Yesterday was a day of three halves. In the morning we went ot see the Great Scottish Tapestry for the second time. The first time the Aberdeen Art Gallery was like a cultural sardine tin, with bus loads of stitchers from far and wide, so after trying for ten minutes to see some of the blessed panels, we retreated to Books and Beans (the coffee place in Aberdeen if you want something different, rustic and friendly, surrounded by used books for sale).
Yesterday it was quiet so we were able to move round this amazing exhibition with freedom, time to inspect, admire and enjoy the needlework of women from all over Scotland. Each panel has the names of those who stitched it on the explanation card below - I saw no men's names. Hmmm. Anyway there are over 150 panels each around a square metre, so we looked at the first 70 which took over an hour, and by then we had seen enough for one visit. We'll go back and complete it next week. From prehistoric Scotland to the independence debate, from the first settled migrants to modern immigration movements, from battles to treaties, churches to Toon Cooncils, from agriculture to industry to Enlightenment to heavy industry decline, characters like John Knox and James Watt, local cultures from Gaelic to Doric, lochs and mountains, thistles and heather, castles and tenements - it;s all there, and all of it imaged in cotton, wool and silk. By any standards it is an exhibition that comes from thousands of hours of work, careful organisation, long learned skills and in its complexity and completeness, a superb pictorial history of Scotland.
Late afternoon I went to the inaugural lecture of the Centre for Bonhoeffer Studies at Aberdeen University. Dr Jennifer McBride delivered a superb lecture on 'Who is Bonhoeffer for Today', in which she argued strongly against those who find in Bonhoeffer whatever they go looking for with no regard for the overall context within which Bonhoeffer lived, and spoke and wrote. For example 'religionless Christianity', ripped from context and made into a vehicle for radical, at times radically negative theology, is a phrase that can only be understood within the overall Christological context and cruciform shape of Bonhoeffer's theology.
Mcbride's major work on Bonhoeffer examines Bonhoeffer's insistence that Christian dicipleship and the church as the Body of Christ are authentic insofar as they engage with the world, and do so as expressions of the Lordship of the incarnate and crucified Jesus. One of the genuinely creative points she made was to warn the church against a moral triumphalism by which Christian communities see themselves as the moral and ethical judges of society. The church rather, is the Body of the Christ who took upon himself the sins of the world, and was 'numbered with the transgressors'. Far from being the judge and moral watchdog of society, the church is to be a community of repentance, acknowledging its solidarity with human social and public life in all its ethical co0mplexity and compromise, confessing its implication in the structures of sin, and witnessing to an alternative way of being which expresses repentance as turning away from the practices of domination to the practices of redemptive action, and these based on a discipleship of the crucified, risen Lord, whose life they embody. That at any rate was what I took away, and it provides much to ponder. (Jennifer McBride's book is just released as paperback at £15 - the hardback was £50 - this is a substantial reclaiming of Bonhoeffer for a theology both culturally critical and christologically confessional. I've already got mine ordered).
As I said, it was a day of three halves. The third one was the five-a-side football, my regular Friday night chance to shine with a slowly diminishing brilliance! I scored a long range spectacular toe-poke, after which it would not be true to say the boy done good, my conribution better described in the famous Alan Hansen phrase, 'ordinary and lacklustre'. But it was fun - and overall a day of three good halves.