Saturday, 23 February 2013

Lent 2 24th February 2013 I believe in Jesus Christ

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.  

How could God who’s everywhere become one man?

Universals lead to particulars cf a lifetime of 33 years, a teaching ministry of 3 years and a passion of 3 days climaxing in 3 hours.
  • Contemporary for galactic and subatomic realms show some sorts of connection between the macroscopic and the microscopic
  • Thomas Merton expresses this in a famous analogy: As a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the sun into a little burning knot of heat that can set fire to a dry leaf or a piece of paper, so the mystery of Christ in the Gospel concentrates the ray of God's light and fire to a point that sets fire to the spirit of man.
  • Chaos theory: The emergence of God at one point, to show us his face and his love, is in harmony with scientific truth, as much as the emergence of a beautiful rainbow on a stormy day.

What does it mean that Christ died for us?

  • substitutional view where Jesus is seen to die in our place.  Example of a law court where judge goes to back of court to pay fine of poor mother of three imprisoned for theft.
  • sacrificial view of atonement the blood of Christ provides the sinless victim who alone can expiate sin. Christ loved [us], giving himself up for us as an offering and a sweet smelling sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5v2). Cf eucharist.
  • exemplarist view that Christ’s example of love effects atonement just in revealing God’s love. When a tree is felled you see the beautiful rings within its trunk.
  • triumphant view of Christ who leads believers in his victory procession: Thanks be to God who always gives us in Christ a part in his triumphal procession (2 Cor 2v14). 
Where’s the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?

Christianity is the only religion refusing to talk of its Founder as a past figure.  Buddha and Mohammed have graves but Jesus…
  • The change in the disciples from Gospel accounts to Acts: fearful men and women end up confronting authorities
  • The strangely matter of fact and reserved accounts of the resurrection in NT.  The disciples don’t recognise Jesus.  Would that have been relayed if the resn were invention?
  • Would the role of women as witnesses, controversial in those days, be included in a constructed tale?
  • The Christian church changing its weekly holy day from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday, that being the day of Christ’s rising.  What a change for pious Jews! 
Why should we believe in judgement of the living and the dead?

  • God’s investment in the human race.  He is due to get a return on that - history has this purpose: to prepare a holy people for God’s possession. The church is this, a bride being prepared without spot or wrinkle (Eph 5v27)
  • Ultimate righting of wrongs vindicating God’s justice.  In Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov two brothers argue about the evil in the world focussing on the suffering of children and whether there is ultimate justice. Jesus’ suffering shows us the judge of the world isn’t aloof.
  • How can judgement be possible?  As sure as a computer memory contains a million records, so the memory of God! Christian tradition distinguishes an individual judgement at the moment of death and a general judgement which at the Lord’s return. After death scripture speaks of two ultimate destinies, heaven and hell.
  • Mercy As the video of my life is prepared for showing on judgement day Christ has power to edit out the unacceptable points if I give them to him.  
  • Hope To believe in Jesus Christ who will come to judge the living and the dead is to face the future with an infectious hope. If faith shows you that the whole world is in God’s hands so is its future. All will come right in the end! 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Lent 1 17th February 2013: I believe in God

The Apostles' Creed 
  • Lent is being used to helps us examine our faith afresh
  • ‘I believe in God and the spiritual but not dogma’ is current and we need to be informed to counter this eg What sort of God? New Age impersonal force?
  • Easter baptismal renewal involves Apostles’ Creed – hence value and origin of Lent in preparing for this renewal
  • The Apostles' Creed sets forth Christianity as someone put it "in sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity." It’s a Godsend to teach the Christian Faith as we seek to make simple, clear, direct and above all effective communication of the truth that is in Jesus (Eph 4:21).

First official mention at the Council of Milan in 390AD. Most scholars trace it back to an old Roman Creed from the turn of the first century and the three baptismal questions of the early church. Memorised then by the faithful, as it is today, hard copies were probably less at a premium in the early centuries explaining the lateness of the first 4th century documentation. As Anglicans we encounter the Apostles’ Creed at BCP Morning and Evening Prayer. Baptism and confirmation rites. There are actually three creeds in use. The Apostles is simplest, then Nicene, then Athanasian. The other two creeds originate more in the eastern church and are more developed in their theology.

I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth   
  • What’s the evidence God exists?
 The cosmological argument of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274):
1                      Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2                      The universe began to exist
3                      Therefore, the universe must have had a cause.  We call that cause God.    NB Big Bang seems to fit this

The design argument eg. William Paley (1743-1805) who argued that the complexity, order, and purpose of a watch indicate intelligent design, as do the complexity, order, and purpose of the universe.  The moral argument based on conscience. The existence of morality is a pointer to its author – God.  This is sometimes expressed as the view that there could be no right and wrong unless God existed. More subjective is the personal experience argument Friedrich Schleiermach (1768-1834) God’s existence cannot be demonstrated rationally but only perceived by one’s feelings.

  • Why believe in a personal God?
There are reasonable evidences for God’s existence but Christianity goes beyond reason. To catch the full beauty of Christianity you need to engage with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. God has sameness with us as a loving Father yet is different – an almighty God, three persons in one Godhead. Christian faith thrills to that awesome difference yet rejoices in the sameness Jesus reveals.

  • How can God be almighty with all the suffering in the world?
Love needs free will etc. The Cross of Jesus is key. An interesting thought on earthquakes - without tectonic plates life would be denied the invigoration of the minerals inside the earth, even if the plates move at a cost to life itself.

  • How can belief in a Creator be squared with evolution?
God is creator now as then, holding us in being as we, unlike God, do not possess being in itself. Darwin, the father of evolution allegedly lost his faith not through his research but through the loss of his daughter. Darwin's colleague Kingsley saw evolution revealing God as cleverer than ever seen before in his giving us potentiality to make ourselves. This potentiality, linked to genetic mutation producing new forms of life, has 'ragged edges' eg cancer and 'blind alleys'.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ash Wednesday 13 February 2013

The unexamined life is not worth living. That's wisdom of the ancients and its part and parcel of Christianity.

As Lent starts it's writ large for us, individually and through a modest programme in our community.

I don't know about you but I find self- examination flows too often from the unpleasant consequences of my shortcomings than from a godly routine.

I hope to redress this in Lent and, the words almost stick in my mouth, I would be grateful for any appraisal you might have for me that may be a God send.

To live in the knowledge of God's love is an immense privilege. I believe there's nothing I can do to make God love me less. I believe there's nothing I can do to make God love me more.

Wonderful! If I’d only God to consider! Alas there's a lot I do that makes my neighbour love me less and my failures have capacity to make me love myself less.

Here's the nub of our resistance to self-examination. Human beings can only bear so much reality. We are so easily defeated as we're so frail. Our foolish pride gets wounded by knowledge of failure. Would that we lived more comfortably with our capacity to fail trusting the mercy that surrounds us!

Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.

Yes you're frail, God says in scripture, you're mortal, but, for all of that I love you and, as scripture says again, offer you a glorious trajectory little lower than the angels.

That's why it's worth examining ourselves so we keep on an upwards course. The Church encourages us to examine ourselves daily, before the eucharist and in the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent so that our mortal being may be kept on an immortal course for our salvation and that of the whole world.

Self-examination lays hold of the good in me to be cultivated besides identifying the bad to be uprooted.

I remember receiving counsel from a Mirfield Father on this. He suggested I regularly switch my method of self- examination from the list in Galatians 5 of the works of the flesh to the verses immediately following that list the fruits of the Spirit.

Identify the good - the love, joy, peace, patience, self-control and so on - that's growing in your life for thanksgiving and cultivation. Then get weeding that pride, sloth, lust and so on.

Thanksgiving for what's good in our lives is a vital part of self-examination.

Identifying and putting that good to use - intellect, sense of humour, capacity to care for others and so on - is as important as tackling our bad tendencies.

We only live once and each one of us,  in the Christian understanding, will have to give account of our lives on the Day of Judgement.

Our own self-appraisal anticipates that Day and will make it more favourable for us as we direct our lives towards where they're best applied. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

May God grant you a happy and holy Lent through growth in self knowledge and self application to his praise and service.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sunday before Lent 8am 10 February 2013

I looked in the mirror before I left the Sacristy to commence the eucharist.

I'm sure each one of you has already cast a glance at yourself in a mirror today.

Some of us spend longer before the mirror than others. As we age I somehow think we find it harder to dwell there

I want to think a little about mirrors this morning.

Mirrors of the soul.

Glass mirrors at one point replaced looking in water as an aid to seeing and brushing up our physical appearance.

How can we see and brush up our spiritual appearance?

Friendship is the answer. Friends are most precious in that they have access to our heart of heart as well as having our best interest on their own heart.

Without friends, without intimates, how unbearable we'd be! A soul never corrected and put in its place! A soul never affirmed or praised or loved!

Most human depth and awareness is attained through friendship and this extends to the spiritual life. We should value and seek out especially friends who can bring us closer to God.

Peter, James and John so valued their friend Jesus!

In today's Gospel of the Transfiguration these men literally became mirrors of his soul as he made to reflect his inner glory as God of God and Light of Light upon them.

As Lent approaches we friends of Jesus in this age have his invitation to the same intimacy granted Peter, James and John.

‘Look to me and be radiant’ he says in Psalm 34v5.

'All of you, with unveiled faces, seeing my glory' he says in 2 Corinthians 3v18 'as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into my image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from my Spirit'.

To land this divine invitation somewhat I invite you to make Lent a time to warm your soul by looking to Jesus and seeking his irradiation through the extra opportunities for worship and self examination as well as community events linked to corporate and self-improvement.

Seek him, when and where you can, as the true mirror of your soul - in the bible, in the eucharist, in spiritual reading, in nature's splendour, in a godly friend or spiritual director - seek the Lord -  look at him  - and see your disarray!

Look to Jesus, see yourself in his light, brush yourself up and shine all the more with his light!

'Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.'