the Word

If I am being honest then I am wrestling with what I think about  the Bible and phrases like ‘The Word of God’.

I just don’t know if I have the same conviction that the Bible is the fully authoritative Word of God that many  believers in the reformed, evangelical, Presbyterian church I am most familiar with seem to have.

Or to put it another way, I am just not  sure why Jesus is called ‘the Word’ in John’s Gospel while we also call the Bible ‘The Word of God’. Is Jesus the ultimate Word of God or is the Bible?  Or when a minister is preaching the Word what does that mean? What do courses like ‘Handling the Word’ mean? Is it more important to know how to ‘handle’ Jesus or the Bible? Are they the same thing?

The first time I remember wondering about this sort of thing was at a youth work conference about 10yrs ago called ‘The Bible Centred Youth Worker’.
There was and still is something about that title that rankled with me because it seemed to be focusing on the wrong thing. In my mind it seemed to make much more sense for it to be called ‘The Christ Centred Youth Worker’ or something like that because it was all about Jesus.
Was the ultimate purpose of  a church youth worker to be ‘centred’ on Christ or on the Bible? Was my goal to get young people excited about the Bible or Jesus?

I got thinking about it a few weeks ago when picking up a book called ‘Discovering Biblical Equality’ in a 2nd hand book shop in Cork. I was excited to read it but something about the first line in the preface put me off:-

‘Discovering Biblical Equality is the result of a collaborative effort of evangelical scholars united here by two convictions: that the Bible is the fully inspired and authoritative Word of God..’

I am just not sure that I am on the same page when it comes to what I believe about the Bible.
Is Jesus the fully inspired and authoritative Word of God or is it the Bible? A hymn I’ve sung many times says:-

‘You’re the Word of God the Father, since before the world began’.

Is the Bible the same as Jesus? Could we sing that hymn about the Bible? It’s the interchangeability of the phrase that confuses me.

I was wondering again last night while flicking through a  PCI ‘What is a church member?’ leaflet. According to it:-

‘ Believers trust Jesus Christ with their lives. This involves believing truths about him and having a personal relationship with him. The Bible, which Christians believe is God’s Word…’

Well that is just it, I am not sure that I believe that The Bible is God’s Word – so does that mean that I’m not a Christian? I believe that Jesus is the Word but I’m not sure that I have to believe that the Bible is God’s Word to be a Christian.  Do I have to confess the Bible is Lord to be a Christian?
There seems to be a reverence and respect for the physical book of the Bible that goes above Christ. It seems to be more important to understand scripture than Jesus. There is that bit where Jesus tells the Jewish leaders:-

’39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

 

Another thing that I often wonder about is that verse that always got wheeled out in discussions about the Bible from Paul’s letter to Timothy:-
‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

The way that I see that verse is that Paul can only have been talking about the Old Testament as ‘all scripture’ as the 66 book of the bible didn’t exist.  So why was it always quoted at me as if Paul was referring the 66 books of the Bible? Should we not have heard a lot more sermons and talks on the Prophets for example if all scripture was God – breathed and Paul can only have been talking about the Old Testament?

 

 
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Batman broccoli,wok and work

I’ve been trying my hand at growing some new vegetables in the garden.
These choices have been based on a value for space ratings provided in Joy Larkcom’s excellent and informative ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’.

One of the vegetables that got a high rating was broccoli raab aka broccoli rabe aka rapini aka cime di rapa . The name ‘cime di rapa’ means ‘turnip tops’ in Italian. I planted about 0.5 sqm around  mid March and about 2 months later this is what I got, a sort of raggedy leaf with spindly shoots and florets…Image

Ideally I think that the plants are supposed to have more of a floret but as they where starting to flower it seemed like a good time to bring them in.

I’ve cooked it twice, once in a pasta and sausage dish and today with a beef stir-fry  It tasted good to me, like a sort of Batman broccoli, dark and broody, sort of bitter and complex.  I like it and will grow it again though it might be a bit heavy/bitter for some taste.

( broccoli raab = 430g)

For the stir fry I also took the 2nd cut of some stir fry greens after getting about 100g of young leaves for an oriental salad a few weeks ago.

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The main thing I couldn’t help noticing about the stir fry greens was how beautiful the leaves are to look at. It seems a shame to eat them.

(370g stir fry greens)

I was out watering the vegetable beds this morning at about 8am, it was so beautiful and peaceful, the closest I’ve had to a ‘quiet time’ in a long time.
Then my sense of peace and contentment is nagged by thinking that it’s all very well for me to watering plants at 8am but if I was a real man I wouldn’t have time for so much gardening, I’d be careering of to a job like my neighbours, I wouldn’t have time for faffing around with mizuna and broccoli raab or writing a blog.

So often I wrestle with God in the garden. It is an odd mixture of guilt and delight, pleasure and pain.  What is work? What is a job?

The questions comes thickest in the carrot bed. I’ve weeded that carrot bed so many times already, the weeds keep coming up.I’m aware of the threat of carrot flies. If I’m lucky for hours of work I’ll get 50 about carrots. I can buy a bag of  them up at Joyce’s for 39c.Is it worthwhile investing precious hours on growing something which has  a combined worth of about €4 according to Joyce’s?

They might be loss leaders or whatever but that nearly makes it worse. Carrots are being treated as a commodity or bait to encourage people to spend their money on other more worthy groceries and good.
In a world where our value and worth to society is  measured by the benchmark of money and the Market weeding a carrot bed for 50 carrots throws up questions, questions about what is worthwhile work or who gives value to work, what work should you be engaged in.
Are you crazy or is the world crazy?
Is this just a middle class privilege thing or is their work of true value in growing a turnip?
Turmoil in the turnip patch, serpent in the garden.

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sometimes I miss the blue hymnbook

I probably write the same things over and over again, like a bluebottle banging his head against the kitchen window and I’m not going to let that stop me doing it again.

Sometimes I just don’t know what is going on with my life, or more specifically with my church life, which can sometimes seem like my life.

Here I am living in a manse, in a pretty middle class area, married to a minister (a female minister), in a church that is mostly Methodist, where most if not all of the children are African-Irish, with lots of single parent families, and asylum seekers, and people from different parts of the world on the edge of an Irish speaking region, in a city that pulses continually with tourism and students and so on.
There is often a conversation going on in my head on whether all of this is great or terrible.
There is just too much coming at my senses sometimes, too much to get me thinking or reflecting or angry and frustrated.
Sometimes the frustration comes from just wanting everything to be in its place and organised and familiar, for people to be like a good old Presbyterian church of my past where you roll up and roll out no alarms and no surprises. It has happened recently that I’ve craved the grey suit and tie of my past, the efficiency of the soup lunch that has been served and cleaned up in under an hour, the same person sitting in the same pew for 40 yrs and no new faces, everyone living a few minutes away, the same old badly sung but familiar hymns from the blue hymnbook.

On the other hand it’s great because lots of my preconceptions about Christianity or the church are being challenged by the collision of cultures and by meeting people from around the world.
For instance my view of other churches and particularly the Roman Catholic church is being  gently prodded. I don’t remember meeting my first Catholic until I was about 10 yrs old. He was the neighbour beside where we briefly had a mushroom farm. He came over the fence with a football wearing a Celtic top and we briefly played football in a rushy field.
My next memory of meeting a Catholic was in the minibus going a cross community hike up a mountain organized by the RUC in 4th yr at school. All I remember is that despite being a Catholic she was cute. There was another cross community trip in lower 6th and a nun, Sister Rose was present. I was wary and kept my distance. So we’re up to 3 Roman Catholic experiences by 18. It was time to take things to the next level…

I briefly lived for a year with a bunch of Catholic in student halls at QUB, lads from Strabane and Derry. Yes, that is right. I actually lived with Catholics for about 9 months.
They took the piss out of me buying ‘The Daily Express’ (and rightly so) and asked searching questions like ‘Are you coming out with us tonight or are you going to hang out with your real friends?‘. By ‘real friends’ they meant the people I knew in halls from Christian Union, people like me and possible Christian snogs or links to snogs. Female snogs of course.

I escaped into a house with my real Christian friends in 2nd and 3rd year. Once a Roman Catholic girl in my chemistry class called Maria invited me into the Roman Catholic chaplaincy for a carol service or something. I am not sure if I even set foot inside the building such was my fear of the papists doing something to me. It was a no go area that large building on Elmwood Avenue. What happened beyond those doors was anyone’s guess but after reading Chick tract literature in my teens I was aware that it could only be badness.
Catholics where dodgy when it came to religion. About the same time an elderly man my mum did home help passed away and there was a discussion about how to go to the funeral in the chapel. I think my parents went but stood at the back of the chapel.
A ‘mixed marriage’ was something that was foreign to my experience.
Basically a Roman Catholic wasn’t really a Christian because they went to a false church and was a member of a false religion and a believer shouldn’t be yoked to a non-believer.
So I grew up with a deep rooted suspicion of Roman Catholicism that is almost part of my DNA and still flares up.

Yet that is being gently challenged. Nothing major has been said, no great event just watching for example the love of  some couples in ‘mixed’ marriages. Growing up in my evangelical Protestant circles with all the politics the impression was that these really where recipes for disaster, something bad or far from ideal. There are other things to challenge my thinking as well, but it’s not really the place to talk about them.It’s just good to be challenged.

One of the local ministers told us how he gets pissed off (not sure that those are his exact words mind..) about the missionaries,outreach types, church planters etc he encounters from time to time who say things like ‘We just want to bring Jesus to the west… ‘.
He gets annoyed because he is in charge of church which has been used since the 1300’s right in the centre of city. I probably thought the same last year. There where not many churches here, we could be missionaries to this city that needs a vibrant Christian witness.
Is this not an arrogant thing to think? That meant  for example I was discounting the large and active Roman Catholic church I can see from my bedroom window as being a church.  I walk past it multiple times in a week and rarely think of it as a church.
If I’m being honest I’m still not completely comfortable with saying it is. There are suspicions and issues and things that I think wrong.
But what makes a church or what doesn’t make a church? Why am I Presbyterian? What does it mean to be a Presbyterian here? Does it matter? Are you saying that your branch of Christianity is without its fault and heresies? And so on.

living

‘We have lost the testimony of a profound life, action which comes from the heart, which is the product of faith, and not of a myth, or of propaganda, or of Mammon! What matters is to live, and not to act.  In this world,this is a revolutionary attitude, for the world only desires (utilitarian) action, and has no desire for life at all. We cannot exaggerate the significance of the fact of being spiritually alive. We must cease to believe that life depends only on vitamins, hormones, and physical culture’

Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom

why bring an ad into this world?

kids

There was an advertisement on before Christmas that you may or may not have seen.

It used to appear a lot on Youtube just before the video of a juggling cat on a unicycle or some trampoline going off shopping in Asda or the footage of a referee in Brazil getting tickled to death by angry footballers with a baguette after a contentious disallowed goal.

I think it was for Unilever but can’t say for sure as I never actually watched it the whole way through. I hated it.

It starts with some of that  tinkly-emotional-scene-in-a- movie-piano then the words appear ‘Why Bring a Child into this World?’

I hate/d this ad because it assumes that it is an option for the people watching, like deciding whether to buy a new lawnmower or some other consumer product.
It shows little tact for the viewer watching the video who would love nothing more than to ‘bring a child into this world’ but for whatever reason can’t.

Perhaps the single lady watching in the cinema would love nothing more than to bring a child into this world but has never met the right guy, or perhaps circumstances just didn’t work out for the couple watching in the cinema.

Life isn’t that simple for people, things don’t work out sometimes like we like. Have a look at your Facebook friend list and see how many people might struggle , will struggle, have struggled.

Thinking of a family I know I count the numbers. 11 brothers and sisters, 2 unmarried and no kids, 2 married and no kids, 7 with kids and those numbers  aren’t going to change now.

Most people would agree babies and children are wonderful, beautiful, we love to journey with them growing up. I love my nephews and nieces, the kids in the church. We celebrate the joy of families. We love friends and family. We love children.

Still, what is it like to sit through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day in church when you’re not one? Or if you are single  and have always wanted a family and the church is having a Family Day? Baptisms? Singing lines in songs like –

‘How sweet to hold, a new born baby, and see the pride and joy he brings’

What if you can’t hold a new born baby? Shame and despair?

Or if you continually see pictures of happy mums, families with smiling babies on Facebook, scans? You want to journey with people and see kids growing up, new babies, etc but it might be sore for people, maybe for more people than we realise because it is hard to talk about, a taboo subject.

Part of the reason I left Facebook was that I didn’t feel particularly free to say something like this.  Despite Facebook saying that it has revolutionized our social interactions over the past 10yrs it is hard to say that you might be struggling with something whether it is depression or eating or gambling.

Again, this isn’t necessarily about me/us, more about ‘us’ in the larger sense – people for who to ‘bring a child into the world‘ is more than an advertising campaign but may be a struggle and hurt or complicated, an impossibility, or who knows?

Blogging with even a small degree of anonymity helps, even though most of you reading know who I am. If you are reading this and have kids, or are expecting a child I love you and your sprog or future sprogs. I hope you know that as well!

living with the tension

DSCN1743Over the years loads of my Christian friends have spoken of their desire to see real change in the world and communities, to dream of making it a better, fairer place. From healing divisions in Northern Ireland to campaigning about tax havens to climate change to human rights to homelessness to treating animals better to ____ there are things that push our buttons and make us want to fight against injustice and oppression. I recognise this side in myself as well, a belief that the older generations and other people just don’t get it, have failed and that it is up to me personally to ‘be the change that you want the world to be’. Maybe there is an air of arrogance that I can really change the world.

So I have been wondering a little about this quote from Hans Rookmaaker:-

‘The Christian’s task is not to change the world – wonderful as this would be if it led to better morals, better justice, better management of the world’s resources – but primarily to keep the world from decay and corruption, evil and suppression.
            The Christian lives in tension. On one hand, knowing that man is sinful, he does not expect a Utopia. He accepts the world as it is after the Fall,knowing that it is unnatural, subject to pain and death and crying out for removal of the curse. He knows that only Christ can bring renewal. On the other hand, the Christian can never merely accept this malfunctioning, this pain and suffering. He may never abandon his duty, but is called to follow Christ’s example, to relieve or fight the effects of evil. In this sense the Christian is a protester, but his is a protest in love. It takes wisdom and know when to accept the less than perfect, and when to press on for something better’

The Creative Gift, Hans Rookmaaker

Are we sometimes unrealistic in our dreams of changing the world?  Are we reluctant to accept the less than perfect?
Do we sometimes play down how deeply broken our human hearts are and think that things can be turned around if just do a, b or c?

Or  are Christians generally more guilty of not pressing on for something better?

Why Zidane headbutt Materazzi?

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Why am I always tired?
Why am I so tired?
Why am I always hungry?
Why am I always cold?

Why buy new?
Why Boxing Day?
Why be happy when you could be normal?
Why bring a child into this world?

Why Christmas?
Why can’t I sleep?
Why can’t we be friends?
Why can’t I get pregnant?

Why do we yawn?
Why do we dream?
Why do cats purr?
Why do we have Christmas trees?

Why England slept?
Why energy is needed to melt ice?
Why evolution is true?
Why eat?

Why Facebook is bad?
Why fish on Friday?
Why finance?
Why for the glory of Satan of course!

Why go to university?
Why get married?
Why Georgia lyrics?
Why Goldman Sachs?

Why House of Fraser?
Why have you applied for this position?
Why have JLS split up?
Why has Holly changed in Hollyoaks?

Why is the sky blue?
Why is the sea salty?
Why is Santa red?
Why is my period late?

Why Jailbreak Apple TV?
Why Jailbreak iphone?
Why JLS split?
Why JP Morgan?

Why KPMG?
Why kill brian?
Why Kun Aguero?
Why Kill Brian in Family Guy?

Why love matters?
Why live?
Why law?
Why lyrics?

Why men cheat?
Why men fall in love?
Why my kid is crying?
Why men pull away?


Why not?
Why not Edinburgh?
Why nations fail?
Why not associates?


Why Obamacare is bad?
Why Oxford?
Why outsource?
Why Orwell matters?

Why PWC?
Why people smoke?
Why poverty?
Why people cheat?
Why quit?
Why questions?
Why quotes?
Why qualitative research?

Why should we hire you?
Why so serious?
Why study law?
Why should we recycle?

Why the whales came?
Why thank you?
Why teach?
Why this kolaveri

Why UBS?
Why use alliteration?
Why Linux?
Why use a lens hood?

Why Vicky left Geordie shore?
Why volunteer?
Why vote?
Why vegan?

Why was Nelson Mandela imprisoned?
Why won’t my iphone charge?
Why was the Berlin wall built?
Why was JFK killed?

Why xbox one is better?
Why xmas?
Why xbox one is better than PS4
Why xbox one sucks?

Why you want to work for River Island?
Why you want to work for us?
Why heff to be mad?
Why you no?

Why zebras don’t get ulcers?
Why zoos are good?
Why zoos should be banned?

Why Zidane headbutt Materazzi?