Thursday, April 2, 2020

Church is changing

Well, a new age is dawning – and its not the age of Aquarius!

If church can be virtual, how is communion to be conceived?  Can this be done online, or do we need to be present together?  Who are the officiants?  And many more questions.

Here is a reply to one such thread that I posted today:

In the 1970’s, at Canadian Bible College, the question was whether we could hold communion off campus without a faculty member present. A question of the officiant (sacramental view).

Soon the question was whether there was real presence in the elements – and not just symbols. A desire to go deeper than just a picture but not as far as transubstantiation. A question of the efficacy of communion.

Then we moved to the matter of community – not just a selfish act but one of communion in community. A question of ecclesiology and how we combat selfishness.

Now we are into the whole question of virtuality. There is connectedness (community), but not presence (physical) of the participants. I have been affected by the Salvation Army over the years – they did not have baptism or communion for some time (although in the past decades they have questioned that). There would be no problem with virtuality in this case.

So, just studying historical precedents, you can pick one side or the other.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Being a bit slow

Sometimes I feel like I’m a bit slow.

One of those slow moments hit me yesterday.

How do you plant churches in a lockdown?  Certainly not the traditional way of person-to-person interaction.  Perhaps not even through interaction over the internet? 

Which then begs the question – what is a church?  Certainly not the building.  Perhaps not even online membership?

Which then begs the question – what does God want from us?  A big “US” in the question.  What is corporality in a lockdown?

And there is the question of the day.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Gender neutral

A question asked recently – Is the Holy Spirit of God male?

The question in part arises from a discussion of gender pronouns, the perception of the “gender role” of spiritual gifts and even the question of the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

In my days in theological institutions there were some basic principles laid out.  The Holy Spirit can be grieved – that denotes an emotional/personal being.  The Holy Spirit is fully discovered as Jesus leaves and the Comforter comes.  The Holy Spirit appears in both Old Testament and New Testament.

The Greek words used for the Holy Spirit can be seen as gender neutral (pneuma) or masculine (paracletos).  Of course, I have spent some time trying to write a grammar, and to interpret how grammarians see various words.  The assignment of gender in a word may also be disregarded in following eons – as far as “gender” goes – while still maintaining the endings related to the gender of the word.

If you understand what I have just said, let me add this.  A word study can help but isn’t always enough to prove a hypothesis.

Often context is as important.  Read, read, read!  Wrap the word with other words until there is a sense of what the present looks like (the play on tenses is fully intentional).

So, what have I said?  Just a lot of words?

Simply put, I’m open to saying the Holy Spirit is feminine (and there is lots of historical references).  But, I would rather say the Holy Spirit is gender neutral – in fact the term “gender” is not really applicable to a Spirit.

Friday, March 27, 2020

This is the day

“This is the first day of the rest of your life.”  In a time of uncertainty, this gives me hope. 

At the same time, I read “Take no thought for the morrow, stick with today.”  That encourages me to dismiss worse case scenarios and live for the moment.

But, what about living in the middle?  What has gone before us and what is to come all encourage me. 

Before:  God has set up a plan to erase the bad and reward the good. 

Now:  God has given abundant life that is accessible every day. 

Future:  With God, in the end there is no end of joy.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

My current journey

I’m reading through (a more formal way of saying I’m auditing) a course on Western Christianity.  Some great reminders of faith and faltering.

Right now I’m into St. Antony who was a desert monk – 251-356.  Here are some thoughts from his biography (some would call it hagiography – read it and you can judge for yourself).  He is responding to the thought of living a life that is able to live above earthly matters and concerns.

“Why not rather get those things which we can take away with us — to wit, prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, hospitality?”

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A song in the midst!

There is a song that keeps surfacing in my thoughts.

Written by my first wife, Jill (Cooper) Baker, on November 6th, 1999. 

Jill had recently been involved in a number of musical adventures, including composing and playing for a studio album.  In the midst of all this, she awoke one morning and visited the washroom.  When she came out of the bathroom, she had a song in her head.  All written.  No changes.

Here it is – a good reminder for today!

you have given to me piano - Jill Cooper Baker

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

One liners!

From my 1971 yearbook – we grads did know something?  One liners under the grad photos:

School is mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

It’s good to have an open mind, but don’t forget to always keep on end closed.

Did you know that women’s feet are two sizes larger than they used to be from trying to fill men’s shoes.

A smile is a curved line that makes everything straight.

I’m physically coordinated; it’s the rest of the world that’s clumsy.

If I keep frowning, I may get credit for thinking.

How beautiful it is to do nothing and rest afterwards

Look up . . . Look way up.

The closest he’ll ever come to a brainstorm is a light drizzle.

The Gap

We are into distancing these days.  My visit to the grocery store made this evident.

What if, in the midst of social distancing we move in an opposite direction? 

What if the gap between others reminds us to come close to God?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What are we Christians about?

Discipleship.org is into promoting discipleship – although they would round this term out to “disciples making disciples who make disciples” (the term discipleship has become so broad, the focus is necessary).

Here is a description that you can find on their website of a forum they are planning on holding.  Interesting approach to the great commission:

“The Jesus we preach and the gospel we uphold determine the disciple we get.” – Dallas Willard

Have we created Jesus in our own image, to suit our sensibilities, or do we know the real Jesus as he is revealed in the Bible?  What do you believe and teach about Jesus? That will decide the kind of disciple you are becoming and forming. If you want to make disciples, nothing is more important than who you believe Jesus is and what you teach about him. What we believe about Jesus determines what it means to be his disciple.

Friday, March 20, 2020

An invitation and not an escape

In my own thought and studies, I am struggling with a deficiency from my youth.

In my early days I was enthralled with my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Yes, I had friends.  Usually a triad formed wherever we moved (and we had a number of moves).  But always, my friend Jesus was there.

In the days of my youth, I became convinced there was a need for evangelism.  To bring people to know this Jesus.  A noble concept. 

The ideal seemed to be, as implied in a number of evangelistic systems I was taught, that heaven (or hell) was the catalyst towards a relationship with God.

Another approach started with pointing out sin, or broken relationships, or loneliness.  To escape those concerns, work your way into God’s presence by accepting Jesus. 

But . . .  Our world does not know sin.  They do not seem to know refreshing relationships.  Perhaps they do not even know what it is to have a friend.  They only want to live in the here and now – forget eternity. 

Let me make an important point here.  Prior to knowing sin, separation from God and even eternal life – there has to be God.  You cannot know holiness unless there is a standard by which to judge.

When you invite someone to know God, you are inviting them to explore who God is.  As the exploration deepens, there will be a crisis in their life – a pivot point. A time when the commit wholeheartedly to knowing God, not just wetting their toes in the pool of who God is. 

As they progress in knowing God, the connections to their life will arise.  Further pivot points turn them away from old paths and into new adventures.  We might just call this abundant life.

So, maybe the best evangelism is to open a way to God that is accessible to others, that exposes the truth of who God is, and that demonstrates that truth in life.  I heard it through the grapevine (which might be labelled as the Bible?) that Jesus fits the bill!

And because they have accepted the invitation into the presence of God, people will know sin, self and Satan because these are not God.  And to remain in strong relationship with God, they will discard untruth and obey truth.

Just some thoughts that are percolating around in my head.

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