Archives For New Year

This short clip is a good introduction to N.T Wright’s argument for a better understanding of the Jewish belief in the unity between body and soul. This is a position which asserts that the whole person is not just soul, spirit but is also body. We are not just immortal souls trapped in flesh, inside a world God will destroy. Rather we are unique, complete beings that along with the earth God wills to renew, as heaven meets earth in the current time of grace and the to-be-fulfilled physical reunion of Jesus Christ.

Of course there is a lot more to the discussion posited  by N.T Wright in his books ‘Surprised by Hope’ and ‘Creation, Power and Truth’. My attraction to Wright’s thinking here is the back-to-basics eschatological theology which seems to stream past the ‘heresies brought into Christian belief {surrounding this topic in particular} by philosophy’ (Tertullian, Prescription against Hereticsemphasis mine) – for example: Platonism.

There is great hope, joy and wonderment in revisiting this ancient Hebraic understanding that Christians rightly inherit – the mystery, the historical roots and the socio-political impact on the lives of the Jewish people all hold implications for Christians in contemporary society. The belief in the resurrection of the body lies at the foundation of Christianity and is a significant part of the New Testament testimony. We ignore it today, by labelling it as an obfuscated, abstract theology, at our peril.

‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with humanity, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away…I am making all things new’ (Rev.21:3-5, ESV)

This Tree

December 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

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This tree.

The trees which surround it.

Unique in its silence.

‘Planted by water’[i]

‘Finding strength’ after fire[ii]

Repeating hope by reflection through a forest darkened by embers.

Growing upwards in rescue.

Unhindered despite the appearance, moving towards ‘newness of life’[iii]

Ah.

This tree.

[i] Ps.1:3 [ii] Is.57:10 [iii]  Rom.6:5/Eph.4:17-32

In 2014 may hope find you.

May faith, humility and reason all guide you,

as God’s grace is found to be completely embracing you.

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Belonging Rom8_15_GVL_RL2013

This time of year is particularly difficult for those with family who are absent or who feel as though they don’t belong. Christmas can be seen as unfair, an unwelcome reminder of too much disappointment. The dreaded time of year when more salt is added to already aggravated, yet-to-heal wounds. When Christmas eve is spent ringing sometimes hostile and estranged family members to at least, albeit at a safe distance, meet and greet them in the hope that this year wounds will heal as prayers are answered.

Even in this reflection, I find that my longing to fit in where I think I belong is confronted by a new belonging, if it isn’t replaced by it completely. In the midst of this encounter I am reminded that I cannot remain absent in places where I have been given an invitation to be present.

This is because belonging when you don’t belong is a unique attribute of a Christian gathering, particularly pertinent at Christmas.

This idea lingers in the storylines of movies which narrate to us the wisdom that says our worth and identity exist outside of our possessions, work and social status. The music at this time of year reminds us of a homecoming even if the house or the family in it are not, or were not originally ours.

The gift of the gathering is to be recognised by those of us who encounter more sorrow than merriment during Christmas. Presuming that the gathering is an authentic gathering, we will discover, if we care to admit it, something special – unique. The bitter disappointment that enters your entire being; the taste of fallen Christmas’ past are slowly eroded by the loving merriment of those who were once strangers. An emptiness filled over time by people who consider your presence the most important present of all.

As time goes by, the echo of this response leaves memories that are generally filled with more Merry than “Meh-rry”. It is untidy at times and not perfect, but it is healthy, joyful and genuine.

Something, or rather someone who grasps us, even as we are gasping, trying to smile and not entertain thoughts about where ones own side of the extended family are this time of year.

Your heart may feel like it is being squeezed into your throat, but thankfully the sensation passes, even if the questions and contrasts increase the sense of inferiority and displacement. The pain of isolation and abandonment is not cancelled out or discounted by this strange, new belonging; rather it is answered by it.

This discovery uncovers lives grounded upon the reconciliation between God and humanity. We find ourselves in a different, strange and unique place of acceptance, a place where we belong even if we don’t truly think we do.

Out of the gathering we are reminded of the theological position that states, in Jesus the Christ we understand that our reconciliation with God happens through his movement towards us  – the answer to the paradox that we belong even though we don’t belong is exemplified by Paul Tillich’s imperative to ‘accept that you are accepted[i]’.

It may be only once a year, but in the gathering the melancholic and the introvert finds the gift of acceptance, the gift of being present, of being around people he or she doesn’t feel they even belong being around. It is then up to the melancholic and the introvert to respond. To accept that they are accepted if it is safe enough to do so.

This kind of gathering is a gift. The wonderful knowledge that being present is itself received as a gift.

This kind of belonging is driven by the acceptance of, and invitation to, those who don’t belong by those that do.

Men and women who may fail to understand the significance of your reticent manner, but still acknowledge that you’re being present is a worthwhile gift; a selfless offering made in spite of the pain, the brokenness and sorrow. In spite of the emptiness and the clear absence of anyone directly related to you.

This encounter with a new belonging cannot be purchased; neither does its impact dissolve into the atmosphere once the event has come to a close.

During Christmas and New Year, busyness and distraction are temptations too easily agreed to. However, agreeing to these only enable negative patterns of anxiety avoidance.

Alternatively accepting the invitation to gather lovingly confronts a soul-filled with sorrow by the gentle reminder that you will find less solace in the solitude of a glass of wine, than in a Christ led crowd of forty plus people who are genuinely pleased that you made the effort to show up. Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus as saying: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Mt. 18:20, ESV)

Perhaps this might coincide with Paul’s reminder to the Church in Rome, as a potential reminder to us that we:

‘did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, as sons (and daughters) by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Paul, Rom.8:15, ESV)


[i] Tillich, P. 1952 The Courage To Be Yale University Press p.164
[ii] Video: [Official] Linkin Park, Somewhere I Belong from the album Meteora available @ itunes