Archives For February 2014

Noise, The Joyful Kind

February 27, 2014 — 3 Comments

Noise_thejoyfulkind_Psalm98_BlogpostOur homeschool scripture classes sometimes turn into music lessons. For me this gives weight to the importance of Christian theology in education.

There is a depth and variety from which theology speaks. It shows up in everything from life to death, to new life, faith, relationships, gratitude, creation, art, history, science and reason. Rather than a hindrance to thought, Christianity fosters it and brings to the table a point of view that recognises the important dynamic in a “faith which seeks understanding”.

The recording I share below was an impromptu one recorded using my smart phone. I was blessed by the event and wanted to capture the moment. The recording was filtered through “Audacity” in order to apply balance and reduce the gain (amplification).

To add, the strings on my guitar are 3-4 years old and I didn’t tell them I was recording it, so what you hear is a raw and real unrehearsed version. Still, the overall outcome presents the mood, tone and joy, at being able to do Church, because we are part of the church, even in our small context.

To some the sound of children singing {and some younger ones, yelling} the words “How Great is Our God” may seem like sacrilege.

I’d be sympathetic to the critics, if not for the biblical reminders, like that of the Psalmist.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD,
for he comes  to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
[Psalm 98]

Our best is excellence.

So make a joyful noise!

I’ve been reading through P.D James’ 1992 novel ‘The Children of Men’.

I was drawn to the cultural, political, theological and sociological themes it addresses. Not my particular kind of read. Still I’m curious to see how it ends. (Yet to see the movie)Chidlren of Men

Here is an excerpt[i]:

 ‘Theo said: “Obviously there are social evils, but they are nothing to what is happening in other parts of the world. It’s a question of what the country is prepared to tolerate as the price of sound government”
Julian asked: “What do you mean by sound government?”
“Good public order, no corruption in high places, freedom from fear of war and crime, a reasonably equitable distribution of wealth and resources, concern for the individual life.”
Luke said: “then we haven’t got sound government.”
“We may have the best that is possible in the circumstances. There was wide public support for setting up the Man Penal Settlement. No government can act in advance of the moral will of the people.”
Julian said: “Then we have to change the moral will. We have to change people.”
Theo laughed. “Oh, that’s the kind of rebellion you have in mind? Not the system but human hearts and minds. You’re the most dangerous revolutionaries of all, or would be if you had the slightest idea how to begin, the slightest chance of succeeding.”
Julian asked, as if seriously interested in his answer: “How would you begin?”
“I woudn’t. History tells me what happens to people who do. You have one reminder on that chain around your neck.”
She put up her distorted left hand and briefly touched the cross.

The content of this excerpt brings up some interesting issues about good government and democratic values.

The context of the conversation is in a church. A forbidden meeting with a conversation taking place between a small group of disorganised people and the protagonist, Theo Faron, whose cousin is the ‘Warden of England’.

The group is looking for Theo’s help in protesting directly to the ‘Council’ who now runs England. Theo himself is full of contradiction, remorse, insecurity and has fallen out of favour with the Council, particularly his cousin.

Theo has a dark past which is filled in by James as she explains the back story to Theo’s current circumstances.

P.D James has a very smooth writing style, a significant contrast to my sporadic immersion into the fictitious world of maritime archaeology, Dirk Pitt and Clive Cussler.

I am not fully convinced that the novel fits into the category of horror or thriller. There is more of a sense that P.D James is pushing for the science-fiction; apocalyptic genre. T

here are very interesting theological conversations about socio-political movements such as the one in the excerpt.

There is quite a bit that is unsettling.

This is mainly due to my reading of the late Jean Bethke Elshtain’s exposition on extreme feminism in her 1981 book ‘Public Man, Private Woman’. There are parallels to academically accepted social blueprints that Elshtain critiques.

Reading a book like C.O.M certainly makes one wonder. What if the social engineering strategies, discussed by Elshtain and evidently present in the P.D James narrative, were voted in and validated by democratic fiat?

There is a lot to this book that keeps me turning the page.

Whether I would recommend it or not, is still up for grabs.


[i] Excerpt from: James, P.D 1992 The Children of Men, Faber and Faber Ltd.

Semper Fi

February 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

of God, Who is Always Faithful.

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Darwin

On this day in 1942, Darwin, a city in Australia’s Northern Territory was bombed in two air raids by the Imperial Forces of Japan. Just over two months after the attacks on Pearl Harbour.February 19thre probably will not find it imprinted anywhere on Australian made calendars. What could account for this is that the Government of the day downplayed the event through ‘censored and limited coverage, in order to protect public morale in the southern states of Australia’[Source: Australia.gov.au]. It is probable that this accounts for the limited awareness of the severity of the air raids in the contemporary Australian psyche.

We marked it on our calendar but even I almost missed marking the day.As a nation we do Anzac Day [April 25th] well, we remember the cost of war, remember those left, those who sacrificed and are also get our fair share of confrontation with the indifference of generations who forget it.

darwin_gpo_web_Darwin Post office_1942

Bomb damage done to the Darwin post office.

The 19th of February needs to be marked as national day of remembrance for Australians. Thankfully efforts are being made by politicians to see that this happens..

According to the archives regarding the events in Darwin, 1942:

‘The two raids killed at least 242-3 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded (including members of the U.S military personal). Twenty military aircraft were destroyed, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed…the intention was not invasion, but to disrupt the Allies using Darwin as a base for a counter-attack against the invasion of Timor’ [Source: naa.gov.au]

The bombing of Darwin stands alone as the first big attack against the Australian mainland by a foreign nation.

‘In all, there were 64 air raids on Darwin. The final occurring on the 12 November 1943’ [Source: Australia.gov.au]

The Darwin bombing is not only about remembering how close the War in the Pacific came to Australian shores. It is also a reminder of the rough road to reconciliation present in the relationship between the Australia and Japan after the war had ended.

This is exemplified in an excellent 2010 production from the ABC program 7:30 N.T. The brief documentary outlines the event and the aftermath. The dangers in Darwin harbour, when the time had come to remove the hazardous wrecks would also have been crocodiles.

The highlight from this story is the Japanese salvage team. They used metal from the wrecks to forge crosses “as a sign of peace and reconciliation”.

For my home-school friends I have attached a free printable which contains the Geographical outline of Australia. (This one is homemade). We gave it a spin today and our Year Four home-schooler loved filling in the blanks, adding a ton of colour-shading, borders, capital cities and other key locations.

True Freedom

February 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

Freedom Barth Free decision

We don’t always hit the ground running with Home-school scripture (devotions).

Today we did.

The message led us to review and discuss the final greeting in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Our run through chapter five gave up a solid outline from Paul on how to ‘encourage and build up one another’, which is in itself a suitable title for chapter five, since the content flows in the general direction of most of Paul’s teaching on relationships.

Paul’s list (ESV & NLT):

Respect
Esteem
Love
Be at peace
Warn the idle
Encourage the anxious and insecure
Help the weak
Be patient
Assert justice (5:15)
Always seek:

Joy (rejoice) [Note: Joy is not to be misunderstood as happiness]

Prayer

Thanksgiving (gratitude)

Don’t stifle the Holy Spirit
Don’t despise prophecies
Test everything
Hold fast to good
Abstain from evil.

It is surprising that so much is packed into the final section of this letter.An area of focus for us today was exploring this list and its connection between what Paul also says in Ephesians and Corinthians about patient rebuke and patient correction[i], something we discussed last week.

After finishing devotions, I took some time to contemplate some of the deeper themes addressed by Paul through the text. For me the real point of today’s message rested in the themes of relationship and the free agency of the Holy Spirit.

When we read Paul’s command ‘do not stifle the Holy Spirit’ it is possible to hear depravity; a loss of freedom and relationship. Since ‘the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom’ (2 Cor.3:17), we deprive ourselves of true freedom and relationship when we cut ourselves away from the free God who stands in true freedom for us.

Such independence is false and unsafely grounded on the appearance of possessing ‘peace and security’ (5:3), not on any actual ownership of them.

God keeps us (read helps – empowers) as God destines us to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. It could be said that the God who is free[ii], destines us to obtain true freedom.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep might live with him” (1 Thess.5:9-10)

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely sanctity and keep you blameless” (5:23-24)

I like how Eberhard Busch explains it in his review of Karl Barth’s understanding of election, divine and human freedom:

‘God’s grace sets us free from sin…such freedom is given to us. We owe our freedom to our inclusion into the covenant of grace and to the fact that such freedom is carried out in accordance with the covenant. Our freedom, therefore, is autonomy within the conditions created by God. In these conditions, we choose that which God chose for himself and for us: existence within the covenant of God to which we belong by God’s determination prior to our own self-determination (II/ 2, 192f. = 175f.). Human freedom then is obedience in that it conforms to the use that God makes of his own freedom. Prayer is for Barth the characteristic act by which one participates as a member of the covenant. As the unequal partner of God, the human partner turns to God, petitioning him and responding to his mercy. But as God’s partner, a person does so in his own maturity[iii].

’our passivity is not in accord with his grace, but our active response is. And so Barth writes that the love of God “does not want to rule over puppets and slaves (or a mechanical force) but rather to triumph faithful servants and friends in their own free decision for Him” (II/ 2, 1942:178)[iv].


[i] ‘Speaking truth in love’ Eph.4:11-15
[ii] Primarily found in Karl Barth’s teaching on the Trinity.
[iii] Busch, E 2008 Barth (Abingdon Pillars of Theology) Kindle Ed. Abingdon Press (Kindle Loc. 1145-1150).
[iv] Ibid, (Loc 199-201) also see Barth,K. 1942, C.D. 2.2:178 Hendrickson Publishers

Exhaling dust

The synoptic authors recall the sending forth of the disciples by Jesus.

Matthew, Mark and Luke discuss the event with particular attention to polarity. Their focal point is the contrasts between the ‘for, against’, ‘peace, swords’, ‘binding, loosing’, ‘finding and losing’.(Mt.10:14/Lk.9:3-5/Mk.6:811/Acts 13:51)

Within the texts Jesus employs an economic[i] and political rhetoric. We read words like labouring, wages, authority, power, court and persecution.Within this discourse the sender and the sent are engaged in an economic project of proclamation.

This could be viewed as an economic protest that is both transactional and transformational. Words such as ‘value, worth, pay, giving, receiving, work and reward’ all rotate in and around the commanded reordering evident within the text.There is a transaction taking place, it precedes the announcement of transformation. Accompanying the message is exorcism, deliverance and proclamation of true value and true cost.

We read the words “take up your cross” in recollection of the steps taken by Jesus from stable, temple, workshop, garden, cross, empty tomb, upper room, and the promise of His physical reappearing.

When Jesus points to cost it is true cost. We are found or lost in the underlying the notions of presence, arrival, departure and acceptance or rejection. Acknowledging presence means we hear the cost of wrath, value, worth, or worthlessness, unforgiveness or forgiveness.

Here we see that life-is-proclamation. It is not just economic but political. The transaction has no monetary value and yet it becomes transformational. These distinctions are about the strategic advancement of the Kingdom of God which lies outside human conjuring.It is given and cannot be purchased.

We, the post-modern hearers of the texts are confronted by the weight of declaration and doubt. This is a heaviness which takes place in the recollection of John the Baptist’s  call to ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand – God has come near’ (ESV)

In the reminder of the horror and shame of crucifixion, and John’s call to repentance, we are redirected to align our thoughts onto the polarity between acknowledgement – acceptance, and denial – evasion (in a word, rejection).

For instance: we read of dust, feet, and wiping away.

Dust in its Anglo-European context is understood as confusion, disturbance, something worthless, a state of humiliation, particles into which something disintegrates[ii]. For the first century audience, dust would have been ‘symbolic’[iii].Reminding them that ‘divine displeasure rests on any place that refused the Gospel’[iv].

Dust can announce arrival and signify departure.The finite significance of dust is its strength as a silent symbolic act of re-ordering; possibly forgiveness. A loving push-back; an assertive handing back of the hat, label,or false accusation that doesn’t fit.

Dust as a declaration of disturbance points us towards distinctions. The qualitative[v]: God is the majestic giver of life and ‘humanity, in its misery’[vi] runs hard and fast towards and artificial light, believing in the ability and power of self to justify.The proclamation mentioned within the texts are not about preaching the ‘manifestation of God as an idea; but about acknowledging that the revelation of God as a whole is a spiritual reality[vii]

Proclamation here is a declaration of disturbance. Our self-reliance is disrupted; as such we are not left in our sin to wallow – “God has drawn near”.

We are forgiven, raised and reminded by proclamation that this state of forgiveness is not about ignoring deliberate injury.  For sin is not justified or legitimised by forgiveness. Forgiveness acknowledges a wrong, and calls for a response, a re-ordering; change. Otherwise there would be no cause for forgiveness. For the sinner this means that we are justified by the final act of the forgiver.

Proclamation calls us to acknowledgment. Here we experience acceptance and see shadows condemned in the true light of ‘veritas’ and the true cost of forgiveness.  By doing this we drop the dust from our feet, stop feeding the echoes of the past and as a consequence find ourselves moved towards healing.

‘In Jesus Christ God comes forth out of the profound hiddenness of His divinity in order to act as God among and upon us…

…In Jesus the living God has spoken to us in accents we cannot fail to hear’[viii]

In repentance thought and speech must meet deed.We acknowledge the negative but assert the positive. In this sense diverse forgiveness, including the act of forgiving the absence of apology, is like exhaling dust, and inhaling grace. The act of removing the dust from our feet.


[i] Green, J.1997 NICNT:The Gospel of Luke, Wm.B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.413
[ii] Merriam-Webster
[iii] Hendrickson, W. 1978 NTC: Luke, Baker Academic p.575
[iv] Ibid, p.575
[v] Kierkegaard’s ‘infinite qualitative distinction’
[vi] Barth, K. 1938 The Miracle of Christmas in CD.1.2:173 Hendrickson Publishers
[vii] Ibid, p.178
[viii] Ibid, pp.182-183

©RL2014

Prayer Request

February 15, 2014 — 9 Comments

It’s difficult to know how much vulnerability is too much vulnerability. So with that as a consideration I’ll make this post brief.

This week, among quite a few over the years, has been for the most part negative and regressive. Outside my relationship with my patient and loving wife, our children, her family and my mum, other parts of my family seem to thrive on despair, conflict and negativity.

At the risk of sounding too dramatic and negative myself. It is no overstatement when I say that dysfunctional is no longer a word that fits any adequate description of the actions and the words spoken; most of which are often hostile, covert – targeted in order to shame, insult, blame and manipulate.

In short, I would appreciate your prayers.

Specifically I’m asking for wisdom, words, right response, healing, clarity, courage and strength.