Monthly Archives: November 2011

Desiring the Kingdom – Part 2 – Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge and the Kingdom

 

James Smith on Moulin Rouge, full of suggestive names (Sacre-Coeur, the central character “Christian”, a different kind of Pilgrim).

 

(page 78)

The proximity to Sacre-Coeur almost invites us to look for parallels and comparisons between the bohemian artists and the mendicant friars, the decadent painters and the celibate priests, both of whom reject a life of moneymaking for the sake of very different visions of the kingdom, of the good life.  But if both the bohemian and the friar desire a kingdom that rejects the pursuit of comfort and wealth, could it be that there are some covert similarities between their visions of the kingdom?  Does the Moulin Rouge already point up the hill toward the Basilica?  What at the end of the day is Christian after?

 

(page 78-79)

“Never knew I could feel like this, like I’ve never seen the sky before.” Sings Christian.  The world is “seen” differently because of love.  By the end of the film we learn that all of this has constituted a kind of education: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”

 

(page 79)

The kingdom might look more like the passionate world of the Moulin Rouge than the staid, buttoned-down, talking head world of the 700 club.  The end of learning is love: the path of discipleship is romantic.

 

(page 79)

I think a philosophical anthropology centred around affectivity, love, or desire, might also be an occasion to somewhat reevaluate our criticisms of “mushy” worship choruses that seem to confuse God with our boyfriend.  While we might be rightly critical of the self-centred grammar of such choruses (which, when parsed, often turn out to be more about “me” than God, and “I” more than us), I don’t think we should so quickly write off their “romantic” or even “erotic” elements (the Song of Songs comes to mind in this context).  This too is testimony to why and how so many are deeply moved in worship by such singing.  While this can slide into an emotionalism and a certain kind of domestication of God’s transcendence, there remains a kernel of “fittingness” about such worship.  While opening such doors is dangerous, I’m not sure that the primary goal of worship or discipleship is safety.

Desiring the Kingdom – Part 1

More specifically, I want to distinguish liturgies as rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations.  Admittedly this might include rituals not associated with traditional religions (e.g. rituals of Nazi facism or other rituals of totalising nationalism); indeed, expanding our conception of what counts as “worship” is precisely the point.  Our thickest practices – which are not necessarily linked to institutional religion – have a liturgical function insofar as they are a certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desire for what we envision as the kingdom – the ideal of human flourishing. (page 87)

 

So one of the most important aspects of this theology of culture is first a moment of recognition: recognising cultural practices and rituals as liturgies.  We need to recognise that these practices are neutral or benign, but rather intentionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people – to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms. (page 91)

 

On apocalyptic literatures capacity to unmask rival kingdoms: (page 92)

Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world.  Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of the cleverly engineered “miracles” (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples – all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion.  In the context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4.  The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.  (from Richard Bauckham)

Jeff Lucas – Samson – Part 3

Samson Part 3

Judges 15:1-20

 

Look further why it is that Samson managed to get himself into such trouble.

 

Part of the leadership team of Spring Harvest – spent 18 months of his life in a Butlins chalet.  Because of doing that, he has a flat outside Polburgh in Sussex.

 

Was in a train and did not have a ticket, the ticket collector was not having a good day, indeed was not having a good decade “Tickets!  Tickets!”

 

Had a couple of badges in his lapel, one was a fish and one was a dove.

 

“Are you a Christian?”

“Do you get to a Church round here?” “Yes”

“How’s it going, is it going well?”  “It’s not good”

 

“Why is it not going well, I have been going to a conference, and I am more advanced than the rest of the Church, and they can’t keep up with me.”

 

“How do you come more advanced?  I attend this conference, I am now more advanced, it is called Spring Harvest.

 

“I do a bit of work with Spring Harvest,”
“Oh well, if you know, Jeff Lucas is at the next station,

“Well that’s me, it’s on the credit card,

“no you’re not,”

And off he went, more advanced.

 

Samson becomes proud, “I am the servant of the Lord”

 

Samson only ever prays two prayers – one for water, and one for strength in fighting.

 

He is somewhat presumptuous.

 

He caused a fight at the reception, called his wife a heifer, stormed out, and then shows up a year later with the gift of a goat, and expects a romantic evening.

 

And this time he has another fight,  and things are ready to go again.

 

So the trinity of pride, arrogance and disappointment cause great harm before he ever meets Delilah.

 

Disappointment with “our own” can be devastating

Judges 15:11

 

Python-esque: at last 3,000 men are rising up, at last the strength of Israel has showed itself, and they are going to attack the Philistines, and they are going to arrest Samson.

 

They are 3,000 of them, they are obviously expecting a bit of resitance

 

Verse 12 “Tell me that you won’t kill me yourselves”

One of the saddest verses in the whole narrative.

 

He is hopeless, and when he is hopeless, his holiness is up for negotiation.

 

We who are hopeful can be devastated when Church lets us down.

There is plenty that we can irritated with sometimes at Church

If you are in Church for 6 months and noone has irritated you yet, then you are probably dead.

 

The Bible’s analysis of human behaviour is this, “we are sheep”, we are thick.  We might go to seaworld, but we are never going to sheep world are we.

 

We are human beings and we can do some pretty stupid things.

 

Some real transcripts in court rooms

 

“She has three children right?”
“Yes”

“How many of them were boys?”

“Were there any girls

 

“You are going to have to kill you because you are going to identify me?”
“Did he kill you?”

 

Or autopsy questions it is possible that he could have been practicing law somewhere….  *** Get from internet ***

 

Next time these things happen in Church, just say “Sheep, sheep”

 

We are a consumer culture,

We used to be able to offer coffee.

Now we need a PhD in caffeine to ask for coffee.

 

But we are consumers, and we want things

“We want to go to the non-clapping section.”

 

Then you ask for that section, non-capping, non-enjoying, non-flag waving,

That section is already full

 

Sometimes on platforms and people say the weirdest and most hurtful things

 

A man saw a mark on your head,

I believe it might be the mark of the beast.

 

And then another place where Jesus was laughing

 

And then in Plockton, and a message with mime,

And this weird

And this is God delighting in you

And you have been hurt

And Jesus says you are doing this

“wipe”

 

The Church is a place where we go to be angry,

And take our stand and can do no other on the wildest things.

 

The word of the Lord is “Lighten up”

 

Be a pillar of the Church and not in the way that a pillar gets in the way and blocks the way

Living for vengeance is exhausting

Judges 15:4

 

An episode when he was desperate to kill the mice that been in his garage.

 

Can you imagine catching 300 foxes and then an extended time of fox tail braiding.

 

Every piece of know genius that Samson has learned in the Israeli scouts, and then set torches in their tails before sending them in the crops.

 

But bitterness is hard work, and it weighs you down.

 

Chris the doctor and his friend looks after him,

And shows no respect,

 

He makes rude comments, you need an X-Ray, there’s a doorway down the left, and you go down there and you have an X-Ray.  You don’t really listen to what the person is saying, and this lead apron is there

What is the apron there for

“It is there for the protection of the gonads”

“What would they be?”
Couldn’t think what they were, a North American tribe,

We bring peace.

 

And I thought she said “Put these round your neck?

And tied the largest knot

The woman came back in, took one look and she just said

“Nooooo!”

 

And we have these loads round your neck, and God says “noooo”

 

And you have a go at that invisible person, chuntering,

Really yelling at this person after Church,

Really giving off and came to a set of traffic lights,

 

And he turned round and there is this chap looking at him

And pretended he had handsfree phone

And pressed an imaginary button,

And switched the hazards on.

 

Innocent people get hurt in all this,

He attacks them viciously,

We have come to do to him what he has done to this

And Samson says “I did to them what they did to me”

 

The escalation of conflict, because bitterness has not be resolved

 

“Everyone says forgiveness is a nice idea, until they have something to forgive” CS Lewis.

 

We look at people who are forgiven,

And the like of Nelson Mandela, went to Verwoerd’s home

And the Green’s (Denise Green) said about Alderhey hospital, Alan Milburn said “wh happened is unforgiveable” and Denise Green said “What has been done is out of my control, and what happens now in my control.”

 

In Shoah, “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you”

 

We have to be careful about forgiveness, just forgive right now,

That is particularly difficult for women being told what to do,

Some times we just need to come to God and I have no desire to forgive,

But God will you take me in a direction,

Will you start to tell how to forgive.

 

People caught up in “premature forgiveness” because they were made to say a mantra for which they were not ready.

 

We have to avoid disappointment in the house of our friends

We have to be willing to go that direction

 

“Forgiveness is a journey, today you can forgive, and tomorrow you can feel pain all again”

 

“I distinctly remember forgetting it” – there is a choosing in forgiveness.

 

God wants us to go in a forgiveness direction,

Lest we be trundling around with 25lbs of lead around our necks.

 

Pride Really Does Come Before A Fall

Judges 15:16 (I think the jawbone of Samson”

 

Conflict brought out the truth of what was in her heart.

 

Got a phonecall from our son.

Came to car crash,

 

He started shouting.

 

First of all he sings a song in celebration of himself,

And he sings a song about jawbones of asses, and there is only one person conspicuous by their absence.

 

Then he names the place Jawbone hill,

Then he uses language reminiscent of Moses “The servant of the Lord”

He is so self-deceived in his arrogance.

When was the last time he used this phrase “uncircumcised” when he as puffed up and arrogant (even though he ignored this term when choosing his wife)

 

Pride and arrogance and bitterness are really embarrassing.

 

Jeff Lucas, at Spring Harvest, a thing happened

Had spoken one night in the big top, and it had gone well,

And the next morning went to the place where people were buying tapes

And they were signing books, and folk were pointing and they could feel pride begin to hijack soul, he had his pen ready to sign books

And he was walking along

God said one sentence “Famous in Butlins for a day are we?”

Didn’t want to tell that story, wanted to hide that story,

We all struggle with the same things.

 

There will come a day when this sad man called Samson, who never ever knew anyone very much, he tells his secret, because we all want to be known,

It was not just about lust, and temptation, and the faultlines of pride and bitterness were already in place,

 

The other thing that happened on that train

The advanced Christian wandered on down through the train,

Wondered if he will ever meet him again,

As he walked on down, an thinking about advanced Christian,

At the next station, there was a young family,

And he is listening in,

And these people are thinking,

And they had not much, and they had an Eastern European accent, and the baby started to sing the lullaby,

Didn’t recognise the words, but knew the tune,

And the burden of the heart

At the foot of the cross

 

Wanted to communicate to her that we were part of the same family

So looked at her and smiled her crooked smile,

Amen, Amen,

Smiled and nodded back,

And as the train trundled in through the smoke stacks,

I want to stay here,

I don’t want to be an advanced Christian

Just keep me close to the cross,

The cross speaks to us of outrageous grace that forgives

Why would be cling to bitterness when we stand in the shadow

At the cross, at the cross when we first saw the light.

 

My prayer for you,

Your prayer for me

It isn’t about ministering or writing or platforms,

Pray for me “Jesus keep us near the cross”

 

A man of alive is a man who stays close to the instrument of death

And realises it is the place of resurrection power

Jeff Lucas – Samson – Part 2

Jeff Lucas

The importance of laughter,

The frozen chosen,

We are saved for ever but we’re not too pleased about it.

 

Things that go wrong at Church

  • Minister who walked backwards into baptism font
  • Or the Church where they served jelly for Communion, and people had to scoop jelly out.
  • Christmas in big American Church, and they had cows and donkeys, and Eric the Deacon was hooked up to be the angel, and the orchestra played, and the motor stopped dead, and Eric began to spin round and round, the choir carried on, and Eric threw up all over the choir.
  • Hark the herald angels honk.

 

Take a picture in your mind of that man going round and round.

 

Men going round and round and round and making the same old mistakes.

 

A conundrum in this text, and the Spirit of the Lord drove him hard, and the Spirit starting to activate itself in Samson’s life,

– tears the line,

– rushed upon him

And the Spirit is stirring Samson the man.

 

In the middle of this, there is something that awkward, and Philistine Samson is meant to avoid according to the Torah.

 

Here is a man being stirred by the spirit, and the Lord clearly prohibits,

And the problem is this

And v4 “and his parents did not know that this was from the Lord who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines”

 

How can the Lord be using something which is so obviously against that which the Lord has so obviously stated earlier?

 

It says something to us about the nature of God who works in the midst of our mess –   God is involved, even if he has not initiated or endorsed.  Is it not true that God blesses people whom God should not bless.

 

Think of some Christian television – there are some TV evangelists are banned in our house.  One guy was asking for money in Jesus name, that God never wants him to suffer, “Jesus says in this world, you shall have trouble”.  I was getting angrier and this guy seems to know all things, and this guy “God has put something in your hands that he wants you to send me”

 

That man preaches a complete corruption of the gospel, but people do get healed through his ministry.  There is a sense in which grace enables God to have an acute lack of discernment.

 

God does not wait for us to have everything together before he involves in our lives.

 

The reality is that God is in the midst of the mess, actively at work.

 

Israel asks for a king (1 Samuel 8), God redeems the mess gives David, Solomon, and Jesus comes, and evil men put Jesus on the cross, and God redeems that mess.

 

Because God is actively involved in the midst of the mess,

But thank God for his grace.

 

The problem with people who are permanently offended,

There are Christians who have been offended since birth, with the midwife, “don’t you mess with me”

 

Physicality and Spirituality are strangely mixed.

 

The moment that the Spirit moves, we are also awakened to the erotic awakenings in the body.

 

Jewish thinking is remarkably and refreshingly open about areas of sexuality.  In the Talmud, when the Hebrew says “The Lord blessed Samson” and Hebrew is a euphemism for penis+cubit (18 inches)  The commentary he was endowed just as all men are.

 

Why are we being told this – there is a refreshing attitude to sexuality which is not found in the Church – the riddle at the wedding, out of the eater, out of the honey something sweet,  (honey is representative of highly erotic, as is eating).

 

It is not good to have your wife upset for seven days at your wedding, and then refer to her as a heifer.

 

–          Sources will be mentioned in Jeff Lucas’ book.

 

The Bible is open and honest about sexuality and spirituality.

 

Anybody who has worked in youth camp ministry knows that the night that the Spirit moves is also the night that you have to have your torches out in the bushes.  The connection between the physical and the spiritual is very strong.  We should not be surprised when of leaders having affairs, we should not be surprised of immorality in the Church (this is not to excuse anything).

 

We should realise that the Church is an ideal breeding ground to immorality, we shake hands, we hug, we use language like “I love you”, we have community together, the enemy wants to hijack all that beauty.  There is no room of off colour joking because it is just too joking – we have to treat people with absolute purity.

 

Samson was hijacked by the spirituality – there are some of us right now on the brink of an affair, you may well be praying with that person, you may have the idea in some kind of way that God has brought you together, step away right now, and step away from the disaster.  When we allow that to happen in our lives and deception will come in.

 

The Spirit of God is stirring Samson and he saw the woman.

 

We should learn and grow from failure

Samson went down (this is deliberate device, the language of going down, also speaking morally) and do you notice that Samson’s downfall is aided by three Philistine women (Delilah being Philistine, this is inferred but never emphatic).

 

Failure can enable us to learn and to grow, some of us never seem to learn.

 

In house, lots of wildlife.

 

Something smashed into the window of the bedroom.  A strategy to warn off strangers, they will run around the house screaming falsetto.

 

“There is something outside”,

 

Got back into bed, this sound of something hitting the window,

And there is nothing there,

Thought I am going to hide, and wondered what this?

 

This hovering gigantic bird showed up – they think they are seeing the enemy, take a couple of paracetomol, and up they go and they do it again.

 

Five minutes later keep doing the same thing,

Five minutes later keep doing the same thing

 

Want to see how dull and stupid this, and some of us are doing this with our lives.

 

We are constantly learning the same lesson,

And we are headbutting the double glazing all the time,

 

How many of us are close to making disastrous decisions, where we don’t seem willing to learn the lessons of life.

 

Headbutting glass is painful, are we destined to keep going round the same old things.

 

Dave had a problem with pornography, every weekend Dave would be found at the front repenting, prayed for him fifty times.  Dave “how are you doing?”  “Same old, same old?”

 

If the light could go on for some of us, if some of us just got it,

And realised that the pattern can be broken

And some of us were to go out of here and say “Alright Lord, I am learning the lesson, I am going to move forward with you.”

 

We can be wrong

He sees a woman who is going in her own “eyes”

 

She saw the woman in her own eyes, which is like the way that the nation is doing what is right in its own eyes.

 

He has become just like everyone else

 

She is the right one for me , doesn’t use Narah, uses Ishah, without saying it, he is saying “that woman is right”, he is believing his own lives.

Like saying “Poison is okay”

 

 

In Oregon, out in the middle of nowhere,

“Dad can we camp out by the campfire”

“Snakes aren’t around here”

“No darling, you don’t get snakes in state park”

 

Woke up, and looked under camp bed, and he had parked his camp bed and four baby rattle snakes came out,

 

The point is that Lucas is that he went to bed believing his own self deception,

As Samson says, ignoring his parent’s advice,

Ignoring the fact that this bride is sobbing for seven days,

Refuses to tell his bride,

Samson liked to think of himself who liked to think that he knew

 

Christians know everything, they have revelations about everything,

Sometimes people have strange revelations

 

The early Church had a problem with people in the know, Gnostics.

 

Lucas had a period that God moved, that he gave the impression that he was deeper than everyone else.

 

Samson was somebody who liked to be in the know

Are we deceiving ourselves on the edge of a disaster and unwilling to draw back?

Remember to visit dead lions

14:8 “Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass”

 

Lucas in car moving situation, and in a car, and started praying, bloke in car, was praying and car was saved.  There was a time of rejoicing.

 

Ten years later to those friends in the car, tell me what happened? Was I making it up?

 

Went back to visit the carcass of the lion, is that we can reflect on days in our lives, and these have shaped us and caused us to be the men that we are, today is one of those days.

 

Samson looked at the carcass.

Build Authentic Friendships

When he appeared he was given thirty companions, this man with a secret, doesn’t tell his parents, doesn’t tell his life, finally he will collapse with Delilah.  He was a man who didn’t even have friends to be with him at his own wedding (the idea of an hour and a half for lunch, but the chance to build friendship).

 

Lets be those who invest the time and energy and friendships needed for growth.

 

Close encounters of an evangelical kind – see you later next week.  We don’t really know each other.

 

Lucas says “I am a millionaire” , relationally because I have got friends.

 

How sad that he went to his own wedding?  And then his best man went off.

 

Personal story: My Dad prisoner of war in the last war, left it about three years before he died to become a Christian, when Dad died they called him to the hospital and said “he hasn’t got very long”.  His friend called at the exact moment that his Dad died.

Jeff Lucas – Samson – Part 1

Jeff Lucas

Judges 13:1-24

 

The experience of being lost, and then asking for directions, and then being bored by the person who is giving you directions.  Lucas is perennially lost.

 

Samson is a man famous for being a lost soul.  Lay aside our prejudices today and take a fresh look at this man.

 

There are different perspectives on Samson – he is called a “hero” (Jewish tradition children are taught to call him a hero, elite groups in the Israeli army are named after Samson, the Israeli nuclear program was called the Samson option)

 

And the opposite response is to write him off – the profligate judge, the oversexed muscle man, a noble savage, trickster, dead end, a prankster, a tragic figure.

 

The Church does not know what to do with Samson – some want him to be a saint, otherwise a write-off.

 

Lucas “Samson is a man of God who lived badly”

 

He grew and the Lord and the blessed him – the only one of whom it is said that the Lord blessed him.  Despite the blessing, he was a man who ended up behaving badly.

 

Mark Buchanan – we need to invent a new word – theists, atheists and apatheist – they believe in God, but it makes no difference.   He was an apatheist.

 

He did things, two out of the five things he did, God is the source.

 

He is not written off, he is celebrated by God in Hebrews 11.

 

So often we do is write off failures, but what God does (Hebrews) is celebrate Samson’s true strength.

 

Technical Point

Is it just a story – (a poem, a saga, designed to stir the imagination) – Lucas – I believe this to be a historic story.  It is more than history, it is history that is designed to stir and fire our imagination.  Samson is history’s first suicide bomber – no bombing but he took his life for a religious cause.  There is quite a lot of sex – we need to be able to talk about this without embarrassment or fear.

 

Bible is full of talk about sex – Baptist minister got into a lot of trouble for talking about sex in the pulpit – he got into trouble.  This story is laced with innuendo, there is bondage sex.  There is no hesitation to talk about tough stuff.

 

The world in which Samson lived – 3,000 years ago, now they were in trouble, they were not walking with God.  Israel was in trouble because their religion,

Canaanite – 12 priestly families, they had prophets, they celebrated the agricultural year.  Then there was the very specific threat from the Philistines.  They were terrifying in warfare.  One of their cities was called Ekron, archaelogists have discovered a wall 10 feet thick from that city.

 

Samson grew up near that city.

 

We can feel overwhelmed by a society that has largely rejected God.

 

Met psychiatherapist, likes to help Christians get out of Christianity.  She looked at him with pity in her eyes, you don’t believe all that do you?  All those absolutes.  No one believes in absolutes any more?  Are you sure.  Maybe we are flying in a large boat, and she looked at me and said “you may be right”.  Maybe we are flying in a large jaffa orange.  Bless my heart darling, you need to make an appointment to see yourself.

 

Dawkins there is no such thing as good or evil, and then 10 pages later says “we don’t need God to be good.”

 

This man surrounded by swirling fog and confusion, there are things that we can learn.

 

Point 1 – We learn from his story that sin is an anaesthetic

 

Judges 13:1

 

Slight problem in aeroplane – “slight problem” shooting out of the wing.  Remember saying something like “oh Hosanna”.  The loss of hydraulic fluid means can’t move flaps, all the men said “can we do that again”.

 

This is Nigel your pilot speaking, “On behalf of American Airlines, I would like to welcome you to Chicago, have a nice day”

 

This is the script that always gets said, it is the same again and again, there is not attempt to repent, there is no cry of distress, they say “this is the way it is.”  There is only word Philistine that survives in English language is “Lord”.  Philistia is Lord.

 

This is the script, and Israel got used to say it.

 

Perhaps God might wake us up and stir us when we say “nothing is ever going to be different”.

 

You have a lived within the shadow of a stronghold, and that is never going to change, you say “I am what I am”.

 

God works while we are sleeping.

Apart from Joseph and Mary, they are the only kind of child who do not attempt to acquire a child through some means.  They have done nothing.  While the nation is sleeping, God has an impatient grace.

 

God does something which is entirely outside the remit of their expectations.

 

God might want to do something which is way beyond our expectations, and we haven’t asked for it.

 

Terry – is aggressively anti-Christian, his brother from whom he is estranged.  Had no expectation of Terry becoming a Christian.  Terry came to his home, and they started to talk.  The subject of our faith and calling.  I suppose I had better tell you what happened on the mountain, “I needed Jesus”.

 

Israel was asleep and God broke in.  Are there areas where the enemy has hissed “Mission is impossible, it is never going to happen”.

 

Sin doesn’t start with temptation

Samson’s problems started in the family home.

 

I am not trying to do that thing where we blame everything on our past.  Steven Gaukroger – some labels that he has discovered on various domestic  items

 

“This pie will be hot when heated”

“Do not turn this pie upside down” – on underside of pie

“Do not drive after taking” on children’s cough medicine

“May cause drowsiness” on Night-all the sleeping pill

“These lights are only for use indoors or outdoors” – on Christmas lights

 

Samson’s home was deeply dysfunctional

 

Mother is referred to as a barren one – angel creates problems.  The word “came to me” suggests copulation in Hebrew.

 

Doesn’t talk to her man about what the angel says – takes things to himself.

 

The Dad is shown to be a bit of an angel “God wouldn’t have told us all of this if he was going to die”

 

Rembrandt has the wife sitting upright whilst the Dad sitting like a sack of potatoes.

The wife runs ahead of the Dad, which was a sign of shame in the family.

 

Do we know who we are and where we come from, have we ever reflected on the influences that have shaped us (not to blame our history)

 

We need to have a consciousness of where we come from – part of the reason was the alienation and isolation in his family.  His downfall was all about being known, which is not what happened in his family.  We all want to be naked and unashamed, we all want someone to know the deepest recesses of our hearts, we all want someone to know us, including our darkest secrets.

 

Samson – part of his downfall came in his background.

 

There are no strong people, just people with strengths

 

Shemson = means little son, but the root of the word means strong,

 

There are no strong people, but only people with strongs.

 

I get fed up with bionic Christian leaders who pray 16 hours a day, and always getting it right.  Those Christian newsletters from the perfect Chistian family, you want to hurt them.

 

The Bible doesn’t paint perfect people, I feel like a Christian Mr Bean stumbling around from one lash up to another.

 

He was known for being strong, but wasn’t as a strong as we think he is.

 

Rembrandt gives Samson thighs like tree trunks, Reuben.  A masculine physique not dissimilar to my own.

 

Rabbi had a tradition that Samson had lame feat.  Why did everyone ask Samson the secret of his strength, if the secret was obvious.

 

What does matter, first of all that no such thing as a strong person, only a person with strength, also your strengths create weaknesses, the passionate reformer who is intolerant, the financially strong becomes someone who depises those lower on the ladder, the entrepreneur who refuses to ask for help, the tender hearted soul who becomes manipulative.

 

Samson was never called to live in the strength of his muscles.

 

Chesterton – the Christian life is impossible.  It is only possible by the power of the Spirit

 

WWJD – limited – we don’t know if he had a fixed rate or floating point, what car,

 

It is not about knowing what Jesus did and then copy it, but allowing him to work in us by the power of his holy spirit.

 

If we don’t get that right at the start, we are going to be exhausted by the end of the day.

 

You hear all the things that you have to do, I don’t want a purpose driven life, I just want a life.

 

Man Alive  – in the Spirit of God, in the Spirit of God, being awake to him,

 

This is the beginning of Samson’s story.

 

Dysfunction in the text

  • Samson continuously refuses to confide in his family
  • Both his father and mother (commands) about his marriage (the tradition would have been to the father)
  • If sin doesn’t’ start with temptation, begins in our journey, in the crucible of our upbringing.  Satan’s primary strategy is not temptation but accusation.  “If you are the son of God” (accusation) “turn these stones to bread” (temptation) – disheartens us with accusation, and then temptation
  • Lucas, understanding his own Dad’s pow experience, has helped him to respond to his own identity

The Girl Nobody Wanted

The Girl Nobody Wanted

Tim Keller – Genesis 29

 

Looks here at the tragedy of this story,

 

Having Judah is the gospel for Leah (16:54)

 

The overall title is Laban’s plot and Leah’s Lot,

Leah is plunged into hell because of a bad marriage.

 

There are three bad news

And three good news

 

And the good is gooder than the bad is bad.

 

Bad news:

  1. You never do sin, sin does you

 

You never get away with it, sin always is a boulder falling into a pool

 

 

  1. It’s always Leah in the morning – all the disappointments that we get

Derek Kidner “But in the morning, “Behold it is Leah”, this is a miniature of our disillusionment from Eden onwards” (page 20:45).

 

In the morning it will always be Leah.

 

Lewis “Most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world.”

 

There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give to you, but they never keep their promise.

 

There are four responses to this, a theory of reality (22:55)

  1. To blame the things around us for not being Rachel – the fool
  2. You’ll blame yourself – Self-hater
  3. You’ll blame life – utterly hard cynic
  4. You’ll blame your theory of reality, if there is nothing that is Rachel then Rachel must be beyond this world – The Christian

 

  1. Idolatry

These are conservative idols.

 

If you build your life on a white picket fence, and on a perfect family.

These are conservative idols, traditional values.

 

Good News

  1. God uses weak people.

Unless you are incredibly proud, you have no idea what good news this is.

 

If you think this is a book of virtues, of role models that we should emulate.

 

Every other religion says that God is at the top of the ladder, and he is looking down, saying “Try real hard, emulate the heroes”

 

You will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man – John 1:51

 

Our God is not a God who stands at the top of the ladder,

But sends his son down to be the ladder.

 

Job

Ortberg Job

Don’t have the date.

 

What this book is about hinges on Job 1:9 – does Job fear God for no reason,

This is about quid-pro-quo

 

And the faith that Job has is in something different from that.

 

A few things that Ortberg notes

1. That Mrs Job gets beat up on by the commentators but she has a lot to deal with.

2. That Job at the end of chapter 2 sins not in his mouth, but in other things

3. That the grinding apparent tedium of the book is deliberate, because it is about the tedium of this mechanistic view which grinds you down

4. The importance of the friends who sit with Job, and this “Sitting Sheva” is such an important part of Jewish tradition, and perhaps if Job does find some strength later on, it is because partly of this moment of strength from his friends.

 

And then God moves to say that there are things which God does that don’t have to be done, that there is rain on a desert land with nobody living there.

 

And the daughters get named,

And they get names like “Eye shadow” as if to celebrate that which is to be enjoyed and simply here.

 

Note that Job never does get to hear what happens in the upper level, that is not what he gets given, he gets an experience of extravagance which is different from the mechanistic world of the four friends and Satan.

A History of Christianity – Conflict

In the old city of Jerusalem is a medieval church which stands on the site of the basilica that the Emperor Constantine and his mother built over the likely site of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  Within the walls of what the Western Churches calls the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Orthodox give it an entirely different name, the Anastasis, Resurrection), the results of Constantine’s decision are played out daily in the epically bad behaviour of the various fragments of the imperial Christian Church whose adherents worship in the building.  I have witnessed early one December morning the instructive spectacle of two rival ancient liturgies noisily proceeding simultaneously above the empty tomb of the Saviour himself, on opposite faces of the ugly and perilously decayed nineteenth-century Sepulchre shrine.  It was a perfect juxtaposition of Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Christianity, as the serenity of a Latin Mass with full organ struggled against the spirited chanting of the Miaphysite Copts.  I particularly enjoyed the moment when the bearer of the Coptic censer swept with brio around the shrine to the very frontier of the rival liturgy and sent his cloud of incense billowing into the heretical Latin West.  The extremes of Christianity result from its seizing the most profound and extreme passions of humanity.  Its story cannot be a mere abstract tale of theology or historical change.

A History of Christianity – To Preserve A Treasure

Organised Christianity came into existence, and exists, to preserve a treasure, a command to be executed, a promise to be repeated, a mission to be fulfilled.  This treasure belongs to past, present, and future; it is potential, yet active; an object of contemplation, yet the inspiration of right conduct.  An unfathomable mystery, it must be related to all knowledge.  And in their endeavours to guard and transmit their trust, its guardians have raised the most perplexing issues.  They have caused endless destruction of life in the name of universal peace.  They have built up the most realistic of political systems in the effort to establish a kingdom not of this world.  In the exploration of the recesses of the soul, they have developed the arts and sciences, and constructed theories of the universe.  And in their desire to satisfy the deepest needs of mankind, they have raised up against themselves the visions, prophecies, and extravagances of excitable and obstinate men, and the dislike of many sensible men.

 

The treasure which has caused all this activity was cast into the world with a few simple sentences.  ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and they neighbour as theyself.  What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?  And again, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  No one cometh to the Father, save by Me.  Take, eat; this is my body.’  And again, ‘Go and preach the Kingdom of God.  Feed my sheep.  Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church.  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.  I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.’

 

Maurice Powicke, ‘The Christian Life’, in The Legacy of the Middle Ages

Quoted at the beginning of “A History of Christianity.”

Pleasures and Sorrows of Work – Part 3 – Art

We might define art as anything which pushes our thoughts in important yet neglected directions (page 184)

 

To convey the particularity of artistic work he [an artist Botton is interviewing]  quotes Hegel’s definition of painting and music as genres dedicated to the ‘sensuous presentation of ideas’.  We require such ‘sensuous’ arts, Hegel suggested, because many important truths will impress themselves upon our consciousness only if they have been moulded from sensory, emotive material.  We may, for example, need a song to alert us in a visceral way to the importance of forgiving others, a notion which we might previously assented purely in a rote and stagnant way after reading of it in a political tract (page 186)

 

Ian pointed out that whereas our culture openly invites us to be aware of birds and historic churches, it places not comparable emphasis on pylons, despite the fact that they often rival, for ingenuity and beauty many of the more established objects of our curiosity.  He cited as an example Loch Awe in Scotland, a famously picturesque and romantic tourist destination dominated by the ruins of the fourteenth century Kilchurn Castle, whose grounds are nevertheless crossed by a run of 400-killowatt pylons linking the hydroelectric power station at Ben Cruachan with the Glasgow suburbs.  On postcards of the loch and its castle, however, the electricity lines are almost invariably airbrushed out, so that the scenery pretends to be a fictitious innocence, the bare hills and unsullied lake being symptomatic of what Ian … condemned as the garden-gnome mentality of Luddites (page 196)