Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Days and days!

Article after my own heart on the idea of duration in Genesis 1.

Christ Church St.Lawrence and I

I mentioned CCSL in a recent post.

In the late 1980s this was my parish church. I had moved to Surry Hills and my ex-girlfriend had declined to become my current girlfriend if I didn't resume my Christian participation.

I resumed. As it was, the Christian participation was more enduring that the relationship.

The nearest place of Christian coalescence was CCSL. I'd been there on a couple of occasions previously. One for a service sung by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge (or a similar choir) and on another occasion at Easter, so I had some familiarity with the place.

I quickly fell in with a crowd of about my age, but including people of upwards of 15 to 20 years older.

One couple hosted an open lunch in their home on Sundays after the Choral Eucharist. These were wonderful occasions of friendship and fellowship attended by a diversity of members, clergy, servers, choir and general friends. The lunch often ran up to time for Evensong.

I developed some lovely friendships over the three or so years I considered myself part of this church and its Wednesday evening group.

We met for the Wednesday eucharist, then dinner at a local restaurant (the Volcano pizzeria was a favourite) followed by a study group at Fr Reg's flat. These were the highlight of my week.

I loved living in walking distance of both my office and my church, and both buildings were of architectural significance in the history of Sydney, to boot.

St. James had some similar litrugical attractions: the un-hurried confidence and peacefulness of the services was very encouraging and 'grounding' and the prayer, music, scriptures, and the biblical solidarity of the prayer book all worked together to engender worshipful reflection.

As St. James was very close to my office, I often attended the mid-week eucharist there. Later at St Philip's Church Hill, when my office was closer to it. A few of us met for a BCP service.

When we didn't trot up to R and M's for lunch a few of us strolled along to the Graphic Arts club for Sunday lunch. I also ate at this, my father's trade union club with him from time to time during the work week. They were wonderful times.

A memorable moment from this time was a 'pilgrimage' we undertook to Bathurst cathedral. The two parishes clubbed together and hired a steam-engined train for the trip to Bathurst and back. I think the CCSL choir might have sung at Bathurst. Very special.

Friday, December 25, 2020

The mostly Christian service

We attended a 9 lessons and carols service at St James, King Street, for Christmas. Happily it was outside the latest 'lockup' zone, or gulag, as I like to call it, both geographically and dispositionally.

We were initially hesitant to go as the official encouragement was to make only essential trips.

Church is essential. Anyway, the governor of NSW went. She clearly thought it was essential.

A good service in many respects, and wonderful musically. Rarely heard carols, a couple of old favourites, and wonderful readings, almost all by culturally significant people, unfortunately. Some of whom were not so good at reading in public.

We had judges, members of parliament, academic worthies from Chippendale indoctrination centre (Sydney...University?) and its mail-order twin (Charles Sturt, same question).

But that was the thing. I don't go to church for other than members of that congregation, and particularly worthies from the world, to read the word of our Lord and Saviour to me.

That's not worship of our creator and redeemer, it is prostrating before the world and its vanities.

I immediately thought of James 2:1-7 and Luke 14:7-11 and allowed myself to be dismayed.

In this respect a Christmas eve service at Christ Church St Lawrence was much more Christian (although, Christian of the 17th century, charmingly).

Notably the St J's service included the absurd 'acknowledgement' of the 'traditional custodians' of the land. Apparently the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, with more than a touch of thespian anachronism, but not my 'tradition', or probably anyone's, in reality. Pure political theatre.

I don't see the gospel as being made subject to any earthly tradition, particularly an obviously pagan assertion. Did Paul encourage the Ephesians to acknowledge the priests of Diana in their meetings? The very idea is anathema. Israel's dance with Baal show us where this sort of syncretistic gesture ends.

In fact, I'm agin any form of jingoism in church. I'll happily pray for the government to maintain justice and peace, that's its God-given job. To preserve our natural liberty. But, that's all. A putative 'tradition' of actual animists, not so. And please, no national flags, no pictures of heads of state or government, either.

St. J's also has submitted itself to the age and apparently put the fiction of amoral 'sexual orientation' before the proclamation of the gospel. See above on Baal.

At the end we seem to have learnt nothing from the history of the formation and course of the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche which followed Herr Schicklgruber like a lap dog.

And, a couple of wonderful 9LC services: Durham, St. Swithun's, New College, plus a stack more on YouTube, of course.

Church and imagination

During these strange times of Covid-games, the church has shown remarkable un-creativity in maintaining services while being legal.

Outdoor service, spaced participants. Put everyone in an 'official' choir. have the choirs take turns during the service, spaced out around the auditorium.

There, just for starters.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Superb carols from 2020

 Jussi Bjorling: O Holy Night

And another, by another

And my perennial favourite: particularly sung at the beginning of a Christmas service as the ministers and choir enter in procession. Very moving.

Once in Royal David's City


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Christmas, church, and music

Friday evening was our first (and given current over-reaction to a virus with a case mortality rate of 0.011, possibly last) Christmas music outing of the year.

It was a fabulous carols in the park put on by a local church.

Aside from family enjoyment and Christian enthrallment, I learnt two things:

1. Joy to the World is not, properly, a Christmas carol. It is a second coming hymn. Now it all makes sense...not that I'm sure it didn't make sense before, but if a carol, it has a basic conflict with the scripture in Matthew 10:34.

2. Small choirs do not work well in large open spaces without good mic-ing and a reflective screen behind. There were also teething problems with sound mixing, instrumental density and depth (and probably mixing again, but then I'm a big symphony/heavy rock chap from way back). Plus, don't get congregations to sing complex professional singer arrangements. They are too hard for occasional singers. Then, decide if you are putting lyrics or images on the big screen - and rehearse to ensure lyrics shown match what the singers on stage are doing. But these are minor compared to the wonderful evening we all had.

Inevitably the 'clear gospel' message was given. Only, it was hardly clear, viz: "Jesus came to save us from our sins."

Great. What are 'sins'? asks the average person...and many Christians too, from my observations.

This is the old habit of the modern church: it's the novice salesman error of selling on features, not benefits.

'Save from sin' is a feature, but what's the benefit?

The benefit is Jesus came to resolve the fracturing of life we see and experience, to restore us to relationship with God which is universally fractured because we choose to live in rejection of our Creator. The ultimate benefit Jesus brings is not 'no more sin', but resolution of our god-rejection by his demonstrated victory over it in his resurrection. In this he foreshadows the resurrection of all his followers for life with him forever in his New Creation.

A bit wordy, but its the sort of existential punch that is needed, and it connects with the commonly experienced frustration of a life designed for eternity with God, living in rejection of him.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Explain 'moral', Christopher.

Christopher Hitchens was famous for his debating ploy with Christians, asking them to name one moral act that Christians can to that atheists cannot do.

Most are flumoxed.

Here's a reply a pal of mine would make:

Sorry Christopher, but your question is misconceived because Christians are capable of doing every moral act whereas atheists are incapable of doing anything morally right.

When Christopher's apoplexy ended you would have placed the burden of proof back onto him by asking him to explain how any act within a materialist worldview can be moral. In other words, on what true and justified meta-ethical basis can an atheist say he is acting morally without question-begging, invoking brute facts (a disingenuous blood relative of question-begging) or forever cascading along that infinite regress.
An alternative is:
A person who is not a Christian is incapable of any morally upright act.
Again, after the apoplexy dies down.
Christopher, you are using your incomplete world view to batter my complete world view. Step inside mine for a moment. 
Paul in Romans 3 starts this passage with perhaps Psalm 14:3, and then runs through a number of Old Testament ideas:

There is no righteous person, not even one;
11 There is no one who understands,
There is no one who seeks out God;
12 They have all turned aside, together they have become [i]corrupt;
There is no one who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
The venom of [j]asps is under their lips”;
14 Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And they have not known the way of peace.”
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

He also deals with the universal dilemma of the reflective person: "I do what I don't want to do, and don't do what I do want to do" Romans 7:21-25.

What's your solution, dead Christopher? Avoidance? Denial? Rejection of your own failings?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The navigator God

There are plenty of opportunities for confusion over the seeming contradiction of God's will and our free will.

Here's a clarifying analogy, based on Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.

From this I gather that God works as an actor in our life-world, in the time-space domain that he made for us (in which he demonstrated his presence and activity in Genesis 1 - working in the constraints of the same time that denominates our lives), shown in the flow of biblical history.

In this view, God is a navigator using the winds, currents and storms and the nature of his vessel to get to the port he plans to arrive at. He made the cosmos for us, and so works within it's ebb and flow, in our human affairs, only rarely intervening to protect the line of the messiah and demonstrate his credentials and the dawning of his kingdom.

The end story: God will achieve his purposes through the vicissitudes of human life and history.

[BTW, the 'his' in italics means that the translator has inserted this in line with the implication of the original Greek. I also de-capitalised 'his' because it's a pronoun, not a proper noun.]

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A different 5

A while ago I posted on Greg Koukl's neat summary of the story of reality.

You may remember it.

Just thinking of another angle, good for use as a quick explanation:

1. God

2. Man (you might need to say 'People' in a general audience)

3. Rejection (because this might start questions, and people can grasp this in their own lives)

4. Christ

5. Resurrection

Reality turns on the Rejection of God by People and is resolved by Christ in his and the general Resurrection.

But, there's a longer, 7 step elaboration:

God (creation)

Man (creature in God's image)

Rejection (by man of God for 'not-God')

Christ (God enters the life-world of man by his incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth)

Crucifixion (Christ ends the reign of death and sin to herald his kingdom)

Resurrection (in rising from death Christ shows he has overcome it and turning to him, and away from our rejection and its embrace of evil, we share in his victory)

New Creation (in our resurrection as Christ's people we share in his new creation, where all is made new as the old is obliterated).

Saturday, December 5, 2020

7 books - as foundation for Christian life and thought

In his recent podcast, Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason gave a list of 7 books that together a sound Christian structure to thought and practice.

I've set out lists of recommended books, but Greg's is better. Mine are too 'me' and possibly not always helpful to others.

Here's Greg's list .

1. The basics of Christian faith

   C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity*

   Greg Koukl - The Story of Reality*

2.  Single volume theological reference

   Millard Erickson - Christian Theology*

3. Christian Apologetics

   F. Turek and N. Giesler - I don't have enough faith to be an atheist

   W. L. Craig - Reasonable Faith*

4. Spiritual reflection

   C. Spurgeon - Morning and Evening

   A. Bennet - The Valley of Vision

5. Practical engagement

   G. Koukl - Tactics*

6. Spiritual life

   John Owens - Spiritual-mindedness

   C. Lungaard - The Enemy Within

7. Bible study

   G. Fee, Stuart - How to Read the Bible for all it's Worth

*I have in my library and have read them, except Erickson.