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- Page 6

  • Disorientation - Reorientation

    In that way that only God can do, a few things have linked together.  The sermon from Sunday, the BUGB e-news sweep and yesterday's Bible reading which was Psalm 73, a pretty classic 'disorientation' psalm in Brueggeman's scheme.

    One of the sets of notes said that the writer was filled with a sense of injustice until he went to the 'sanctuary' (Temple, holy place, presence of God) where he became aware of the ultimate fate of the bad people who seemed to prosper.  Then, it seems, he felt better and was able to re-centre himself Godwards.

    I struggle a bit with this.  Bad things happen to good people; good things happen to bad people, so far I agree, it fits my observations.  But  this assertion that it's OK, bad people will get their comeuppance, all too often interpreted as 'they will burn in hell', hmm.  I think I'd rather bad people were enabled to recognise their faults, to repent and to find their hope in the truth of Christ's redemption.

    What I admire about the psalm is its brutal honesty, naming injustice, speaking anger, even acknowledging the writer's own 'brute beast' attitude.  But, do I want bad things to happen to bad people?  No.  I'm not sure comeuppance equals justice.

    Psalm 73: 16 - 20 (NRSV)

    But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
    until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.
    Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
    How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
    They are like a dream when one awakes; on awaking you despise their phantoms.

    Psalm 73: 16 - 20 CJMG-reorientated

    But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
    until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end:
    God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 8:5)
    One man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. (Rom 8:18b)

    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
    If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:8-9)

    May they know these truths and "Hear then the words of grace 'go and sin no more'." (words of absolution, Common Worship)

    I kind of feel that's more hope-filled without denying the reality of injustice and suffering

  • Misunderstanding Marginalisation

    Today's BUGB e-news sweep links this article which talks about Christians who see themselves as 'marginalised', for which read 'discriminated against.'  What annoys me about most of the examples is they are people who don't even seem to understand why their claims are nonsensical, notably those who get uppity about being told not to wear crosses.

    Like many of those cited, I wear a cross and have done for most of my adult life.  The one I now wear, and have worn for the last seven years, was an ordination present from a Scottish friend (nice little link/irony there).  Whilst I like wearing it, there are plenty of times when I don't, for all sorts of reasons, and it's no big deal.  And it's no big deal because I know and understand that crosses and the wearing thereof have no significant role in Christianity.  Too many of the people who get hoity toity about being told not to wear them don't understand that unlike Sikhs (especially) and Muslims (often) there is no religious requirement to wear a cross; the comparison is invalid.  Being told you can't wear a cross and chain on health and safety grounds is no different from being told you can't wear any other necklace.  As it happens, I also wear an SOS talisman on the same chain as my cross - I reckon I could make a far better case for wearing something that carries important medical information than a piece of (apologies) pseudo-religious jewellery.

    The various examples of B&B owners are, so far as I can ascertain, examples of what amounts to law-breaking, though it may be a 'grey area', certainly it would be law-breaking for a hotel.  I am pretty sure these fine upstanding Christians have welcomed many guests who were co-habiting heterosexual couples, whether they knew it or not - I suspect, apart from anything else, they are being inconsistent in their taking of moral high ground.  As for how you can claim to be marginalised because you offer a public service and then withhold it, I am not so sure.  On the topic of B&Bs my walking friend and I had a near opposite experience when booking accommodation last summer... trying to book two singles or a twin room, one establishment offered us a double...  Is that the opposite kind of discrimination?!  (No, we found it quite funny and the landlady did suggest several other venues).

    Finally, I am forced to ask myself, notably in the light of things such as Jim's post today whether all this Christian POM Disease (Poor Old Me) is based on a failure to understand our calling?  If we are called, somehow or other, to participate in Christ's sufferings then we ought to be expecting not just a bit of (perceived) marginalisation but some actual struggle as our counter-cultural, welcoming of the outcast, seeking of Shalom, lifestyle bewilders and bothers wider society.  I think it is pretty insulting to those Christians who really are persecuted that we who enjoy religious freedom enshrined in law get uppity about silly things like decorative lumps of metal and/or assert our 'rights' over and above others who live law-abiding, if different, lifestyles from our own (let them be Jews, let them be Turks... etc.  Baptist historical self-understanding; might that today equally say let them cohabit, let them be in civil partnerships? (and do I get struck off for asking the question?))

    Jesus seemed to like the margins and those who were found there.  Perhaps we should rejoice rather than moan when we feel marginalised?

  • Sabbaths and Week 3s

    The best laid plans of mice, men and ministers go awry, that is just the way of things.  My grand plan for how to use my ordinary time went out of the metaphorical window when the cold/infection struck last week.  Whilst I am now much better, I still have a cough and limbs made of lead, and my good intentions need to be rediscovered.  Ah well. As my old boss used to say there's a difference between 'plans' and 'planning'... I think I kind of get what he meant.

    Technically I am in a 'week 3' - although I reached the top of Mt Chemo on 31st December I don't formally finish being in the last cycle until Thursday/Friday.  I would have to say I am glad this is the only week 3 where I have felt below par because they are actually a precious time during the climb.  So far as I can ascertain, almost all chemo regimes have week 3 "off".  It is a 'rest week' during which no drugs are given and the patient's body is not being bombarded by weird and wonderful effects: no dips in energy, taste buds recover, aches go away, blood can start to recover... time to enjoy a bit of 'normality.'  Certainly I found my other 'week 3' experiences to be good, albeit interrupted by consultant appointments and with the knowledge that the next 'bend' was imminent; time to do things I wanted to do and have a few treats.  Early in the process I found a research paper, I think from France, of a clinical trial that had attempted to remove 'week 3'.  It had proved a disaster and had been abruptly halted as all, or almost all, patients became sick... the rest is needed not a luxury.  So it's a bit like a Sabbath then...

    I had already decided I would post about this today before I listened to today's PAYG which centred on Mark 2:23 - 28 and notably "the sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath" (Mk2: 27 NRSV).  The reflection was to a large extent about legalism and the risk of missing the point.  I found this intriguing at a time when I am sure that strict rule-following has kept me both safe and well.  Where is the line to be drawn?  I am looking forward in the next few weeks to beginning to relax some of the restrictions as they become redundant (though some new ones will replace them!) but that's not the same as bending or breaking the rules.  It's really easy to see the legalism in the extremes cited in the gospels but not so easy to work out the fuzzy line in our own time.

    Week 3s and Sabbaths are given for the benefit of the humans, they are there for rest, restoration, relaxation not for angst, anxiety and ascetic-abstention.  This week will include one or two treats, especially as a former nurse has assured me that chocolate is good for coughs, but it will also adhere to the sensible rules that keep me healthy.  I have a suspicion the same principle applies to Sabbaths too.

  • God in the Chaotic

    Just listened to Sunday's service from the Gathering Place, led by one of SBC's finest recent graduates on the 23rd Psalm.  Anyone who uses Brueggeman's categories for the psalms is good in my book, not least as I did a series based on it back in Dibley back 2006 (which I posted about here, here and here, always interesting to see what was going on and what I thought about a few years back) - I was mildly amused listening to the recording when the pianist played the 'Vicar of Dibley' tune as it took me back.

    Anyway, the thing that struck me from the sermon was the image of the banquet and the anointing which occurs amidst the chaos of being surrounded by enemies.  Anointing always seems such a calm and holy thing, a special occasion or a time when someone is ill, a time when the chosen participants are quiet an reverent.  But no, here it is in a very chaotic setting.

    The last time I was struck like this was in a New Testament class on Matthew 18 and the 'where two or three are gathered there I AM' which is in the midst of a passage about conflict and church discipline - another chaotic setting.

    I think we all glibly assert God's presence in chaotic circumstances but perhaps don't see it (or I certainly haven't) in terms of glory (shekina presence where two or three are gathered) or anointing, or at least the potential for those.  This is not the same as seeing chaotic as a gift from God just for us to be blessed in - that's bad theology!  It's just a reminder that God is still completely God in the chaotic not somehow restricted or functionally different. 

    I have preached times without number that God does not promise to lift us out of our struggles but instead is there within them and may even surprise us.  Every now and then I discover more examples of Biblical texts which support this... such as image of anointing in Psalm 23. 

    So thank you M for the new insight.

  • DLA Reform Public Consultation

    I have, rather belatedly, become aware of the review of the current Disability Living Allowance.  That review and reform may be necessary I wouldn't dispute, but now that I am technically disabled (cancer is a disability in UK benefits parlance) I can see that there are many for whom this could be disastrous.  Certainly my living costs have risen during the last few months as I've had to buy specialist products, so for those who are forced to give up work, who are on low incomes, or who live nowhere near the hospitals where they are treated something like DLA can be highly significant, not least as it isn't means-tested.  I read somewhere that the direct cost to the average patient undergoing cancer treatment is around £2k (and I suspect I've already spent around £200) ... not everyone has that to spare.

    Anyway, I am sure we all know either someone who has DLA or who is disabled and not entitled to it, so if you want to make your voice heard then check here to read what the government is saying and how to let them know your view.