Category Archives: bible

Biblical Sexuality

stained_glass_cross_and_rainbow_op_800x6171Is the dispute about homosexuality which has followed the church for such a long time now, and been so divisive, about to rear its ugly head in the Church of Scotland?

There was an interesting article in The Times earlier this week – read it here.

Muriel Armstrong weighs into the debate in her editorial in Life & Work, the Church of Scotland Magazine:  

“What is clear to the lay-person is that not everything Biblical is Christ-like”.

Serious, thought provoking stuff. And here’s a big question for the Church to answer. It runs the risk, as controversial questions can’t help but do, of  falling foul of  responses that lack moderation and Christ-like-ness.

I’ll follow what happens with interest. What concerns me, perhaps more than whether the stance that’s taken agrees or disagrees with my own (not necessarily correct) view, is that the church should have a view and state it – compassionately, yes, but clearly. The approach taken by Reverend Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, in The Herald this week is that Life and Work is editorially independent and that:

“The Church does not have a particular view, and there are different views within the Church of Scotland”.

How then is the church to teach on this topic – which Christians are likely to be asked about and those considering Christianity are likely to probe?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for some hard line judgment. What we need is compassionate, intelligent, biblical conversation on this sensitive issue. When the matter’s addressed by the General Assembly next month, I really hope the Church of Scotland can take the opportunity wisely to steer the conversation.

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Stop the world: resting easy.

sleeping-commuter-1I’m at the end of a week of holiday. I had big plans – a bunch of studying to catch up on; a load of “life admin” to do; commitments to people; and all those things I said last month I’d sort out tomorrow.  

But d’you know what? Cramming every minute of every day full of places to go, things to do and people to see is – for me at least – miles from being the answer. It makes me buzz, sure, but it also does a great job of slowly draining the life out of me.

At the start of this week I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for anything, God included. So instead I’ve done nothing. No studying. No life admin. No work. I actually can’t remember the last time I did so little – really. Maybe not for 10 years.

A small part of me wonders if this is lazy, and starts the guilt routine, but I’m resolved to fight it. Stopping is biblical. Once again the big black book I thought had nothing to say to my life has practical import. It reminds me I need to stop sometimes – it’s how I was made.  Nature has in-built patterns of rest and growth in the seasons themselves. More directly, God thinks rest is so important that he made doing it one of the “Big 10” .

Jesus rested too. Sure, he worked and he travelled, he partied and he taught, but he also took time out to be alone, to get some peace and to be quiet with God. He had some advice on the subject: 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”. – Matthew 11:28-30

I tried it out this week. I can report that it’s been great. I have not been struck down by a thunderbolt for temporarily abandoning my work ethic. I have had time to watch how Jesus does things; to reflect on living with God rather than for him; to spend time on whatever has happened to cross my mind. Has it been a waste? I don’t think so.

I could tell you the details, but probably that should stay between me and God. Instead I’ll just say this: give it a try. Take some real, extended down time.  In our busy world, with our busy lives, simply doing that might be the hardest part.  But  let yourself stop, and listen out for God in the quiet. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Dead man walking

resurrectionI just read this lovely blog post: Resurrection? You Must be Crazy! . It reminded me why people would look at Christians and think we’re nuts, and of the risks in taking a step of faith – of placing my trust in the resurrection of Jesus. I’m reminded of what a challenge my faith presents to others who don’t share it. I’m also challenged to rethink whether I really believe its claims.

I don’t believe that Christians are crazy, or I wouldn’t be one. But it’s good to step back and consider it for a moment. After all, our faith declares that a dead man walked (and much more, but let’s leave it there for now- that’s crazy enough for starters). I’m not about to trot out the evidence for the resurrection. Other places can discuss that better than I could. But I do want to reflect for a moment on the reactions of those to whom Jesus appeared.

Even the people Jesus had lived alongside, his closest family and friends, those who believed he was the Messiah during his life and had heard from him in the run up to his death about what he was going to do, found it difficult to believe that he was raised from the dead.

Mary thought he was the gardener until she heard him speak; the men on the road to Emmaus walked and talked with a traveller for hours before they recognised him as Jesus; and the 11 remaining disciples thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus appeared amongst them. It’s not that surprising really! You WOULD think you’d gone nuts, wouldn’t you? I mean… if you saw, or seemed to be having a conversation with, your recently murdered friend. And if someone told you THEY’D done seen those things,  you’d think they were crazy, or deluded, or both. It’s a little ironic (and maybe a touch harsh) that Thomas goes down in history as “doubting” because he wanted proof that the dead man standing in front of him was the risen Lord Jesus Christ. It’s also good to know Jesus was able to persuade him.

It’s interesting too that according to the biographical accounts in the gospels, Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances (which sceptics put down to mass hysteria or delusions amongst other things) include accounts of him walking, talking, eating, showing his wounds, preparing food, blessing people, performing signs, and meeting individuals & groups. There was certainly variety in the ways people claimed to encounter him.

Saul was the last of the apostles to see Jesus. He hit the deck on the Damascus Road when he encountered Jesus. No-one would’ve seen it coming: Saul was a God-fearing Pharisee, a strict follower of the Jewish law, and doing a pretty good job of persecuting Christians. Turning to Jesus was no easy matter for him; it involved flying in the face of everything he’d previously stood for, and there were respects in which the rest of his life involved trying to make sense of that transformation. The important thing is that Jesus was able to catch his attention. Was he crazy? Some people would say so. But then, as he later said to King Agrippa when he was under arrest and had to explain himself: “why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead”? Now if  there’s a God, I think that’s a pretty God point.

Maybe Paul was crazy. Maybe every other Christian in history has been crazy with him. Or maybe the world doesn’t work in quite the confined manner we box ourselves into believing is the case. Maybe just because we can’t prove something with science, it doesn’t make it impossible, but simply makes it  something we can’t explain, at least yet.  

I’m quite glad I don’t understand everything. I like it that sometimes I just have to be; to trust; to let God – assuming he’s there – be God and to believe that if he is, he’ll see me waiting and if he’s not, I won’t lose anything by taking a breather. 

Manga Messiah

 

Manga Messiah

The gospel was never intended to be dry words on a page. The whole point of the message is to engage, captivate and communicate with us

In the early days the gospel wasn’t a book. It was conversation. Joe Bloggs couldn’t  read and write, so information spread by word of mouth; stories passed from person to person, village to village. Accuracy was checked and preserved by elders and teachers. 

Folks who met Jesus told their friends. They in turn told theirs. The story spread. People heard it, responded and were changed. It captured their attention and they were hungry for more. They related to it because it made sense of their own circumstances. In short, it was culturally relevant.

Now, in 2009, there’s loads of potential for us to find the bible – even the biographies of Jesus in the gospels, kinda hard going. That’s  no surprise in an era where we want everything bite-size and online. But the gospel doesn’t have to be dull. It shouldn’t be. Through the ages, God’s story has been re-presented in forms that restate its message in contemporary ways.

Manga Messiah invites you to take your suspicion that the bible’s only ever going to be dull and irrelevant and park it for a couple of hours. Instead, open a beer, grab some crisps, settle in and kick back.  Get stuck into a fiercly paced story. Lose yourself in a biography packed with life, death, murder, intrigue, supernatural powers. And let a question lurk in the back of your mind as you do it: might it actually be true?

I gave a couple of teenage guys a copy this weekend. It was night time and they were hanging out under a streetlamp, hoodies up, smoking. If I’d sauntered up and offered them a copy of a gospel, I’m guessing I might just’ve spent the night in hospital. Instead, as I left them to it, one of them was leafing through it, no face lost with his mates. Can’t be bad.

You can check out excerpts of Manga Messiah here: http://tiny.cc/7Oi99