Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sinners welcome here


My habit on approaching a welcomer at a church, of church that is new to me, at the entrance to the church, is to ask most earnestly:
 

“I am new to your town and your church,
are sinners welcome here?”
 
One of two responses commonly arises.  The two responses are poles apart. Either the welcomer comprehends the question immediately, and responds warmly or, the welcomer hesitates and bids the question gone.  The former response is normally accompanied with a hearty laugh.  The latter response is usually accompanied by the welcomer's scowled face. 
 
Generally, the warm responses indicate a God-fearing church and the grimacing responses indicate a church of thin theology.  Churches are for sinners.  As the saying goes: churches are hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints.  So, churches always have room for one more sinner!
 

With a record of some wonderfully warm, heart-felt, God-fearing responses, I am always keen to see if a church welcomer can top another welcomer’s best.  A best ever response came last Sunday morning in the country Victorian town of Bendigo.  The town's Baptists were sure to do things right.  I’ll identify the welcomer by the name 'Phil'.
 
Phil was an elderly gentlemen; I was later to discovered that he was a retiree.  He wore a name-tag. He was neatly attired in a freshly ironed shirt.  His black shoes shone as if they were freshly polished.  The name-tag was attached to a blue tie. 
 
Phil fielded the question and threw his head back in laughter.  I immediately expected a response to the usual order – in which Phil would self-identify as a sinner and that if he was welcome; then another sinner was welcome.  I was surprised in that Phil had a much more intelligent and developed response at hand:
 
“This is why we sing;
it makes Satan flee away”
 
How blessed was this response! Phil saw the humor in the question, pushed past the derision of any answer other than affirmation and cognitively addressed an answer that settled me right into the church:
 
  • the church folk, a bunch of sinners, sang,
  • so that Satan would flee,
  • so that they may be filled with God’s word!
     
That is, Phil effectively communicated: “We are all sinners here mate! We recognise the need to sing so that we may leave strengthened in God’s Word so that we face our sins afresh”.
 
One cannot expect a better welcome to a church! 
 
Shalom,
Ozhamada

Monday, September 18, 2017

No grubbing

 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

"No Grubbing" a homemade sign in approximately 200 font, sans serif,
 acrylic paint on corrugated iron, circa year 2015


A curious sign that was within a farm property led me to exhaustively investigate it's purpose.  No stone was left unturned in ferreting out why the farmer placed this sign on his property.  As the farmer was not in the immediate vicinity a firsthand account was not readily obtained.  So, I enquired of the first fellow who passed on the same cycle path that I was on. He happened to be a local fellow with extensive knowledge of grubs and the history of grubbing.  That's one of the things I like about country towns - you are more likely to find an expert there than in a big city.

It seems that the local crayfish think there to be no better food than a native grub.  That grub lives in a single native tree.  One species of grub, one species of tree.  Now, the crayfish live in a water habitat and the tree does not.  This creates a problem for the crayfish in that they prefer to stay in their water based habitat.  Many years ago the crayfish thought through the issue of how to best get the grubs to them, or them to the grubs.  The crayfish did this thinking at the First Aquatic Council of the Greater Murray Region.  The crayfish after much deliberation determined two options:

 I) leave their water based environment and go to the trees, or,
II) get the trees to come to them.

A small grouping of crayfish also had an innovative idea that did not meet with the full council's approval:

III) plant seeds of the tree by the riverbank to grow a future home for grubs.

Neither I) or II) were determined to be feasible.  Option III) was abandoned in early voting.

By the time of the Second Aquatic Council of the Greater Murray Region, the innovative set of crayfish who had proposed planting seeds had come up with another idea.  The idea was deliberated upon and warmly accepted.  It was a simple but most effective idea.  It was an idea that was so well received that the collected crayfish appointed the most senior of the innovative group's crayfish as President of the upcoming Third Aquatic Council of the Greater Murray Region.

The idea that was so warmly accepted by the crayfish at the Second Aquatic Council of the Greater Murray Region was to use an intermediary to bring the grubs to the crayfish.  That intermediary was of human form.  The intermediary was a sub-species of human that the crayfish had cleverly observed would happily obtain grubs for them.  Specifically the steps involved were: trespass on a farmer's property, defile the farmer's trees, rip grubs from their comfortable tree based homes and bring them to the crayfish.  That sub-species of human is commonly known as a fisherman.

Of course, the fisherman thinks he is deploying great ingenuity and skill in using the grubs as bait.  Little does he know that he is simply fulfilling the desire of the crayfish!

That brings us to the sign.  The farmer knew nothing of the First Aquatic Council of the Greater Murray Region or the Second Aquatic Council of the Greater Murray Region nor did he particularly care for the taste of crayfish.  He did however prefer that only he and his cattle roam upon his property.  So, with only the standard three strand barb-wire fence to prevent fisherman entering his property, he installed the "No Grubbing" sign.  "No Grubbing" sign > no trespassers > no trees defiled > no grubs removed.....Simple! 

Shalom,
Ozhamada



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Foraging edible flowers of Bendigo

They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.




Roadside weeds are a valuable source of nutrition.  You could probably survive in Australia eating the available vegetation for free.  Here are two edible flowers that I found while in Bendigo, Victoria.  The flowers were both adjacent a laneway in the Bendigo suburb of Eaglehawk.


Wood sorrel


The flowers of Wood Sorrel - a common weed - are edible.  The flowers are yellow. They have a slightly bitter taste.  They add well to salads.  They are a refreshing pick-me-up for the walker.  I've seen wood sorrel in Sydney - mainly in the Carlingford area.










Nasturtium


This popular garden plant has a variety of different flower colours.  The flowers are edible as are the younger circular leaves.  The flowers and leaves have a peppery taste.  I've dried the leaves and added them to tea. They are common to Sydney gardens and popular in community garden plots.




 



Shalom,
Ozhamada





Consideration of Luke 9:60

Good Biblical exegesis is life-giving. 
 
I recently came across an article written by a Christian academic where Luke 9:60 was quoted.   The verse was quoted amongst a list of awkward sayings of Jesus about the common family unit.  Here is the specific text of the article:
 



“I’ve heard some proponents of the Yes case saying Jesus never talked about homosexuality. Sure, but he spoke about family quite a bit. It’s just that what he said was kinda, well, awkward.
…..
When a would-be disciple asks if he might bury his dead father before joining him, Jesus scoffs, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Lk 9:60)

If you think that’s harsh….”

 
And, here is the link to the article.
 

Now, Luke 9:60 is a fine verse.  It is nestled amongst three illustrations, through Luke 9:57-62, that all build to a single point.  The point is to how one is to follow Jesus over all else.  The three illustrations are structured such that draw out the ludicrous nature of the antagonist's enquiry as one progresses through them:
 
Illustration
Circumstance
Ludicrous?
Procession
Verse 57-58, a man seemingly open to the idea of following Jesus everywhere
Jesus had no home on earth and only he could go to the cross
Person did not know what they were saying
 
Person was unlikely to accept the lack of earthly comforts
Intellectual resistance
Verse 59-60, a man could not follow Jesus for he had to bury his father
Jesus had a role for the man that was (metaphorically) more pressing than an earthly need
Unknown to the man was that he was of the living.  The living had a role to play.
Absence of purpose
Verse 61-62, a man sought to say farewell to his family
Jesus knew that following him was a matter of the heart not of the foot
Unknown to the man he could follow Jesus while being amongst his family
Absence of comprehension
 
Commentators suggest that the three illustrations did not present to Jesus and his travelling group in immediate succession.  It is plausible that Luke collected these three illustrations together to make them powerfully build to a crescendo.  Luke plausibly was paralleling the three consecutive illustrations with the growth of proof of the divinity of Jesus.  So, in this way, we could possibly read the three illustrations at staged points in Luke’s gospel.  In this way, Luke is sharing how the resistance to accepting Jesus intensified the more that it was apparent that Jesus was King.
Luke 9:60 is life-giving in that it identifies with a person’s purpose as a builder of the Kingdom.  One concludes that Jesus knows that the person is not dead but instead alive to the prospect of being a valuable proclaimer of the kingdom.
The article’s author sought to make the familial aspect of Luke 9:60 – the man’s dead father; Luke 9:60a - the subject of Jesus words.  But, it is the proclaiming of the kingdom of God; Luke 9:60b, that is the subject of Jesus words.
 
Shalom,
Ozhamada
 
Note 1: all links good as at 17 September 2017
 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Learning from Don Juan


There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
     A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
     Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower,
     Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws
     A loving languor, which is not repose.

Don Juan, first canto, stanza 114

I was drawn to the stanza of poetry when considering contemplations of the Australian Nation of marriage legislation.  The potential conclusion of such contemplations is that same-sex couples will be availed marriage status.  Such change will not affect only the same-sex couples – it will affect others in society.


The stanza speaks to how the full soul opens in such a manner that it may change without self-control.  It speaks of how a listless outcome may arise for the soul.  The soul may not find rest.  The reference to ‘self-control’ is particularly captivating.  It is captivating in that vitriolic secular/church incidents that have arisen perhaps illustrate an absence of self-control.  The reference to silver light is also captivating – it suggests that a richer light – a gold light, perhaps - has eluded us all.

I draw from the stanza in that the nation’s soul is currently open.  The nation’s soul is exposed - rhetoric (silver light) has replaced robust debate (gold light).  The soul may shut and be forever without rest.

The change of definition of marriage is profound.  The implications of the change are deep. No-one wants a ‘loving langour, which is not repose’.

 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note 1: All links good as at 11 September 2017
Note 2: After the reign of the militia in Argentina the nation was open to some freedoms that arguably damaged its heart.  The oppression of the militia was not itself favorable and yet the end of the militia opened a time when pornography, marital infidelity, divorce and the like increased. I raise this as all times of social change (even good change) need deep consideration of all societal implications.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

One of the funniest Facebook conversations I've seen

There was a time when I shared a single Facebook account with my wife.  The Facebook name read as an amalgam of both our first and surnames (with my wife maintaining her original surname).  When we posted status updates or comments we would regularly conclude the post with our initials to indicate who was posting. 




With that background, I found this exchange on Facebook quite amusing.  Kevin (or Junette) opens this exchange with a question on Michael Frost's status update:



Shalom,
Ozhamada

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On being offensive


The Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig, famed for bringing his audience to question themselves through teapots and ducks, shared his wisdom in Memoir of a Nasty Boy - an article published in the Melbourne daily newspaper, The Age.  Michael’s wisdom considers courtesy of engagement in discourse; the etiquette of civil exchange:

“Being offensive or unpleasantly honest may sometimes be life-giving. "I'd rather have an intelligent clash than a polite conversation," said somebody or other whose name, alas, I can't remember, and I know it was George Bernard Shaw who said something like "Being bourgeois is caring more about the temperature on the skin than the heat of the fire within." We mustn't take these things to mean that we should be always burning up inside or breathing flames over people, but rather that we might respect and be informed by our inner fire and the fire of others”.

Image credit: 'Bunker' from http://www.leunig.com.au/works/cartoons


A few things are evident from Leunig’s wisdom:

  • The statement opens with a conjunction of “offence” and “unpleasant honesty”.  All too often these days a person is said to be offensive.  Rarely are people said to be unpleasantly honest.  The result is that we are so eager not to be offend, that we forget that some people in society are of vocational calling that calls them to be unpleasantly honest. There are some immutable facts: you will die, you will pay taxes, not everyone agrees with legislating same sex marriage – we need to allow people to share these views and discuss them without deeming the people offensive.  If those people are in a role – a Priest or a Prime Minister perhaps – we need to grant them courtesy of their office in framing and sharing their view.
     
  • To offend someone, or to be unpleasantly honest with someone, may be life-giving.  No half-wit drunk driver is going to be pleased seeing his car impounded yet the very act of Police impounding the car may save the driver’s life, or the life of another.  A priest’s stern warning to a congregant to abandon an affair may be received unpleasantly yet may bring a new flourish to a marriage.  The church’s hold to traditional views of sexual immorality gives life to the church and ensures that it continues as a light in the world – it should offend as it is apart from the world.
     
  • We seem more concerned for the temperature of someone’s (thin) skin than the temperature of the fire that is within.  We seem to be reactive to the temperature of the skin rather than plumbing deeper to test the person’s true resolve.  Only where we caringly understand a person’s core temperature, and we astutely and sensitively convey matters of our own core temperature, can we enjoy true exchange.  In this is the difference between the polite and the intelligent.

There is an economy in not offending.  There is an economy in concealing frank honesty.  Politeness is grease that keeps things smoothly humming.  Best avoid the conflict, best avoid the bravado required to stand firm to a view.

Jesus identified this economy amongst the chief priests and the elders:

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”



They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him.  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”




So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”




Then he said, Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.



The interchange effectively ends with Jesus saying: “GAME OVER”.  Jesus would have none of the nonsense. Jesus refused to be a player in a sporting match.  He called the chief priests and the elders to decisiveness.  Jesus sought the chief priests and elders to be direct. 

Like Leunig, Jesus would also have preferred an intelligent clash than a polite conversation.


Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note 1: all links current as at 5 September 2017


Note 2: Pastor John Piper was the inspiration for using Matthew 21:23-27.  His excellent thoughts are linked.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Nashville Statement

In amongst endless Australian re-definition of marriage vote status updates on my Facebook feed comes a refreshing post from the USA.  The refreshing post is the Nashville Statement.


The Statement – which has been signed by some US conservative evangelic Christian heavyweights – addresses God’s intended design for human sexuality.  The Statement re-asserts two thousand year old teaching.  It has proven to be an affront to liberal Christians.  At the worst, the response has been in the form of a statement - the Denver Statement.  Some liberals have rushed to sign the Denver Statement.  I do not recommend reading the Denver Statement lightly (hence my decision to not link through to it).  It is fair to say that a person’s endorsement of the Nashville Statement is at the exclusion of their endorsement of the Denver Statement and vice versa.  The Nashville Statement arose at a joint meeting of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) on August 25th (reference via this link)




The Nashville Statement is a fascinating document for its use of a literary device.  That literary device is Antithetical Parallelism.  I have chosen Article 7 of the Nashville Statement to illustrate antithetical parallelism.  Before I address Article 7, the reader may wish to observe a study of some of the Psalms in respect to a number of literary devices used.  This table sets out three of the literary devices used in the Psalms.


Literary device
Text considered
Blog link
Antithetical parallelism
Hyperbole
Personification


Antithetical parallelism links two sets of text.  One set is obverse to the other.  Greater meaning flows from reading the whole text than the individual couplets of the text.  In Article 7 of the Nashville Statement, the author’s intent to contrast one part of the text with the other is evident in that one set of text begins “WE AFFIRM” and the other begins “WE DENY”.  The “WE AFFIRM” text and the “WE DENY” text are in parallel. 


The structure of Article 7 is in common with the structure of all of the fourteen Articles.

Article 7
WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

Article 7 is antithetical parallelism in that it states the positive proposition – that gender is defined by God – and denies the negative proposition – that a person’s adopted self-conception (specifically homosexual or transgender) is excluded from God’s purpose.  In effect, the Article recognises only male and female gender assignment as a matter of God’s work in knitting a person together in their mother’s womb Psalm 139:13-14 NIV.

Antithetical parallelism works powerfully to convey a message.  It has a similar impact to a mother's stern warning to her teenage daughter: "You will dress properly for your date tonight; you are not to wear that mini-dress" or a train station attendant's announcement: "Please stand clear of the yellow line; if you are standing beyond the yellow line you face danger".

Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note 1: all links good as at 3 September 2017

Note 2: Both Pastor John Piper and Pastor John Macarthur are signatories to the Nashville Statement.  I’ll admit to a degree of intellectual sloth in concurring with the Nashville Statement in that I have happily benefited from saturation in books, blog posts and downloadable sermons of these Pastors. Nonetheless, I have read the Nashville Statement and have not had any cause to reject it.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Consideration of Matthew 5:27-28

This is a summary of consideration of Matthew 5:27-28 NIV.  It was put together following some Facebook exchanges.

To the non-Christian reader: a "fuller reading" of the Bible is normative.  The church throughout time has come to many problems in taking too narrow a focus from attention to a single verse or verses.  All Christians are encouraged to read text in context with the Chapter of the book, in context to the themes of the book, and in context with the overall themes of the testament or Bible.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."


Style of reading
Circumstance
Outcome
Literal reading
Married man; traditional marriage
Looking lustfully on woman not his wife, a man has committed sin.
Fuller reading in context of whole of Sermon on Mount
Love is first and foremost in Christ.  Christ is the model of love.
All love relationships are to requisitely be sound to the notion of Biblical acceptable relationships.
In the Sermon on Mount we see Jesus heralding in his kingdom.  It is a statement of the nature of the kingdom.  An orator does not use first glance oxymorons like “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5 NIV without good reason!  Jesus fulfils the Old Testament and makes it clear that he is lifting the standard.  The standard is lifted in writing commands upon people’s circumcised hearts.  While the standard is lifted, grace is lifted all the more (see Romans & Galatians).  It is in this that I see Romans 8:1 as one of the most wonderful verses in the whole Bible.  It is a verse I preach to myself daily.
[I use the expression first glance oxymoron as way of stressing that I know it not to be an oxymoron – only that it appears odd in the first blush.  In that sense the beatitudes are like mini-parables – that they are immediately counter-intuitive, but rich in the fullness of understanding].

I reference a German Lutheran theologian; Dietrich Bonhoeffer - most relevantly his book: The Cost of Discipleship

"And the Scriptures are very clear that the only appropriate venue
 for a truly loving and just expression of human sexual desire
 is within a monogamous male and female relationship."

Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note: This blog post links homosexuality and idolatry.  This follows the point above that all love relationships need be Biblical acceptable relationship.

Psalms in the Christian Life

It was a joy to attend a Moore Theological College Centre for Christian Living event yesterday.  The event was titled Psalms in the Christian Life. The event was held at St Cuthbert’s Naremburn Anglican Church.  I was pleased to find five other congregants from my local church in the audience.  I also had the company of four from a previous church I attended.

To give you an idea of the event here is the sales pitch from the Centre for Christian Living:

“No book feels more personal than the Psalms, whose 150 songs give us unique words with which to express our joys and our sorrows before God. No book is more theologically rich than the Psalms, which Martin Luther called “a Little Bible, wherein everything contained in the entire Bible is beautifully and briefly comprehended”. The goal of this evening is to deepen our 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.”





It would be quite a task for me to do any justice to reviewing the event in a short blog post - a huge amount was packed into the night.  The presenter, Moore College Old Testament lecturer Rev Dr Andrew Shead covered a significant amount of data.  Andrew's hands darted across two whiteboards and eyes were rushing from handout to artwork to overhead screen to whiteboard.  I am left to identify with some highlights.  I’ve kept myself to six highlights to concisely convey the night’s depth:


  • The Book of Psalms is itself a compilation of five books.  The books have common features and are each largely based on a single theme.  It is incorrect to think of the Psalms as solely the work of David and Solomon’s time as there also is Psalms of Moses.
  • There is some evidence that the Psalms were compiled from earlier sets.
  • Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 both play critical roles in establishing the setting and the readership of the whole of the 150 Psalms.
  • There are Messianic references throughout the Psalms.  There are clear identification of two members of the Trinity (God and Jesus).  This is thematic for me with my interest in preaching Christ in the Old Testament (refer this sermon on 2 Kings 7 or this on Zechariah 3),
  • Andrew had structured some interactive elements into the night – they helped illustrated how a reader is to go about meditating on the Psalms.  I most appreciated how we are best to approach the Psalms through each and all of song, art and detailed literary study. (I have tried some of the latter as evidenced through this link), and,
  • The Psalms have an interesting quality in that the cycle of lament to praise that is evident in the pattern of the whole book is often evidenced within each Psalm.

We are blessed in Sydney to be immersed in intelligent and deep Biblical thought.  It was a joy to attend with fellow brothers and sisters to share God’s word.  Andrew has left me with a huge amount to unpack!

(And, they put on a great supper with strong coffee!)


Shalom,
Ozhamada

Note: all links good as at 31 August 2017