Monthly Archives: December 2011

a magnificat christmas: mary & jesus’ birth

As Christmas approaches it would be odd if I did not have at least one post about it on this blog.

Since there are literally thousands of theological articles on the web about Christmas 2011, and since I have basically nothing original to say, I will keep mine short.

What do we say about Christmas? What does it mean for us?

It seems common for Christians to chide society for the reduction of Christmas to a consumeristic holiday, though the irony of simultaneously engaging in said consumerism seems lost on them.

The problem is that merely insisting on the presence of Christ in Christmas is not an articulate expression of the meaning of Christmas.

Some go further, emphasising the birth of Jesus with a view to him eventually dying for our sins—Christmas is really about Easter. This might be caricaturing things a little, but for some the birth of Jesus, and indeed his subsequent life, holds little to no meaning apart from the atonement.

Are these adequate ways of articulating the importance and power of Christmas?

Read the rest of this entry

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the mourning in moving: making spaces into places

My wife and I are in the midst of moving home.

It is a predictably arduous undertaking, and we’ll be glad when it’s over and we are settled in our new place.

But on the other hand we feel a sense of mourning over leaving our current unit, even though we rent and do not own it.

This is not necessarily the first time I have felt this way. Any time I have moved homes in the past (only three times or so) I have felt the same way. In fact whenever I am in the geographical area of a past home I often find myself driving there and sitting out the front.

What is it about our attachment to particular places?

Why do people attach so much value to places and spaces?

Why do people, groups and religions enter conflict, even violence, over particular spaces that are deemed special, sacred or holy? Read the rest of this entry

“god bless you!”: what is blessing?

When something becomes customary in a culture, such as the recitation of the phrase “(God) bless you!” following a sneeze, it often happens that the meaning of that custom is lost in habit.

So what does it mean to be “blessed” in a biblical sense?

Some people understand it to mean something like good fortune.

Others see blessing as referring to material wealth, as in some strands of contemporary Christianity.

Some Christians think blessing refers to God’s favour, and this can be understood in a great number of ways (including material wealth as above).

For others blessing is almost a physical thing to be passed on (as with some understandings of the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau).

I have constantly wondered what blessing is. Read the rest of this entry

sodom and gomorrah: punished for homosexuality?

Saturday just gone was an important day in Australia for LGBTQI* people.

The Australian Labor Party (the current government) voted on its policy position regarding same-sex marriage at its National Conference; it voted to change its platform in support of changing the Marriage act to include same-sex couples.

In addition was a rally held in the Sydney CBD, with somewhere between five to ten thousand participants, calling for marriage equality in Australia.

In response to these events many Christians I know on Facebook posted comments critical of the push for the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Some, on both sides of the argument, were reasoned and thoughtful, recognising that there are in fact different viewpoints on the matter. They merely sought to offer an opinion in a respectful way.

Others were not so gracious.

But what struck me most was the amount of Christians posting quotations from the Bible, completely out of context and, by my judgement, absent of any form of exegetical investigation.

Something that I found fascinating was the repeated quotation of verses pertaining to Sodom and Gomorrah. Read the rest of this entry

sickness and healing (part 2): death as healing?

Note: I recommend you read Part 1 of this series to understand the context of these questions.

My last post was inspired, by a sermon I heard (and a number of subsequent conversations), to ask whether sickness could be caused by sin.

In this post I want to address another related question that I mentioned last time, namely whether dying and “going to be with Jesus” is a form of healing.

In the course of the sermon discussions described in the last post it was suggested by one participant that when a sick person does not receive healing and dies as a result of their sickness then this could be seen as a form of healing since the person goes to heaven to be with Jesus.

Someone then asked whether being cured by medicine could be seen “healing” in a biblical sense.

In response I asked my group a question – “Are we saying that miraculous healing is “healing”, and so is being cured by medicine, and also dying? If yes, does that mean that everything is healing? Even not being healed is healing. What isn’t healing?”

Personally I don’t think dying is a form of healing at all. To suggest so is, to me, a misunderstanding of the biblical view of healing and death. Allow me to explain. Read the rest of this entry

sickness and healing (part 1): “sin causes sickness”?

Yesterday I went to the Sunday gathering of a church affiliated with my old church, of which I was a member up until a few months ago.

I had a great time. It’s a reasonably small group (40-50 adults), and with lots of old friends present good times were had all ’round.

The preaching topic for the day was healing. My friend Barry was sharing with us, and noted that in his experience this topic, more than any other, caused division in the church (even more than tongues). I’m not sure if it’s the most divisive issue, but I take Barry’s point about its divisive potential.

In the course of the morning Barry got us to break up into groups to discuss the issue of healing – What is it? Does it still happen today? What about when people don’t get healed, etc. etc.

I wasn’t planning on writing about healing on this blog, but following the group discussions and the subsequent public reflection a number of people asked me to write a post on it.

It turns out one post has become two. I could never hope to comprehensively outline healing in two posts of course, though I will speak into two concerns that were raised throughout the morning that people discussed with me; the first was a claim made that sickness and disease has to do with sin (this post), and secondly that if people are not healed and they die they are in fact healed because “they go to be with Jesus” (next post).

“Sickness and disease is related to sin”? Read the rest of this entry

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