Tag Archive: God

Pied Beauty

“Pied” as in magpie which is patterned with black and white. This is one of my favourite poems

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

… in order to see all the outside.

It was a trip to the Liverpool Tate art gallery and one of Picasso’s paintings there that was the starting point for these thoughts.

"Still Life" by Picasso

“Still Life” by Picasso

I reckon that Art divides people into two camps: those who hold strong opinions and those who don’t. I am not sure which one I belong to. Some art is thought-provoking, some is beautiful, some is challenging and some, to be honest, leaves me cold.

But art, such as painting and drawing, is one way that people try to explore themes of truth and beauty. The other week we saw a picture in a gallery by Picasso – a still life – which we were told was of some fruit and a violin. There seemed to be bits and pieces of them in that painting but it was nothing like a photograph, say. The description on the wall helped a bit by explaining that Picasso was experimenting with a style that tried to see all sides of something at the same time. Instead of painting a flat picture using lines of perspective, he tried to show all the sides of the fruit and the musical instrument. I found it helped to think of it like this. If you look at an orange you can see just one side or the top or the bottom at any given angle; and if you take a photograph or make a conventional drawing, the same applies: you only see part of the surface at a time. Now peel the orange and flatten it out. It is no longer round but you can see the whole surface. Now try peeling a violin… you can’t, but that is sort of what Picasso was trying to do in his painting. He was trying to show the whole picture, the whole truth you might say, but the result was pretty weird to look at.

Whenever we see something that is beautiful or read about something that is true, we may be given a glimpse of God’s Beauty and Truth. That is where art and Christian faith overlap, for surely part of God’s mission is for people to catch a vision of his beauty and to be inspired by the truth of the gospel of God’s love for the world.

This is the time of year when the natural world steps up a gear producing blossoms and flowers in a myriad of beautiful colours and shapes. It is as good a reason as any to celebrate God’s goodness with a flower festival, for example. But we can also take a few moments to gaze outside, perhaps looking at a flowery garden or taking a trip into the countryside. There we may enjoy the beauty of Nature’s art and wonder at the true splendour of God’s love.

“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96 verse 6)

I think it pretty obvious to say that God does not have a wicked sense of humour, but does God laugh, did / does Jesus laugh? does holy joy include having fun, enjoying yourself and laughing?

I don’t see why not, except there is a school of thought that says that laughter is for fools and that if you are making fun of something you are not taking it seriously – that you are mocking. Mockers do not rate highly in the Bible. On the other hand, laughter can break the tension, make holes in the barriers that people set up between themselves and help people get along. It can contribute to making harmony. Sharing a joke can be a way of building relationships with my neighbour – an expression of love for my neighbour. Unfortunately, humour can also be used as a weapon by making certain people, particular characteristics, the butt of a joke. In that instance humour breaks bridges rather than knock down walls between peoples.

The occasion of these thoughts comes from reading “Does God LOL?” compiled by Frankie Mulgrew. This book contains a collection of short articles from a range of comedians and comedy writers. It will come as no surprise that all bar one of the thirty plus contributors say “Yes” one way or another. That one of them says “No” is a bit of a surprise until you realise that his tongue is firmly in his cheek.

What struck me most about the book was the number of people who saw their comedy-making as a vocation. Many referred explicitly to their own Christian faith, but there was no one pattern. Comedy can help lift the burdens one carries in life. Comedy, jokes etc., provide one way of sharing joy – which is a spiritual gift. Some of the writers went as far as to show where there is comedy or laughter in the Bible. In a reverse of mediaeval tradition they ask “How can Jesus have not laughed?”

Whether or not you agree with the writers, the book was easy to read and I enjoyed the cartoons. I don’t know whether it would repay rereading but the profits from the book go to charity in any case.

Four stars, I think, or 7 out of ten.

“Does God LOL?” compiled by Frankie Mulgrew, published by Darton, Longman and Todd 2013

I think the answer to my original question is “Yes, God has a good sense of humour”.


I have resisted till now the temptation to comment on this TV comedy in case it sounded like special pleading. However, credit where credit is due, this comedy is good. Mostly not ‘laugh out loud’ funny but clever, witty and may make you smile. The critics seem quietly impressed too.

From the Guardian, John Crace (11th Nov 2011) “Quite deliberately, with little fanfare, Rev. gets to the heart of the modern church by exposing it as both a source of much goodness and a complete irrelevance.” Nice for the writers of “Rev.” although somewhat damning with faint praise for the Church of England. Meanwhile Alison Graham has come round to liking the series (‘Radio Times’ week beginning 26th Nov 2011).

From a technical point of view it makes a change to see a fictional portrayal of the C of E that does not have me shouting at the TV: “that service is not authorised”, “you haven’t done the legal preliminaries”, “a green stole in Advent – you must be mad!” OK so it’s not really that important in a film or some such but other professionals have confessed the same impatience with inaccurate portrayals: real police compared to TV cop shows, real forensic scientists compared to etc … well you get the picture. It’s OK when you remember that it is fiction but people do often get their ideas from what they see on TV.

So far I have not noticed any major gaffes. For example, the prayer used in episode 3 was straight from the service of Compline and appropriate for a house blessing – and the archdeacon was quite right: leave exorcism to the experts. Similarly Rev. was right when he explained that the Holy Spirit is not a ghost, although he did start to get unstuck when he talked about “God’s energy” – He is more than an impersonal force – but I don’t expect systematic theology from a comedy.

Of course some of Rev. is somewhat far-fetched; it is fiction, after all. However, I find that any minor discomfort I may feel is because some of it can be quite close to home. Ministry can feel a bit like Rev. sometimes.

As for what rating I would give: technical accuracy 9 out of ten; story lines: 7 out of ten; laughter: 3 out of ten; feel good factor: 8 out of ten. Overall 7 out of ten or four stars.

%d bloggers like this: