Today we held a Special General Assembly of our denomination to deal with the crisis surrounding the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. I believe that it was a good meeting with a good outcome. All the resolutions and the substance of the business can be reviewed here.
Following the singing of the metrical version of Psalm 121, this is what I said at the opening of the Assembly: Read more…
The sun shone on the Finglas Road in Dublin today when An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, opened the wonderful new museum at Glasnevin Cemetery, which might be described as Ireland’s equivalent to America’s Arlington.
It’s unusual for a cemetery to have a museum attached to it, and it may all seem a bit gruesome when one is told that the underground crypt of the museum provides an interactive resource on the whole range of human belief about death and dying, known as City of the Dead. Actually, it is a most fascinating and engaging presentation. As well as telling the story of the history of the graves, it also describes the work of the body snatchers who dug up remains to sell to medical students.
Famous political figures buried in the cemetery include its founder, Daniel O’Connell, as well as Michael Collins, Eamon De Valera, Charles Stewart Parnell, O’Donovan Rossa, Arthur Griffiths and Countess Markiewicz. One of the first exhibitions at the centre will be on Daniel O’Connell, who set up the cemetery in 1832 for the purpose of burying “people of all religions and none”. A significant number of Irish people who lost their lives in the two World Wars of the twentieth century, as well as the Crimean War, are buried in Glasnevin. Read more…
My friend, Niall, who edits the Belfast Telegraph Rugby Supplement (published every Friday) invited me to write a few words for the penultimate edition of the Supplement as the rugby season winds down. This is what I wrote:
If some Ulster rugby supporters turned up at church last Sunday morning looking a little forlorn on what is meant to be the most joyful day on the Christian calendar, the reason was clear. After a couple of poor away games, Ulster returned to what we used to call “Fortress Ravenhill” to deliver a less than impressive performance against Cardiff which left many supporters, myself included, feeling distinctly blue at the beginning of Easter Day. Thankfully, after the second verse of “Thine be the glory”, I began to feel better. Read more…
Rembrandt's The Resurrection of Christ, c1635-39
Easter is an opportunity for Christians to affirm what the New Testament clearly declares, that Jesus Christ who died on the cross, actually rose again from the dead.
The apostles made clear that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal doctrine of the Christian faith, for without this truth, they said, “our faith is vain”. It proves that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, and that he accomplished what he claimed to have come into the world to do.
The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead has massive implications for how we live now. The Easter story is evidence that God’s new creation has been launched upon this broken, messed-up world, and it points forward to the renewal and rebirth of the entire creation.
Since God declares in the resurrection of Christ that he intends to overcome sin and evil, it means that Christians, in the power of the Risen Christ, should work for justice and righteousness in our present world. That means that issues like poverty and the massive economic imbalance of our world need to be addressed with energy and commitment. If God is going to renew all things in Christ, then Christians are called to engage in a programme for change so that every form of sin and injustice is challenged and overcome.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we not only apply the gospel to the major problems of our world, but that we also apply it to the intimate details of our personal lives. Christian holiness means that individually we learn to live in the new world created by the Easter.
While there are many parts of the world we cannot affect, there is one part of the world which we can do something about, and that is the person we each call “myself”. In the power of the new life of Christ, we confront sinful attitudes and practices in our own lives, and begin to live in a way that honours and reflects our Crucified and Risen Lord.
I have been given an appropriately inscribed Easter egg. It was a gift from the Deaconess Association which I will treasure, but only briefly. Come Easter Monday, it will be well and truly gone!
The pattern for a number of years is that the Moderator conducts a communion service on Good Friday for deaconesses who serve in various ministries within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Currently there are 27 deaconesses, with a further 3 women in training. They carry on an amazing variety of pastoral ministries in local churches, in community projects, and as part of the chaplaincy teams in our hospitals. They bring many gifts and skills to their ministries, and are very much appreciated. You can read about their work here.
In giving me a chocolate Easter egg, these women were clearly showing a great pastoral concern for me and for my health. A recent study has shown that Easter eggs and other chocolate can actually be good for you. The study of over 19,000 people, published in the European Heart Journal, found those who ate half a bar a week had lower blood pressure. They also had a 39% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. Read more…