Blogroll Category: Friends

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 106 posts from the category 'Friends.'

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A prayer of Thomas Aquinas before study

Sussex Parson - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 20:13
A version of this, which I don't remember coming across before, is quoted by James K. Smith in You Are What You Love, p169f Lloyd
Categories: Friends

John 11 & 12 smells (repost)

Sussex Parson - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 11:33
John 11 and 12 are deliberately linked together by mention of Mary and the anointing of Jesus in chapter 12 and of Lazarus in chapter 12.

We should note the smells: Lloyd
Categories: Friends

John 11 some headings

Sussex Parson - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 07:42
From a sermon by The Revd David Jackman:

The need that led to prayer

The wisdom that led to delay

The doubt that led to faith

The faith that leads to lifeMarc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

John 11

Sussex Parson - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 07:28
Some jottings on the Gospel reading for the forthcoming Sunday:

Jesus the Resurrection, Lord of Life & Death (John 11:1-47)

Trust in Jesus, The Resurrection and the Life, the Christ, the Son of God, the Master à belief / faith vv25-26, 45; 20v31

… even in the face of sickness and death – vv1-2

Take your needs straight to Jesus (in prayer) – v3

… even when he seems to get things wrong – v4

… even when his timing is inexplicable or help is delayed – v6

… even when you can’t understand what he says or does, when your faith is weak or confused – vv4-6, 7-8, 11-13; Mark 9v24

… even when it means persecution and opposition and the dangerous self-sacrificial way of the cross – vv7-8, 16

… even when he seems not to answer prayer as we wanted or when it seems hopeless and too late – vv17, 21

… even in the midst of tears, real grief and pain – v19, 21, 31-33

… because of his great love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, true humanity – vv3, 11, 35-36 – Jesus knows what it’s like to weep

… because of his unique, amazing supernatural God-like Creation power, because the Father hears him – vv41-45; 1vv3-4

… because Jesus rules death – vv33, 38 - and gives new life here and now – 17v3 - death is only sleep for the Christian – vv11-13 à nothing to fear – 1 Cor 15v55; a foretaste of the Resurrection, v24

… because if you do you will see the glory of God – v4, 40 - and your faith will be strengthened, which is for your best. Jesus is in control, has a plan and knows what he’s doing

A picture of spiritual rebirth through the gospel – 3v3, 5vv24-29, Eph 2vv1-6à proclaim the gospel with confidence in Jesus’ powerMarc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

"Why Series" by OCCA/Zacharias Trust 25/3/17 Review

God Gold and Generals - Sun, 26/03/2017 - 13:14

I am a huge huge fan of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) and their parent Zacharias Trust. I cannot recommend their events and approach highly enough
"Apologetics" (defending the rational basis of the Christian faith) is a close relation but distinct from evangelism (telling people the good news about Jesus)
Yesterday I and some friends and families along with hundreds of others spent the day in London at their “Why? series".
Here are my notes of what was said. Any comments by me are headed (JM)
All the speakers were good, John Lennox I could listen to all day, he is both wise and warm an unusual combination.  But Sam Allberry is simply amazing. To speak as he does takes great courage and integrity. See below
Is religion inherently bad and violent? 
Simon Edwards argued that most people believe religion is bad. Linda Woodhead who writes on religion and whom I quote from often states “Religion is a toxic brand”. One of the 7/7 bombers left a 'martyrdom' video saying "For I and thousands like me...this is how our ethical stances are our religion ". Not abstract question in light of Wednesday's events at the House of Parliament. Christopher Hitchens argued that religion poisons everything while Richard Dawkins said religion is like a smallpox virus — even more dangerous but but more difficult to eradicate. Get rid of violence get rid of religion? 
Is it true historically? 
If yes is it inherent in religion? 
Philips and Axelrod studied 1760 major wars in history, of which less than 7% religious and these caused "only" 2% of casualties. In C20th, three atheists vowed to  eradicate religion -  Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin murdered 100 m plus in atheistic cause, vs inquisition murdered 6000 3 1/2 centuries 
Is Northern Ireland only or even mainly about religion? Joke: American goes into bar in Belfast asked “Are you Protestant or Catholic". Answers "Actually, I am an atheist". "Yes, but are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?"
Religious violence vastly overstated. 
No intellectual distinction made between different types of religion. Osama bin Laden vs Mother Theresa. Dawkins etc would say same for Stalin not all atheists are like that — can discriminate between different types of atheists. Fair enough so why not different types of religion? 
Keith Ward a Prof at Oxford suggestions key question is not “is religion dangerous?” but “Is this particular religion at this time dangerous? " 
"Christendom" has a lot to answer for even today we see many times unchrist like behaviour. 
Jesus never sought to enforce his teaching on others  but came riding on a donkey to die. Told off Peter in the garden who chopped off the high priest servants ear, then he healed the man — who had come to arrest and execute him. Corrie ten boom Dutch Christian in WW2 who sheltered Jews and was sent to a concentration camp, met and forgave one cruel camp guard after the war. 
"If God is dead all is permitted" Dostoevsky 
Why is anything wrong? Modern 'enemies' like racism slavery sexism (which I agree are all wrong ) - if no moral absolute who says they are wrong? 
Nietzsche influence on Hitler 
"Opium of modernity is there is no God so we can do what we like".  
People whose lives have been transformed by Christian faith e.g. Terrorists 

Parable about two men going to pray Jesus taught "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Is the bible racist and sexist?
Laura Buchanan a South African lady spoke about her own painful experience at the end of apartheid as a teenager — even though her church thought apartheid was wrong, there were still numerous things they had to overcome and repent about. 
Study of history is the study of oppression. Dawkins sees the God of the bible as unforgiving, misogynistic, racist and bloodthirsty 
In Genesis men and women are image bearers of God - when people look at us they see something about God. Men and women both image bearers together — very different to other ancient religions
Racism tough to support from bible because everyone shares a common ancestor. God said "Go and multiply" diversity increases. Babel is judged by God for imposing uniformity. Olympic opening ceremony good metaphor for heaven. 
God’s ideal is diversity but what about the details of the bible ? Canaanites who were killed by Israelites were very ethnically similar while God uses ethnically very different Babylonians and  Assyrians to judge Israel
Abraham chosen to be a blessing to all nations. 
Jonah sent to his enemies. God is trying to teach Jonah who is a racist (JM: not sure he's racist, maybe nationalist?) God teaches him a lesson last verse of Jonah 
Jesus has destroyed the dividing wall. Women - Mary and Martha, women are are not in kitchen. Mary makes better choice. Raised up the low . Three most important moments incarnation crucifixion and resurrection dominated by women, who were  "first at the cradle last at the cross first at the tomb." What is God like? Like Jesus 
Hagar and Abraham - God sees and cares about oppression. 
Women teaching in church? When something jolts go to God. Laura argued that while there are different view the context of NT teaching is culturally specific. (JM: OCCA contains Christians with a wide range of views on this issue. Fine, but every time I have heard a specific view expressed it has been only this one, it would be helpful to have other views expressed as well in the interests of balance)
Order of creation in Genesis is of increasing intelligence! 

Predominantly white black Asian churches? South African 11 year old Laura found it painful to integrate feelings of guilt
Are Christians anti gay?
Sam Allberry
Sam felt attracted to the same sex from teenage years, he developed in a different way. Sport and girls were only topics at his boys school and he was interested in neither. Aged 17 he thought "I think I am gay." Was made that way, lives celibately and founded "Living out". which is an excellent organisation to help Christians who are same sex attracted. 
Christian faith is not about God rewarding good people but God forgiving as people 
Issue is not sexuality but unbelief. Jesus is more committed to my ultimate happiness than I am
Myth that Jesus is neutral in sexual ethics. Out of the heart come things that separate us from God - we all have the same disease but different symptoms. Jesus says any sexual experience outside heterosexual marriage is sinful. Divorce Jesus is asked about in Matthew 19 he replies "Have you not read?" then quotes (ironically given his hearers prided themselves on their bible knowledge) the first chapter of the bible. Asked about marriage Jesus has to talk about gender. Jesus’s teaching on this we must reckon with and it’s been unpopular ever since, including with the disciples — they say “This is tough - I might give it (marriage) a miss!" Then Jesus talks about eunuchs — skips marriage and highlights celibacy. Godly alternative to heterosexual marriage is celibacy says Jesus. Choice we face: ditch Jesus or make him agree with me or I can trust him. I (Sam) decided to trust him. Someone said to him "Celibate people are like unicorns I heard of them never thought I would meet him"
All of us have a problem of orientation we are ALL out of sync we are all broken all of our desires are disordered, including our sexual desires nobody is "straight" we are all skewed. (JM how true! Read this excellent book if you want to think about this further
The Bible treats us all the same whatever our sexual orientation —  all of us need to be made straight all of us have to deny ourselves. Cost for all of us
People say to Sam "Isn't the gospel harder for you it denies who you are? ". Sam replies " if it's easy for you it's not the real gospel." Is the cost to high? Is it worth it? 

Truly Jesus say to us in Mark 10 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
'With persecutions' — even in this life it's worth it, following Jesus is always "a good deal". There are relationships we may have to give up but we will be in family of God. More intimacy not less (do our churches provide that?). Our culture has mashed intimacy and sex together and assume that deep same sex friendship in previous  generations must have been gay . We can have lots of intimacy and no sex and vice versa — sex is not the ultimate. Jesus provides it "I am the bread of life". Need to understand context - I like bread. Today we think of a waiter “Would sir like a bit of religion for the table”. Not in C1 it was life or death. Jesus says "I am to your soul what bread is to a starving stomach." 

Nobody chooses their sexual orientation — agreed. We have all feelings and not all feelings are good. Road rage. Natural and unchosen? My desires must be how God made me? We are a mixture of good and bad feelings, none of us are "straight". 

What if I am same sex attracted and become a Christian ? However we come to Christ, come we must. “Here are the controls of my life" Lord we must say. For all of us there are painful decisions — we lose our lives so that we will gain them. Sometimes Jesus will say you must trust this issue to me even if we dont understand it (JM - e.g., health for me) not that we very everything pinned down but we decide "I will follow him." Are you willing to follow  him? Aspects of following him that feel you are losing life — looks like loss but actually it's a gain! We become more the person we are meant to be by God . 
Is faith in God anti reason and anti science?
The wonderful John Lennox started by pointing out that if faith in God is irrational why have so many Nobel prize winners been Christian?
Worldview conflict 
Major views are theism and naturalism - where does science and rationality fit in? "Religion is a fairy story for those afraid of the dark" Hawking - but it is not a scientific statement. It is a statement of belief going far beyond science. 
Statements by scientists are not necessarily scientific
 John Lennox “Atheism is a fairy story for those afraid of the light " 
Fides root source of word "faith" = trust. Dawkins tries to (re) define as religious belief in denial of the evidence 
Research into science laws began because men believed in a law giver. You can read more about this in an excellent new book co-authored by my friend Andrew Briggs of Oxford University
Greek world is not original source of science it's early modern Christian thinkers.
Major scientists who founded modern science were Christians Newton Kepler Galileo all and many more   
Why have we ended up with this false dichotomy between science and faith? 
False logic
False ideas about God
False ideas about science 
Hawking wrote "Because there is a law of gravity the universe can create itself from something " Complete confusion about what is means to be a law —  a law describes  not causes 
X creates x is logical nonsense Einstein said "scientists are poor philosophers"
Attempts to get rid of idea of creator as irrational but the statements are themselves irrational. 
Atheism is irrational 
What kind of God are you talking about ? 
The “straw man God" is a "God of gaps" not the God of bible.  Many false ideas of God. The biblical God is a God of the whole not the gaps he creates the bits we understand and the bits we do not.
Why is the water boiling? Principal is scientific (heat dynamics) and agency/personal (I am boiling it) and the latter is more important 
God's revelation in the bible is true and is personal the scientific laws he created too, are also true. 
Explain a car - Law of internal combustion or Henry Ford? Doesn’t make sense answering only one or the other. Need both.
God explains why science explains 
"God Delusion" by Dawkins says God is too complex to be explanation
Absurd argument  
Menu in restaurant where does it come from? Mind behind menu is far too complex to understand
Question about age of human race and evolution. DNA. Word "evolution" has confused and different meanings 
Dawkins says evolution and natural selection  accounts for everything but it doesn't account for origins of life with which it has nothing to do. Lennox is a mathematician not a biologist. Natural selection will not support all the weight that is placed in it and biologists are feeling somewhat more sceptical that it explains everything. 
No evidence that natural selection leads to life and increasing complexity 
Singularity at the start of the universe Big Bang
Jesus rose from the dead 
Becoming a Christian is supernatural 
"And then God said"  — this was God creating how do we detect that work? 
God dignified humans with characteristic of making moral decisions 
One day I will be judged and the criteria is whether or not I trusted in Jesus Christ and if that's what I will be judged by then i must have the capacity  to do that
Does the bible contain scientific errors? Errors of fact? Flood story in every ancient near east mythology — every one has a flood story. Daniel "Belshazzar" was dismissed then cuneiform tablet turns up which confirms he did exist
In the beginning the very idea of an origin (“Big bang”) in 1960s faced fierce resistance because it gave comfort to Christians. Aristotle was the source for eternal universe theory. “In the beginning was the word” Creation packed with information. 
How to encounter non material God? How does our mind interact with the body? Fundamental matter is spirit - but what is spirit? Information moves e.g. call out "fire " moves everyone.
Consciousness and energy both immaterial  we believe in them because they have explanatory power as does God 

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Bible offers me forgiveness and the knowledge and relationship with a personal God. People reject it but they don't know what it claims we have all messed up our lives it does work, how we don't fully know, but work it does it's testable p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 16.0px Arial; color: #ff2500; -webkit-text-stroke: #ff2500} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; text-indent: 25.0px; font: 16.0px Arial; color: #ff2500; -webkit-text-stroke: #ff2500} span.s1 {font-kerning: none; color: #001220; -webkit-text-stroke: 0px #001220} span.s2 {font: 11.0px Arial; font-kerning: none; color: #0092f2; -webkit-text-stroke: 0px #0092f2} span.s3 {font-kerning: none}
Categories: Friends

Our Part in Unifying Humanity

The Hadley Rectory - Sat, 25/03/2017 - 22:11
I was impressed by the way Charles H. Talbert integrated Ephesians 5:8-14 in the letter as a whole and much of the following as well as quotations marked CT are from his Ephesians and Colossians (Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007). FT refers to Frank Thielman, Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010).

We live in a fractured world and this is evident both in hostile events such as the Westminster attack last Wednesday which nevertheless also create unity at least for a moment in a solidarity with victims, and in peaceful celebrations of unity such as the marking of the 60th anniversary of the treaty of Rome and the march in London in support of the EU which are of course over against those who cponsider the EU a wrong sort of unity.

Many of us long for a unity that does not compromise our diversity, or at least does not threaten our liberty, but we are struggling to discover how this can work. Some push the unity, arguing that we must be less tolerant of those who threaten it. In this way we buy our unity at the expense of deeper divisions with others and may seek to strengthen unity by enforcing greater uniformity. Others stress that we must now be extra careful to remain inclusive rather than shutting out others. In this way, we risk the stability of unity, as we are unsure how to restrain the forces that push us apart without forcing uniformity.

The church wrestles with the same issues. The latest attempts within the CofE to safeguard our unity in diversity run under the banner of “good disagreement” and “radical inclusion” but what do these phrases mean? It’s hard to tell. Does it mean that it is quite all right for Christians to completely disagree on something as long as they are nice to each other?

Is “good disagreement,” as someone commented, “only a different way of saying we should tolerate and respect one another’s beliefs because there is no such thing as truth, only what we believe to be true.” And does the call for “radical inclusion” take the place of the traditional call to repentance? Does it mean that we must not challenge immoral behaviour but celebrate different lifestyles? If so, is this Christian unity? Most certainly not.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is about “the plan of God to unify the cosmos through Christ.” Two “important pieces of the plan” are “reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in a new humanity and concord in the Christian household.” (CT) And Ephesians 5:8-14 belongs with this plan.

Dio Chrysostom, a famous Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, had this to say:
“Only by getting rid of the vices that excite and disturb men, the vices of envy, greed, contentiousness, the striving in each case to promote one’s own welfare at the expense of both one’s native land and the common weal—only so, I repeat, is it possible ever to breathe the breath of harmony in full strength and vigor and to unite upon a common policy.” (Or. 34.19)I think the apostle agrees, except for adding that ultimately this is only possible in and through Christ.

Let me underline this because so often we believe that what we really need is to find and stress the common ground and that this is where we find unity. But to pursue such a line single-mindedly what we hold in common must be valued more highly than what divides us and this means that the question which values and ideas trump others becomes hugely important and necessarily contentious.

And problematic. Because what we hold in common, probably a longing for peace and justice, possibly values such as “individual liberty” and “the rule of law” need to be supported and defined by a greater vision, a world-view which brings us to the kind of stuff on which we disagree. In addition, some of the values apparently are in conflict with each other, e.g., “democracy” which encourages short-termism (and selfishness?) and “sustainability” which requires long-term thinking and planning (and sacrifice?). Again, we need a greater vision to arbitrate.

Against this mistaken belief that unity is basically a matter of finding and stressing our common ground, ancient wisdom inside and outside the Bible points us to the need to get rid of the vices that threaten our unity.

It is a question of light and darkness, again both outside and inside the Bible. But what the apostle reminds us of here is that we are unable to move from darkness to light (and of course unable to move others from darkness to light). “In the Lord you are light. Live as children of light!” This is how we come into God’s project of unifying the cosmos through Christ. “The fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true” and the fruit is to be found in us.

The word for “good” here means benevolent – doing good to others in practical ways. Interestingly, these three words, “good and forthright and honest” are often found in ancient Jewish and Christian literature to describe the character of God (FT). The choice of these three virtues seems deliberate. After all, just a few sentences earlier the apostle has called us to be “imitators of God” (Galatians 5:1).

“Deciding what is benevolent, right, honest, and therefore pleasing to the Lord in any given situation is often complicated, and Paul recognizes this by” (FT) adding “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”

But note: the challenge is to be different for the sake of unity. We are to be “a contrast society” (Gerhard Lohfink), “a body of Christians whose common life and practice stand as a sharp yet appealing alternative to the surrounding world” (CT) and so exposes the deeds of the world.

Verse 11: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Exposing the unfruitful works of darkness not by harassing people but by living alternative lives that show up the deficiencies of a life without Christ, revealing how shallow, futile, sterile, and shameful the life choices of many are, and inconsistent with their own convictions. It means “stripping sexual immorality and greed of the attractive veneer placed over these activities by those who practice them and revealing their true colors” (FT).

In other words, this is not so much a matter of condemning others for sleeping around or cheating on insurance claims or pursuing a favourable deal regardless of the costs to others but of demonstrating through our lives
  • that true, faithful love is so much more attractive than cheap sex;
  • that honesty in all our dealings is so much more rewarding than single-minded pursuit for gain;
  • that concern for others is so much more truly human than a life of greed.
The challenge to the church is to stand as an appealing alternative to the world.” BUT this appeal does “not lie primarily in the moral superiority of Christians” (CT) to other people. Rather, it lies in the contrast between the unfruitful, unprofitable works of darkness and the “purposeful, goal-oriented existence that characterizes the believing community because of its union with Christ” (FT) and “in the manner in which believers confront their sins, seek and offer forgiveness, and live reconciled and reconciling lives.” (CT)

Verse 13: “everything exposed by the light becomes visible”.

In John 16:8 Jesus promised his disciples that the coming Advocate will “prove wrong” or “expose [same word as here in Ephesians 5] the world with regard to sin, righteousness, and judgement.” The Christian community appears to be the place where the Holy Spirit does this and “the vehicle through which the Spirit plays that role.” (CT)

And by the grace of God in Christ such exposure is the way to transformation, “for everything that becomes visible is light” (verse 14) and the apostle seems to quote an early Jewish-Christian liturgy to make the point: Where “unbelievers awake to the truth of the gospel and rise from their former lives of sin,” (FT), where in other words someone rises from death to life, you know that Christ shines “his powerful light on them” (FT).

How do we know this can happen? Hopefully because we have experienced it ourselves. The light of Christ has shone upon us; it has enabled us to be open and honest about our own sin and awakened us to a life in imitation of God’s goodness, justice and integrity.

This is the way God makes us one in Christ, children of our heavenly Father. And this is how we play a part in God’s plan of unifying the cosmos, as the light of Christ chases away the evil works of darkness that cause our divisions.
Categories: Friends

How can someone die and never die?

Transforming Grace - Fri, 24/03/2017 - 20:56

When Martha went to meet Jesus, after her brother, Lazarus, has died, she told Jesus that she believed confidently in the general resurrection of all people. Martha’s faith in resurrection is similar to many people today, who believe confidently in life after death. Jesus’ response is confusing and challenging.  I read his words at the start of every funeral service and the confusion is highlighted for clarity:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25)

How can someone die and never die? This is confusing.

The confusion exists when we assume that there is only one kind of death. But death is multi-layered in scripture. Death can be mortal, spiritual and judicial. We all die mortally, when our bodies grow frail and die. Death is spiritual, all people are dead in sins and must brought to life in Christ (Ephesians 2). Death is also judicial. God announced a the death sentence to Adam should he disobey the law (Genesis 2:17) and so one the day of judgement, the punishment for sin is “second death.” Paul writes that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:23) and all who live without acknowledging God deserve to die (Romans 1:32). In both cases, Paul refers to judicial death as the punishment for sin, second death.

The confusion is resolved when the first death which Jesus to refers to is mortal death, which Lazarus had suffered.  Those who believe in Christ will live after they die mortally. The second reference to death is spiritual and judicial.  Those who believe in Christ are alive, spiritually and eternally, and in him they will not face the judicial second death, so never die, spiritually nor judicially.

The challenge is simple. Believe in Jesus and you will live even though you die and you will never face spiritual or judicial death. Don’t believe and you will be judged, with second death.



Categories: Friends

Book Review: The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Thu, 23/03/2017 - 17:31
Here is the single, most devastating sentence in the book: ‘“I am pretty sure a smart, productive atheist could do my job well,” said a successful pastor.’
Categories: Friends

Reformation 500 Lent Course Session 3: Grace Alone

Sussex Parson - Wed, 22/03/2017 - 16:50

Reformation 500 Lent Course 2017 (Session 3)

Sola no. 1: Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone – “formal principle” – method – authority – how?

The other solas material content – what?

Sola no. 2: Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone

Are there certain things you feel entitled to / have a right to / feel wronged if you don’t get?
What do you think you deserve from God and from others?
Would you describe yourself as grateful or resentful?

God’s grace and our answering gratitude not a bad slogan for much of the Bible and theology

The meaning of grace: undeserved love, gift

Relational - not some substance / thing or power but God’s disposition / personal attitude towards us and gift of his presence and activity flowing from his love – a characteristic of God

Hebrew OT, hen, (can denote gracefulness or beauty – Proverbs 22:11; 31:30 – charm could be translated favour or grace(fullness)) favour / mercy – Genesis 19:19; 30:27; 32:5; 33:8, 10, 15; 34:11. – Noah, Genesis 6:5, 8 – Genesis 33:11; 43:29; Exodus 33:12, 13, 16, 17, 19 (quoted in Romans 9:15); 34:9; 1 Samuel 1:18; 27:5; Esther 2:7; Deuteronomy 9:4-6, not based on Israel’s righteousness. Numbers 6:24-26 – Aaronic blessing

Hebrew, hesed, mercy / loving kindness / steadfast love / kindness / love / goodness / loyalty / faithfulness / covenant love – 245x in Scripture – Exodus 34:6; 1 Chronicles 16:34, 41; 2 Chronicles 7:3, 6; 20:21; Psalms 107, 118, 136; Deuteronomy 7:9, 12; 1 Samuel 20:8; Nehemiah 1:5; 9:32

Greek NT, charis (related to the word for rejoicing, something of pleasant external appearance – Luke 4:22; Colossians 4:6, loveliness, agreeableness, acceptableness) , grace / favour / good-will (used to translate henin LXX) – Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; John 1:14-17; Acts 2:47; 4:33; 7:46; 11:23; 18:27; 24:27; 25:9; 15:11; Romans 3:21-24; 4:4, 16; 11:6; Galatians 2:12; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 12:3, 6; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:7-8; 4:7; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 9:8 – gratitude / thankfulness, 1 Corinthians 10:30; 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 8:16; 1 Timothy 1:2

Greetings and blessings in Epistles - Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Romans 6:20, 24; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14 – “The Grace”

G. R. A. C. E.

Grace is… Mercy is… (children’s song)

Often the favour an inferior finds in the eyes of a superior – e.g. Genesis 6:8; Numbers 6:25

Welsh preacher: “Love with stoop in it” - The love of the prince for a pauper – no rights or claims before God – not something we can merit / earn / demand / are entitled to

“Love for the loveless shown” not because they are lovely but “that they might lovely be” (Hymn: My Song Is Love Unknown) – cf. human attraction – we are not terribly loveable!

Not just narrowly about salvation - Grace is the very definition of who God is - The overflowing generosity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – “Although all three persons are involved in everything that God does, we may assign to the Father… the giving of the lovethat creates (originating grace); to the Son… the giving of the life that redeems (saving grace); and to the Spirit … the giving of the lightthat sanctifies (illuminating grace).” (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p36 cites Calvin, Institutes1.13.18)

“In sum, the grace that God communicates is ultimately himself, and he does so by uniting people to Christ through the Spirit…. Grace points us to… the priority of God’s presence and activity: his shining face.” (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p57)

Creation an act of the generous over-flowing grace of God – God does not need the world – he does not create the world e.g. because he is lonely!

Our creation is a matter of grace – what do we have that we did not receive? – 1 Corinthians 4:7 – no such thing as a self-made person - my birth, my next heart beat are all a matter of grace – everything I have is an undeserved gift of my loving heavenly Father – it is sheer grace all the way down

Theologians sometimes contrast Common Grace (God’s goodness to all people) and Special Grace (God’s covenant love towards his chosen people). John Murray defines common grace as “every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.” (quoted in Frame, Systematic Theology, p247) - Psalm 145:9; Matthew 5:44-45

God graciously revealshimself – creation, Israel and the prophets, Christ, Scripture, Spirit all a matter of grace

Jesus was full of grace – John 1:14

God graciously makes covenants(agreements, deals, contracts with promises) with the people he chooses

Why did God choose Israel according to Deuteronomy 7:6-9?

The grace of God in redemption / salvation

Essential to understand our sinfulness and the fact that we deserve God’s righteous judgement – the good news only makes sense because of this bad news – the diamond of the gospel shines brightly in front of this black back-cloth – Romans 6:23; 1:18-3:20 - The amazing thing is not that any are lost but that any are saved – unless we see that we are sick and need a doctor, Jesus’ mission will never make sense to us – Luke 5:31-32

How do the following passages describe people’s condition without Christ? John 3:19-20; 8:34; Romans 3:10-18; 8:6-8; Colossians 3:5-7

Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:1-10 – notice the prominence of faith, Christ and the glory of God too (the other solas)– what is the turning point in 2:1-10?

The initiative is God’s – grace fits with election / predestination / God’s sovereign choice – God chooses us out of undeserved love – left to ourselves we would not choose him – John 3:19; Romans 8:28-39; 9:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10

We are free in the sense that we do what we want, make real choices, are moral agents accountable to God, but we are not free to live a perfect life – or indeed to want to. We are by nature slaves to sin. Luther’s, On The Bondage of the Will (1525) in response to the Humanist Erasmus’s, On Free Will (1524) – Romans 6:16-23; John 8:34-36

The nature of grace as gift fits with faith, which is the empty hand which receives the gift – faith itself is a gift (God’s gracious work in us)

The Reformed argue that God’s saving grace is irresistible – all whom he effectually calls to the Son come – John 6:37, 44

And since salvation is all of grace, the glory goes to God – all we contribute to our salvation is our sin – all the credit / praise goes to God; all the blame for sin belongs to people

Grace produces humility - attitude to others: there but for the grace of God go I!

Of course, again the RC church agreed that God is gracious – but sola gratia – grace alone – salvation entirely of the grace of God, his work alone – The Council of Trent, Session 6, Concerning Justification ( 1547)

Cf. RC church grace mediated by the church / priests through the sacraments – The Reformed agree that the sacraments are indeed amongst the “means of grace” but not automatic / magic / ex opere operato (from the work worked) – not an independent power, effective for salvation only when received by faith

Cf. Merit – RC church - treasury of surplus merit from the goodness of the saints which the pope could dispense as indulgences

Luke 1:28 – Angel Gabriel: “Hail, Mary, full of grace” – Vulgate made Mary sound like a reservoir of grace (which might be available to others) – better translation: “Greetings, you who have been highly favoured!” – Mary is the recipient of God’s grace

Mercy not merit - Jesus came not as a reward but as a rescue

Other religions, how to somehow reach up to God; Christianity, how God reaches down and lifts us up

Christianity is fundamentally about what God has done in Christ, not about what we must do – Martin Luther: “The law [of God] says, “Do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “Believe in this,” and everything is already done.” (Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 26) – One of the purposes of the Law of God is to show us our sin and our need for grace

Luther: “before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and is your own.” (A Brief Instruction on What To Look For and Expect in the Gospels)

The Christian life is all of grace – not God saves us but then we must get on by our own unaided efforts / keep ourselves in God’s good books – we work as God works in us – Philippians 2:12-13 – not that we are entirely passive / “let go and let God”

God gives grace to the humble – James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34 – not that God is rewarding merit but he is responding to his own prior work in us – grace is effective for those who humbly receive it – the proud don’t think they need grace

God gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to his people (Acts 2:38; 10:45) and various other spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Hebrews 2:4; Ephesians 4:11-14) - Holy Spirit the Spirit of grace – Hebrews 10:29

The protestant scholastics distinguished:
(1) prevenient grace – the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed on sinners in and through the Word which must precede repentance
(2) Preparing grace by which the Holy Spirit gives us a knowledge of our sinfulness and inability and a desire to believe the gospel
(3) Operating grace, the effective grace of conversion by which we are regenerated (born again), illuminated, granted faith, justified (put right with God and accounted righteous) etc.
(4) Co-operating grace / indwelling grace of the Holy Spirit, working in the believer to make us more like Jesus (sanctification – by which we become more holy)
(5) Conserving / preserving grace which enables the believer to persevere in faith (Muller, Dictionary, p129f)

Responses to grace

Does grace alone mean we can live however we like?

The Libertines in Calvin’s Geneva – we have received grace so we can live as we like – turns grace into licence – God will forgive us – Calvin argues that God’s grace always leads to inner transformation so that we begin to love God and want to please him – we are saved from sin not for sin – Romans 6:1-2; John 14:15

Titus 2:11-14 – What relationship between grace and good works does this passage suggest?

We are not saved by good works but we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:9-10)
Not good works àsalvation; but salvation (God’s gracious work in us) à good works

Grace à Gratitude, Graciousness, Generosity – The parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35)

Do you find God’s grace amazing? Why or why not?
What difference should the grace of God make e.g. to our attitudes, evangelism, prayer?

Further reading / resources:
James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? Rediscovering the Doctrines that Shook The World (Crossway Good News / Paternoster Authentic Lifestyle, 2002)
John Cheeseman, Saving Grace (Banner of Truth, 1999)
Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace
Carl Trueman, Grace Alone - Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught... and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series) (Zondervan, 2017)

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

How should I respond to sub-Christian mottos like “Good Disagreement” and “Radical Inclusion”

Transforming Grace - Tue, 21/03/2017 - 12:29

What follows is taken from my letter to Holy Trinity Church in our April magazine in response to the mottos “Good disagreement” and “radical inclusion” which are being banded about in Church of England circles at present.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am worried about two phrases which are being repeated in Church of England circles at this time. The phrases are “Good disagreement” and “Radical inclusion”.

Why am I worried? First, I am worried because I don’t know what these phrases mean. I am really confused. Both phrases are simplistic and blunt, lacking nuance and definition in our complex world. I want to say “Amen” if they mean one thing and “No, never Lord” if they mean another.

Secondly, I am worried because the phrases have the power to manipulate and coerce a whole community, of which we are a part. The phrases are unclear but they have already gained a subconscious meaning and power which psychologists call “groupthink”. Groupthink leads to irrational or dysfunctional decisions and unconscious bias, based on the desire for harmony and conformity in that group.

Good disagreement has quickly come to mean that two Christians can completely disagree on something as long as they are nice to each other. Good disagreement is only a different way of saying we should tolerate and respect one another’s beliefs because there is no such thing as truth, only what we believe to be true. Good disagreement is the only way of creating an uneasy peace in a post-truth culture.

And what does radical inclusion mean? Again, from the context, it is rapidly gaining support to mean that everyone is welcome in church regardless of some kinds of immoral behaviour.

And so there is real danger for bible believing Christians. If I say “I disagree with you and I believe the way you think is wrong” I break the rules of “Good Disagreement”. Who is the bad guy here? Not the person who has faulty beliefs but the person who claims to know what is right and true. Or what if I say, “Jesus said, “repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”” I am then breaking the rules of radical inclusion. Who is the bad guy here? Not the person who behaves in a way which is unacceptable to God, but me, for breaking the rules of “radical inclusion”.

Dear brothers and sisters at Holy Trinity, don’t let yourself be swayed by sub-Christian or unbiblical mottos or phrases, even when you feel their power and “groupthink” is against you.

My memory verse this week has been Psalm 86:11, which has been a great help as I have struggled with the growing feeling of manipulation and coercion in the Church of England.

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

Believing Christians are moved turn to God to be taught his way and to walk in his truth. This is a dangerous prayer for us all. Praying “teach me your way, O Lord” means studying and knowing his word but it means more. This prayer invites God to teach us in the school of life. There is much truth which God reveals to us but which can only be learned as it is put into practice. I am so reluctant to put what I know is true into practice that God will teach me through times of discipline and hardship. There are some lessons which I need to learn which will only come through suffering and rejection as God does his work in me. And so I need not fear “groupthink” but rather fear the name of the Lord.

And so I believe we must reject the mottos “good disagreement” and “radical inclusion”. We need more sophisticated ways of setting expectations for the times we disagree and how to welcome folk to church. We need to echo the theology of Paul’s letter to the divided church at Ephesus. “We have received every spiritual blessing in Christ and are united as one people under Christ as our head who has broken down the dividing walls of hostility; we must walk in a manner of our calling and so maintain the bond of peace and the spirit of unity whilst we attain to to the full knowledge of Christ through the apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists as we put on the full armour of God.”

Will you pray with me for protection against manipulation in the church and for the rejection of any phrase which can be used against one another? Will you pray for true unity and acceptance in Christ as we grow up into him who is head?

With love, Neil

Categories: Friends

Half baked jottings on nature / grace / creation / salvation / sacraments and incarnation and so on

Sussex Parson - Tue, 21/03/2017 - 10:06
So, we know that we are not meant to be Gnostics. Creation is good.

We must always remember the Creator-Creation distinction, but it is not so much our creatureliness that makes it hard for us to relate to God. Indeed, God made us in his image for relationship with Himself.

The barrier or problem in relating to God is (chiefly?) due to sin.

Creation is God's good work which proclaims his glory. It is a work of art which reflects its maker.

Unfallen creation could be said to contain the sacraments of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Assuming for a moment that it is sensible to speak this way and that we can speculate about such things, some have argued that the incarnation would have taken place even if the fall had not.

The relationship between nature and grace is a complex and controversial matter. Creation / nature is always already a matter of grace - God's generous and unforced, undeserved choice to share his overflowing life.

But this side of the fall, talk of incarnational and sacramental ontology must take account of sin, perhaps more fully than is sometimes the case. This, the Reformed might especially bring to the party. How does God's saving intervention transform creation?

Salvation fulfils creation. It is more than a restoration. Because of the fall radical resurrection life must be given entirely from outside.

(vaguely prompted by mulling over bits of Vanhoozer, After Babel, e.g. roughly pp48-55)Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Hilasterion: Propitiation or Expiation?

The Hadley Rectory - Tue, 21/03/2017 - 09:23
"C. K. Barrett is a balanced and judicious interpreter who thinks that the idea of propitiation plays an important role because of its link to the wrath of God, even if (as he recommends) the word "expiation" is used in translations.In an oft-quoted passage from his commentary on Romans, Barrett says, "WE can hardly doubt that expiation rather than propitiation is in his [Paul's] mind," because there is no trace of a suggestion that God is the object rather than the subject. However, Barrett continues, "it would be wrong to neglect the fact that expiation has, as it were, the effect of propitiation: the sin that might have excited God's wrath is expiated (at God's will) and therefore no longer does so." Cousar summarizes Barrett's argument: "The propitiation is a secondary result rather than a primary cause of the atonement." That, in one sentence, tells us what we need to know at the conclusion of the debate.

God is not divided against himself. When we see Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:7). The Father did not look at Jesus on the cross and suddenly have a change of heart. The purpose of the atonement was not to bring about a change in God's attitude towards his rebellious creatures. God's attitude towards us has always and ever been the same. Judgment against sin is preceded, accompanied, and followed by God's mercy. There was never a time when God was against us. Even in his wrath he is for us. Yet at the same time he is not for us without wrath, because his will is to destroy all that is hostile to perfecting his world. The paradox of the cross demonstrates the victorious love of God for us at the same time that it shows forth his judgment upon sin."

Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 281-282.
Categories: Friends

A Sunday School adventure

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Tue, 21/03/2017 - 00:00

The Emmanuel Sunday School Bible Challenge...

Categories: Friends

Evening Service with Fauré Requiem

The Hadley Rectory - Mon, 20/03/2017 - 13:57
An Evening Servicewith music from the Requiem Mass by Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Fauré wrote the Requiem, the best-known of his large-scale choral works, between 1887 and 1890, adding further instrumental parts in 1900. The text is based on the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead but it departs significantly from the standard liturgical text. John Bawden explains: “Fauré included two new sections, the lyrical Pie Jesu and the transcendent In Paradisum, with its soaring vocal line and murmuring harp accompaniment. He also omitted the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum - for most composers an opportunity to exploit to the full the dramatic possibilities of all the available choral and orchestral forces. Consequently the prevailing mood is one of peacefulness and serenity, and the work has often been described, quite justly, as a Requiem without the Last Judgement.”

PreparationHymn 14 Eternal Light, shine in my heart
O God, make speed to save us.O Lord, make haste to help us.Lead your people to freedom, O God,and banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.The Rector introduces the service.
I Introit – Kyrie Rest eternal give them, Lord,and let light always shine on them.It is right to hymn you, God, in Sionand to you will be made a vow in Jerusalem.Hear my prayer, to you all flesh will come.Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
II OffertoriumO Lord, Jesus Christ, king of glory, free the souls of the dead from the punishment of hell and the deep pit.O Lord Jesus Christ, king of glory,deliver the dead souls from the mouth of the lion,so they are not swallowed by hell and do not fall into darkness.Sacrifices and prayers to you, Lord, with praise we offerreceive them for those souls whom today we remember.Make them, Lord, from death cross over to lifeas once to Abraham you promised and to his seed.
The Word of GodOld Testament reading: Joshua 1:1-9Each Scripture reading concludes with This is the word of the Lord.Thanks be to God.
III SanctusHoly, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,full are the heavens and earth with the glory of you.Hosanna in the highest.
New Testament reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
IV Pie JesuMerciful Jesus, Lord, give them rest,give them rest, eternal rest.A sermon is preached.Hymn 602 Blest are the pure in heartConfession and ForgivenessChrist the light of the world has come to dispelthe darkness of our hearts.In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.Silence may be kept.Let us admit to God the sin which always confronts us.Lord God,we have sinned against you;we have done evil in your sight.We are sorry and repent.Have mercy on us according to your love.Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin.Renew a right spirit within usand restore us to the joy of your salvation,through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.The Rector declares God’s forgiveness.
V Agnus DeiLamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,give them rest.Let light eternal shine on them, Lord,with your saints for eternity,for you are merciful.give them eternal rest, Lord,and let light always shine on them.
IntercessionsThat the rest of this day may be holy,peaceful and full of your presence;in faith we pray.We pray to you our God.That the work we have done and the people we have met todaymay bring us closer to you;in faith we pray.We pray to you our God.That we may hear and respond to your call to peace and justice;in faith we pray.We pray to you our God.That you will sustain the faith and hope of those who are lonely,oppressed and anxious;in faith we pray.We pray to you our God.That you will strengthen us in your service,and fill our hearts with longing for your kingdom;in faith we pray.We pray to you our God.God of mercy,you know us and love us and hear our prayer:keep us in the eternal fellowship of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
The Collect of the Day and the Lord’s Prayer
VI Libera meFree me, Lord, from death eternalon that day of dread,when the heavens will be shaken and the earth,while you come to judge the world with fire.I am made to shake, and am afraid,awaiting the trial and the coming anger.That day, day of anger, of calamity and misery,that day, the day of great and exceeding bitterness.
Sending OutThe Rector pronounces God’s blessing on his people
VII In ParadisumInto paradise may angels draw them,on your arrival, may the martyrs receive youand lead you into the holy city Jerusalem.May the chorus of angels receive you,and with Lazarus, once a beggar,may you have eternal rest.
Categories: Friends

Preaching alongside the Fauré Requiem

The Hadley Rectory - Mon, 20/03/2017 - 13:29
The Fauré Requiem was designed for a Roman Catholic mass for the dead which creates challenges for a devotional performance in a Church of England service. [Outline of service]The Church of England is separate from the Roman Catholic church not least because from the sixteenth century onwards such masses were considered an aberration. The Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s atoning death; it cannot function as a sacrifice the living bring for the dead.John Bawden writes about the prevailing mood of the Fauré Requiem being one of peacefulness and serenity. This probably reflects the way many in our society think about death: an entry into peace and serenity. We like to think that those who have died are now at rest. But is this what we truly believe? And if so, on what grounds?Is this a little like people saying to someone who goes through a hellish illness, “I am sure you’ll be all right in the end; life will get easier!” Do we know that? Just this week I read a contributionfrom a woman suffering from chronic pain, saying how unhelpful such reassurances which have no basis in fact are.The rest for which we pray so hopefully is of course not the cessation of all activity which is simply death. The “eternal rest” is meant to be a peaceful life where instead of striving and fighting there is calm and refreshment; it is not the eerie silence of a place where nothing ever happens any more.The Requiem, from beginning to end, petitions God many times that he would give eternal rest. Now it seems to me that it is one thing to commend someone who has died to God at a funeral service, praying that God would give rest to the deceased. It is a differentthing to continue to petition God several times on later occasions. Why continue the petition? Is this for our sake or for the sake of the departed?Is there maybe a niggling doubt? Does God need to be urged to give eternal rest because we are not actually convinced that he has done so?This seems to lie behind the words of the Offertorium. The music may sound like “a Requiem without the Last Judgement” but the words of the Offertorium very much assume that there is “the punishment of hell and the deep pit” and that there is a real risk that the “souls whom today we remember” might be “swallowed by hell” and so the prayer asks for a passing from death to life.This reflects a very controversial doctrine, namely that purgatory is a part of hell. Hell is therefore seen as a place of punishment for two types of people – those, on the one hand, for whom all hope is lost, namely any who died unrepentant, and those, on the other hand, who have to endure sufferings before they are fit to enter the presence of God.This does not sit well with the overall testimony of the New Testament.Appeal is usually made to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 where Paul writes,12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.But it is quite a leap from the picture of a builder escaping “as through fire” with nothing to show for his efforts to the idea that many will need to spend some time in hell before they can enter heaven. We read in Hebrews 9:27that “it is appointed for people to die once, and after that comes judgement” and wherever the NT speaks of post-mortem judgement a clear division is implied between those who enjoy God’s presence and those who do not. In the story about the rich man and Lazarus, we hear in Luke 16:26 “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”Many Christians have read these statements as incompatible with the belief that the dead might move from the pain of hell to eternal bliss, let alone that they may do so through the prayers of the living.If there is a purgatory, it seems better to locate it in or with heaven than in hell in so far as hell indicates ultimate separation from God. As Geoffrey Rowell, a retired bishop in the CofE states, “Purgatory is a place of preparation for heaven, not a lesser hell.”Indeed, if there is a purgatory, its purpose is surely to purify us from every sinful thought and attitude and make us holy in desire, character, and habit. In this case the process will take as long as it takes and it seems to make little sense to believe that it can or should be shortened by our prayers, even if we wanted to accompany the process with our prayers.But it may be wrong in any case to think of purgatory as a temporal process to which we can contribute with our prayers.But maybe the prayers are not really about the departed, maybe they are about us. Maybe they are our way of saying that we have not forgotten someone. In this case would it not be better to mention our loved ones by name in our own private prayers and to do so with gratitude for what we have received rather than with anxiety about what is or might be?The CofE has prayed since 1552 “for the whole state of Christ’s church militant here on earth.” Militant here means the opposite of “at rest” and so ensures that the prayer is for the living only. Indeed, the 1552 Prayerbook (The Second Prayer Book of Edward VI) finally removed all prayer for the departed and even the Elizabeth Prayerbook of 1559 did not re-introduce them. The 1662 Prayerbook added a thanksgiving for departed Christians, coupled with prayer that we may share the glory with them hereafter. “And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good example, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.”This has a very different ring from the prayers in a Roman-Catholic Requiem. Except that the penultimate movement of the Fauré Requiem, Libera me, alsois a reminder that thoughts about death and the afterlife should lead us to pray for ourselves. Our main concern must be with the living.We hear the Fauré Requiem tonight alongside the second service readings appointed for this Sunday. The first reading [Joshua 1:1-9] is very matter of fact about the death of Moses and encourages a forward-looking perspective. It urges meditation on what has been received through Moses rather than reflection on the fate of Moses who famoulsy disappeared without his body being found.Similarly, our second reading [Ephesiasn 6:10-20] can remind us that we are “the church militant” – we are the ones in the midst of the battle of good against evil. Those who have gone before us are no longer in the battle. Our departed brothers and sisters in Christ are at rest, awaiting the resurrection. And those who do not belong to Christ are no longer in the battle between good and evil either. Those who are beyond this battle in Christ, the faithful departed, do not need our prayers; the departed who are not in Christ cannot benefit from our prayers. We need to pray for one another, the living. It is us who are called to take up the whole armour of God and to stand firm against evil.So tonight, for me, is not an opportunity to pray for souls in purgatory. But this is not because I dismiss all talk about purgatory as fanciful myth. Much of the imagery which we link with hell and purgatory comes from the middle ages when, so it seems, the pictures were often understood quite literally, more often than either in antiquity or in modern times. It is easy to dismiss these pictures of purgatory and hell by insisting on taking them literally but many Christians throughout history spoke of the fires of hell without thinking of literal flames and instead pondered what it is that is being symbolised here.In his encyclical SpeSalvi (Saved In Hope), Pope Benedict XVI wrote:“Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves.
All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire” [1 Cor. 3:15].
But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.
In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defile­ment does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, to­wards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Pas­sion.
At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world.” (par. 47)And it is also clear, to me anyway, that this process is meant to happen, or at least begin to happen now. As we encounter Christ in one another, in the poor and marginalized, in his word, and in the Eucharist we are to be cleansed of our falsehood.Purgatory is here – and now, as we meet Christ, whether or not it is also there and then in a post-mortem encounter with Christ.
Categories: Friends

Christ really present in his Word of promise

Sussex Parson - Sun, 19/03/2017 - 16:31

“Luther calls the gospel a verbum efficax, an efficacious word that does not simply promise freedom but, in promising, actually frees. Oswald Bayer explains: “That the signum itself is already the res, that the linguistic sign is already the matter itself – that was Luther’s great hermeneutical discovery, his reformational discovery in the strictest sense.” [citing Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation (Eerdmans, 2008), 52] Christ is “really present” in his promise.

In sum, we might say that Luther, and the Reformers in general, experienced grace verbally, through the various ways in which the Bible presents Christ – the gift of God.” (p45)

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos, 2016)

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

“I have no husband"

The Hadley Rectory - Sat, 18/03/2017 - 16:23
“I have no husband” (John 4:17). Karoline M. Lewis, John (Augsburg Fortress, 2014), 59, comments:“Her brief statement is heartrending. It is not only a statement about her marital status but an assertion about her marginalized status. She is a woman, a Samaritan woman, without a name, who has been married five times. To have been married five times in ancient Palestine would be evidence of circumstances completely beyond the control of any woman at that time. Likely widowed or divorced, the fact alone of having had five husbands would have indicated some sort of curse against her or her family. What on earth did she do, or her ancestors, that she would be subject to such destitution. To have had five husbands could also mean that the woman had been divorced, often for trivial matters, but more likely because she was barren. If she was barren, that would mean that she would not have family to turn to in the case of being widowed [but what about extended family?], which would further exacerbate her dependent status. The fact that she is currently living with a man not her husband does not correspond to a modern-day “shacking up” or “living in sin.” Rather, her situation was probably a levirate marriage. By law (Deut. 25:5-10), the brother of the dead husband was obliged to take in his dead brother’s wife, either by formal marriage or by living arrangements of some kind.”Shawna R. B. Atteberry similarly notes:“She could also be trapped by the Levirate marriage law. Her five husbands could have been brothers for whom she was supposed to produce an heir (Matt. 22:24-28). Either the family ran out of sons or the next son could have refused to marry her. That she was living with a man now who was not her husband could have been the lesser of two evils. Since the culture provided economic security only within family structures, her only other choice after husband number five died or divorced her could have been prostitution. Regardless of why the woman had had five husbands, the implication is still that she is a woman who cannot keep a man.”As to why Jesus even provoked this statement Karoline Lewis notes:
“For the woman to be able to recognize who Jesus is means that Jesus has to reveal not only who he is but also who she is. her need for him must be named so as to make sense of the mutual dependence between believers and Jesus.”“At stake in this encounter is the incarnation itself. For Jesus to name anything else about her other than that which has completely defined her reality up to this point would be to not take the incarnation seriously.”
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