Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fitness Outside and in

Right now, this very moment I am in that haze of soreness and apathy that comes from pushing the body just a bit too far.
Yesterday was cool. Rode the bike to work, worked for about 5 hours, rode home checked the web sites and then rode to play soccer. After 2 hours of that I rode my bike home the short way up the big hill. Now I am paying for this extra effort and I still have to do some work today and clean the house. I boiled the kettle about ten minutes ago and I forgot about it. Now that I think about it I also did the laundry..... that's waiting to be hung out. Oh good! now the dog wants outside.
(time passes)
Dog's out and I made cup of tea number 2. Did I also mention that because I was exhausted from over doing it that I had dinner late and went to bed after Letterman. Well now I have. Also there's no one to blame but me. Okay where is this all going you may ask. Ha! "you may ask".
Well fitness outside and inside seem different. Not that any spiritual discipline is easier than physical fitness but the next day after certainly is. After having a day of silence there is a cleanliness and a softness to the day and to yourself. After riding and running for 3 hours well the next day is hard to start. I know I've done a good thing for myself in both but the results are shockingly opposed.
Some of this could do with the fact that I have spent the last 3 weeks sitting in a car, sitting at a computer, sitting in a class and sitting watching television. Yet the effect after pushing the body, this day of apathy where I have to push myself to do anything makes me ask questions. Am I giving in to bad emotional habits when faced with pain? Is this more than just a come down from the endorphin high? Do I need to make a decision to be like Dory and keep on swimming?

Being grumpy or apathetic about the day because I over did it yesterday may not be a decent reason to give up and do nothing. I still need to do something and I almost have in doing this post. There are some easier things to do today like, putting out the washing.
I have no understanding why the repercussions from physical fitness are more taxing than the emotional angst for trying to find intimacy with God and failing. Perhaps we are spiritual beings with a physical exterior? Then again some people can run for 3 hours and not have any apathy the next day? Maybe there are a few decisions I can make to not responding to the drain I feel after over exertion the day before?
Not giving in to the apathy, just keep on swimming? Not in my own strength but in the strength that God provides. If I just try the Dory way on my own then I will eventually run out of whatever strength is left. In God there is the unlimited resource of His love which is wider than the universe. It is no quick fix as we often do not know how to give into God's love. Even if you do learn how to do it you may fall on hard times and old ways leading you away from His love.
I need to remember "Lord Jesus, help me!" and continue my day. That's my discipline into spiritual fitness which leads into God's universally wide love.
To finish on a high note here's a Paul Kelly song that reminds me of God's continual and persistent call through all time for all of us to give into His love. Get this in your head that God is calling you to give in to His love. Please do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Surrender given and accepted

I ended the last post describing the drop off point into the depths of the love of God. The deep blue in which exists the totality of the almighty waiting for us to just surrender ourselves into it. The good news is that I have been able to surrender into that deep love. I had to be shown and led there like being taught how to ride a bike. Which is humbling and appropriate because pride of accomplishment would only taint it.

So how does one describe the experience of surrendering into the love of God? Firstly I can believe that this is NOT fully what surrender is. This is merely the first steps into something that will grow beyond. Probably the biggest surprise was that.... I really do not want to say the I got there because it is so much more than that. Yes I did the leg work and the praying and went to where the mystics and contemplatives advise us to go to. But, there is so much more that God and others have done to help me to this position.

I had spent that whole weekend and most of the week before praying only “Lord Jesus, help me!”. The exclamation mark is definitely needed. I was quite sure that where meditation and contemplation leads I had not gotten near the door.

But the contemplation of the saints is fired by the love of the one contemplated: that is, God. Therefore it does not terminate in an act of the intelligence but passes over into the will by love.” St. Albert the Great - Spiritual Direction & Meditation (48)

What St. Albert describes was a bit of a stumbling block for me as intellect and thought processes dominate my waking hours. I exist in my thoughts, in my mind. There are a thousand links being made between different facts and images every day in any mind and mine is no different . Sometimes I think mine is a bit more active than others. Being able to be still and know that He is God is quite troublesome if you cannot be still for more than a second or two. So the silent Saturdays , the not talking to myself Tuesdays and regular primitive prayer of “Lord God, help me!” Were a gradual acclimatisation to the silence required to place myself in a position to be still for more than a few minutes. One of the biggest helps was reading two books by Thomas Merton. Spiritual Direction & Meditation and Contemplative Prayer. In Spiritual Direction & Meditation Merton maps out the plan for the apprentice (or religious as Merton calls the beginner) to be guided by the experienced Spiritual Director much like the desert fathers with their apprentice or Christ with His disciples. The lessons are learned with the Director encouraging and assisting the apprentice pointing the apprentice to God and the path well trod into the established forms of Prayer, Contemplation and Meditation. Contemplative Prayer is more of a technical book a call for a redevelopment within monastic practice a call back to contemplation with action not just one or the other. However, the drops of wisdom in Merton's descriptions of Meditation and Contemplation are what made me realise that it was intimacy with God that I was being led into. An intimacy that I was very intimidated of.

I cannot discover my “meaning” if I try to evade the dread which comes from first experiencing my meaninglessness!

By meditation I penetrate the inmost ground of my life, seek the full understanding of God's mercy to me, of my absolute dependance upon him” – Contemplative Prayer (84)

...we should should let ourselves be brought naked and defenceless into the centre of that dread where we stand alone before God in our nothingness, without explanation, without theories, completely dependant upon his providential care, in dire need of the gift of grace, his mercy and the light of faith.” - Contemplative Prayer (85)

Being brought there not on on my own but being assisted there in front of the whole class was vital. With the lecturer (or as Merton would say Spiritual Director) just helping holding the bike steady enough to let me get my balance in this new light of faith. There was no way I can ever claim any of this as my own. Too many witnesses for me to ever try and tell anyone otherwise. I had been prayed for and have had similar experiences but these were fleeting and never did I think that I could return. I had no thought of meditation and contemplation. In fact I probably had way too many competing thoughts and God has waited till now in His time. My first thoughts after class were “So this is what that communion with God is. Gonna have to do this again (if he'll let me)”. Of course He'll let us back in again. Does not the lover call to his beloved always? Does not the father embrace the prodigal taking him back, putting rings on his fingers and clothing him as a true son? Is it easy, not all the time. There is a descent sometimes like closing your eyes on the downstroke of a swing and a return to the surface of active thought again as the dog barks or a car speeds past. This is something that is practiced and learned like riding a bike. It will change and grow as I learn to ride the surrender bike better.

To describe it factually would be wrong and sully such a divine residence with any analysis of feelings. I find myself describing it in riddles and metaphors such as “dunking my head in bucket and finding the universe”. Water and depths instead of sunlight describe the experience better for me at the moment. I expect change as God has never left me in the same place for very long.

"It is precisely the function of meditation in the sense in which we speak of it here, to bring us to the attitude of awareness and receptivity. It also gives us strength and hope, along with a deep awareness of the value of interior silence in which the mystery of God 's love is made clear to us." - Contemplative Prayer (49)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Silent Saturday 31/10/2010 and No Talking to Myself Tuesday 2/11/2010

Saturday began wet and raining no chance at all to do any of the lawn mowing I had planned to do. No television, no internet, no computer, no radio. Just the sound of rain on the roof and cars driving past. The dog and I were dry inside. I got to my painting preparing two canvasses and finishing one piece. I also continued my reading of Thomas Merton's Contemplative Prayer which became more and more enlightening about where I am when it comes to my relationship with God.

It seems God is just an omnipotent friend who I call for help from when the effluent hits the propellor. My noise internally and externally were boundaries which kept him from me until I wanted his help. In stripping away the external noise in the car and in the home I have come across the internal noise that is also there to stop God getting too close.

The way of prayer brings us face to face with the sham and indignity of the false self that seeks to live for itself alone..” Merton Contemplative Prayer

The sham of my own rapid stream of thought and noise that goes on searching for the next piece of amusement to dwell on is a barrier to any true silence. Any real prayer of the heart is impossible with this background internal noise.

Man's heart is far from him [God] when it is occupied in superfluous cares...” Peter of Celles in Merton's Contemplative Prayer
I last mentioned the use of Psalmody and recitation of Proverbs 3:5-6 and Ephesians 6:10 and that they have led to singing versions. Now thats all well and good but it's an amusement, a novelty and a distraction which leads in other directions of mirth and enjoyment. Such enjoyment is good and praise to God is a great thing yet another novelty is another distraction. This is supposed to be contemplation aiding me to get beyond the internal noise not adding to it another form of mirth.

The whole life of Christ was cross and martyrdom why do you go looking for rest and mirth” A'Kempis, Imitation of Christ.

So I have gone further back to a more primitive form of prayer which should not be given rhythm beyond inhale and exhale. “Lord God help me.” or “Lord Jesus help me”. Distraction in the form of rhythm, rhyme, melody is going to become another novelty right now and I have too many of them.

When I first tried silence I found the fear of silence was really a fear to not let God closer. I used the noise of television, radio, and the internet to block him out. This was merely the first level making space for him to enter. Now there is further and deeper closeness as Merton describes so well...

We wish to gain a true knowledge of God, our Father and Redeemer. We wish to loose ourselves in his love and rest in him. We wish to hear his word and respond to it with our whole being. We wish to know his mercy and submit to it in its totality. These are the aims and goals of meditatio and oratio." Merton Contemplative Prayer

Intimacy with God is what Merton is describing. Loosing ourselves in his love could be found in a ballad about lovers and thats an intimacy I have not experienced. I find myself once again staring at the next depth and fear of the unknown as before grows. I can delight in standing at the top of a mountain or a tall building, but depths scare me. Put me in the ocean looking at the drop off where the real sea begins in its depth and darkness. Where blue becomes darker and darker until blackness where anything can dwell in that suffocating darkness. Yet I am reminded that God is light and love and he delights in me as I should in him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No Talking to myself Tuesday 26/10/2010

I did not succeed in this for more than an hour. What began as a morning of silence developed into not a talking to myself day. As hard goes, this was as hard as hang gliding for the morbidly obese.

I went for an hour while mowing the lawn and did not begin to start talking to myself until I got a song from the Simpson's in my head. The Sherry Bobbins episode to be exact which had a few songs. I had realised that I was going to do a bad job on the lawn which segued into “Just do a half-assed job”. I was singing which is technically not talking to myself but it was close to something I would talk to myself about. From here I did not stop trying but it did get harder and harder not to engage the mouth in the mental discussion in my mind. That is where it started and always starts in my head. The idea is planted and I follow the tenuous links till I am far away from where I started.

It is in the head where the battle begins and ends. What are you focused upon? What will you let in? What links will you follow? Where will you end up? I have had mental wanderings that ended up in places I did not want to be in. This is the habit of an uncontrolled and ill disciplined mind. Something Thomas Merton touches upon in Contemplative Prayer in talking about a “deep interior silence” which is an opposite to the “mental prayer” which uses “reasoning, active imagining and deliberate stirring up of affections”. These workings conflict with the silence and get in the way any peace in our minds. Now singing songs from the Simpson's is not a mental prayer at all (except for the Flanders rendition of “Bringing in the Sheaves” or the wonderful “Arise and Shine and give God the Glory, Glory”) but it is active imagining and a genuine stirring up of my affections. The simplicity and peace of deep interior silence is fleeting when we do not have any ability to tame our thoughts. The wanderings of my mental processes let alone mental prayer while mowing the lawn, driving the car, walking the dog, browsing the internet requires a leash to restrain it. The author of James puts this in its place when describing the bridling of the tongue in chapter 3. To bale to bridle or restrain the tongue or mind involves practices that are simple and repetitive. Merton suggests psalmody and a few simple words from scripture or even simple prayer like “Lord, come to my aid.”

What I began and stopped not long after trying it for a week was reciting a few remembered scripture verses.

Be strong in the Lord in the power of his might. Eph. 6:10

Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and he will keep your paths straight Prov. 3:5-6

I have decided to try and keep in my mind on a loop are variants of these two verses. You can sing them as they do lend themselves to being sung. Be strong in the Lord becomes a dirge and Trust in the Lord has evolved into a country tune. In these versions I can use my habit in brining up songs to use these songs instead. This then becomes a form of basic prayer/meditation that can be repeated in different ways. So from silence I have ended up in meditation and recitation of scripture.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reflection on Silent Saturday – October 23/10/2010

A Silent Day is not me being silent but when all information like computers, stereos, televisions are not turned on. This is a form of silence which earlier in the year I was very uncomfortable with now I am more used to it. This was the second silent day and it was very productive as I spent the morning fixing the toilet it needed a new washer which was at the base of the cistern. After this was done I read some Thomas Merton (Contemplative Prayer) and had a siesta. The evening was just as productive as I spent it at a friends going through our songs. A whole day without any information being spewed out at me.

I am getting more comfortable without having noise around me. However there were moments when I found myself wandering back to the computer like it was on. In fact that is a time wasting habit that I have noticed more and more since. My first impulse is to go back to the computer and search for stuff, check the blogs and facebook. This desire to be amused, entertained and distracted is a part of that cocoon of information that we keep around us. Thomas A'Kempis calls it “hearkening after novelties and rumours” and what this cocoon of novelties does is stop us from being in the place have a “direct encounter” with God.

When I first tried silence I found it very fearful. The silence was cold as steel compared to the warm cocoon of noise and novelties. This warmth though was an artificial warmth like wearing a blanket to generate enough warmth to make a you drowsy. You do not really need the warmth its just an added layer and when you acclimatise to the real temperature you realise you did not need the cocoon at all. Silence is no longer a bitter cold or a black night it is a bracing wind that wakes you up to the reality around you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Silence and the Struggle with praise

Reflection of the no speaking day 20/10/2010

Probably made it too much fun in being able to communicate without talking this time. Instead of being in a quiet library all day with minimum contact I had class in the afternoon. This involved my regular routine of having lunch at the Caf with the regular lunch pals. Of course there was some well meaning teasing and baiting but this was well parried with the set of notes I had ready to use. I also used the laptop to answer direct questions addressed to me. In using the laptop it probably stretched the known understanding of being silent, but it was a social context and isolation is something I do a little too well. What I am attempting to learn is to not control the conversation but let it go and listen to others more than offering my own thoughts. The goal is to have the habit of listening. In the time spent not talking in a social context I had more people talk to me than I would normally have had. This being Australia and me being a loud and very verbose person the tall poppy had to be cut down a bit. I did reply in gestures and facial expressions as to how I thought about the jibes sent my way but I knew it was all in jest. After class was over I was encouraged by most of the class who know me well that what I had done was a great thing. My mother told me after that this was something she had never done. And still I find such adulation and praise uncomfortable. Constructive criticism and pointing out the flaws in how I go about a certain task I love. I can combat and defend these comments, but there is no defence against praise. There is only acceptance or rejection when appreciation is thrown at you. When you have the bullshit metre set on high and the weapons set to stun all the time you have no response to love and praise. I have no response to praise. I do not accept it easily at all. What am I afraid of? Does this link into the control and the defensive stance I have always ready. The one where I hold the weird geek out as a crash-test dummy who can be slammed, abused without the real me getting hurt. Which is the real Phill? Have I been in this defensive stance for such a long time that there is no real Phill behind the dummy?

The silence has no place for the dummy because it cannot boast and flummox about with its big words and loud voice. There is no place for the dummy in the silence about the house as the noise merely generates the information that the dummy feeds upon to be able to boast what it knows about. In the silence there is no place for it because it cannot boast or find anything to boast about, in the silence there is no dummy only the hurt one holding the strings trying not to get hurt anymore. In the silence there is nothing to hurt you, in the silence there is only you and the eternal moment made by the one who is eternal. The eternal tells you there is no need for the defence that it has always been from before you were to the when that will only always be. In the silent eternal moment you stand as naked as you were born yet there is no pain or shock as birth because the one who is eternal is not angry ashamed or afraid of you. All the eternal one has is love against that there is no shield strong enough, no wall tall enough and no hole deep enough. Accept love and be loved resistance only leads to pain.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Journal - June 21 2010

Really don't have anything to write about. Of course that's a load of bull, I can write most days about absolutely nothing for hours on end. I always have things which pop up to think about and wonder about. Usually its what's happened at school or what I have next to speak about at church. I've done that and now I am waiting till the art exam on Wednesday, so yeah just sitting around reading the class notes, looking at the works of art that were used. To do this without using the internet I got 2 books out of the library. One of them being Sister Wendy's Grand Tour which is absolutely wonderful, she is effusive and detailed in the history and context of the works of the great artists. Have a look.

The other book is the complete opposite This is Modern Art with Mathew Collings.

This series explores what has lead to what is now modern art. Of course the art is different but context and story behind the art and artists is somehow similar. Collings passion is restrained and subdued in contrast to Sister Wendy's love and enthusiasm and that leads me to think about the difference between the two ages.

For this we need to watch some Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer's wonderful series "How should we then live?" holds some real gems and this one is an explanation of the development of thought that leads us from Sister Wendy's art to Collings. Basically there is a hopelessness in human thinking a despair which leads to the decay in beauty and truth.

I wonder if the modern artists are trying to get to that place of beauty but cannot get there and in desperation grab hold of anything. So to this we have Warhol who eschews his entire person for some vapid famous genius. There is nothing to hold onto but the vapours of fame and the icons of the age. As Schaeffer says there is no hope and no reason, man is just a machine. There is no real beauty. But we look at the works on Sister Wendy's Grand Tour and we recognise the beauty of them but do we understand the context of belief and hope that existed in the artists who made them. Back then they had a classical understanding of God and the world and Mankind as a created being. God existed and beauty was possible, truth was possible and the art was stunning. Now the art is still stunning but rarely is it beautiful and true.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Journal - June 18 2010

Back again after 2 days off, I should be writing this every day but not everyday lends itself to journal writing. Went to the centrelink on wednesday. For those not familiar with the Australian unemployment system centrelink is the name used in Oz for unemployment, pensions and benefits. I have spent more then half of my life in and out of the place and I am comfortable with waiting in lines and explaining things to different people 3 or 4 times a day. The best way to deal with it is to bring a book, a book is better than a magazine or a comic because you look intelligent. The worst thing to do is look like you don't want to be there. Well that's not the worst thing to do the worst thing is to get angry and start acting out, when you do that you get treated very poorly. I am not saying that social workers are vindictive its just that if you treat them with respect and realise they have to deal with multiple cases over and hour they will respect you. Bringing a book is good because it helps pass the time.

What else happened? Not much really I walked a fair bit waiting for things to work out, they worked out I get more money end of story. Oh! that's right there were greeters at centerlink, two people directing traffic all the time. They were good and very helpful centerlink was not like this two years ago. I wonder if they watched the if Starbucks marketed like the church cause that shows up a whole load of wrongs.

I find this video hard to watch as it reminds me of many bad moments in many churches. I also realise that traditional church is all some people have got. But the point is made clearly and without any assumptions or allusions, if this is how you don't do it why do you do it? Well that can be answered by Topol.

And Topol's lines for the Jewish people in Russia could be substituted for most Christian church groups around the world. Tradition is very important without the ties that bind we would be merely a leaf blowing in the wind. If you have seen Fiddler on the Roof then you know that it is this very tradition that is threatened, especially from the daughters choice for husbands. He gives in to the first one and the second but the third crosses a bridge he cannot, marriage with a gentile. Tradition may keep you balanced but it also binds and restricts you to a defined and well known area.

And once again I end up at Mark 2:28 - 3:6 and the restrictions of the sabbath which in the context of Fiddler on the Roof keeps it in the Jewish family. Tevye has his traditions and the love of his daughters allows him to stretch them but not blow them out of all proportion. Its much the same with the first clip of the Starbucks church. Most churches could change and make small steps but not make a leap forward in understanding. What is required of them is to be true to God and his teachings not true to traditions that man has put around the truth that God has revealed to us.

In Mark the Pharisees are shown as being restricted by their traditional understanding of the sabbath. The restrictions they place on the HOLY DAY are binding and laughable at times. Jesus sets them straight that God wishes to set people free from such bondage. Yet what have we Christians have done? Not much better if the Starbucks video is true, which it is.

Where else in our lives have we restricted God to a tradition of our own making? Are our understandings of God so restrictive that He cannot work in our lives? This is something we need to dwell on with seriousness and a caution not to throw out everything and start from scratch. We have to have Christ at the center and hold his teachings utmost but also realise that God is consistent and unchanging. His message and mission have been unchanged from the beginning. Who we praise and worship will never change his teachings on how we are to live our lives are true and always will be. We may need to style it up and package it differently. To step outside our comfort zones once and a while to show we are in the world, but not of the world.

And just for fun here's the classic Matchmaker song.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Journal - June 15 2010

Stuff to do:
Exam next week (study today)
Video Blog to make (ideas about things I want to get rid of in my life)
Watch world cup matches
Watch season one of The A-Team
Ask about chainsaw from the shop
Pay Rent

Better pay the rent.....done

Then there's the exam, its for my arts class: Philosophy of the Creative Arts. Sounds impressive doesn't it, well it is impressive thinking about the place of art, the creation of art, the place of the artist. The history of art and its progression is amazing from cave paintings to the glorious art of the Sistine chapel, the beauty of the impressionists, the risk taking of artists like Dali, Warhol, Duchamp, and the eventual chaos that is modern art is an amazing ride. Yet the thinking that has lead to these developments - or regressions if you think about the constant shock that is modern art - can be charted to the effect of the image and place of God in humanity. In fact the classical thinking about God led to the art of the Sistine chapel, to David yet the foundations of these great works lay in the Greek philosophers and the tools of thinking that we still use today. Kind of funny that is, that Christian thinking has been influenced by the thought patterns and logic of the Greek philosophers. Those of us in the western world still use the same thinking and modes of logic. Which of course leads me to think how different Christianity would be if it went Eastward and not Westward, if the center of Christian thought went away from the Mediterranean and into the Hindus Valley. I cannot imagine such a church but maybe it did exist certain disciples are said to have made it to the Hindus Valley.

That was fun. To begin at art and end up thinking about the possible development of Christianity as an Asian religion and not a Mediterranean one. This is of course not excluding the east from the joys of knowing and living in Christ, no one is excluded from that offer. It is just that what differences and tools would have developed and molded Christian thought and what would have been the big topics. How important would have the two natures of Christ have been? Would the Cross been a symbol of power and authority? Would the creedal language have developed at all? Would there have been dogma and confessions of faith? What would have the images of Jesus have looked like?

To realise that the way we see Jesus, art, God, life have been from the influences of a few Greek guys over 2000 years ago is actually quite scary. I don't know Plato and Aristotle from Adam yet their thoughts are still being taught today. I am not sure how happy I am with this, that my thoughts are influenced by those so many years hence. However I try I am never going to get outside of the influence of those who came before me, even if I succeed in losing the influence of all humanity I am still going to be influenced by God. No one can escape the influence of the Creator God a piece of art cannot exist without its maker artist. So I am always under the influence of someone whether it is humans or God. We are from what has come before, you cannot have Michelangelo without cave painting, what has been before even if it is considered worthless still has its influence on us. No escape, can't run from it, so then we better use it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Journal - June 14 2010

Woke up real early, watched the Socceroos get pumped by Germany, went back to bed. That's all I really want to say about today. Of course I wont just say that only, I can't stop talking and typing and talking aren't that far apart. The thing I am missing right now is the discipline of learning. It hasn't even been a week and I am missing the Liberal Christian Arts College I go to. I have a book on the dialogue between Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth. I was reading it two days straight when I was in the air of college and now I am at home for four days straight I haven't opened it at all.

I like this book, I like the things in it. The push and pull of ideas between Barth and Balthasar over the correct use or misuse of the analogy of being is stunning. The fact that even after Barth has explained his reasons for not accepting the analogy of being (that creation mirrors the creator) Balthasar still continues to find a way to reconcile Barth to the use of it.

Its kind of interesting seeing Balthasar trying to win a Catholic convert in Barth. Its interesting because of the next bit of the Gospel of Mark that I will be speaking on. Its Mark 2:23- 3:6. Okay how does Jesus correcting the Pharisees about their legalistic views on the sabbath? Well it does in the fact that like the Pharisees and pretty much every religion Barth has found a sticking point between himself and the Catholic overuse of the analogy of being. The use of analogy of being was huge it was considered essential to the faith. To Barth it was a horrible thing and he couldn't stand for it to be given such a high regard. Such use of the analogy of being stopped Barth ever seeing himself ever becoming Catholic. A similar point could be made of Luther, Wesley and every other leader who started his own church because others did not hold to the same articles of faith, or ways of mission, or gifts of the spirit.

Its like an episode of The Big Bang Theory with Sheldon being Barth and Leonard being Balthasar (don't ask me who Penny is). Its like when as a six year old I decided that Beatrix Potter was wrong in calling Peter Rabbit's third sister Cottontail. I was adamant that Beatrix Potter had broken the rules of rhyme and it must be - Flopsy, Mopsy and Bopsy. So adamant was I that I named my dog Bopsy.

So adamant were the Pharisees that the sabbath was sacred and holy that the Disciples should not have taken wheat to eat. So holy was the sabbath that Jesus healing a man's withered hand was an absolute outrage. So adamant was Luther that he broke from the Catholic church, the same for Wesley in his split from the Church of England.

So adamant we are when the patterns of our lives are disturbed in ways that are not wrong except that they are not what we see as the right way of doing things. God rested on the sabbath, why? Because he done all he wanted to do, not because it was the sabbath and according to the doctrine of the almighty he had to. Being humans we see patterns and some of these appear regular, solid, dependable, constants. The sun rises and sets, people live and die. But then there are others that we can take as constants. Whose ever had to drive on the other side of the road? That's gotta be disturbing you've driven on the left side of the road all your life and now you have to drive on the other side of the car AND the other side of the road. All of the sudden the pattern is changed what you thought was the way to drive is now something different. Its still driving but it is driving in a whole new way.

Now how are we going to act when God tells us like Jesus did to the Pharisees that we need to change how we live our life with him. That our way of thinking about God is too stiff and rigid that it needs to expand and grow. That our idea of what church is supposed to be is too rigid and we don't see the way he does. That life as a follower of Jesus is not the prosperity you had been promised but that when Jesus says "Take up your cross and follow me" he meant it.

The Pharisees got a shock that day and they responded in anger and fury. How will you respond? With anger, apathy, indifference, defiance. Or will you say to God "Fair Cop" you're right I have been doing this the wrong way. Change is hard and its even harder when we resist please don't resist submit. Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Journal - June 11 2010

Its 2 days in a row now and that's a good thing. I spent yesterday making the first part of what has become a 2 part piece on youtube.

Its about the Christology essay I did, which was on Holy Saturday. You know the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Yeah that day and what did Jesus do on that day?
He could have been playing cards for all most people know. In fact there is not that much written about it at all. Even in the bible there is less written about what Jesus did in the grave than anything else. Which makes any thinking about Holy Saturday a struggle.

What also makes for more problems is the Apostles Creed and the line - "He descended into Hell" - which brings a range of responses. Mostly I don't know or I'm not sure about that. For me it was a complete empty hole of a day and the whole concept of Jesus descending into Hell was something I had never thought of. Of course now I have thought about it, read about it, and have come to a point of understanding that is not heretical but its certainly not traditional.

The traditional understandings are mentioned in the video and are garnered from a couple of verses in the bible (most taken out of context) and the not so well known gospel of Nicodemus. This scant information being embellished into the fantastic and mythical is a main point of those who wont have it. Yet it is such a silent hole in the Easter story that its silence calls to many to work out what is happening. Honestly I hear it calling out to me and its really hard not to think about this everyday now.

The only real advancement beyond the dogma and confessional beliefs of the churches comes from Hans Urs von Balthasar. For Balthasar the silence of Holy Saturday calls out to him to such an extent that he makes it the center of his Christology. Solidarity is the big word for Balthasar, Christ's Solidarity with the living when he is alive and Christ's solidarity with the dead when he is dead. That's where I end the first part, Christ dead in Hell. Which is incredibly confronting and sad, it is hard to think of Jesus the Son of God dead for any moment of time. Yet the solidarity that Balthasar talks of seems true in the way he explains it. It is in the living out of humanity in its fullness and perfection that Jesus is in solidarity with us. This is also true in the death of Jesus as we die and wherever we go after death Jesus goes to the dead.

What arises out of this solidarity with the dead is much the same as his solidarity with the living. It is the same solidarity just in a different point in the Human Trajectory (Birth, Life, Death, Going to the Dead). There is nothing extra added to salvation by Christ going to the place of the dead it is a part of his whole redemption of humanity. No extra salvation is possible because on the Cross "It is finished".

Despite this others have taken Balthasar's solidarity of the dead Christ with the dead to be a salvation for those in the place of the dead with Christ. A salvation that takes up Hell into Heaven so all is redeemed, this is called Universalism and its got it wrong. The unfortunate thing about such a false hope is that they haven't seen the consistency of the exclusive/inclusive offer of salvation. Not all of those who live are saved by Christ's solidarity with the living only those who decide to admit, submit and follow Christ. It is not Christ's solidarity with those dead with him, it is Christ's solidarity with those who are DEAD IN CHRIST. There is time to make our decision while alive after live there is no second chance. The unfortunate result of this is that those we knew who have passed away without deciding for Jesus is that they are lost.

When you strip away the veil of myth and fantastic there is actually more to Holy Saturday than an action movie. We have God in the form of Jesus dead in the place of the dead, in our place. Redeeming us from the righteous punishment that we deserve. He is silent and passive just like the rest of the dead, yet his preaching is his witness that here in the depths of dispair God has come to put everything right again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Journal - Online edition June 10 2010

Thought I would use this blog again as a place to begin journaling online. Not because I have a huge ego and require the world to see my thoughts because they are amazing and important - because I do have a big ego and what I have to say is amazing and important to the world. Ego aside... Having woken up on the first day of what is the mid-semester break from the liberal not so conservative Christian Arts College that I attend. I need to begin what I see as essential disciplines required to survive the break.

Last year I got through my first semester and I just dropped out emotionally, socially and spiritually. Physically I was fine I kept playing Soccer, but outside of that I isolated myself like the UNA bomber. I kept to myself and barely saw anyone at all for the first half of those eight weeks, yeah 8 weeks. So this mid-semester break things are going to have to be different cause I am not going back to that again. The key to this is accountability and making sure that friends and family know what happened and working out what activities I should be doing on a daily basis. Journalling or blogging here is a start.

What else can I do to stop bottoming out? Well I have a small cache of canvass frames ready to be painted on which is a start. The unfortunate thing about that is that its winter here in Australia, and I haven not yet found a place to paint. "Do it inside." I hear you say. Well, with a rented house and a very messy painting style that uses aerosol spray cans I do not see the landlady being all that happy. Reading - now that is a good idea and I do have a small supply of books that I want to read, but TV gets in the way of that sometimes. Movies that I missed? maybe not everyday but if I make one night movie night then and invite people over that would be a great idea.

Work? Well that is good to and if it pops up then great. Youtube videos on the theology that I have learned this semester would be a great thing and I have already proven I can make a 2-3 minute youtube video. I have a possible collaborator but unfortunately he does not have a mac, so he has to find a way to shoot and edit his movies with a camera and pc software.

Okay the dog needs to be walked and I need to get out of the house.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Short Version - With Pictures...

The Challenge of Jesus

N.T. Wright 1999

Chapter 1 – The Challenge of Studying Jesus

Where to start well why not with the word that Wright repeats – necessary. The whole chapter is Wright imploring and explaining why the “Quest for the Historical Jesus” is important not just to the historians but to Christianity as a whole.

How is it important? Well there was a guy called Martin Luther and he did some research on this translation which came up with “do penance” Martin's study realised that it was “repentance” big difference between these huh! Of course the changes that came from this and Luther's other work were somewhat extensive. Wright alludes to the possibilities for not just individuals but for Christianity as a whole when research takes place.

Yet in my experience such historical research usually brings results from people who are trying to refute Jesus existence or that he was less than the Son of God. Either that or it is extreme in the other direction that Jesus was some hologram projected by God not a human but a super-human.

Why do we have this split not just between believers and unbelievers but within Christianity itself?

Historically what has happened is detailed by Wright in his belief that asking the question “Who was Jesus and what did he accomplish?” is necessary, but the way in which it is asked is what results in the answers that we have read in shock or dismay. Wright points to the Enlightenment and specifically to Herman Samuel Reimarus who asked the question about Jesus to try and prove that Christianity is merely a mistake. It is from the Enlightenment that the current situation stems from, its separation of fact from faith by elevating human reason changed the playing field. Jesus was either a simple peasant cynic or a superman. This is a generalisation but it is the effect of the Enlightenment and its belief that the main event of human history was in the eighteenth century and not the events in the first concerning Jesus of Nazareth that were the main event (a rival eschatology - asserts Wright).

Because of the resulting answers coming from the question responses were either for or against and the effect of the enlightenment's split between fact and faith is seen in the divide between liberal and conservative. Despite all of this Wright says that the question asked by Reimarus and the Enlightenment is “necessary” and Wrights reasons are as follows.

God – To ask questions about Jesus and discuss him is to be discussing God. We learned last week in Ogden that any question about Jesus is a question about God as well as a question about who we are (the existential question)

Loyalty to Scripture – If we believe the bible then we should be making sure that we understand it in the context that it is set in. Imagine what people will make of LOL or ROTFLOL in two thousand years time.

Truth – We should not be afraid of the truth and what it actually is and the possible changes that can and will occur when you delve deeply into the question “Who is Jesus and what did he accomplish?” Did you watch compass last sunday night? It was disturbing hearing this message that I thought I was okay with that Jesus was (and is) a Jew. This exploration may freak us out but if we believe “The way, the Truth and the Life – it is Jesus” then why should we be afraid

Commitment to mission – We can answer the questions that will come to us from those who believe as well as those who are trying to find the evidence that it is all a sham. If we know the information and the history surrounding Jesus and the first century we can answer these people. There's that joke on the Vicar of Dibley “Have you read the new book of the bible, you know the Da Vinci Code.”

Wright finishes explaining the situation or state of play as he sees it of the quest. The quest came about from a question that was necessary but asked in the wrong fashion, since then there have been three main streams within the quest headed by Wrede, Schweitzer, and Kahler.

Wrede is the sceptic “we cannot know very much about Jesus, he certainly did not think of himself as the Messiah or the Son of God and the Gospels are basically theological fiction.”

Schweitzer – the middle of the road believing that Jesus being a First century Jew had similar understandings about the end times and how they would come about. Also that the Gospels got Jesus character right.

Kahler – Saw that the quest was just a way for historians to imagine up stuff about Jesus.

Wright places himself in the middle ground of course yet he continues to explaining that we cannot just discount the arguments that are put by those we consider to be wrong. That only in joining the quest and producing arguments that lead to theories that disprove them that we can correct them.

It is because of these reasons and the growth that can come from this quest that Wright is pushing it so hard. That this should never be considered a finished work, that the previous generation worked it all out before. Wright believes that every “generation has to wrestle afresh with the question of Jesus” I agree.

If you want to read my long version it can be found at my blog -


Tutorial Presentation - Long version

Tutorial Presentation

The Challenge of Jesus

N.T. Wright 1999

Chapter 1 – The Challenge of Studying Jesus

First and main issues is described with the Kenyan students and the German scholars loosing (?) Jesus

Wright uses the words “vitally necessary” to describe the historical quest for Jesus, not to say that the knowledge that of Jesus that is common within the history of the church is wrong or inaccurate. It is necessary so that we may be able to “get to know even better the one whom we claim to know and follow”

Despite this being “necessary and nonnegotiable” that this can bring out a deeper understanding of the Jesus who we follow there are dangers.

There are extremes who are for this quest and against it. There are those who by asking the questions of “Who Jesus is and what did he accomplish?” that seek to expose Christianity as a big misunderstanding. The unfortunate result of this is that Christians have often looked at such historical study and only seen the extremes. Jesus was a New Age guru or a Peasant cynic. Of course you can go to the other extreme and see those who see Jesus as a “First Century Super man” which is just as destructive.

Of course both extremes view each other with a level of disdain considering their view much more superior. These extremes are not what Wright is on about, where Wright sees this quest should be is somewhere in between this divide between fact and faith. That we can search for Jesus and find him historically in a way that will compliment our understanding.

So from the negatives Wright then talks about the positives giving the reasons for this quest.

“that we are made for God: for God's glory, to worship God and reflect His likeness.” In discussing Jesus we are also discussing God. Whatever we can learn about Jesus will give us an understanding about God. As we learned from Ogden last week the question “Who is Jesus?” also asks “Who is God?” as well as “Who am I?”

Loyalty to scripture we should learn as much as we can about the situation in the first century so we are able to understand the context of what is said in scripture. (Imagine what debates historians will have in 200 years time wondering what LOL ROTFLOL and meh are?) If there is anything that can aid in a closer understanding of the things we take right now as traditions and whether they are biblical or not will aid us. It aided Martin Luther.

Truth. What the gospel truly means in its original setting. That understanding the meanings even more deeply effects how you see the truth of the gospel. We believe that is the truth about Jesus who said as we learned from Ogden last week “The way, the truth, the life, I am it.” Thats just one piece that we only recently learned and that was an eye opener for me. What more could we learn.

The final one rolls back into the intellectual conflict with historians trying to prove that Christianity is a mistake. Knowing the truth of the history of the first century we will be able to explain when the next Da Vinci Code comes out. What do you do when you get the Vicar of Dibley joke – Have you read the new book of the bible? Yeah you know, the Da Vinci code.”

Christianity has to be rooted in the first century happenings of Jesus in Palestine then its all hooey. The sceptics should be answered and in answering this by examining the history of our beliefs which once interpreted correctly (Christmas anyone?) will bring “depths of meaning within them that we had never imagined”

Earlier I looked a bit forward into this chapter and mentioned the divide between fact and faith, this is explained by Wright as happening within a time known as the Enlightenment. I like to call it the En-darkenment cause a lot of the issues in and around Christianity today stem from this period of thinking. Wright describes this as the Enlightenment “asking a question in a misleading fashion”. Because of the results of asking the “Who was Jesus and what did he accomplish?” in the Enlightenment's way resulted in things like the Jefferson Bible and that Jesus was only a liberal speaker ahead of his time and so on. This freaked out the Christian establishment and developed a bit of a suspicion of the intellectual community.

Wright goes into detail describing this history (while apologising that he is not an eighteenth century historian) in which the Enlightenment started asking questions of the Christian dogma which had been static for sometime not continuing in the historical quest that could have offered a defence. So when Herman Samuel Reimarus came about with his Christianity is based on mistake it caused heaps of trouble. It is here that the necessary's come back from Wright, beginning that Reimarus's question was necessary to shake the “bland dogma” and it was not the first time that it was needed. Perhaps it is needed again now. So when the historians come up with facts that you do not agree with about Jesus perhaps we need to go and find out about it ourselves.

In what I see as decisive point to the issues detailed earlier in the challenge of and historical search for Jesus, Wright explains that it was the Enlightenment that split fact and faith. This split exists today on liberal and conservative boundaries. Yet the Enlightenment offers more than a way to think but a rival Eschatology to Christianity. They thought the light or reason and logic in human thought in Western Europe and America in the Eighteenth century. What came before was dark compared to the light of this new Enlightenment. You cannot use this thinking to explain Christology because if the Enlightenment the big moment then what happened in Palestine in the first century was not. So Jesus was brought down to being either good moral teacher or a superman not what he is, the Son of God who come into the world to be a man to live and die and rise again.

Now comes the resurgence of the quest which begins with Albert Schweitzer who pointed to the first century Jewish context of the world in which Jesus lived. It was the study of Schweitzer about the historical Jesus and the first century context in which he lived that convinces Wright that such study should continue and if it does there will be more understanding.

Despite such a search into fresh understanding of the contexts within the bible as Wright implores coming up with fresh and new ways to address the questions of the historical Jesus, there are negatives this way. Because of the history of the christianity and its errors on the conservative and modernist side there are errors in the other way. Seeing Jesus as a demigod untouched by human problems and secret ways to escape this world or this reality. This secret knowledge or Gnosis can be a result of a search for Jesus which takes things further away from the truth in the other direction.

Is there anything new to say about Jesus? Wright suggests yes and no. Jesus did announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God but “What did Jesus mean by the kingdom of God?” I'd like to ask what did Jesus mean by “fishers of men” was this a colloquial saying? We can ask these questions now and expect to find information because there are so many new sources to use. The Dead Sea Scrolls and a lot of historical information on the Pharisees and the Roman agendas of the time. We know a lot now. There is so much that more can be discovered about the time when Jesus was on the planet and if we believe that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh then what we learn should go into understanding the Gospels and Christian tradition as to what needs to be kept and what needs to be removed. Martin Luther did this and the results of this are the rediscovery of “repentance” instead of the mistake “do penance” which was then morphed into a individual and pious understanding not a giving up of your whole a way of life. More than just a change of heart.

This shows us that the Gospels are not to be thrown out but that the research needs to used to weigh and challenge the meanings we have known and cherished. Its a quest that needs to be done by all parts of the church (what even the evangelicals?)

History of the quest (the good stuff and the bad stuff)

State of play in the Quest for the Historical Jesus is (in Wrights view) held in three camps headed by their historical questing forbears. Wrede, Schweitzer, and Kahler

Wrede – sceptic, we cannot know much about Jesus and he never said he was the messiah. So the Gospels are fiction.

Schweitzer – Jesus lived in first century Palestine and had the same “apocalyptic expectation” he died without it coming about. Jesus started the eschatological movement that became Christianity. Oh! And the Synoptic Gospels got Jesus right.

Kahler – God said it I believe it that settles it. The bible and faith only not the imagination of historians.

From these three come the current movements within the quest, Wright considers himself within the Schweitzer camp. There is a history that is stilted when it comes to the quest with certain individuals making steps forward while others were merely piecing together small but supposedly authentic isolated sayings.

From here Wright goes on to explain that it is not enough to disagree with those who have opposing opinions because they are wrong in asking such questions but to argue the point not just them as foolish liberals or conservatives. To come up with an “alternative hypothesis” that gives a simple solution to the problem. - Challenge to those who want to begin throwing stones at each other, don;t just throw stones do the research and throw hypothesises.

Wright ends with a challenge to the church not to just to leave it to the bible boffins to come up with these new understandings. That the answers are not all found and thought of before, it is not as complete a picture as we thought it was. Wright advises that - “each generation has to wrestle afresh with the question of Jesus” that this is a task for the whole church especially the leaders and teachers. It is difficult but Wright points to the understanding and deeper knowledge that can come from such a quest, understanding that could grant us a new vision “not just of Jesus, but of God”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More on Immediately Mark 1:17-18

Okay, enough with the predestination questions and the calvinist versus arminianist debate which will continue till Jesus returns and settles it. I want to get back onto immediately.


adverb 1 at once. 2 very close in time, space, or relationship.

At once, right now, instantly, this second. There was no hesitation for Simon and Andrew in following Jesus call. What does that say about Jesus? What did he have that brought this reaction in people? It wasn't the last time this happened, we can see it in the call of Levi, we can also see it in other who followed Jesus.

I really don't know what I'm trying to get to here. It almost feels like I'm scrapping a barrel that is too deep for me too reach to bottom of. I want to reflect on the immediately that is the calling of Simon and Andrew. The fact that James and John left their fathers behind with the employees. The whole rabbinical style of teaching that was going on at the time. The beliefs on the coming of the messiah and John the Baptist and Jesus and the beginning of Jesus ministry.

There is just so much in here that I am not sure what to exclude. If I try to have all of this together can I make it straightforward enough for people to follow me.

At first I was thinking about the calling itself and the "immediately" response of the men called. I was looking at working on who is this Jesus guy and what powers of speech did He have to do this. Was he a hypnotist, a charlatan, a conman, a leader of men. I was meaning to compare Jesus to certain political figures, also great speeches from movies like Henry V, and Braveheart. I was going to lead into the who Jesus is to be able to do this? What makes Him so special? What does he have to be able to command such a response from 4 guys who leave everything they have known to follow Him?

It looks like I have to weed out the rouge thoughts from the immediately.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Follow Me" He said, and they did.

17And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."

18Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Mark is brief on the details when it comes to the calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John. It includes less than both Matthew and Luke (Luke of course including the most detail in this event), yet this is the core moment. Jesus calls and they immediately follow. No hesitation, no pause, no talking to their father, mother, wife, girlfriend or life coach. Four guys who have been in the fishing business all their lives (it mentions in Mark that James and John left their Dad with the hired help) it wasn't their lot in life to follow some wandering Rabbi. At least that is how it looks like.

Questions bubble up in my mind about this immediate decision to follow Jesus. Of course being a christian I know that the calling of Jesus the Christ is irresistible. Yet how do I explain this calling? How did Simon, Andrew, James and John answer it? Immediately. It is not a decision that you can take and leave in the back of your mind, or is it? Also, can someone who has decided to follow Jesus leave?