His Road

Then learn to scorn the praise of men,

And learn to lose with God,

For Jesus won the world thro’ shame,

And beckons thee his road.

Frederick William Faber, ‘O blest is he who can divine’ (1814 – 1863), who knew that to be where Jesus is, to go where he has gone is more precious than anything else the world has to offer.

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10 More Things

1. The thrill of going fast on my bike

2. Salted caramel cookies

3. Friends who can make me laugh just by sending whatsapp messages

4. The smell of old books

5. Handel’s Messiah

6. The smell of laundry drying

7. The way Jesus is in Luke 7:36-50

8. The writings of Dorothy L. Sayers

9. Nice people at the National Trust

10. Laughter- chuckling, sniggering, giggling, snorting, guffawing… great words for a good thing.

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10 things

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1. Sunshine

2. The smell of the air in the morning

3. Tickets for a nice cinema that cost less than going to chain

4. Good, honest conversation with friends who are wise and kind

5. Functioning heating in my home

6. A family who love me, despite my failings

7. A family I love, despite their failings

8. Coffee

9. Cinnamon and almond rooibos tea

10. Sad Russian films that bring back memories and prompt thankfulness

 

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A Surprising Addiction

bannerI love Table Talk Radio.

Anyone who has listened to even one episode of this bizarre, persistently amateur yet strangely compelling radio show will know that it’s quite something to admit this publicly. But I am so hooked that I have lost all sense of social norms, and cannot help but confess that I laugh out loud in my empty house whilst listening to episodes.

Let me commend it to you. If you can see past the minor techincal flaws (background phone calls during recording are a semi-regular feature) and the somewhat niche jokes (I’ve learned when to laugh at mentions of ELCA / LCMS / WELS differences, despite never having stepped into a church of any of these denominations) it’s really quite good.

I’ll just re-iterate – I really do love Table Talk Radio!

Hosts Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller and Pastor Evan Goeglein test one another’s theological sharpness through a series of games and discussions. Yes – you read that correctly – it’s a theological radio gameshow. Specifically, a Lutheran theological gameshow. Probably the best one to be found on radio or podcast. Some of my favourite features include the Praise Song Cruncher, Name that Theologian, Which Ladder? and Bible Bee. Far from being stuffy / self-righteous / dry / boring / irrelevant / [insert your honest gut reaction here], this podcast is nourishing and thought-provoking and hilarious. Pastors Bryan and Evan speak, joke, quiz and question from the conviction that nothing is more capitvating, important, joyful or comforting than the good news of Jesus Christ. One of their explicit aims in the show is to cultivate discernment. I have been armed with good questions to ask of teaching I hear or songs I sing.

But I didn’t really mean this to become a review of the show. I just wanted to tell you enough to make you curious about it… go and listen! Persevere through the initial shock to the system, and you’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts!

 

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“Please will you do my job for me?”

C.S. Lewis offered the following pointer to aspiring writers. It is sound advice to all of us who desire to communicate well.

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

Found in Letters to Children.

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Life Together – Extras

life togetherFor Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs. ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’ (Eph. 5.14).

From Life Together  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1949.

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Life Together

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The death and the life of the Christian is not determined by his own resources; rather he finds both only in the Word that comes to him from the outside, in God’s Word to him. The Reformers expressed it this way: Our righteousness is an ‘alien righteousness’ a righteousness that comes from outside of us (extra nos). They were saying that the Christian is dependent on the Word of God spoken to him. He is pointed outward, to the Word that comes to him. The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to this Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek him and find his living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, a Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.

And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community. Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this ‘alien righteousness’. All we can say, therefore, is: the community of Christians springs solely from the biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis of the longing of Christians for one another.

From the chapter called ‘Community’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together, 1949.

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The Humanity of God

God’s divinity rightly understood includes his humanity. Where do we learn this? How is this statement justified and what indeed demands it? It is a Christological statement, or rather a statement based on and to be developed out of Christology. … One thing is certain, that in Jesus Christ, as we know him from the witness of Holy Scripture, we have not to do with humanity in the abstract… Nor, on the other hand, with God in the abstract… In Jesus Christ there is no barrier on the human side upwards nor one on God’s side downwards. Rather, what we have in him is the history, the dialogue, in which God and humanity meet and are together, the reality of the covenant concluded, kept and completed by them mutually. In his one person Jesus Christ is at once as true God humanity’s faithful partner, and as true human being God’s faithful partner, both the Lord abased to community with humanity, and the servant exalted to community with God, both as the Word spoken from out of the highest, most glorious Beyond, and the Word heard in the deepest, darkest Here and Now: both unconfined, but also undivided, wholly the One and wholly the Other. Thus, in this unity Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler between God and humanity. Thus, demanding and awakening faith, love and hope, he acts for God before humanity – and, representing, atoning, interceding, for humanity before God. Thus he attests and guarantees to God free human gratitude. Thus he establishes in his person God’s right vis-a-vis his humanity, but also humanity’s right before God. Thus he is in his person the covenant in its fullness, the close at hand Kingdom of Heaven, in which God speaks and humanity hears, God gives and humanity receives, God commands and humanity obeys. God’s glory shines in the highest – but also from the highest into the depths – and peace on earth eventuates among the people of his good pleasure. And just in this way, as this mediator and reconciler between God and humanity, Jesus Christ is for both revealer. Who and what God is in truth, and who and what humanity, we have not to explore and construct by roving freely far and near, but to read it where the truth about both dwells, in the fullness of their union, their covenant, that fullness which manifests itself in Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth, The Humanity of God, (1956) quoted in ‘Selected Writings of Karl Barth: Theologian of Freedom’, ed. Clifford Green, 1989, p.52-53.

 

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What’s the value of the Old Testament?

creake.jpgI’ve been wondering recently about the importance of the Old Testament. I think it’s become quite popular to harp on about how all of Scripture speaks of Jesus, and so we should teach and preach the whole Bible. I don’t disagree – I just wonder what everyone means by that.

Because there’s more than one way of understanding an Old  Testament passage. Do we attempt to read the text understanding what would’ve been understood at the time? Do we make allowances for the later revelation we have in the New Testament? Do we look to the New Testament to interpret the Old for us? Do we expect the Old Testament to be a shadow of what only the New Testament fully reveals?

Given that the Old Testament comprises around three quarters of the Bible, finding answers to these questions seems worthwhile!

But something I’ve noticed – and I’ll admit, am often frustrated by – is a lack of interest and clarity in understanding and teaching the message of the Old Testament. Which begs the question ‘Do we really believe that the Old Testament speaks of Jesus?’

I’ve been told that ‘Of course, the Old Testament saints didn’t understand the gospel hope of resurrection’ (which seems surprising when you read passages like Job 19, or about the Sons of Korah, or Isaiah 26 or Daniel or Jonah…) and that many of the Old Testament prophets ‘spoke better than they knew’…

Where has this bizarre, chronological snobbery come from? Hebrews 11 describes faith as ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ This cannot mean that the Old Testament saints, heroes of the faith, were clueless about what lay ahead of them! They had ‘things’ to hope for, with assurance! They had conviction of vague shadowy, meaningless-at-the-time ideas… No! They had conviction of things not seen, not things utterly beyond their ability to comprehend or know. Let’s allow the Old Testament to speak for itself. When the LORD himself spoke to His people to give them promises and pictures to hold on to, until the day would come when all these hopes would be fulfilled, let’s start by assuming He spoke with clarity and sufficiency. If there’s shadows and confusion, let’s be humble enough to assume that this begin with us.

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On Mozart & Creation

Karl Barth (1886-1968) was known to start each day listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In writing about the influence and importance of the man’s music, particularly in light of the tragic historical events that loomed large in Mozart’s day, he noted that

…In face of the problem of theodicy, Mozart had the peace of God that far transcends all the critical or speculative reason that praises and reproves. This problem lay behind him. Why then concern himself with it? He had heard, and causes those who have ears to hear, even today, what we shall not see until the end of time – the whole context of providence. As though in the light of this end, he heard the harmony of creation to which the shadow also belongs but in which the shadow is not darkness, deficiency is not defeat, sadness cannot become despair, trouble cannot degenerate into tragedy and infinite melancholy is not ultimately forced to claim undisputed sway. Thus the cheerfulness in this harmony is not without its limits. But the light shines all the more brightly because it breaks forth from the shadow. The sweetness is also bitter and cannot therefore cloy. Life does not fear death but knows it well.

Doctrine of Creation, Church Dogmatics: III/3; p.298.

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