7 sayings, 7 prayers

candlesIn this Lenten journey towards the cross and empty tomb, I continue to be reminded that, whatever else the Gospel is, it is God’s story. That’s important to remember; it is difficult to remain detached from story, since by its very nature story beckons involvement. Eugene Peterson says that theology as story becomes a “verbal [act] of hospitality”,[1] leading us not “to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s.  God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves”.[2]

So in my Lenten meditation I have sought to see my story in God’s through contemplating Jesus’ seven sayings from the cross, and attending to some possible prayers that arise. Perhaps, amidst the pre-Easter flurry, you might also like to come aside and ponder with me.

  1. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34)
    How am I oblivious, Lord, to the ways in which I hurt, betray, dismiss, scoff, judge, malign, belittle, stymie, or show indifference to you? To others? What incarnations of ignorance does your forgiveness need to touch?
  2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
    What is your promise of deep fellowship for me? What is the shape of our communion into which you are calling me?
  3. Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother (John 19:26–27)
    Who are you giving me to care for, Lord, to become as family? Who have you given as carers for me?
  4. My God, My God, have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34)
    In what ways am I experiencing your absence? Where do I wish you would just show up, God? What am I to do with this sense of abandonment?
  5. I thirst (John 19:28)
    What does your raw humanity, Jesus, mean for me? For my physicality? Whose thirst are you calling me to quench? What am I deeply thirsty for?
  6. It is finished (John 19:29-30)
    What has your cross, Jesus, ‘finished’, moved on, dealt with in my life? What remains ‘unfinished’?
  7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46)
    How is your consecration to the Father becoming my own? In what dimensions of my life is your love further wooing my unfettered devotion?

[1] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2005), 5.

[2] Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006), 44.

 

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Advertisements

John Goldingay Reflection

Goldingay offers the following reflection based on Genesis 2 and, in particular, his understanding of the nature of “cleaving” which this describes (v. 24).

Jesus inferred from this story that we need to encourage people to keep that commitment rather than encourage them to sit fast and loose to it. Human beings should not tear apart what God put together (e.g., Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation rather than a law, like his other declarations on the imperiling of marriage (see Mt 5:27-32). Merely banning divorce would not fulfill it, and recognizing when marriages have fallen apart and rejoicing for people to start a new marriage would not necessarily resist it. In our own context, people might also want to ask Jesus questions about homosexual practice, polygamy or masturbation, and in response, Jesus might again refer back to Genesis. All these may fit ill with Genesis 1— 2, which implicitly sets sexual expression within the context of a lifelong heterosexual marriage designed to image God in the world. But Jesus might note that, for instance, Western churches tend to be softer on divorce and masturbation than on same-sex partnerships and polygamy, and wonder why that is.

Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology Series, Volume 1 : Israel’s Gospel. Downers Grove, IL, USA: InterVarsity Press, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 9 March 2015.

Copyright © 2010. InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.

 

Lenten Refection

candlesFor various reasons I haven’t been writing my usual Lenten series this year and here we are in week 3 of the season. I’m not attempting to make a late start with this message, simply sharing a thought that has been with me this time around: less is more.

For me, Lent is one part of the Christian expression of a beautiful vision of our world, its mystery and enchantment, and our place within it. The central theme of Lent is one of ‘giving something up’ although I have also heard people speak of ‘taking something up’. It seems to me that we need someone or something, some voice, or ritual, or season to help us make choices for the lesser rather than the greater.

Mostly, our lives are crammed with too many tasks, objects, personal development projects, relationships, goals and so on. People now employ specialist consultants to help them to de-clutter, such is the chronic condition of our obsessive compulsion to do, or own or be just one more thing (and then another, oh, and that one too, and yes, look over there … ).

How nice to be part of a faith tradition that encourages us to enter a season of giving something up. Our gestures of sacrifice, at least mine, are fragile and seem the poorest possible shadows of what the great saints of our tradition have gone without in the pursuit and course of the beautiful vision, the truly attractive life. But even a small gesture of resistance against the corporate compulsion for mindless and endless accumulation, ‘growth’ and increase can seem like a wonderful triumph.

Sometimes our bodies need less of something, often it’s our egos that could do with a rest, usually both body and psyche will appreciate the surprising benefits  of the developing discipline of saying ‘no’ to one thing to enable ‘yes’ to another. Space and rest are incubators for the soul, that beautiful, secret part of us that has been infused with the nature of the Divine.

I leave you with one small expression of this in the words of theologian, Karl Rahner:

[our] reality is a picture of heaped-up activities, where the trivial, jostles the less trivial, and the less trivial elbows the important things, and there is no unity of design, nor any intensity of single, concentrated purpose … a [person] may turn from it all; and immediately the noise of his activities sinks to silence as, in a spirit of reverence and love, [she] speaks to God in prayer. With one swift upward glance of the soul, he has got as near as his finite nature will allow … to that sublime fusion of all … activities into one glowing point of heat and of light (Happiness through prayer).

Dr Phil Daughtry

Head of School, Humanities and Social Sciences

 

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Charitable Hatred

chartible hatredBook review: Matthew Gray                                                         Author: Alexandra Walsham                                                         Publisher:  Mancester University Press, 2009

Alexandra Walsham’s 2006 book, Charitable Hatred, explores the history of toleration within England between 1500-1700, from the time of Henry VIII’s abandonment of Roman Catholicism and William III’s Glorious Revolution.

Her central theme is that, over those 200 years, the social perception of toleration changed. Whereas we now see toleration as a virtue, this only became the common view by the end of that period. In fact, those 200 years were an evolution towards viewing toleration as a virtue, rather than as a horrible vice. Governments originally saw toleration as weak and irresponsible. That is because toleration only applies to something that is wrong – we accept something that is right, we tolerate something that is wrong. And society felt that if something was wrong, it should not be tolerated at all. If it was being tolerated, that was usually because society was unable to stop it – it was like a disease that couldn’t be cured. Thus, toleration was never implicit endorsement. In fact to tolerate somebody was itself intolerant, a statement that you thought they were evil and dangerous. Walsham points to Goethe’s remark from 1791 that “to tolerate is to insult”.

The first real move towards what we might call civil rights today was religious toleration – long before other civil rights debate, such as gender or race. The first minority that society had to decide to tolerate was religious minorities, “nonconformists”, like the Quakers and Baptists.

Walsham discusses the issues surrounding toleration from several angles. Chapter 3 examines various governmental reasons for intolerance. In particular, governments felt that a lack of uniformity would lead to the destabilising of the nation, and ultimately anarchy. Thus not accepting Anglicanism was not only heresy or schism, but treason, an attempt to hurt England. No wonder toleration seemed so unattractive!

In Chapter 4, Walsham shows how religious minorities responded to intolerance. Some were martyred, to be ever immortalised, for example, in popular Puritan literature. Walsham points out that martyrdom was itself a form of “passive resistance” – but still resistance. Others, however, chose to resist more forcefully via rebellion. Others escaped into exile. And some simply hid quietly in their own communities, staying out of trouble – this option led to many ethical questions, especially around issues of lying and compromise.

One of Walsham’s most useful insights is that our historical sources highlight extreme reactions. There are plenty of “hints” in the available literature that people from different religious convictions – Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, or nonconformists like the Baptists or Independents – lived happily and quietly together for extended periods of time. The problem is the word “quietly”: nobody wrote about living peaceably day-to-day, they only wrote when things went wrong. Then, at that point, the sources are copious – they may be government records by the persecutors, or martyrologies by the persecuted. But the sheer volume of what we might call “crisis” sources gives us a disproportionate picture of the wider reality.

Many of these themes remain with us today. How governments should respond to the idiosyncrasies of religious minorities seems to be building as a fresh debate. How those religious minorities live in an intolerant society is no less relevant in our society, either. Finally, the recognition that our own sources today – especially the news – are just as driven by isolated crises, and not by peaceful day-to-day living together, is a valuable reminder. Those wrestling with such issues will find Walsham’s book immensely useful for reflection.

 

 

Matthew Gray- Tabor Adelaide Lecturer

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, 2nd or 9th November

 

 IDOP14

The experience of Christians in Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq in recent months has highlighted the persecution faced by many Christians around the world. In fact, it has been estimated that over 100 million Christians face persecution each year, with over 80% of global religious persecution targeting Christians. [1]  Many of these believers refuse to stand in silence for the name of Christ and, as a result, suffer physically and mentally for their faith.

This coming week allows the global Christian community to focus on the persecuted church through an intensified focus on prayer.  (More information can be found at http://idop.org/en/.) How might we seek to participate in and respond to this in the affluent, Christian West?

We can stand with the persecuted church through connecting with relevant, participating agencies such as Open Doors, Bible League, Voice of the Martyrs, Barnabas Fund, and Christian Faith and Freedom.

We can pray for them regularly.  Amongst other things, we can pray for those who are experiencing persecution to have courage, as Paul enjoined the Ephesians to do for him in Ephesians 6:19.

We can advocate for them in the public square, which is even more important when secularization impacts the worldview of Western societies and limits the human response to their plight.

We can learn from them about courage, especially going into a Christmas season when the pressure to remove aspects of the Christian message and replace these with the St Nick/Santa narrative continues to intensify.

May we not be bystanders who stand in silence, but instead practically respond to the challenge of Hebrews 13:1, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

[1]                  Prayer Slides, WEA. http://idop.org/en/?attachment_id=4022

JOURNEY WITH THE SUPERNATURAL

UntitledJAMES TEMME AND HIS JOURNEY WITH THE SUPERNATURAL

Graduates from the Intercultural Studies program have gone to countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and to Aboriginal communities in a range of roles and ministries such as primary education, TESOL, community development and evangelism.

One of these graduates who has encouraged me greatly is James Temme. He has travelled globally for Jesus, engaged with the supernatural (which has largely been lost in much of western Christianity), and been transformed from one who suffered from extreme anxiety and was never able to speak in front of people to one who know frequently shares the gospel in public.

Tabor Adelaide was a foundational experience for James. He writes: “I was a brand new Christian when I began studying at Tabor, having only been saved that year. It was a great place to grow in God and learn the foundational truths of Christianity. It definitely helped prepare me for the adventures God had in store for me. I’m so thankful for what I learned and experienced there.”

After finishing his degree in 2010, he moved to Redding, California where he attended the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM). The three year program aims to “equip and deploy revivalists who passionately pursue world-wide transformation in their God-given spheres of influence.” Being trained in the style of Jesus’ ministry and supernatural evangelism took him on team trips to numerous places such as Mexico, the Philippines, Croatia, Austria, England and several US States, where they conducted street ministry, prayer evangelism and campus outreach.

His journey with the supernatural grew through faith for living costs and fees, training and the trips. He was given enough money to pay for an entire year’s study and living costs by a couple he barely knew. He saw many accept Christ for salvation, and many miracles, including exorcisms and healings. He also has numerous personal stories of God performing miracles through him and of him debating atheists. Read More