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Thinking theologically about faith, church & culture

What happened to confession?

What happened to confession?

By on Apr 9, 2014 in Blog |

The Bible tells Christians to confess our sins, but does it matter how we do it? Is confession simply a personal matter between us and God? It is clear that confession of sins is an important part of what it means to be the people of God. It is where we all declare our common dependence on Jesus and the cross. It is required for salvation that we acknowledge our sins, for otherwise we are declaring the cross unnecessary and spurning the sacrifice of Jesus. And it is a necessary part of right relationship with God to continue to confess and repent where we have wronged Him. In most cases in the Bible confession of sins is a personal thing between us and God. But there may also be a need for a vocalised confession of sins. There are frequent occurrences of this in the Old Testament, but less in the New Testament. This is in large part due to the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice – once for all, and also the access that each believer has to God without the need for an intermediary high priest. However, James instructs: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 What does it mean to confess your sins to each other? Is this publicly to everyone or privately one-to-one and does it mean identifying specific sins or a more general confession of sinfulness? More traditional churches make room for both a public confession of general sinfulness using liturgy and a one-to-one confession of specific sins to a priest – who alone pronounces forgiveness. Interestingly in the Orthodox faith there is sometimes a discipling relationship and a person’s spiritual Father or Mother will hear their confession – though the priest is still required to pronounce absolution.  But since the Reformation began, new Protestant denominations appeared in which the role of the priest was re-examined and the sacrament of confession abandoned. Confession one-to-another may continue to occur privately but it was no longer regulated. Where liturgy remained in use, a corporate confession of sin was still practised – and still is today where it forms an integral part of worship. However...

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Dead – or just asleep? – What’s the truth?

Dead – or just asleep? – What’s the truth?

By on Apr 7, 2014 in Blog |

In John 18 v38 Pilate asks the million dollar question – “What is Truth?” Of course, even if he wasn’t really looking for an answer, the fact that he is addressing Jesus, who IS the Truth, is highly ironic! But looking at this led me to think about how I would actually answer Pilate’s question to some of my friends today, given that the concept of any sort of universal truth is pretty alien.  I started by looking at how the dictionary defines truth, and the 2 definitions are interesting: 1.      A fact or belief that is accepted as true 2.      That which is in accordance with fact or reality Both of these link truth to something that is generally accepted by society as being solid fact or reality. But, of course, facts about all sorts of things are ever-evolving due to new discoveries and advances in science etc. What are the facts and realities that we are going to use as our benchmark? Clearly our human view of reality depends on our perspective – and aren’t there are as many perspectives as there are people!? Wasn’t it old Obi Wan Kenobi who said – “Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view”. In a sense he’s right, but a Biblical definition of truth would say Truth = Reality from GOD’S perspective. All other vantage points on reality cannot take in the fullness of Truth seen through God’s eyes. A great example of this is in Luke 8, the Healing of Jairus’ daughter. In v49 the synagogue leader comes to Jairus to tell him “Your daughter is dead”. I think it would be fair to take from this that medically speaking the girl had actually died and that what the synagogue leader stated was indeed a fact. But was it the Truth? Jesus goes on say “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” and he is laughed at as he goes in to the house and tells them all “she is not dead but asleep”. In all honesty, it’s not hard to imagine laughing in this situation – the words don’t match up with...

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EXER…WHAT?!!

EXER…WHAT?!!

By on Apr 5, 2014 in Blog |

I am studying Theology on a part time basis with Salt & Light ministries and I am in my final year. Is it just me that struggles with theological jargon? Or are there others out there? Having had a comprehensive school and technical college educational background, and not reading a book all the way through until I was in my late twenties, is it any wonder? Or is all this jargon just unnecessary word snobbery? Does theological jargon promote exclusiveness, like an exclusive club (‘if you do not use jargon you are not in the club’?). Or is it useful and important? Equally importantly, if we are studying theology for the sake of it and not using what we have learnt to benefit others what is the point? Being a simple person, I like to use simple language. But would I be limiting myself by not subjecting myself to the vast array of theological words out there? To give you a flavour, some of the words I have encountered are: Exegesis.                   Means – Interpretation of text’s in scripture. Hermeneutics.          Means – Applying the text of scripture to todays world. Christology.               Means – Study of the person of Christ. Soteriology.               Means – The  doctrine of salvation through Jesus. Synoptic.                   Means – Seen together, or similar. Ecclesiology.            Means – The study of the Christian Church. Eschatology.             Means – The understanding of the end times. Pneumatology.         Means – The study of the Holy Spirit. Of course this list is not exhaustible, but hopefully you get the point of what I am saying?  Why use theological jargon when we could simplify words as shown above? A good dictionary has been a lifeline to me through my studies, and I recommend one for those of the same mindset as me. I have lost count of the hours I have spent looking up the meaning of words when doing assignments and reading books. Progress, three years later. Having started studying theology nearly three years ago, I am due to finish in June this year (2014). It has been a long journey but a beneficial one. I can remember our very first session and discovering words such as Exegesis and Hermeneutics,...

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Can you shout a bit louder God? – I can’t hear you!

Can you shout a bit louder God? – I can’t hear you!

By on Apr 4, 2014 in Blog |

We live in a day of hustle and bustle, where noise and a never ending stream of things clamor for our attention. If it’s not the home phone it’s the mobile phone. If it’s not an email, it’s a text and then there is Facebook to update… If it’s not my husband or my wife, it’s the kids or the pets. The house needs cleaning and the car needs fixing. My boss wants more and my church leader wants even more! For every person in our church who says ‘God told me’ or ‘I felt God say’, there will be someone else who say to me ‘God doesn’t speak to me’ or ‘I don’t hear God like they do’. Has God stopped speaking? Is He just too busy with the bigger issues of this world to bother with my pithy issues and problems? Have I gone deaf? For Adam communicating with God was like a walk in the park (or at least a walk in the garden!), but once sin entered the whole issue of communication with God became much more difficult. In the Old Testament we read of the mediators: the priests and prophets who God used to communicate with His people, but it is clear all the way through the scriptures that God is wanting to break out of that box. He desires personal relationship with each one of us individually. He sent His Son to die to achieve this, as we will all celebrate in a few weeks’ time. Easter for me is the biggest reminder of how much God desires to communicate with us as He demonstrates with the sacrifice of His Son to deal with the separation of sin. And yet we so often take lightly the access achieved in that death: access to God’s throne to speak with Him and to hear His voice speak back. All too often in these busy times it is God who is doing the waiting, not us, waiting for us to STOP and LISTEN. But we don’t! Yes, I know there are other reasons we don’t always hear from God… sin has hid His face from us so that we cannot hear says Isaiah 59 v 1....

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So, how much time have you have left before you go to meet your Maker?

So, how much time have you have left before you go to meet your Maker?

By on Apr 2, 2014 in Blog |

Let me explain the title. I am fifty-six years old and a retired Police Officer. Thirty year’s police service done and dusted. As a retired Police Officer I have joined NARPO, the National Association of Retired Police Officers. In the Thames Valley Police (TVP) NARPO Branch, alone, there must be several thousand retired Police Officers, some of whom retired as long ago as 1950, some only last week. Every few weeks, or sometimes even days, and I do not exaggerate, the Secretary of the TVP NARPO (I hope you are keeping up with the acronyms), emails the remaining members about the latest NARPO member who has “popped his or her steel tipped toe caps.”  You can be relatively detached when the most recent member to “shuffle off this mortal coil,” or “finish their final beat,” retired in 1971, but yesterday came the news that a man I served with, aged fifty-seven, had died just two years into retirement. No long and happy retirement available to this NARPO member. So, how much time have you have left before you go to meet your Maker? A strange question to ask these days. We in the West don’t give much thought to our own mortality. If you lived in some parts of Africa which are rife with Aids, Malaria and other infections, then you would have “one eye over your shoulder,” concerned that tomorrow may be the end. Or, maybe you live in the Middle East, with half of it plunged into civil war, never knowing whether the Government or Al Qaeda was going to liquidate you and your community. But in the UK, if we can’t have electricity, due to the worst wet winter on record, then I need to have the CEO’s head (of whatever power company is meant to deliver) on a spike. Indeed most peoples’ take on our eternal destiny is the reverse of “Pascal’s Wager.” Pascal took the view that belief in God was rational because he had nothing to lose if God did not exist and everything to gain if he did. Today in the UK, I have everything to gain living life as I choose, and as the British Humanist Association conditionally put it, “God...

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Bread

Bread

By on Mar 31, 2014 in Blog |

There is nothing more inviting than the smell of freshly baked bread. It pervades throughout the house, reminding you of the comfort and sustenance it brings. For me, an amateur baker (though I’d like to think of myself as artisan!), each new loaf bring a sense of joy and wonder as I take such simple ingredients, knead and form them into something of nourishment for my family and friends. Most of the hard work in this process is in fact not done by my hand, but by the yeast which infiltrates the dough and brings fullness. Bread is an important part of our lives. The image of bread flows through the Bible and can help us understand how different aspects of God’s story weave together. In the Lord’s Prayer, taught to the disciples by Jesus, he instructs to be continually asking God to ‘give daily bread’. I don’t think that Jesus is personally encouraging me to bake more. There is a greater depth to this phrase. For his disciples, whose desire to pray better meant the initiation of this prayer, the idea of God giving ‘daily bread’ was part of their Jewish heritage. Hundreds of years previously God had provided daily manna from heaven to their ancestors in the desert (Exodus 16). This miraculous provision of food fed the Israelites for 40 years – they were literally kept alive in a place where there was nothing else to eat. Jesus’ disciples knew this story, as they prayed this prayer they could easily use this phrase to extol the greatness of God the provider. Along with remembering God as provider, we can also consider that although the dough is the product of human hands, Creator God is the one who created grains that go into it and controls even the yeast that allow it to ferment and rise. All the wonderful foods that we enjoy are part of the creation work of God. Receiving of daily bread is a place of remembrance for us, a time to celebrate not only the physical provision of food to sustain our bodies, but a time when we can celebrate the spiritual provision of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares that he...

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