Category Archives: Writings

The invisible ingredient

The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.       Matt 13:33

So, as members of the Kingdom are we not then to infiltrate and permeate our country and culture like the yeast of the dough in the parable that Jesus told? It seems to me that this is likely the most effective form of spreading the way of the Kingdom.

People living out new ways of relating to co-workers. People wanting their clients to be treated with care and consideration. People acting as if they understand that the people around them are also loved by their Father and carry part of that divine spark that inhabits all of God’s creatures. People taking care of the world around them because God gave it to us to care for.

Maybe it really is the least, the most humble, the followers of Christ who quietly live like this that are the yeast – the invisible but potent ingredient that is essential to making a most excellent loaf of bread. And who can resist a slice of fresh warm bread?

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Anniversaries

So – do you remember when we bloggers posted something new almost every day, said stuff that really mattered to us, sometimes offended our families and acquaintances, forgetting we were public?

5 years and a few days ago, I started to blog.  For Randall its been 6 years.  If he hadn’t reminded me, I would have passed my 5 year milestone without thinking.   Really I have passed it by but he made me remember.

I went back and looked at the first real post I made.  How little has changed.  Yet how much I’ve changed.  It is good to remember and mark anniversaries I think.

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Filed under Day to Day, Dealing with stuff, Writings

Prodigality

Last night as the group of women I meet with met we read a short reflection on the “prodigality” of God. This comes from the story of the prodigal son but the author spoke of how the father in the story is the real prodigal. He welcomes back this son who has come from the pig sties – likely smelling like it too – with open arms – which may mean a huge embrace for this smelly son. The father lavishes love and acceptance on this son who messed up so badly, welcomes him back with a huge party, even using some of the resources that would rightfully now be part of the older son’s inheritance. (No wonder the older brother is a bit miffed)

To the author “prodigality” = lavishness, giving excessive gifts, abundance that is given to un-meriting children.

She also reminds us of the story Jesus told in Matthew 20 of the workers in the vineyard. He tells the story of the owner of the vineyard who pays all his workers as if they worked a full day and when they protest he says, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

The story Dixie tells over at her blog of receiving a gift – out of the blue – that cheers her day reminded me of the reading from last night. It reminded me of the daily gifts that God lavishes on us that have little to do with their utility and certainly are not given because we merit them: the vivid colours of the sky at dawn and at sunset, the joy that music stirs in us, as do sounds of nature (the call of the geese at this time of year remind me of coming spring), the myriad shades of green and brown with splashes of color thrown in, the varieties of species.

We were reminded last night of our need to follow God’s example in this regard. Jesus lavished love on outcasts, prostitutes and sinners, sacrificing all to offer them a way to freedom. We need to be willing to risk falling prey to the occasional con artist in our attempts to care for people in need. We need to learn to love with the kind of abandon with which the Father loves.

O God, forgive us our miserliness when it comes to caring for others. Give us generous hearts, non-judgmental minds and open hands.

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The Incarnation

“The Incarnation” is translated from the Spanish by Kieran Kavenaugh and Otilio Rodriguez.  It was published in the book Divine Inspirations assembled and edited by R. Atwan, G. Dardess, P. Rosenthal, Oxford University Press, 1998.

The Incarnation

Now that the time had come
when it would be good
to ransom the bride
serving under the hard yoke
of that law
which Moses had given her,
the Father, with tender love,
spoke in this way:
“Now you see, Son, that your bride
was made in your image,
and so far as she is like you
she will suit you well;
yet she is different, in her flesh,
which your simple being does not have.
In perfect love
this law holds:
that the lover become
like the one he loves;
for the greater their likeness
the greater their delight.
Surely your bride’s delight
would greatly increase
were she to see you like her,
in her own flesh.”
“My will is yours,”
the Son replied,
“and my glory is
that your will be mine.
This is fitting, Father,
what you the Most High, say;
for in this way
your goodness will be more evident,
your great power will be seen
and your justice and wisdom.
I will go and tell the world,
spreading the word
of your beauty and sweetness
and of your sovereignty.
I will go and seek my bride
and take upon myself
her weariness and labors
in which she suffers so;
and that she may have life,
I will die for her,
and lifting her out of that deep,
I will restore her to you.”

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Biblical innerancy

 

BIBLICAL INERRANCY
This was written in response to a heated debate on seven magazine over Biblical inerrancy. I never published it because I didn’t have the time or energy for the arguments that would follow. It’s not academically watertight, and the kind of people who obsess over Biblical inerrancy like to pick holes in things.


God has always chosen to use human authors, and does not override their humanity or individuality, their cultural circumstances or points of view. In fact, the Bible shows how creatively God uses those particularities to make works both historically specific and everlastingly applicable – one thinks of Hosea’s failed marriage, or Jonah’s unwillingness to forgive Nineveh.

It is quite possible that occasional errors and inconsistencies bother God not at all. To my knowledge none of the disputed passages contain anything by which Christianity stands or falls. The resurrection is not in doubt, but the number of angels in the tomb is. Really, who cares? One could be forgiven for not counting correctly at the time.

What I find curious, and revealing, is the inerrantists’ belief that any error demolishes the whole work – that if one thing is wrong then everything might be wrong, nothing can be trusted, and our faith is shipwrecked. This isn’t an approach one ordinarily uses with regard to books, let alone spoken accounts. We do not abandon a book as worthless because of a few factual errors. We do not dismiss a story [or a sermon] as a pack of lies because the teller gets something wrong or the data out of order. Obviously there is a level of inaccuracy beyond which the tale, and the teller, are no longer trustworthy – but I’d contend that we’re a long way short of that in the Bible.

God probably expects us to take a broad view of the trustworthiness of his authors. After all he trusted them himself, and I suggest was not willing to crush their humanity in order to satisfy our demand for trivial facts. Our wish for inerrancy is a sign that we do not trust, that our faith is fragile and based on a book rather than a relationship with the One to whom that book points. It’s sad that many churches have doctrinal statements which begin with ‘we believe in the inerrancy of the Bible’, rather than ‘we believe in God’. God comes in second on the list. Such statements have more to do with the intra-church doctrinal battles of a century ago than the explanation of Christian belief to outsiders in today’s society.

To speak personally, I had a committed relationship with God before I knew much about the Bible. And that relationship is real enough for me not to be too shaken by revelations about this or that part of the Bible. If the Bible were proved to be entirely false I could only say that there’s something funny been going on around here. The Bible interprets the experience, but the experience happens beyond the book. The Bible has informed and shaped my relationship with God, and with the world. It’s proved to be endlessly relevant, challenging, and even entertaining. That it is inspired I doubt not at all. But what that has to do with inerrancy I don’t know. I’ve heard sermons that were inspired, but with errors. Inspiration means efficacy of communication, contact, God to me, a voice heard. Sometimes it comes through all the stronger for cracked containers, as St Paul might concur. So if the Bible itself is a cracked container for the voices of God, that would seem in tune with the divine economy.

So many of our most contentious disputes hinge on genre. For instance, creationism stands or falls by what kind of document early Genesis is – whether it’s factual description or something else. To assume – demand – that all narratives be factual is asking for trouble. I’m unhappy with a view of the Bible that will not allow to God the full range of methods available to human authors. I don’t see why it should be a problem, that parts of the Bible might be fiction. Fiction can tell a truth as well as fact – maybe better. No-one would take Jesus’ parables as anecdotes, as factual accounts of real situations. They are fictions. And yet no-one would deny their power, and no-one would call Jesus a liar or dismiss his teaching as impossible to believe for using fiction as a carrier. So why not other parts of the Bible?

Let’s retain a sense of proportion. Suggesting that parts of the Bible might be fictional is not saying that it all is. But we can’t treat the Bible as a single book, in a single literary genre, with a single standard of authenticity, and a single framework for interpretation. We are dealing with 66 documents – note that even in calling them ‘books’ we are bringing certain expectations about how they are to be read – documents written over a period of some 3000 years by many different authors with very different circumstances and intentions. The Bible is what you get when you say, J. Edgar Hoover style, “Bring me the file on God.” It is, frankly, miraculous that this disparate collection should hold together at all, let alone display such rich internal cross-linkages across gulfs of time and space.

The argument that a book inspired by God has to be word-perfect and consistent is itself working to an idea of ‘perfection’ that may not be God’s. In the end all we can say is that we meet God in these documents. They are the stories – the story – of God. That is why they were chosen to be the canon. And all the mistakes – well they’re very interesting, but they don’t stop the voice of God. Never have done.

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Right or wrong?

 “I think we often forget we are called to be loving, not right. We are called to live as Christ lived, not to know what Christ knew. ”  From a blog entry by Andrew at The Road to Daejeon.  He was talking about certainty and whether it is that important.

 “To have the humility to admit that I could be wrong, not neccessarily about the larger things, but even about the smaller intricacies of my Christian faith, creates problems. “

” So can we be to certain? can certainty get in the way? I think so. To much certainty denies we are human, fallible and fallen. To much certainty denies the process of growth in knowledge and wisdom.

I think we often forget we are called to be loving, not right. We are called to live as Christ lived, not to know what Christ knew. “

Phil,

I can appreciate your reasons for not liking that word.  And since I know how offended you are by it, I won’t be using it if I can help it in your presence.  

But I will take exception to something that you wrote “I’d like to make it clear that my biggest problem with the word isn’t that new Christians and seekers use it, but that church leaders are using it.”  I think we have to be very careful in implying that there are certain standards of behaviour to be adhered to by Christians.  When we set up rules for behaviour we quickly become legalistic.  Using this word, worse (more profane) words, depends so much on the upbringing and culture of the speaker.  No matter where we are coming from the words we use, nice as they may be are not the mark of a Christian.

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Right or wrong?

 “I think we often forget we are called to be loving, not right. We are called to live as Christ lived, not to know what Christ knew. ”  From a blog entry by Andrew at The Road to Daejeon.  He was talking about certainty and whether it is that important.

 “To have the humility to admit that I could be wrong, not neccessarily about the larger things, but even about the smaller intricacies of my Christian faith, creates problems. “

” So can we be to certain? can certainty get in the way? I think so. To much certainty denies we are human, fallible and fallen. To much certainty denies the process of growth in knowledge and wisdom.

I think we often forget we are called to be loving, not right. We are called to live as Christ lived, not to know what Christ knew. “

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