Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Church double standard

Bonheoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship discusses cheap grace – grace that is thrown around without regard for the cost of that grace.  It seems that cheap grace is being offered abundantly.


In an article published in Melbourne’s The Age, and on the pastors own blog post, a Baptist pastor proposes voting yes in the same sex marriage postal vote.  His support includes this statement:


“Asking them [homosexuals] to be other than who they are as sexual beings
would be asking them to deny their very selves".




Now, there are a few problems with that statement.  Prime among them is that the Christian life is one of denial.  A Christian must first come to a point of denying that they are king (John 3:3) so that they may accept Jesus as King.  A Christian must then continue to deny self each day instead taking up the cross of Christ (John 16:24).  So, presumably the pastor has established a twin standard:


  • Heterosexual Christians are to deny themselves daily,
    paired with
  • Homosexuals need not deny their sexuality yet may still have life to the fill in Christ.  That is, there identity is not in Christ alone but in their sexuality and in Christ.
It is an insidious twinning.  It creates a lower standard for homosexuals than it does heterosexuals.  It gives homosexuals a wide road and wide gate entry to the kingdom (Matthew 7:13-14).  It is insulting to heterosexuals.  It risks a revolt of mainstream church-goers.  It is cheap grace cast to the prevailing wind. 
 
As sad as the show of double standard from the Melbourne pastor is, I’ve seen it before.  In a devastating blow, at a North Shore Anglican Diocese of Sydney church, I also observed double standard.  In that instance, the listener was to accept the lower standard for homosexuals as they were ‘born that way’ (teaching that I hold contra to the relevant Diocesan doctrinal statement).  In responding to a question about lust from Matthew 5:27-30, the speaker granted that churchfolk need to acknowledge homosexuals their lust if the church is to welcome them.  So, I cannot cast a lustful eye on my neighbour’s wife yet two homosexuals can be as lustful as they like – I don’t think so!

And then, another North Shore Anglican Diocese of Sydney church welcomes a theatre company to perform a play into their church hall that presents the homosexual lifestyle.


Cheap grace cheapens the gospel.  It cheapens the gospel because it adds to the gospel.  Christ paid dearly to achieve the grace.  The church should not ever forget that.

Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note: all links good as at 22 August 2017

Note: I did try to address my concerns of false teaching at that North Shore Anglican Diocese of Sydney church yet I was met only with curt email responses.  No-one ever cared to address the matter through dialogue.  A Senior Minister of another Anglican Diocese of Sydney church did discuss the message with me. He left me with the awareness that ‘despite its best attempt to keep up appearances, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney is not monochrome at all on homosexuality’.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Personification


** an earlier post on literary devices in the Psalms is linked here **


 --/--


I am excited to be attending an event The Psalms in the Christian Life as presented by Moore Theological College's Centre for Christian Living.  The goal of the event "is to deepen  appreciation of the Psalms—as poetry, as a book, as a part of Christian Scripture—in order to deepen our experience of the Psalms as a crucial resource for Christian living." (source: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=270706)

 

The Psalms have always been fascinating to me theologically and as literature. Many literary devices are used in the Psalms.  Four literary devices are found in Psalm 1 alone.

Psalm 19 is wonderful for its inclusion of a double personification.  A personification arises when an object is identified to a human form.  Psalm 19 verse 5 (NIV) is:

 

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

 

An understanding of verses 1 to 4 helps explain the personification.  Those verses identify how nature – the heavens, the skies, the earth – all declare the glory of God the maker.  With this setting the author then turns to the sun.

 

The heavens are said to be a “tent for the sun”.  The focus on the sun is in its role as a created object that is essential to the life of man.  The sun visibly attests to God as it sweeps across the earth and provides for every creature  “Nothing is hidden from its heat” Psalm 19:6 NIV.

 

And, the sun is personified:

 

  • As a bridegroom coming out of his chamber – representing the sun’s daily emergence from the distant horizon, and,



  • As a champion rejoicing to run his course – representing the sun’s daily and persistent track across the sky.

 



Paul adopts the verse in Romans 10:18.  Paul identifies that it is the gospel preachers that have been a voice to go out to nourish the world.  That is, they like the sun were providing sustenance.  Interestingly, Paul also perhaps uses the running champion personification in his writings as he speaks of persisting to the end of the Christian race.

 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

 

Note: all links good as at 15 August 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dribble and noise

The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey - a poor backwater cousin to a referendum or plebiscite - has generated a flood of dribble and noise on social media.  You do not need to look far to see lots of froth and bubble.  I've listed some examples.  I hasten to add that none of these are my own.  Nor have they arisen in response to any of my comments - I've simply concluded a crude survey across available sources:




> 'How can you hate homosexuals but eat shellfish or wear clothes of two fabrics?' (an old chestnut of an argument that seemingly treats the Old Testament as a standalone book separate from the whole of the Bible).



> 'It is time for separation of church and state' (which was originally all in capital letters, and which betrays the person's understanding of the long separation of church and state)




> 'God is a god of tolerance, he loves everyone, he wants gays to marry' (which takes a secular view of tolerance).




> 'I pray that you will stop campaigning hate and listen to your own preachings: love everyone. Except some of you take it too far and rape children and cover it up. So don't do that please.' (which is comical in that the contributor clearly recognises that there needs to be moral boundaries yet denies the church any role is establishing those boundaries).

> A person who responded to a Christian by suggesting that they were both 'cognitively impaired and spiritually blind' (which perhaps tends a case of blind leading the blind, and which perhaps is a foretaste of how Christians may one day be thought to be mentally impaired).

and, I could go on...




It is all like white noise.  It is the television screen when programming ceases.  It is babble.


I expect that the forth and bubble and will continue unabated right through the postal vote.  It will all take form of the statements above and a whole lot of other statements.  In the whole, it will not be based on consideration of external objective truth but instead be based on selfish opinion.


It is a shame to the nation that this froth and bubble faces anyone who wishes to offer a Christian opinion.  We are in Babylon where shouting down an opinion is the norm.




I encourage both pro-SSM and anti-SSM commentators to have a thick skin and to think three times before posting any material.  For Christians, we need to be aware that we are being assessed even as we engage in debates and that our love for Christ should:




i) determine when to contribute, and,




ii) determine when to lose and walk away, and,




iii) determine whether your contribution is simply enlarging an over-egged debate.




Shalom,
Ozhamada




Note: all links good as at 14 August 2017


Note: a credible sermon on homosexuality is linked here.  The sermon is long, at nearly an hour, yet anyone who takes the time to listen to it will most likely grant that the duration is right for the subject material.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Anointing with oil

First-time occurrences are often very special. A first-time occurrence that I experienced this week bought a rush of uncertainly and mixed feelings.

 

During the week, after the conclusion of a lunchtime Protestant church service, a gentlemen who I chatted with turned the conversation spontaneously to his need for healing. In seconds he had reached into a leather man-bag and placed a small container of oil into my hands.  The oil was purchased for him by another in Israel.  It was a fragrant oil with a rich colour.  The gentlemen asked that I anoint his forehead – applying the oil with the sign of the cross - then to have him stand.  Once standing I was to place both of my hands on different parts of his upper torso.  He asked that I pray as the Spirit leads me.  His only specification was that the prayer identity the malady.

 

I was comfortable in the moment, but had a rush of uncertainty and mixed feelings afterwards.  It was a most odd mix of feelings – being comfortable at the instant but being wracked with concern afterwards.  My unpreparedness was evident within the awkwardly mumbled prayer.  I suspect that the patient recorded an unsatisfactory experience; much physical touch clammy.  The moment was served perfunctorily.  The ambiguity abundant.  The prayer was sound, but not dutiful or experienced to the task. It was a moment that perhaps was too mechanical for the patient’s liking.  Yet, it perhaps satisfied the patient in that it was an venture of his initiative.

 


The concern afterwards was twofold.  Firstly, ‘what the heck was I doing?’ and secondly, what path is the Lord God taking me on?.  The former needs to be addressed now, the latter is best left for the joy of discovery.

 

The ‘what the heck was I doing?’ was manifold:

 

  • It was accompanied with thoughts: ‘I am of long Anglican upbringing, Anglican’s do not do this, it is for Pentecostals to do’ – which is ultimately a doctrinal limitation or doctrinal snobbery,
  • It bore the guilt of completing something for which I had zero experience,
  • It drew questions around the source of the oil and the wonder of using a patient’s own oil rather than one of the healer,
  • It questioned the spectacle of being in a relatively public place,
  • It bore heavy concern of not praying ahead of time in contrast to the spontaneous response, and,
  • James Chapter 5 is instructive, yet how does James 5 apply in such immediacy as I experienced.  James 5 is far more ordered and planned than taking an opportunity to fulfil a pressing request.

What I was not uncertain of was that God does heal in this day.  Justin Peters, a preacher who is affected by cerebral palsy, argues that point well.  Peters is quite balanced in that the healing is neither concluded at all times, nor is always complete.  The message of the healing of the paralytic in Luke 5 is significant in that Jesus clearly puts the priority on healing from the suffering of sin, over physical healing.
 
There is much to think about.  Jesus would have been quite certain about his own healing touch and most direct in his practice.
 
Shalom,
Ozhamada
 
Note: all links good as at 11 August 2017

Note: I did include within the prayer a request that Jesus heal at a sub-nuclear level.  See this linked post.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

100 words

The local newspaper is running a 100 word story contest. I was pleased to see my single entry published...

Village Observer, August 2017, page 20

The inspiration followed the event that I detailed in this linked post.

Shalom,
Ozhamada

Meat and plays

In an earlier post I put a question:

Is yoga viewed by the church as worse than homosexuality?

The question arose on a day where I learnt that a local community group was beset with the problem of destruction of their advertising signs.  I'm quite sensitive to their issue as I've personally witnessed, as first responder, the results of vandalism of a church's signboard. No-one should hold destruction or vandalism of property as acceptable.


I had no answer to the question when a thought struck me:


By allowing a play to be presented in its hall a church is tacitly
communicating its position towards the play's subject matter.

Having drawn a contrast between yoga and homosexuality, I turned to the paper: ''Yoga and other such activities" (A report from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney Social Issues Committee of 20 July 2015, Karin Sowada, Chair)" to seek the core proposition as to the paper's conclusion; that church halls should not be leased for yoga practices.  

Not surprisingly, the paper's core proposition is found within Scripture.  Here is the essential reasoning:


"For the sake of the conscience of the other, however, a Christian person or a Christian organisation may wisely choose to forgo the practice of yoga. This takes careful discernment of the kind that Paul encourages us to pursue in 1 Corinthians 8-10, and of which this paper is hopefully a model."

Paul, the author of the letter to Corinthians is considering a sticky matter of food.  More specifically, Paul is focused upon meat.  It was common for meat that was sold to be sacrificed to a pagan god. Because the food is sacrificed to a pagan god, Paul argues it has not been tainted at all - a pagan god being nothing in the eyes of a believer in the one true God.  Nonetheless, Paul is concerned that someone who is of weak conscience may be irrationally focussed on the characteristic attributed upon the meat. The one who finds it acceptable to eat the meat, should not act detrimentally to the one who is of weak conscience.  Paul's argument, in part, is:  


But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?
1 Corinthians 8:7-10 NIV
From this, we see that it is the subjective rather than the objective that matters ["do not", says Paul, "become a stumbling block to the weak"].  It is what you communicate (subjective); rather than the factual aspects (objective).  It is not to the food, or the sacrifice to the pagan god; it is to the person's own understanding.  We can not bemoan the other person's immaturity or innocence but instead to work to the bounds of their comfort.  We are therefore to care for our neighbours in a position of care that is shaped to communicate the right message. 

So, a Christian church hall used for yoga practices subtly suggests that the practices are compatible with Christian teaching.  It does not matter that it communicates the message to everyone; only that it communicates the message to some.  That is not the right message. The right message is instead the absence of yoga practices at the hall.  


Now, allow me to repeat the preceding paragraph topically with transposition:

So, a Christian church hall used for presentation of a play that is presenting the homosexuality lifestyle subtly suggests that homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching. That is not the right message. The right message is instead the absence of the play at the hall.  


If transposition of that paragraph holds, then yoga and homosexuality are both uncomfortable bed-fellows in respect uses of a church hall.

Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note: all links good as at 9 August 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Yoga worse than homosexuality?


I’m most curious.  Is yoga viewed by the church as worse than homosexuality?

To give context to this question, I've briefly weaved together the yoga story, the play and the venue:

The yoga story
The Anglican Diocese of Sydney Synod in 2015 received a report from the Social Issues Committee in respect yoga.  The Synod is effectively the annual gathering of all Sydney Anglican church representatives - an Annual General Meeting if you like.  Amongst other recommendations, the report concluded that churches should not rent out their properties to yoga classes (see this summary).

At the core: “spiritual aspects of the practices [of yoga] aren't compatible with church teachings” (see: this link).

The play
Lane Cove Theatre Company are performing a play “Holding the Man” with public performances commencing 11 August 2017.  The play is described within Lane Cove Theatre Company’s advertising as portraying a fifteen-year relationship of two men; Tim and John, that commenced with a crush in an all boy’s school.  The relationship survives “the temptations, the separations, the discriminations, the jealousies and the losses”. 
Image credit: Lane Cove Theatre Company
The Theatre Company’s President identifies the Theatre Company’s support for the play with these words:  
In a week when the marriage equality debate continues across the country, the voice of the LGBTQI community continues to grow. Members from all parts of our community join with us to speak. Our voice speaks of acceptance, inclusion and equality. They are values all of us at Lane Cove Theatre Company stand by and will continue to fight for.” (see this link)
Accordingly, the play is addressing the homosexual lifestyle.

The venue

The venue is identified in Lane Cove Theatre Company’s advertising material as: “The Performance Space at St Aidan’s”.  The mentioned ‘St Aidan’s’ is to St Aidan’s Anglican Church Longueville.  The church building and the hall are adjacent on the same stretch of land.
The church's website identifies that the hall is for hire.
Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note: all links up to date 9 August 2017
Note: for a superb resource that explains the church's teaching on homosexuality please consider this link.