Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tongue: Redeemed or Weapon of Mass Destruction

We continue our journey through James and come to perhaps the best-known part of James letter: the part where he talks about the tongue. If there is one thing about James and his theology that we should have learned by now, it is surely this: salvation faith must be matched by actions.

On Biko and Homo Naledi

I am so pleased that the initial "unveiling" of Homo Naledi has come at the same time as the remembrance and anniversary of Steve Biko's death. Steve Biko died on the floor of an empty cell in Pretoria Central Prison on the 12th of September 1977. I was 17 at the time and thus part of that generation of South African youth whose lives couldn't help but be influenced by him. My own personal tribute to this great man, once accused by the African National Congress of being a CIA spy, was my masters thesis Does Steve Biko have more to offer medical ethics than his death for which I received a distinction from Wits and have been asked to prepare for publication in the Journal of Developing World Bioethics and/or the South African Medical Journal.

One of my examiners summed up my work better than I could: 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

James and the Tongue

This week the lectionary has us looking at Mark 8:27-38 and James 3:1-12
While the lectionary readings aren't meant to be connected to each other, I am using Jesus harsh words to Peter as an example of what I will call "redemptive" use of the tongue and contrast that with James examples of "unredemptive" use of the tongue. Here are the readings:

The Type of Witness You and I are Called to be

As I prepare for answering the call of our Lord to leave the land of my birth and the country that God in His grace has used to be a blessing in my life (South Africa), I am reading up on the history of Christianity in Britain. It is very interesting ... introduced during Roman rule and then spread to Ireland. With the decline in Roman rule, a subsequent rise once again in paganism ... then Irish missionaries, who with little influence from far away Rome had introduced Celtic spirituality into the new religion, going to the picts of the West of Scotland and from there to Lindisfarne and Northhumbria on the North West of England.

Here one meets Aidan of Lindisfarne (died 31 August 651), an Irish monk and missionary credited with restoring Christianity to Northumbria. He founded a monastic cathedral on the island of Lindisfarne, served as its first bishop, and travelled ceaselessly throughout the countryside, spreading the gospel to both the Anglo-Saxon nobility and to the socially disenfranchised (including children and slaves). He is known as the Apostle of Northumbria and is recognised as a saint by the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and others.

Below are some extracts from my previously reviewed Celtic Daily Prayer, which look at Aidan through the eyes of those who met him and knew him directly. In him we see the type of person described by James, namely one whose faith is shown by his actions.  As we are working through James' Epistle at the moment (read my introduction here) I include these here because they are wonderful reminders, particularly for preachers of the gospel, of the type of witnesses we long to be.

I am Oswald, King of Northumbria.  I already knew Aidan before he came here; he was a young monk when I was a boy in exile on Iona.  I had been bitterly disappointed when Corman went home,  So, when Aidan and his monks arrived, I said, “Thank God you’ve come.  I’ll give you any bit of land you choose for your monastery.  I’ll help you in any way I can.  Just call on me.”
And so he did.  I even taught him the English language – me, who never taught anyone anything except how to hold a sword!  But Aidan supported me too.  He helped me to see how to be a practical Christian and turn my faith into action.  I’ll never forget the look on my hungry warriors’ faces when I gave our Easter dinner away to the poor!  But Aidan was thrilled.  He’s genuine through and through, is Aidan.  There’s no difference between what he teaches and what he is.

I am a British Christian.  My family were Christians when Ireland was still in pagan darkness.  I belong to the ancient church of this land.  I didn’t like the thought of this Irish missionary upstart.  I thought he was a puppet of the English king, whom I hate.
When I saw him coming down the lane I would have passed by in silence.  But something about him, something about the way he looked at me, made me stop.  “Are you a Christian?” he asked, gently.
“Of course,” I said, huffily.
“That’s good to hear,” he said. “Now will you try be a better one?”
I don’t know why I didn’t explode with anger, but I didn’t.  Suddenly I actually wanted to be a better Christian.  And suddenly I wanted to know Aidan better and hear what he had to say.

I am English; and I used to be pagan.  When I saw Aidan coming down the road I thought, “Here comes that foreigner the king thinks so highly of, with his strange religion.  But I don’t want any new-fangled ways.  The old gods are good enough for me.”
But Aidan stopped when he got to me and said, “Are you a Christian?”
“No,” I said, “and I don’t want to be either.”
Then he said, “Will you tell me what you do believe?”
And for some reason I wanted to talk to him; and we talked.  All that he said was new to me – about Jesus, who came to show us what God is like.  Then he said, “Would you like to hear more?  Would you go to a meeting n your village if I arranged one?”

I said, ”Yes.”  So I went, and what I heard convinced me.  Aidan’s monks convinced me too, by the sort of people they were.  They didn’t ask me for anything; they just wanted me to know the truth.  Now I am a Christian.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Midlife Appraisal

Mid-Life Appraisal
Picture Credit
At the start of 2014, roaming through my favourite bookshop in all the world, Hatchards in Piccadilly Street, London, I came across the book Celtic Daily Prayer (buy it here), which has turned out to be one of the best daily devotional books I have come across. It contains a great deal more than just two years worth of daily devotional material. One of its sections is entitled Mid-Life Appraisal and, in retrospect, I realise it was placed before me by our Lord to gently ease me toward one of the biggest decisions of Chris and my life together, namely to move from South Africa to the United Kingdom ... see my recent From the Pastor's Desk for more on that.

Remember your Baptism and what it means in your growth in personal holiness.

The Sacrament of Baptism
This sermon will be preached from the baptismal pool this Sunday based on Romans 6:3-11, highlighting that going under the water signifies our death and burial with Christ and thus reminding us of our (often little seen) death to sin; our rising from the baptismal waters signifies our resurrection with and in Christ, which shows itself in a life of personal holiness to the glory of God. Can I suggest that those being baptised and  those attending the service Remember your Baptism and what it means in your growth in personal holiness.