Thursday, June 28, 2007

Who am I?

As has happened before, this is actually a response to Dion's blog. He posted his paper for the Theological Society and these are some thoughts!

I am not really learned enough to interact on the topic, but here are a few thoughts that popped up.

The idea of identity as patterns, not particles is really cool. We can see in ourselves the desire to maintain or at least control the change in patterns. So if we lose our hearing, we look for an implant, to preserve the pattern. Because if I am deaf I am changed. But an implant while changing the particles retains the pattern. If we are criticised we are challenged as we become unsure of the stability of the pattern and we react to preserve it.

The question of 'who is David' if a model is created which models David's subjective experience is also interesting. If two beings have the same memories, feelings and general subjective experience what separates them? If one sees existence as passive (which Dion later says we should not), then probably nothing separates them. But existence is not passive. Time passes and change happens. So we can ask will David and the model react to the passing of time in the same way? They will only do that if we program the model to repond in the way that we anticipate David responding. So the one that is not David is the one that requires programming. This does make it quite simplistic! But the alternative is that the model is in every way identical to David and includes 'humanness', in which case there can be no distinction. Yes? No?

Lastly, the thought of hierarchical holons as a metaphor? for understanding consciousness is a bit disconcerting in an essentially post-modern discussion. Hierarchies are just 'so modern'. I think when it gets to nested hierarchies we are better off, although nested might not be the right word if we are really talking overlapping hierarchies. But it all resolves itself more happily with Dion's description of intersubjectivity - more like a multidimensional spider's web than tiered levels.

I like the richness of the dimensions defining identity. Individual/community subjective/objective. All cool. It also allows for my identity to be described by the fact that I shun community - or embrace it whole-heartedly.

Ok, enough nonsense. This at least shows I can also use big words!

God's Training Wheels

I was thinking of doing a sermon on Galatians and for that reason was skimming through Acts (I never realised that Lystra and Derbe and Iconium were in Southern Galatia) and trying to get it in the context of Paul's missionary journeys. I decided I could never do what I wanted to do in a fifteen minute sermon. Sigh.

But I did read about the baptism of John a couple of times while skimming - and it actually started to make sense to me. Probably because I had Galatians in mind. Galatians being about the relationship between the law and faith in Jesus. The baptism of John is a baptism of repentance. In other words it is the realisation that where I am now is not getting me anywhere. The path I have been following and the life I have been living are not leading to fulfilment or satisfaction. I need a change in paradigm (post-modern for repentance). And so far the baptism of John is good. But it doesn't define or indicate what the new paradigm is. The next step is faith in Jesus which leads to salvation. For the Jews the old way was that of the Jewish Law. For Greeks it was philosophy/wisdom and hedonistic living. For the Romans? Not too sure. But none of these was effective. So the realisation of the need for more (repentance) and the anticipation of finding more (when faith in Jesus is understood).

What is the 'old way' for people in the congregation to which I sometimes preach? Not Jewish Law. Perhaps the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfilment. Or legalistic Christianity. Materialism. The Law was like God's training wheels. Do we have training wheels in our culture today?

I need to work that out before Sunday!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sleeping Beauty

I discovered, while cutting my eight year old son's hair, that he had never heard the story of Sleeping Beauty. So I kept him still for the rest of the haircut by telling him the story.

Next day I went to take a church service in an informal settlement in our circuit. I thought I would tell them the story (because stories are good things to tell) and I thought I could use it as an illustration that Jesus wants us to wake up to the fact that there is more to life than day to day drudgery. So Jesus is like Prince Charming. And in fact we also need to be like him and wake others up to the fact that there is more. I said we do that by doing the Matthew 25 things - feeding the hungry and so on. They enjoyed the story - although they could not understand 'king' and 'queen'. Translating for little Tswana speaking kids they settled on Morena and Mrs Morena! And I did not even begin to try to talk about spinning wheels.

But I battled to communicate with them what I really wanted to say. Just thinking about it now, I think it is because they didn't expect me to connect with them. They didn't try.

This is a very small preaching place. I arrived at 11am for the 11am service - knowing African time well! At nearly a quarter past the first people arrived. By 11.30 we had four adults (other than me) and five children. Given that the most I've ever preached to at that place is one adult and a couple of children, I was very pleased. Although, from 11 to 11:15 I questioned the wisdom of what I was doing. There could be no benefit in my being there with no congregation at all! But God is good and I didn't feel my time (or preparation) wasted. But my heart breaks for the people there. The settlement has about 7000 people. There is a Pentecostal church working there which seems to draw about thirty people. We Methodists manage a handful. And the rest? And why do we only get a handful? Although it must be recognised that this is growth. And why do they not expect to connect with the preacher? I worry that traditional African Methodism is simply not touching people's hearts. But I can't tell.

Maybe next time I will ask them to tell stories, rather than me. Will I learn anything? Or will they not have stories of Jesus' work in their lives and community to tell?

I can see the advantages of being a minister rather than a local preacher. My contact with them is too sporadic to be meaningful. But the minister is a probationer looking after three congregations. I guess we really need to depend on God - who is always there. But he does seem to need us too. Odd that.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Strikes and all

Determined to update this thing!

The strike has had a varied impact. Two things I heard on Friday. My daughter had been selected for the District hockey team. Not too sure what a District team is. It replaces provincial, but covers a smaller area, apparently allowing more kids to participate. Bad news- the big district tournament has been cancelled due to the strike. I imagine the other districts were not able to get their team together. One very disappointed 13 year old.

The other thing was an unemployed member of our church came by. His grandmother living in rural Limpopo has died. Apparently she went to get her monthly medication, but the people who normally make it available were not there because of the strike. As a result? she passed away. And now this man's father is also ill. He is going up to do his best to get his father private medical care.

This somehow just illustrates the disparity between us and them. What hurts? What means disapointment? And I pretty much just feel helpless - as I guess most of us do about the strike.