Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another kind of sin

Job 38:1-7; 34-41
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

These were the lectionary readings for last Sunday. It speaks to me about the types of sin that we do not usually confess. Perhaps we don't because they do not fall in line with our understanding of sin.

Sin, to most, consists of actions, words, thoughts that are contrary to the nature and will of God. To be totally other to God's image is considered to be a place of fallenness. These passages do not speak of sin as being contrary to the image of God, but speaks of the places where we want to be like God too much.

Wanting to sit at His side.
James and John wanted to sit at his side. In other accounts it is their mother that puts forward this request. Sitting on the ruler's side meant a place of authority, a place where commands could be issued in the name of the "king" and to expect other subjects to obey on the weight of this authority. It is not surprising that Jesus responds with "You do not know what you are asking". Can anyone be in a place where they can speak on behalf of God, totally convinced that what they say or do is the absolute will of God? Extreme conservatives in the gay-debate are convinced that "God hates fags", while extreme liberals believe that "Jesus was a homo(sapiens)". It is a dangerous place, trying to speak on God's behalf. Perhaps this needs to be included in our prayers of confession, especially when our words cause unjust pain.

Wanting to tell God what to do.
In the story of Job, Job was frustrated with God and with life. "Why do the innocent suffer?" His frustration led to the point where he believed that he was able to see righteousness where God failed to do so. The natural response was to start telling God what to do and how to do it. A bit arrogant, we might think. So, in our arrogance, we pray that God must rid our society of crime, as if God stands idly by. We pray that God must heal gays and lesbians, as if God made a mistake and should form them in our (heterosexual) image. It raises a few questions. God responds to Job: "Who the hell do you think you are?" - paraphrase.

Wanting to be indespensible.
Perhaps God cannot do without me. Perhaps God would be stuck if I choose this career instead of that one, this spouse instead of that one. We have been caught up in the whole spin of predeterminism. Proving our loyalty to God through our actions, positions and status may be our way of holding on to the idea that if it weren't that way, the world would cease to exist. Guess what, God calls, we follow. See how this is written in Hebrews.

Some things to think about: My place before God, my place as a Christ-follower in society, my place as a person called by God to be a citizen of the Kingdom.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bluebull country

It's a beautiful day in Pretoria. The Jacarandas are in full bloom, the Bulls are in the final, our congregation's Men's Fellowship braai-ed boerewors and ate it with pap-en-smoor at 8 this morning, talking rugby.

What a lovely day. Good luck Cheetahs!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Exams again!

At the beginning of this year I enrolled for 4 second-year Psychology subjects: Research in Social Science, Child and Adolescent Development, Personality Theory and Counselling Skills. Tomorrow I start with a whole series of exams. Why am I updating my blog? Because I am avoiding the books a bit longer. (Studied the whole day and am now a bit "gatvol").

Please pray for me.

It has been 7 years since I last wrote exams. Having done a lot of post-grad work, writing assignments, journal articles, dissertations, a thesis and presenting papers at conferences, it is now quite akward having to "cram" again. It feels nice - it reminds me of my time at John Wesley College (probably the most enjoyed time of my life) and the history that went along with it.

If you are bored and disinterested with life, then try this: enroll for a few courses somewhere and get an adrenalin-rush that will open up new perspectives in your world. It did so for me.

Blessings to all.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Kingdom of God is at hand - the end of the church?

The more I read theologians like Barth, Moltmann, Hauerwas and the
Reformers, the more I become aware of the difference between the
institutional church and the movement of the Kingdom of God.

Christianity, represented through the institutional church, expressed
as a religion, is continuously challenged by the world, and I
believe, God, to be a bit more Christ-like. My friend, Peter Grassow,
recently posted a list of questions to the Christian church in South
Africa on one of our chatgroups, and to him I am grateful for nudging
me in this direction.

Karl Barth goes to great lengths to differentiate between "religion"
and "Faith" and does so specifically in Church Dogmatics Volume 1,
part 2. The discussion revolves around the doctrine of revelation and
asks whether Christianity is a religion of revelation or whether it
is a revelation of religion. I am not going to go into too much
detail here - go read it for yourself - but it seems as if the
Christian Church borders on being a religion of revelation, and at
the same time, believes itself to be the continuation of the full
revelation of God through Jesus Christ.

Now, this may sound very orthodox, but it poses a very clear
Christological- and we might add, a soteriological problem! The
Christological problem is found in that such an expression of
Christianity places too much emphasis on metaphysics and takes into
account the divinity of Christ at the expense of Jesus humanity. For
a more detailed explanation of how this takes place, wait for my
doctoral thesis due soon. Even the divinity of Christ in the teaching
of the church is distorted and the teaching itself may be
compromised by the fact that the church indirectly claims ownership
of the revelation in a way which is exclusive and self-centered.

There is a bit of an antinomianist in me, perhaps a rebel or a cynic,
but where institutional Christianity tries to use its structures,
discipline and claimed authority to work change in society, I cannot
help but feel that it is "urinating in the wind" - The word I wanted
to use will be blocked by the server. I similarly cannot help but
feel that when the world watches the church arguing about social
matters (often directed inward as self-evaluation), that this is
precisely how the church is perceived. Who wants to be part of this?
Urinating in the wind might be liberating, it might even feel
fantastic while you are doing it, but it only lasts for a while,
disappears into the ground and the few drops that messed on your
shoes will turn to stench!

What is going to save the world? I fear that it won't be religion,
even more so the institutional church. I nevertheless believe that it
is the little bit of Kingdom-yeast, working through people who do the
basics of the gospel right in their daily living (love God, love
neighbour as self), not under the banner of a certain denomination or
belief-system, which will bring about justice and mercy.

More and more of me believes that the Kingdom of God and the
institutional church are mutually exclusive. Both Moltmann and Barth
express the opinion that the church will cease to exist at the
consummation of God's Kingdom. The Church, even the church, is an
instrument of witness to a Lord who is God's revelation to all. It is
not the Lord, and it is not God's sole instrument of expressing love
and grace to God's creation. The sooner the institutional church
operates from this premise and stops deciding who is loved by God and
who is not, who is part of God's community and who is not, what the
clerics may wear and what they may not, the sooner we might see the
signs of a growing Kingdom here in our midst.

Just blowing off steam.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Every person needs a sanctuary.

Every person needs a place where they can get away and be at peace. My study has been such a place for years and when we moved into our own home at the end of last year, a house that did not have a study, my life was disrupted.

If you've been following my blog, you would have heard about the start of our building operations. Well, here she is:

I moved in about a week ago and have found my EARLY morning conversations with God, Barth, Moltmann and others fulfilling and deeply satisfying.

Here I am with my baby Mac and with Barth's Church Dogmatics conveniently within arms reach. Happy as can be!