Monthly Archives: July 2012

Give us our daily bread

 

There is the idea that Jesus is celebrating with the wrong people and at the wrong time, because he is anticipating the kingdom.

 

The prayer also exists on a number of other levels.

 

It is about “All desires known”, the deepest of desires being given to God so that they might be untangled and affirmed and given, that the deepest desires we offer (like Naomi in the story of Ruth) are answered in very profound ways.

 

It is about praying for specific needs – for world peace as well as for the parking place.

 

Then there is the level that we are asking for others, that we are conscious of those who pray that prayer with very little bread, and we pray alongside them.  It is also about offering ourselves as the answer to that prayer, in the quest for justice.

 

And then there is the level of the Eucharist in which we are satisfied with the deepest of gifts for the deepest of needs and desires.

Divisions In Evangelicalism

On Gilbert Tennent’s repentance of his earlier schismatic tendencies

Alarmed by both Zinzendorf’s theology and his aggressive personality, Tennent spent the latter half of his career mending fences with those in his own Church whom his extrovert and emotional preaching had alienated.  The encounter and its effect on Tennent are a significant symbol of a constant tension within modern Evangelicalism, not merely between Calvinists and Arminians as in the case of Wesley and Whitefield, but between institutional loyalties and individual initiatives – often also between considerable rival egos.

(page 758)

Evangelicalism and the Army

The British Armed forces have often been injudiciously ignored as agents in the spread of Evangelical revival, probably because of traditional unflattering stereotypes about military behaviour.  We need to see the army as like other institutions and communities in flux in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where uprooted individuals sought identity and frameworks for their lives amid confusion and danger: Evangelical principles were as likely to appeal to soldiers as to anyone else, perhaps more in view of their confrontations with violence and death.  Moreover, the British army’s and navy’s steady embrace of non-partisan patriotism chimed well with a general tendency in British Evangelicalism to keep away from politics unless absolutely necessary, while tending to patriotic conservatism.

(page 755)

Man who gave the world his number

From here

When Jeff Ragsdale went through a difficult break-up last year, he found himself isolated and alone in New York City.

Desperate, he put his phone number on a flier along with a simple message: “If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me.” He posted copies all across the city, and waited.

The response was overwhelming, with thousands of calls coming from across the US and around the world.

Jeff and two collaborators then transcribed the conversations, text messages and voice mails, publishing them in Jeff, One Lonely Guy.

Risky Mission

By the mid-eighteenth century the Dutch were baffled and furious to find that there were more Catholics than members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Ceylon, despite all its official favour, and when Dutch rule ended, the Reformed Church there collapsed unlike Catholicism.  The initiative by an insider to the subcontinent showed how an indigenous foundation might survive when Christian missions begun and run by Europeans might rise and fall in step with the ability of Europeans to sustain them.

 

(page 704)

 

The boldest experiment in India was made  by an Italian Jesuit, Robert de Nobili (1577-1656).  He took the unprecedented step of living in southern India as if he were a high0caste Indian, adopting dress appropriate to Indian holy man.  Becoming fluent in the appropriate languages, he also took particular care to point out to those to whom he preached that he was not a Parangi (a Portugese).  Higher-caste Hindus still tended to ignore him, but his strategy did produce results in establishing his guru status among lower-caste people.  The Portuguese authorities fiercely opposed de Nobili, but finally lost their case against him in Rome in 1623l his reports back to Europe in the course of these disputes are among the earliest careful western European accounts of Hinduism and Buddhism.  Whatever success the Church had in the Tamil country of south India was entirely thanks to Nobili and his Italian successors, but their work suffered during the eighteenth century both from sever Muslim persecution and, as in South America, from the general suppression of the Society of Jesus.

(page 705)

Difficult Delivery

 

 

There are so many barriers to successful reform that one wonder sometimes how anyone ever achieves anything at all. It is not just the cynicism resulting from the track record that gets in the way. There is the tendency to have pleasant little projects which tinker at the edges of a service but do not change teh core business. There is the ever present risk of watering down a proposal to gain consensus, with the result too often that roaring lion becomes a squeaking mouse. There is the risk that before a reform has really made a difference, the agenda shifts, attention is diverted elsewhere and the service slips back to its pre-existing state. Most of all , there is the danger of underestimating the extraordinary deadweight force of institutional inertia. No wonder most reforms fail, and I haven’t yet mentioned the barriers – bad ideas and gross incompetence – which are so obvious they would hardly need stating but for their historical pedigree. Remember the Poll tax?

 

There are thousands of people in government bureaucracies whose job it is to complicate matters (lawyers spring to mind – ‘It all depends’, they begin). I don’t necessarily criticise this – government is, after all, a complicated thing. However, to get something done, a countervailing force is required; people who will simplify, keep bringing people back to the fundamentals:

– What are you trying to do?

– How are you trying to do it?

– How do you know you are succeeding?

– If you are not succeeding, how will you change things?

– How can we help you?

 

‘The neglect of implementation issues is more than a simple intellectual mistake: it may be a rational response to the fact that our political system confers more rewards for the shrewd deployment of symbols and generalising arguments than it does for detailed realistic analysis, and forecasting.’

 

(page 71-74)

The Clerical Family

Protestants could point to an innovation which was distinctly theirs in Western Christendom, and which overall proved a real success:  their re-establishment of the clerical family.  The parsonage was a new model for Europe’s family life.  It was perhaps not the most comfortable place to live, on a modest income and under constant public gaze, but children grew up there surrounded by books and earnest conversation, inheriting the assumption that life was to be lived strenuously for the benefit of an entire community – not least in telling that community what to do, whether the advice was welcome or not.  It was not surprising that clerical and academic dynasties quickly grew up in Protestant Europe, and that thoughtful and often troubled, rather self-conscious parsonage children took their place in wider service.  Such personalities as John and Charles Wesley, Gilbert and William Tennent, a trio of Bronte novelists, Friedrich Nietszche, Carly Jung, Karl Barth and Martin Luther King Jr took their restlessness and driven sense of duty into very varied rebuildings of Western society and consciousness, not all of which their parents might have applauded.

 

(page 686)

UCBONES

 

The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’  The great philosopher Voltaire averred and the author Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.’

 

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time.  A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole student body.  They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student movement of that day.  Students rioted.  They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth.  They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton.  They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard.  They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and burnt it in a public bonfire.  Christians were so few on campus in the 1790s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

 

A prayer movement started in Britain through William Care, Andrew Fuller, John Sutcliffe and other leaders who began what the British called the Union of Prayer.  Hence, the year after John Wesley died (1791), the second great awakening began and swept Great Britain.

 

In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States.  Churches knew that their backs were to the wall.  All the churches adopted the plant until Amercia, like Briatin, was interlaced with a network f prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each month to pray.  It was not long before revival came… Out of that second great awakening came the modern missionary movement and its societies.  Out of it came the abolition of slavery, popular education, Bible Societies, Sunday schools and many social benefits.

 

Greig talks about his friend Markus Lagel, a student who was part of a prayer movement in Leipzig in East Germany which was part of the overthrow of Communism.  They were T-shirts, based on Ezekiel 37 which say

“UCBONES” and on the back “ICANARMY”.

 

(page 31ff)

In The Company of Jesus

Something has to change and Jesus says that something can change, promising the ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first.’  In a world obsessed with celebrity, sex and superficial appearance, he still chooses the lepers and the AIDS victims, the bullied kids from school and the ‘fools’ of this world to confound the wise with hope and justice.

In the company of Christ, the ugly become beautiful and classroom cowards become the bewildered heroes of his kingdom.  That, after all, is my story and I suspect it is yours too.

Jackie Pullinger used to say “If you want to see revival, plant your church in the gutter.”

Jesus warned us that the upwardly mobile middle classes would always find it extremely hard to receive him.  But among the losers, the freaks and the apparent failures, what one preacher called the ‘shrimps and wimps and those with limps’… that is actually where the gospel spreads quite easily.

Where’s Gretchen

Once we were in Oklahoma, they announced a tornado was coming.  We stood out in the front yard and watched the tornado, and the weather man was right – it was coming.  We watched it move, and we though it would change directions.  Then we saw that it was not going to change directions, it was going to get our house.  So we needed to get in the car and drive west of town quickly.  We cranked up the car and started out the driveway.  “Oh no! Where’s Gretchen?”  Gretchen was this little sausage dog: she was old.  She wouldn’t bring anything on the market.  Here comes a tornado, and we take time to go back in and get Gretchen.  Now we’re reaching the level of stupidity.

 

The shepherd had a little enclosure out in the desert.  He brings the sheep in, but there are wolves and there are cougars.  The shepherd lies down across the gate thinking, Anything that gets to the sheep will have to come by me.  Now we’re approaching something hard.  What’s the name for this?  The name for it is love.