Category Archives: Lent Reflection

Sacrifice

There are obvious links here to theories of atonement, and in particular penal substitution.  Whilst I don’t like the theory on its own, when taken with other theories I find that it can add something to the whole idea of atonement.  However, to do this I find it helpful to remember that Jesus was both human and divine, and that in the Trinity God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and as the Athanasian Creed says :

Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.

So, instead of God requiring Jesus to go to the cross, it is God too who goes to the cross, which makes in more an image of love than an image of vengeance.

So God puts and end to the need for sacrifice by self sacrifice!

#OURHOLYWEEK

Serve

This morning I was at the Cathedral for the blessing of the oils and the renewal of vows.  During the service I was led to reflect on the theme of serving others, however it is done, and it made me question the balance between the amount of time the church spends on serving people versus how much time is spent on worship or evangelism.  If we look at the Gospels, most of Jesus time was spent serving others (which might lead to evangelism) rather than talking to them.  Time for a think!

#OURHOLYWEEK

Betrayal

As we are in Holy Week, the most likely inspiration for the theme of Betrayal is that of Jesus by Judas – Durer picture above.

And yet, was it a betrayal? To be betrayed there has to be a both a loyalty, and a harm.

to not be loyal to your country or a person

There has long been a train of thought that Judas was required, even destined, to hand Jesus over, because without Jesus being handed over there would be no Resurrection.  If we buy this argument then Judas was not betraying Jesus, but helping him.

It all rather depends on your view of predestination; if you believe in free will, then Judas could have not handed Jesus over, whilst God could still have found a way for the events to play out.  However, in these circumstances, the fact that Judas chose to do so then becomes a betrayal, and adds to the pressure on Jesus, as he then knows that one of his disciples has betrayed him.  It could even be that the words

Do quickly what you are going to do

are not, as I always interpreted, a command to go and inform the chief priests, but an instruction to go and do what he was going to decide to do, as the suspense was unbearable (this is almost certainly a minority reading, as John’s Gospel is always showing Jesus as in control – however, I find that contemplating ideas like this can add to the understanding of what happened, even if they are “wrong”).

#OurHolyWeek

Love

Recently the government have proposed no fault divorce.  Some Christians are against this, though for reasons that I don’t quite understand.  (Disclosure, I am divorced and remarried).

Their argument appears to be that doing this will make divorce easier, and therefore more people will get divorced, and this is a bad thing.  There appears to be an assumption that making it difficult to get out of a marriage is a good thing as otherwise people would leave on a whim.

When I was at theological college our lecturer asked us when a couple were married: was it when:

  1. the marriage was consummated?
  2. the certificate was signed?
  3. the priest declared it?
  4. the couple agreed to live together for the rest of their lives?

The answer that he gave was 4 – in a marriage the couple are the ministers of the marriage – everyone else is a witness to it.

In the same vein, I would want to ask: when does a marriage end?

If both of the couple wish to separate then surely it is when they decide that – the rest is legal necessity, and the easier that is made surely the better?

The problem perhaps comes when one spouse wishes to end the marriage and the other doesn’t (eg Owens v Owens).  Yet in this case the couple are divorced in all but name.  What good is obtained by denying the legal separation in this case?

The other argument about couples staying together (or not) centres around children.  There are numerous studies round this eg https://www.verywellfamily.com/should-you-stay-together-for-kids-1270800, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/200911/divorce-doesnt-harm-children-parents-fighting-harms-child (which partially argues against the previous article) and https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/22/children-divorce-resolution-survey-rather-parents-separate.  I think what I take from this is that the impact on the children depends more on the behaviour of the parents than on their legal status.

What do you think?

#OURHOLYWEEK

Rage

Each day in Holy week Christians on social media are being encouraged to post under the tag #OURHOLYWEEK on a different subject each day.  So here goes!

What is your take on rage?  Is it something to be avoided at all costs or something to harness?  Perhaps it depends on your view of control and your definition of rage.  I suspect that if you grew up in a family where uncontrolled rage was a common experience you are not that keen on it.  But perhaps sometimes extreme anger is required.  Perhaps Jesus turning over the tables in the temple is an example (or perhaps not – although I find it difficult to imagine such behaviour without an element of anger); without it where does the energy to fight injustice come from?

What do you think?

Who do you think Jesus is?

On Palm Sunday the crowds welcome Jesus to Jerusalem as the Messiah; and yet, they seem to be expecting him to behave differently to the way that he does.  They were expecting someone who would “rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age and World to come“, and at a time that Israel was ruled by the Romans this would require their overthrow.

Every Thursday local clergy discuss the following Sunday’s Gospel, and this week one of the discussion points was whether the crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem was the same one who cried out for his crucifixion a few days later.  The arguments centred on whether people would have changed their minds so quickly.  The choices were broadly: “no they wouldn’t” and “if they were disappointed by the failure to overthrow the Romans…”; no doubt there are others too.

It certainly looks as though they didn’t expect the kind of Messiah that Jesus was, ruling by influence rather than by power, indeed, refusing to use power when the opportunity arose, rather allowing himself to be put to death rather than invoking the power of God.  Indeed,

So my question is: “What kind of Messiah do you believe in?”.

Richard Rohr writes that:

Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God

Over the years many people have had a view of God as somewhat like a medieval King; someone who it made sense to be afraid of, and to try and keep on the right side of.  Jesus came to tell us that God love’s us, and that nothing that we do can stop him loving us.

 

Bullying

Regardless of where we stand on Brexit, surely we can agree that there is a need to be civilised about the process?  Some of the leavers at present appear to think that threatening the EU will get them what they want.

It perhaps says something about British business; my (10 year old) experience was that what was increasingly valued was to decide what you wanted and to be as obnoxious as possible to get it, trusting that the other (weaker) party would give in, as something was better than nothing.  I suspect that this works for moderately large companies, so supermarkets can treat suppliers that way, but very few suppliers are big enough to treat supermarkets that way.

When it comes to Brexit, the question is which is the stronger party?  Those threatening the EU, or expecting them to change their mind at the last minute appear to think we are.

That said, I think the underlying assumption that we can bully our way into a good relationship is practically and morally wrong.

Reconciliation

I am reading the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, and today’s chapter is about realising that God is not on your side against others; yes, God is on your side, but God is on the side of those we disagree with too.

With feelings running high over Brexit it is sometimes difficult to remember this, whichever side we are on.  And yet if we were all able to remember it, it might just make resolving the issue easier – as indeed it would in most conflicts.

You always have the poor with you

This morning we read Sunday’s Gospel and were struck by the full quote and context (see below) of the quote that politicians sometimes appear to use to justify not helping the poor (scroll down).  Of course the Bible has far more quotes about looking after the orphan, the alien (asylum seeker) and the widow, but here the quote is even being taken out of context!

You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.

Compromise

It is conceivable that I am speaking too soon, but it appears that yesterday we saw the possibility of compromise being considered by party leaders.

Whatever we may each think about the best approach for Brexit, I have a suspicion that politicians choosing a hard Brexit, or no Brexit will leave the country divided for a long time.  Given that that is the case, and that any compromise agreed will probably not be what either side in the referendum voted for, will it be the best way forwards?

Indeed, is Brexit one of those situations where a compromise does actually satisfy nobody?  As I understand it (and that means it may be wrong) in a much simplified fashion (and without going near the Good Friday Agreement) Brexiters want to regain the full sovereignty of Parliament and to make trade deals for the UK.  Remainers think that we would struggle to make advantageous trade deals, and would be better sharing sovereignty with a larger group of people.

As I understand it, all of the compromises remove the sovereignty of Parliament and the ability to make trade deals, but instead of sharing sovereignty give it away.

Which according to my analysis means that we have the choice between a compromise that gives no one what they want, or two options which are in danger of splitting the country further.

In the Church of England, major changes of policy require a 2/3 majority, hence the time it takes to vote through controversial (to some people) measures, like female bishops.  However, what this does mean is that when it happens, there has been much discussion about what the issues are, and compromises are found that mean that the 2/3 majority can be found.

Frustrated as I have been at times with the speed of progress in the Church of England, I do wonder whether taking the time to go through the process of trying to build a consensus wouldn’t be the best approach here, although it would obviously require a long extension.

The alternative appears to be politicians of all shades stating what the voters meant when they voted 52/48 without any evidence to support their position.

Aaaargh!