Showing posts from June, 2012

The Baptist and the Christ: Cancer vs Capricorn

The Baptist and the Christ: Cancer vs Capricorn (This sermon was given in Dublin on 19th June 2005) Next Tuesday, 21 st June, is Midsummer Day, the longest day of the year. Barely will the sun set before it is rising again. In former times, when people were more attuned to the rhythms of the earth and sky than we are, it was celebrated with bonfires and feasting, and no doubt the neo-pagans among us will be out in the woods and on the hillsides, at Stonehenge and Newgrange, on Tuesday, keeping alive our ancestral customs, acknowledging our dependence upon the sun for life and livelihood. It’s always been a rather special day for me, because it was my dad’s birthday – he would have been 98 on Tuesday – and it is also the anniversary of my ordination to the ministry. Astronomically it is the day of the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its point of maximum elevation in the northern hemisphere. From that point on it will begin its slow decline, the days growing prog

The Tears of Things (Lacrimae Rerum)

Lacrimae Rerum – The Tears of Things ‘Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.’ (Job 5:7) The Aeneid by Virgil is one of the most important literary works of the western world, and probably the most celebrated poem in the Latin language. The poem was completed about 20 years before the birth of Jesus. Its hero is Aeneas, a veteran of the Trojan War, who has escaped the burning ruins of Troy and has been wandering on sea and land for six years in search of a new city for himself and his companions. As the poem opens, his implacable enemy, the goddess Juno, has just engineered a terrific storm, forcing Aeneas to take refuge in Carthage, on the North African coast. The queen of this land is the beautiful Dido, who is fated to fall in love with Aeneas, and who will eventually take her own life when that love goes unrequited.           Before this fateful meeting, however, Aeneas looks around the huge temple of Juno which is under construction, and he marvels at its si


Morag and I went to Prague last weekend. We went as guests of the Prague Unitarian Church, to help celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Prague congregation. Prague is a charming city - even my philistine eyes can see that - but it is full of tiny squares which make it impossible to negotiate for those (like me) who have no sense of direction. Fortunately, our hotel was only seconds away from the church and only minutes away from the astronomical clock, which was built no later than 1410 and is a wonder to behold. We went to the Salvador Dali exhibition and I was particularly struck by his painting Fighting over a Dandelion, which just about sums up many of the conflicts throughout human history. There's a tiny museum devoted to Johannes Kepler, and it honours Kepler the astrologer as well as Kepler the astronomer. Most people don't realise that he had a collection of over 800 horoscopes and wrote that, for all its imperfections, astrology 'compelled his unwill
Trinity Sunday - for Unitarians   Einstein said that the most important question a human being can ask is: Is the universe a friendly place? This is indeed the ultimate existential question, and while we may not ask it every day, and while we may not ask it in precisely this form, there can be few of us who, in those troubled and sleepless early morning hours, have not striven to find answers to this, the deepest of life’s perplexing riddles. Is there some point to my life, or is it, in the end, just ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’? And, as I can most certainly testify, when faced with the prospect of imminent death, the question is asked with a great deal more urgency than formerly, and the answers one considers are of more than passing intellectual interest. Those student posturings in late-night conversations over endless cups of coffee now seem vacuous and irrelevant: what one demands from oneself at times of crisis is honesty;