The Monash Religious Centre

A tour in words of my favourite place on campus. It was going to go on Facebook, but then it got too long.

The university likes to tell us – and everyone else – about what a diverse place it is. Let me take you on a tour of the place that, I think, is the most diverse building on campus.
 
It’s lunch-time when we meet near the campus centre and head east towards a building that you sort of always thought was some sort of alien space-ship that had landed by mistake and turned into a second, smaller, Rotunda.
 
As we approach the building, you can see a lot of people gathered on the verandah. There are barbeques out, and lovely smells, but as we get closer, you notice that the men all have little doilies on their heads – kippot – and that some of them have knotted strings hanging out from their shirt-hems – tzitziyot. It’s the Kosher lunch, and one of the rabanim nods at us as he hurries past with an armful of barbeque-cooking implements.
 
We head inside the nearest doors, and it’s no less busy inside. Sure, it’s not exactly the Menzies foyer at class changeover, but there are people going in all directions. You need the loo, so we head straight to the ladies’ nearby. Someone yelps as we crack the door open. “Sorry!”
 
It’s opened from the inside, and we squeeze through, dodging through people to get past the sinks. There are girls in every space – adjusting hijabs, washing limbs, talking – “Am I going to get through prayer before halaqa class starts?”
 
Escaping from the press of people in the ladies’ room, we come out into the corridor, where there are fewer people, most of them moving about purposefully. There’s probably one person standing around, looking lost. “I was told to come to the religious centre for the meeting, but where do I go now?”
 
After directing her to her own chaplain, we head down the curving corridor which runs alongside the main chapel. The first room we pass is a meeting-room, and there’s movement inside it, too – a prayer meeting, of one of the evangelical Pentecostal student groups. The door’s open, and we nod at them, but continue on.
 
At the end is the chaplain’s office, with unlikely religious props stashed in every corner, and a trolley of tea-making facilities, and a massive pile of flour along one wall for the pancake breakfast for international students in the morning.
 
In the middle of the room is a circle of chairs and people with Bibles in their laps, talking over them. It’s the Catholics having a Bible study, but it’s being run by a high-church Protestant girl who’s teaching them Bible verses.
 
This is the Religious Centre. It’s a space that’s unique in the country, and it deserves much more attention than it gets. Most students probably don’t know about it unless they’re religious – and even then, some still don’t.
 
There is a building on campus where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and everyone else co-exist happily… And you know how much bad blood there is – literally blood, over the last thousand years – between Catholics and Protestants, between Christians and Muslims and between Muslims and Jews.
 
This is a place where three chaplains can have a perfectly rational discussion about just who it is who keeps leaving the sound system in the main chapel turned on so the battery’s run down by Monday morning. It’s a Catholic, an Orthodox, and an Adventist, and you know how Adventists feel about Catholics. But no-one accuses someone else’s leader of being the Antichrist, and no-one tells anyone that they’re not a Christian because they have three extra words in the middle of the Creed.
 
Yes, there are differences of belief. Yes, everyone aware of that, and everyone conducts their faith lives separately. There are some good, amicable discussions of differences in theology. But everyone does their thing side-by-side, cheek-by-jowl, without argument or bloodshed. Everyone gets on with a smile, appreciating the chance they have to use this amazing space.
 
The university likes to tell us – and everyone else – about what a diverse place it is. If you get a chance, come and visit the most diverse place of all – a place they probably didn’t even tell you about.

 

Tha fios agad gu bheil Gàidheal às-dhùthchach a th’ annad ma…

… ma tha Seumaidh MacRuimein an caractar Doctor Who as fheàrr leat, ach is ann brochan a tha do cheann oir chan eil Gàidhlig aige (agus chan ann Leòd).

… ma tha do blas-cainnte tro chèile. Faodaidh tu bho Leòdhas do dh’Earra Ghàidheal do Chanada anns ach aon seantains.

… ma luaidh thu lion-anart. Air àrd-ùrlar.

… ma do thog duine ‘s am bith ort gu bheil “Elvish” agad às dèidh a chuala e tu a’ bruidhinn Gàidhlig air an fhòn.

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is Astrailianach mi

… ma do dh’iàrr iad thu anns an Còisir Gàidhlig as fhaisge… agus chan eil i ach deich uairean ‘s a’ char bhuad.

… ma tha thu air do shàrachadh leis bitheadh a’ lèirigeadh nach eil, chan eil “Celtic” agad, tha “Gàidhlig” agad.

… man bheil thu cinnteach mu dheidhinn na rudan “Clan” seo… oir chan eil do “chlan” cho cudthromach ri mur a bheil Gàidheal annad.

… ma tha uaill mhòr mhòr agaibh ann do chànan, ach cha bruidhinidh thu i ach an uair a tha Gàidheil eile ann.

… man tug thu tadhal a dh’Alba ach aon uair, agus tha an mòr-chuid nan fìos cruinn-eòlas Albannach agad às clàsaichean aig na Sgoilean Nàiseanta nan Comunn Gàidhlig ionadail no clàsaichean teleafòn le Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

… man faod thu air daoine nach bheil ach seachd (no ochd) litrichean ‘us deag aig do chànan às deidh a chunnaic iad air a dhearbh.

… man tug thu tadhal dhan Steòrnobhaigh, ach air tàilleibh na rudan a chuala tu, is ionad-cultar mòr agus àrd-bhaile e.

 

… ma chuala tu na gòthaidhean “garlic” iomadh turas.

… ma chuala tu ‘us ma do leugh thu gach freagairt annasach bho Gàidheil Albannach air am fìos gu bheil thu ann an Astràilia… far an rugadh agus thògadh thu.

… ma tha ‘n sloinneadh “Leòd” aig mòran nan càirdean agad, ach futhaichidh tui ad aig an Cruinneachadh… oir is cho geal-bhuidhe a th’ anns an t-aodach breacanach aca.

… ma do bhuail thu idir an sgàil-inneal-sgrìobhaidh oir thuirt e dhuit (a’ rithist) nach bheil i-Player BBC Alba a’ dol anns do mhòr-thir.

… ma tha thu diombach ris am fiacham gu bheil thu pàirt de ‘n mòr-chuid chultarach Bheurla-bhuidhinneach… oir is geal thu.

… ma tha thu ‘n ad Crìostail, ach chan eil thu cinnteach mu dheidhinn an t-Eaglais Saor.

… ma tha àill agad gun dùn an clapan Clann ‘icDhòmhnaill mu dheidhinn Gleann Comhann!

… ma tha thu a’ tuigsinn gach facal ann “Outlander”.

… ma tha thu a’ teagasg Gàidhlig aig an t-ionad-cultar, agus tha barrachd air leth na oileanach an-siud oir a chunnaic iad air “Outlander”.

… ma tha umhail agad gu bheil blas-cainnte Adhamh aig gach cleasaiche air Outlander.

… ma sgrìobhaidh tu fhathast na dhà stràc (throm augs gheur).

… ma sgrìobhaidh tu h-uile litir ann “am màireach”, “an uair”, “an nis”, agus “an nochd”.

… ma sgrìobhaidh tu “cèilidh” le “dh”, agus ma tha thu an aghaidh air gach litreachaidh eile. (“céili”, mar eisempleir).

… ma tha faireachdainn agad, an nis ‘us a’ rithist, gu bheil thu nas Albannach na 99% nan daoine anns an Alba… oir tha ‘n cànan agad.

… ma tha thu-fhèin a h-uile roinn nan òig nan Comunn Gàidhlig as fhaisge.

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Gaidhlig Mhannainn. Chan eil Gaidhlig a th’ ann gu dearbh… a bheil? A bheil thu cinnteach? Uill, tha mi a’ tuigsinn na faidhlean-fuaim, co-dhiugh…

… man fhaod thu Gàidhlig Mhannainn a’ leughadh… ‘us do shùilean dùinte.

 

… ma tha thu an aghaidh aodachach breacanach (oir is toradh nan impireileas Shasannaich iad)… ach tha am part “Scottish Expat” agad an nis ‘us a’ rithist nas làidire, agus an uair sin cuiridh ort tu d’ aodach breacanach co-dhiùgh.

… man fhaca thu air “Outlander” air son dà bhliadhna oir is litricheadh mearachdach a th’ anns ainm nan chiad eadar-sgeul.

… man do sgrìobh tu “Albannach” air do bhileag-iarrtais àrd-sgoil far a cuir e cèist ort man robh thu pàrt de ‘n cultar eile… agus bha thu glè gruamach riutha an uair a thuirt an sgoil dhuit nach robh “Albannach” cultar dìofraich nan “Astràilianach”, agus cha robh iad a’ creidsinn an uair a thuirt thu dhuibh gun robh cànan eile agad.

… ma chluichidh tu fidheal aig cèilidhean, dannsaichean bush, agus air àrd-urlar… ach bidh thu gruamach an uair a chluicheas Astràilianaich “nighean donn bhòidheach” cho luath. ‘S e ceòlan nan cridhe briste a th’ air. Chan air port-cruinn.

… man do choinnich tu pàrantain do phàrantain ach aon no dà uair, ach bha do “sheanmhairean” agus do “sheanairean” air mòran Gàidheil seann.

… ma bha thu ag deasbaireachd ri do thìdsear àrd-sgoile mu dheidhinn daoine “indigenous”. ‘S e tè dùthchasail a th’ annad, ach chan eil thu a’ fuireach anns do dùthchas. Seash, tha craicinn geal ort, ach bha na Sasannaich a’ ceannsachadh do shinnsirean cuideachd.

… ma tha fìos agad ri na h-ainmean nan glasraichean-fhèin agus nan measan-fhèin, ach cha robh thu a’ tuigsinn am fràs “glasraichean ‘us measan” a’ chiad uair an tuirt do thìdsear dhuit e.

… ma tha fìos agad ri na h-ainmean Beurla nan gach ainm Gàidhlig, ach chan fhaod thu an ceangal a mhinich gach uair.

… ma tha fìos agad ri an diùbhras eadar “surname” agus “sloinneadh”.

… ma tha fios agad ri an diùbhras eadar “labhraiche dùtchasach”, “labhraiche dùthchasach sleamhnaichte”, “labhraiche dualchasach”, “ionnsaiche dualchasach”, agus “thogte ionnsaiche dualchasach”.

… ma tha fìos agad ri ceann-latha nan Blàr Chùil Lodair. Cha robh e ann 1745.

… ma tha fìos agad gun robh do chànan an cànan trì-gu-mòr as motha ann Astràilia. Bha Beurla agus Gàidhlig Èireannach na dà chànan as motha.

… ma tha fìos agad gu bheil Ghàidheil a th’ ann Gàidheil. Ach chan fhaod thu a’ tuigsinn car son nach bruidhinn na Èireannaich riut man bheil Èireannach a th’ annad.

… ma tha fìos agad gun robh bile air parlamaid Cànadach aon uair airson Gàidhlig mar treasa cànan oifigeul.

… ma tha fear ann do theaghlach le speurachd agus urnaighean ann an Gàidhlig (ach chan eile Gàidhlig eile aige idir).

… ma tha fios agaibh co mheud faclan Astràilian a tha Gàidhlig.

… ma tha thu uabhasach samhnach an uair a tha duine ‘s am bith ag ràdh riubh gum bi cànan marbh (no bàsachadh) a th’ ann Gàidhlig.

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abhachd Criostalach

… ma bhitheas milileadh dùil ort an uair a tha ainm Beurla gan eadar-theangachadh aig Gàidheal eile, oir cha bhith fios agaibh mu ‘n tuiseal gairmeach air an ainm.

 

… man do chuir sios “Sòisgeul Eòin” thu car seachdan as dèidh a thàinig e.

… ma tha an t-òran nàiseanta Èireannach agad a’ dol: “Sinne fianna fàila… a tha faoi gheall ag Èirinn… chan eil fìos agam… mu dheidhinn na faclan!”

… ma thug thu idir tadhal air bàile eile airson Sgoil-Cànan Èireannach aig direadh seachdaine… oir bha feòrachas agad.

… ma their thu “Gàidhealtachd” air “Highlands”, a dh’aindeoin fìos gu bheil na h-Eileanan Siar an Gàidhealtachd ceart.

… ma tha Gearmailtis agad… oir tha co mheud ionnsaichean à Gearmailt. Carson a tha iad, co-dhiùgh?

… ma tha Am Briathrachas nas fheàrr leat na Dwelly’s, ach gun bhreug, tha an faclair ùr sin air learngaelic.net le faidhle-fuaim am faclair as fheàrr gu dearbh gu cinnteach!

… ma cluicheas tu Rùnrig air an rèidio a chum a bhith a’ dearbhadh nach bheil ceòl Gàidhlig ràsanach, tradaiseanta, mall seann-nòs (mar ‘s breagha leat).

… ma tha fìos agad dè tha camanachd.

… ma tha fìos agad ri an diùbhras eadar “walking” agus “waulking”.

… ma leanas thu na sgòran camanachd.

… ma tha e neònach gun cuir Seumaidh Friseal bho Outlander “mo nighean donn” air Clare, agus seinneas thu “ho-rò, mo nighean donn bhòidheach” gach uair…

… ma bha do ghràdh air an t-òran “Is Gàidheal Mi-i-i-i-i” bho ‘n chiad uair a chuala tu e, agus tha thu airson a dh’ionnsaich.

… ma thuigeas tu Gàidhlig Èireannach, ach tha Gàidheil Èireannach ag ràdh nach faod iad gad thuigsinn.

… ma tha fìos agad an uair a tha fìos aig fidhlearan mu dheidhinn nan faclan nan t-òrain.

… ma tha cuimhne agad bho ‘n uair cuin’ nach robh Gàidhlig air an eadar-lìon.

… man fhaod thu “a dh’fhaithgheàrr” a chanas, ach chan eil duine ‘s am bith a’ creidsinn an uair a can thu e.

… ma their thu “camanachd” air “shinty”.

… ma tha eagal ort gun dìochùimhnichidh tu do chànan-fhèin.

… ma tha thu airson do ‘m Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail a dhol.

… man bheil do mhàthair (agus a h-uile teaghlach aice) a’ tuigsinn Gàidhlig. Agus chan eil Gàidhlig air mòran do teaghlach eile cuideachd.

… ma tha barrachd air leth nan t-òrain agad mu dheidhinn na Shasannaich olc.

… ma tha bàiltean anns an Alba le ainmean nach eil fios agaibh ri ach anns a’ Ghàidhlig.

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grupan FaceBook

… ma tha blasan-cainnte Leòdhasach as èibhinne.

 

… ma tha fo-sgrìobhadair annad air grùpan FaceBook mu dheidhinn ceàrr Gàidhlig air soidhnean anns an Alba.

… man fhaod thu trì rannan nan “O Fhlùir na h-Alba” a sheinneas, ach chan eil fìos agad mu dheidhinn na faclan ‘s a Bheurla!

… ma bha thu airson pìob a chluiche an uair a bha thu òg.

… man e “Scot” a th’ annad; ‘s e Gàidheal a th’ annad!

… man e liubhraiche rèidio annad ach oir bha an liubhraiche ùr eile air Uair Rèidio Albannach an aghaidh Gàidhlig.

… man e eachdraidh air do shluaigh ach Na Fuadaichean.

… ma chunnaic thu air eadaran-sgeul Dòtamain teipte gu bochd, a dh’ aindeoin nach do chraol e air taidhsearachd bho chionn fada mus d’ rug thu.

… ma tha thu ag ràdh “taidhsearachd” air “telebhisean”.

… man e “Calum Chlachair” a th’ air “Bob the Builder”.

… ma tha “Na Braithrean Cuideachail” anns a’ Ghàidhlig an rud as fheàrr leat air taidhsearachd!

… ma tha thu a’ tuigsinn na pìosan-millidh ann an Outlander oir tha iad anns a’ Ghàidhlig.

Latha na Gaidhlig… ma do sgrìobh thu air Gàidhlig air an loidhne airson Latha Twitter Gàidhlig.

… ma tha thu cinnteach gu bheil “Suas leis a’ Ghàidhlig” an t-òrain nàiseanta nan Alba.

… ma tha thu dà-fhichead bliadhnaichean nas òige na h-uile Gàidheal eile anns do stàta.

… ma d’ rinn thu cùrsa beag Cuimris, ach bha milleadh dùil agad ri na oileanaich eile oir bha iad cho gleòmach… chan eil sèimheachadh cho doirbh!

…. ma d’ rinn thu Dannsa Dùthchas Albannach an uair a bha thu nas òige nan nis.

… ma thug thu idir tadhal air an clàs Còrnais aig am fèis Cèilteach… oir bha ùidh agad.

… ma tha fìos agad nach eil Gàidhlig agus Scots dàimheachte. ‘S e “Gàidhlig”-fhèin air – chan e “Scots Gaelic” a th’ air do chànan.

… ma chunnaic thu air h-uile bhideo anns a’ Ghàidhlig air YouTube… agus chunnaic thu air h-uile bhideo anns a’ Ghàidhlig Èireannach… agus tha thu airson na bhideodhain anns a’ Chuimris a’ sealltainn.

… ma tha thu ag eadar-theangachadh mìmean faoin “Tha Fios Agad Ma…” do Ghàidhlig.

… ma tha fìos aig h-uile duine mu dheidhinn do cinneadh bho do shloinneadh, ach chan eil duine sam bith suaraich mu dheidhonn cho fàd’ ‘s a tha Gàidhlig agad!

… man bheil thu cinnteach gu bheil thu a’ sgrìobhadh Gàidhlig ceart, agus tha sgàth ort gum bith duine sam bith a’ cuireach “àmadan” ort agus gum bith iad ag ràdh “tha do Ghàidhlig coltach ri Gàidhlig nan leanaibh beag no gall”.

5 Headcovering Patterns

So, I was “tidying” a filing cabinet I used a few years ago and found a couple of sewing patterns. Well, actually, I found a lot of sewing patterns. Well, I found a couple of branded sewing patterns and half a dozen back-bodice-front-bodice-sleeve combinations (I think I must have drawn myself a new pattern every time I needed a new dress for a few years there). And three complete headcovering patterns I’d completely forgotten about.

I thought someone out there might be interested in them – any headcoverers out there? Anyway, so here they are. The grid is meant to be 1cm spacing, so you might have to print-and-scale-copy-by-hand or something if you want to use them.

Hanging Veil

Headcovering - Kite VeilAlso known as “kite veil”, “simple veil”, or a million and one other things. This basic idea seems to be the most common sort of headcovering amongst non-denom Christian women at the moment (not that I really hang around much on headcovering sites these days).

It’s a fairly simple one-piece proposition, and best made out of polycotton knit, lycra, or some other sort of stretchy material – that gives the best drape. An old t-shirt is a good option.

You can adjust the size by measuring head circumference (that’s the horizontal length) and also from hairline to wherever you want it to fall (that’s the vertical length).

First, trim the front and back. You can do a simple seam (use a zig-zagging stitch) or attack elasticised lace. Then, I sew it together on the straight bit opposite the fold. This makes it into a tube-like thing which is simple to put on – just pull over your head and attach at the front. The whole process takes maybe an hour to make (I hand-sew) and about thirty seconds or less to put on in the morning.

Simple “Kapp”

Headcovering - Bonnet Cap

For something “simple”, it’s the most complicated pattern here in that it has three pieces. I think I originally adapted it from a how-to at Shepherd’s Hill Homestead, although I can’t find it anymore and can’t even get onto the site at the moment.

I wore it for a while, but eventually decided that a kapp-style headcovering simply did not work with my head – it needed constant readjusting.

First, sew the front (and sides) of the brim.

Next, pleat the crown. I did 5 pleats up each side (opening down) and 4 pleats along the bottom (opening out), about 1cm deep. Pleats should be as long as to the grey line marked, and you can iron or not iron as desired – depends on the look you want. You could probably even sew them down into darts if you wanted – I think I did that once.

At the very least, sew the pleats down along the edge before you attach the brim. Finish it off with the binding – it probably doesn’t need to be as wide as in the picture, but apply it like bias-binding. I used to do it all the way to the front of the brim to finish it off nicely all the way along the bottom. You can also cut the binding longer if you want to make it into ties, but I found the angle was a little awkward, although that might be better if you make the pattern larger – which I probably would if I made it again, since it sits a bit further back on the head than I would like.

“Common Mennonite” Veil

Headcovering - Common Mennonite VeilThat’s the name that was written on it by the lady that gave it to me, anyway (although I don’t think she was Mennonite). It’s the one from which I developed the hanging veil pattern I use. I might refer to this one as a “brimmed veil”.

Upon reviewing her instructions, I’m pretty sure the piece I’ve labled “brim” was actually meant to be a bias of some sort, but I believe what I did at the time was gather along the top and wear it with a brim, a bit like a cross between a veil and an open-back kapp. I found the press-stud closure (it’s labled “snaps closure” on the original pattern) to be a bit impractical and ended up pinning it, I think, although as I look at the pattern now, I think I might attach strings to the brim if I did it again, perhaps.

Open-Back Kapp

Headcovering - Open-Back KappI couldn’t find the brim pattern for this one, so I’ve put in the brim from the last – I’d probably cut it a bit wider, though, or perhaps use the brim from the simple kapp. I think I probably conflated the two patterns when they were given to me, which is why I ended up making the other one like an open-back kapp.

Anyway, the original pattern has noted on it “this one pattern can be done a few ways for different looks”, and there are options for a smaller fit or fewer pleats (place the fold an inch in), a straight hem at the bottom (which would be easier to sew, apparently), and also a notation that the curved hem could be turned into casing for elastic.

I think with the gathers, brim, and elastic at the bottom it could become another simple kapp pattern, although I suspect it might have a back-shape reminiscent of Lancaster County Amish ladies (you know, the distinctive heart thing). I just don’t like gathering anything – I’d rather pleat any day (it must be the Scottish in me, but I honestly used to have nightmares about gathering. I could never get the hang of it). I presume that you should add ties at the edges of the brim.

Snood

Headcovering - SnoodThis one was already on my computer; that’s why it looks different. I don’t know that I ever made it up, but it looks like it should work well enough, although perhaps with a wider brim than that.

I would probably use some sort of stretchy material like for my hanging veil headcoverings; sew the two bags together along the sides at bottom (top is to the left of the picture), sew the front of the brim, gather the front of the bag and attach the two. I’m wondering about attaching some sort of drawstring, elastic or tie to the ends of the brim.

I sort of want to make a snood now, because I think it might make things easier on those days I can’t be bothered putting my hair in a bun or if I have a headache or something like that. But I can’t seem to get anything to stay put on my head, even with some sort of pin or clip, unless my hair is tied firmly back, so there wouldn’t really be much point since I’d have to tie my head back anyway.

Other Patterns

For another headcoverer’s take on the hanging veil (plus a pattern and lots of step-by-step pictures, check out the Seven Farmgirl Sisters’ Headcovering Tutorial.

You can also get lots of patterns from Candle On the Hill, who also offer the Friends Patterns patterns for various regional Amish headcovering/kapp styles. I haven’t used any of these patterns, though, so I don’t know what they’re like, and you have to pay for them. Candle On the Hill does offer a free headcovering (hanging veil) “pattern”, but what it actually is is a list of instructions basically amounting to “cut out a circle and hem it”.

Another note – I started off attaching the headcoverings with straight pins, which worked surprisingly well (although it looks a bit like you’ve stapled the headcovering to your head, according to several people who commented on it at the time). These days I use little white (1.5-inch) bobby pins, which you can find if you search online at cosmetic supply shops. I’m currently working through a 120g tub which should last me… the rest of my life. My headcoverings are mostly white, with a few pastels, so it works, but occasionally I revert back to wearing a bandanna-style covering, which I did for a while, and I sometimes pin those if they’re darker colours.

You don’t need a pattern for the bandanna-style covering – just take a large square (not smaller than 50cm square), fold it into a triangle, and tie it under your bun. I don’t really like how they sit – I always get annoying “wings” and it gets assymetrical very easily (yes, I’ve been accused of being OCD). But if you use a reasonably drapey material, it’s not so bad.

I think that’s about everything. A shout-out to any headcovering ladies out there! I hope you find the patterns useful.

Oh, another note – I mentioned at the beginning the bodice-and-sleeves patterns I used to make. I did it by tracing around a dress I liked, if memory serves, and toyed for a bit with measuring myself and drawing my own patterns. I had varying degrees of success (but got better at it when I was about 12 and realised sleeves were meant to be shaped at the top!).

These days, I use a pattern from Gehmans Fabrics, from whom I also buy my dress material (I cannot speak highly enough of the material offered at Gehmans – do yourself a favour and buy it rather than go to Spotlight. It’s worth the shipping cost) – although I do add an extra inch to the bodice and a few inches to the skirt and arms – I’ve come to the conclusion that the Germanic Mennonite women must simply be a bit of a different shape to me, but the dress pattern is simple (just six pieces, including separate cape pieces) and very easy to use, and comes on very sturdy paper.

Thought of the Day #12

[New Reception, upon arriving in Chapel and sitting down] “Is this where God lives, Mrs Rachel?”

[Me] “Well, it’s where we come to visit Him.”

——————–

[Another New Reception] “Wow, it’s a big building. And old! How old is it, Mrs Rachel?”

[Me] “I don’t know exactly. But it’s very old. You know, there’s a stone outside that says how old it is. Chaplain Paula might know. Chaplain Paula, do you know how old this building is?”

[Chaplain] “Very old. I would say at least more than a hundred years old.”

[New Reception #2] “Wow! How does it still standing up?”

[New Reception from previous quote] “Because this is where God is! He does it still standing up!”

[New Reception #2] “It must be really good built.”

The Problem of Clarity, and What it Means to Be a Christian

Read this article on what it means to be a Christian, and use the following questions to guide your discussion. Do you have any difficulties with this article? What do you agree with in this article? How does the author seek to convince you of his position? How do good works fit with genuine faith, and is this essential for being a Christian?

Isn’t it fascinating how a lack of clarity in terminology can have such effects on the understanding and even formation of a doctrine? In the article, we have two very important words which today are used with such a range of meaning that it is almost impossible to determine what exactly is meant by them: “Christian” and “salvation”.

In order to clarify the meaning of one, I must clarify the meaning of the other. “Salvation” is an ongoing process beginning with confession and justification and continuing through multiple steps, as discussed in my previous post (which isn’t posted here because it was overall convoluted, shoddy, and difficult to follow). One of these steps is “sanctification”, the process of becoming more like Christ – a process which might also be called “discipleship”. Since in the New Testament, the term “Christian” is used (only once, as far as I can recall, in Acts 26:28) to refer to a disciple of Christ, a “Christian” is then a person who has repented and been justified, the beginning of the process of salvation which continues with sanctification.

In common usage, however, “salvation” commonly refers only to the events of justification and adoption, which take place at belief and confession; while the author seems at least to understand “salvation” as a larger, ongoing work… at first (more on that later).

The author states, in rebuttal to some unknown and unnamed evangelists, that “confessing Jesus [saying a sinner’s prayer] does not make you a Christian” and nor will it “grant you eternal salvation”. In response to Romans 10:9-10 (“confess with your mouth and believe with your heart…”), he states Matthew 7:21-23 (“depart from me, I never knew thee…”).

I disagree with the author. Romans 10:9-10 is specifically two-parted – speaking with the mouth and believing with the heart. The persons condemned in Matthew 7:21-23 have done only the first of these, confessing Jesus outwardly but not inwardly. These are “mouth-Christians” who – I agree with the author – are not Christians. Romans 10:9-10 makes clear that both outward and inward confession of Jesus is required for “salvation” (adoption and justification) to occur, setting the confessor on the path of sanctification, part of the ongoing process of salvation.

The author also says that “confessing Christ is a result of salvation, not the cause of salvation”. I disagree, and say that it is both – the result of salvation (election and grace) and the cause of salvation (justification, then sanctification, then glorification). At first, the author seemed to be using “salvation” as a synonym for “adoption”, but here, he seems to be using it as a synonym for “election”!

The author also deals with works, juxtaposing the two passages of Galatians 2:16 (justification by faith, not by works) and James 2:17 (“faith without works is dead”). His explanation, while holding the unclarity typical of the entire article, seems to be heading towards the idea that Galatians refers to works as a means of justification, while James refers to works as evidence of sanctification.

In the second section of the article, the author explains that “there are five characteristics that are required for someone to rightly call themselves a Christian: repentance, faith, works, the Holy Spirit, and love. Lacking any of these will place that person outside of being a Christian.” Not only do I disagree with this last statement, but the author’s explanation of these five things is (typically) unclear, and his ordering of them could also be improved.

First, the author’s view of “faith” as a characteristic seems to include two parts: belief that one’s sins are forgiven, and belief in Christ’s work; and he states that the former comes from the latter. In this, I agree, and place “repentance” in the middle – thus, belief in the reality of Christ’s work, repentance of sins, and faith in the resultant forgiveness (in justification and in adoption).

Again, the author describes good works – and love – as evidence of one’s Christian-ness. “You cannot accept God without the Holy Spirit”, he says, and “you know someone has the Spirit of God when they have love”. To this first I would agree, insofar as we would be incapable of understanding – or following through on – anything without the help of the Spirit.

However, the author goes on to say, “genuine repentance, faith and good works come from the heart. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes the heart to have these desires in the first place. That is what is meant by being ‘born again’.” Perhaps it is merely my understanding of the term “born again”, but I disagree. To my understanding, being “born again” is what happens when one confesses and believes in Christ – namely, adoption into God’s family and regeneration into new life (represented for our tangible understanding in baptism). The Spirit may aide us in believe, in genuine repentance, and in perseverance through faith in forgiveness, but this aide does not constitute being “born again”, which is what God does in and for us – through Christ – after our repentance.

Overall, in dissection, there are few points in the article in which I disagree with the author. However, in putting them all together, we come up with some rather different pictures. Then again, as I’ve mentioned, his picture is rather unclear and I’m not entirely certain what it is. He uses copious quotes from the Bible in order to convince us of his position on each point, but does not put the points together very well.

A Brief History of Christian Fasting

Adapted from paper presented for the “Spiritual Disciplimes” class at ACM in March 2016 (personal bits removed – and, indeed, rendered irrelevant by intervening events).

_______________________________

I worship in a tradition which has previously practiced fasting but has now mostly abandoned the practice to embrace silence, stillness, and contemplation in its place. I’m not the sort who’s ever had much of a problem with silence, stillness, and contemplation, so these things aren’t really a spiritual discipline for me – or, at least, not a new one, and part being alive is to grow and try new things.

Fasting in the Bible

In the Bible, fasting appears to have been used for a variety of reasons, including mourning[2], preparation for a physical battle[3] or spiritual trial[4], supplication[5], repentance[6], seeking guidance[7], reading the Scripture[8], or simply to draw nearer to God[9] or gain spiritual strength[10]. On many occasions, prayer is mentioned alongside fasting[11] or depicted with it[12].

At several points in the Bible[13], we see people fasting merely for appearances’ sake, to make themselves seem more spiritual; this was apparently such a problem that Jesus gave specific instructions about fasting so as to avoid it. In Matthew 6:16-18, the disciples are told not to go about fasting in an obvious way, but to do it in secret, maintaining a happy outward appearance.

From the Biblical record, we can see that there are a number of needs which fasting fulfils, listed above. While some of these probably seem to us today to be either irrelevant (preparation for a battle) or just a little odd and unnecessary (as mourning or as preparation for reading the Scripture), they are, for the most part, needs which Christians still have today – such as spiritual trials, repenting, and the need for spiritual strength or guidance.

Fasting in Historical Christianity

Fasting two days of the week quickly became the norm in early Christianity. The Didache, which was written sometime before the end of the second century[14], states that Christians should fast on Wednesday[15] and Friday[16], rather than on Monday and Thursday “with the hypocrites”[17] (presumably the Jews[18]). The Didache also links fasting and praying together in the single sentence[19], indicating that the two were viewed on a similar level.

The Rev’d Joseph Connolly, a Catholic priest[20], stated,

“Fasting is recommended by the scriptures and practised by the church as a means of atoning for sin and commending ourselves and our prayers to God. Hence the fast days of the Christian calendar and their connecting with times of prayer, such as Lent and Ember weeks[21] and the eves of the great feasts.”[22]

In both Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the term “fast” now applies more commonly to what might better be known as “abstinence”. In Orthodox churches, a “plain fast” or a “strict fast” require abstinence from meat, eggs, dairy, fish, wine, and oil[23]. Some feast days require relaxed fasts which allow wine and oil and sometimes fish. In the Roman Catholic church, which has far fewer fast days than the Orthodox church, “fasting” is abstaining simply from meat[24], or from some other food, and the canon law states that works of charity or “exercises of piety” may be substituted for fast and abstinence observance[25]. In the West, it has become more popular for Catholics to abstain from activities, such as texting[26], or from treat foods only, such as chocolate, for Lent. Some Anglican churches recommend daily periods of contemplative prayer and self-examination in place of fasting[27].

Meanwhile, while the practice of fasting is falling prey to attempts to make it relevant by eliminating it in traditional churches, it has experienced something of a revival in Pentecostal churches. Pentecostal churches, leery of legalism, do not legislate any specific fast days and instead leave it up to “the leading of God”. However, many individuals within the Pentecostal movement have labelled different sorts of fast, including “normal fasts” (abstaining from all food but continuing to drink water), “water fasts” (abstaining from everything, including water), and “Daniel fasts” or “partial fasts” (abstaining from one or more items of food, typically meat and sweets)[28].

Fasting in the Modern Context

It is clear to see that fasting can be, has been, and is being adapted for the modern context. In the Bible, as well as in traditional churches, fasting has been very much a communal activity, as well as at times a private one. Today, we no longer live in close, closed communities of believers, whether Jewish or Christian, which can undertake fasting as a community event. Nor, probably, would many protestants want to do so, since faith in many protestant traditions is much more a personal affair than a community one.

Despite whatever postmodern reluctance we might have to avoid doing anything as a group, whether for legalism-avoiding reasons or for anything else, it is most assuredly ill-advised to go about fasting without letting anyone know, even if only for the health concerns, to say nothing of spiritual ones. For this reason it is important to find some way of treading a middle ground between individual, personal fasting behaviour, and the congregational fasting periods of history.

____________________________

[1] Thigpen, P., Soul Building, Discipleship Journal

[2] Judges 20:26, 1 Samuel 31:13, Samuel 1:11-12, 1 Kings 12:27, 1 Chronicles 10:12, Nehemiah 1:4, Esther 4:3, Psalm 69:10, Jeremiah 14:12, Joel 1:14

[3] 2 Chronicles 20:3, Esther 4:16, Matthew 4:2

[4] Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:23

[5] Judges 20:26, Nehemiah 1:4, Jeremiah 14:12, Daniel 6:18, Daniel 9:3, Joel 1:14

[6] 1 Samuel 7:6, Psalm 35:13, Psalm 69:10, Daniel 9:3, Joel 2:12-15

[7] Ezra 8:21-9:5

[8] Nehemiah 9:1

[9] Psalm 35:13, Psalm 69:10, Psalm 109:24, 1 Corinthians 7:5

[10] Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29

[11] Daniel 9:3, Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29, Luke 2:37, Acts 10:30, Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:23, 1 Corinthians 7:5

[12] 1 Samuel 7:6, 2 Chronicles 20:3, Ezra 8:21-9:5, Nehemiah 9:1, Joel 1:14

[13] Isaiah 58:2-6, Zechariah 7:3-5, Luke 18:12

[14] van de Sandt, H & Flusser, D 2002, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity, Royal Van Gorcum, Assen, Nederlands., pg. 48b

[15] Interestingly, in the Gaelic language, which has no record for weekday names prior to the arrival of Christianity, Wednesday is called “Di-Ciad-Aoin”, meaning “day of the first fast”. Likewise, Friday is “Di-h-Aoine”, or “day of the fast”, leaving Thursday as “Di-Ardaoin”, a shortened form of “di-eadar-aoin” or “day between the fast”.

[16] The suggestion has been made that these days were chosen for the following reason: Wednesday because that is the day Judas betrayed Jesus, and Friday because it is the day on which Jesus was killed

[17] van de Sandt, H & Flusser, D 2002, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity, Royal Van Gorcum, Assen, Nederlands., pg. 12e, 8.1

[18] van de Sandt, H & Flusser, D 2002, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity, Royal Van Gorcum, Assen, Nederlands., pg. 292c

[19] van de Sandt, H & Flusser, D 2002, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity, Royal Van Gorcum, Assen, Nederlands., pg.s. 12e-13a, 8.1-8.3

[20] Hickerson, P, ‘Father Connolly, Severn pastor for 16 years, dies’, The Baltimore Sun, 7 March 1993, accessed 22 March 2016, <http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-03-07/news/1993066097_1_catholic-priest-roman-catholic-connolly&gt;.

[21] Weeks of dedicated prayer, vigil, and spiritual renewal, see Davies, JG (Ed.) 1972, A Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship, 5th edn, SCM Press Ltd, London., pgs. 168-169

[22] Davies, JG (Ed.) 1972, A Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship, 5th edn, SCM Press Ltd, London., pg. 180b

[23] Seraphim of Platina, F 2008, The Rule of Fasting in the Otrhodox Church, Orthodox Christian Information Centre, accessed 24 March 2016, <http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/father-seraphim-rose-fasting-rules.aspx&gt;.

[24] Canon 1251, Code of Canon Law, accessed 22 March 2016, < http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4O.HTM&gt;

[25] Canon 1253, Code of Canon Law, accessed 22 March 2016, < http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4O.HTM&gt;

[26] ‘To text is to sin’, NZ Herald,  8 March 2009, accessed 22 March 2016, < http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10560485&gt;

[27]  I can’t really provide a reference for this one, but if you want to check its veracity, feel free to contact Fr. Steve at Holy Innocents’ Anglican Belair.

[28] I don’t know that any of the sites I perused to find this out could be considered legitimate sources of authority, but they include, but are not limited to, such places as “Pentecostal Pioneers” <http://www.pentecostalpioneers.org/fasting.html&gt;, “Central Pentecostal Church” <http://cpchurch.ca/2013/01/03/fasting-not-just-another-diet/&gt;, and “The Apostolic Pentecostal Church” <http://theapc.org/the-foundation-of-fasting/.

Some further divide their fasts by length, exact things being abstained from, or reason. Elmer Towns, a Baptist writer, identifies fast types by  reason or aim, rather than length or abstinence, and lists nine different sorts of fast this way in his book Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, 1st Indian edn, OM Books, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India.

[29]  Towns, E. L. The Beginner’s Guide to Fasting, Regal Books, Ventura, California, USA.

One Path to God’s End

Last week at a Bible Study, the topic came up of followers of other religions and whether they can have salvation or not. The general consensus of most of the others in the group seemed to be that yes, they could, because all religions are different means to the same end, and they are finding their own path, and “actually, I get on quite well with my Muslim friends”, and we all just have different ways of seeing God, even those who don’t concede He exists.

Well, regular readers of my blog will know that I firstly disagree with that and secondly wasn’t having a bar of it.

Placing my Bible down on the table, folding my hands on top of it, and leaning forwards, I said, “May I quote, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no-one comes to the Father except through me’?”

(If there’s anyone who doesn’t know – and I wouldn’t have thought there were any Christians who didn’t, until I was stopped by one of the ladies at the Bible study who questioned me on all of the following in genuine ignorance – yes, that’s a quote from the Bible [John 14:6]; I is Jesus speaking; and the Father is God the Father.)

So you don’t think followers of other religions can be saved?”

And I didn’t answer well. I stumbled and mumbled and missed out important things – which is why I’m rectifying it and straightening my thoughts out by writing this down now.

“Well, I accept that Jews can be saved.” Definitely pre-Messiah (pre-Jesus) Jews… I’m not sure one way or the other about Jews today. “But as for other religions… if you believe and hundreds of gods or spirits, or no God… then no.”

On the topic of Muslims, I’ll just add here… I’m open to the thought that they might worship with same God. Or rather, that they might worship the same God misrepresented. That is to say, I do believe they worship God, but I don’t believe they worship my God. I think they believe they’re worshipping my God.

Does that make sense? I don’t believe Allah is some other being, or the devil, or the antichrist. I can see enough similarity in the teachings of Islam to Christianity that it’s a bit of a sort of messed-up version of it. All the basics are there. All the histories are the same. The basic message has been changed. So, no, their God is the same God as the God of the Jews and the Christians. However, is Allah perhaps an idol – a man-made idea – of the worst kind? Is he a man-made god which bears enough similarity to the real thing to be mistaken as such?

Yes, I know that’s controversial. But that’s just a little to explain my thinking on the matter. Jews definitely worship the same God as Christians. Sometimes perhaps they don’t understand Him the same way, but more than ¾ of the Christian Scriptures are the Jewish Scriptures, so we worship the same God.

But, on the matter of the potential salvation of followers of other religions through that religion, as far as I can see it:

Jews – Maybe. Definitely in the past, perhaps today; at any rate, they have enough information within their own faith for salvation through Christ.

Muslims – Not really. Close, but not quite there, which is the saddest thing about it all.

Others – No.

But what about people who never have the chance to hear about Jesus?”

This is the tricky question people always throw at you when you start talking about salvation through Christ alone. After all, salvation through Christ alone inherently implies condemnation for everyone else, so doesn’t it seem unfair that people can be condemned without ever hearing?

I know what my lecturers would say. They would point out that everyone in the world is descended from Noah, and therefore every people group in the world at some point knew God and rejected him. They would bring up Romans 1 and natural revelation. They would mention the Old Testament and how the consequences of rejection of God is passed down through the generations, and not limited to just the one who rejects him.

It’s a hard thing to say, because all those things imply that such people who never have a chance to hear about Jesus are condemned by their ancestors, and by circumstances outside their control, and we don’t want our God to be like that. God, after all, is love.

But He is also just, and sometimes God’s justice seems cruel to us.

But… but… Romans 1 and natural revelation. God works in mysterious ways. There are only a handful of truly uncontacted peoples today, although there are definitely a larger number who will never have contact with Christians. But God’s creation is the same everywhere, and wondrous, and said uncontacted tribes usually have a very keen awareness of the spiritual, in one form or another. God’s natural revelation can lead people to question, to look further, to look for God. God is powerful. Who am I to say what He can and can’t do?

So, awful as it sounds, those uncontacted tribes are not my concern – unless, of course, God calls me to minister to them. Even the much larger number of people in the world who will never meet a Christian are not – at this point in my life – my concern. What is my concern, however, are the people I interact with on a daily basis who follow other religions – or no religion at all.

What the people in the Bible Study group would have me do is make friends with these people, accepting that we’re just on different paths to the same goal, and leave it at that.

But the moment we do that, we’re denying Christ.

Does that sound harsh? Probably. But if we sincerely believe that we have been saved through Christ, then in those very same passages, we must also accept that the only way to salvation is through Christ. Surely we should want to go out and let everyone know, so they can join us? “Go and make disciples, baptising in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” To tell ourselves that followers of other religions are on their way to salvation by a different path is to not only deny our own salvation, but to deny Christ and some of His last words to us – the Great Commission.

There are people right here with us, whom see every day, with whom we work, who might be counted among the ‘people who never have the chance to hear about Jesus’ if we as Christians do not speak up and tell them! And the awful things is, they will have had the chance, but we will have denied it to them because we’re telling ourselves “we all have different paths to God”.

Now, I don’t want to you think I’m some raving lunatic who goes out every day street-preaching and basically making a nuisance of myself to my non-Christian colleagues. We all know (well, most of us) that that sort of thing isn’t a constructive way to go about sharing the Gospel. And besides that, I’m much too chicken.

So I have friends of other religions. I have “neo-spiritual” hippy friends (there are a lot of them in my area). I have friends who are atheist, postmodernist, “normal twenty-first-century rational” people.

But at no point do I forget that they are lost – unsaved – and at no point do I tell myself, “Oh, that’s all right, because we’re all on different roads to the same place in the end.”

No, but you have to pick your moments carefully. I’m more outspoken on these matters among Christians than among non-Christians, and definitely much more outspoken on my blog! Traditional ways of “sharing the Gospel” don’t always work, particularly on postmodernists and hippies.

What does work, however, is showing them that you’re normal, “living out Christ in your life” (in quotes because I hate that phrase as ridiculous Christianese, but have to concede it fits), and answering their questions when they arise.

What does work, with hippies particularly, is finding points of commonality. Hippies are open to faith and to God. They’re not open to religion. Share your faith and your lifestyle, comment on something wonderfully spiritual they’ve “discovered” which is actually a much-cherished part of Christianity. (Laying of hands in prayer, for example, is a big one I’ve discussed with hippies on at least two occasions).

Reach out at share with your non-Christian friends however you will, however it works, but do not – for one moment – forget that they need you to reach out and share with them.

Don’t deny your own salvation, Christ and the Great Commission, by jumping on the happy bandwagon that “all religions are different means to the same end”.

They’re not.

-=-=-=-

Feel free to flame me in the comments.

But remember my blog’s policy on the airing of alternate views: you may take up to two comments to express your view in a calm, inoffensive manner, after which we will agree to disagree. No name-calling or accusations of narrow-mindedness, any-isms or brainwashing.

Pentecost & God’s Mission

This last weekend, Christians of many traditions from all over the world celebrated Pentecost, “the birthday of the church”. Many Christians see the day of Pentecost as the beginning of the Christian Church as we know it, the day the Holy Spirit came down and stirred the disciples up to street-preaching, converting thousands.

Like so many things, the events of Pentecost are best understood against the backdrop of history and context. So how far back do we need to go to understand the events of Pentecost and the mission God has for us to fill?

Well, let’s start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start). In Genesis 1, God creates the world, and then He creates us.

“‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness: let them have dominion over [every other living thing on earth]. So God created man in His own image […] then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:26-28, NKJV, paraphrased)

From this passage, we can learn several things, of which two are:

(1) Human beings are created in the image of God

(2) Human beings, the image-bearers, are to fill the earth

Unfortunately, just a chapter or two later, we human begins messed it up; we sinned, our close relationship with God was tainted, and the image of Him which we carried was distorted. Sin was rife; one brother killed another, and wickedness abounded, and God was so grieved about it all that he came very close to wiping it all out and starting with a clean slate.

You know what happened instead. But we find something very interesting at the beginning of Genesis 9:

“God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and the fear of you [shall be on every other living thing on earth]’.” (Genesis 9:1-2, NKJV, paraphrased)

Sound familiar? Even though we had messed up, God’s mission for us remained the same: “You are My image bearers: fill the earth with My image.”

But we have a habit of messing up. Many churches who follow the liturgy read another passage from Genesis on Pentecost: Chapter 11:1-9. This is the story of the Tower of Babel.

There are many things to comment on about that incident, but in the context of this story of God’s mission for man, there is one which I want to draw out. Proper to Genesis 11, God’s dealings with humans were on a ‘God-to-mankind’ basis: we were all one sort of homogenous lump. After Genesis 11, and the establishment of different people groups, ethnicities, and languages, God got specific.

In Genesis 12, God speaks to mankind again, and reiterates his mission again. Or, rather, I should say, God speaks to a man.

The Lord said to Abram: […] I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing […] in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3, NKJV, paraphrased)

God’s mission hasn’t changed. His mission is still that His image will be spread to the ends of the earth. But His method has changed. No longer does He speak to all the humans as a whole; He has chosen a single nation to show Himself to the world.

Of course, the nation had to cook for a couple of hundred years first, before it became clear exactly how He would go about blessing the entire world through this one nation. In Exodus, He brings His people, now numerous, out of Egypt and gives them an identity of their own. In Exodus 12, we see them leave, and Passover (Pesach) is instituted. About fifty days later, in Exodus 19-31, God gives them His Law.

Okay, they mess it up almost before He had finished giving it, and Moses had to write it out again, and then God says:

“‘Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people, I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you’.” (Exodus 34:10, NKJV)

What had God told Abra(ha)m? “In you, I will bless everyone on earth”. Now, he’s telling the Israelites, “With you, I will show myself to everyone on earth.”

The people then launch into a God’s-house-building frenzy, and in Exodus 40:34-38, we see the glory of God filling the tabernacle, cloud by day and fire by night, and staying with the Israelites for the rest of their journeys. It’s a visible, dramatic sign to the world, “The God of Israel is real. God is with us.”

And there’s another feast Jews celebrate to this day based on this event: Sukkot (Tabernacles), when they build a little tabernacle and remember when God’s glory came down to live with them.

So God has chosen His people, and He’s said that He’s going to use them to show himself to the world. How, exactly? Moses answers this question for us, immediately before the Israelites entered the Promised Land to set up their great nation:

Be careful to observe [God’s statues and commandments], for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgements as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:6-8, NKJV)

Israel’s job was, by following God’s Law, to be blessed by Him so that everyone on earth would be able to look at them and go, “Wow! Look at them! Surely their God must be real, look at what He’s done for them and how righteous their society is.”

Unfortunately, Israel, as we know, didn’t do such a great job at that. In fact, the closest they ever came was during the reign of Solomon.

Incidentally, during this period was what God’s glory, which had been living in the tabernacle at Bet-El, moved into the Temple at Jerusalem, which Solomon built, and Jerusalem, ruled over by Solomon who had been encouraged on several occasion by God to be righteous, started attracting the attention of the rest of the world.

In 1 Kings 10, we read the details of one particularly visit to Jerusalem, in which the Queen of Sheba says, “I did not believe [the report about your land and your wisdom] until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me! […] Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel!” (1 Kings 10:7-9, NKJV, abridged)

Here we see God’s plan for Israel in action: Follow God’s Law, be blessed by God, and show His image to everyone so that they might believe.

I don’t need to say once again that this didn’t continue for very long. In fact, Solomon’s son only lasted three days before the kingdom split in two, and about four hundred years of mostly unrighteous kings and degradation later, Israel went into exile and God’s glory left the Temple (see Ezekiel 10 for details).

In fact, things got so bad that God didn’t even talk to His people for about four hundred years.

Enter Jesus, “God in flesh”. Of course, a book could be written – and many, many books have been written – about exactly what Jesus accomplished on Earth, but I’m going to skip forwards to the end of His time down here with us, when he said two things.

The first, found at the end of Matthew, is this:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

God’s mission hasn’t changed one bit, but his method has. No longer is the method “come and see”, it’s “go and show”. Consider this: the plan for Israel was that, by following God’s commands, they would be able to show His image to the world.

In Jesus, we have seen the image of God; in fact, we’ve seen God, but with one crucial difference: God in human form, an utterly righteous human being, connected to God. The work of a disciple is to become like the discipler; the work of the Disciples was to strive towards the image of God himself… and then to go out, make disciples of their own, to pass on the image of God.

In order to do fulfill this mission, they were equipped, just as the Israelites were back in Exodus 40, with God’s power. As Jesus himself said, immediately before ascending into heaven,

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)

We see this fulfilled a week later, in the next chapter – the Day of Pentecost, the fifty days after Passover (see Leviticus 23 for details) – the Feast of Tabernacles, the anniversary of when God came down and His glory stayed in the camp, among the people.

And exactly the same thing happened again.

Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34)

They were all with one accord in one place, and suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:1-2)

What were the Israelites to do, now they had the glory of the Lord in their midst? They were to stand as a sign to the whole world, showing every other people and language group that their God was real.

So what were the Disciples to do, now they had the glory of the Lord on them? They were to go out into the whole world, showing every other people and language group that their God was real.

We, the bearers of the image of God, are to carry His Spirit out into all the world, showing everyone our relationship with God, making them disciples – sharing the image with them – showing them how to love and obey God.

In six thousand years, God’s plan for us hasn’t changed. We are still His people, His image-bearers, tasked to live in a loving relationship with Him and to fill the earth with His image.

(Looking Back At) Eurovision

This weekend is a big weekend.

Okay, yes, it’s Pentecost, so it was a big weekend at church, as well. We had a combined service with the neighbouring parish, which resulted in a packed-out church and a shared lunch made entirely of red food.

Pentecost

Also, the neighbouring parish doesn’t have a church building big enough to host us all, but it was their year to host, so they hosted at our place. It was confusing. And then our priest got out his firebreathing equipment.

So what else am I talking about? Have I spoilt it by putting it in the post title?

Eurovision is basically my version of sport. I’m not a hardcore fan. I’m not going to start getting up at 3am to watch it live. I pay attention to the extent that I’m typing this while watching the finals repeat. But Eurovision has just sort of always been part of my life.

Yes, since before it was the “cool” thing. I was talking about Eurovision at primary school when I was one of just two pupils who knew what it was.

So, here are some of my favourites (and not-so-favourites) from this year and previous years, in no particular order.

As I look back over what I’ve already typed, and glance up at the screen, I realise that a packed-out church with red and sparkly robes and a priest breathing fire is basically Eurovision, isn’t it? Anglicovision.

Germany, 2010 – Satellite, Lena

This was Year 9. I started going to the German school a year later, and this was the dance party song. It was right up there with Schnappi, and Lena was talked about almost as much as Justin Beber (as we insisted on spelling it).

France, 2015 – N’oubliez pas, Liza Angell

I shared this one last year. It’s still my favourite from last year’s Eurovision.

Sweden, 2016 – If I Were Sorry, Frans

Moderately good, but not a favourite, mostly because it’s a bit repetitive. I’ve mostly included it because he sounds almost exactly like a male Lena. (Julia Zemiro thought of that one, not me, but it’s true).

Russia, 2012 – Party for Everybody, Buranovskiye Babushki

Okay, I’ll admit it, I can’t actually really remember the song. I just remember these dear old ladies. They came second.

Italy, 2016 – No Degree of Separation, Francesca Michielin

Not an absolutely brilliant song, but amazing background graphics.

Italy, 1958 – Volare, Domenico Modugno

Speaking of Italy, my primary school choir learnt this for open day when I was in Year 6. (I grew up in a very Italian area. Almost all of the grandparents could probably speak Italian. And not English.) I didn’t realise until last year just how old this song was. I assumed, because we were learning it, that it was a recent Eurovision entry.

Lithuania, 2006 – We Are The Winners, LT United

My sister and I were singing it for months. Still are, occasionally. Well, I am, anyway.

Finland, 2006 – Hard Rock Hallelujah, Lordi

I ran out on this one, back in the day. I still don’t think much of death metal – although I am a fan of Klingons. But it’s not a song you forget easily.

England, 2003 – Crybaby, Jemini

Speaking of songs you don’t forget easily, have you ever heard anything so off-key? It’s so awful, the official Eurovision channel doesn’t even have it.

Ireland, 2008 – Irelande Douze Pointes, Dustin the Turkey

And speaking of complete flops… I’ve been assured that the turkey was very popular in Ireland, but… I’m convinced they should have been disqualified for exceeding the 6-person limit.

Germany, 1982 – Ein bisschen Frieden, Nicole

This is easily, absolutely, completely my all-time favourite Eurovision song ever.

Israel, 1979 – Hallelujah, Gali Atari

See, how can you say Australia isn’t European enough? Israel’s been in Eurovision since the 70s.

On another note, a great song for cheating on Hebrew homework with. “But I have been practicing Hebrew!”

Austria, 2016 – Loin D’ici, Zoe

Speaking of unusual languages… It’s not a bad song, but my head hurts just thinking about it. Merci, Autriche.

Russia, 2016 – You Are The Only One, Sergey Lazarev

You don’t have even to listen to it, just watch the amazing visuals. The song isn’t bad, though. I just can’t really remember it because I was distracted by the visuals.

Australia, 2016 – Sound of Silence, Dami Im

It’s not just patriotic. I definitely think it’s one of the best this year, even if I’m completely sick of it. Not worse than Ukraine, though. I don’t mind not winning – two years isn’t enough for Europe to be okay with it, and Eurovision is ultimately political – but I’d have rather lost to Russia or Italy or Austria… or Sweden again.

 

 

 

 

The Authority of the Scriptures: A Response

Submitted March 2016

One of the best ways to learn how arguments are constructed is to study how other people construct their arguments. This is especially true if the argument is close to our position but differs in key fundamentals. Watch this YouTube clip and use the following questions to respond: What was his argument? Was his argument logically valid? Why or why not? What were his underlying assumptions?

The argument set forth by the man in the video clip appears to be that the Bible is not the final authority, due to being written down, translated and interpreted by fallible men, but that rather the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ (as he says, the Spirit of Christ) are the ultimate authority. He claims that “true followers of Jesus” do not subscribe to the Bible as any sort of authority, nor belong to any church, but associate only with Jesus Christ, led by the Holy Spirit.

I encountered several places where the man’s argument against the authority of the Scriptures was not logically valid.

In the first point, the man claims that while the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, they were written by fallible men and were therefore fallible. While this does display an ignorance of the meaning of the word “scripture” (from Latin “scribere”, to write; thus a “scripture” must by definition be written), it also indicates a limited view of God. Why should God be powerful enough to inspire the thoughts of men, but not powerful enough to enable them to write those thoughts down infallibly? The wording of his argument also leaves the impression that some (if not most) of what God through the Holy Spirit inspired did not make it into the Bible.

In the second point, the man claims that if the Scriptures had truly been inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit through the writing and translation process, there would be only one single “version”. This is logically unsound because it assumes that the same compulsion of man to translate writing from the original language into that person’s first language would somehow not exist, should the Holy Spirit guide the writing of the Scriptures. This is tantamount to KJV Onlyist claims that this translation is “inspired” – everyone should read the Scriptures in English. While I concede that intent of the authors of the Bible can be best understood in its original languages, the Bible itself also says – and the man quotes at the end – that every tongue should confess Jesus Christ. To enforce the reading of Scripture and worship of God in only one language is not only anti-Biblical but smacks of Islam.

In a third point, the man also makes the claim that the fallible men who translated the Bible from the original languages were guided not by inspiration by the Spirit but by various other motives. This is a logically invalid argument because its underlying assumption falls outside the man’s referential experience. How can he know what motivated these men to translate the Bible?

My final (although by no means exhaustive) objection to this man’s argument is that the leading of the Holy Spirit (or the “Spirit of Christ”) is the final authority. My first objection is that this makes the ultimate authority internal, rather than external, and therefore unverifiable and also variable. My second objection follows from this; by what means can one know that any internal leading is indeed by the Holy Spirit? Is it not possible that that Satan could just as easily simulate an internal prompting by the Spirit? How is it possible to know that any leading by the Spirit is genuine and any sort of authority at all?

I do not disagree that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the vital but for some reason unmentioned God the Father, are the final authority on Christian life and doctrine; nor do I disagree that copying and translating of the Scriptures was and is carried out by fallible humans. However, I do not accept any logic to his argument that any perceived internal prompting by the Spirit can be taken as more of an authority on the will of God than the Bible, which has been faithfully transmitted to us.