Today was Chesterfield Pride and as with the last couple of years The Order of the Black Sheep had a service to celebrate pride before going to join in. The service was based on the following reading from Matthew 15.
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David,have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”And her daughter was healed at that moment.
This is a difficult reading and one that I would usually shy away from. It’s really difficult for us to hear of Jesus turning someone away – never mind calling her a dog. However maybe there is a reading that offers some redemption to this passage.
I really love that it is a woman that has the audacity to challenge Jesus in this way. A woman who dares to say this isn’t right, I have value.
There are two things that I dislike about this interaction the first is that it is said to have happened at all, but maybe there is a reason that this is recorded for us. The second is that when she challenges Jesus she asks for the crumbs from the floor – rather than to be included in the feast. Maybe the remark was more cutting than we are inclined to read it, maybe the whole interaction isn’t recorded and this is all that got captured, or maybe she was just so desperate that all she could find herself doing was to beg – even for the crumbs. In challenging Jesus she changes him and is given her right to be included, he tells her that she has great faith.
And what great faith LGBT+ people who are still part of a church that so often has denied us even the crumbs from the floor must have. A church that we have to challenge in order to change it and be included in the feast. These changes are slowly happening but we cannot stop challenging the Church in this way until we have full inclusion.
Likewise society does not just give LGBT+ people our rights but we have to challenge it so that it will change – starting at Stonewall. And Pride should continue in this tradition of challenging society, demanding not just for the scraps from the floor but for our place at the feast, where all belong.
This week will mark the 50th anniversary since the first step of decriminalising homosexuality in the UK, but we still have further to go both here and throughout the world. Pride should be a celebration of everything that we have achieved but it should also be a protests that continues to challenge society until all have been given thier rightful place at the table.
A friend shared this on Facebook. As I looked from left to right and came to rest on human and I couldn’t help but think “yeah that’s it”. The only identity that matters is that of being a human being and we should treat one another as so. We should be blind to these other identities that allow us to treat one another differently and purely see the human, the person, in front of us to treat all as equals. As I thought about our identity being reduced to same thing for everyone, I thought of Paul writing in Galatians:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
For Paul the Kingdom of God is about loosing these differences that divide us, that separate us from one another. As we bring and become the kingdom these identities are no longer important, we are able to be one in Christ. As we become a person of the kingdom of God we no longer see these worldly identities when dealing with people we see a brother, a sister, someone who matters and whom God loves.
If there is neither male nor female then how can there be a male or a female minister/priest/bishop there can only be a minister/priest/bishop whom God has called, their gender is immaterial. When we no longer see male or female but purely people to be loved how can there be right and wrong relationships, surely there are just relationships between human beings that love one another.
I am not saying that our identities as people are not important and shouldn’t be respected – because they are and should be. But I am saying that as we meet and interact with people if we are being Godly we only see a person whom God loves standing in front of us and not their worldly identities.
Lately I have noticed a problem with words particularly within Christianity. People don’t seem to understand the nuances of multifaceted words. For instance the words Evangelical and Catholic. I have noticed people criticising things because “I thought that was Catholic”. But what do they mean by this? Do they mean they think what is happening is from the Roman Catholic church, is it because it related to Catholic thought, is it part of Catholic ritual, or, perhaps they mean that it is part of Catholic spirituality. You can find two different people who call themselves Catholic, and hold fervently to that view who mean very different things by it and so to simply say that something is Catholic as a criticism cannot make sense, the nuance isn’t there to explain what the person means.
The word Evangelical is similar, people use it to mean many different things. And I have noticed that this, or, “I’m a Bible believing Christian” is added to arguments as if to add gravity to a point of view and secondly as if to suggest that any one who does not agree with that statement therefore isn’t a Bible believing Christian or is not evangelical. Like people who define themselves as Catholic you will find a wide variety of views within Evangelicals, it is not a word that allows you to make automatic assumptions about a group of people based on this description.
I have said for a long time that I do not hold the views that I hold in spite of the Bible (as some would suggest) but because of it. My understanding of it is just different. Some people’s understanding of taking the Bible seriously is to take the English translation of their choice literally. My understanding of taking the Bible seriously is to understand who is saying what and to whom, the cultural context that they are speaking within, the language that they are using and the nuanced meanings of the idioms, my version of taking the Bible seriously is one of study and then of application.
I had thought of using the terms “differently orthodox” or “differently Evangelical”. But ultimately I am a Bible believing Christian and, as such, can claim the title Evangelical.
I may just start prefixing any arguments that I make with “as a Bible believing Christian” or as “an Evangelical”, or perhaps I will just let my arguments stand or fall on their own rather then trying to support it with such titles. And please realise that when you see words such a Catholic or Evangelical that you cannot automatically assume to know what that group is like or what they believe, there is probably more deviation within these groups then there is between them.
Two Friars and a Fool is a blog aimed at stimulating the kind of theological discussion you may have with friend over a pint in the pub. A while ago they announced their #95tweets project which, over the weekend, was finally released on the Twitter public. Mirroring Luther’s 95 theses the friars aimed at stimulating discussion whilst demonstrating why they don’t think that belief in Hell is valid or fits with the Christian world view. They tweeted 95 Biblical, Theological or Ethical reasons to reject the belief in Eternal Conscious Torment, and I think they did a good job. Below are the tweets that I “favourited” over the weekend. Click here to see the whole list on the Two Friars and a Fool website, why not get involved in the discussion on their blog, using the #95tweets hash tag or @TwoFriars. I would also love to know people’s thoughts on this.
My 16 favourite tweets (with an explanation of the tweeting format from @TwoFriars):
These arguments are in 3 categories: Ethical (E), Theological (T) and Biblical (B) plus a number
So, for example, the first tweet will be Tweet E1, or tweet 1 in the Ethical category
#95Tweets#T3: Eternal Hell does nothing whatsoever to glorify God, unless the powerful torturing the weak is glorious
#95Tweets#T5: Eternal Hell renders God’s love meaningless – no definition of love could include allowing infinite torture
#95Tweets#B1: The overwhelming majority of Bible verses support some form of annihilation; more support universalism than eternal Hell
#95Tweets#B2: Gen 3:19: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, not dust to eternal conscious torment. Death, not eternity, is our default end
#95Tweets#B7: Hades, translated as “Hell”, is imported from Greek mythology, and is simply the realm of the dead, or the god of death
#95Tweets#B8: Hades, while still not Hell, is thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed at the climax of the book of Revelations
#95Tweets#E11: Fear of (eternal) punishment is the most brutal, crass and callous way to seek to encourage good
95Tweets#E12: Fear of punishment is not effective in encouraging good, it only prevents overt misdeeds while being watched
#95Tweets#T9: Eternal Hell renders God’s power meaningless, since God’s plan to restore all creation can be foiled by human sin
#95Tweets#E15: It is morally untenable to expect any person of conscience to enjoy Heaven knowing that others are in Hell
#95Tweets#T17: Eternal Hell is far beyond even the most evil we could visit upon our children – and are we not God’s children?
#95Tweets#T20: Eternal Hell ascribes infinitude, eternity and finality to pain, horror, despair and terror
#95Tweets#B26: Romans 6:23 Paul says the wages of sin is “death”, not “eternal conscious torment” – an important distinction
#95Tweets#B28: Galatians 6:7-8 – Paul is pretty clear that there is destruction or eternal life, not eternal conscious torment
#95Tweets#B29: Phil. 2:9-11 says every knee will bend and tongue confess, not that most knees and tongues will be tortured forever
#95Tweets#B30: Col 1:18-20 – God reconciles with all creation through Christ…or fails miserably to do so if eternal Hell exists
So what do you think?
Related post: Hell is a Selfish Motivator
Vocation and Sexuality
A reflection by a member of Young Inclusive Church
Although in many churches today a call to the priesthood and a homosexual orientation are not compatible, they both have similar attributes. The very nature of sexuality and vocation, when striped to the bare bones are the same, it is not something you choose and you cannot run from it.
A vocation to the priesthood, as said by those who feel a calling, does not go away until you have done something about it. You cannot run from God. Speaking as someone who feels called to the priesthood, it is an innate burning desire to follow the will of God and to use the gifts, given by God to you, for His will. No matter how far you run or what you do to hide, like Jonah, you cannot get away. This is a very similar story for sexuality. You cannot change your sexuality, if you are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or anything in between there is not much you can do about it. (Read the full piece here)
I found this piece on the Inclusive Church website really resonated with me. Whatever your view on homosexuality it doesn’t make sense to me that it can be a block put in place on the path to ministry. Those that I have talked to who have felt the call to ministry have all said the same thing – it doesn’t go away; no matter how hard you try to ignore it, do other things or even run in the other direction the call remains until you do something about it. And so if a homosexual person feels this call and God wishes to use them in this way, what right do we, as humans, have to stop this? It isn’t something that will just go away because the person is homosexual. It actually stuns me that it is so often the issue that comes up when you get into discussions about homosexuality “yeah but would you accept a homosexual pastor/vicar etc”. Or perhaps it is thought that a homosexual person isn’t actually able to receive such a calling – they are just confused as it is a privilege reserved for straight people?
Even if it is accepted and believed that homosexuality is wrong – God uses broken people; let’s face it he has very little choice. The Bible is a book of God using broken people; murderers, adulterers, deniers, prostitutes, liars, people who continually miss the message… and these people are described in ways such as “a man after God’s own heart”. The Christian story is one of God using broken people for good. If God places the call of ministry on someone then who are we to deny that? We shouldn’t be burdening people like James Morgan to “make a choice between vocation and sexuality; do you lie about your sexuality to become ordained or do you lie about your vocation so you can be who you are?”.
Then Jesus said “Why do you see the speck of dust in Mark Driscoll’s eye and ignore the plank in your own eye?”
I sent that as a Tweet Thursday evening. The thing is I am challenging myself. I am raising a question, rather then making a definitive point. I’m allowing that question to challenge me and realising the need for humility.
A related post I made is here: “Thank you God that I am not like the Pharisee“.
I’m not going to lie I’m no Driscoll fan, I think a lot of what he says is dangerous and damaging. But when I fall into judgment then I can claim to be no better.
There have, unsurprisingly, been many blog posts after the publication of his new book. Many that have appeared in my twitter timeline – and some that I have probably passed on myself too. But I began questioning it, questioning my motivation, questioning what I was putting effort into.
Something that has become increasingly apparent to me is the way that judgment and judging and forgiveness and forgiving come in pairs together in the Bible. Forgive others that the Father may forgive you. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us. Forgive as you have been forgiven. And (just before Jesus’ comments about dust and planks). “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Always coming in pairs. Following a pattern that is often found – the rhythm of in and out, like breathing. We breathe in that we may breath out. We pray in that we may act out. We forgive that we may be forgiven. We don’t judge that we won’t be judged.
“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. That’s the hard hitting line. I’ve come to the realisation that there is no way that I want to be judged by anyone by the standard that I use against Driscoll.
In the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee we learn that the point is humility. And with the question about dust and planks we see that it is about looking at ourselves and seeing where we get it wrong, rather then concentrating on others. And this, surely, can only lead to humility as we see our own monstrosity.
Rollins speaks about monstrosity. We often see the other as monstrous, we look at other people, other cultures, the things that other people do and see the monstrosity, but we fail to see our own. We fail to realise that if we were to look at ourselves through someone else’s eyes just how monstrous our own actions, beliefs and culture looks. You can read more into this here.
And I think that this is the point, it is about seeing our own monstrosity – our own failings, the things that we get wrong, rather then concentrating on others. The point is that we look at getting things right ourselves, over pointing out where others are getting it wrong.
And so this is my belated New Year’s resolution to try and focus on where I can do right, reduce my own wrong doing and focus less on others getting it wrong. I’m only human, I will fail at times! We get things wrong – that’s why we have grace! Which is really the whole point in this post.