Sunday, October 28, 2007

Proverb of the month

Better one handful with peace than two with toil and chasing after the wind.

- Ecclesiastes 4.6

Better one post with peace than two with toil and chasing after the virtual crowd.

UPDATE: For those who have been asking, this post was intended to signal a brief break from posts for a week or so. I'll be back soon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The search for justice is a journey into joy

And very often Christians have somehow failed to get across any idea that ethics, whether individual ethics or social ethics, is about joy. Those two words which you may not habitually associate – ethics and joy; but that is a theological failure, because the search for justice is very profoundly a journey into joy. If it’s true that this is what the world is, if it’s true that the nature of our participation in the life of God is a participation in God’s self-forgetting bliss, then, our work for a society in which people have the freedom and the dignity to give themselves to each other in love, is as creative as any other act we undertake.

- Rowan Williams, Creation, Creativity and Creatureliness:
the Wisdom of Finite Existence

This speech by Williams is worth reading in full (though the opening may be hard going if you're a little rusty on your Russian theologians) for its insights into the relationships between creation, creativity and creatureliness.

Williams on celebrating creatureliness

"Arguably what is going on in the work of redemption is, as St Irenaeus first put it, the reversal of Adam’s mistake. Adam’s resentment at not being God is transfigured by Christ into the free acceptance of not being God. That’s what Philippians chapter 2 is all about. The one who is in the form of God delights to be no longer in the form of God but in the form of a slave, and in that slave form of humanity, joining in our unfreedom, our suffering, our tensions and our struggles, the finite created form of humanity is glorified from within. Adam resents not being God and so Satan has leverage upon him: ‘You shall be as gods,’ says Satan to Adam, knowing that the essence of our fallenness is resentment at being creatures (just as the essence of the fall of Satan himself, in church tradition, is the refusal to worship). So Jesus, in not clinging to the form of God but accepting the humility of the incarnation and the death of the cross, restores the glory of creatureliness. The incarnation affirms that creation is good, not that it is nice or beautiful, but that it is good because it is in this relationship of loving dependence on the self-giving of God. And the mystery that we seek to understand when we think about redemption is that restoring of the glory of creatureliness can only be done by one who isn’t simply a bit of creation – the Word in whom creation hangs together, in whom alone is that full freedom which can accept the otherness, the suffering, the death of the created order and fill it with life. ‘He who ascended, is it not he who also descended?’ (Eph 4:9)

"So we in Christ rejoice at not being God. We ought to give thanks daily to God that we are not God and that God is God; we give thanks to God for God’s great glory. And the secret is that only in that rejoicing that we are not God do we come to share the divine life in the way we are made to do – the paradox that only by our completely not wanting to be God can the divine life take root in us.

"Discipleship in the body of Christ is in one sense simply a matter of constantly battling to be a creature, battling against all those instincts in us which make us want to be God or make us want to be what we think God is. There, of course, is the catch. And that’s why discipleship challenges at every level those unrealities which distort humanity, which distort creatureliness. That’s why discipleship challenges those enterprises in our world and our culture which feed the illusion that actually we could be God if we tried hard enough.

"What are those things about? Well you many find them in the deep unease so many in our culture feel about ageing and dying. You find it in our denials of death. You find it in our passion for absolute security, our desire never to be at risk. You may find it in a defence programme, you may find it in the technological exploitation of the environment. At level after level, our temptation is to deny that we are finite. And when I read, as sadly I sometimes do in discussions of our environmental crisis, that we can be confident technology will find a way, my blood runs cold, because I hear in that the refusal of real creatureliness. ‘These limits are temporary, our skills will find a way, we shall at some point be able to get to the stage where we are safe’. And the gospel tells us you never on earth get to a place where you are safe; but you will get to a place where you are blissful and united with your Father in heaven. In the immortal words of C S Lewis, ‘he’s not a tame lion, you know’.

"The outworking then of created wisdom, created Sophia, is this joyful embrace of being created, of not being God, the acceptance that we shall die, that we are fragile, that we are fallible. And it is ‘here on this lowly ground’, in John Donne’s phrase, that we come into contact with the transfiguring, transformative life of the eternal God. ... [O]ur holiness is not the denial but the acceptance of being creatures."

- Rowan Williams, Creation, Creativity and Creatureliness:
the Wisdom of Finite Existence

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What have the unions ever done for us?

Dedicated to all the Monty Python Life of Brian fans. H/T Mister Tim.

The original clip:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In praise of... taxation

    Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.       - Romans 13.7

Thank God for taxes
Taxation: as inevitable as death, and usually about as welcome. Both major parties in Australia have promised large tax cuts at the start of their respective campaigns, and the electorate rejoices in its new-found wealth.

But before joining the celebration, spare a thought for the cost of these cuts. Taxation is a good thing. "Taxes are the price we pay for civilisation", according to US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The creation and enjoyment of wealth is not possible without stable society, which, in a world riddled with mistrust, requires effective government, and thus taxation. The government is not stealing "your" money; it is creating the conditions of possibility for an effective economic system at all. It makes no sense to speak of the money you would have had if the government did not levy taxes.

Ethicist Peter Singer considers a hypothetical corporation producing automobiles:

...the corporation could not make its cars without a legal system that fosters and protects mining rights, private ownership of land, an accepted currency, systems of transport, the production and sale of energy, the existence of an educated labour force, corporate oversight, the protection of patents and the prevention of monopolies, judicial resolution of disputes, national defence and the protection of trading routes. Even if it could make them, without security and at least a moderate degree of prosperity, few people would buy them. In other words, without taxes, and the system of regulation that could not exist without taxes, the corporation would not be able to pay [its employees] and if, somehow, [they] did get paid, the money would be of little value because [they] could not be secure in [their] ownership of anything [they] bought with it.

Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, has estimated the proportion of income in wealthy countries that is the result of social capital - including technology and organisational and governmental skills - rather than individual effort. Given the enormous differences betrween average incomes in rich and poor countries that cannot be explained by differences in effort, he suggests that social capital is probably responsible for at least 90 percent of income in wealthy coutries like the United State.

- Peter Singer, The President of Good and Evil, 16-17.

Of course, there is such a thing as intolerably high taxation, which ends up detracting from the common good. And of course, there are no guarantees of efficiency, especially when governments value re-election over public service. Nevertheless, taxes are fundamentally a blessing towards the common good, for which we ought to give thanks. Let us praise what is good.
Eight points for the country in the picture. Or twelve for the building, a national seat of government. But please don't guess both.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What stops you forgiving?

When do you find it hard to forgive? Why? What barriers (thoughts, habits, relationships, beliefs) hold you back?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Buying sustainability

Consuming our way to ecological salvation? Richard Glover talks a lot of sense.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

God in us

    No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.                                                  - 1 John 4.12
Love is the future. It is how we see the invisible God. We can practice the same tune on our personal instruments and with our little ensembles which the whole orchestra will one day play to make angels weep with joy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In praise of... new delights

My parents have always loved gardening, a passion they each gained from their parents. Such weight of family tradition (combined with the need to be out in the sun for long periods of time) ensured that I only contributed to the weeding and composting when they were explicitly added to my duties or there was a bribe of some kind involved. When smaller, I mildly resented the space 'lost' to such important activities as backyard cricket. When a teenage, I mildly resented the time 'lost' to such important activities as sleeping. Isn't it good to grow up?

...And to help other things grow up! My wife and I now have a small garden on our balcony. Last year we tried growing some herbs and had such a wonderful basil harvest that we gave away bottles and bottles of homemade pesto for Christmas. This year, particularly after a gardening workshop at church,* discussions of permablitzing, and a growing realisation of the importance of eating locally produced food, we've decided to diversify and see what survives: not just basil, but thyme, sage, mint, oregano, parsley, watercress, rosemary, coriander (which has already bit the dust), rocket, carrots, lettuce, zuccini, tomatoes, beans, snow peas, radishes, broccoli, corn, potatoes - and worms. Due to our location, gardening also no longer means spending hours in the sun, both because with only a few square metres, it would be hard to spend hours, and because our balcony is south-facing, three floors up, and under cover and so doesn't get any direct sun.
*The second image is of an old tennis court at the back of the rectory which Tim has converted into a very productive organic vegie garden. He recently ran a very successful "square-foot" gardening workshop: gardening on a tight spacial budget.
Series so far: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Safest electorate in Australia

Without looking at the recent SMH guide, can anyone guess which Australian electorate is (politically) safest?

UPDATE: As various comments have pointed out, the true answer is not the one I had in mind. I misread one section of the Herald and so had thought Grayndler was the safest (it is actually the safest only in NSW), which is not where I am enrolled (Sydney), but where I am trying to put together another political forum for church. The safest seat is Mallee in Victoria, held by the Nationals with a margin of 24.7%.

UPDATE #2: In an attempt to save this post from total irrelevance, or perhaps to revel in it, here is a video for the music lovers:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Don't forget to enrol

If you're an Australian citizen over 18 and have moved since you last voted or have never voted before, enrol now. You have until 8pm on Wednesday to enrol for the first time and until 8 pm next Tuesday to change your details. Remember, voting on 24th November is compulsory and so is enrolling.

The future of love

Reflections on 1 Corinthians 13.8-13
But is this kind of love really possible? Is it just a pipe dream? Isn’t it all too hard? I’ve tried it and it doesn't work. I’ve tried loving others and have still been treated like dirt. Can’t I just be nice and polite and tolerant instead? Can’t I settle for avoiding people?

Paul’s answer is to turn to the future. Gifts will pass away: prophecy, speaking in tongues, special revelations of knowledge, all will end one day. They are just means to an end, instruments to help us along the way. When we grow up, we put aside baby-talk. When your flatmate arrives back from overseas, you no longer need email, you can talk face to face. All these spiritual gifts are good and can serve the common good, but the common good they serve is love. Love isn’t just a means to an end. Love isn’t just an instrument to help us get along. Love is not just the path of our journey; it is our destination. Love isn’t simply our duty; it is our destiny. As we learn to love, we are in training to speak the language of the future. We are preparing our tastebuds for the coming feast.

And we get a taste now. This is God’s gift. He treats us in a way that brings new health to shattered spirits; he speaks words that heal and build and make us true; he gives himself for us, preferring our benefit to his comfort. He does all this for us, so that we can start to become like him. Love is therefore not a burden; it is a privilege. We get to be a little bit more like God.
Photo by CAC.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Five years on

It's been five years today since the odius bombings in Bali that killed two hundred and two people (including eighty-eight Australians) and injured another two hundred and nine. A tragic and evil event, remembered with tears and silence.

Yet five years on, there remains in Australia a group who refuse to assimilate, who hope for the day when the present Australian government is no more, who identify more with each other than as Australian. They think Western society is deeply compromised, believe in a divinely-authorised alternative, and are ready to die for their beliefs.

Their inspiration is a man who, having developed their tactics and ideology, was apprehended by the authorities and executed as a criminal for his seditious views when he put them into practice. Yet they still remember and follow his teachings: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6.27-28)

And as for terrorists? Fear God rather than someone who might want to kill you. And on this day, and all days, follow the practice of the master: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."
Bali Memorial Sculpture, Dolphins Point above Coogee Beach, Sydney.

The nature of love III

Reflections on 1 Cor 13.6-8a
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Love seeks what is good in the other, even in those who annoy or offend me. When faced with a set-back or disappointment, love assumes incompetence, not conspiracy. My idea was overlooked;* the kitchen was left dirty again; no one has really asked me how I am going and stuck around to hear the answer for weeks. They are not out to get me; they are struggling, fallible, all-too-often self-obsessed people like me. And love looks out for what is good, what is true about them so that I may rejoice in it. Love finds things about other people to thank God for. It seeks them out where they may not be obvious. Love trusts that God has made that difficult person as a good part of his creation and it acts on the certain hope that he intends good for them. This takes a faithful creativity of vision, to see others as God sees them, warts and all, but also as potentially like Jesus, mirrors of his beauty. And so love doesn’t give up on people. It doesn’t write someone off as too hard, too old, too young, too rich, too smelly, too rude, too married, too depressed, too conservative, too difficult.

Love gives second chances. And third and fourth and fifth chances, and prays for change for years. Love never gives up.

Notice that this description of love can’t be reduced to either just actions or attitudes; love involves both – it is a passionate commitment to the good of the other. It is to be towards others in attitude and action as God in Christ has been towards you. It is to treat others with the same mercy and kindness that God has shown you.

We grow more loving by being more conscious of how God has loved us. Just like making a magnet. Do you remember doing that as a kid? Take a piece of iron and rub against another one that is already magnetised. In the same way, if you want to be more loving, hang around the Lord Jesus. Rub up against him. And hang around others who are loving.

You might need to sink yourself deeper into God’s love poured out in Jesus. You might need to experience more of the breadth, length, the height and the depth of Christ’s love, which, Paul says, surpasses knowledge. You might need to read this passage and substitute "our heavenly Father" wherever it says "love": our Father waits patiently; he shows kindness; he keeps no record of my wrongs. And so on. Our if you're looking to be stretched, try substituting your own name in, and see how far through the paragraph you get: Byron is patient...
*Or stolen. With thanks to Rob Forysth for the slogan "assume incompetence, not conspiracy".

Condemning condemnation?

Andrew Errington has posted some thoughts and a confession on condemnation and the goodness of God. Here's a taste of the issues he's wrestling with:

If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men…. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.

- Robert Green Ingersoll, The Liberty Of All (1877).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hauerwas on liturgy

"One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend."

— Stanley Hauerwas, The Truth About God:
The Ten Commandments in Christian Life
, p.89.
H/T Alistair.

The alternative to a liturgical service is not a non-liturgical service. It is a service where the liturgy is entrusted to the whims and idiosyncrasies of the service leader. When done poorly, liturgy from a book can be cold, lifeless and boring. When done poorly, 'non-liturgical' liturgy can be vapid, misleading and deadly.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Creation is grace

Make sure you check out this Kim Fabricius sermon: Creation is grace - an eloquent demonstration that the concept of creation is far richer than the two-dimensional caricatures than first spring to mind.

Character planner

A Christian minister is like a financial planner for character. Rather than asking "what do you want to be doing in ten years' time?", she asks "in ten years' time, who do you want to be?"

And what can you start doing now to end up there?

The nature of love II

Reflections on 1 Corinthians 13.4-5
Love is patient; love is kind. Or better, since these are verbs in the Greek: Love waits patiently; love shows kindness. Patience and kindness are what God does, according to Paul in Romans 2.4. Whenever love meets broken people like us, it’s going to need patience and kindness. This is part of the beautiful realism of the Bible. There’s no pretence that we’ll all get along fine, that we’ll never hurt each other, that there won’t be misunderstandings. And so we need patience and kindness. Patient love puts up with disappointment and frustration. It knows when to keep its mouth shut and arms open, even after having been let down before. Love shows kindness - is friendly, generous, considerate. Love has the ability to look at someone else and see that they too are fundamentally human: made by God, scarred by mistakes and abuses, with similar fears, similar needs, similar vulnerabilities. If you are kind, you bring joy to people, alleviate pain. To be in your company makes others more alive, not more burdened.

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. When humans live close together and see themselves in competition, these are what happen: envy, boasting, pride. We look at someone else and wish we had their opportunities, their gifts, their friends, their partner. He’s got my dreams and my hate him, especially if he’s good at the same areas I’d like to be good at. She succeeds and I resent it. Love does not envy. It is content with what it has received from God and rejoices at his generosity to others.

Love does not boast. Of course, I never do anything so crude as boast. I’m much more subtle. I just tell stories about myself, that happen to highlight my better sides, my more impressive achievements, even those achievements which strictly speaking, aren’t quite true yet. I want to be treated with respect, yet fear I won’t, and so make sure that people have every reason to know how much money I’m making, or how I don’t care that I’m not making much money because I’m not shallow.

Of course, there is a way of being honest about even our strengths with sober judgement that isn’t boasting. The solution is not to beat myself up and convince myself I'm no good, or put on a show of false humility. These too can become forms of self-obsession. Nor is the answer to cut myself off from other people, to only ever show a mask, put up walls around heart so no one can touch me.

The solution is the slow and painful process of learning just how deeply God loves us, how safe I am in his care, how even if the world crucifies me, he can raise the dead. Once we begin to get a handle on the God’s boundless love, we can gradually take down the protective walls and live lives of self-forgetfulness, pouring ourselves out for others the way Jesus poured himself out for us.

Love is not rude. I don’t get to be a jerk, to act inappropriately because I feel like it. And I don’t get to define what is rude. I need to find out what you think is rude. I can’t just say “that’s who I am, live with it”. If I hurt or anger someone, I need to find out why and possibly learn how to change. It’s not about me. But what if someone has been rude to me? Love is not touchy, hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned. It’s not about me. Of course, I may sensitively and gently discuss in private with the person who hurt me why their action caused me pain, but I do so with a heart that is quick to forgive, and that will keep no record of the wrong. I refuse to let myself be burdened by every wrong I’ve endured, every insult I’ve received, every grief I’ve suffered. We forgive as we have been forgiven by God: completely, repeatedly, freely.
Various thoughts and occasional phrases for elements in this section of the sermon were shamelessly stolen from a sermon by Ian Powell at Barneys in 2005. "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal." - T. S. Eliot.
Ten points for guessing the city in this image. Twenty for naming the building.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boring lies

On Saturday night I saw Forbidden Lie$ with some friends. An investigation of the disgraced author Norma Khouri, whose book Forbidden Love (US title: Honor Lost) sold hundreds of thousands of copies and claimed to tell the true story of a shocking honour killing of a close friend, a Jordanian Muslim woman murdered by her family for falling in love with a Christian. Khouri actively campaigned from self-imposed exile for the liberalisation of Jordanian laws regarding such crimes.

However, a year after its release, Khouri's story was discredited by Malcolm Knox, a SMH journalist, who discovered that the author had grown up in the US, and was married with two children (after implying otherwise in interviews). Khouri refused to concede that her book was essentially fiction, claiming that names, dates and locations were changed to protect reprisals against family and friends.

The documentary (written and directed by Anna Broinowski) quickly covers this familiar territory through dramatic re-enactments and a wide variety of interviews. But as the interviews continue, Broinowski allows the various subjects to watch recordings of other figures in the controversy and tapes their reactions. Layer upon layer of subterfuge develops and the audience is left wondering where the truth lies. The film's tagline is "Con or artist? You decide" and the official website allows you to vote on your impression of Norma. The poll shows that audiences are quite divided in their reaction to the author, with some impressed at how the book drew international attention to honour crimes and others less than impressed at her deceptions and alleged financial swindling.

Personally, although the phenomenon of the book and its aftermath is fascinating, I found Norma Khouri herself to be less and less interesting as the documentary progressed. Her lies end up simply being boring. In the end, sin is always boring.
Image from

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hope: God sees the world upside down

H/T Frank. A simple idea, but quite effective.

However, to speak of hope, we must speak of Christ crucified. This is what turns the world upside down:

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

- 1 Corinthians 1.22-25

Lewis on desire

"If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

"We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that he becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward."

- C. S. Lewis, opening lines of The Weight of Glory, a sermon.

I posted this in response to this post by Michael Jensen. Eight points for guessing the country in the image.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The nature of love I

The love of God
If it’s so important, what then is love?

We use the word ‘love’ in many different ways. Like the word ‘god’, it can mean so many things that it is often necessary to ask ‘which kind of love are you talking about?’

In Holy Scripture, love is often described with reference to Jesus’ death: We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3.16); This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4.10); But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8). Jesus himself said No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15.13).

If you know anything about Christ, it will be no surprise to hear that Jesus’ death for us is the preeminent example of love. If this is news to you, or if it makes no sense, then there are riches ahead for you in your spiritual journey. All our love is a response to God’s love in Christ: we love because he first loved us (1 John 4.19). God’s love is the model, the example from which we learn how to love, but it is also the foundation upon which we can build our love, the reason it is safe to make ourselves vulnerable in love, the hope that guarantees that no act of love is in vain.

But what is this love like? What kind of love are we talking about? What kind of love can make a something out of nothing? (more to come)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The necessity of love

A reflection on 1 Corinthians 13.1-3
You might have the impressive verbal gifts that the Christians in ancient Corinth loved: you might be eloquent and persuasive, funny and entertaining; you might speak English at home, Italian in the marketplace, Lithuanian on the dance-floor and Mandarin at press conferences; you might even speak as the angels do - but without love, you’re a dog barking at 3 am, a stereo turned up to eleven while waiting at the lights. Without love, you’re just a noise filling the airwaves.

You might have the gifts of knowledge and communication that the apostle Paul seemed to love: you might write the book that answers all our questions about God; you might get invited to speak at conferences in front of hundreds; your blog might be read by thousands from around the world and get links from Faith and Theology - but without love, you’re a zero.

Or you might have the gifts that Jesus seems to have particularly loved: you might have so much faith that you can be a landscape developer all by yourself; you might give more money to poor than the tax office knows you have; you might sponsor a whole village full of starving children; you might risk your reputation or even your life for honouring Jesus - but without love, it’s all a waste of time.

Love is necessary. Cut love out of Christianity and we may as well pack up shop tomorrow. Without love, we’re just another peddler of dodgy goods in the spiritual marketplace. If we don’t or won’t love one another, then let’s sleep in on Sunday mornings, or take the kids to sport, or go to that family event. If God doesn’t actually love us, if we don’t really care about the person next to us, our gatherings, our prayers, our songs, our reading, our silence, our proclamation, our lives and deaths are pointless.

Love is crucial.
Twelve points for linking to the post with a picture of the outside of this building.

October Points Table

September was a quiet month for points, perhaps because I introduced a new system (unannounced) of only offering points a few days after each relevant post was put up. I did this on the suggestion of a friend in order to avoid having the substantive discussion swamped by guesses. I will continue this system for the time being. In any case, Moffitt the prophet scores ten bonus points and Matt Lemieux gets five for being second. I keep a list of all available points on offer, which is usually up to date. At this point, there are over 450 points available.

October points table

32: Jonathan
23: Moffitt the prophet
12: Martin Kemp
5: Anthony
Twelve points for correctly naming this Sydney bridge.