In Faith We Doubt

Would faith today be so widespread without Thomas?

Doubting Thomas, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, c. 1622

I wonder what you think might be one of the crucial momnets related to Christ’s resurrection? For me, it is the moment Jesus lets Thomas see, and touch for himself his wounds, the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:24-29). Would the events have been so plausible without Thomas’ insistence on seeing the evidence himself.

All the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Thomas was not with them, we do not know where he was at that time. Maybe he was out procuring supplies. It was another week before Thomas also saw Jesus when he appeared to them again.

Thomas must have had a strong character. For a week he resisted the peer pressure of his friends and fellow disciples, before Jesus appeared to them again when all were present. Thomas doubted but there is no suggestion he didn’t believe. Thomas asked the question I probably would, you probably would and I suspect most believers might ask.

Unbelief is quiet different from doubt, it includes denial, which Thomas never did. I suspect that at some time of life everyone who has a faith doubts at some time, to some degree. I have. Sometimes we all need some kind of sign.

When Jesus appeared the second time, he let Thomas see and touch his wounds then said to him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (UKNIV). These words could easily be perceived a rebuke to Thomas, for his doubt. Perhaps it was; I do not think so.

I think Jesus’ remark was encouragement, to the disciples and future generations. Encouragement for all the people of the time and to come, who could only rely on the testimony of people like Thomas and would rely on word of mouth and later, the gospels we rely on today.

With thanks to Joanne for inspiring part of this post.

Lost In Translation

Mind your language.

My native language is English. I can read sufficient Dutch to make sense of a lot of things, I write it a little, very poorly, and hardly speak it at all. Like many English people, I was, I suppose, quite arrogant for a long time about my language, with no knowledge of any other.

When we refer to language, we don’t always mean your language or mine where translation from one country’s language to another is necessary to understand one-another. Sometimes language can mean the form of words we use. For example when talking about someone’s manner of speaking I might say ‘he doesn’t beat about the bush’ . Someone else might say ‘he speaks his mind’ or ‘he has a direct manner’. Another person might simply say ‘he’s blunt’. It all means the same thing, expressed differently.

The same is equally true when we talk to someone about religion, for me Christianity but the language chosen is equally applicable to all religions. If you were not already A Christian, what would you think if I strolled up to you and said ‘can I talk to you about Jesus’ or Do you read the bible?’. Chances are, you would think me a bit odd and look for the first excuse to get away.

It’s not just what we say but also how we say something that can attract someone, or put them off entirely.I was put off The Bible early in my life by the, to me at that time, impenetrable, archaic language used in the King James Bible (given to me when I was 8 years old and which I still have). When we hope to introduce someone to Christianity, how we talk to them is important.

The same approach does not work for everyone, so be careful not just what you say, how you say it too. As usual I do not have answers, I just hope to get a bit of consideration started.

 

The Final Justice

Here in the UK, everyone accused of of a crime is entitled to a trial by jury. The jury consisting of 12 people. In my limited knowledge of the American system, there are also 12 jurors for criminal trials, but may be less for civil proceedings.

It seems to me that the biggest single difference in our justice systems is that (at the time of writing) 31 states have the death penalty available as a lawful punishment. There is no death penalty in the United Kingdom.

From this BBC news report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39535957), I discovered that it is a requirement for executions in America that “the law requires people with no connection to the crime attend each execution.” and that volunteers “are considered public eyewitnesses, and go to executions standing in the place of the general public,”

Sitting on a jury, if eligible, is every citizen’s responsibility in both countries, when required to do so in pursuit of justice in a free and democratic country. So, in countries like USA where the death penalty can be passed on a guilty criminal, why isn’t witnessing the ultimate punishment also a civic duty?

In a country/state where execution is a legal punishment, it seems to me reasonable that anyone who can be called upon for jury service, should also be able to be called to witness punishment where that is the death penalty? Obviously, not someone who was a juror at the trial of someone sentenced to execution.

If anyone who can be selected for jury service is also eligible to be selected to watch taking life by execution, I wonder how it might change public perception of having the death penalty?

Interview With Mary Magdalene

Christ and Mary Magdalene by Rembrandt

Something a little different from me, so I hope you like the audio post that follows this introduction.

As with all my posts, the script is entirely by me. With thanks to my friend Jenny, who provided the voice of Mary Magdalene in the recording.

I present a fictional news interview with Mary Magdalene, set outside Jerusalem on what is now Easter Sunday.

 

My 40 Acts

The 40-day generosity challenge for Lent.

If you haven’t heard of 40Acts take a look at the 40Acts website or facebook page.

I would like to say that I’ve done all 40 acts successfully. I haven’t, so this is as much a catalogue of my failings, as my successes.

 

 

 

Act 40: Delivery.
I was happy to re-read Romans 12, as suggested today, as it is a passage from that book and chapter that brought me back to the church over ten years ago. What follows is an extract from the page of my blog titled My Christianity.

In spring 2006, I can’t remember the exact date, probably around Easter time, I took Wendy to church as usual but before I left, she started to feel unwell. She said that she didn’t want to go home but neither did she want to stay there on her own, so for the first time as an adult since our wedding I stayed and joined the service with her.

One of the church’s lay ministers, Wully Perks whom I am now happy to count amongst my friends, was preaching that morning on a Bible passage from the book of Romans. The reading was quite long, but a short passage struck a particular chord with me: Romans 12: 4-8

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (UK NIV).

I don’t remember where I had first heard that passage but, like most of the other Bible passages I’d heard, it hadn’t make much sense to me and I’d almost forgotten it.

Wully’s preaching on that reading unexpectedly made sense to me. I had vague memories of it, or something similar, but like so much of the Bible up until then, I did not get what it was saying.

By coincidence, or so I assumed at the time, I had been attending a management and team building course at work. One of the ‘facilitators’ (I loathe that word) was comparing a business team to the parts of the body, where each part had a role to play and no single part could accomplish very much on its own. With the combination of the Bible reading, Wully’s preaching and what I had learned on that management course, suddenly the passage made sense to me.

What I also realised, is how relevant the Bible still is to us today, after all I had just learned ‘modern’ management theory from a two thousand year old book.

After that little eye-opener, I continued to go to church each Sunday with Wendy. Some weeks I’d learn a little bit more, or understand some other passage and some weeks I didn’t but I started to see how other parts of the Bible too are relevant to modern day life.

Act 39: Testimony.
The penultimate act and one which I already have something ‘concrete’ to point to. I can answer today’s act after reading it, not at the end of the day.

My story, or testimony is here.

Act 38: Wash Day
Failed today but it’s something I can try and do another day.

Act 37: Content
I think for many of us, we become more content as we become more mature (not necessarily just older). Chasing contentment is like chasing happiness. Chasing it is self defeating.

Yes, I use social media but rarely post about myself, or personal my personal situation.

So, five things that I’m grateful for:

  1. The attitude and values instilled in me by my parents.
  2. My health and the treatment I got on the rare occasions I have needed treatment.
  3. My family, by blood, marriage and my church family.
  4. That I can provide for my family.
  5. That I live in a peaceful country.

Act 36: Habit
Looking back to my Act 30, I will try to be more prepared to approach strangers entering the church, to offer a friendly greeting.

Act 35 : Against The Tide
Whilst quite willing to air my views on various subjects on social media, I have not posted anything I am not willing to speak directly about.

Whilst I post anonymously, I do not hide behind it to ‘attack’ or insult anyone.. When I feel it necessary, I put forward an argument.

I seems to be mostly those unable to muster a reasoned argument, that resort to insults and personal attacks.

Act 34: Flow
Called a friend in Milton Keynes that I don’t chat with much.

Act 33 : Forgive Part 2
Oh dear, after what I said yesterday, I’m not sure what, if anything, I can add today.

Act 32: Forgive part 1
I haven’t really done this one. It’s not that I can’t or won’t forgive. Maybe I’m just lucky. I’ve rarely been in a situation that it’s been necessary to forgive something big.

Act 31: Gulp

I fear that this act might have produced some unintended consequences.

I totted up my annual giving by regular direct debit and standing order (omitting occasional/impulse/one-off donations).

 

Act 30: Step Out
I
 kind of managed to fulfil this act a day before it was published.

I had been invited to a worship review meeting in my church in the morning of Monday 3rd April.

During the meeting a stranger came into the church. He had just visited a grave and before coming to visit the grave had watched a video of his parents, both now with God. He came into the church to find a little peace and quiet.

I was able to leave the meeting for a few minutes and speak with him. He seemed glad of the very brief chat and particularly that I had introduced myself by name, not just as an anonymous person in the building.

Act 29: Sign Up
I help out two or three times per year when the local food bank does collections (think I missed the last one though) at the nearby supermarkets.

Act 28: Foolish
Guess I made a bit of a fool of myself today, by not keeping up with today’s act.

Act 27:  2:1
No, I didn’t get a buy one get one free offer. The suggested socks by Jollie, whereby they give a pair to someone on the streets for every pair sold, are expensive. More than I have ever paid for my own. I took a different approach. 

I bought a pair of my normally priced socks and gave them to a charity store, new with the label/tags still attached and untouched.

Act 26: Grateful
Sent an e-card to a friend in Holland who wrote to me when my mum died a few years ago, and who lost her own sister more recently.

Act 25: Stuff
Some of my “stuff”, comes from charity shops. Probably about 25% of my clothes do. Many of the books I read come from charity shops and are returned there after I finish them, to be sold on again.

When I do discard things I consider if it might be of benefit to other people or charity shops.

With that said, I have too much “stuff” around my home.

Act 24: Date
I got a large Larry Lamb biscuit for the Tuesday Growth Group. Does that count?

Actually this is probably a bit cheeky. It’s Tea & Biscuits week in the Diocesan Lent Study we’re currently undertaking.

 

 

 

 

Act 23: Boost

Whoops, I’m a day late posting this update.

I couldn’t think of, and didn’t see anyone, I could easily give a Boost to today. I do always try to give credit where it’s due.

This is an act that should not be a one-off. It’s something we can all do when we interact with people just as we go about our day-to-day business. I will try to keep it in mind. Will you?

Act 22: Origins
I took the easy option today. I made a donation to 40acts #Origins Raising £300 to cover 50 places in parent support groups, by the Mothers’ Union (No I’m not a mother, no I’m not female and yes, I’m a member). I realise that making a donation is not an easy option for a lot of people.

Tomorrow, Mothering Sunday, we’re travelling 80 miles to visit my wife’s Mum. Mine died 5 years ago. 

Act 21: Refuge.
My concern is not with refugees arriving seeking a safe life, but that some people automatically associate refugees with muslims. 

The leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall, while not directly referring to refugees, in his statement “cancer within our society of radical Islam” does nothing to alleviate fears and in some cases will strengthen people’s fear and/or hatred of refugees. He needs to be more careful how he phrases his public pronouncements, unless of course it is deliberate to try to bolster UKIP support.

I’m not sure if this really addresses Act 21 but maybeit will give pause for thought.

Act 20: React.
I prayed for justice, not revenge for the terrible act in London.

Act 19: On Time.
I was brought up in a family that believed in being on time, usually early. I was taught from a young age that being late was disrespectful. This has stayed with me throughout my life.

If I’m late today, it’ill be a costly waste of time.

Act 18: Pray
I pray while out walking my dog, mainly early morning or late evening when there’s few people around.

Act 17: Generation.
I didn’t do today’s act as specified. I think I brought some comfort to a young friend yesterday, after a sad event.

Act 16: Beyond
This one brings me right up to date (when published Saturday 18th March 2017). I gave my winnings in the Make A Mothers Day Raffle, a large box of wine gums,  to a mum with three children she had brought in to make Mothering Sunday cards.

Act 15: Influence
I write a regular, weekly blog, you’re reading it right now, on Christian topics and things I care about. Unfortunately this post is detailing more failings than successes.

Act 14: Boss
Today I assisted the local Mothers’ Union branch (I am a member, even though I’m neither a mother or a female) by setting out tables and chairs for their forthcoming Make A Mothers Day morning.

Act 13: First Fruits
It probably sounds like an excuse but I have managed to maintain my existing giving commitments at the same level since retiring with a consequent drop in income. Is that ok

Act 12: Chocolate Tuesday
Took sone chocky to the Growth Group. I wasn’t opened. It ended up at the Mothers’ Union Make A Mother’s Day coffee morning, as a raffle prize. At least it will do some good there.

Act 11: Talented
Oh dear, now what did I do with the list I made at Act 1?

Act 10: Shared Spaces

The first act where I guess I can say I made some kind of proper effort. I live away from a main road and my home has a public footpath and grassed area on two sides. I picked up all the litter in the public areas on the far side of the footpath around my home.

Act 9: Lean
I didn’t do anything specific to help anyone today but when a situation arises where I can help, I do. I know what it’s like to need help and be given it, by the kindness of my church family after I had retinal surgery last year.

Act 8: Pause
I probably lack a degree of diplomacy in my speech, being unnecessarily blunt sometimes to avoid ambiguity.

Act 7: Undivided
I have a Jordanian, muslim friend who I chat with for up to half an hour most Saturday mornings.

Act 6: Listen
Went for the green option, had a chat with a friend recently out of hospital, since we missed our usual Saturday morning chat in the coffee shop in the shopping centre. I wonder if that really counts.

Act 5: Captive
Oops, didn’t even get round to looking at this one until day 6.

Act 4: Real World
My screen time is split fairly evenly between my mobile phone in the daytime and desktop computer in the evenings. I have turned off the unnecessary notifications on my phone.

Act 3: Local.
Made a bit more of an effort today. Went for the amber challenge level and explored the local park properly, instead of just passing through or going to an area where an event is taking place.

Act 2: Likewise.
I added a collapsible warning triangle to the emergency items I keep in my car, along with a cheap waterproof cape that I can give away at very little cost to someone without protection in heavy rain.

Act 1: Set Out 
I got as far as writing the suggested list. Not a particularly good start but I did do something.

 

Diary Of A Wimpy Christian

No, not me though I’d probably qualify.

A review of the book by Dave Hopwood.

As it is a Christian book, I’m posting the complete review here, as well as my dedicated book review site, Entertaining Angels Bookshelf

I became aware of Dave Hopwood on one of my early visits to Lee Abbey. He was on the resident staff at the time and had a particular interest in looking at christian aspects of movies.

Dave has written a number of books. This is the first I read. It was chosen for me by a friend, as a Lent (2017) book read.

Although it is a ‘diary’ don’t be deceived by the title. The 50 ‘days’ in the book are more analogous to 50 days of writing, than 50 days of events. This shouldn’t put you off it. And, if you’re not Christian (readers of my main blog will know that I am), don’t let the title put you off either.

It’s not what I would call a religious book, and it is applicable to all sorts of everyday life situations too.

We all struggle with life sometimes. We all struggle with belief too, not just religious belief but all sorts of things. Diary Of A Wimpy Christian seems to me it’s Dave’s honest appraisal of his personal struggle (I hope that’s not too strong a word here) with balancing Christian belief with life in the modern world.

While situations might be different, I can identify with some of the dilemmas faced balancing our faith with the competing, challenging demands of society and the world today.

Dave’s description of events is funny, at times touching and many will identify with some of the dilemmas. Diary Of A Wimpy Christian is an enjoyable read. At times thought provoking and with nuggets of 21st century wisdom.

A line that made me think and gave a little hope, is Dave’s thought for the day on day 37:

“we’re not asked to get good at being a
Christian, we’re just invited to have a go.”