Monday, 27 May 2013

Great Gatsby?

Hunter S. Thompson once said that form time to time he would type out the whole of ‘The Great Gatsby’ just to see what it feels like to write the perfect novel.  So how do you film the perfect novel?  There have been four attempts that I know of.   This is only the second that I have seen and with a week’s distance I am still not sure about it.  

I should say that I share Thompson’s admiration for the novel.  It is certainly among my favourites.  Yearning for the unobtainable, unconquerable hope, the collapse of dreams, the triumph of style over substance - these are themes that can connect with people in every age.  

Unfortunately, I think that latter theme could be applied to the movie itself.   It’s obvious from time to time that the same director is in charge who made ‘Moulin Rouge’.  I mean what is the point of having ‘The Great Gatsby’ in 3D?

Leonardo De Caprio is better than Robert Redford in the 1974 version.  We have to remember that beneath the extravagant lifestyle Gatsby was a bootlegger and that wasn’t just about manufacturing and distributing illegal booze.  People died in turf wars and also in the consumption of some pretty dubious brews.  Leonardo brings out the dark side of Gatsby very well.

Friday, 3 May 2013

25th Anniversary.

Any anniversary is a time of thanksgiving.  We think of the years we have been granted and the people who have featured largely.  Over the last twenty-five years many precious relationships have been established, many with people now beyond sight, touch and call but who are still part of my inner landscape.   People who have taught me much about moving with hope through illness and hardship and who faced the final challenge firmly in the faith of Christ.  Thanks be to God for the Faithful Departed!

Many still remain who welcomed me as a relatively inexperienced minister, gave me space to follow my own inner promptings, and were generous in their understanding when things went wrong.  It’s all very well to say ‘we’re only human’ but I have never found it easy to live with any hurt I may have caused.  So I am grateful for the message received from so many that while there may be stumbles along the way we are never entirely finished in the Lord’s service.  Forgiveness and renewal are as much for ministers as anyone. 

When a senior colleague heard that I had been called to St Paul’s in 1988 he said: ‘That’s a great congregation.’  Well, that was an encouragement to me but more than just a trifle intimidating.  What could I bring to ‘a great congregation’?  I’ve learned that we can only bring to the Kingdom what we are gifted to bring and to trust that the Lord knew what He was doing when He called us to a particular area of service.  Spiritual maturity is being content with that. 

Someone once said to me that what was wrong with me was that I was trying too hard to make things happen instead of standing back and getting in touch with what was already happening.  That was a great insight.  Just to take time to see how individual people coped with illness and loss; to see how generous people are with time, talents and money; to see the loving support given to friends and family in times of need; to see ideas emerging for the benefit of disadvantaged people at home and abroad; to see living faith making a difference.    It has all been an enormous privilege.  

So the last twenty-five years have not been about me but a congregation seeking to work out the reality of Christ in its life in sharing the greatest truths anyone has ever stumbled upon and bringing the love of Christ to anyone in need.  That is what made St Paul’s ‘a great congregation’ twenty-five years ago and I have been blessed in seeing that continue until now. 

Constant companions through these years have been my family.  We’ve had more days of celebration than the other sort and I am grateful for that.  It can’t be easy being ‘a son of the Manse’.  It must seem at times as if you are living in a long shadow but Mark, Stephen and Paul have become their own men and I am confident that wherever they are and whatever they do the world will know the difference. 

Of course they would not have been possible without a very special lady who has shared my life for the last thirty-five years.  The Bible speaks of two people becoming ‘one flesh’ in marriage and I believe Gabrielle and I have lived that truth.  No achievements unless she has contributed; no failure but that she has helped pick up the pieces; no hopes for the future that she has not shared.  In many ways that has been the greatest blessing. 

Thank you all for your kindness, patience and support.  And now, the future . . .