I am Sad

 

Sadness

Dear God, I am sad today
Something in my world is not as I would like it.
My sadness is as a curtain between me
and the joy that I know is there beyond.
Help me to draw back the curtain, to push it aside.
Hold the curtain for me, dear God

A Prayer about Prayer

How can I be sure I am doing the right thing?
How can I know that my actions and my decisions are what you truly desire, Lord?
Help me to thrust aside my own ego
that ego that makes me selfish and proud
that ego that expects reward for my goodness.
Help me to understand that none but you is good
and listen with an open heart and mind to you when I pray.
For you have promised to always hear us when we pray
but our prayers must be for the common good or for the good of others
not just wishes for our selfish desires.
So we are told to “pray in Jesus name”.
Help me to understand better each day what that truly means.
Help me to align myself with Jesus and pray as he would pray,
not that my will, but that your will be done.
Then will all things truly be possible.
So heal me, Lord
make me whole
but not for my own sake
but so that I may be fit to serve you
and to serve others
for your sake.
I truly ask, in Jesus precious name.
Amen

Atonement

ATONE –  To make reparation, compensation, or amends, for an offence, crime or sin one has committed.

It restores balance.  It is intentional karma.

But what if you have committed no sin?

Jesus was blameless, yet his death is atonement.

So why did Jesus die?

As a child, it seemed to me to be a rotten ending to a really good story.
I was told that, by his death on the cross, Jesus “obtained an eternal deliverance for all his people”.
But nobody explained to me how that worked.
Apparently, it was something I would understand when I was older.

Yet I was also told that God was all loving and all forgiving, so somehow, the idea that God REQUIRED Jesus to die in order to be able to forgive us all for being the humans he had created in the first place – well  that made no sense.

So why was atonement necessary?

The numerous Theories of the Atonement might help, now that I am older.

There are historical theories, and more modern theories that attempt to explain the atonemant,

The Ransom Theory: This was the earliest theory, originating with the early church.  This theory proposess that Christ offered himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45).
But, it does not make clear who this ransom was paid to, although many in the early church believed the ransom as paid to the devil.
However, if the devil requires a ransom, doesn’t that mean he has the upper hand and is telling God what he requires?

The Recapitulation Theory: This theory originated with Irenaeus (125-202 AD) and relates the concept back to Genesis.
Irenaeus considered Jesus’ work to be undoing the sins of Adam.
Adam was disobedient to God, but Jesus was obedient even to death.  Irenaeus also compared Eve and Mary to contrast the deceptive nature of Eve with the accepting nature of Mary.
But, if I don’t believe Adam and Eve were literal people (and I don’t since I believe in evolution) this theory is not going to work for me.

The Satisfaction Theory:  Proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109) who suggested that God’s honour and dignity had been offended and it could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus – a debt paid to God on behalf of sinners.
But, this makes God seem like a petty despot, so I don’t like that one, despite thinking that Anselm is a great name 🙂

The Penal-Substitution Theory: The 16th century Reformers built upon Anselm’s theory but thought it was incomplete because it was based upon God’s honour rather than his justice and holiness. Jesus died for humankind, and in doing so, he took all our collective sins upon himself and set us free from the demands of the Law so that both the Law and the holiness of God are satisfied.
But, I still feel this makes God look a bit feeble.

The Moral- Influence Theory – Peter Abelard (1079-1142) suggested that Jesus died to influence mankind toward moral improvement.  He suggested Jesus’ death was planned to impress mankind with the sheer magnitude of God’s love so that thier hearts would be softened and they would turn back to him.
In this theory, the atonement is not for God’s benefit but for ours, and this makes sense to me.
In essence, the death of Jesus touches us and influences us to changed behaviour and a better life.
I can see the logic of this one.

The Governmental Theory:   This view was formulated by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and was adopted  by Jacobus Arminius, Charles Finney, Jonathan Edwards the younger, and Methodism. It posits that God made Christ an example of suffering because he needed to show humankind that our sins displease him.
In this, my least favourite theory, God needs to stamp his authority and he does that by venting all his anger on Christ.
But, to me this makes God sound like one of those Roman legionnaires who were reputed to have randomly killed every 10th man in their ranks in order to assert their authority.

Modern theories

The Declaratory Theory: Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89)
This is an extension of the Moral Influence theory which says Jesus died to show us how much God loves us.
Makes sense to me.

The Guaranty (Guarantee) Theory:  J. C. K. von Hofmann (1810-77)
Jesus died to gain followers and prove that what he said about himself was true.
Maybe, partly.

Vicarious Repentance Theory:  John McLeod Campbell (1800-1872).  This theory suggests that only a perfect repentance can atone for sin.  Jesus died in order to be one with God’s condemnation of sin.  By dying, he condemned sin, and also confessed it.
Maybe, partly.

Christ Victor Theory:  G. E. H. Aulén (1879-1977).
I left this to last because it is the theory that both makes sense to me logically and fits with my own awareness of God in my life.
In Christ Victor the world is seen as one of opposing forces of good and evil in divine conflict.  By dying on the cross and resurrecting, Jesus banished the powers that had maintained a hold over humanity. The atonement is viewed as divine conflict and victory over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection.

What is Faith?

faith

feɪθ/
noun – complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

When we  say we have “faith” it does not mean that we believe without proof.  It means we trust.

We trust God because of what we have learnt of God. We “believe in” God, not in a sense of wishful thinking, but because we trust that God is good and cares for us.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen

St Francis of Assisi – 13th century

peace

The Girl Who Said No to an Angel

She was singing again!
Down there in the sun-drenched courtyard next door.
The sweet sounds had woken Leah from a fitful sleep.

She opened the shutter with irritation and looked down.
There she was, hanging heavy linens on a line to dry.
Her hair flowing loose about her, glinting golds and ambers in the morning light.
What right did she have to be singing?

She caught snatches of the words – “He hath exalted the humble and the meek” she sang, standing with her arms raised as she hung out her washing.

Leah could clearly see the girl’s face, glowing with joy as she sung to her Lord.
She didn’t look humble and meek to Leah; she looked self-satisfied and a bit simple.

But who would have thought it?
Pregnant and unmarried at just fourteen, yet old Joseph next door had believed her; believed that the young girl he had taken in to look after his motherless infant son and his older boys was miraculously pregnant without ever having
known a man.

Even though Leah knew Miriam’s story was the truth, she didn’t see how anyone else could possibly believe it.

“He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts”, Miriam sang.
Well, that certainly seemed to be the case.
By rights, the imagination of Joseph’s heart should have seen him bundle Miriam unceremoniously out of his home and branded her as a harlot, unfit to care for his children. She should be begging on the streets.
But instead there she was, arms upraised to the Lord, signing her heart out in the shimmering sun, enormous belly protruding proudly for all to see.

Leah lay down on her bed and tears stung at her eyes.
Joseph had believed her!

The angel had said there was “no need to fear”, but how could a girl possibly not fear being humiliated, ostracised and left to starve?

How had Miriam believed the angel when Leah could not?
The angel had said to her, “Do not be afraid, Leah; you have found favour with God.”
Do not be afraid? Of course she was afraid! She had been terrified.
She had begged, “No, not me!” and told the angel to find someone else.

Had the angel been making his way down the street? Was Miriam the very next girl he visited?
How many others had said no and sent the angel away?
But apparently Miriam had meekly said “I am the Lord’s servant” and that was that.

But oh, it seemed so unfair!
If Leah had known that everyone would honour the pregnant maid and call her “blessed”, then she would have said yes to the angel, just as Miriam evidentially had. But how could she have known?

It was the most shameful thing imaginable for a girl to carry a child when unwed.
Her family would not keep her and she would live like a dog in the streets, begging for crusts.
Nobody would employ her to work in their home as her shame would reflect upon their own honour.
If she survived until the child was born, it was unlikely to be born alive, and if it was, then what?
Another tiny pair of hands begging in the market place?
What woman in her right mind would have said yes to such a proposition?

Oh sure, it was all very well for an angel to say “Do not be afraid”, but seriously, what sort of an idiot would not be terrified?

Leah moved to the window again and looked down.
Miram was still in the courtyard, simply standing still and looking heavenward.
She saw the movement in the window and smiled, a huge, beaming smile, and waved.
“Leah!” She called out, “I am just about to take some honey cakes out of the oven. Please, do come and breakfast with me.”
Radiant.

Yes, radiant; that was the only word to describe this glowing young maiden.
Simply look upon her would melt the hardest heart and bring joy to the soul.

Leah’s jealousy evaporated instantly.
She waved, smiled and called out “I’ll be there in a moment”.

Closing the shutter, she said “Bless her, Lord, for she is truly blessed, and I give you thanks that I may call this most beautiful and precious girl my best friend”, and she ran down the stairs to share breakfast.

It hurts you to kick against the goads

It takes a certain kind of stubbornness to ignore God.

God prods,
God pushes,
and sometimes God kicks us in the bum.
Yet so often we resist.
Expending more energy by our resistance
than God would ever have been required of us,
if we had been willing.

There is work to be done.
I can do it grudgingly,
or I can do it willingly.
God gives me that much choice at least 🙂

We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (Acts 26:14)

Written for my Godmother, Vee

When Peter Showed Me an Angel

The photo above was taken by my father, a great and highly respected horseman.  It is of the Silpark fox hounds at Ashbourne, South Australia.
He called it “Full Cry”.

Towards the end of his life my father was in a nursing home.
I went to see him a couple of days before he died.

Dad’s decline had been quite fast and the two previous times I had visited that week him he had been unresponsive,
lying flat on his back,
breathing slowly through his mouth,
his face a pale grey colour.

I was not expecting any difference on that last day and I had just been talking to the nursing staff who said it was unlikely he would show any further sign of consciousness.

But as I stood at the door of his room I was very surprised by what I saw.
Dad was not lying still.
He had raised his shoulders from the bed, |
his face was flushed pink,
his eyes were open and sparkling,
and he was talking,
with animated hand gestures and
indistinguishable words
to someone I could not see.

The right corner of Dad’s room was not visible from the door, but I had the impression that the person he was talking to was in that corner and there was a bright golden light coming from that spot.
I stood and watched for several moments,
because it seemed rude to interrupt.

Then, as I walked into the room, the light became normal.

I expected to see another visitor in the corner of the room, but there was nobody there, however Dad’s attention was still focused in that direction.

When I spoke to him, saying hello, he was reluctant to focus on me but eventually sort of shrugged his sholders and rolled his eyes as if to indicate to the person he was talking to tht he was sorry to break off their conversation, but he had to talk to his daughter now.

As he focused on me,
I asked him how he was
and he replied
“at peace”,
and closed his eyes.
He never spoke again.

As we were preparing for his funeral our Parish Priest, Peter, asked me if I wanted to view Dad’s body.
I have seen a lot of dead people, but even so, I said no.

I wanted to remember him
as I had seen him last ;
face flushed
with joyful anticipation,
eyes sparkling
with a dream of peace
with the past.

So I told Peter about that last moment when Dad had spoke, and his response changed my life.

Peter said:

“There are always angels hovering at that time”

and he explained to me that he believed Dad was talking to an angel when I saw him.

Perhaps, if Peter had seemed like some sort of religious nutter, I may have taken his words with a grain of salt.
But here was this intelligent, composed, sensible and sincere man talking to me about angels. I had to sit up and take notice.
I had to learn more.

And so began my faith journey,
as I began to notice the angels myself.

(for Peter. 2009)