This from Steve Holmes is worth a read if you want a different take on the human sexuality debate that is rather rife (I nearly wrote rampant but that might be misconstrued) at the moment.
This Sunday I am preaching with the above heading. It seemed like a good idea at the time!
Trouble is, whilst there is a lot that could be said, I'm not sure just how helpful any of it is. On the one hand, I have a majority of folk in my church who are good, clear thinkers, accustomed to wrestling with complex ideas and the apparent discontinuities within a text. On the other, I have some folk who tend towards Biblicism, the elevation of scripture over that which it reveals, the temptation to quote verses out of context and to ignore those that say something other than what they want to hear.
I think the direction I will take will endeavour to consider
- our attitude to scripture - how we read and interpret it
- our atttitude to so-called secular knowledge such as science, social science, humanties- how we read and interpret that
- the complexity of life today which involves issues and insights that the ancients would never had imagined might arise.
- the contradictions and comprosmises we all live with and the need for continued gorwth towards maturity.
So, for anyone who fancies a bit of homework, or a bit of engagment with their own understanding here's a 'little' exercise for you!
Read the 10 Commandents (Exodus 20:1 - 17) and then ponder the following questions (I am playing advocate to the dark side for this, it doesn't necessarily reflect anything I think)...
- If we are to have no other gods before Yahweh, does that mean polytheism is permissable provided this hierarchy is accepted?
- If images are prohibited, why do so many Christians have homes full of pictures, photographs and ornaments?
- If Sabbath work is prohibited, why are Christians are happy to read the Monday newspaper (printed on a Sunday) and/or to watch 'Songs of Praise'?
- If killing is prohibited, why do some Christians advocate capital punishment, specifically that undertaken by professional executionwers who are in no way related to the 'eye for an eye' limit of ancient times?
- What does it mean to honour one's parents? And what constitutes a long life?
- Is adultery simply to be undertsood as sexual infidelity or are there other forms of infidelity that breach covenant of marriage?
- Who never told a lie? Or coveted something someone else had? If we say we have not done the latter does that demonstrate we have done the former?
- What do we do when we find other passages of scripture that seem to contradict any of the commandments? Who/what 'trumps' whom/what?
OK, that's more than enough to be going on with.
This time last year, along with countless other people, I was praying for the 33 Chilean miners trapped after a mining accident. Amazingly all of them were rescued alive and reasonably well.
Only a month later 29 miners died in a disaster in New Zealand, and this week 4 died in Wales.
33 lived, 33 died - I didn't know that until I Googled the information.
It's one of those moments when I don't really know what to say, but somehow feel I ought to acknowledge.
Lots of questions that will never find adequate answers - the 'why'? questions especially.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.
These words seem to recur in my thinking and writing a lot
Nearly a year on, I wonder how life really is for the Chileans who rejoiced so fulsomely last autumn? Or how those affetced by the New Zealand disaster are rebuilding their lives? And even now, those in Wales, shocked, numb, bewildered, angry, heartbroken...
To remember, to attempt to come alongside, to commend each and every man, and each and every person who loved him, to God's merciful love... that seems about all that can be done.
Thankfully, depsite events of the last year, mine disasters are rare nowadays, but we must not get complacent or forget that behind every statistic is person.
Today is our church AGM - not the most thrilling of events, it has to be said, but probably one of the least understood.
It has a legal function - as a charity we have to approve our audited accounts and elect our office bearers and trustees for the next period (some annual, some tri-annual)
It has a Baptist-history function - we prepare written reports about the past year that form part of our archive and will, one day, allow people to understand how we tried to follow Jesus in this place at this time.
It has a forward facing function - it marks the start of another new year and another opportunity to try to get it right in our disicpleship! Just a couple of weeks after our covenant service we begin to work again.
It has a fellowship function - yes, we have lunch between the end of worship and the start of the meeting, but we also have an opporutity to listen to one another more lcosely and communally.
The AGM itself is a very short meeting. A lot of churhces merge it into a routine meeting and lose the distinctives. Today we are having a very short AGM after which we have a 'normal' church meeting. This is important, given the legal function of the AGM and that there are matters we would wish to discuss which are not of releavnce to OSCR (or Charity Commission further south). I know this an example of my 'anal' tendencies but the two meetings model makes more sense, so that's what I've unanimously decided we will do! How un-Baptist is that?!
Hopefully we'll have some new students along today, and hopefully some of them will like us enough to come back. Hopefully we'll have a useful meeting - though next year I won't let anyone ask for the date to be changed and then go on holiday the day they asked for!! You know who you are and I'm still waiting for you to hand in your handwritten copy of Psalm 119 as puinishment...! ;-)
Have a good Sunday wherever you are, whatever you're doing..
So it was an afternoon when it rained on and off in Glasgow.
There were not many students on the streets, and most of those we saw were with parents (even at the end of freshers' week) and not wanting to be fed.
But for all that a small number came through the doors and enjoyed hospitality, scrummy homemade food and good chat. Among them Malawian who arrived yesterday and has come on a scholarship to study drug and alcohol aspects of public health, two oriental students doing business courses, and a few Scots girls. We had some good conversations, enjoyed our time together as young and old shared.
It was a lot of work - many thanks to the team who put it together - but I enjoyed it and think the quality of conversations counted for far more than any measure of quantity. Tomorrow we may have more students arriving to worhsip with us, and I hope they will find the welcome we long to offer them.