It’s been a time of visiting family. Tomorrow I leave their place on the Gold Coast, which has had warm and rainy days, kind of keeping us indoors and away from the beaches, unfortunately. Here’s hoping for some nice weather tomorrow. I picked up two gems from a couple of bookshops, firstly Christ the Lord for $8.95, the novel by Anne Rice, and Here I Stand, John Shelby Spong’s autobiography, for $5.95. And the visit has included my favourite spots on the Coast, Three Beans cafe and Mt. Tambourine. Mum and Dad are quite surprised at this new direction of mine, given that I was quite zealous in my church attendance in the past. Right now I share Mum’s disappointment, though for different reasons. And I stand with my sister, though still keeping my foot in with devotion to Christ. Dad stands in the place of wanting to go to church, but only doing so if Mum will go. I’m comfortable now with my girlfriend being involved in her church without me, I don’t think it appropriate to go reluctantly, though I may sometimes visit. I don’t feel comfortable right now debating or discussing my present thoughts with those within Churchianity, for they are just too new and fresh and I am still rather confused.
Been thinking a bit lately about church, given that I haven’t been for a while, and don’t have a church to call home. I haven’t found my girlfriend’s church to be to my liking, but have felt the pain of lack of companionship (not that I had any at my previous church). My choice is either to hunt for a suitable church, or look for other options of friendship. According to the author of the above article, time away from the institution is a good thing that allows us to explore other creative options of following Christ, and leads to us being the church rather than going to church. I’m a bit too lazy, so it might take a fair bit of pain for the motivation to act.
From The Melbourne Coffee Review
Cafe Icoco – 143 Victoria Ave, Albert Park VIC (Aust): “I checked out a little gem of a place called Icoco. They roast their own on the premises and the two kiwi’s that run the place seem to take their coffee very seriously indeed. I was greeted with a smile and the arrival of my long macchiato was accompanied with a cool glass of water. I found it perfect of temperature and without a hint of bitterness. I tried to savour it, but discussion and the fact that it was past 9am and I hadn’t had my first meant that it was effectively inhaled. Icoco will become known as one of the coffee meccas of Melbourne. Three mega beans.
On the weekend I was reading 2 Esdras from my Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, which is an NRSV with Deutero-canonical (Apocrapha) books. The writer of the book identifies himself as Ezra, and it contains a dialogue with God. In there Ezra laments over the fact that God has created hell for the majority of the human population, who steadfastly disobey. He states to God that they should not be blamed for sin of Adam, as they are held under that curse. ‘God’ sidesteps this with the notion that they have been given enough opportunity to obey. Ezra identifies himself not as the righteous, but as a sinner also condemned. ‘God’ commends him for being humble, yet states him as among the righteous.
Ezra’s questions are a bit like my own, as I stated in an earlier entry. I think the dual notions of hell and original sin, being condemned by a punitive father god, are just too far from the loving God of creation and revealed in the person of Christ.
I was just thinking about my complaints about suburbia and desire to live in a certain ideal place. I question whether such thoughts glorify God, particularly in light of following Christ with the same kind of attitude:
1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was F10 in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If I am to have this same mind, and do nothing from selfish ambition, then I must put be willing to put aside my dreams. What if God would like me to serve in the Frankston community right now and further on into the future? I don’t really consider myself naturally inclined to service at all. I read about following Christ, about loving my neighbour, and consider that I must determine to not have my own way. So I would love to escape suburbia ASAP, yet it may be that God would have me surrender my ambitions and live in a less desirable way. The best attitude I can have is to simply seek to be led of the Spirit, whether it be pursuing God-given dreams or being in less-than-ideal conditions. I don’t want to shoot my mouth off any longer about what I want for my future. Instead, I want to let God inspire my dreaming and planning.
Last night while at my girlfriend’s church and reading the notes from The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (because I was not really enjoying the service), I was also listening to the sermon. The pastor was sharing wild thoughts about calling on angels for help, and giving stories of seeing angels and witnessing supernatural manifestations. My cynicism would usually kick in at this point with objections raised. Instead, I felt humbled in spirit by the notion that both the pastor and myself speculate – and we both do so wildly at times. I recognised cynicism as a form of pride, and felt the pain of contrition for my past attitude. I found a new criterion of judgment for what I receive, which includes such questions as ‘Is this helpful or harmful?’, ‘Does this encourage spiritual growth?’. The helpful/harmful criteria is particularly useful as much of what I disagree with is harmless, though it may not be helpful. When I turn the lens on myself, my speculations do not fair much better. Now, as has been characteristic in my experience within pentecostal circles, the pastor mocks critics of his views. Given that I’ve done my own fair share of mocking, I can’t judge, but I’d love to see a bit more lovin’ from the pulpit.
This is proving to be a really worthwhile book. It starts out by showing how Jonah is a satirical fable with the purpose of communicating a deep truth. Steven L. McKenzie reveals how numerous elements of the story point to it as fictional. This then sets the book in the larger context of interpreting the genre. At the moment I’m reading the chapter dealing with ancient history, understanding that the original authors’ intent was not to recall actual fact but merely to relate oral tradition in a creative form.
Most of this strikes in the face of the conservative evangelical insistence of the absolute inerrancy of the scriptures. Such doctrine leaves no room for textual criticism, which is an important tool in determining cultural influence. In this viewpoint, the author of the text is simply God’s secretary, dictating his will and purpose. I just can’t see it that way any longer.