Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Luther's recommendations for your devotions

“You should diligently learn the Word of God and by no means imagine that you know it. 

Let him who is able to read take a psalm in the morning, or some other chapter of Scripture, and study it for a while. This is what I do. When I get up in the morning, I pray and recite the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer with the children, adding any one of the psalms. I do this only to keep myself well acquainted with these matters, and I do not want to let the mildew of the notion grow that I know them well enough. The devil is a greater rascal than you think he is. You do as yet not know what sort of fellow he is and what a desperate rogue you are. His definite design is to get you tired of the Word and in this way to draw you away from it. This is his aim.

Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures.”

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Another one bites the dust - Reflections on Bowie's death

One of the striking things about paintings of public executions in earlier times is the contrast between the French and the English approach. French artists typically ignored the gathered crowd and focused in detail on the face of the one about to be executed (there is, indeed, one picture of a woman about to be executed where her face has one of the most haunting expressions I’ve ever seen).  By contrast, English artists focused on the crowd, whether jubilant, mocking, or distraught, and left the victim a somewhat shadowy figure.  Public execution was after all, in part, public entertainment; and English artists had the courage (or lack of good taste) to represent it as precisely the kind of popular entertainment that it was.

I was reminded of this recently, when I switched on the news and on every channel/website the focus was on David Bowie’s death.  His death is very sad -- whatever his problems or faults or sins, two children have lost their father, siblings a brother and, if his parents are still alive, mum and dad have lost a son.  What is interesting (though hardly unpredictable) is the way in which the media have focused on the grief of the wider public, on people who never knew him and many cases presented a person’s death as entertainment.

I didn’t always enjoy Bowie's music but he was clearly a popular and talented entertainer. And he continues to entertain in death -- not just because his records will get some major airtime (including the just released album Blackstar) but because the media are able to play his death as one more showbiz event, burying the tragedy of real death, real bereavement, and terminated relationships. Of course, apart from grief, a good response to Bowie’s death (as with any other death) is to reflect on our own death and to ask how prepared we are to meet our Maker. As the poet John Donne movingly puts it:

“Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore, never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Wonderfully in Jesus Christ and by believing in Him, the Bible assures us that we receive forgiveness of sins and are made ready to stand before a Holy God (John 3:16). It is in taking this simple yet life-changing step that we can be made ready for that day, when the bell shall toll for thee.

Parish magazine article for the Second Sunday of Epiphany 2015 AD (with thanks to an article by Rev Dr Carl Trueman)