Thursday, August 29, 2013

CP 219 Heavenly Fatherly schizophrenia

CP 219 Heavenly Fatherly schizophrenia

It seems my spirit has become sensitive in the last two years. Is it discernment? You be the judge. I hear things, see things, read things written, and if it is out of step with the gift and freedom of the gospel a ‘troubledness’ comes over me. And then I can’t keep my mouth shut or my fingers off the keyboard. There is an inner compulsion to respond.
Maybe, therefore, you might understand when I recently came across something ‘contrary’ in a guest column in The Lutheran. It was penned by the teacher of liturgy and worship at the Australian Lutheran College, which prepares LCA pastors for the public ministry. Commenting on ‘Lord have mercy’, It included the line, “In these words, we hold our begging bowls before God…” No, no, no, no and no! I wrote. The editor printed. Here’s part of my letter:
 “If the item by Rev Linards Jansons in the June 2013 issue of The Lutheran represents the teaching of the LCA on liturgy and worship then I have become a misfit who has lost his way in this church! I object, strenuously, to any statement that I am in communal worship ‘holding a begging-bowl before God’. I am there with my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ as a child of my heavenly Father.
Whatever I say and do in his presence is done as a son. I am present as one who has been given the spirit of his Son. I am there freely because, being ‘in Christ Jesus’, he has given me that freedom. I am not in that place begging. I belong there. Yes, I need mercy for many things in my life. Yes, I seek forgiveness. I am not a beggar. It is also why the phrase ‘poor miserable sinner’ is a denial of my place in his lap, in his embrace.
I know! I know! Yes, I still retain Adam’s heart. But - and it is a heaven-sized but - I have the heart, soul, mind and spirit of Jesus Christ himself. That is how my Father in heaven sees me and that is how he receives me.”

Soon after, even before the letter was in print, the final report to District Synods by the outgoing President of the LCA came to my desk. It too has a line about beggars in relation to Holy Communion. “As we approach this table we are nothing but beggars…” No, no, no, no and no again.
I’m aware we sing, “…nothing in my hands I bring.” That is truly an acknowledgement that my life ‘in Christ’ is utterly by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith. No arguments there. However, as surely as I begin worship ‘In the name of the Father…’, and as I freely address my prayers to, ‘Our Father in heaven’, so also I come to the Table as a son who is already forgiven, or as a son who knows for a certainty that his Father will never renege on his promise to forgive. As a son (or daughter as the case may be), I will never, never, ever need to plead for forgiveness as a beggar! Is it not true what John records in his Gospel? “To all who received him, who believed in his name he gave power (he gave authority) to become children of God…” (John 1:12 RSV) Doesn’t Paul insist that, ‘The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God…’? (Romans 8:16)
Argue with me about this please. Am I not, in Christ, a new creation, born of water and the Spirit? Is it not my faith that I was baptised ‘into Christ Jesus’? Is it not true that, ‘There is therefore now, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus’? (Romans 8:1) What did Jesus mean when he told Mary Magdalene, “But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father…’”? Tell me, am I displaying arrogant self-confidence? Or is it OK to mount a fierce defence of trust or faith in these revealed truths? He is faithful. Promises made are promises kept. I can build on the rock-sure foundation of what he declares. The Cross is both his healing of me and his commitment to me. So define me in as many ways as you like but I will never wear the title ‘beggar’ in the presence of my heavenly Father.
Back to the beginning. I headed this post ‘Heavenly Fatherly schizophrenia’. Sure looks like it. Apparently we can’t work out whether we are sons / daughters or beggars. Forgiven or not yet forgiven? It seems we are not sure of our status. Or even sure of him. Could it be that the Father, too, is not sure of our forgiveness or that we are now sons / daughters? I don’t think so! I’ll go with an un-schizophrenic Father and be a forgiven son / daughter any day.
Maybe sorry about being too passionate. Never sorry about the Passion!

Monday, August 19, 2013

CP 218 Fred the Rev, Tony the Abbott, and a "Democratic" history.

CP 218 Fred the Rev, Tony the Abbott, and a “Democratic” history.

Today I realised I had something in common with Mr Tony Abbott. I was reading the latest issue of Eternity, a monthly publication of the Bible Society. It features an article by Roy Williams about the Christian faith of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. Well worth a read. The article reveals a little known fact about Mr Abbott. In 1976 he became involved in student politics at Sydney University through the Democratic Club. Apparently he was soon ‘running the show’. My connection? In 1969, for a short while, I myself was ‘running the show’ in the UNSW Democratic Club! I wasn’t good at it, nor was I particularly interested. I have to be honest and admit that it was simply a front for the National Civic Council on campus.
Mr Abbott is a Roman Catholic, as was I. In terms of life’s journey I probably have more common ground with Kevin Rudd who also grew up in the RC Church. He went on to embrace an evangelical faith in his student years, as I did. Neither man is ashamed to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Rare indeed.
The only reason I mention this is that we in Oz have decisions to make regarding the next Federal Government. All of us will have personal views. I’d just like to put in a plea about the business of passing on any of those disgusting emails, which circulate from time to time, about our political leaders. I confess to being shocked and saddened that so many of them are passed on by so many who honour Jesus Christ and claim to follow him in love. As James cries out, “Brothers and sisters, surely this is not right…” (James 3:10) The scripture calls the people of Jesus Christ to respect those who govern us as appointed by God himself. “Fear God and honour the emperor”, never forgetting that, “We must obey God rather than men”. Enough!
And now for something different. For this week I invite you to chew on the snippets below which hit my inbox in recent weeks.

The Gospel of the God of Life
Originally from the Carmina Gadelica III, 191
Taken from Esther de Waal, editor, The Celtic Vision (Liguori, MO: Liguori/Triumph, 1988, 2001), p. 92–93

The Gospel of the God of life
To shelter thee, to aid thee;
Yea, the Gospel of beloved Christ
The holy Gospel of the Lord;
To keep thee from all malice,
From every dole and dolor;
To keep thee from all spite,
From evil eye and anguish.
Thou shalt travel thither, thou shalt travel hither,
Thou shalt travel hill and headland,
Thou shalt travel down, thou shalt travel up,
Thou shalt travel ocean and narrow.
Christ Himself is shepherd over thee,
Enfolding thee on every side;
He will not forsake thee hand or foot,
Nor let evil come anigh thee. 

We were given the Scriptures to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing. — Rich Mullins

Faith sees what your physical eyes can never see.
Faith knows what your natural mind can never comprehend.
Faith possesses what your physical arms can never hold.
Faith says “yes” to everything God declares to be true;
Faith stands upon everything God says is certain,
it leans upon everything God says is unmovable,
and it counts upon everything God says will come to pass.
- Corrie Ten Boom

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

CP 217 So my children are bastards?

CP 217 “So my children are bastards? The hypocrisy of annulment…

Soon after I took up the call to the Immanuel Church in Canberra I was approached by a dignified lady who asked, “Would the Lutheran Church be willing to take the wedding of my daughter who is a Roman Catholic?” “Why do you ask?” I replied. She told me her story.
Her husband had an affair with his secretary. He soon left his wife and the four children. He wanted to marry his lover, and to do it with the blessing of the Catholic Church. With the support of his friend, the parish priest, he applied for the annulment of his marriage to his then wife. To her shock the annulment was granted by the Church. Her husband then married his secretary in the Catholic Church with the blessing of the Bishop.
(For the un-initiated, when the Roman Catholic Church declares the annulment of a marriage, in the eyes of the Church it is as though there was never a marriage in the first place, even though that first marriage was recognised by the Civil Government.)
This woman subsequently approached the said priest of her local church, where the whole family had attended Mass, week by week, for years, and asked him that question... “So my children are bastards?”
It is not difficult to comprehend the depth of the offence she had suffered and the anger she carried within. She was right to be indignant. Personally, from that day to this I have not lost my conviction about the shameless hypocrisy and dishonesty which accompanies the Roman Catholic practice of annulling a marriage and pretending there was no marriage in the first place. It stinks. It is morally and ethically repugnant. There is nothing, not a skerrick of anything, which can justify the practice in the teaching of Jesus Christ, or in any other part of scripture. I believed it was a disgrace then and I believe it’s a disgrace now!
I encountered this sham (shame!) many times. To top it off, on at least three occasions representatives of the RC Church offered to arrange the annulment of the marriage of Lutheran Church members who were divorced, and whose Catholic partner wished to marry in the Catholic Church.
Look, I don’t like divorce. The marriage vows we all make are sacred. Marriage is for life. As Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no one separate.” He has done the gluing. The first instinct with a couple who are coming apart is always to heal and restore so that the marriage covenant can be upheld and the couple live together in a safe and healthy way. However, marriages do break down irretrievably. Some cannot be restored. Staying can be destructive in all sorts of ways. It is difficult, if not impossible, to live with constant lies and deceit, or with unending verbal or physical abuse. In some of those situations I could not in good conscience encourage a partner to stay.
So where is the hypocrisy and dishonesty?
The answer is simple. The RC Church is passionate in its defence of marriage and its opposition to divorce. Divorce is not an option in Catholic teaching. However, relationships do sometimes get to being beyond repair. Rather than face the uncomfortable reality of breakdown, the dishonest fantasy of annulment is introduced. Annulment is nothing less than semantic rubbish. Why not cut the dishonesty, confess the sin and failure, seek the forgiveness of God, and allow people to move on under the covering of grace?
The spiritual un-health of the practice.
There is a pastoral point to make here. If there was no marriage in the first place there is a danger of seeing no need for repentance and accountability. There is no need to examine one’s heart and confess failure and inadequacy. There is no need to admit the wounding for which we are responsible. The risk is that we rob ourselves of that opportunity to grow in grace and truth by not letting the light of Jesus shine in our dark places. All of which cedes ground to the devil.
There you go. Got it off my chest after 30 years. Happy to get reactions.  Fred