Friday, November 28, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
What's going on ... It's still the middle of November!
We are still well over a week away from Advent, they must have been a fortnight away when the scripts and cards were written. The Anglicans are supposed to be the ones who understand the Church's Year, but it seems even they are being pulled further into the premature culture that see mince pies and charity cards in the shops long before All Hallows Eve.
Why are we in such a rush to get to Christmas and then in so desperate to leaver it all behind again just a few days later. It's not a day .... its a season ... and we are nowhere near it yet.
There is, says the Bible, a time and season for everything, maybe we Baptist's out there could start a movement to reclaim the proper time and season of Christmas.
I guess this means I can still be accused of being a grouch but at least I'm not not an unseasonable one! The church in its wisdom has allowed four weeks of preparation for Christmas ...
surely that should be enough.
Unless of course God is coming early this year and only the Anglicans know about it.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Reflection on Romans 8:18-25
Our God is both the transcendent creator and the ever present sustainer of the whole universe. God has created and is creating (Genesis 1:1-2:3), and he declared that the whole created world was good (Genesis 1:31).
We understand from the Bible that human beings are created in the image of God, sharing God’s creativity and God’s care of the planet (Genesis 2:15). But things didn’t work out too well, selfishness and wanting to play God got in the way, and still does. The result is that God had to redeem human beings and the planet. God has done this in Christ and redeemed human beings are called to be channels of God’s redeeming love for all creation (Romans 8:19-21).
It is in Christ that creation is redeemed. Our involvement and call to stewardship implies caring management, not selfish exploitation; it involves a concern for the present and the future as well as self.
Stewardship is not only a matter of how wealth is distributed, but also how it is acquired. Wealth is acquired from the finite resources of the planet, so stewardship must be concerned with issues of ecological and political exploitation; respecting the integrity of creation.
The world is set to face a global eco-crisis within the next 50 years as a result of human activity.
The path to follow is neither too difficult nor too costly, but does require a change of life-style. The demand of consumers can have far-reaching effects. It is a matter of what we want and are prepared to pay in both costs and consequences. John Houghton believes that the practical problems of stewardship of the earth are beset by problems of human selfishness and greed which lead to overexploitation of the earth’s resources, and by human impotence – we know what to do, but lack the will to do it. This is a spiritual problem, and this task is not ours alone – God partners us.
When we speak of stewardship we need to understand this in terms of God working through us, rather than of God as an absentee landlord. Stewardship can be understood in terms of:
- to be in the image of God
- to become children of God
- to be in Christ
We have a contribution to make. God created and entrusted the earth, and will redeem the whole of creation (Rom.8:19-22). We learn to think and act ecologically. There is a need to be re-awakened to the Gospel ethic, and recognise that human greed is at the root of the environmental crisis. Understanding and perceiving the situation and moving to a change of heart or mind is repentance. There are steps that we should take in sustainable consumption, which involves ethical choices in our buying and lifestyle. We will need to recognise our ecological footprints on the earth – our impact on our local and global environment. We can take environmental audits of our church and community, and establish eco-congregations.
For western Christians there is a need to develop a global perspective that recognises the impact of their lifestyle choices, and their economic, trade and industrial decisions on the rest of humanity. In accepting their relationship with the developing world, western Christians must actively seek to address the issues of justice and poverty, which are an integral part of global environmental concerns.
The call of Christ is expressed as “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34)
This is a different sort of life, a Christ-like life, a life that is evn Cristw|. It is to deny self – move away from a selfish materialistic life style; take up the cross-shaped life of sacrificial love – sharing God’s good gifts of creation with all; and follow Jesus – in his compassion for others and for the world. The call is to join in Christ’s redemptive mission.
So to be co-redeemers – for Christ’s redeeming love to flow through us, in the power of the Spirit we must:
Deny self: live more simply, use less of the world’s resources; treat the created order with care.
Take up the cross: live sacrificially for the sake of others; give up our greed; sacrifice our wants
Follow Jesus: see the created world as an expression of God’s order and love; see everyone as equally valued by God; take special care of the poor and the outcast; and love our neighbour as ourselves.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
- University of Glamorgan Chaplaincy Lecture 2008 - 'Let the Bible be itself'
- November 24, 2008 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Chaplaincy Centre
This lecture will be based on Ray's newly published book and will address the origin and nature of the Bible, its relationship with the Christian faith, and some of the ways in which it is interpreted and used. It will propose a realistic, critical and appreciative approach to reading it
Ray says, 'people often use their Scriptures as instruments of conservatism and conformity rather than as sources of inspiration to think new thoughts and face new issues'.
Refreshments will be served.
RSVP: The Chaplaincy, 20 Llantwit Road, Treforest, CF37 1DL email@example.com 01443 654060
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot
November is a month for remembering, but it is not always helpful to remember. Remembering divisions in the Christian Church and burning effigies of the Pope or Guy Fawkes on a bonfire, and setting off Catherine wheels, a form of torture used in the martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria some 1500 years ago, is not a good idea.
At the end of the month our North American cousins will celebrate something far more positive, Thanksgiving, which commemorates the feast held by the Pilgrim colonists and members of the Wampanoag people at Plymouth in 1621. The fourth Thursday in the month of November is marked for this annual celebration. On Thanksgiving Day people express their gratitude to God for his blessings and give thanks to their family for their love and support. It is a day of communal celebration marked as a sense of the gratitude people feel for all the good things in life. This is done by offering prayers and giving gifts to your friends and family.
Yet for many of us it is the time of remembering in the middle of the month that is of most significance, Remembrance Day. This year we celebrate 90 years of remembering. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the guns of Europe fell silent. After four years of the most bitter and devastating fighting, the Great War was finally over. The Armistice was signed at 5am in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne, France on November 11, 1918. Six hours later, at 11am, the war ended.
The first Remembrance Day was conducted in 1919 throughout Britain and the Commonwealth. Originally called Armistice Day, it commemorated the end of hostilities the previous year. It came to symbolise the end of the war and provided an opportunity to remember those who had died. After the end of the Second World War in 1945 Armistice Day became Remembrance Day to include all those who had fallen in the two World Wars and later conflicts. Millions of young men and women lost their lives in the First World War, 863 of them on the very last day. Millions more died in the Second World War.
The second Sunday of November is Remembrance Sunday. At 11am a two minute silence is observed at war memorials, cenotaphs, religious services and shopping centres throughout the country. The Royal Family, along with leading politicians and religious leaders (including the President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain) gather at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London for a service and all branches of the civilian and military services are represented in ceremonies throughout Britain and the Commonwealth.
In recent years there has been a return to the practice of celebrating the two minute silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, with shops and offices pausing in the midst of their busy day to remember.
At a time when soldiers and citizens continue to die in various wars including Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to stop, reflect, give thanks for lives lost in the search for peace, and pray for peace, trust and reconciliation between peoples and nations. It is also an opportunity to think about the meaning of life, death, and life beyond death. There are the familiar repeated words of remembrance:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
And there are the words of the Apostle Paul:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
John Weaver, October 2008
On Remembrance Sunday John Weaver, Principal of South Wales Baptist College and President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, will be representing British Baptists at the remembrance service at the Cenotaph in London.
Tune in on the BBC and see if you can spot him!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Here are two very different ways of reading the Bible, says Michael Perry
David Pawson, the veteran Baptist preacher, says: “I would feel terribly insecure if my religion was not founded on something or someone infallible because I would never know whether I was right or wrong in my faith.”
But have no fear: the Revelation of St John, on which he provides a running commentary, and which, he assures us, comes directly from Jesus, “is there to tell us accurately what future history will be like… Every single thing that this book says will happen will certainly happen” (and probably within the next 30 years).
Some of it, of course, is symbolic; but Pawson takes its basic thrust literally – including the 1260 days of the final tribulation, the 3944 million cubic miles of the New Jerusalem, and the precise site of Armageddon. We should love god, provided we fear him first; because the anger of Jesus, like the vengeance of God, will come to judge all those who reject the message and to bring them eternal punishment. Activities like inter-faith dialogue, or support for a world government, sail dangerously close to the wind.
If this is not your way of reading the book of Revelation, you may be happier with Simon Woodman – another Baptist, but with a very different agenda.
Woodman writes with second-year undergraduates in mind, but his book will appeal to a far wider clientèle. He gives us no verse-by-verse commentary, but a series of essays looking at the overall impact of John’s exuberantly kaleidoscopic metaphorical vision.
John wished to encourage the Church of his own day – small, apparently insignificant little house churches, beleaguered and seemingly powerless. He showed them what they really looked like – from a heavenly perspective, in which they were vital participants in a cosmic drama.
Woodman expounds the book’s structure, its dramatis personae, its imagery, and its message – which is not simply for the Church of the last days, but for Churches of any age. Those who persevere through hardships and persecutions will eventually enjoy the future that God has planned.
There will be bloodbaths and natural catastrophes on the way, but they are not vindictive punishments. Satanic evil holds the seeds of its own self-destruction, which will be the natural outworking of a system in which the mindless luxuries of the few are provided by the repression, poverty, and hunger of the many.
Rome feasted on titbits while its provinces starved. So we do any better, nowadays, for the Third World?
Canon Perry is a former Archdeacon of Durham.