Category Archives: Easter

April Fool’s Jesus? | Psephizo

As it’s April Fool’s Day , I guess some have tried a joke on others, or fallen for one.

Here Ian Paul presents Jesus as an April fool from God as Jesus and all he stands for is so contrary to everything else.

Or as Paul says, “The foolishness of god is wiser than human wisdom”.

The life of Brian never quite got it either!!

Source: What sort of fool is this Jesus? | Psephizo

Meeting the empty tomb and the risen Jesus in John 20 | Psephizo

A good blog on John’s account of the resurrection with Mary in the garden outside the tomb.

Dare one say, she and others were stumbling to faith in the Risen Christ

Reblogged from Ian Paul’s excelelnt and infinite blogs

Source: Meeting the empty tomb and the risen Jesus in John 20 | Psephizo

Easter hilarity on Cov-19 memes and articles

Lots of memes and articles took the easter story and placed it wittily in a Covid-19 scenario. I suppose some won’t find it funny but balck humour is essential in difficult times

Pilate didn’t wash his hands enough.

https://babylonbee.com/news/scholars-now-agree-pontius-pilate-didnt-wash-his-hands-for-20-seconds-bears-some-responsibility-for-jesus-crucifixion?fbclid=IwAR2K1SCxQQw4q02f-2MnCGwzmhYUg2YYLx05alHm6roE66wOVbuPH_Tqx4E

 

On Easter Day Mary broke the two metre rule for distancing.

Now you must keep at least two metres apart

Image may contain: 2 people, possible text that says 'Is that 2 metres, Mary? I think not.'

Lot’s on the breaking of Easter Day lockdown.

 

Jesus arrested for leaving his tomb during lockdown

 

https://newsthump.com/2020/04/12/jesus-arrested-after-emerging-from-his-tomb-during-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR1pWNb8f7Zn7MeWZp5AudxbWKOlqU5cfWVLPR2yN6GCLRpl8BgcZKXWPG0

The Roman soldiers got narked.

 

https://babylonbee.com/news/roman-authorities-investigating-jesus-for-violating-stay-in-tomb-order?fbclid=IwAR0UC0u1FQOi7pDDyfh2BbiOrh-ZzCjOsBrv01uWjuD_2ftqpV_fSyJWrTQ

The police were too late to keep Jesus in lockdown

He is not here, he is risen.

 

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

 

What if the cops arrived before dawn?

No photo description available.

Now and not yet

 

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing, possible text that says '...NOT THIS YEAR SON YA GOTTA STAY IN... -'

 

 

Destroying the faith of millions

https://babylonbee.com/news/millions-worldwide-cling-faith-jesuss-resurrection-elaborate-hoax?fbclid=IwAR1okq_L9SFXbfpw-kPRxbaXhJ5g44sDqRLwGq87R0kInDDBCfTG7cgtbCA

 

 

more topical . The silly faith of some Christians who have magical view of god, and thus reject all science.

 

No photo description available.

All this should make all laugh.

But be more serious and think of the meaning of good Friday and Easter

We needed it yesterday, we need it today and we need it tomorrow.

COVID-19,Good Friday and the Death of Christ.

Why did a loving God allow the Coronavirus?

Is this actually true?

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

 

cor1

 

Little did we think when we heard the reports from China in January 2020 that within two months virtually the whole world would be in lock-down. I shall not deal with all the medical and scientific issues. But what about issues raised for Christians?

How should a Christian think about such a pandemic? Yes, there have been many in the course of history and the worst in Britain and other countries was the Black Death in the 14th century.

A pandemic raises such questions like;

Why did God allow it?

How can God be good?

Which are all variants trying to understand the WHY of suffering.

Most attempts consider what is called Natural Evil and for long I have wondered whether that is both a misnomer and misunderstands the nature of the universe, or the way the world is. One who has taken it head on is Justin Brierly of Premier Christian Radio in a recent blog. I think his alternative understandings are most unsatisfactory.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-doesn-t-God-stop-Coronavirus-and-mend-the-world?fbclid=IwAR3GbGZtQthH_e0F9pbOlvXgojbbrE3h-W8lXRb7TP6BJWRVk0MuR5r3tQ8

The question of God and suffering is one of the oldest questions ever asked and there are no easy answers. Most often the response needed for those who are walking through suffering is our love and care, not our clever theology and philosophy. However, when the time comes for intellectual answers, I believe there are some helpful way to make sense of suffering.

Justin is right on here. There are no easy answers and I wonder if there is ananswer. He is right to say those suffering need love not theology, clever or not. Some are most unclever. As he continues Justin offers some theology, which is focussed on Romans 8 vs 19ff.

The Groaning of Creation

But when it comes to Coronavirus we may be tempted to ask: Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world? This question can only be answered by a Christian from within his or her own worldview, and means we must expand our perspective to a cosmic scale.

This is the Fundamental question which is almost impossible to answer – I keep failing on it.

 

Out of Kilter?

The apostle Paul states that “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). The Christian story is that the whole created order is in some sense ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level. Some theologians trace this to human rebellion – an outworking of ‘the fall’ which acts both forwards and backwards in time. Others point to the existence of an earlier rebellion in the angelic realm that sparked a ‘cosmic fall’ (hinted at in Revelation 12:9).

This is dangerous pinning a certain idea on a few verses, especially as they have long been open to different understandings. There are questions on the translation here, but I’ll leave that. What does it means for the whole creation to be groaning?

Is Creation out of kilter?

Is it actually true that creation is ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level.”? Here he seeks to answer

Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world?

Justin does not consider that fact that death and natural disaster i.e volcanoes, earthquakes and floods, were there from the beginning of this planet’s history. Further, if he is right that the creation is “out of kilter”, when was the creation knocked out of kilter? We need to ask

 “When?”

“in what ways “

 “and in what ways was it out of kilter a billion years ago, when there were no humans?”

I never had a sense the created order is “out of kilter” whether in my geological work or as I look around me or when I cycle or walk in the countryside. That is not to say humans are not trying to put creation out of kilter, but that is totally different

What Justin is claiming that a Fall, whether of humans in the Garden of Eden or of an angelic Fall, has put the whole cosmos out of kilter. This is not what either Genesis 3 or Rev 12 vs9 state. It is reading into it. It probably has more to do with Milton’s Paradise Lost than the Bible.

I am fully aware that many theologians have argued for one or the other to get God off the hook for suffering, but succeed in attaching God more firmly to the hook, and making Him an ogre. To afflict the cosmos with a Curse because of the misdemeanours of Adam and Eve seems cruel to everyone and everything else.

He claims; “Whatever the origin, the result is a world that is not as it should be.” I have to ask in what ways is the world not as it should be.

If you mean the physical world, nothing has changed in geological time. The physical laws have not changed. Volcanoes are still erupting four billion years on. Yes, I’ve looked at volcanic rocks one or two billion years old. Viruses also keep attaching themselves to other living things as they did billions of years ago, and at times kill their hosts.

However human behaviour is totally out of kilter and often damages the natural world. I suspect the Coronavirus would have stayed in bats if humans had not mistreated them.

 Yet Paul includes the promise that one day “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

What does Justin glean from this?

Everybody has experienced living in the tension of this broken world. The groaning of creation brings both good and bad across our path. The natural laws that operate are both a blessing and a curse. Tectonic plate activity renews the surface of the earth with minerals, yet wreaks havoc when humans build cities on the fault lines. Cell replication allows our bodies to grow and develop, yet can result in cancer when natural processes misfire. Death is a necessary part of the cycle of life, yet still remains our “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Who says this is a broken world? It is as it has always been. The movement of tectonic plates is just normal and has been going on for billions of years, causing earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

Why does Justin not accept this?

The Coronavirus is just one more example of the broken world we live in. Life is a God-given miracle of extraordinary engineering and complexity. Yet the physical process of life itself are subject to viruses, parasites, and disease. The “bondage to decay” that St Paul speaks of reverberates through the cosmos.

This is rather high-flown with an appeal to the bondage of decay from Paul. It sounds impressive but what does it mean?

By creating a world of free creatures – both physical and spiritual – God has granted a level of freedom to the whole of the created order. That means that God won’t simply step in and wave a magic wand to take away the suffering in the world. We are part of the problem of evil, and God has chosen us to be part of the solution too.

Where does Justin think the other part of the problem of evil comes from?

Throughout the New Testament we are presented with a worldview of spiritual warfare in which God has chosen his people to be fellow combatants waging a war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual “principalities [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12) through our prayer, love and action.

How on earth (literally) does Justin see spiritual warfare in plate tectonics?

God hates Coronavirus

I have increasingly seen that this ‘warfare’ view of reality may help those who have experienced great suffering to understand that God is not the author of their pain. One such person is Jessica Kelley, whom I interviewed about the loss of her four-year-old son Henry to brain cancer as related in her book Lord Willing?.  …….Jessica had come to reject what she terms the ‘blueprint’ view of a God who creates pain and suffering as part of his sovereign plan. Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Although the war was decisively turned towards victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus, there still remains a world of running spiritual battles.  …….. Henry was a casualty in the ongoing battle to redeem a fallen and broken world:……………..

Jessica’s perspective can equally be turned to this present Coronavirus pandemic. God did not will this crisis. Let’s not lay the blame at his door. But he is working through the actions and prayers of those who are seeking to see his Kingdom come on earth.

It is hard to comment on this owing to Jessica’s tragic loss of a child, which I have not had to go through, but to argue “Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God.” It is very dubious to tie up what he calls natural disasters i.e. volcanoes etc with spiritual warfare..

Are volcanoes, earthquakes, floods caused by spiritual forces in rebellion against God” There is nothing in the bible to support that and is very Manichaean.

Alternative views

Nevertheless, Jessica’s view is controversial to some. Many would object that a God who isn’t in control of the whole show isn’t the God of the Bible.

Why should we ever believe that God is control down to the last detail? It sounds great but it is not true to experience, though many of us experience a general guidance at times, but not at others. Did God really was in control when you twisted your ankle while out on a walk?

Some e.g. Thomas Oard rightly argue that God does not “interfere with and control” his creation, as in his book The Uncontrolling love of God. He extends the idea from Phillipians 2 of Jesus Christ emptying himself to God emptying himself in creation and often letting things be.

 Calvinist theologians believe that God is the author of both joy and sorrow and, even though we may struggle to see it, works through both for his ultimate purposes and glory. They say the warfare view contains too much of the same sort of randomness in suffering that the atheist must contend with. 

For me, I end up with a certain agnosticism in respect of God’s control but the warfare view is both Manichean and tries to divide creation into good (flowers etc) and evil (volcanoes) and makes Christians see everything as warfare and conflict.

Inevitably, different Christians will come to different understandings of how to reconcile God and suffering. What we can agree on is that God is good, suffering is bad, but that his love and purposes will win out in the end.

Yes, but that does not mean we should tolerate what can only be called extreme views – as is the warfare view, or that popular view of the Curse. What we need to agree on is that God is good, even when things are going badly and don’t make sense. That is found in Romans 8 especially the conclusion

Justin states;

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

This is simply not biblical. Just considering the Bible, there is nothing to support “a broken and rebellious Creation”. It is a variation of the Curse mythology which reckons God screwed up a supposedly “perfect “ creation because of Adam and Eve. The Christian Story IS of a broken humanity who are also stuffing up the rest of creation, but only on this planet but not beyond the Solar System, if that. In what ways are meteors, distant stars and planets “broken and rebellious”? Or even birds and bees and even bats and pangolins? Or, dare I say, viruses? The story starts there with humans stuffing up the earth and culminates with Jesus Christ who “unscrews” humanity and reconciles them (2 Cor 5)

If, and a big if, Justin’s is the Christian story then I wholeheartedly reject it as fanciful and absurd. Further it is not the Christian story held by all Christians over the last 2000 years.

The Christian story in its basics is that humans screwed things up and Jesus thorugh his death and resurrection has shown the way to unscrew it. Forget about warfare with volcanoes, or animal predation.

 How should we see God in the light of the coronavirus?

Above all it is wrong to focus on death and suffering as due to Adam’s misdeeds, and neither of Justin’s alternatives make sense. This is the danger of a self-contained biblical argument and not looking at what we know of the world. Any world view which disregards the science is worthless. If we applied that principle to astronomy we would believe in a flat earth and that seeds actually die before they germinate (1 Cor 15). We need to take note of science and especially the history of the earth and the life therein. Here it is in outline

The Universe was formed 13.4 by years ago with the big Bang (which was put forward by a Christian cosmologist Fr G Le Maitre)

The Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago and since then its surface has been sundered by plate tectonics. There seemed to be no involvement by naughty angels and it was too early for Adam to cause the eruptions.

Life first formed between 3 and 4 billion years ago. The earliest forms were like bacteria with viruses going piggy-back. Thus from then on bacteria were dying and being infected by viruses. We then have the sequence of life and so to vertebrates, dinosaurs, mammals and lastly humans.

This makes it clear that death disease and suffering were there from the beginning and along with volcanoes. The earth is IN kilter.

So it continues today with volcanoes, earthquakes, animals and people dying.

Every so often the earth is hit with something like the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which some implied had a human origin, rather than being natural. Some want to regard the bits which are painful as Natural Evil. That is a wrong term as those things are simply – – – NATURAL.

Can you call this evil – natural or not? It is simply life and the way the world is .Any belief system or worldview which does not accept this is flying in the face of facts.

Here we come face to face with problem of suffering, which comes out so starkly in Covid-19. All living things die, often after getting a disease. Even the fossil record shows that. At times it is accompanied with great pain. It is a problem because it is downright ghastly and we feel it should not be that way We try to rationalise it and often by one of the three put forward by Justin. We are unwilling to say it’s purely natural and believers don’t want to say God did it.

It is a dilemma, which we all seek to resolve. Not all find a resolution which supports faith and many conclude that God cannot allow the suffering and if He did then He must be the Devil. This alone should stop us from coming out with slick answers, which may help us but repel others.

Suffering was a great problem for Charles Darwin as I discuss here

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/parasitic-wasps-and-the-death-of-jesus-with-hat-tip-to-darwin/

What should we say as Christians?

Here we turn to the Christian story – the four gospels, which are odd as they give so much on Jesus’s last week on earth, describing in his public execution in gruesome detail.

As Jesus he died, he shrieked;

Eloi eloi, lama sabachthani!

My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?

There was Jesus, the Son of God, suffering an excruciating death. Imagine those fat, rusty nails hammered through your wrist and ankles. Then being suspended making it almost impossible to breath along with the nails tearing your flesh and broken bone.

The centre of the Christian Faith is on the ghastly death of Jesus and his surprising resurrection. Traditionally Christian have viewed the death of Jesus being purely an atonement without considering that in death Jesus shared human suffering.

Is this an answer?

Yes and no

It is not a simplistic answer.

The Old Testament doesn’t give an answer, but a poem/saga about suffering – the book of Job. Job had suffered badly and all his advisors were useless and then he met God, who asked him if he was present at creation (Job 38 -41). Job realised he did not understand and then trusted God. We can do no more, as we don’t understand as suffering gives no logical explanation and there is no logical explanation for suffering. The message was “trust God”.

This where Moltmann’s insights in The Crucified God are so helpful, as we see that the cross is not only forgiveness and reconciliation but also God in Christ entering into all suffering and shrieking “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?” That is what we often do when suffering hits us. Suffering points to the cross.

That is as far as we can go. There is nothing wrong in saying our understanding is partial, but it is very wrong to think we have understood suffering.

This raises the question whether suffering can be called Natural Evil as it is not Evil but just Natural. Volcanoes are just the normal activity in the earth’s crust. OK, some suffering is caused by the evil of others, but that should never be called Natural Evil, but just Evil. It’s a bit tough if you are being eaten by lion, drowned in a tsunami, or suffering a disease, but this is the fabric of creation. For the record I put my foot four inches from a sleeping Cape Cobra!

Many Christians are unwilling to accept that suffering and “natural disaster” is written into the structure of the earth, and thus what some call “Natural Evil” is simply natural. Many perform theological contortions and bad exegesis to explain evil and suffering. The temptation is to explain it away by an appeal that suffering came in at the Curse when Adam fell, or some angelic fall, or spiritual warfare. I would argue that not only are they bad/heretical/false theology but are liable to have very bad pastoral effects.

First, it results in a Manichean dualism, where everything natural is split into good and bad. An amusing example of this is that when we were in Yellowstone National Park, some visitors asked Rangers why they didn’t remove the bad animals – presumably grizzlies and wolves!! It is unfortunate if your hiker’s bear bell is found in grizzly scat, but that is not because that grizzly is bad. It is unnerving to hike in Yellowstone. This negativity spreads to those who want to kill every “bad critter”, especially insects. So the insect spray is always handy. Why zap every wasp and squish every beetle?

Secondly, this can have disastrous results on the environment as we purge it of everything bad from dandelions (weeds) to daddy long legs.

Thirdly, it can easily create a judgmentalism with a tendency to regard suffering and illness as the penalty of sin. An example is a minister I knew telling the parents of a boy suffering from cancer, that someone had sinned in the family. And then most clergy often heard people who are ill or suffering asking, “Why is God punishing me?”

It is understandable why some may think these things, but that does not make them right. Just think that menstruation was once called the Curse.

What about the Coronavirus?

As said earlier, viruses are part of the natural order and have existed as long as life itself. They cause a vast number of serious diseases in plants, animals and humans. Though they are not evil in a moral sense, they cause disease to all forms of life. Simply considering humans they cause an immense amount of suffering and death.

However the damage viruses cause is often made worse by human behaviour whether innocent, reckless or due to a lack of care for the natural world. It seems likely this coronavirus entered humans from a bat in a live animal market in China. That trade is perverse and criminally evil to animals. It also provides the right conditions for viruses to jump species.

cor2

 

Thus, we can say that the coronavirus is a mixture of the natural and human evil. Were it not for the latter – both the live animal market and the cover –up – we may never have heard of it.

The wildlife trade is repulsive. Ultimately we have say that it and other ways of trashing the environment are immor and evil.  The coronavirus is just one of many examples. If we hold to an Adamic or Angelic Fall, or “spiritual Warfare” we are in danger of not recognising the human sin behind it. It removes the responsibility away from those who caused it – and that includes all of us who mistreat God’s creation in any way.

Now my answer is not definite or clear-cut as it starts from the fact that volcanoes, suffering and death are totally natural and written into all creation, without a malevolent being, human or spiritual, causing them. And most definitely not a God after the Fall.

This, and the need to look after the environment in myriad ways, deals with the more general aspects, but suffering is on a personal level we must go beyond that. We need effective action not explanations. To do this involves risk and sacrifice, which we see in those who are on the frontline in the health services and other vital services today. We have seen some of them die of Covid-19.

No appeal to spiritual warfare or the Fall of Adam or angels is of any value here – except to give an attitude of spirituality superiority, which is neither Christian nor humanitarian. If Christianity is not humanitarian it is not Christian.

Suffering reduces us to a position of weakness and humility. This is a major theme of both the Old and New Testament, even though it is often sidelined in Christendom and revivalism, which prefers Christ as Lord and King rather than servant. It can be argued that the New Testament refers to Jesus as Lord and Saviour  to subvert the demand in the Roman Empire to see Caesar as Lord. How could an executed felon be Lord and Saviour?

So consider this felon. His teaching was a development of the prophetic side of the Old Testament Law with the emphasis on love of neighbour.  Apart from their worship of a different god to most Romans, this became their mark along with their keenness to care for the less fortunate. This put most expressively in the Letter to Diognetus (late 2nd cent?), “They share their food, but not their wives.” Holland discusses it in his chapter (V) on Charity in his book Dominion.

This love and service to others is self-emptying, or kenotic. It is hinted at in Isaiah with his suffering servant; Chap 42 vs 1-9, and Chap 52 vs13 to53 vs12, which forms the backcloth of the accounts of Jesus’ death.

Suffering is emptying. Paul develops that in his appeal to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2.vs5-8

4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Yes, I know I left out the resurrection, but my emphasis is on self-emptying love in action here.

His self-emptying is seen finally in the cross and comes out in his putting down of power hungry disciple Mark 10 vs 43-5

43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

As a result when early Christians after Constantine were not involved in politicking and re-inventing the trappings of the Roman Empire, were in the forefront of caring for those in need. This was manifest during the intermittent plagues and more continually in the foundations of hospices and places to care for the sick.

This is probably where the only “answer” to suffering can be found.

Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthani.

Electronic Communion by Extension at Easter

Passover and Holy Communion (2) – In My Words…

 

This Easter will be oddest since the first Easter in AD30. Christians will not be taking communion together, whether in a church building or a house. This will be the case in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and perhaps elsewhere.

And all due to something so tiny, which we cannot see and may or may not be living, although like bacteria they’ve been around for four billion years.

Thus most of us Christians will not be receiving communion on Easter Day, whether Anglican, Roman Catholic or any other denomination. In fact, we won’t even be worshipping together. For the Christian this will be a great loss, but could we actually receive communion in our own homes.

I note that many clergy have built an altar in their own homes and have live-streamed communion services with only the priest receiving the bread and wine. Many have done this, even if their skills on live-streaming, or whatever system they use, are not the highest. For that they deserve much respect as they are trying to bring the presence of Christ when there is a virtual lockdown. (If you see a priest not doing it very well remember Oscar Wilde’s adage ‘if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly’.) Being retired I am not in that position.

It is clear that clergy from the Archbishops downwards will be doing this and it seems the best solution at a very difficult time. There is no way we can have public worship and there have been several cases where people have caught coronavirus at worship and died. It would be a murderous folly to have public worship. The vital thing is for all to experiment and try to reach people with the good news of the resurrection through the internet without actually people coming together physically.

BUT MOST CHRISTIANS WILL NOT RECEIVE COMMUNION THIS EASTER.

What they will have is to able to watch a priest or bishop celebrate, take the bread and wine and partake “spiritually”, but not touch, handle and eat those creatures of bread and wine.

IS THIS RIGHT?

Is it the best solution at a difficult time?

Worship together is not possible and liable to be fatal.

The same with communion together.

BUT IS THE SOLUTION FOR ALL CHRISTIANS TO RECEIVE THE BREAD AND THE WINE SO DIFFICULT?

Instead of watching the priest celebrate and take the bread and wine and have a “spiritual Communion”, why shouldn’t the worshipper at home watch the clebration of communion with a small piece of bread and a tiny amount of wine and then consume both after the priest has consumed his?

I have now booked my place at the stake and I can hear many say;

YOU CAN’T DO THAT!

To which I respond;

WHY NOT?

After all we have communion by extension with the bread and wine consecrated on a previous occasion.

Further we are used to spiritual blessing being televised whether by the Pope, our Archbishops and in so many religious services or songs of Praise on TV.

If a blessing can “work” over the air waves/livestreaming/TV or whatever else, why cannot the bread and wine in a persons front room be consecrated?

Why is it necessary for the priest to “touch” the bread and wine? Non-conformists and evangelicals often do not. Does that make their communions invalid?

Does our understanding of consecration of the bread and wine preclude it, whether we look to RC teaching, Tridentine or Vatican II, views of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, and in an Anglican context, all those from the time of Thomas Cranmer down to the present day.

Does it affect how we consider the consecrated bread and wine? Whether Transubstantiation, Transignification, Consubstantiation, Real Presence or totally symbolic?

Why can’t consecration be effective over the electronic cloud? Is God himself limited by having to keep to First Century technology?

To illustrate this I am reminded of an amusing incident. Thirty years ago a woman deacon had a parish in rural Wales & had to drive 20 miles to get the bread/wine consecrated for communion by extension. Once they considered the faff and absurdity of it all and the priest said to her, “why not hold the wafers & wine by the phone & I’ll do it over the phone?” Why not, I ask? I always chuckle about that when I drive along that road.

I have asked a lot of questions on the theme of WHY NOT? Some responses I’ve had on twitter are simply NO. It seems I’ve touched a raw nerve.

But what better for Easter Day?

On TV in the mid-morning the Archbishop of Canterbury leads a typical Anglican Communion service in his chapel at Lambeth Palace. Beforehand viewers are told that if they wish to receive communion they should have with them a little bread and wine and receive them when the Archbishop says

The Body of Christ

The Blood of Christ.

Holy Communion - First Congregational Church in Bristol, Rhode Island

And several million take the bread and wine together.

(They could still be livestreamed communions from bishops and priests from their own homes.)

I would suggest that it would be very moving and a very strong Christian witness, as well as giving fantastic spiritual nourishment to Christians prevented from worship and those who have found this time very difficult. Would it really matter if not all were baptised and confirmed. I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t mind.

I cannot see any theological objection to this and would a fantastic opportunity of spiritually feeding so many people.

What could be better than that?

Obviously there would need to be some serious theological thinking AFTER Easter, but more important is feeding the flock THIS Easter.

Finally, I suppose there is a risk, but the church (and all aspects of society) move forward when they take a risk, when they think the gains outweigh the dangers.

Climbing this mountain was a risk, but a calculated one.

Image

I ought to say that is not me as when I went along that ledge I was totally on my own and a selfie was a risk too far

Why does a good God allow disasters?

Why does a good God allow disasters?

Whenever there is a major disaster the question arises for both believers and unbelievers, “Why would a good God allow this?” Some will ask it after the Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. And so it is raised after every earthquake and will be in the future after any similar event. However suffering is not limited to such big events as there is always death by disease, especially early death, lesser catastrophes which kill or maim a few people. (I think of a smaller earthquake in Uganda decades ago which killed a friend’s child.)

Image result for Cyclone Idai

In all of this is the cry “Why did God allow this?” or a dismissal is that there can be no God if this happens. Too often believers come out with trite answers which don’t help and at times are so hurtful as to be evil.  The worst case I know of is a vicar who (decades ago), told a family who had just lost a child through cancer, this was god’s punishment for sin. Words fail me.

Suffering is the hardest problem of all if you believe in God, as it is difficult to reconcile suffering with a loving God. Some extreme evangelicals claim that suffering came in as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden some 6000 years ago as after that God cursed the world with suffering, disease and death and introduced earthquakes and volcanoes. I am not jesting, but wish I were. This makes God an ogre. To put this rather flippantly Richard Dawkins says that it seems an unjust punishment for scrumping. He was right. Daft beliefs encourage atheism.

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So we what are we left with?  We live on a planet which has supported life for four billion years and all that time there has been life, suffering and death, with earthquakes, volcanoes and floods. It is a world which has suffering and death written into it and it is impossible to deny that this has been the case on planet earth for 4 billion years. Ultimately we can either say there is no God or believe in the love of God despite suffering. That is in fact the traditional Christian position. There are problems in believing in God, but then there are a lot of problems in being an atheistJ

I find I get help from appreciating the wonder of the creation but cannot begin to explain suffering. When considering suffering we need to think of Jesus’ death on the cross and his cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I also gain strength form the book of Job, which is a poem exploring suffering. Job was suffering without reason but all his advisors told him that God was punishing for wrong-doing. Job knew he hadn’t and finally we get to Job 38 where God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and asks Job if he was there at creation. In other words, we do not know God’s ways but we do know God’s son Jesus Christ.

 

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As we approach Good Friday and Easter we need to focus on Jesus himself. We will never have a full understanding about why Jesus died and rose again – if anyone thinks they have, then they clearly haven’t!

As we consider Good Friday we need to focus on our Lord’s suffering and death and that he both died for our forgiveness and entered into human suffering. In the words of the hymn Abide with me , “Hold thou thy cross before my closing /open eyes”. We then move to Easter Day when we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, conquering death and inaugurating the New Creation and so we will sing “Thine be the glory, risen Conquering Son.”.

I hope that this reflection is helpful to all readers as they go through Lent and come to Easter.

Was the Last Supper held in a pub?

Was the Last Supper held in a pub?

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Where did Jesus celebrate the last Supper?  The convention is in the Upper Room and one can visit a site in Jerusalem today. I will not comment on whether it is authentic, Though I have visited it and it felt right. At times talk of the Upper Room gets a bit detached from reality and reeks of sentimental spirituality, rather than the harsh concerns of the disciples and the shadow of the executioner hanging over the meal..

In recent years some have suggested that the church should meet in a pub as that is where the people are. However, I often find pubs empty in the evening, but that is not the point. People differ whether a church should meet in a pub, but what about Jesus celebrating the Last Supper in a pub?

I can imagine many responses from the offended to the flippant.

Why should I even suggest this? Well both Mark and Luke use the same word to describe the location of the Last Supper as in Luke 2 for the place where there was no room for the Holy Family. There is an inverse relationship about this. There was no room at our Lord’s Birth but there was room for his last meal before his execution. But were both local pubs?

So we need to look again at the accounts of the location of the Last Supper in the four gospels and also the pub of Luke chapter 2.

John gives no clue as to the location apart from being in Jerusalem by implication. Nor does he mention the taking of bread and wine. Matthew says more, but only that they found a place for the Passover in Jerusalem (Matt26 vs17ff). v brief

Mark and Luke are very similar right down to almost verbal equivalence.

Mark 14   12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

And Luke 22

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” 9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” 10 “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11 and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” ‘ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” 13 So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Now lots of Greek, but transliterated!

In Mark 14 vs 11  and Luke 22 vs11the word translated as “guest room” is kataluma. Then the disciples were shown “a large room upstairs”- anagaion , which gives us the appellation  The Upper Room”. Both of these words hardly appear in the New Testament

    kataluma guest room is only in Mk 14.14, Luke 2; 7, Lk 22;11

and anagaion – upstairs room in Mk 14;15, Lk 22;12

now did they go into a pub and then upstairs, or is anagaion = kataluma (both words almost hapaxlegoumena), so it is hard to find other usages.

The word kataluma is used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) to mean a guest room in I Sam 1:18, and I Sam 9 :22 – in other words NOT  a pub, and a lodging in Sirach 14 vs25. My shorter Liddel and Scott lexicon briefly says a lodging or inn.

So far, this is inconclusive but a fine scholar on the Near East background of the New Testament is Kenneth Bailey https://pres-outlook.org/2006/12/the-manger-and-the-inn-a-middle-eastern-view-of-the-birth-story-of-jesus/

After mentioning Luke and the “inn” he moves to the good Samaritan as the poorly traveller was left at an inn. Bailey wrote;

In the story of the Good Samaritan, the wounded man is clearly taken to a commercial establishment that provides shelter for strangers. However, Luke has the men arrive at a pandokheion (10:34), not a katalumaPandokheion is the common Greek word for an inn. Luke knows this word and uses it.

Hence pandokheion  is in contrast to kataluma.  In the examples in I Sam it is the main house, possibly Samuel’s. The Arndt-Gringrich lexicon points out that the word has survived in Arabic as an inn “where a traveller may find a night’s lodging”.

In the parable we have the inn-keeper pandochews in vs 35 adding to the contrast with kataluma.

So, if for Luke pandokheion means a commercial inn, what does he intend by the word kataluma? So why didn’t Luke use pandokheion rather than kataluma? This applies both to the Bethlehem story and the last supper.

Conclusion

If kataluma is INN in Luke 2 , then Jesus celebrated the Passover in a pub. But surely Luke should have used pandokheion both for the Last Supper and in Bethlehem. As he did not we can conclude that the good Samaritan was taken to a pub/inn to recuperate and it is reasonable to conclude Jesus did not celebrate the Passover in a pub but in a large upstairs room, which was the guestroom and there was also no inn or innkeeper but as the guestroom was occupied Jesus was born in the main part of the house.

The main downside of this conclusion is that there was no inn-keeper and his wife and so much of popular Christmas legend has been undermined. It also undermines woke understandings of Jesus’ birth, which rely on Mary and Joseph not finding lodging. As Joseph was “from Bethlehem” he’d had relatives in Bethlehem so it is more probable that he went to one of them and not an inn. It seems most likely that there was no room in the guest-room so they had to going in the main living space, where there was likely to be a manger.

 

But more importantly, it takes the text of the Bible more seriously and avoids any distractions from the Saviour Jesus Christ in the form of an unbiblical inn-keeper.

So Jesus was neither born in a pub or outhouse, nor did he celebrate the Last Supper in a pub.

I think this study and similar ones, make the whole story of Jesus more grounded in history than romance and I prefer a robust historical faith before a cosy romantic one.

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 
23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 
24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 
25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 
26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 
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Christ has died

Christ is risen

Christi will come again