Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How do you read it?

These verses were part of our Bible Study on Monday. Numbers 30:10-12. If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all the vows or the pledges by which she obligates herself will stand. But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand, and the LORD will release her.

It is better to read the verses around these ones as well, but I don't want to use up space!

There are (at least) two ways to read this. David Pawson from 'Unlocking the Bible' says:
1. A Christian woman may not give away any material thing without permission from her husband.
2. This still stands today.

But, I would rather say:

1. Nowhere in these verses does it say that the woman needs to get her husband's permission before making a pledge or vow. (Although he may nullify it if he finds out and disapproves.)

2. The verses limit the husband's power over the woman in saying that he may only object if he does so immediately. Thus he may not abuse his power by changing his mind or inventing objections to suit himself later.

3. As with all Levitical law this is modified (at least) for use today.

Not so easy, really to understand. But you can see that the verses can be interpreted as being on the one hand oppressive to women or on the other as being liberating!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Can Like Barth!

Karl Barth At my candidates' screening reference was made to Karl Barth - not as a question, fortunately! I was suddenly aware of my determination never to read Karl Barth. Afterwards I wondered why. It is because I saw him as very theoretical. What I knew about Karl Barth: He became disillusioned with the theory that God was in control of history and that the church should support the state, at the time of Hitler. His theology is classified as 'neo-orthodox'. He is supposed to have said that God could speak through a dead dog as clearly as through Scripture. Sum total of my knowledge (and maybe some of that is wrong)! And that serious theologians study him and quote him and sound obscure. I guess it is the last that put me off. So I decided to make conscious my thought never to read him.

The following Monday looking for books for my preliminary reading for my Masters and there's Karl Barth jumping off the shelf with relevance to my topic (to do with Christian community). So what do I do? Give in, this must be a God-incidence.

And I have enjoyed his writing, to my great surprise. Far from impractical. He deals with real issues as regards church and state. And I can understand why people quoted him so much towards the end of the apartheid era. I feel like a traitor to myself, but I'd like to read more by Barth!

Growing a Church

I've just got back from 'Hlalanathi Methodist Preaching Place', the church plant that we are working on in a nearby informal settlement. Today we put glass into the windows of the garage that we are using as a church building. There are two small rows of cottage pane windows and a bigger panel of windows with a French door where the garage door used to be. Two members of our own church (North Rand Methodist) as well as myself and the 'minister-in-charge', Vuyelwa, were there. There were also about ten people from the local congregation. Vuyelwa had organised paint and rollers and brushes, so they also painted the inside of the building. This was so awesome as at the end of last year we would have been glad to have ten people at a church service, let alone pitch up to do manual labour. God is working. We achieved three really important things today. Firstly, the local congregation 'bought in' to the building and got involved in improving it themselves. Secondly, Hlalanathi and North Rand worked side by side, both financially and in a hands-on sense to improve the building. Thirdly, the building is now nicer and shows the community that we care about God, about each other and that we want to have a nice place to worship.
Now I just need to get the smell of putty off my fingers. What a privilege to work with Jesus in this way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Now Add Nietzschke

Part of this postmodernism thing in the Christian Church is a renewed interest in 'changing the world'. We understand that God did not call us to live in holy huddles, but to take him to those who need him most (John Wesley's words!). Now this is something that I have observed myself and have taken to be in response to changes in our culture. Brian McLaren, in 'A Generous Orthodoxy', makes the point that we need to move from an emphasis on 'personal salvation' to an awareness of all creation. Unfortunately, he does it with such a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that he irritates me and I've started asking questions about something I already believe. I mean, the Bible does emphasise personal salvation! But something is definately calling us to the broader world.
Last night I was reading Stephen Grenz on Postmodernism and he highlights the message of Nietzsche and his relevance to Postmodernism. Nietszche said that God is dead and that it is the time for the arrival of the superhuman or 'ubermensch'. I can see the logic of this progression. Pre-modern - God is in control, he does everything. Modern - it's all about science, we can see how it works, we can solve problems. Postmodern - actually science can't solve everything, but we're not sure that God makes sense anymore, it must be up to us to make things happen.
So we try to be superhuman. Fully human? And we need to look after the world, because if we don't nobody else is going to. We certainly don't expect God to do so. And after a couple of world wars and general world unrest, our expectation that God will pull things through is very low.
So our culture is telling us that we need to be doing stuff. And we find that actually the Bible agrees. But we also need to be careful of deriding people from previous generations or different cultures who find God's message and call to have different emphases.

For an interesting post on Nietzschke see Jeff Murray's Blog!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Accidental Juxtaposition

I waited to get through screening to start reading 'A Generous Orthodoxy' which I bought at the beginning of the year. I didn't know who would be on the committee and I didn't want my mind filled with too much non-Methodist stuff! (Now that I'm reading it, I realise that I would have been ok . . .) I also this weekend read through three of John Wesley's sermons as preliminary reading for my Masters. It felt so odd comparing the two writers. I wonder if Brian McLaren had read John Wesley? Methodists don't feature in his book (so far!).
The similarities are, I suppose, obvious. Both men challenge/d the Christian status quo. Both had a passion for the world outside of the established church. It has certainly been said by some people that John Wesley epitomised the emergent church movement. Both claim an allegiance to orthodox theology.
But they write from very different cultures. And I wrestle with the fact that I find John Wesley more inspiring than Brian McLaren. You see, in Wesley's writing I see God and a striving for something higher than ourselves. In McLaren's writing I see McLaren. But I know that in our culture today we are looking for personal stuff.
'Tell me what works for you. Show me your vulnerable side'. McLaren does what is requested.
'Don't lecture me. Don't quote Scripture at me'. Wesley lectures and quotes.
Brian McLaren shows a resentment of his origins, Wesley shows his belief in the future of the church.
I believe that God has used and will use both of them. But I want to figure out why and how it is that Wesley inspires me, although McLaren is more contextually relevant.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Screening Committees etc

For completeness sake, I must report that I did get through the Screening Committee. So I am well on the road to becoming an ordained minister. Beyond scary. Who me? Why me? But it is a privilege. And I hope that I can be useful. And also that I get through the challenges that still lie ahead.

I've posted my essay. Will need to do two trial services before May. Then synod.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Police Raids

Here's an attitude we want to avoid in this country! We all know that Central Methodist Mission was raided by police a couple of weeks ago. This prompted our minister and congregation to collect clothes for the mission. I was asked to drive to Central yesterday with the stuff collected. No hassle.

When I fetched my 9 year old son at lunchtime I asked him about his morning. Then he asked me how my trip to Central went. I casually answered that it had been fine. And then, out of the blue, as far as I was concerned, "Oh good," he said. "I was afraid that there would be another raid and that you would be shot."

Are we raising another generation with a fear of police brutality?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blog Statistics

This post is just something I need to say to get it off my mind! It's nice to know that people visit my blog. It's extra nice when they comment and engage with me. But blog listings like Amatomu trigger off my competitive impulses and can be destructive! If my blog sinks in the ratings, I think of feeling inadequate, if it rises, I feel better. I need to remind myself why I am blogging. And it doesn't hinge around popularity!

And, anyway, the rankings may not be that meaningful anyway. Many people, where bandwidth is relatively cheap, use web accelerators. These automatically load all the links on the any page displayed, making load time very quick when you decide to go there. This also means that if your page is listed on a google search, a hit is registered, even if there is no actual visit. So, even inactive blogs may look popular, because they are coming up on search engines and generating phantom hits. I know that most of the hits on my blog are like this - so my blog may be even less popular than it seems!

The other thing is that, for some reason, sitemeter does not pick up every hit and so I imagine the same would go for Amatomu. More than once I've said to someone that I'd had no real hits that day and they'd respond, 'but I was there earlier'. Or a comment is left, with no corresponding visit recorded.

And, of course, many regular readers read by RSS feed and they are also not counted!

So, I just had to get that rant off my chest! I blog because I want to.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hlalanathi Methodist Preaching Place

One of the projects I am starting the year with is working at Hlalanathi Preaching Place. I thought to try to document how it goes on this blog. I wish I could see the end already - should one record something that could well fail?
Hlalanathi is a Methodist Preaching Place in an informal settlement near Randburg. This year it has a minister who will be looking after it and I am also helping. The minister, Vuyelwa, is also working at our church, but this is one of her main responsibilities. It's exciting because there is so much potential to build a church in this area, but the manpower has not been available before. Already the congregation has grown from 3 or 4 to about 15.
The church meets in a garage attached to a pre-school. The garage is in the process of being renovated and one of our projects is to get glass put in the windows (to keep the chickens out, amongst other things). Vuyelwa and I are taking turns preaching, at the moment, but I'm not sure if it wouldn't be better for her to preach more often (as I have to preach in English).
We are looking and listening!

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Real Me (and You)

Dion in a bracketed comment says that he is better in text than in person. He's put his finger on something that I have been thinking about. I think it is easier to sound good when writing - alone, with time to think and rethink. I wonder if people would know me if they met me? Am I the real me when I write, or when I interact in person?
I can say really stupid things 'live'. I can be insensitive and insecure. But I suppose I can also be compassionate and funny. These things are harder to put into writing.
I don't know many of my fellow bloggers. Some of them I will meet in the course of the next few months. What will I think of them? What will they think of me?
Lord, grant me the humility to be me. Not to pretend. I am only me, but you made me and I am content with that.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Screening Committees and Other Horrors

Saturday saw my first step out of the Circuit and into the District on my journey towards ordained ministry. Methodist Church people will know what I mean! We had a candidates meeting to help prepare us for the selection processes that are coming up. It is pretty scary stuff, but worst of all is the screening committee. That happens next week, exact date as yet uncertain. So - please pray for me.

But the best thing was that I have been told so often to expect the worst with meetings like this and Saturday was far from 'worst'. The meeting was scheduled to be 9 to 12 and it ran 9 to 11:55. It was useful and focused, while allowing plenty of space for people to ask questions and share their concerns. Faith Whitby gave such a 'real' touch to everything. Yes, there will be waiting and delays - this is why. I can work like that.

I also had a sudden panic about whether this was the right thing for me to be doing and had such a clear answer from God right there and then. I feel so extremely blessed. God is good!