OK, so my blog initially stalled, because I just didn’t know where to start. Maybe I need to get back on the horse & maybe that means going simple.
It all hinges on the resurrection dude. It’s the centre of meaning for the Christian faith.
I’ve never understood people who could say “I have no idea with the idea that Jesus was a good teacher, and I can even believe that he is the Son of God, but I refuse to believe in a physical resurrection.” For me, it all boils down to the question of whether you believe in a God who is actually bigger than us? If there is a God who created us, who sustains this universe & who wants to be in relationship with us, then causing Jesus to rise again from the dead shouldn’t be that surprising.
The resurrection is the evidence that Jesus is God’s Son, it is the defeat of death, and the “first fruit” of the resurrection that is promised for all who put their trust and faith in him.
I posed the question on facebook: Because something is “right” does that also make it “good?” Discuss with reference to current world news… and people knew straight away that I was talking about the shooting of Osama Bin Laden.
There’s been a great deal of reaction to Bin Laden’s death, but also a reaction to the reaction… and this is what I am interested in.
Let me paint a quick picture for you…
My two year old, “Pumpkin” gets caught playing in the cupboard under the sink. I know that this is where all the dangerous goods live & I know that she shouldn’t be there, so, closing & locking it again, I would send pumpkin to sit in the corner. She knows she wasn’t supposed to be there, she has done something wrong, so she suffers the consequences, which, in turn reinforces that these behaviours are not ones that she wants to repeat.
It is right to punish your child when they do something that you know they shouldn’t do.
But I wouldn’t say it’s “good” to punish children.
It isn’t something that I’d enjoy doing. We love our kids, we care for them & we don’t want to see them go through painful things. If punishing my child was something that I actually ENJOYED, then this would be the kind of behaviour that might lead to having DOCS come & take my kids.
There are a thousand things that we do every day that we know are the right thing to do, but it is not something that we ever enjoy (eating salad!!!)
Was it right to hunt down Osama?
Some commenters to my post had different opinions, but I’m willing to say yes for a couple of reasons.
- We anticipate (but can’t guarantee) that the intention was actually to catch him & bring him to trial. Given the violent nature of his life and work, it was never very likely, but if that is what was reported as the intention, I am willing to take believe them. So, we assume, the death was an unavoidable consequence of a violent defence.
- Capturing Osama is likely to save many lives. On one side, this highly intelligent man is no longer around to be able to organise terrorist actions. His particular brand of genius has been removed. Additionally, one commentator pointed out that many muslim extremists believed the West’s inability to find/kill him was proof that Osama had Allah’s divine protection, itself a vindication of their cause. This balloon has been popped!
- Quite simply, Osama was clearly connected to, and therefore guilty of the deaths of thousands of people throughout the world. Things he didn’t organise himself, he actively supported.
I think these grounds are enough to show that he was deserving of capture and trial (again, assuming that this was the intention… like any police action, if a perpetrator draws a weapon & aims at their captors, they must expect a response…)
One can argue rationally that Osama’s attempted capture and subsequent murder was “right.”
But it doesn’t mean that it was “Good.”
My objection is to those who revel in the news, who celebrate that this life, no matter how ugly to us, has been extinguished. When we celebrate this man’s murder then we cease to be lovers of justice and become simply lovers of retribution, the result of which is not peace, but uniform guilt, as we have succeeded only in committing the same crime as Osama.
Am I glad that Osama was caught? Yes.
Was it right to take whatever measures necessary to ensure that he didn’t escape? I think, yes. If shooting Osama was the result of his brandishing a weapon at his captors, then shooting him was preferable to allowing him to shoot them & then run.
Is it a “good” thing that he is dead? No. I feel it has only been the next step in what could be a loooong tit-for-tat war between two ideologies who fear that the other is seeking to subvert and destroy them. We want Osama to come to justice, but we also want other terrorists to watch & feel that violence is not the answer to their cause. We want to promote the idea that the answer is found in fighting for what is right, in maintaining the moral high ground, in seeking to “be” that change that we want to “see.” If the answer to our problems is to joyfully dispatch them, then we have no reason to expect that our “enemies” will do anything but respond in kind…
I’ll leave you with the three quotes that I’ve enjoyed most over the last two days, speaking to this sad situation.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee ” – John Donne
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” – Romans 12:17-19
For many this would be the Article that they struggle with…
I’m going to neatly avoid controversies that surround this one (how could he tell the second thief he’d be with him that day in paradise? Are we looking at a movement at Christ’s death from temporality into the atemporal? Is he “in hell” at the point where he cries “Why have you forsaken me?” etc…)
I’m going to speak of something else instead.
One thing that this article makes clear is that Jesus’ death on the cross was not just to set an example of how committed we should be to the “peaceful way,” it wasn’t a big act to shake us out of our apathy, it was a death which he suffered, including the most painful experience possible, the abandonment of the father, because he loved us & he was taking the penalty that we deserve for our failure to live as we ought.
Here is the perfect example of where all Christians can say “there, but for the grace of Christ, go I.”
Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man
“The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.”
Undercover Boss is a fairly successful TV show. I’ll admit that the premise has sucked me in on more than one occasion. The idea that the head of an ultra-successful organisation would slum it with the entry level minions in his business to get an idea of how things were going & what he could do to improve things is fairly cool.
If we are entertained by millionaires who are willing to make themselves blue-collar workers again, how much more amazing is God, the creator of Heaven and Earth, the one who sustains all things, yet this God, out of love for his creation, would deign to enter this world in human flesh. To experience all that it is to be human, to be tempted, to suffer indignities forced upon him by sinful men.
For some reason, the idea of God-become-man, particularly the virgin birth, really sticks in some people’s craw
I’ve never had an issue with the virgin birth as some have, since, appealing to reason, as the Higher Critics would call us to, if we are speaking about the all-powerful God here, then it is most reasonable to assume that he can “break the rules” as he enters into our mortal experience, especially when it serves as a reminder of Jesus’ nature as both fully God and fully man.
What does it mean for me? Again, a blog like this is only ever dipping into the surface of such things. One thing I would point to is the simple, yet profound truth that, through Christ, God can understand me in the most personal and experiential of ways (as if the one who created me couldn’t already do so), yet, being the Son of God, Christ is able to provide in his death (and subsequent resurrection) a sacrifice which is so worthy that it can bear the weight, not only of my sins, but the sins of the whole world!
Of all the things that I marvel at as I approach God, the divine combination of the transcendental and the personal is one of the most amazing!
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” — John 1:14
Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
I always enjoyed the joke:
“Question: How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“Answer: Three….. but they’re really one….”
The trinity, the concept that God is both Three and One, is one of those concepts that is clear in the Bible (though the word “trinity” itself never appears) yet the idea itself is almost impossible to understand. How can Father, Son & Holy Spirit each be fully God, yet fully distinct? It does our head in (or at least mine), but you know, it is actually something that gives me a great deal of comfort.
It boggles my mind to think about the sheer number of telegraph poles & underground wires to hardwire the internet throughout Australia. It makes my brain hurt trying to understand the physics of a plane that weighs maybe 100 tonnes, getting enough thrust that it can push itself (and me!) up into the sky!
There are a thousand little miracles in my world that I don’t understand, let alone considering the almost infinite universe outside our world, yet God made all of these things. Should I be surprised that I find the nature of God hard to understand?
What I do know though, is amazing.
God the Father made us, loves us & has had a plan for me since before the beginning of time (let the idea of “before the beginning of time” bounce around in that noodle of yours!)
God, infinite, powerful and majestic, chose to become fully human, experiencing all the trials and temptations of human nature, yet living a sinless life. That same God submitted himself to a painful death on the cross, not because he messed up on something, but so he could take the judgement that I deserve for my inability to live the way I know I ought (and more importantly, the way God calls me to)
And, having taken the penalty for my sin, God the Holy Spirit dwells in all people who “confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised them from the dead” and this Spirit is at work in me, convicting me of the gospel truth, and changing me to be more like Christ in the way I live, think & act.
Now that’s pretty awesome….
What does it mean to be an Anglican?
It’s a question I have been asked & it is one I’ve spent some time thinking about. What does it mean to be Anglican? Could I imagine being anything else?
It puts my faith within a particular historical framework. For many, the first jump would be to Henry VIII & his six wives. I have to be honest & say that in some regards, that really is the birth of the “Church of England,” but at the same time, unfortunate circumstances & some inappropriate acts actually gave birth to something much grander & more helpful. So, personally, I would rather think of the story of the Anglican church being the same as that of Joseph (of the “technicoloured coat” fame, for all you secular types). Thrown down a well, before being cast into slavery, he survived all kinds of horrific experiences, later to become second only to Pharaoh. When those same brothers came before him in great need, he finally revealed who he was saying:
> “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” — (Genesis 50:20)
There may be some dubious beginnings to the Anglican Church, but by the grace of God, it has done some great good in the world & through it (as with many other denominations) the gospel has been preached in many countries!
So, we have largely transcended one aspect of our beginning, so what does it mean to be Anglican then?
For others, they would say that Anglicanism is shaped by those traditional practices that we have. To be an Anglican is to follow a lectionary, to know the liturgical colours, to be conversant with the prayer book and committed to orderly worship.
This too is a difficult place for us to find out identity. Partly because things have changed throughout the centuries. Earlier Anglican liturgical practice appears to have been quite austere, while since the [“Oxford Movement”](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Movement) a lot more “Anglo-Catholic” practice has returned to much of the church. On the flip side, the low church, in seeking to distance itself from such things has arguably removed itself from formalised liturgy all together.
What is right? What is Anglican? Is it more Anglican to follow the practices of the prayerbook? If so, are we talking 1662 or later? Is it a closer reflection of the “spirit of the law” to seek ordered worship, but in a style that is edifying & helpful to a contemporary audience?
It’s a big argument & I’m not going to touch it in this series. Anyway, lots of people feel strongly about different liturgical styles & there are also lots of faithful Christians who worship in the different contexts..
What I want to write about is one of the foundational documents that the Anglican church is built on. That’s the 39 articles.
Since 1571 they are the doctrinal dot points that shape the theology & practice of the church. They’re in every prayer book & they are committed to by every ordained person, yet not that many people know them too well. The 39 articles are one of those classic documents that are referred to, but not known.
Over the coming months, I’m going to work my way through the 39 articles. I’m not going to write any grand theological treatises. We start off with the Trinity… you can see the world of pain I’d be creating if I got too detailed there, but I am going to share a couple of thoughts about why I think they are helpful, and how they shape my faith.
In the end, I am an “Anglican” because I think it helps me be a better Christian. They point me to Christ as the great “Yes” of God, that this has been revealed to us in the scriptures, and that in the end, all things on heaven and earth, including the Anglican church, will bow before God’s throne.
While it helps me keep my eyes on the heavenly prize, I’ll be happy to be an Anglican minister a little while longer….
Has it really been 20 years?
Well, we’ve been good friends for at least 15 of them….
It messes my head to think with numbers that big.
It doesn’t matter that Stu (and his lovely wife Suse. It’d be wrong of me not to mention her) lives all the on the other side of the globe. It doesn’t matter that the time difference between Sydney & London is such that we rarely get a real chance to talk. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen each other face to face in 4 years, it was just like old times.
Some “ageless” friends, you know, the ones who you don’t have to talk weekly to keep in sync with, some of them are such because you’ve never had to take things down to a level that is too personal. If you were only ever bobbing happily on the surface, then you can jump back into the warm water whenever and things are all good.
It’s different with the Captain.
On one side, there certainly is the joy of trivial. The fact, for example, that he’s called “The Captain” after the captain of the Love boat (as far as I can work out, neither of us were ever great watchers of the show…. I’m not even sure where it started), on the other, we can jump straight into matters of the heart. Theology, life experience, hopes, dreams, all that jazz.
But it’s not even about having the other side to the friendship. For me, the best ageless friends are the ones where all conversation, both the trivial and the true, melds itself seamlessly together.
Safe to say I was happy to catch up with the captain.
But now on to the food.
We went to Red Oak. It’s my second time eating there & it wont be the last. The entree sample platter was a standout. Each matched with a small shot of beer. flavours like Scallop and Tarwin blue cheese soup with candied lemon zest and truffle oil were just fantastic. Stu had “Beef two ways” while I had “Lamb neck with crispy polenta, anchovie butter and a tomato and almond salsa,” and it was fantastic. We shared a dessert platter (picture below) but thankfully Stu was pretty full, so I got to enjoy all of the “Belgian Chocolate Stout hot chocolate with pistachio biscuit”.
Just an awesome meal.
Just some awesome company.
Just give me a reason to catch up with you in the city & I’ll see if I can take you there too!
Follow the Red Oak link pick some favourites & tell me what we should have there for dinner.
I’ve been enjoying John Piper’s book “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.”
Here’s just a snippet to think about.
“God is glorified in his people by the way we experience him, not merely by the way we think about him. Indeed the devil thinks more true thoughts about God in one day than a saint does in a lifetime, and God is not honoured by it. The problem with the devil is not his theology, but his desires. Our chief end is to glorify God, the great Object. We do so most fully when we treasure him, desire him, delight in him so supremely that we let goods and kindred go and display his love to the poor and lost.”
I’m forever prefacing statements.
I’m going to preface this post by pointing out that it is a beautiful thing that we can pray to God at any time and in all kinds of fashions. I enjoy the fact that I lead “Morning Prayer” 4 days a week, which follows a form laid out by the Anglican Prayerbook. I also do prepared prayers that I might say at a function of some kind. At the same time extemporaneous prayer is part of my everyday life, as is grace, and prayer before bed with my family. There’s also thousands of little opportunities to pray in life. I remember hearing about a guy at an MTS training day who made it a habit to pray for family friends whenever he was at a red light….
Prayer it lots of things & done in lots of ways….. preface over….
I remember when we were preparing to move out of the house I grew up in. The developers wanted the land, but decided to make some extra $ by chopping the house in half & shipping it to Cessnock. The place was 100 years old. Nothing compared to places like Scotland, where I’ve enjoyed a beer in a pub that’s been open for 400 years, but pretty old by Australian standards.
That means 100 years worth of bits & pieces that end up dumped in the crawl space under the house.
As my parents cleaned up & prepared for the move they found a prayer desk. I have no idea if someone way back in the family owned it, or if someone in the “olden days” stole it for a lark, but it was there & it was in disrepair.
As a gift to my sister, my parents got it repaired, reupholstered and returned to usefulness.
I was just a little jealous…. yeah, I know, that seems silly: a) because it’s a bit oldy-worldy for a 20 year old guy to want, and b) it’s a prayer desk! The purpose for which is to provide a place where people can be still, speak & listen to God. Jealousy has no place here….
But I was anyway.
Of course, the prayer desk was soon forgotten & life went on
Cut to late 2010
I’m on a silent retreat, a yearly expectation for Anglican ministers in my diocese. I spent a fair bit of time reading a great book, “A call to spiritual reformation” by Don Carson. It energises me & I decide that I am going to be a lot more deliberate & methodical with my prayers ( AGAIN, please read the preface…), my great hope being that when I say to someone “I’ll pray for you,” that I actually pray for them, that I do it regularly & that maybe this helps me follow them up & care for them properly…
The new plan is very helpful, but still I feel, sometimes, like a need a place where I can set myself aside. When I’m sitting at a desk or on a seat somewhere, I just don’t feel as connected, and lying in bed never works well for me & prayers…
Cut to last week.
I’m in the Parish of Islington in Newcastle. They’ve cleared out the church space & are looking to engage with alternate worship there. After Andrew (the rector) had spoken about what they were doing, I asked, offhand, “you don’t have any old prayer desks you’re looking to get rid of do you?”
Andrew said “are you serious, we’ve got FOUR we’re trying to get rid of”
half an hour later, I have a prayer desk (and a delivery driver thanks to Dan’s Landy… it wasn’t fitting in the Corolla), and the Parish will get a donation & a letter about how they are helping a young minister as he starts out in the diocese.
Sometimes God answers prayers you haven’t even formalised…