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Archive for May, 2013

Polarities 2

May 30th, 2013
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Last week I said we will look at some of the polarities we all wrestle and which can create tension:

 A polarity is an ongoing problem with two correct answers that are interdependent.

 In our historical church culture we are used to thinking that there is only one correct answer, the one officially given by the leader, and any disagreement is wrong.

 Too often this leads to a line drawn in the sand mentality –which says you are either with us or against us.

 As we said last week there can be a dynamic tension which we learn to live with.

 In this sermon I want to look at examples of this. Not from the point of view of solving anything because in many cases that can be the problem. We want the dogmatic definitive answer to the question.

 The most important unity comes from the unity of the Spirit working in love. We can reflect on the on-going tension the early church had about what it mean to belong to the people of God as they struggled with what was required of Jews and Gentiles.

 Ultimately the Holy Spirit broke in and entered a full outsider, a Roman uncircumcised centurion of the occupying power, declaring he belonged. However, the tension remains throughout the book of Acts because there is a polarity of inclusion and exclusion. Some people belong and others don’t. How do we know?

 That in itself is a subject of its own.

 I will illustrate polarities with several examples.

 The nature of the resurrection.

 I remember years ago a lady had a book called the Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin. We were of course one of the listed cults along with JWs, Mormons and others with the SDAs in a grey area.

 Her father was a JW whom I met a few months later at her funeral. On her first visit she asked about what did Dr Martin meant when he wrote the WCG denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ – a core teaching of true Christianity.

 I was perplexed because the resurrection was absolutely central to my Chrsitian hope – in fact we pinned everything on it, without the idea of immortal souls going to heaven.

 Actually it was a classic example of polarities in action.

 Our polarity was on the spiritual change as we become transformed from human and deified into a spirit being like Christ. We emphasised scriptures like we will see him as he is, because we will be as he is or he will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

 The other polarity was emphasising that the man Jesus entered the tomb and the man Jesus was resurrected as a glorified human being.

 We have heard this emphasis in Cherith Fee Nordling using Luke’s very physical resurrection appearances. Gerrit Dawson spoke on this High Priest, the man Jesus Christ, who has never divested himself of our humanity – described as our man in heaven.

 Luke has Jesus suddenly appearing in a room, obviously free from the limnitations of space and dimensationality, yet at the same time saying I an not a ghost, touch me, eat with me etc.

 The apostle Paul when faced with the mystery of the resurrection coins a phrase: spiritual body.

 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

 If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

 Our destiny is not to just be immortal human beings –like the movie Cacoon. We are participating in the divine life.

 I think you can see if we land the plane in a fixed position it would lead to an inadequate understanding.

 Remember Shoshana said:

 The only choice we have with a polarity is whether we’re going to manage that flow back and forth in a way that’s positive and life-enhancing or whether we’re going to flow back and forth in a way that’s negative and uncomfortable.

 So at one time we will see an emphasis that in one sense –this is quite strong in orthodoxy – we become deified as created little gods (divinization) beyond anyyhing we can imagine. And then at another time we emphasise that we are still human beings made in the image of God who are always worshipping creatures with a renewed earth as our home base.

 When Cherith emphasised her femaleness in the context of the resurrection you can see whayt she was emphasising. A greater continuity with our present rather than a radical discontinuity.

 This is also true when we read the last two chapter s of the book of Revelation. It has the same tension. Our future existence is so beautiful and beyond this present existence, and so intimate with God, face to face, yet described in a very human way with a delight in the physical creation.

 When Paul emphasises that we only know in part, and that it is more than we can imagine, he is emphasising the glory we will share with Christ.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Sermon Polarities 1

May 25th, 2013
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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jqd4-eemoAw Power of Polarities. Shoshana Boyd Gelfand:

A polarity is an ongoing problem with two correct answers that are interdependent.

Breathing consists of two interdependent actions – inhale and exhale. It’s like the goblet sketch. You can’t do both at the same time, but both are vital and necessary.

But watch what happens when we go through this slowly? We choose one pole and it feels good for a few seconds and then starts to feel uncomfortable which forces us to shift to the opposite pole which also feels good for a few seconds, and then becomes uncomfortable, which forces us to shift back once again.

This ongoing motion happens because breathing is an ongoing problem with two correct answers that are interdependent.

The only choice we have with a polarity is whether we’re going to manage that flow back and forth in a way that’s positive and life-enhancing or whether we’re going to flow back and forth in a way that’s negative and uncomfortable.

And I remember the first time I hit up against it full force. It was 1987 and I had just begun my studies to become a Rabbi.

The debate had been raging for years whether or not to ordain women as Rabbis.

Some said that Judaism needed to be responsive to the modern world where men and women are equal and if it didn’t it risked becoming out dated and irrelevant.

But there was another camp that worried that a female Rabbi was a contradiction in terms – an inauthentic expression of a tradition that was thousands of years old.

This group argued that continuity with the past was important and that ordaining woman would endanger Judaism’s authenticity.

Which group was right? Well, you can see as well as me, that it was just like the goblet sketch. One group saw the pink boxes and one group saw the blue. Both groups saw one aspect of a complex problem. Both groups had a valid fear that concerned them and a sincere value that they were holding onto.

Each group had difficulty shifting view point to see the perspective of the other, but that’s what was needed if my community was going to thrive. We would need to both pursue continuity and be responsive to change.

Well, in the end, a vote was taken, a decision was made, and here I stand a female Rabbi.

On the surface, it may look like change won, but with the polarity, if either side wins conclusively, the community loses, because it ends up in the downside of the pole that won.

Because I understand polarities I’ve spent my entire rabbinic career consciously embracing continuity with whatever part of tradition I can so as not to fall into the downside of change.

I may not have been successful in growing that traditional rabbinic beard but I am deeply committed both to maintaining an authentic continuation with the past and being responsive to the present. Because that’s the only way my community will thrive in the future.

The same rules that apply to breathing, to relationships and to organizational change apply to any of these polarities and many more.

But there’s one more that I want to look at with you today: because it’s so relevant to Jerusalem and also because I believe if we could just manage this one better it could change the world.

Here’s the problem: how can I maintain my identity as part of a particular group, with a particular set of beliefs, values and behaviour’s while also acknowledging my shared humanity with all people?

Each of us belongs to particular groups: national, cultural, religious, ethnic.

That’s the particular part of who we are and each of us is also part of something so much bigger than any one group can express on its own.

That’s the universal part of who we are.

Over-focusing on either one of these is dangerous. Let me explain.

I grew up in the deep south of the United States in a town where in many ways they were still fighting the civil war. I’ll never forget being cornered on the playground by a group of children who threatened to beat me up if they ever saw me hugging my black nanny again.

These children had been taught that their particular group – whites – were better that everyone else.

And that kind of particularism is dangerous.

But so is the downside of the universal pole. If we over-focus on our commonalities we lose our distinctiveness and we paper over that which makes each group unique and special.

It’s one of the dangers of globalization or communism.

They assume that we are all the same, but we’re not.

Read more…

Message for the Day

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News 23rd May, 2013

May 24th, 2013
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Christians under pressure in IRAN

 

Iran

22 May, It is reported that pressure on Protestant Christians in Iran has intensified over the past few months.
 

According to reports, churches conducting services in the Farsi language have been ordered by state authorities to either conduct services in Armenian language or face closure.

 

“The pressure has become unbearable, they [the authorities] constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even execution. We cannot go on like this.” said a local source in a media report.

 

In the latest incident, Robert Asserian, a pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Tehran, was arrested while conducting a prayer meeting.

Prayer points:

  • Pray that pastor Robert Asserian would be released soon;
  • Pray for God’s protection over all Christian leaders in the country;
  • Pray that church leaders would depend on the Holy Spirit to discern the appropriate response to the situation.

Calls for attacks on Christians made from mosque loudspeakers in Okara, PAKISTAN

 

Pakistan

20 MayAccording to reports, a Muslim political candidate for Okara district, Punjab has instigated calls for attacks on area Christian villages. The violence was incited via announcements made from mosque loudspeakers.

 

It is believed that the assembly seat candidate, Medh Abdul Sattar, called for attacks after his May 11 election defeat, for which he blamed the Christian constituents.

 

“Burn their homes to the ground … Punish them such that they forget Gojra and Joseph Colony,” rang mosque loudspeakers according to media sources.

 

Sattar was also sought by the police for the murder of a Christian during the 2008 election.

Prayer points:

  • Pray for protection over all Christians living in the Okara district;
  • Pray that Medh Abdul Sattar would stop inciting violence against Christians;

  • Pray for religious harmony in the Okara district.

Read more…

Church leader killed by militants in NIGERIA
 
Faye Pama Musa
Pastor Faye Pama Musa 
(WorldWatch Monitor)

16 May, It is reported that a Nigerian Church leader was shot and killed by Islamist militants in his home in Borno.

On 14 May, pastor Faye Pama Musa, the secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, was shot by 2 members of the Boko Haram. The incident occurred shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno and 2 other states following a series of deadly attacks by the Islamist militants.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, was responsible for the killing of at least 900 Christians in Nigeria in 2012.

Prayer points:

  • Pray for the family of Pastor Faye, that they would experience Jesus’ comforting presence during this time of grief;
  • Pray for God’s protection over Christians in Nigeria;
  • Pray that the violence in Nigeria would come to end;
  • Pray for Boko Haram militants, that they would experience a change in heart, repent and come to know the saving Grace of God.

Read more…

Prayers