Monday, February 20, 2017

Christ not self

An earlier post considered a brilliant article by Bishop Jensen that was published by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s monthly magazine, Southern Cross.  The post prepared a checklist for the pewsitter to allow the pewsitter to discern the worth of a sermon.
free and unattributable

The article held a single cringe-inducing piece of news that cannot pass without some consideration.  The news immediately made me ponder whether the Bishop departed from the somewhat relaxed mode of his ad-hoc survey to a direct approach of contacting the guilty preacher.  That news was by this part of the article:

“One man preached himself rather than the text”

Has the preacher forgotten that selflessness is one of the prominent attributes of his vocation? 

It is news that is insipid, repugnant and debasing.   

·        It is dull news in that the poor man is so absorbed in himself that he has lost touch in the wonder of the Gospel message.  He preaches himself when he can instead preach of the breadth and depth and length of God’s grace and love.  He preaches himself when he is under the Lordship of the son of God, Jesus Christ, who has dominion over this world.  He preaches himself when his own book is three score and ten while the Bible is timeless. The gospel is intended to bring the god of self to the ground.

·        It is repugnant news in that the poor preacher is licensed to hold to discipline, standards and values.  He should embrace a process of continuous education to hone his craft.  Also, it is repugnant in that it suggests that no-one is correcting the wretched man.

·        It is debasing news in that the poor preacher does nothing for his fellow preachers.  He perhaps abets the listener in characterising the church as hierarchical or distant or clergy-centred.  He perhaps abets the listener in a conclusion that the church has no relevance.


If the gentlemen is so absorbed that he preaches self, he will not identify himself in the Bishop’s indirect comment.  I hope that the Bishop contacts the gentlemen to gently and caringly guide him back on a useful trajectory.  With oodles of ordinands available the Bishop may find it suitable to saddle the gentleman with a freshly-minted Moore Theological College graduate who is wise to preach Christ first.


Note: A preacher that preaches self is no fault of the preacher or his Diocese.  Fault first lays with the parishioners.  By means of discernment the parishioners should suitably correct the preacher.  Pewsitter discernment is often sadly missing.

Note: all links good as at 21 February 2017, edited in response to feedback 24 February 2017

Christological first

An earlier post considered a brilliant article by Bishop Jensen that was published by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s monthly magazine, Southern Cross.  The post prepared a checklist for the pewsitter to allow the pewsitter to discern the worth of a sermon.
free and unattributable

The article held a quote that is worthy of everyone’s comprehension.  The text is perhaps puzzling to a lot of readers at first glance.  The text was:

“Indeed, I would say that the rush to a Christological reading
of every passage needs to be modified (not abandoned),
as there can be failure to see important features of the passage
that also need to be attended to”

Unpacking this text requires firstly an understanding of Christological and then also of biblical expository priority.

‘Christological’ refers to the study of the nature and person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  This is Jesus whose story is told in the Gospels of the New Testament whose life and who was foretold by Old Testament prophets.  Jesus was the son of the most high God, born of Mary, and raised a Jew. He drew twelve Apostles to himself and taught them.  They were witnesses to many miracles.  Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, buried in a Jewish tomb, raised from the dead, seen in a raised state by many then lifted to heaven to take a seat at God’s right side.  In this way – through the Old Testament prophesies and the Gospel account - one can say that the whole Bible points to Jesus.  In children’s presentations this is expressed in identifying Jesus as God’s great rescue plan.  We see Christ in the Old Testament – he was the fourth man in the furnace in the book of Daniel, he is seen in the kinsman-redeemer that is Boaz in the book of Ruth.

As the whole Bible is about Christ then it follows that there is the potential of a “rush to a Christological reading of every passage”.   As Jensen points out there is no need to abandon the Christological reading.  Jensen is instead looking for some balance.

Biblical expository priority is identified by Jensen in response to the “rush to a Christological reading of every passage”.  Jensen identifies that there is potential failure to expound important features of the passage.  I’ve seen this occur.  In a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes I recall that every Sunday the preacher made an awkward leap at the end of his sermon from the text to Christ.  The leap was awkward in the sense that the sermon amplified the text and its message without the need to leap to Christ.  There was nothing factually wrong with the sermon.  It was just that the text to thinly identified with an immediate connection to Christ. This was exactly an example of what Jensen refers to in terms of seeing the important features of the passage. In the example that I recall, the leap was also awkward in that the preacher committed the leap every week with seemingly slimmer connections.  Perhaps, that preacher could have reserved the Christological reading until the last sermon in the series in summation of the whole of the book of Ecclesiastes?

By way of illustration; if you consider a wonderful Old Testament story examined in this post, I would hope that a preacher would see God’s provision for his people and God’s grace before the preacher rushed to a Christological reading.


Discerning a good sermon with the help of a Bishop

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s monthly magazine, Southern Cross, has published a brilliant article by Bishop Jensen.  The article appeared in the February 2017 edition.  While recovering from eye surgery, Bishop Jensen set himself the task of sampling recorded sermons of Senior Ministers of the Diocese.  The sample was unscientific in its method, yet at a sum of forty or so sermons, it was substantial.  The recorded sermons were readily available to the Bishop as numerous churches position their sermons for download.
free and unattributable

The article is noteworthy in that Bishop Jensen effectively communicates a means by which a pewsitter may discern the worth of a sermon.  I took to paraphrasing Bishop Jensen’s findings – six in total.  They establish an insightful checklist for the pewsitter in the pewsitter’s consumption of sermons.  The checklist is part of my own journey of considering sermon form and worth.  A post earlier this year about sermons preceded my own presentation of a sermon.  While the Bishop formed these findings for a purpose distinct from my own, I’ve tried to stay as true to the Bishop’s language as possible:

-        Expository sermons are worthy.  That means, that the sermon should expand upon the chosen text.  A precursor is that their is a chosen text (rather than say an odd collection of verses from throughout the Bible).  This is favourable to preachers “letting their own spiritual thoughts loose on the congregation, or preaching moralisms or headline news”.
-        A balance of preaching between Old Testament, The Gospels and Acts, and Pauline sources is sought.
-        Duration of sermon is tertiary to other matters such as biblical and spiritual maturity of the listener.
-        Exhortation (advice on how to apply the lesson) is necessary either woven through the sermon or towards the end of the sermon.
-        Exhortations to evangelise or to bring people to repentance need be common.
-        Preachers need to stay faithful to the passage.
Bishop Jensen offers his article as a means of providing unsolicited, and indirect, feedback to all preachers in the Diocese.  Because of the article’s indirectness it serves also to allow the pewsitter to determine how to assess his/her preacher.  Certainly, no-one wants the preacher who in Jensen’s words “preached himself rather than the text” nor the preacher who “focused on the secondary rather than the primary”.  In such vein, I’ve previously expressed concerned about a sermon that took an unusual turn around the preacher’s distaste of a piece of church building fabric.


Note: Jensen, a former Archbishop, took the title Bishop on ceasing to be Archbishop. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse used the address Bishop Jensen even where the Bishop largely addressed matters that arose during his time as Archbishop.
Note: I'm now a keen reader of another blog.  You may wish to take a look.  This blog considers matters of design.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

An inexpensive way to control garbage bin cockroach infestations

Here is a trick next time you are at a cafĂ© having a coffee.  Typically, you'll have your coffee delivered to the table with two sugar satchels.  You only need one of these satchels.  Pocket the other one.

Next, go home and save the next plastic 2 litre milk container that you are putting out in the recycling bin.  Better still, save two 2 litre containers.

Cut the containers at the half-way mark.

Fill with water to 20 millimetre mark.

Stir in sugar until it dissolves.
 Then rub butter around the rim.
Now place out by your garbage bins.  Cockroaches will crawl in for the sugar.  They can not climb out as the butter is too slippery.  They then drown in the sugar mix. 

I've had a record of fourteen cockroaches on one night.  It is a great chemical free way of pest control.  You will catch some non-target beasties - ants and beetles - yet that's okay as you want to rid of cockroaches.

In hot weather you'll find that the water solution dries out.  Practically, the water needs toping up every second day.  You'll want to replace the container entirely every fortnight.

I've saved you from an 'after' photo. 


Smilax glycophylla

Smilax glycophylla, or Australian native sarsaparilla, was used by early settlers as a valuable vitamin C source.  A bitter-sweet beverage made from steeping fresh leaves was thought to be an agreeable substitute for tea.

During a recent bushwalk through one of the many trails that have been prepared through local bush I discovered a stand of smilax. There are about fifteen plants in a tight area.  The plants vary in maturity and height to about three metres.  Here is a Google Map image of the location.  The map image is of Epping Road and it is just prior to the crossing of Lane Cove River.  Access to the bush is by pathways that skirt the commercial building.

Smilax is a climbing plant that opportunistically uses other plants for support.  Over time I have noticed that Smilax has a strong preference towards climbing banksia.  The preference for banksia possibly suggests that there is beneficial soil bacteria that both banksia and Smilax share. 

 It is the young pinkish-red leaves that are harvested.  The young pinkish-red leaves are always at the extreme ends of the growing tendrils. To harvest only these leaves one is taking only 1% of the total leaves.  Prior to the day's venture I had sampled smilax while out walking.  One takes a young leaf in the mouth and slowly bites at it as one walks.  The bitter-sweet taste is a great pick-up.

For tea, the leaves are dried and then roughly cut in preparation for use in a tea.  After rinsing the leaves I added them to my homemade sun dehydrator.

In the dehydrator I also added some of the small black fruit. These fruit are edible.  They are sweet.  The skin is quite thick.  Once these are dried I am thinking of using them as one may use juniper berries.
Lane Cove Council has identified contamination adjacent to the area.  Take care how you enter the vicinity. 

A recent ABC Radio program - The Conversation Hour - "Forgotten feast: John Newton on the abundance of Australia's native foods" made mention of Smilax. 
Note: all links good at 11 February 2017.  I am indebted to a wonderful book that allows for ready identification of Australian foods.: "Wild foods in Australia", A.B. & J. W. Cribb, 1987, page 207.  The dehydrator featured in an earlier post.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Living water poured out

It is rare to have such a distinct communication from God.

free and unattributable
Last Friday at lunchtime I was fresh of mind of a prayer meeting that I had invited acquaintances of Facebook to.  It was a spontaneously organised meeting with short notice.  In respect of both the audience’s physical locale – some acquaintances lived over three hundred kilometres away - and the short invitation notice, I reckoned that to have two or three people arrive would be an excellent outcome.  The prayer meeting was itself for an event that was physically distant.  The event was the commencement of a youth Bible study in a regional town.  The Bible study was to commence the day after the spontaneous prayer meeting.

Last Friday I took lunchbreak in a nearby park.  To clear the head from a busy morning of work I fell into the pages of an interesting novel that had temporarily held me captive.  At a time after being fully absorbed in page-turning it occurred to me to scan the general area for reason of personal safety.  After a general scan my attention turned to a point immediate in front of me.  And then it happened.

A rush of energy, in an indistinct humanoid object, came directly toward me.  The object was set above the ground and was transparent – the grass behind it visible but blurred.  The form itself was indistinguishable as to shape at first.  It only took any dimension when immediately before me.  The object shared a single message then immediately departed across my left shoulder.  The whole encounter was perhaps of less than three seconds duration.

Pray now for the youth Bible study” was the single message that the object offered.  And, in response a humble prayer from one of the least of God’s servants went heavenward. 

An angel? The Holy Spirit?  Who knows?  God requires obedience (1 Samuel 15:22) and the prayer added to the incense of the altar (Revelation 8:3).  Take care to hear God in a whisper rather than in a roar (1 Kings 19:12)


Note 1: all links good at 7 February 2017
Note 2: the youth Bible study commenced with seventeen persons in attendance.  Seventeen is a good start to any ministry!
Note 3: this blog post is viewed from a Quora item here.