I believe Easter is a special time of year. I also believe in the magic of a Bank Holiday Monday break, too. We all have the opportunity to be with our friends and family on an official day-off together.
I think there, surprising, is a theological slant to that day off. We are the post-Easter people. Not only do we live with the power of the cross, not only in the power of the empty tomb, but also in the life afterwards. The life that God has opened up for us is huge, immense, and hope-filled. When we struggle, we know Jesus struggled too. When we fell content and freed of guilt, we know that this was possible through the gift of God’s Spirit, revealed at Pentecost.
Being post-Easter is not to overlook Easter itself; we live in the triumph over death and sin from the Holy Week story. We are not to be condemned by God, we are set free by Him. Our guilt can be released with an open heart, a prayerful mind, and a supportive and trustworthy believer.
Our faith is not based on feeling bad about our failures and shortcomings. It is about Jesus Christ, who by His triumph of our shortcomings on Good Friday, and the victory over death at Easter. We cannot add or take away what the faith means. It is what it is. Nothing complicated, nor academical about this.
Enjoy the rest of your Easter break. Through the unbelivable grace of Christ the Lord we have earned it
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- Pope presides over trimmed Easter Vigil service (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Happy Easter From Barack’s House (theobamacrat.com)
- God and man at cross purposes (tithebarn.wordpress.com)
He is a paradoxical fella: a conservative with a radical streak, a quiet controversialist, and a unassuming very-public figure. His papacy has been highlighted with controversy, politics, and reconciliation. He’s made errors, but we do know that he is in charge.
What I have learned from his time in office comes from his detractors. The fact he has opponents means he is clear on what he believes and in articulating it. Like many politicians, love them or hate them, you had some opinion on them.
True leadership does not always equate to being nice. Standing up to what is true, holy, and just will always upset someone. There will always be accusations of being a do-gooder, being stuck in your ways, and being ‘not with it’. But this version of leadership is what stops apartheid legal slavery, and gender inequality.
I wish His Holiness well. I have disagreed some of his decisions (the reinstating Bishop Richard Williamson, who later admitted to being a holocaust denier). I praise some of his actions (His encyclical ’Deus Caritas Est‘ and his visit to the UK). The fact I know he is in charge and what he stood for meant he was the leader of the Church.
Quid futurum deinde?
- Pope was not afraid to say sorry (smh.com.au)
- Pope Benedict XVI: a paradoxical pontiff (newstatesman.com)
- Farewell to a modest and wonderful Pope (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often - Cardinal John Henry Newman
Lent is coming very soon. This coincides with the current fad of fasting as a dieting practise. Practising fasting for purely health reasons is a bit like becoming a monk for some ‘me time’.
Lent is a time we practise self-denial and deeper prayerful reflection as a community. We honour our Lord and Saviour by remembering His forty days in the wilderness (hence the time period for Lent), and, most importantly, the holiest and most important week of history. From the celebration of His coming into Jerusalem, to the lonely death on the Calvary cross, to the empty tomb of Easter; this is our salvation story, and why we meet together today in His name. Jesus defeats sin and evil on that first Good Friday and defeats death on that first Easter Sunday.
I believe that Lent is an opportunity for God to change us. As we grow closer to God we must listen in prayer to what He has ordained us for. The Bible reads that our conversion of heart to the Lord makes us a new creation (ff 2 Corinthians 5:15), we are transformed to following His way (ff Romans 12:2), and that true conversion makes the heart and ways of a believer more like a child (ff Matthew 18:3).
Our opening quote comes from a man whose personal changes impacted 19th century Christianity in Britain. John Henry Newman was a prominent Anglican academic whose controversial conversion to the Roman Catholic Church eventually enriched the global church through his doctrinal teachings and literary writings (including the words to the hymn ‘Lead, Kindly Light‘).
We can all think of times in our lives – professionally, personally, and spiritually – when we needed to make changes so to following God’s will. Jobs, friendships, home, prayers, focus – these change as God moulds us into His likeness (ff Romans 8:19-20 and Ephesians 4:23-24).
For Lent, may we prepare ourselves to be informed, reformed, and transformed by the Holy Spirit, all in the name of Jesus Christ.
- What I’m Getting for Lent This Year (glimpseintheglass.wordpress.com)
- The History and Origins of Easter (personalcreations.com)
- Febuary Newsletter (cotikc.wordpress.com)
I have fallen on love with a You tube page recently. It’s titled ‘Innate13‘ and it’s a really holy noise.
It’s a church band who play together mid week, as simple as that. They play some old gospels songs and that’s it. Yet when I listen to them it makes me smile. It is far from the most professional sounding band or best of recordings. It’s the sheer joy of seeing people enjoying a sing-a-long with whatever they have, to sing some songs in honour of Jesus.
The simplicity and ‘come as you are’ tone of these videos are inspiring. The sense of participation is a facet of church life is encouraging. The local church started this idea of greater participation long after Martin Luther presented the idea of a congregation-centred church (as opposed to a priest-centred one). Our involvement in church is a theological action: The actions of each believer is for the building of the Kingdom of God. Each welcomer, acolyte holder, warden, creche helper, tea and biscuite volunteer are doing God’s work in the most ordinary and straight-forward way.
I would never put down the works of any priest, pastor, or any other church leader (especially as I am one). Guiding the people towards the wonders of Jesus and getting through life together in the power of the Spirit can only be practised by someone called and (spiritually) ordained by the same Holy Spirit to do so.
This message of each member of the church’s value cannot be highlighted enough. We are all made to God’s image (Genesis 1:27 and 5:1 and 9:6), the believer can understand God’s way through life (Romans 12:2), each Christian is called by God for a specific life in honour of Him (Jeremiah 29:11 and Ephesians 4:11-13).
We all have something to contribute to the building up of the communal, structural, and invisible church. Let sing loudly about it!
Image is from the innate13 Youtube page
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- Sanctification…the sacred theme of the Bible (ptl2010.com)
- The Concept of the Church in Ephesians (mgriffinrobert.com)
- Remembrance of Things Past: Hell and other Diversions for the Young at Heart (choiceindying.com)
The Large Hadron Collider, perhaps the biggest science experiment ever, has discovered the possibility of the Higgs boson: this particle creates ‘the matter mass and holds the physical fabric of the universe together‘ (quoted from www.new.stv.tv). This maybe the smallest of particles that makes the universe keep shape, makes gravity a reality, and brings form and shape to all that exists.
A phrase that has been touted with the exploration and discovery with this project is ‘The God Particle’. I guess that it can be viewed as the last thing that finally proves God’s non-existence. It can also be seen as science discovering everything we need to know about absolutely everything. It may be seen as reason’s greatest hour.
I always find it interesting whenever the anti-theist lobby call any science discovery (historical and modern) as a triumph over religion. Basically, to believe that one veiwpoint is better is missing the point of rationalism. Surely to present all the results of a particular study in a non-emotional sense is true scientific endeavour. Theorising on this, understanding the implications on the results, and working on the next steps of discovery seem the most natural steps to expanding on such work. Science study can prove or eradicate the existence of faeries is through a science study on faeries, not on any other scientific study.
This is science’s greatest hour of the modern era. I must add that this does not mean we have now discovered everything; this is the beginning of new discoveries. As G K Chesterton would say, reason seeks to cross the sea of infinity.
Does the boson deny God? I always believe that there is always another step further back from all science of the universe. The adage of nothing makes everything is still a difficult thing for me to grasp. It certainly does not make grammatical sense.
I believe that all scientific discovery, all philosophical writings, all poetical verses, all viewpoints of life are based on our reaction to God. The Bible reads that God’s ways are unfathomable (Romans 11:33, Job 9:10). God is immeasurable (Ephesians 3:20). God cannot be explained, or explained away, in to a single sentence.
If we use the scientific method in theology, and the poetical method in scientific theorising, we will gain in our understanding of the most profound questions of humanity and eternity.
- I have no idea what God particle is for: Peter Higgs – Zee News (zeenews.india.com)
- Vatican astronomer says ‘God particle’ is misnamed, but exciting (catholicnewsagency.com)
- Getting a grip on Higgs (bigpondnews.com)
I have recently (through DVD box-sets) a big fan the TV show ‘Dexter’. My wife and I have gone through box-set after box-set watching this Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning series. Michael C. Scott is mesmerising as Dexter Morgan, the central character, portraying such a complicated character.
The show focuses on Dexter, a husband and a father, who lives an ordinary life, good job, close relationships, well liked everywhere. However, he has an awful dark secret he shields from those closest to him. It is very much an R-rated/certificate 18 show so I’ll gloss over what that is. An unseen ‘character’ in the show is the ‘Dark Passenger’:The deep urge he has within him that he spends his life appeasing and keep to himself. It completely over takes him, taking over most of his time (though his work with Miami Police Department means his excuse of ‘gotta work’ is a perfect alibi).
History tells a similar story. There is an urge in all of us that we each try to quash, appease, and hide from our nearest and dearest. We are not perfect or without any guilt. We need to recognise that we have our own struggles to be better people. There are areas of therapy that seem to actively dismiss human failings and the nature of evil. This is living life ignoring a lot of, well, pretty much most of everything.
I could go on a Puritanical rant on sin, damnation, and evil rant. However, I believe that we all have a desire for self-improvement, without regrets and free from our unhealthy urges.
The hymn ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ has a reassuring element to it. No matter how imperfect we are, the Lord believes in you and me, and wants to be your mate. I might feel unlovable, but there is someone there who wants to be there for me. God does want to make us right with Him and the world, He will have the ‘we gotta sort you out’ like any other friend; it’s just that He has quite a vantage point on your life.
We need to recognise our Dark Passenger, and to find another Passenger to shut him up.
- ‘Dexter’ Season 7 Teaser: Everything Exactly As It Should Be? (screenrant.com)
- Dexter Morgan, the Family Man (doingthewritething.wordpress.com)
- a killer show; (alyssiadiaz.wordpress.com)
Alain de Botton‘s new book, Religion for Atheists – A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, has caused much debate in the literary, faith, and secular think tanks. Professor de Botton takes the most significant elements of religion (mainly cathedral worship and the more ancient ritual) and puts a secular and modern twist on it. A secular cathedral would be a museum that was based on philosophical themes like ‘Compassion’ or ‘Fear. The communion meal or Passover feat would turn into a a communal meal that would encourage the attendees to talk to one another about the big questions in life. Preaching would become lecturing, expressing the incredible discoveries that humanity has discovered, and to communicate the wonder of the explorable (and as-yet explored) world.
This sense of awe is as old as humanity, certainly. We see in the Psalms: ‘When I consider your heavens the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him… ‘ (Psalm 8:1-2); ‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’ (Psalm 139:14); and, ‘Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.‘ (Psalm 40:5). These are ancient examples of people pondering on nature, becoming emotional to the point of writing and singing about it, and wanting to dig deeper into creation to see how awesome our existence is. I’m an advocate for such focus, certainly.
The idea of ritual in a non-religious sense struck me more so. As Professor Du Botton sees the ritual of religion as a unifying force for all people, many Christians through the ages have tried to removed any form of ritual from religious life, on Sunday morning and the rest of the week.
This two points alone seem to underline the human need of a visual form of collective worship. Something that all of us can take part in, experience together, and leave with a profound sense of the depths of the God of holiness, wisdom, and salvation seems an option in this time when Sunday morning church is seeking to adapt to cater for the congregation better. There is no need to shy away from the option of the tradional and theatrical way of celebrating the Lord’s Day. Merely modernising to be contemporary is one option, not the only option.
I therefore have to end with a question: Does the tradional, ritualistic church service have a place in our post-modern world?
The above image came from: http://bylovealone.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/happy-friars.jpg
- An Athei-Easter Message From Alain de Botton (bigthink.com)
- Atheist Finds Religion: Can Non-Believers Embrace Parts of Religious Tradition? (alternet.org)
- Atheism 2.0 (almanac2010.wordpress.com)
I read a quote recently that spoke some serious sense to me. It read ‘A God that is discoverable is an idol.’. What a profound sentence. It speaks against the tide of either side of the existense of God debate as well as to Creationists, and spiritual seekers. The God of the New Testament is made more accesible through Jesus, who is God as man. To say that we now know everything about the Almighty makes God less Almighty. God is still as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient as He has always been and always will. But to say we know everything about God makes God a kind of ‘cat out of the bag’ or a peak that’s been reached.
It’s a little like saying ‘We know everything about philosophy and aristotelian theorists are correct’, or ‘Don’t worry about looking for any neanderthal skeletons. We found them all’.
To quote Socartes: The unexamined life is no life at all. I believe that the church encourages us to deepen our spiritual life, our understanding of the Bible, as well as the depth of Church history and tradition. To have this with the belief of certainty of God’s will, character, and action is to make Bible study, fellowship, and prayer meaningless. To have a heart ready to ‘Seek the LORD and his strength, [to] seek his face continually‘ (1 Chronicles 16:11) is part of how to be a Christian.
A Christian is not someone who lives because God exists. A Christian is someone who lives within an extended family who strive to seek more of the God that Jesus spoke about. To reflect on the words of Jesus is the beginning of the eternal study of God Almighty.
The past couple of weeks have been a busy time for the church and the national press. The media has been reporting on the outcry on the church’s stance on gay marriage, the handling of the Sun on Sunday, the conservative Evangelicals’ influence on American politics (especially with potential Presidential candidates), and the continued debate on religion in public life. The Philosopher Alain de Bottain has written a book entitled ‘Religion for Athiests’, where he takes some of the most helpful parts of the church life and reconfigures them in to secular life.
All of these issues show one thing: Christianity is far from over and done with.
The idea that Christianity is a little twee thing that will wilt and die doesn’t seem to fit what the media are reporting on. I would argue that the church is a place where soundbites are readily availble on areas of ethics and justice. The anti-theist dialogue with some parts of the popular media has had a vocal reaction from all quarters, which has lead to more debate, conversation, and refletion on the big issues and our understanding on eternal things. Some how, the church, though still not regard as ‘sexy’, is still something to talk about. It has something to say about everyday life, and a public body that all kinds of people react to.
It does beg the question: Why is this happening? How come the Church still has something to say when doubt is a much valued opinion today? Why does an institution with a relatively small group of members have something that non-members react to?
I’m not sure there is an satisfactory answer here. However, I find the reaction to all of this so interesting. I’m wondering if the knee jerk reaction and the fascination surround religion is something ingrained in all of us. The Old Testament reads ‘… [God]has placed eternity in the human heart…’ (Ecclesiasted 3:11). This quote fits with all of this: Our sense of right and wrong, our quest for equality, and our desire for a better life is part of what it is to be human; that quality of humanity comes from a sense of the forever and ever. This is why the church will always be a noticed public voice in public life due to it being a spokesmen to the everlasting God of all.
Picture is taken from: https://www.dioceseofreno.org/Admin/Uploads/tv_2458c.jpg
- [religion] Who’s persecuting whom? (jlake.com)
- ‘Militant secularisation’ taking hold of British society, says Lady Warsi (guardian.co.uk)
- The Rise of the “Nones” (bobcornwall.com)
Professor Dawkins was on BBC Radio 4 last week, esposuing again the reducing poularity of religion that has negative and destructive intentions (according to him). He publisied a poll on religion, asking participants their religious persuation, and their understanding of basic Christian doctrine and practises. The results from the poll (carried out by the Richard Dawkins Foundation) showed that those participating were not regular church goers, did not have understood some or all of the Christian doctrine asked, and only a third knew what the first book of the New Testament was. This survey has been seen by some as proof of a secularised nation.
There are a handful of diffiuclties with this poll. Firstly, it is comapring itself (a poll of over 2,000 participants) to a census that has tens of millions answering by law. Secondly, the questions asked in the survey are not the ones asked in the census. Thirdly, it is saying you are only a Christian if you ‘tick these particual boxes’, thereby believing that Christianity is about an alliegence to a rigid ideology.
I do believe there is some from this survey for the church to mull over for everyone. I would like to ask if there are church goers do not know some of the long-standing Christian doctrines (e.g. the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, Jesus as Son of God, etc.), then why not? And where will someone learn these things which are part of our belief in the God of Christ?
I would also like to suggest that, on light of this poll, that the 2021 census to keep the ‘religion’ section and to include a ‘Atheist/Agnostic’ box. The best way to speak about the religion in our country is not to look primarily at the state of the church and belief, but on the people who tick the box that effectively says ‘I don’t believe/I can’t believe’. We can only say for sure how secualirsed our nation not by looking at the church, but on the numbers found in the biggest of surveys.
The poll shows the continued need for the Church to strengthen the congregation’s understanding of the ways and works of Jesus Christ and His Church. The Christian faith is an intellectual, loving, and experiencial way of being. If anyone wishes to understand or to deride your faith, as St Peter writes: ‘… in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…‘ (1 Peter 3:15).
The image came from: http://gedlinghealthnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/survey.jpg
- What Is a Christian? (neitshade.wordpress.com)
- Stumbling Toward Salvation (fatherstephen.wordpress.com)
- Believe it or not, secularism is not what it used to be (independent.co.uk)