Thursday, 31 October 2013

To celebrate Martin Luther - the Reformation Polka

It's 496 years today since Martin Luther pinned his 95 thesis to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg thereby adding fuel to the Reformation fire began by men like Erasmus and Jan Hus. Anyway as a momento of this momentous deed here is an animated video of the life and times of Martin Luther including an inimitable and humuorous song, sung to the tune of Mary Poppins' “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious” (PS. if I was overseeing a Sunday School, this is what we would be learning this weekend)

[Words to the song below]

When I was ein younger man I studied canon law;
though Erfurt was a challenge it was just to please my pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck; I called upon Saint Anne:
I shaved my head, I took my vows – an Augustinian.


Papal bulls, indulgences and transubstantiation:
speak your mind against them and face excommunication.
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a reformation,
papal bulls, indulgences and transubstantiation.

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St Peter’s profits soared,
so I wrote a little message for the All Saints’ bulletin board;
‘you cannot purchase merit for we’re justified by grace;
here’s ninety-five more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!
They loved my tracts, adored my wit; all were ex empleror;
the pope, however, hauled me up before the emperor.
‘Are these your books? Will you recant?” King Charles did demand;
“I will not change my diet sir, God help me, here I stand.’
Duke Frederick took the wise approach, responding to my words
by knighting George a hostage in the kingdom of the birds.
‘Use Brother Martin’s model as the languages you seek,
stay locked inside the castle with your Hebrew and your Greek.’
Now let’s raise our steins and concord books together in this place
and spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower-case;
the word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets a chance,
so come on, Katie, drop your lute and join us in our dance.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How does Scripture oppose sodomy? Not like the GAFCON primates!

So how then does Scripture opposes sodomy? 

It does not do so in the same way that the GAFCON primates have done. Their way is more dignified, sanitized, and polite. Their tone is one of grief and sorrow, not outrage and offense. I do not think history will judge this approach kindly. I could be wrong, but I think they ought to have adopted the tone of Galatians 5:12 (“I wish they would castrate themselves”) or Philippians 3:2 (“beware of dogs, evildoers, the mutilators of the flesh”) or Revelation 2 (“You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who teaches my servants to practice sexual immorality”). If the Bible norms our speech ad verbum as well as as rem, then these are the sorts of epithets that ought to be applied to the Katharine Jefferts Schoris and Gene Robinsons of this world by bishops who claim the name of “apostolic”.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween: the Christian connection

Every so often, I send off stuff that I've written, asking those in Media to publish it. My begging sometimes works and the article below was kindly printed in the October edition of Evangelicals Now

How are Christians to respond to all the spooky outfits, scary masks, witches’ hats that dominate our streets at this time of year? Should we simply retreat, batten down the hatches, avoid all shops and hope no one calls ‘trick or treating’?

Before answering that question, allow me to share with you my top tip that I think is guaranteed to ruin any good party. Imagine the scene: you’ve arrived at a party — the venue is lovely, the music is playing, the food is fantastic, conversations are flowing, everyone you want is there and at this point (early on in the party) no one has done anything silly or embarrassing. Here is how to ruin the party. Just wait until there is a bit of a pause, then raise your voice a little and say: ‘I tell you what, this seems like a good time to speak about death!’ Mentioning the dreaded d-word is one sure way to stop getting invitations to parties!

Now here is the link with that anecdote1 and the subject of Halloween. When you see the sorts of outfits that are sold in the shops and supermarkets at this time, isn’t it as if our society says: ‘Let’s have a party, a celebration, a festival, and use it to talk about death’ — isn’t that what it’s like when you come across the scary, horrible-looking, death-imitating costumes in the shop aisles? Don’t they just scream ‘death’ and remind us of this horrible enemy in our midst?

Triumph over death
Well, here is the first surprise as we consider how Christians respond to Halloween. Christians (unlike the non-believers) have a good reason to celebrate Halloween by putting on scary costumes and joking about death because unlike the world we have a King, Jesus Christ, who has conquered, triumphed and overcome death. We have a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has experienced this horrible enemy death, but who thankfully has defeated it (Hebrews 2.14-15). As Paul provocatively asks in 1 Corinthians 15.55: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ His answer in verse 57 is: ‘Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. Those who are united to this Jesus Christ have every reason not to fear death. Christians can look death in the eye and say: ‘Horrible though you are, O death, one day... one day we will have the last laugh on you’. We Christians can mock death because even though we know that it is horrible and painful and sad, yet we can still laugh at it because we have a Saviour who has completely triumphed and defeated death. Christians need not therefore fear these scary costumes that appear at this time of year, and in fact we should be free to mock death by wearing these ghoulish outfits to mock this defeated enemy — death.

Our sorrows will turn to joy
If you’ve seen the film Crocodile Dundee, you’ll know that there’s a scene where the main character, Dundee, is walking home late one evening when he gets accosted by three kids wanting to mug him. The lead gang member pulls out a penknife and shouts, ‘Give us your wallet’, and Dundee’s girlfriend in a bit of panic, urges him to hand it over. Dundee retorts by asking, ‘Why?’ to which she replies, ‘Because they’ve got a knife’. Dundee’s comical response is to say, ‘That’s not a knife... here’s a knife’, as he draws out a machete! And it’s a little like that with the victory accomplished by our risen, reigning Lord. You can imagine him looking at all the scary outfits which people don at this time of year and saying: ‘You think that is scary? Wait until you see the fierce dragon that I had to fight. He is horrible and cruel and everyone whom he attacks loses. Everyone that is, except Me’.

Halloween then can and should be for the Christian a time to laugh. Not a fake, shallow, pretend laughter, but the kind of laughter which is filled with a certain hope that even though the present may be painful, even though the present may be full of tears and sadness, yet in Christ we are confident that our sorrows will be turned to joy.

Started by Christians!
Here is the second surprise related to Halloween. Modern-day Christians should reclaim the celebration of Halloween, given that it was our forbears who encouraged people to wear scary outfits as a parody of death.

Halloween was originally known as All Hallows Eve. It is the day before All Hallows or All Saints Day, when the church remembers those who have died in the faith and gives thanks for their faithful witness. All Hallows Eve therefore was (and is) an occasion to tease death by reminding ourselves of the wonderful hope of the final resurrection as we give thanks for those who’ve fallen asleep in Christ.
The medieval church thus encouraged Christians to wear frightening and death-imitating costumes not because they were morbid or because they didn’t have access to a medieval Gap or Calvin Klein, but rather because they were confident that death had been defeated. Christians therefore wore horrible outfits not because of a lack of fashion sense, but to satirise death and say to it, ‘You’re a loser!’ or, more positively, ‘We will win!’

This, by the way, is the reason that many old churches and some grand buildings have gargoyles. Have you ever wondered why someone would build a beautiful church with intricately designed mosaics, pretty stained glass windows, ornate looking furniture and then include unappealing and often scary-looking gargoyles? Well, the reason was simply to say to the congregation (and to the world) that, though death may still be present among us (which is what these gargoyles pictured), yet in Christ we shall overcome. In other words, gargoyles were a visual way of saying that the medieval Christians were not afraid of death.

It is reported that Woody Allen when once asked about death responded: ‘I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens’. How different for the Christian! This Halloween then, let us not fear... let us not fear the frightening costumes, let us not fear the knock on the door, let us not fear the future, and crucially let us not fear death. And why not think of a tangible way (including perhaps wearing a scary costume?) to teach and share with your family and friends that, in Christ, death is not the end!

Kiprotich Chelashaw is a curate in Audley & Alsagers Bank, Staffordshire.

1. Taken from Lee McMunn’s Identity course, (Session 4. ‘The God who comforts us’).

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Weekend wit: what people think pastors do


The image above reminds of a staggering question I was once asked at a dinner party. Having said to the blonde opposite me that I was a church minister/pastor they paused slightly and then asked a bit tentatively "So what else do you do...    uurrm...     besides lighting candles and...      leading services once a week?" I was completely stunned and could only mumble back something about having lots of people to visit. I wish I'd thought of the witty reply below which I came across recently.

Parishioner to vicar:  What a great job you have - you only have to work 2 hours a week.

Vicar's response:  My job is nothing. Olympic sprinters have it even better - they only have to work for 10 seconds every 4 years!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Luther on interpretive maximalism

Writing on this day in 1532, the German reformer declared:
For some years now I have read through the Bible twice every year. If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.
So Luther was at this stuff way before Jordan and crew joined the party! This also means that we reformed types need to relax a little bit re the maximalist enterprise after all, the doyens of the Faith seem to have been happy with it.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Why sex really matters

The thesis:

1) The Scientific world is 'blinkered' in that it views/presumes that men and women are 99.9% equal

2) Men and women are not equal

3) The study of disease, because it treats the sexes as equal, is flawed. This widespread presumption (of male/female equality) cannot for example account for why some conditions/illnesses are more widespread in women more than men (and vice versa). For example why is that lupus occurs in about 6 times more women than men? And why is that Autism spectrum disorder occurs in about 5 times more boys than girls? David Page argues that the Scientific world has ignored the issue of male/female distinction to the detriment of patient treatment/care. Watch his illuminating talk below...

Monday, 14 October 2013

What they left and what they kept - life lessons on what's valuable

Art of Manliness posts a list of things that Shackelton and Co. left back + what they took when that dreadful moment came for them to abandon their ship (ironically named Endurance) So what did they leave behind?

- Money/Jewellery/Gold
- Clothes
- Scientific instruments
- Books
- Suitcases

And what did they take?

- Toothbrushes
- Religious items (Shackleton took with him the Bible he'd been given by Queen Alexandra)
- Photographs
- Medical supplies and instruments
- Banjo
- Diaries

Interesting that they opted for the Banjo and not the Books but on reflection this kind of makes sense (singing/music/The Psalms are guaranteed to lift up the soul when one is downbeat and discouraged). The thing that took me most by surprise though was that they prioritised toothbrushes but again this makes complete sense when you think of it. There was no chance of a root canal or a scale + polish out in the dreary wild of the Antarctic. These guys from a different age where valour, honour and courage ruled, point us (men especially) to consider what matters and what shatters. Read the AoM post in full to glean what these wise men of yonder can teach us.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Relationship advice for teens: shuffle while you wait

This was one of my main points to our church teenagers regarding boy/girl relationships - to shuffle while they waited. In other words to think of the kind of husband/wife they'd like to be come marriage in 5-10 years and then to start working on it. No one ever donned a wedding ring, suddenly to be transformed into a hard working, elegant, polite, articulate, charming man/woman. It all takes time. If you hope to be a remarkable/impressive husband or an adorable/praiseworthy wife you had better be on the case for it now, today, wherever you are! If for example good manners and a sharp wit are not being 'practised' currently in the hope that when the right time comes (e.g. when Miss Beautiful/Mr Charming turns up) then you can be rest assured that when you try them then they will be a very bad fit. For boys this means acquiring habits like opening the door for your mother/sisters/grandma, not dressing like One Direction, only roughing it/play-fighting with other boys and not bolting your food. For girls this means working on your modesty, cultivating elegance, honouring your fathers and loving little children. Getting good at these things take a lot time and ye teens therefore had better get practising now. As someone once said good morals, like good taste is acquired and built.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Size of New Testament books

I like this kind of imagery for the fresh way it presents the Bible (and a big hat-tip to Mark over at Visual Unit for producing it). One question that it raises is whether our preaching/teaching should have a similar emphasis/weighting. I suspect that for most Evangelicals the high points would be St Paul's letters rather than the Gospels.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Why did Jesus chose men to lead the Church?

Because He planned for them to die. Every. Single. One. The apostles were chosen to be martyrs. They were chosen to lose their families, to lose their reputations, to lose their homes, to be mocked and misunderstood, beaten and rejected and killed.


To lead the Church is to follow on the heels of Jesus who was lied about, betrayed by a friend, rejected by family, constantly misunderstood, and ultimately convicted of crimes He didn’t commit, beaten to a bloody pulp, and executed naked on a Roman cross.


In other words, if we want to insist that ordained ministry and leadership in the church is something for men, we need to prove it by doing the hard and dangerous work of following Jesus. For some that means spending a lot more time in prayer. Pray like it’s your job. Pray like it matters. Pray for hours. Pray like a man. Some need to get out of their offices and preach the gospel. Go find unbelievers. Go talk to them. Go to the LBGTQ luncheons and preach Jesus. Go find a street corner. Go next door. You’ll be misunderstood. You’ll be laughed at. You’ll be ignored. You’ll be rejected. You’ll begin to be a man. Some need to address actual sin in their congregations. Name it, explain it, condemn it, and point to Jesus who frees us from all sin. People might misunderstand. People might leave. There might be a church split. Good, then maybe you can learn to be a man.

Totally superb post. Read the full thing here

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Why the Church exists

Canterbury Cathedral: despite its history, the Church needs to leave the StateMay I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 1997) 164.