Peter's Blog

Somewhere - Someone

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Yesterday a new book arrived courtesy of called Jesus & His Kingdom of Equals. I've been recommended this book by two people recently in connection with this article. It is a whole year's curriculum for children aged 9-12ish looking in detail at the life of Jesus. As I have no sermon for tomorrow, I have been reading through parts of it. It looks very good.

One snippet for you this evening from Rev Thomas Carruth:

The Kingdom of Love is coming because:
somewhere someone is kind when others are unkind
somewhere someone shares with another in need
somewhere someone refuses to hate, whole others hate
somewhere someone is patient - and waits in love
somewhere someone returns good for evil
somewhere someone serves another, in love
somewhere someone is calm in a storm
somewhere someone is loving everybody.
Is that someone you?

Son of Man

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Following a recent meeting in Glasgow Renfield St Stephen's Church organised by Graham Maule to think about how people are using the Living the Questions materials and how they could be improved for a UK audience, we decamped to the local public house for a refreshment. There I got into a conversation with Peter King from England and we started discussing the many different images of Jesus portrayed on film over the last 90 years or so.

He told me about a recent film he had just watched called Son of Man. I added it to my Tesco DVD rental list and it arrived a couple of days ago. Wow!

Keeping Jesus at the centre of Christmas

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Pupils from Auchinraith during Christmas Service

This morning was the Christmas Service for Auchinraith Primary School at the church. All the pupils who were involved in leading the service did a great job.

The picture above was taken at the end of the message. I played a photographer setting up a photo-shoot of the nativity. Except after recounting the nativity story and dressing up volunteers as all the key parts I got a little too carried away and started adding all the other bits of Christmas from Santa to Rudolph, Snow men to Christmas trees, presents to shopping bags and so on... Until you could no longer see anyone from the nativity behind.

After clearing all those fun things to the side we get to see the real heart of Christmas again, as shown here.

It worked well and kudos to Esther (pictured adorned with tinsel and lights!) for the idea! It fitted very nicely with our "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" theme.

Storytelling Bible Box

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Bible Box

I've been working away into the small hours for the last couple of nights finishing off the resource guide that we are going to circulate following the success of "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" in the previous two weeks.

I'm writing up the part where Steve Younger was doing the story-telling. He used a Bible Box to house some props about each story he told. I've seen these used on many occasions and always thought I should try and get hold of one.

Subliminal Plagiarism? Satriani vs Coldplay

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My Ibanez JS-1000

Still feeling rotten here... and looking out of the window at a miserable day too. So, as I am not up to much that is sensible today... I'm going to tackle an amusing musical spat that is developing between Coldplay and Joe Satriani.

Why the picture above? I thought I had better come clean and admit that my favourite guitar is my Ibanez JS1000... what does that JS stand for? You got it... Joe Satriani. It is a signature model guitar based on the one he plays - and I love it! If you have never heard of Satriani, he is an amazing rock guitarist who has been very influential on many others and indeed has taught a huge number of other guitarists.

The right context

Written by Peter Johnston on .

I wanted to follow up on my previous post on integrity and compassion earlier than this but have been suffering from a wretched bug (spent most of today in bed!) and have only had enough energy to look at the blog tonight. Awww, poor pitiful me...

Jen Robertson quite rightly pointed out to me that the context in which we treat certain stories is very important.

"For I, the Lord, love justice"

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Mother and Son of Al-Jamadi

The title of this post is from our old testament reading on Sunday morning (Isaiah 61: 8). The picture above shows the mother and son of Manadel al-Jamadi, whom I mentioned in a previous post, holding a picture of Manadel dead with Spc Sabrina Harman's beaming grin and thumbs up sign. Manadel had been tortured to death.

Like me, I am sure you remember the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison that emerged not long after the invasion of Iraq by the US, UK and others, and the horror of images like the one above and many more. It takes no time with Google to find these images today. You may also remember the argument at the time that the horrors depicted in the pictures was a result of a few "bad apples" amongst the invading troops. Indeed, Spc Harman was duly convicted for her crimes. This last week a declassified executive summary report from the US Senate Armed Services Committee was released and it shows clearly that the Bush Administration authorised the use of torture.

Can integrity and compassion clash?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Jesus with Jairus' daughter

Yesterday was the final "Bubblegum and Fluff" event for this Christmas. It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope for others involved in it to be working together as a team to do something a bit different for the children in our local primary schools.

For our final day a change was made to one part of the programme and that change got me thinking on the way home and over the last day about the times when our compassion and pastoral care clashes with our integrity in talking about Jesus.

Jesus' transforming presence

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Steve Younger storytelliing at Bubblegum 'n' Fluff

In this morning's penultimate Bubblegum 'n' Fluff event for P6 children held in Trinity Church in Hamilton, I witnessed the transforming power of an encounter with Jesus. It is often (usually?) in surprising ways that we witness God at work, and today was no exception. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, as we pull the fluff from around the bubblegum to reveal what's underneath, and explore the reason why we celebrate Christmas we have three stories about Jesus and how he transformed the lives of many of those he met. 

Animal ballet?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Bizarre and yet strangely captivating...

(I hope no animals were harmed in the making of this film!) 

What does Christmas mean to you?

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Wreath with Christmas Hopes

For the Christmas Assemblies at Calderside Academy the chaplaincy team had asked if a group of the students could do some vox-pops asking their fellow students what Christmas means to them. I picked up the raw footage DVD today and have had a quick look. There are some great responses, including a wonderful Aussie outlook!

I'll try and get it all edited together tomorrow afternoon between the pensioner's Christmas lunch and a meeting at Auchinraith Primary to plan their Christmas service. I'll put up a copy here when it is done, so check back for that later in the week.

Resistance is futile...?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Sophie Scholl, played by Julia Jentsch

The title of this post is borrowed from a Star Trek film which in turn borrowed it from Douglas Adams' use of the phrase "Resistance is useless" by the Vogons as they arrest Arthur Dent et al. The phrase has become a cultural meme to represent overwhelming authoritarian power and the seemingly feeble resistance of a few to that power.

In the end, of course, the phrase is usually used ironically as we know that the dominant authority can be unveiled by resistance. The phrase sprang to mind while watching a German film that was recommended to me by my father-in-law called Sophie Scholl. (There's more...)

Ideas I wish I had had...

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Ebay headquarters

I don't know about you, but I sometimes find myself thinking about some of the mega-companies that rule in the information world and think to myself: "Now why couldn't I have thought of that?!" Take ebay as an example. The auction website has made it easy, cool and sometimes even profitable to buy and sell secondhand goods. And I wish I had thought of it!

Don't anyone tell my kids, but I just bought a camera for one of the girls for Christmas. For the same cost as a new cheap and nasty "kids camera" that will take awful pictures (I know as Katherine spent some of her own money on one during the summer holidays - it looks fun but the pictures are hopeless) I was able to pick up a four year old camera that was a superb model in its day. I like to encourage the kids with photography, and far better to get to grips with a real camera at an early age, especially when it costs no more than a toy. Viva ebay! 

An Elegy for Variety

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Axl Rose and Yo-Yo Ma

I've had a couple of eclectic additions to the CD collection this past week, and I've been enjoying both tremendously. First was Guns 'n' Roses first new album in 14 years, the provocatively titled Chinese Democracy. Unsurprisingly the Chinese government are up in arms about the album! It is a great album of powerful bombastic rock - and you need to turn it up for best effect - which is great timing as our neighbours are away on holiday! I've been introduced to a new guitarist through it: Buckethead, who, I kid you not, plays with a KFC bucket on his head... which doesn't stop him from being a pretty superb player. (There's more...)

Hackers + Nurseries = Stress

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch's famous The Scream sums up the week pretty well. If you have tried to access the website over the last few days you will have noticed something was not right. The site was hacked by some egit in the small hours of Wednesday morning (3:06 a.m. to be exact!) causing no end of grief and heartache trying to get it resolved. This was not helped by finding out that the webhost's daily backup was done just minutes after the hacker had done his devious work meaning that restoring from the backup was not an option. For a good portion of yesterday I thought I had lost all the updates to the website since it first went live three months ago. 

Christmas is De-fluffed

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Pupils from Auchinraith listening intently

After months of preparations our first "Bubblegum and Fluff" Christmas event took place today with P6 pupils from Auchinraith Primary coming to St Andrew's for a morning to learn more about the Christmas story, to de-fluff the story from the tinsel and trees. Just about everything worked well, though we are going to tweak things a little for Friday's event at the Baptist Church with High Blantyre Primary pupils to make things flow a bit better, but on the whole we were very pleased with how this went.

Star of Blantyre?

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Conjunction between Moon, Jupiter and Venus

Coming home from taking the girls to piano lessons this evening we saw low in the night sky the conjunction between Jupiter and Venus as the moon passed by too, creating an occultation of Venus (thanks to Iain C for that technical term - I just noticed he took a snap tonight too - great minds!). It is slightly misty (hence the glow around the moon), and the mist means you can't see any other stars, but these three heavenly bodies were clear as anything. The picture was taken from the top bedroom looking out over the roofs and trees on the other side of Glasgow Road.

One of the suggestions for the Star of Bethlehem is that it was a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn that we know took place in 7 BC. Are we witnessing the Star of Blantyre tonight?

You can learn more about the astronomical options for "the Star" in this paper written by my step-father, Robin, who taught astronomy for many years at Glasgow University. 

Puppet Shoulder

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Shoulder Aches

If tennis players can have "tennis elbow" and Wii fanatics "Wiiitus", then tonight I am suffering from "puppet shoulder". David Burt and I went down to the hall to set up the puppet stage for the first "Bubblegum and Fluff" event for primary children tomorrow morning. We had a run through of the puppet sketch and song we are going to be doing, and afterwards we were aching! You just don't realise until you try it how incredibly straining it is to hold your hand straight up and operate a puppet for three minutes, let alone the seven minutes we need!

I also realised the importance of stretching before we do the sketch tomorrow. However, it should be fun, if we can make it! 

Songs of Praise

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Songs of Praise

I've finally finished the multimedia presentation for tomorrow's (today's!) service. This is one of those services that everyone thinks is a day off for the minister as there is no sermon... little do folks realise that it has taken hours to prepare. We're doing a "Songs of Praise" service with all the songs we're going to sing (all 17 of them!!) suggested by church members. 

To make it more interesting, however, I visited a number of folks during the week with video recorder in hand and asked them why they had picked the song they chose. The answers are varied and fascinating and I hope people learn something from hearing about how certain songs and hymns have meaning to others. The time-consuming bit is editing everything together so it all works seamlessly during worship, I hope!

It is a good range of hymns too from ancient to modern and encompassing many different styles. The favourite was a song by Mike Burn called Healing River, which has become a very popular hymn in St Andrew's over the last five years or so. Technology willing, you'll be able to join us through the podcast in due course.

Vegetarian Masterpieces?

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The Last Supper in Vegetables

It might look familiar until you take a closer look and realise that da Vinci's Last Supper is here recreated with vegetables! It is the work of a Chinese artist Ju Duoqi who was interviewed by The Guardian recently. In the artist's words:

In the summer of ’06, I bought several kilograms of peas, and sat there quietly for two days peeling them, before stringing them on a wire and turning them into a skirt, a top, a headdress and a magic wand. I used a remote control to take a photo of myself in them, and named it Pea Beauty Pageant. That was my first work of vegetable art.