Angela Hewitt and Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, Honest Burgers in Brixton, The Fellowship of the Local Church
Last week, we were in the cheap Platform seats at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, listening to Angela Hewitt on a Fazioli piano. On the menu for the evening, Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A Flat (final notes hanging dramatically in the air),
and after the interval (when they’d brought out an iPad loaded with scores and a wireless transmitter possibly for the page turner backstage? Martin Kettle of the Guardian suggests control-by-foot pedal) Bach’s Art of the Fugue. Masterfully clear playing. Chatting after the concert, it was clear that many appreciated that instead of diva-esque behaviour, she took the trouble to increase overall enjoyment by explaining what she would be doing with the fugues and how they might work.
And then the search for good grub at Brixton, where Honest Burgers at Honest Burgers were suitably juicy and beefy (patties from Ginger Pig) and chips were fresh and hot out of the fryer and well-seasoned with rosemary salt.
Quite a few people from Singapore have asked, in the last few days, how working at the Local Church is going. Thinking over the past week has made me immensely grateful to be part of a church family rich with the maturity of older saints who have been willing to love for us transient folk (who will be of little future use to the Local Church) by investing time and energy in really getting to know us, in sharing their lives (knowing that this relationship will soon end), and in training us:
- Monday and Tuesday were spent at the School, with the after-hours dedicated to frantically writing up talks and bible studies. (Fortunately, one housemate cooked dinner.)
- Wednesday started at 7.20 a.m. with bible study for City workers, followed by a one-to-one session at 9 a.m. on doctrine with someone who has been proclaiming the gospel since the Local Church was only made up of 6 people in the 1960s, followed by a meet-up at 11 a.m. with the Supervisor, then lunch and prayer with the Prayer Partner at 1 p.m., followed again at 2.30 p.m. by a work-through of what godly behaviour might look like (based on Scripture) in different difficult situations with a 70+ year-old with vast experience in leadership politics (both secular and church-y), then a long slot of wine-waitering (and drinking in-between) for a guest event, chatting with other wine waiters.
- Slept in a bit on Thursday, chatted with housemates over a late breakfast, then went to help out that the lunchtime talks for City workers. Continued talking to one of the wine waiters from the previous night, helped a tourist find the tombs he was looking for, cleared up, then found a room to eat sandwiches and read in. Someone came in to chat. And soon, it was time for security duty at the Local Church reception desk. The Outreach Minister came in to print off booklets and, over the noise of the photocopier, we spoke quite honestly about certain challenges in church and training. Then the Rector came in the door fresh from a teaching trip to North America, with some stories to tell. The exhausted Assistant Cook brought us very nice salmon and creamed spinach left-overs from the ongoing guest event, and the Outreach Minister acquired some unwanted sauvignon blanc.
Several people came and left at different times. There was amused approval that the Rector, being most concerned only about whether the gospel was preached faithfully, could happily leave a big week of events to run on their own while he was away, where Rectors with other concerns might have insisted on staying on to micromanage things. Later, the pianist came in having sneakily played Disney princess songs during the event, followed by speaker whom we ribbed gently (who of course pointed out that I was far worse than he in the same areas of weakness). We talked about how brilliant it was that the leadership at the Local Church did not require the Ministers to fit in certain moulds and that they wisely related with each differently, according to their temperament and gifts (or lack thereof in certain areas). Good modelling of an understanding of 1 Corinthians 12?
Somehow, i managed to finish R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God in the midst of all that. It was a great little book that dealt clearly with the predestination and double predestination. But more of that another time perhaps.
Immensely thankful to God.
I walk into a housemate’s room.
me: Hey, i’ve got a short question on biblical interpretation for you…
housemate (still in bed): It’s 8.30 on a Saturday morning!
another housemate (walking in): Hey, can we talk about Galatians…
housemate (yet to get out of bed): ……….
So, in what seems a vast improvement from previous weeks, am actually attempting to get a talk done a few days before it is due to be given. However, the extra time has made me realise that far more is needed to sort out emerging (and quite basic) issues, amongst others:
- the famous 5 teaching sections of Matthew – determined by literary markers of “when Jesus had finished saying these things…” (or similar – see. Matthew 7.28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1) – is this narrative -> teaching or teaching -> narrative? Or are the 5 sections not the right structural tool?
- Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament – continuous (Jesus has not come to abolish the Law) or discontinuous (new wineskin)? Or both?
- Sermon on the Mount – this is the standard and you can’t achieve it? Or this is the standard so (try to) live this way? Or both?
- how much do you import the use of a word in a Gospel into an individual passage? Eg. “heavy laden” and “burden” in Matthew 11:28 cf. the “heavy burdens” laid on the people by the Pharisees who sit on Moses’ seat (Matthew 23). David Jackman in his Teaching Matthew thinks the latter should inform the former, but i wonder if the immediate context of Matthew 11 suggests otherwise.
- Is Wisdom Christology valid in this Gospel? Or are the Mosaic allusions more commendable?
So much fail. Back to work…
One of the most glorious weekends away this year (alas, how fast it is passing!).
Glorious because of the deep blue skies and sunshine as we took a long walk through Windsor Great Park, chatting about God’s work in our lives and about the comfort of being “in Christ” – Peter Adam having taught us well from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We also talked how we might watch the way we walked.
Really enjoyed hanging out with the wider church family and listening to the experiences of older saints and wiping snotty kiddy noses.
Almost bowled over Hugh Palmer of All Souls who happened to be ambling past as I rushed (alas for my miraculously accurate time-keeping so far this year, 20 minutes late!) to meet up with some folk from New Word Alive at The Attendant (Downstairs, 27a Foley Street, London W1W 6DY).
We didn’t quite get to catch up much because ex-Victorian loo aspect with its pretty urinals and later-addition hand-dryers made for good conversation with the strangers we were sharing the table with.
Conversation soon turned to the Christian faith. And I had a good chat with the nice chap sitting next to me about the historicity of the Bible, the fulfilment of Old Testament promises in Jesus, and the evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus .
It had been a long day starting with setting up breakfast at 6.45 a.m., followed by Bible study for city workers at 7.45 a.m., a 121 on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, then talking with an American who thought I had a British accent, then working through Daniel 6 and 7 while the Mandarin ministry pastor sharing the room listened and critiqued a sermon given by another staff, and on to SLOB for Daniel 6 and 7, and a hastily gobbled lunch while reading the day’s Financial Times, working on a talk on Matthew 11, before talking to an apprentice who’d just been told he would not be staying on for another year…
Greatly enjoyed the discussion though, and was massively energised to chat more with one of the NWA folk as we went grocery shopping and then to go on to complete the day would end at around 10 p.m. with a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark.
The Yorkshire Man and i were at Southbank Centre for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Sunday afternoon performance of Liszt’s Les preludes symphonic poem, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. i was keen to listen to Vadim Repin live again and the Yorkshire Man wanted to re-live the Berlioz. This is the view from the cheap seats in the Choir.
At dinner, we were arguing about teleportation – he arguing that this could only exist in the realm of science fiction because of the grandfather paradox problem and i dismissing this as irrelevant to the possibility of the idea becoming reality. Further, he failed to realise that his concept of how teleportation could work was hopelessly outdated in light of the possible quantum entanglement solution.
But i do wonder if teleportation, even of the replication variety, would help with time management. As i was hastily typing the previous paragraphs, texts were buzzing through – from someone working in Westminster asking to talk about a certain aspect of politics, from the father of a hospitalised housemate, and from a sick theological student about dinner… How can/should one “manage” one’s love for people and the time one spends caring for them?
Rushed through Spitalfields just in time to meet friends waiting in the line for the London Coffee Festival 2013 (facebook), which snaked round a corner of the Old Truman Brewery and continued for a least 1km down Brick Lane. News that the organisers were still clearing the people from the previous time-slot prompted several Americans to demand a refund while the British continued to wait stoically in the drizzle.
Half an hour after the start of the ticketed time, we were in. Because this was London, individual stalls in the main hall were set up around a green open space, and there was a programme of live music acts for those resting from all the caffeine.
At the Brew Bar near the entrance, there was 360°‘s Bolivia Caravani (Mana-mana?) on Hario V60s. We tracked the beans down at the Make Decent Coffee room where you could taste test the same bean brewed using different methods – on the cafetiere, it was cloudy and slightly muddy; on the aeropress, its brightness was overwhelming; on the chemex, muted; and on the V60, relatively flavourful and full-bodied. An educational experience especially for my partner-in-crime (since i’d conducted similar experiments at home with the same equipment).
The coffee i enjoyed most, in milk, was Union Hand-roasted‘s Blend No. 1 (50% Guatemala Finca el Cascajal, 40% Nicaragua Finca la Argentina, 10% Kenya Kagumioni AB) – all caramel goodness versus the dark chocolate and berries of the alternative blend, Louie Mio (vague – 10% Vietnam, 50% Ethiopian Sidamo, 30% Brazil, 10% Honduras).
Of all the gear on display, was most interested in the Ikawa Roaster and Roast App for homeroasters, a lovely bench of Hario equipment (most of which i owned but left in Singapore), the tamper handles made of different woods, and the beautiful ROK Espresso maker.
The next day, in possibly the only sermon to mention the London Coffee Festival (but i could be wrong!), Andrew Sach of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate ended a very useful series on the Book of Job, having himself been greatly helped by Christopher Ash’s Out of the Storm.
“I won’t believe in God unless he can explain why there is evil in the world.” and “How can a good God allow suffering? A good God can’t, so the presence of pain proves that there isn’t a good God.” we say, and think ourselves very reasonable and intelligent. But the Book of Job scoffs that by this, we actually show that we know nothing at all, and in our arrogant foolishness even fail to realise that God is so much greater than us that we cannot expect to start to understand all that he does in his sovereignty.
New International Version (NIV)
40 The Lord said to Job:
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”
6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
15 “Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?
41 “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
2 Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
3 Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
4 Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
5 Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
6 Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
8 If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.
12 “I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?
14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
15 Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
16 each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
17 They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.
18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
19 Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.
22 Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
24 Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
27 Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
28 Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
a creature without fear.
34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.”
42 Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Billingsgate Market (Trafalgar Way, Poplar, London E14 5ST), say all the publicity, is the United Kingdom’s largest inland fish market. It is easily accessible by bus and DLR. There is a seafood training school onsite, the Billingsgate Seafood School where you can gain fishmongering skills and also learn how to make sushi from Feng Sushi’s Silla Bjerrumis. An opportunistic seal called Sammy resides in the waters just off the market.
Tsukiji Fish Market it was not. On Saturday morning, the wet floor teemed with a mess of both restauranteurs and Joe Public eager to get a good price for seafood, and also, camera-wielding tourists commenting on how it was not Tsukiji. Old clothes and waterproof footwear were the best gear for the occasion, and a ear out for warning cries of the porters shouting “mind your feet!” essential to avoid having ankles bruised by the heavy pallet trucks and trolleys pushing past.
The experienced came with marketing trolleys, not just because of the weight of the produce but also because bus-drivers have been known to refuse entry to people openly carrying raw seafood – for fear that the lingering fishy smell would affect other passengers. The marketing trolleys had to be left outside the main entrance.
Inside, fish and other seafood were laid out in styrofoam boxes. Because this was a wholesale market, some stalls only sold fish by the box. And certainly, there were no fishmongers to scale, clean, cut or otherwise prepare the fish for anyone, though some fish was sold already cleaned. On offer were mackerel, salmon, tilapia, catfish, milk fish, seabass, emperor fish, rohu fish, hara hara (?), plaice, stockfish; smoked fish from Scandinavia, and salted fish to cater to those from the African and Caribbean cultures,
live piles of oysters, crabs, scallops in their shells, winkles…
Since only a few people would be over for dinner that night (vs the housemate’s need to feed 20), I purchased a modest amount of scallops for £5 a dozen and 4 salmon heads for £1. Not being at all familiar with Chinese cuisine, fell back on the Asian food I understand most – pseudo-Japanese. The misomayo hotate was very well-received, accompanied by buckwheat noodles in steaming kombu miso soup.
The grilled salmon heads, with their crisp exterior, meaty front collar, and tender cheeks, were not quite as well-liked – because they resembled (they were!)… real fish…
We have been thinking about what it means to live for God – yes, there is the being obedient to specific commandments and also standing firm in one’s evidence-based faith, not being ashamed of Jesus because Jesus has already brought believers into his kingdom and because if we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us on the last day. But what do we do that isn’t merely reactive? The working hypothesis (possibly the same vein as my frugal nasty-bits-diet-in-preparation-for-mission-to-supermarketless-lands policy, though not stemming therefrom) is to make the most of the situations (whether good or bad, humanly-speaking) God has placed us in, and of the gifts and character God has given us, to make God’s work in Jesus known to all – for surely that is what gives God the most glory.