Saturday, December 22, 2007

Go and He Goes

I'm reading the next bit of Mark 1. I always get stuck on these parts. Jesus has shown his authority by removing a demon from a man in the synagogue.
Are we expected to show that same authority?
Why don't I do things like that?
Occasionally people interrupt my sermons (I don't discourage it), but I've never wondered if they might have a demon.
Of course not. Somehow demon possession is not something that we encounter in middle-class English-speaking churches.
Are we not able to show these signs of authority because of medical knowledge that heals 'easy diseases' and leaves us with Aids and cancer?
Is there another way? Something that shows clear authority as distinct from arrogance?
There's more to this. I know there is, but I don't know what it is.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marilyn vos Savant Puzzle

I suppose this is a bit old, but I was reminded of it by 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' by Mark Haddon. It's not about church or theology . . .

This is the puzzle which came up on a programme hosted by Marilyn vos Savant (purported to have the highest IQ in the world!)

In a game show a contestant is shown three doors. He is told that behind two of the doors there is a goat. Behind the other door there is a car. He must guess the correct door in order to take home the car. After the contestant makes a guess, the host opens one of the other doors to reveal a goat. The contestant must now choose whether to stick with his original choice or to choose the other unopened door.
What is the sensible thing to do?

I'll put the answer in a comment if I get any other comments to this!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Whale Caller and other books

I've been enjoying this holiday time. I think this is because although it has been fairly laid back year time-wise, it has been difficult in other ways. At the beginning of the year I decided to 'volunteer' at the church office to try to see if there was useful stuff I could do and maybe find other places to serve. What I can't believe is that I actually lasted a whole year. I know that this will be something I look back on and I will wonder how I ever managed it. I learnt a lot. About running a church. About readjusting to an office environment rather than working from home. About the sort of people that I would like to have work with me, if and when I have a choice. That I don't do well sitting in an office for extended periods.

I always read, but I am enjoying it more with more space to read in. I read 'Are We Yet Alive' by Peter Storey. A South African book that tries to remind South African Methodists of what Wesleyanism is all about. I was inspired by the commitment that John Wesley had to the poor.

I read The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda. What powerful book. But how depressing. Why do 'arty/cultural/African' books have to be depressing? I am glad I am a Christian. I am glad that I understand grace and forgiveness and that there is always hope and that love is worthwhile. But nonetheless a powerful book and I did enjoy it. I think I will rewrite the ending for myself. By the way, it is about a love triangle consisting of the whale caller, a whale called Sharisha and the village drunk (a woman).

I am also reading 'Let's Both Win', a book on marriage by Arnold Mol (another South African book). My husband and I are reading it together, something we haven't done for a long time, and we are enjoying that. It almost doesn't matter what the book says! But so far, so good.

I'm also reading 'Re-Imagine' by Tom Peters. He's a business motivational guru guy. I am finding the book amusing. I tend to have an automatic antipathy to 'hype-masters', but he makes me think.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

King Jesus

I'm still reading Mark 1:14-20. I can spend days on a little bit. My thoughts now are on the confidence with which Jesus launched out on his mission. 'The time has come!'
I struggle with the ideas of speaking with arrogance against speaking with authority. No one sets out to be arrogant. Do they?
As I result I tend sometimes to timidity.
But Jesus spoke with authority. He was sure he was right. Lots of people are sure that they are right. But Jesus knew.
I read somewhere recently someone saying that he hopes that his own actions and thoughts will come as a result of his prayertime with God and not out of a desire to please a congregation.
Me too. But I'd love to have a congregation or community which also looks for God in prayertime and that we can work together to find what God wants.
I can't afford to abandon God's authority in my life for fear of arrogance. Time for lots of prayer!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Church and Community

Becky has been asking in her blog 'What is the church'. And I guess many of us, including the Emerging Church movement, are asking that question. What does the church look like in the third millenium? Then Becky said this in a comment on my previous post: we wouldn't need to sell Jesus nor would we need to entertain people to come and find its Master. Please read it to get the full context!
But she did put her finger on something for me. Why are we entertaining people? Is this generation so shallow?
Actually, I do understand that we draw people by appealing to them and entertainment appeals to them, so we do it.
But I appreciate the 'emperor has no clothes' pointing out that Becky has done here. We need to make sure that the drawing of people to the church is not an end in itself.
But sometimes, especially in a small church, that is all we have energy for. Or perhaps there is a little left over for mission.
We need to get to the point where people are drawn to the church because they see the value of its mission and want to take part in it.
And hopefully that is deeply rooted in Jesus, his love, his saving grace and his empowering Spirit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Called by a Carpenter

Next little bit of Mark. Chapter 1:14-20. I was thinking about how 'primitive' or otherwise the people were at the time of Jesus, responding to Stephen's comment on an earlier post. Then I remembered reading somewhere that fishermen were not as low down the social ladder as we might think these days. Peter, Andrew, James and John all came from families who OWNED their boats. And they employed hired men. These weren't bottom of the scale manual labourers.
Rob Bell writes in 'Velvet Elvis' how the rabbis of the time were trained and called people to be their disciples. Jesus was known as Rabbi and in all likelihood was trained as such. So his calling men to follow him was a fairly normal event in those days. Although perhaps his choice of disciples was not. I wonder how long Jesus actually did spend learning a carpenter's trade? That has become a sort of Sunday School traditional understanding, rather than a Biblical one. Although in Mark 6 the people do refer to him as 'the carpenter'.
Why did Jesus appear to wait for John to be put in prison before starting his ministry?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rob Bell - Too much Noise?

I read Rob Bell's book 'Velvet Elvis' and really liked it. Since then I've been looking out for his Nooma Dvd's. Found them a while back at R104 at Cum books. Too much for 11 minutes and I don't know what's in the 11 minutes. But then I gave in and bought one (now R109). I chose Noise because I was going to be talking about 'Listening for God's Voice' on Sunday.

What a waste of money! About two minutes of Rob Bell flicking channels on his TV with a short telling of Elijah's still small voice experience. Then the rest of the ten minutes has Bible verses about noise and voices appearing on the screen. I appreciate that he's trying to make the point that we need silence in our lives to hear God well, but R100 for some silence is not useful.

I guess I was hoping for a cool drama or something to illustrate the point. I wonder what's on the other dvds?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tempting the Beloved Son

Continuing reading in Mark, I found that Stephen's comment to my previous post on Mark stuck more in my mind than I expected (thanks Stephen!). The one thing he said was that Mark had ordered his material carefully. Now, I have generally seen Mark as a 'bread and butter' gospel, with fewer frills than the others, but I found myself looking for interesting juxtapositions.

I read about Jesus' baptism. "You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well-pleased." What an awesome encouragement and acknowledgent. Jesus must have felt so good after that. I don't know whether he was prone to doubt or how close he was to the Father while on earth. But, whatever, just then he must have felt all warm and accepted and those good things we humans need.

And then next verse - what a contrast. Off to the desert to be tempted. Mark doesn't elaborate - we know the story. One minute Jesus could have been on such a high, and then the crunch of reality in the human world. Hunger, wild animals, loneliness and Satan.

The same thought I had before, on John the Baptist. We might think we're losing. Stuck in the desert. Wishing for the mountain top experience we had before. Jesus has been there. It happened to him. It's ok for it to happen to us. It's not sin. Or judgement. It's life. And if we're on the mountain top - absorb the love and the strength, because we may need it!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Suffering for Jesus

I was reading the beginning of the gospel of Mark. Starting to 'immerse myself in the gospel' as Trevor Hudson recommends in 'Signposts to Spirituality'.

And John the Baptist stood out for me in a way I have not seen before. I read about the crowds that came from all Judea and Jerusalem. And immediately after that the passage says that John wore camel hair and ate locusts and honey. It was like he was the pastor of one of today's mega-churches. Imagine if he had charged for the baptisms. He would have been pretty wealthy. To continue wearing camel hair and so on must have taken immense faith.

And then I thought of him being put in prison and sending messages to Jesus asking him if he was the Messiah. I heard or read (can't remember) someone asking how it could be that John was unsure after all he had seen. But of course John was in prison, about to lose his life. Of course he was unsure. If this was the Messiah, and there was all this good news, why was he (John) in prison? What a man of faith. What a tragedy that the one who prepared the way for Jesus should end up on the outskirts of it all and be executed.

I guess the message is that some of us are John the Baptist today. In some sense feeling like we are losing and wondering if Jesus is really around. I don't understand it. But Jesus was the Messiah . . . and he is really around today.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Does participation make disciples?

Willowcreek announced recently that they were doing a rethink on their strategy of doing church. This little bit made me think (Greg Hawkins is executive pastor at Willowcreek):

In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

I think the warning not to measure the church's success by levels of participation is a good one to hear. But how does one measure whether people are becoming better disciples?