Sunday, 30 October 2016
Friday, 14 October 2016
Monday, 5 September 2016
In this passage, Joshua, Caleb and some other Israelite spies have just returned from scouting Canaan and the news that they relay strikes fear into the people, and they decided to rebel. In fact, they are so scared that they forget that God has brought them out of slavery, that he has won so many battles for them, that he has fed and sustained them and provided their every need, that they go as far as to say "Wouldn't it be better for us to return to Egypt?" (vs3). In their mind it would have been better to go back across the desert, face all those dangers again, and willingly return themselves back to slavery than to push forward into the refuge that God's freedom provides.
Equality. Justice. Mercy. Compassion.
These are the giants that scare too many within all branches of Christianity, and I say that it is this fear that will keep us wondering around the wilderness of this world for another forty years. Equality for women, Justice for the oppressed, Mercy for the repentant, and compassion for all are not the giants that wander the land, but the milk and honey with which the promised land is over flowing.
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
This reminds me of another story in bible, about another woman that reached out to touch the divine; Eve.
The Genesis account of creation tells of the creation of humanity and the subsequent fall of man, and it is in the fall of man that we see the two stories begin to link. In Genesis 3:4-5 we see the Serpent say to Eve that if she ate the fruit she would become like God, not in a sense that she would become omnipotent but because her "eyes would be opened"; she would gain new knowledge. Verse 6 of the same chapter goes on to explain Eve's thought process; the food was good to see eat, good to look at and was "desirable for GAINING WISDOM". These things would seem to be worthy things to strive for, King Solomon for example was rewarded for asking God for wisdom above all other things. (1 Kings 3:10-15). Food is necessary to our survival, and who doesn't like their food to look attractive? Similarly this woman we encounter in Mark, Luke and John, was what she sought after not also desirable? Every person desires good health, and those unfortunate enough not to have been blessed with it desire healing. What this woman sought after was good.
In both these stories the women both reach and take what they desire, but it is here that the similarities in the women end, but not necessarily where the link between the stories. In this case the differences in the narratives are just as critical.
Beginning with Eve, she was working from a point of perfection, she had a direct face to face communication with God but she failed to trust him to supply her needs. If Eve desired wisdom she was free to ask for it, and if Solomon is an example to be judged by, God would have granted it to her, but perhaps in a less harmful way than how she acquired her knowledge, but she didn't. Instead, along with the man who was with her (Gen 3:6) she trusted her own knowledge and her own ability to gain what she desired. The woman in the New Testament however, is in an imperfect world, she cannot seek God directly but requires an intermediary in the form of the priest, and yet her affliction keeps her isolated from her community.
The original states of these two women are important for they are reversed, and the outcomes are also reversals. As I stated before, both women reached out for what they wanted, but the way in which they reached is the critical difference. The woman in the New Testament in her desire for healing reached out to touch God in the belief that true healing came from Him. Eve by contrast reached out for wisdom not through God but upon her own endeavours and abilities; she had not yet come to understand that true Wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6-8). For the woman in the New Testament God was the source and conduit for healing, for Eve she herself was capable of achieving wisdom.
The result of Adam and Eve's actions, carried out in the light of day, was to isolate man from their creator, for after they had sinned they hid and eventually they were banished from Eden. However when we look at this woman's actions we see that she is already hiding not in trees and bushes, but the crowd, still she was so worried about being observed she touches Christ from behind (Luke 8:44). Unlike Eve her actions did not force her into even further hiding but rather Christ calls her out of hiding, and into the light.
The story of the woman ends with Christ calling the woman 'Daughter', the only woman whom he ever addressed in such a way. In calling her Daughter, was Christ affirming to her not only the restoration of her health, the restoration of her community, the restoration of her mental and emotional health, but also the restoration of her to being a woman in the fullness that God had created her to be. Consider this, in Christ's entire ministry on earth we are filled with story after story of the Divine reaching out to man and connecting, but this is the only account that we have of man reaching out to God and touching him... And it's not even man that connects with God, it is woman.
"But what about Thomas?", many people will say, but an actual closer look at the account of Thomas and Christ does not indicate clearly that Thomas actually touched Christ, but in fact it seems to suggest the exact opposite. The account is found in John 20:24-29. In verse 28 after Christ tells Thomas to thrust his hand in his side and to touch the nail imprint in his hands, Thomas' response is to profess his belief but the text at no point says that Thomas touches Christ. This point is further reinforced by Christ saying in the verse 29 "Have you believed because you have seen me?".
In a church in which the large majority of the people are women, what does this say? Are women constantly searching for the divine? Is there something innate in women that they seek a closeness with God, that perhaps is not so natural to man? Or maybe man seeks that closeness in a different way?
These are perhaps questions for another day, and after the resurrection of Christ we are all now sons and daughters of God able to be brought into direct communion with Our Father. But until the advent of Christ only one person has managed to reach out and touch God...
And we don't even know her name.
Thursday, 21 July 2016
Corinthians is the go to text for Christians who want to talk about teamwork, but the mandate was actually given by God from and even before he created man. In fact teamwork was built into our very DNA.Genesis 1:26-27 states we are created in God's image, a thought to keep in mind as we look at some keywords for the purpose of this exercise. These words I want to consider are "Let us make man...so God created..."So here we have God (one member of the trinity) talking to the others and he/she says "Let" (the proposal), in this form it is a suggestion or statement of intention. Next up is "us" (the who) which is plural thus indicating more than one entity is present. We then progress to the words "make man" (aim/goal) which presents the desired result. Finally we have the phrase "so God created" which indicates that the proposal was agreed upon by the who, whom then worked to achieve the outcome: Teamwork.Now let us refer back to the bible text and the details of the proposal; specifically the criteria that man was to be made in the image of God. Now consider that the very creation of man was one which was a group task; how then can we function in the image of God if we fail to act as part of a loving team or community? By acting as part of a respectful, loving team in harmonious pursuit of a goal, is in itself an act of honour to the creator for we are doing what we were created to do; to reflect his image.Now some may feel this is a tenuous idea, so let's examine the mandate given to man and woman by God after their creation. Genesis 1:28 contains the command of God, and also the remit of man and woman that they are to be fruitful and multiply. It is the multiply aspect that I am most interested in at this time.Simple biology tells us that we need more than one person in order to reproduce, and seeing as God considers free will a pretty big deal, I cannot envisage for a second that in his telling man and woman to reproduce he was encouraging or condoning one party forcing either their will or their body onto another. We were to work in harmony by respecting, agreeing, and consenting; and by our doing so we would not only become one, but we would also be of one purpose. Thus his very command to multiply is implicit in saying teamwork was a requirement of our roles here on earth.It is also possible to make a case for the fall of man being a team effort, instead of what has historically and erroneously presented where the woman solely is to blame. A reading of Genesis 3:6-7 presents us with the moment that the man and woman sin. In this we read that the woman eats the fruit, and then presents it to her husband who is with her. In this moment her husband has the ability to say no and refuse his consent in this course of action, but he does not; he and his wife remain of one mind, and it is upon the man eating the fruit that Verse 7 says "their eyes were opened". Consider for a moment that nothing happened to the woman until the man ate the fruit, what are the implications of this?Now let's look at what happens after they have eaten the fruit. The text goes on to say that God came down looking for the man and the woman but they were hiding, and so God confronts them about what they had done, and what happens next is the first example of division and disunity between men and women in the bible. "It was the woman you gave me..." (Gen 3:12) and with one finely constructed sentence the man seeks to firstly distance himself from the woman and to blame God for the predicament that he finds himself in.Men and women were not created to be divided, we were created with a unified purpose and for a common goal. As Christians wishing to reflect the image of God to a fractious and broken world, we must find unity with one another and with our God. Back biting, sabotaging one another's efforts, gossiping, and causing problems within the church is not reflective of a loving God who with a clear mind and purpose set out to achieve a goal, but rather is an indicator of how far from God we really are.@TCStorm
Friday, 15 July 2016
"No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. "
And then I open my bible and I read, and I remember that chant, "No justice, no peace", and it dawns on me, they are right, but not in the conditional way in which they are warning police and politicians that they have had enough, but in a factual way for God is justice, and God is peace; know Justice, know Peace.
No God, no peace; No peace, no God. It's a pretty simple equation that stands scrutiny not because it is expressed in that form in any verse that can be quoted but rather that it is woven into the fabric of the bible and implicit everywhere. In The Books of Law found in the Torah, justice is a governing principle and is to be given to all equally, whether they are rich or poor (Lev 19:15), foreign or domestic (Deu 24:17). In fact God goes as far as to curse any who deny justice to foreigners, orphans or widows (Deu 27:19).
Justice is not only however a theme of the bible, it is also a fundamental characteristic of God and governs how he interacts with his creation. The Psalmist writes:
"But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgement from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in the time of trouble." (Psalms 9:7-9)
Proverbs 16:12 is even more telling about rulership "A king detests wrong doing, for his rule is built on justice." As Christians we proclaim Jesus Christ to be the King of Kings who will establish his kingdom that will last forever, well we need to recognise that one of the factors that underpins that kingdom, that makes him worthy of rulership, is justice.
For a moment, I want you to imagine heaven. Think of all the wonderful ways it's described in the bible, the ways it's been described in church or by your friends. Think of all the wonders you imagine it contains, think of living with people from every tongue and every nation for eternity, think of how wonderful that must be. And now take the justice out of your picture? Not quite so idyllic is it? Not quite so peaceful either.
No justice, no peace.
So how then can we claim to love Christ and desire to go to heaven, but be so indifferent about justice? How can it be possible to yearn for peace, but be unconcerned about injustice? How can we comfortably call ourselves Christians when we ignore the pain and suffering that injustice causes? Matthew 25:31-46 provides an overview of some of the things Christ is concerned with, and although being murdered wasn't on the list and I think it's safe to say if he is concerned about people going hungry, he is concerned about people being killed over theological differences or the colour of their skin. I think it's also safe to say that if we are not committed to stamping out injustice and coming alongside people in their pain we are refusing to help the least of His brothers and sisters; we are refusing to help Him.
"I hate all your show and pretense- the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I won't accept your burnt offerings or your grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." (Amos 5:21-24)
God doesn't care that you go to the most boring church imaginable, he isn't interested in your tithe and offerings, and that sweet sounding mass choir you have going on... He isn't even listening to it! He is waiting for that mighty flood of justice from us; he is waiting for us to stand up and get involved. He is waiting for Christians to stand up and lead the world to the end of their search for peace and justice; he is waiting for us to lead the world to him.
"No justice, No peace. KNOW justice KNOW peace".
Monday, 13 June 2016
1a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowedwith great strength or abilityb : an illustrious warriorc : a man admired for his achievements and noblequalitiesd : one who shows great courage
2a : the principal male character in a literary or dramatic workb : the central figure in an event, period, or movement