Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Hope Within Tragedy   Leave a comment


Image provide by suegraber.com

Image provide by suegraber.com

This past weekend, tragedy struck our community.  A car accident claimed the lives of two young adults in their early 20’s.  The accident also left physical and psychological injuries on the one young adult that survived.  During times such as these, there are so many questions and aspects of life can seem so senseless.  A whole community grieves.  A whole community feels a sense of loss.  A whole community wonders why.

The grief comes from the pain that is inflicted upon the families.  Families who we see on the streets on any given day.  Families who we have had some sort of connection with or have witnessed as children grow into adulthood.  While we never can understand their pain, we understand that life is now completely different for them.

We also grieve because we sense a loss.  Most obviously, we sense the loss of life.  However, I think that we also sense a loss of innocence.  Instead of hearing a sad news story on television or reading of an accident in the newspaper, the story becomes our own.  We know these individuals and we no longer can keep a distance that creates for us a feeling of innocence.  The innocence of youth also disappears when faced with this type of tragedy.  We know that the individual who survived will have to face each day with the knowledge that two friends did not survive the accident.

There are so many questions.  Why did it have to be on that road?  Why did it have to be that night?  Why didn’t they take a different road?  Why were two killed and one survived?  Why did anyone have to die?  Why did this happen to people who are so young?  Why?  WHy?  WHY? No matter how loud or long we scream the questions, the answers never seem to materialize.

Yet, in the midst of tragedy, we still are able to find hope.  The sun continued to rise and set.  The physical healing has begun.  One DID survive.  There is truly One that has the answers to all of our questions.  The One is the One who is in charge.  The One is the One who can bring healing.  The One is the One that was there on that night.  The One is the One who provided a life after this life.  The One is the One who cradled the injured.  The One is the One who welcomed the two home.  The One is the One who gave them all life in the first place.  The One is God.  Our hope is found in the One.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

(Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)

Wrong Perceptions   3 comments


Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning as I was getting ready to come to work, I heard a news story about the recent announcement regarding a piece of papyrus that had Coptic writing which had been translated.  It was on CBS This Morning (click on link to see the story).  As I watched the report, I became increasingly upset over the statements that the anchor and the reporter were making because I feel they had a totally wrong understand of the fundamentals of Christianity.  So I knew right away that I needed to post a response on my blog.

“has a message that could shake up Christianity” – Norah O’Donnell

First of all, the message that is contained in this section of the papyrus is not one that should shake up Christianity.  My faith is not based upon the marital status of Jesus.  Whether Jesus was married or not does not change one bit of his message to us, the manner in which he ministered, or the choice he made to die on a cross because of my sins.  God raising Jesus from the dead and therefore securing my resurrection does is not impacted by the message that may be contained in this piece of papyrus.

“It brings up the whole issue of marriage and what marriage means.” – Allen Pizzey

Again, I disagree.  Jesus’ marital status has no bearing on the definition of marriage.  Jesus being assumed single all of this years had no impact on the definition of marriage so why if there is a possible reference to Jesus having a wife would that lead to a re-examining of the definition of marriage.  While I can agree that there may be some discussion regarding the custom in the Roman Catholic Church where priests remain celibate, I do not see any change in the marriage definitions based on this discovery.

“For example, gay marriage, is that right or wrong?” – Allen Pizzey

It is just absurd that the discussions and debates regarding gay marriage will be impacted at all by this discovery.  Jesus was not identified as gay when he was assumed to be single and that will not change if it is determined that he had a wife.  The arguments that I listed above regarding the definition of marriage apply here as well.

Later a reference would be made regarding the way that this discovery would impact the fundamentals of the Christian faith.  I would argue that it would not impact the fundamentals in any way.  The fundamentals of the Christian faith is a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Our response to the message of love and compassion that Jesus spoke and demonstrated.  And our response to the reality of our redemption from the impact of sin on our lives and the lives of all God’s creation.  Jesus being married or single does not change any of that.

If Jesus was married, then I believe that it is just another demonstration of his message regarding love in relationships.  If Jesus was single, then I believe it is just a demonstration of living a very itinerate life-style and ministry.  Either status does not impact my faith nor the fundamentals of Christianity.  Therefore, I will watch the release of further study of this papyrus as a scholar with a curiosity but it will not shake my faith in any fashion.  Respectfully, I would say that the media is trying to create controversy where controversy does not exist.

One Bad Apple   Leave a comment


256 - One bad apple

256 - One bad apple (Photo credit: MrB-MMX)

The Osmond Brothers had a song hit number one in December of 1970, “One Bad Apple,” which contained the line, “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole darn bunch.”  This song came to my mind because of a conversation that I had yesterday.  During that conversation a good friend asked me why the Church does not do a better job of policing itself.  He was indicated that the extremists in the Church make it difficult for those on the edges to ever want to be part of it.

I explained to him that like any organization or group of humans, there are always those within the group that take a view that can be viewed as extreme in nature.  Just because those individuals exist does not mean that whole group is bad.  I also indicated that even if there are individuals whose theology and application of their faith do not fit with my theology and application of faith, I cannot just walk away from them.  I need to value you them as individuals even if I disagree with their views or actions.

I believe that my role is to live out my faith and share my views as I feel called to do.  By me providing an alternative to views that I may feel are extreme, I can show a different side of Christianity.  Then it is up to others to examine my approaches and determine if those align with what the Spirit is telling them or not.

I think that it is important for all of us to be very careful about generalizations.  The Lord did not generalize most of the time but instead took the time to get to know the individuals and build relationships with them.  I try to follow that as an approach with all individuals, even those who have views that I disagree with.

And remember….. “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole darn bunch.”

Beyond Rituals   6 comments


English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Ash Wednesday.  It is the day in the Christian calendar that marks the starting point of the 40 days of Lent (don’t count Sundays) that lead up to Easter.  This is a day that often confused me when I was growing up and the one day of the year that I wished my family were members of the Roman Catholic Church.  Let me explain a little about that last statement before I talk more about rituals.

In the small community in which I grew up, my family were members of the Presbyterian Church.  At that time, many Presbyterians did not lift up Lent and/or Ash Wednesday very much.  We did not attend worship on Ash Wednesday.  However, my classmates who were members of the Roman Catholic Church definitely did attend Mass on that day.  Mass was held during the school day and since the church was only a block away from the school, they would leave school, attend Mass, and then come back to school with something black smeared on their foreheads.  I never could figure out why there was something black smeared on their foreheads but no one wanted to look stupid so no one ever asked.  I was very jealous that they were able to leave school, even if it was to attend a church service.  So I was confused about this Holy Day that they called Ash Wednesday and on which they had something smeared on their forehead.  But I was also jealous.

Until I became an adult, that was my understanding of Ash Wednesday and the rituals in connection with the day.  After I graduated high school and attended a Roman Catholic college for my freshman year, I gained a much deeper understanding of Ash Wednesday.  I now know that the black that is smeared on people’s foreheads on this day is ash produced by the burning of palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.  I know that the purpose of this is to remind us of our mortality and sinfulness which Jesus would overcome in his death on a cross and his resurrection.  I know that Lent is a time for reflection on our need of Christ and to evaluate and strengthen our spiritual disciplines to enrich our relationship with God.  I know that as part of that reflection and strengthening of spiritual disciplines, some individuals choose to “give up” something for the period of Lent to increase their focus on the Lord.  I know all of these things but I still am haunted by the question. . . “WHY?”

In my years as a believer, I have experienced and learned many rituals in the Church.  I am capable of doing “High Church” as well as any other believer.  The issue that I have grown to have is that if a ritual is nothing more than that, why do we continue to do it.  This is not to question the value of any specific ritual.  Instead, I am questioning if the ritual has meaning for the individuals who are participating in it.  If the ritual does indeed have meaning, then continue to do it.  However, I would argue that if the ritual does not have meaning to the individual, a person has two options to consider.  The first option is to spend time researching and understanding the background and original purpose of the ritual.  If after doing the research the individual finds a new connection to the meaning and it benefits their connection with the Lord, then continue to do so.  The second option is to discontinue participating in the ritual.  In either case, it is the responsibility of the individual to seek  out meaning in what they are doing.

So as I, along with many others, observe tonight the rituals associated with Ash Wednesday, I encourage all of you to go beyond the rituals and find meaning.  It is in meaning that we can strengthen our relationship with the Lord.

Cannot Know For Certain   1 comment


500 mb geopotential height forecast by the Uni...

Image via Wikipedia

A long time ago, I came to the awareness that the more I learn, the more I realize that there is a lot more for me to learn.  I am sure that I am not alone in that awareness.  I find that when I study some subject or read about some topic, I find many aspects that I need to study more or read more about.  It attacks what I believe is part of our human nature…. the desire to “know it all”.  This quest is much along  the lines of Don Quixote that seems a bit foolish since there is truthfully no end to the quest. 

This week, and especially today, I have seen this situation played out in terms of weather.  There are many brilliant minds who have done a ton of research and gathered endless amounts of data in the area of weather, or meteorology.  There are many other brilliant individuals who have developed tools to use the research and data so that predictions can be made in regards to what type of weather will occur in a specific geographical area.  In my lifetime, we have gone from hearing a weather forecast that is three-days out to one that is now eight-days out.  We have seen an increase in the ability to warn of potential weather dangers.  But even with all this fantastic scientific research and a large increase in abilities, it still comes down to the reality that all a weather reporter can do is give us probabilities.  There is no absolute certainty to what they tell use.  I have travel plans this weekend and so have been watching the weather predictions very closely.  In a matter of days, even hours, all of the predictions have changed dramatically.  Past experience tells me that even those predictions may turn out to be inaccurate.

Weather forecasting is not the only area in life that uncertainty still exists even though a quest has been taken to increase knowledge and skills.  This truth can be seen in the areas of medical science, physics, space exploration, construction, farming, and yes, even theology.  In fact, the more that we proclaim to know about God, the more we discover we do not know about God.  Over the years when Christians have proclaimed certainty in what they find Scripture to say, we later discover that there is more and the more we discover, our understanding of God, relationships with God, relationships with  other humans, and what God wants us to do have all been altered.  So I, and other Christians, continue to study and to seek new understanding just as a scientist or physician or farmer or educator would.  Each new discovery gives me new insight into my Lord and into my living out my faith in my Lord.

So as a Christian, I am on a quest of discovery.  I am convinced that I will never know with certainty everything that I want to know.  This side of eternal glory, there will always be new revelations, new knowledge, new understandings.  The only certainty that I can declare without waiver is…..  The Lord loves me and desires to be in relationship with me for all of eternity.

Theology of Love – Part 4   Leave a comment


. Love .

I have spent the last few days sharing with you the thoughts behind the phrase theology of love.  This was a phrase that came up in a discussion that I had with a colleague last week.  So today I want to focus in on the word love.

The word love is probably one of the most overused words in the English language.  Because of this high amount of use, it seems that the word has a huge number of definitions and purposes.  The word is used in references toward individuals, romantic situations, objects, pasttimes, sports teams, and experiences.  So I think it is important to understand how this word fits into the phrase theology of love.

As I pointed out yesterday, theology is in reference to our understanding of God.  So it makes sense that whe love is used in this phrase, I am using it in regards to my understanding of God.  I also lifted up words from 1 John in yesterday’s post that defines who God is by the word love.  This concept of love is a very encompassing one.  As it is used in reference to the Lord, I understand it to be caring, accepting, receiving, giving, guiding, forgiving, empowering, encouraging, and supporting.  It creates feelings of safety, calm, strength, acceptance, and assurance.  The image of an oversized, cushioned chair comes to mind.

This type of love is a rare commodity in our world.  Many of expressions of love between individuals contain some elements of what I have described but usually not all and almost never consistently.  Yet, this is the love that is expressed throughout the revelations of God.  It is also the standard of love that Jesus has called all of us to:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”  (John 13:34-35 MSG)

So when I raise the phrase, theology of love, I believe it applies to our understanding of God and how God operates.  But I also believe it applies to how we are to live and to approach one another.

 

Posted August 4, 2011 by thoughtfulbeliever in Faith/Life Connections, Theology

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Theology of Love – Part 3   Leave a comment


Deus Caritas Est

Now that we have the words defined and we are at a similar starting point, it is time to talk about what this phrase theology of love means to me as a thoughtful believer.  As my colleague pointed out last week, 1 John 4:8b says, “because God is love” (NIV).  Trying to understand who God is, we find this phrase as the writer is telling the people that if we love, we know how God is.

I would challenge you to take a long look at the whole of Scripture.  We often say that through the Word God reveals God’s self to us.  Now this applies to both the inspired Word (Scripture) and the living Word (Jesus Christ).  If you look at the whole of the Word, I would argue that you cannot help yourself from coming to the conclusion that God is love.  God continues to demonstrate love for humanity and all creation in everything that God does.  The continuous attempts at reconciliation are acts of love.  The endless providing for and building up of humanity are acts of love.  The ultimate expression of love is found in the providing a Savior through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

This has huge implications for us as we interact with the Lord, with one another, and with the whole of creation.  If the starting point for our understanding of who God is is found in love.  Than anything that stands opposed to or speaks against love is against God.

Tomorrow, I will attempt to define this concept of love.

Please be sure to share your thoughts and comments regarding this and all posts.