Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Naff things that Christians say

Things I've heard Christians say to others (naffities: this is likely to be a long series)

To someone who is ill (this is the richest picking field for naffities):

"we must have coffee, I'll try to squeeze you in..." [I must do and be seen by you to do my duty to you. This is about me, not you!] Better: "When would you be free and I'll check my diary"

"don't worry, God's in control..." [God as puppetteer theology. God will work all things together for good Roms 8:28, but that's not the conversation a sick person wants] Better: "I'm sorry to hear of your illness. How are you feeling?"

"it's just the fall playing out in our lives..." [this is not the time for creation theology] Better: "That sounds really tough. How do you feel?" If you've been told, don't compare pains, just thank them for their confidence and ask what you can do?

To someone bereaved:

"at least he/she is in a better place now..." [The point of bereavement is that you have lost a friend or loved one. This can have a calamitous effect on one's life. This is not the time for eschatology] Better: I'm sorry to hear of your loss. If you want to chat, I can drop around in about a week or so. Then just listen, do not offer advice if unasked, do not compare pain, do not play the deceased's faults...normal people don't and neither should you.

To a newbie in your group (astonishingly I heard this from an experienced youth leader...cringe-worthy):

"Hi everyone, this is Digby...he's joining us this weekend because he's a bit lonely..." [WHAT??? Never judge or demean a person in such a humiliating manner. Everyone has the dignity of being in the family of God]. Better: "Hi everyone, this is Digby, I'm really glad he was able to come along this weekend." But, even better, don't introduce to a group before a couple of one to one introductions if possible.

A minister to a parishioner whose girl friend would not relinquish her RC-ness. "Do you want us to have a talk to her...?" The hide of them to think that she'd participate, and that they could intervene in such a personal matter!!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Praise! Why bother?

Throughout the scriptures there is a close relationship between God's being creator, and our praise of him.

A great example is Isaiah 42:5, 8.

Why does God seek, indeed, require, our praise, to the excusion of idols?

Is it because he is needy, lacking in affirmation, has an ego problem?

No, nah, nada!

He does it because it is good for US!

Praise connects us to the one praised, and there is nothing better than being connected to our creator, lover and redeemer. He says so himself!

It connects us to who we are (made in his image: his image-bearers, Gen 1:27), and is encouraging, gives us pleasure; its part of worship, and worship expressed rightly (in prayer, song, acts of service, Roms 12:1) it is moving,  profoundly exciting, and allows a step, for just a moment, a tiny step, into heaven!

In similar vein, the praise of your spouse deepens the connection between the two. Praise of your pre-spouse friend is good, but not as good, because you are not yet 'one-flesh' (Gen 2:24), praise in a 'one-flesh' state encourages both deeply, builds up both and grows both: it is a form of giving of self: to spouse, and how much better, to our creator God?

Lack of praise, or mis-directed praise damages the relationship, cuts us off from the source of our being (God, and in this life, spouse if we have one). Lack of praise is selfish.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

One sarx (just to show off)

One of the things that I think was missed in the same-sex marriage 'debate' (there was no debate, just invective from the pro side) was Gen 2:24. The two become one flesh.

I recal some talk of the complementarity of the sexes, and that the relationship of marriage resulting from the dynamic between the sexes, between man and woman (who together are in the image of God...that wasn't ever in the media, of course).

The complimentarity runs deep: men and women are just different, different in ways that make each important to the other, and that 'interlock'. The physical union expresses and demonstrates this.

By comparison two women or two men do not 'interlock', they stand side by side. The 'interlock' metaphor runs through the BCP/AAPB marriage service and is demonstrated in society: one's relationship with one's spouse is more important than any other. The two share their lives as one: thus sexual loyalty is imperative. This is the building block of civilisation (or the tribe, in generations past).

There are deeper things here too both psychologically and socialogically for the couple, their children, their wider families and communities. It would take a good length book to explore them! The spiritual dimension would be another book.

None of this surfaced in the debate...because there was no debate, mere ranting from the side-by-siders.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Bibleworks 10

It's arrived! Yippee. My BibleWorks upgrade.

I've been using BW since version 3. Now we are at 10. The package has improved with each upgrade and the distance between 3 and 10 is vast.

Even if I didn't use it, I'd buy it because of this inscription on the Quick-Start Guide:
Thank you for using BibleWorks. May the Lord prosper your work for His greater glory and the eternal good of lost souls.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The spiritual has become utilitarian!

No question about the motive for this, but oh, what a down-grade for the spiritual life!

Scanned from a recent edition of Australian Men's Health magazine. I read it in a hospital waiting room...good exercises and recipies in it!

High Anglican ceremonial saved my life!

I was raised in a mixture of dissenting and non-conformist churches, the last one before my 'great tea-trolley disaster' of the 80s was a church plant I had participated in in youth work and roles in services (presiding at communion, speaking, Bible reading and prayer, small group ministry, even bus driving). Notwithstanding what I might be saying below; I had great and warm, and encouraging friends here: thoroughly Christian and lovely people; but I often felt misplaced culturally and in my intellectual and literary out of water!

Things went bad after three or four mis-read adventures with girls. I had consciously avoided dalliances with girls outside the faith, and any relationships at all while studying through high school and early years of uni, and so was perhaps less experienced and more serious in my intentions than many of my peers. Consequentially, I didn't seem to be quite able to read anything right, and always anticipated far more than was being contemplated by the other side and in a couple of friendships misreading what was being delivered for a level of commitment that was in fact and in retrospect, evidently absent. I was getting in too deep; they were merely 'having a look'. The asymmetry would probably have been obvious to one more experienced. I wished I had been as blasé as the Fonz about girls! But instead I was perplexed, became confused, and eventually despaired of the possibility of having a decent and mutual relationship with a girl. Through this, and while grappling with it a well-meaning friend (not in my church) unwittingly patronised me in public. I reeled from the humiliation!

Enough had become enough and a number of disparate waves of unhappy history summed at this point to form an overwhelming peak. I crashed!

If my romantic rectitude to date had brought me so low, I thought, so much for romantic rectitude, and I resigned the hope and promise of wisdom and godliness that had been the theme of my life until then and was instantly repulsed by my habits of service in the wider church family: they seemed to be milestones on the road to emotional washout.

Left the church, left home, broke off with my Christian friends, shut out my family: closed down entirely but for my work, which also suffered from time to time.

I went ferral in every way, including ways not fit to be discussed. Happily I came to the notice of no one who would de-rail me further. Well, there was one, whose blandishments I rejected. Her heroin habit repulsed me; and there it was: me more attractive to a junkie than the Christian girls I admired!

I was on a dark, barren rock swept by rough storms of the freezing wind and biting chill of lonliness and spiritual desolation, compounded, I suspect, by the side-effects of medication that added to the disaster (the medication was withdrawn from the market after it had been implicated in suicides in young adults).

After saving money I moved out of my parent's home and set up a place of my own in the inner city. Living there was very foreign and sharply isolated compared to the warmth and community of my just past family and church life. I looked up an ex-girlfriend who had thought she had 'tossed me over' prematurely ('hadn't given me a fair go' in her demolishing terms). She was not happy about my new repudiation of church affiliation, however.

I had to correct that! Nevertheless she later 'tossed me over' a second time in equally demolishing terms in reward for my frank expression of affection. Undetected asymmetry at work again!

She was my only thread of connection to the happiness I had felt before the GTTD and in the foreign territory of my despair hadn't been able to work up any basis for the alternative of seeking friendship with girls outside the church (doubtless to say, I sought other things instead).

What to do? My nearest church was Christ Church St Lawrence at Railway Square in Sydney. In Sydney there could have been no greater ecclesiastical contrast to the vapid ad-hoc non-conformist services I had been used to, and largely grown up with (I must say, those at my mother's church were executed with some skill, but that was rare in the denomination), albeit attended by many caring and godly people. The great anchor in those services, from an emotional view, was the hymns which always took me back to my mother's old church (the one that planted this one) that our family had often attended with my mother's parents. They still envoke these memories when I sing them.

I had always loved serious music and excellence in its performance, encouraged by my parents who were both musicians. Both had earned income from their music, and my father taught his instrument until his death over a decade ago.

CCSL astonished me. It was a high day when I attended, so evening prayer was a veritable riot of ceremony and sensation. Choir wafting through Palestrina, a masterful organist improvising on a theme of Bach, the scent of incense dominating the air and the bright colours of ministers and clergy as they conducted the liturgy. There were more ministers in litugical dress in the sanctuary than the entire congregation of my old church. More art, more joy, more exuberant musical excellence, more effort put into making this a special reflection of the congregational love of God and enjoying his glory than I had ever encountered; although some years previously, I had heard the choir of Kings College at Cambridge contribute to a service here. I was a mere spectator then. Now I was involved, spiritually caught up in it all.

I was carried away by the overwhelming solidity of it, the unperturbable graciousnes and indeed gracefulnes of the liturgy: the work of great scholars, executed with delight, care and prayerful gravity. I knew I was experiencing the avalanche of love of centuries of tradition as Christians had together sought the fellowship of our creator in liturgy, word and music as they came together, week after week (about 77,000 weeks all up to that day I was there) to be in the presence of our Lord (Matt 18:20).

After the service the Rector mentioned to me that supper was being served in the hall. Would I care to join? I did, and chatted with a warm fellow visiting Sydney from Brisbane. I left for home much encouraged and walking on air.

I quickly fell in with the 'youth group': young professionals and academics of inner city interests aged mid 20s to mid 30s with a couple of Latin scholars (both completing PhDs) to boot. We met each Wednesday for eucharist, dinner and prayer under the wing of one of the assistants: Fr Reg, also from Brisbane, and the godfather of one of our crowd. Ironically, one of my new friends in this group worked with the girl who had prompted my attendance!

No one pryed into my past, or even my present. They took me as I was, embraced me in their lives. Generously invited me to join the regular Sunday lunch-for-all that one couple hosted (up to 50 attendees!!) and included me in other church related outings (including a meeting of the Snark Society that we held in the Royal Automobile Club, all decorated in black tie in tongue-in-cheek pomposity). Never questioned, never 'challenged' (which some non-conformists love to do), never doubted. Always honestly treating me as an equal. Were always open, positive, and gently prodded me to be serious about the eucharist, about Lent, about (they positively assumed) my baptismal vows, as we all joined together in their Easter renewal.

The closest to heaven I had been on earth!

From there I decided that the 'traditional' Anglican ways were my ways. I was at last a fish in water! The ceremony, the ritual, the variation in pace as the church year, with its various high days, festivals and times of special reflection and rememberance embeded the faith in daily life and yearly patterning. Wayposts for every step of an ordinary life.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Comment on a newspaper article:

A Christian either believes the Bible or they make up their own rules, which God doesn't have to pay attention to.

Resurrection #2

The sermon on Great Sunday made the point:
The critical weakness of the church today in Australia is that the reurrection is not at the centre of our preaching, our lives, and our hope. We don't live as though we believe that Christ rose from the dead and that this changed everything. We don't talk this way, and we don't love others this way. We instead act like those most pitiful of creatures that Paul depicts for whom the resurrection is an empty myth.
A great passage, and that alone would have made the sermon great.

Sunday, April 1, 2018



Great Sunday #2

My family and I forsook our regular church (its our 'ordinary Sunday' church) to attend the same one as I did on Good Friday where an old friend of ours is a parishionner.

The contrast of the day with the moving GF service was marvellously reflected in every way: tone of service, floral decoarations, the high table's dressing, the music, the responses, the sheer exuberant joy and beauty as we seek to be in step in a tiny way with the cosmos-shattering joy of Christ's resurrection (Mahler has nothing on this).

The auditorium flowers were spectacular, albeit understated and unassuming (white flowers at every column, several large vases at the front, around the paschal candle, etc.).

I really enjoy the rededication that we all do as we repeat the baptism vows. Much better than the adhoc emotionally pressured and often unwittingly humiliating non-conformist practice of old where one had to march down the front of the auditorium if the preacher felt like asking if anyone wanted to 're-dedicate' their life to Christ (talk about bogus theology).

There is also something magnificently communal about us all going to the great table for communion. Love it!

The theme of the sermon was the church being shy about proclaiming the resurrection as the great confrontation with the pagan materialsst-humanism of our day.

At home, we had morning tea and watched Songs of Praise, for another great blast of Christian celebration. All well done.