ireland at the moment), Lunar missions definitely fall under the category of 'luxury items'. Apparently dissenting voices are being raised in India about the government's economic priorities. We only give creedance to the government's skewed priorities by continuing to pump aid into a seemingly unceasing pit of despair. If the government of India puts money into space rockets instead of vital infrastructure this will only continue and the people will be perpetual victims instead of shapers of their own destiny.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Monday 20 October 2008

Zimbawbe - Why are we letting this happen?

Obama endorsed by President Jed Bartlet


Incidentally this parish can also claim President Bartlet as one of its sons. His mother hails from Borrisokane!

A Sunday Night in Cloughjordan

Went out to a Liam Lawton concert last night! I have to confess I would not have gone had I not been peripherally involved in the organization of it and were it not on my own doorstep in the Roman Catholic Church in Cloughjordan. It was a fundraiser for two very worthy charities: Breast Cancer Research and Suicide Awareness, both issues that touch far too many peoples lives. Well it was simply superb! The way he wove his story and the stories of the songs through the evening was both moving and entertaining. It was very simple set up, Liam and one musician on keyboards and another on guitar. Here he is singing one of his more beautiful compositions: Cloud's Veil


During the evening he introduced as his guest Fionnuala Gill, who played the harp beautifully and sang hauntingly. A former lead female vocalist with Riverdance, member of Seret Garden and founder member of Anuna She is being feted as the new Enya - I think she is actually better and that's saying a lot. Check her out on itunes or see her in an impromptu performance below on Dublin's Balcony TV:


I had supper with them afterwards and a more down-to-earth bunch it would be hard to find - not a Diva to be seen!

Saturday 18 October 2008

Graciousness in Defeat

This is not only side-splittingly funny but a revelation as to the statesmanship of one John McCain.



PART 2


And Obama's response:


PART 2

Saturday 11 October 2008

Everyone wants a piece of Obama!

Haven’t blogged in a while but one of the things that really gets me riled is injustice. The whole Moneygall Obama link has been given a shot in the arm by the inspired music and lyrics of Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys who penned the iconic song “There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama”. The lads aka the Corrigan Brothers, Ger, Brian and Donny hail from Limerick and have performed their song in Moneygall, Co. Offaly the Irish home of Barack Obama.
However, after all their hard work and artistic expertise someone else is gaining all the credit. Shay Black who is based in the US wrote a few additional verses and has been inadvertently credited with writing the tune. In an election where so much is at stake don’t let the lads from Limerick be dispossessed of their contribution to the success of Barack Obama. Every vote counts and the lads deserve the credit for this potential classic.
Check out their video below:

Saturday 27 September 2008

And it all started in Moneygall...........

Since initially posting this I am sorry to see that Shay is wrongly getting all the credit for this inspired song!

Friday 26 September 2008

Brave New World

Independent.ie
Young Protestants reject segregation
By John Cooney
Friday September 26 2008

Young Protestants in Border towns want to be educated with Catholics and make their contribution to the wider community, according to a new report.
The Church of Ireland report said: "Young people do not want to be segregated and indoctrinated, and would rather be educated together."
This dramatic finding is contained in 'Whatever You Say, Say Nothing', a broadbrush survey of young Protestants growing up in the Anglican diocese of Clogher -- which straddles counties Monaghan, Fermanagh and Tyrone, Donegal and Leitrim.
Welcoming its findings, Bishop Michael Jackson last night said the report, by researcher David Gardiner, would "resonate . . . into every corner of the Church of Ireland and beyond".
The project's director, the Reverend Earl Storey, said that a major aim of the report was to contribute to building a peaceful community in the diocese.
But the study also found a chasm between old and young, noting: "The present and future orientation of the young is seen as disrespectful and shallow by the old; while deference, respect and remembering of the old is seen as outdated, boring and redundant by the young."
The report, meanwhile, portrayed 'Border Protestants' as "reserved and careful with their emotions and money", and found a different "ethos, outlook, expectations and demeanour" among Protestants on either side of the Border.
The community in the North was seen as "harsher, more dogmatic and less forgiving" than "Protestants living inside the more tolerant and outward-looking Republic".
The report also found that Protestants wanted the Loyal Orange Orders to define their aims more clearly and to improve wider communication and understanding with their Catholic neighbours.
- John Cooney

Tuesday 16 September 2008

God wants oil and guns for Alaska! - Says Sarah Palin

Be afraid ..... be very afraid! Sarah Palin makes Bush look like a radical visionary ..... Wake me up ...... it must be a bad dream!

Monday 25 August 2008

Tiger Woods walks on Water!

I love this EA Games response to the supposed glitch in the games software that allowed Tiger Woods to walk on water!

Thursday 7 August 2008

Stealing Obama!

I´m only away for a week and the Dubs are up to their old tricks - Apparently Obama´s 6th great grand uncle was a wig maker in Dublin! Well sorry to dissappoint you guys but I reckon Moneygall´s 4th great grand father trumps your 6th great grand uncle! So Hands off! It´s beginning to sound like a game of genealogical Top Trumps! :-) Mind you it does show how everyone wants to get a piece of Obama and his celebrity. Can´t blame the Dubs for trying but on this occassion they are a long ways offside. I´m away for another week so by then I imagine Obama will be found to be a 15th cousin 17 times removed of Jackie Healy-Ray! ;-)

Saturday 26 July 2008

Not Pie in the Sky when you die!

In this short video Brian McLaren reminds us what it is all about.
Brian addressed the Lambeth Conference this week and I heard him last year in Dublin - Compelling and inspiring!



For more from Brian see here

Tuesday 22 July 2008

The New Blasphemy

"You can say what you like about Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but say anything reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous about a climate change scientist and you will be punished. You won’t receive a literal lashing, but you will get a metaphorical one. Speak ill of a climate expert and you’re likely to be stuck in the stocks of the public media and branded as a fact-denying, truth-distorting threat to public morals."

This from an article at spiked-online.com where Bredan O'Neill responds to Ofcom's censure yesterday of the Channel 4 documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle". The Ofcom document is well worth a read and is worrying regardless of where you stand on the Climate Change debate.  Surely no reputable science can be pursued without robust challenge and to make such challenge off limits is ultimately anti-scientific. Anyway the scientific bodies concerned carry such clout that they hardly need defending from Channel 4 ....... unless they are worried that Joe Public might begin to believe that their theories are not completely water-tight? Oh and before you ask ... No I am not a Creationist? I believe in Evolution and other good Science.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Lambeth - A tale of exclusion!


This is a very sad post - both for its author,
Bishop Gene Robinson and for the Anglican 
Communion. I think Canterbury has made a 
huge mistake and one that could undermine 
all the good which might come from this 
conference. This is not the way to deal 
with our problems - as anyone who 
read todays Gospel would surely realize!
The posting below is from his blog: 

+Gene


Never have I felt more in need of your prayers. As I write this, the opening service of the Lambeth Conference is going on at Canterbury Cathedral. I am a few miles away -- but it feels like a much further difference. I am not appearing at the opening service, as I promised the Archbishop.

Yesterday was a painful day. I am feeling frustrated and angry. I dare not write too much, because I don't want to sound like I'm whining, nor do I want to say anthing intemperate. But making my first trip into Canterbury and the campus on which the Conference is occurring was difficult.

The level of fear and anxiety, especially among the Conference powers-that-be, is out the roof. No matter what I say, no matter what assurances I give, I seem to be regarded as a threat, something to be walled off and kept at a distance. Greeting a few American bishops in passing, and then at a dinner for General Seminary alumni last night, has been pleasant and supportive. But even though I thought I was properly prepared for the feeling of being shut out, I am stunned by the depth of that feeling.

I am not participating in any kind of official way at the "inclusive opening service" being held this afternoon on a green off campus. I will sit in the congregation with those American bishops who choose to show up in support of this service of inclusion. I know that a number of them will be present, even though they'll have just finished a long service at the Cathedral. This means so much to me that they would do so, especially at this time.

The most infuriating blow came this morning with news that when the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops meets on Tuesday afternoon (each of the 38 "national" provinces of the Communion will have its own gathering), I will not be allowed to participate, because this would look like I had become a "participant," and the organizers seem intent on enforcing my status as a non-invitee. If nothing can be done to change this decision, it will be a particularly painful blow. At our House of Bishops meeting in March, I pleaded with the House not to let Lambeth separate us. For me to be excluded from my own House of Bishops seems especially cruel and unnecessary.

All is not bad, of course. I had a wonderful time with organizers from Integrity, Claiming the Blessing and the Chicago Consultation. They are making a powerful and effective witness to the presence of gay and lesbian people in the Church, and I am honored to be with them.

In the afternoon, I made my own little pilgrimage -- not yet to the Cathedral, but rather to the Greyfriars, the community of Franciscans here in Canterbury. Franciscan friars made their way to England and arrived in Canterbury in A.D. 1224. They've been here ever since. I had been invited to join them for prayer, eucharist and quiet, so I wanted to touch base. I was welcomed by every single one of the community, getting a personal tour of the place (which includes a heavenly "pasture" of wildflowers tucked between two passages of the river that runs through town) by one of the brothers, and then tea with the whole community. (See photo above, which includes some of them.) I believe I have found a spiritual home here in the midst of exile. I am thankful for their hospitality and welcome.

I don't know how all this is going to play out over the next two weeks. At the moment, I am feeling like the ancient Hebrews, wandering in the desert looking for God's daily manna, just to get through. With all the exclusion and meanness that has come my way over the years, you'd think this would come as less of a surprise. But surprise me it did! And it hurts, especially at the hands of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
So please, pray for me. Pray that God will reveal to me what I am to do and how I am to do it, best reflecting God's love and spirit of reconciliation. Pray that when given an opportunity to speak to one or to many, God might replace my words with His words, my heart with His heart. In the end, I keep reminding myself, I'm going to heaven.

Saturday 19 July 2008

Breaking News from Lambeth!


The picture above shows what happened when Bishop Brennan (Ordinary to Frs Ted, Jack and Dougal of Craggy Island) turned up uninvited to the Lambeth Conference. Archbishop Rowan Williams who has just completed a course in unarmed combat in preparation for a likely confrontation with some troublesome bishops was fully prepared when Bishop Brennan gatecrashed the conference. Like all good Anglican rows it began and ended in the bedroom where Williams performed the classic Anglican 'kick up the ass' dispatching Bishop Brennan without the need to resort to Sharia law. For further details on this and other episcopal encounters check out the Blogging Bishops from Lambeth.

UPDATE: One of my sources on the inside of the conference, the Bishop of Cork, reveals enhanced new security arrangements to keep Bishop Brennan out - It seems huge numbers of rabbits have been imported onto the campus and are doing what rabbits do with gay abandon! (No pun intended).  Bishop Brennan (Len as he is known to his friends) is terrified of rabbits and is reported to have left the area. For more on the rabbits see this story from another inside source.

FURTHER UPDATE: The picture below which has been leaked from a reliable source would seem to indicate why Bishop Brennan is not welcome at the Lambeth Conference!

Friday 18 July 2008

Brutal slaying of Andrew Hanlon

Fellow Blogger Bock the Robber has taken up this issue and uncovered some very disturbing information as to the circumstances surrounding the brutal slaying of Andrew Hanlon in Oregon recently. This is a short extract from one of Bock's postings: 

Andrew fell down before Gonzales shot him the final time, but he didn’t just trip.  He had already been shot, probably fatally, and without warning.

Gonzales only shouted a warning to Andrew after he was already fatally injured.  When he was lying on the ground, trying to get up, Gonzales then shot him again several times, in the limbs, causing the young rookie policeman who accompanied him to throw up in horror.

Now why would he do this?  Well, one possible reason is that he knew Andrew was going to die, and he needed to show that some disabling shots had been fired.  My guess is that he will now try to reverse the chronology and claim to have fired the leg and arm shots first.  He’ll claim that the fatal wounds were inflicted only after Andrew refused to stop.

I’ll remind you again: Andrew Hanlon was shot seven times, and possibly by two different weapons.

and the rest is here

If what Bock has uncovered is even half true then Andrew's killing was cold-blooded murder and a cover up to boot!

And now this:




We are a broad Church - All are welcome!

Nobody was brave enough to ask Lord Vader where he stood on human sexuality so he was welcomed into the procession.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Guess who might be coming to visit!

I have just had the third call today from the 'Meja' wondering had I heard if and when Senator Obama is coming to visit us here in Moneygall / Cloughjordan.  Apparently it was reported in the Irish Sun (tabloid newspaper) this morning as immanent so it must be true! It seems that there is pressure coming from various sources both within the Democratic party and here at home for Senator Obama to make a quick stop in Moneygall when he is in London on his european tour! Needless to say he would be most welcome but there is only one problem! The place is in a shambles - the painters, 
builders and decorators are in residence and there is a fine layer of white dust on everything inside the house including myself! There is so much of the stuff that it looks like an explosion in a cocaine factory! What if he wants to come to the rectory for high tea ( a daily ritual observed by all 'good Protestants' )? That would never do! 

Only thing for it is to get my good wife to make up a picnic of  sangwidges (cucumber naturally) and crisps - and of course a cup of tae from a paper cup- can't beat it! We could even have it on the site of the former family dwelling - And then on to Ollies for a pint of stout with the relatives and a chance to catch up where they left off - only about 160 years to cover so he should be back in the US by November!

Joking apart - it is an exciting prospect and even if it does not come to pass this time we are all looking forward  to a visit from a man who seems to have managed to rehabilitate the once noble calling of political office and given people something to really hope for and believe in - Themselves!  That may sound like a selfish and individualist philosophy but I think what makes Obama so inspiring is his ability to empower and motivate others to be the best that they can be and do the best that they can do. But his motto is not "Yes I can" but rather "Yes we can"!
(Is he a Bob the Builder fan? Who knows but I am sure Bob would approve! )
Obama builds community through his inspirational leadership and much maligned rhetoric.  In a world so full of alienation, cynicism and apathy this has to be good news!
So Senator Obama, if you or any of your team happen to read this may I formally invite you and your wife to a picnic in Moneygall. Just make sure you bring your umbrella!

Monday 14 July 2008

So we are about Love are we? Never would have guessed!

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire talks among other things about some of the naked aggression shown towards gay people today and reflects on how some leaders in our church have stood by and said nothing. It reminds me of the admittedly overused saying: "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing"! This was recently demonstrated by the rebel GAFCON conference (of pure Bible believing bishops)  whose members refused to condemn violence against gay people and the Primate of Nigeria who has at best ignored and some would say condoned the murder of gay people in his country! Not to mention the Archbishop of Canterbury who has sadly failed to loudly condemn the homophobic rants of so called 'orthodox' Christians! Unity is desirable of course but at what cost? What is worth sacrificing for Unity? From the denial of an invitation to +Gene to Lambeth it would seem that among the sacrifices is hearing the voice of gay Christians! So much for the 'listening' promised in Lambeth 1998 resolution  1.10! 

Sunday 13 July 2008

The Heat is on! How we Christians love each other!


The Lambeth conference hasn't even begun and already the pot is simmering. It never fails to amaze me the depth of hatred that the sexuality issue provokes in otherwise sensible individuals. Bishop Gene Robinson, a good friend and someone I have huge admiration for was preaching in London today when this happened:


Fuller video coverage of the protest here

Full video of sermon here

 For a little background look at this and this and also this.

An intelligent church prepares the ground

I have been reading Steve Chalke's recent book: Intelligent Church and this sermon is in part inspired by some of the insights he makes in the course of what is an excellent and challenging work:

Sermon for Sunday 13th July 2008

In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 we are very usefully provided with an interpretation of the parable. Seed (the Word of God) is sown in various conditions and according to the ground on which it falls (the people who hear it) it either prospers or dies. And even without the interpretation, anyone with even a basic knowledge of gardening would understand the symbolism in this parable. The hearers of the Word are either shallow, rootless, distracted or lastly deep and receptive to it.

It is tempting to look at these different types of hearers and ask ourselves which group we fall into: Are we shallow and easily swayed? Are we lacking in endurance? Are we too busy surviving to think of the deeper things of life or are we well grounded and nourished, fertile ground for the Word to take root? 

Whatever our answer, perhaps a better question to ask ourselves is this: What are we doing to prepare the ground so that the Word of God can take root and bear fruit in the lives of others? It is all to easy to resign ourselves to the inevitability that for some people God will never be a part of their lives.  We criticize the rising tide of secularism and militant atheism – we despair at those who say there is no God or at least see no place for God in their lives – we speak sadly about the diminishing numbers of young people in our churches and yet we fail to ask the obvious question: Does it have to be this way? Or perhaps to rephrase the question in a more challenging way: what could I do to change things?

It is important to ask this question because we are not mere observers and the Gospel is not merely a description of the Christian life – we are participants and the Gospel is a call to action. I do not for one moment think that Jesus told this parable to describe the various ways of responding to God’s call on or lives but rather to draw to our attention to our calling as his followers.

And what is our calling? To make disciples of all nations or in other words to make Jesus known to everyone we encounter in our lives.  That might sound straightforward enough buts its not! It is counter-cultural – We live in a society which increasingly says that faith is a private concern; that it is a matter of individual devotion and fulfillment!  Who are we to tell others about this Jesus?!   And the tragedy is that we have largely given in to this pressure and allowed the Gospel to be marginalized by being ring-fenced in the private domain.  The truth is that the message of Jesus is personal but it is NOT private! It is of its very essence public! Jesus was and is political – Look at the beginning of his public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth as recorded in Luke 4: “The Sprit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”.  Bear in mind that this is in the context of Roman oppression and try and argue that Jesus did not preach a radical political message. And this is no isolated passage  - look at the Sermon on the Mount and you see the same upturning of the social order! Yes Jesus is about the salvation of our souls but he is concerned for our bodies as well. He cared and cares about life before death as he cares about life after it! We must fight against this privatization of the Gospel. Dealing with this same compartmentalization of life, Steve Chalk in his recent book: ‘Intelligent Church’ quotes Archbishop Tutu who said: “If we are to say that religion cannot be concerned with politics, then we are really saying that there is a substantial part of human life in which God’s will does not run……If it is not God’s, then whose is it?

The Gospel does not exist in a vacuum – It had and continues to have deeply practical implications. A vital part of our calling is to prepare the ground for the Word of God.  We expect far too much of people if we think that they will become followers of Christ just because we tell them that it is the ‘right’ thing to do – As Chalke also comments, the theologian Walter Bruggeman once famously said – “people are not changed by moral exhortation but by transformed imagination”.  And maybe when we realize the truth of this it will release us from a burden because it just may be that we are trying too hard! Or to put it another way – we are trying to do the wrong thing! We are trying to make clones of ourselves when we are really called to make followers of Christ.  How many of us in bemoaning the disinterest of our children and others who we call ‘lapsed’ in our community of faith are really sharing the difference that Jesus makes in our lives? Young people in particular are hugely sensitive to integrity and genuine commitment and however much we preach the importance of ‘going to church’ it is a futile exercise if it is not rooted in and motivated by a love of Christ in us.

I think this is the real crisis the Church faces today – We are calling people into an institution when what they are craving is a relationship with God….a transformative relationship that empowers them to be the people that God wants them to be and to do the good that they are able to do.  We are not engaging effectively with the spiritual hunger that is out there!  We are not in the market place – we are not sharing the vision – we are keeping it to ourselves and denying it the air it needs to breathe and to flourish.

And what we are called to is infact very simple – As Chalke puts it:

It is not our job to make anyone believe. Our responsibility is simply to love God and love others….Our communities are transformed because through us, God walks our streets, feels their pain, hears their cries and responds to their need.”

It is in this way that the ground is made receptive to God’s Word – that it becomes Holy ground and we truly exercise our discipleship of Jesus. May we follow him and in that following inspire others to walk in his way.  Amen.