Tag Archives: pride

Where the Outcast Weeps

This is a deeply moving piece that just absolutely had to be shared. Do pop over and visit Debbie’s blog. Each post is Two Minutes of Grace, and well worth the ten minutes you’ll want to take pondering over her words.

Two Minutes of Grace

Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps. ~ Brennan Manning

I loved this when I first read Abba’s Child. I loved the poetry and imagery. I loved the idea of it. But I didn’t get it – not really.

The day came when I knew I didn’t know. How do you learn where the outcast weeps? I’d heard things like: Look at Jesus. Do what He did. He hung out with the outcasts. Go and hang out.

And that’s true, but there’s more.

Jesus was an outcast. So was His Father. They still are. That’s the mark of  grace.

For a very long time, I did all I could do not to be an outcast. I tried so hard to do everything right. I was afraid of being broken. I was afraid of the rejection. I was afraid of…

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Power, Love and Harry Potter

Shhh!  Don’t Tell.  I’ve been reading Harry Potter

I have just finished reading the Harry Potter stories again.  Now I’m ready for the movies of the last book.  Oh dear, that’s a confession that’s going to get me into trouble, but there you go.  Some Christians do get rather worked up about these things.

I was impressed again with JK Rowling’s writing.  I like her style, her use of words, her humour.  She seems to know young people very well and effectively describes their fears and their progress through life.  The magical world she created is also quite extraordinary.  It’s not on the majestic scale of JRR Tolkien but it’s believable and it draws one in.  There are one or two things one might quibble with or want to know more about but, like good science fiction writers, she gives you enough to enjoy and lightly skims over the bits that should not be examined too closely. It is truly a magical world.  Owls deliver post; witches and wizards really do fly on brooms; and they even have a Quidditch world cup—a game played on brooms.

The great theme that runs throughout the series of course is that of good versus evil and, specifically, in the form of power versus love.  There are instruments and positions of power; if any of them are sought for themselves alone, for the good of the holder alone, they will corrupt.  The old adage, ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is explored throughout the series.

We fear weakness.  We want to be strong or to be around those who are strong. 

Of course the real baddy in the books, Lord Voldermort, has completely corrupted his soul in his pursuit of power.  He has no interest in anyone around him, well not in their friendship, only in their service—their complete subjection to himself.

The good guy, the tireless warrior on the side of good, the headmaster Albus Dumbledore, is only too aware of his weakness.  He knows that, given half a chance, he would be no different from Voldermort.  Power appeals to him and he knows how easy it is to succumb to its allure; as a result he avoids positions (like the Minister of Magic) where the temptation would be too great, and he remains a teacher.

There is an interesting cameo from Dumbledore’s youth that is touched on in the last of the seven books but not explored.  Dumbledore was tempted by a power-hungry fellow student and in plotting to conquer the world they convince themselves that their pursuit of power is “for the greater good”.  The idea that “one man should die for the sake of the people” is of course something with which Christians are familiar.  And the idea that the end justifies the means has been quoted to justify a host of horrors throughout history.  

What appeals to me about Harry Potter himself (yet frustrates the adult in me no end) is that he is no super hero.  Some things are so obvious to my adult view but I know that when I was Harry’s age (the books cover the seven years from Harry’s twelfth to his eighteenth year) I was even less socially adept than Harry and way behind him in political and social awareness.

Harry’s greatest strength is that he cares about people around him.  He may hate with a bitter hatred those he sees ranged on the side of evil, but he will not kill them or leave them to die—even when their death would have been caused by their own attempts to destroy him.

The key to the defeat of Voldermort by Harry (and Harry’s own protection) is the love of Harry’s mother who died trying to save Harry life when he was one year old.  The same theme returns at the end when Harry himself is prepared to die to try to save the lives of his friends.  His action creates the force that finally destroys the evil Lord Voldemort.  Once again we have the idea that one person should die for the good of all.  The key difference is that men and women of power use the idea of the ‘greater good’ to cause others (never themselves) to suffer ‘all in a good cause’.  For Harry, and for the Christian who follows Jesus’ call to take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, death for the sake of others is a choice.  And it is the choice itself that brings life.

[For an interesting interview with JK Rowling about some of these themes, of which I was not aware when I wrote this post, see here] – added 23 Nov. 2010


Filed under Harry Potter, Odds & Ends

Ten Bridesmaids: A Soccer Story


This story was first told at Prestbury Methodist Church on Sunday 18 July 2010

   SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (2) Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. (3) The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, (4) while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. (5) The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep. (6) “It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ (7) The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. (8) Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ (9) ‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves.’ (10) So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed. (11) “Later the others arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. (12) ‘Certainly not! I don’t know you,’ the bridegroom answered.” (13) And Jesus concluded, “Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.


What were ten bridesmaids doing waiting around in the middle of the night for the bridegroom?  Why was the bridegroom so harsh?  Ok, they weren’t ready; they didn’t have enough oil; they messed up.  But you and me, we’d know these foolish bridesmaids. We’d probably say, “You bunch of skelms.  What you doing out in the dark?  Get inside!”  And later, no doubt, we’d tell our bride about her dilly friends.

 The other stories and illustrations Jesus used were all taken from everyday life and were very easy to understand.  So we assume this one would also have made sense to his hearers at the time.  But what is clear to us is that these bridesmaids had a responsibility.  We might not know what that was, but it was important enough to impact on a number of people, including themselves, and to have serious consequences.  It is also clear that relationship with God is not about who we are, but about what we do.

 Given those truths, how would Jesus have told the story if he was speaking to us, in South Africa today, after a most successful soccer world cup?

And what if, instead of talking about the people involved, Jesus told it from the point of view of one of the characters?

 Let’s listen….



I was always mad about soccer, ever since my folks gave me a soccer ball when I was two years old. I’d make my Dad play with me. Where I grew up soccer was everything, and being able to play like Lucas Radebe was every kid’s dream.

By the time I hit high school there were ten of us in the neighbourhood. We used to kick a ball around together in someone’s yard, or on the street, or down in the park. We were at different schools but we had all grown up together. Well, except Midget—he was the shortest of the group, obviously—he came later, but in spite of his height, he fitted in pretty quickly.


Phillip and I would compete for best placekicker. We could hit anything at 20 paces. We also did trick shots like scissor kicks. I know we were just showing off but, hey, if you’ve got a talent there’s no point hiding it under a bowl. Phillip would practice like mad but I was lucky, more of a natural. I could usually beat him and tackle the ball away from him. It made him really mad. I think that’s why he worked so hard; he was determined to get the better of me but I could still hold my own. Whenever I went to his place I’d find him kicking the ball or bouncing it on his feet like the soccer stars do. And when I left him after we’d been playing in the park, or wherever, I knew he’d go straight back to practicing—sometimes spending an hour or more at it. I’m so glad I didn’t need to do that. It would have taken all the fun out of it.

We were going to play professional soccer one day. We dreamed of the day a talent scout would come to our neck of the woods and spot us. We’d be the talk of the town. What a life we’d have!

Phillip also worked pretty hard at his books. Me? I just did enough school work to get by and keep my folks off my back. “Could do better,” was a regular comment on my reports but I didn’t care. Once I became a soccer star no one would care about my grades. 

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