Monday, May 23, 2022

Lambeth Expectations: Much or Not so much?

So, this is the year of the Lambeth Conference for this decade (26 July to 8 August, 2022). The last one was in 2008. There should have been one in 2018. Contretemps in the Communion postponed it to 2020. Covid postponed 2020 to 2022. It's been a big deal for bishops since the first one in 1867. It's been controversial, none more so than 1998 with its resolution 1.10 which at the time seemed to settle the Communion on the matter of homosexuality, but it turned out that was far from the case. (It is not the purpose of this post to review that particular historical narrative). 

Subsequently Lambeth 2008 assiduously turned itself away from the making of resolutions as far as possible and was a big talk fest (indaba) which my then bishop, Richard Ellena of the Diocese of Nelson, described in the following terms: "I believe (at this stage – and there are still two days to go) that this has been the most expensive exercise in futility that I have ever been to". (Again, it is not the purpose of this post to review the worthwhileness of that Lambeth Conference, but clearly not all found it a profitable exercise).

So, what are the prospects for this year's Conference? Will it not be an exercise in futility? What is the purpose of the Conference and does it have a "big thing" it is trying to achieve?

In the end, I can't offer a pre-Conference answer to these questions. There is a "big thing" inasmuch as there will be foci in the Conference in the troubles that beset our world today and what we as bishops might say in response to them - and presumably any formal Conference statement will encourage our dioceses to continuing engagement in the tackling of these troubles. The theme of the Conference is "God's church for God's world" and I like the note that the church is "for" the world.

On the main Conference webpage we read this:

"Convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury in 2022, the Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs.

With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World - walking, listening and witnessing together,’ the conference will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world.

The journey to the conference starts during 2021, where there will be opportunities for prayer, dialogue and reflection, involving the conference community – and wider Anglican World."

It looks like our reflection and dialogue will focus on matters such as the conflictual nature of our world, and the threat of environmental disaster and the diminishment of life through poverty and inequality.

Mind you, a world faced with environmental disaster doesn't quite cut it for some bishops as a "big thing." Thus:

Three Afican Primates (Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda) have issued an open letter, reported by The Living Church, in which they explain why they are boycotting Lambeth:

"The Communique issued after the Primates’ Meeting of March 2022 in Lambeth Palace, London, was silent on the agenda of the proposed Lambeth 2022, which is a ploy to evade the crucial issue of human sexuality. The conclusions reached by the Primates suggest that the subject of human sexuality is not on the agenda at the next Lambeth Conference, as if the problems generated by the admission of homosexuality as a normal way of life as opposed to Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998 could be swept under the carpet. 

Instead, Lambeth 2022 is to focus on peripheral matters about the environment and difficulties experienced by disadvantaged communities. Their focus on the environment should be rooted in biblical theology within an authentic salvation message and must not abandon that for any social cause.

Human sexuality is not a moral issue to be wrapped in the garment of human rights which allows for distortion of fundamental biblical truth."

The planet is burning up, but that is "peripheral"!

Well, let's see what happens. I would be a bit surprised if nothing is said about human sexuality. Conversely, I have no personal desire to go to a conference which has nothing to talk about except the well worn conversational grooves of Anglican differences over homosexuality (1998-2022 edition).

I would love to find through the Conference how much we have in common as members of a global church when our globe is facing so many common challenges! That would be a "big thing" ...

In the meantime, apparently if we don't get Covid, or Covid-again, then monkeypox is spreading.



Monday, May 16, 2022

Clearly (Down Under and Up Yonder version(s)) - updated

Last week the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia met. Some sense of the big issues can be gained here and here (via the multiple links there). Has our neighbouring church come closer to a massive schism, or has it managed to find a way to not do so? I feel a little unclear about that!

Following debates, and ruminating on the particular shock to the Synod of the bishops not agreeing with the houses of clergy and laity on a statement about marriage, it has struck me that quite a lot depends in modern Anglicanism on what the word "clearly" means, whether we are agreed on what is "clear" and what is not, and whether we are minded to live together with those who are not as clear as we are on a matter or matters.

For what it is worth, I think the bishops got it right when the voted against a statement which said this:

"Marriage as the union of a man and a woman.  Pursuant to the authority recognised in s.4 and s.26 of the Constitution to make statements as to the faith, ritual, ceremonial or discipline of this Church, and in accordance with the procedures set out in Rule V, the General Synod hereby states:  

1. The faith, ritual, ceremonial and discipline of this Church reflect and uphold marriage as it was ordained from the beginning, being the exclusive union of one man and one woman arising from mutual promises of lifelong faithfulness, which is in accordance with the teaching of Christ that, “from the beginning the Creator made them male and female”, and in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt 19:4-5).  

2. The solemnisation of a marriage between a same-sex couple is contrary to the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.  

3. Any rite or ceremony that purports to bless a same-sex marriage is not in accordance with the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.  "

Why do I think that? Because (a) accepting (1) above is true when discussion concerns marriage between a man and a woman, does not entail that (2) and (3) are true without further reflection about the relationship between what Christ taught (as recorded in our Gospels) and what Christ did not teach (because no one asked a question of Christ about same-sex relationships, and certainly not in the context of modern states making civil provision for marriage between two people of the same sex). It is the case that "further reflection" in churches today both yields conclusions in which (2) and (3) above are held to be true (and thus the houses of clergy and laity voted in favour) and conclusions in which neither (2) and (3) are held to be true, or only (3) is not held to be true (and thus there were significant minorities against the statement).

And, thus, (b) the bishops got it right (I am interpreting their decision here), because they felt the ACA should be a church in which continuing exploration of two (or more views) on these matters is possible.*see further below

Or, more simply, those voting against the statement felt that things are not quite as clear as the statement's promoters and supporters make them out to be.

Incidentally, readers here, like me ignorant until last week of a specific requirement of the Diocese of Sydney, may be interested to know that the issue of commitment to marriage (in line with the statement proposed to the GS) in that Diocese is such that all new principals of Anglican schools there, along with new school board members, are required to sign a statement of support for marriage being only between a man and a woman.

Yet, let's be clear, it is also the case that clarity can be fervently held on the other side of this particular ledger. Over the weekend I noticed some discussion about an interview with Wesley Hill, a celibate, gay (wait for it) Episcopalian priest and theologian, who is interviewed here.

Wesley is a fascinating bloke, because a lot about his theological approach to being gay in the church would sit very satisfactorily inside ACNA. Yet he is coolly and calmly convinced that his place is in The Episcopal Church, promoting what he calls a "Side B" approach to being a gay Christian: commitment to being celibate while boldly being out.

But here's the thing.

If you follow the comments in this thread on Twitter, you get a lot of support for Wesley.

But if you follow the comments in this thread on Twitter, you get a lot of clarity that there is no place for Wesley and his views in The Episcopal Church.

Speaking personally, I would struggle to be part of either an ACA or a TEC which (finally) got to a position of shutting down all possibility of exploring aspects of human sexuality, respecting the fact that some lack of clarity attends the discussion.

Back to the General Synod across The Ditch.

There was also some controversy over a motion to celebrate 30 years of women in ordained ministry, that controversy reflecting the difference between dioceses in ACA over whether women may be priests or bishops.

If we put both controversies together, over marriage and over women being ordained to positions of authority such as priest or bishop, we highlight an arguably deeper question for Anglicans than one about clarity or lack of clarity, that question concerns whether anything in our understanding of Scripture may change as life changes.

Is that the great question for global Anglicanism in the 21st century? (Actually, it is the great question for global Christianity!)

But if it is the great question, then it is closely associated with the question whether global Anglicanism, and the Anglican provinces around the globe, can live with some answers to the great question being less than as clear as those of us who love clarity would like.

Updates:

1. Australian Primate warns against going it alone on SSB.

2. Case is made here (re who is or isn't Anglican in Australia) that the General Synod only narrowly avoided effectively determining that ACA is not a comprehensive church but "a narrow, even Calvinistic, confessional church".

3. On what the bishops' vote signifies, see this The Living Church article, and note this excerpt:

Bishop Garry Weatherill of Ballarat opposed the marriage motion, saying he was aware of only two same-sex blessings which had occurred in the church since the Appellate Tribunal’s decision.

“That is not a tsunami. People have been saying this is a tear in the fabric of the church, and drawing a line in the sand. It’s not,” he told TLC. “The reason the bishops voted against the motion was to leave the space open for discussion, not to make hard line edicts.”

The church’s primate, Archbishop of Adelaide Geoffrey Smith, told The Australian newspaper last week that the scriptures and church clearly understood marriage as between a man and woman.

“I am not aware of any proposal to alter that,” Smith said. “The current discussion is really about the ‘therefore’ part. Is it the case that therefore blessing a marriage that is not between a man and a woman is inappropriate or impossible to be done?

“Or is it the case that yes, the doctrine of the church is that marriage is between a man and a woman but actually we are living in a culture and society where lawful marriage is possible between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, and there might be good that comes from that relationship and it might reflect something of God’s love and therefore it’s appropriate for some kind of blessing or recognition.”

Archbishop Smith's statement/question, as expressed above, is pretty much aligned with my own position as a bishop in ACANZP: affirming marriage traditionally understood AND making room for exploration of what it means to be church in a changed society.

Monday, May 9, 2022

John 10:30 and current Anglican currents

So, in yesterday's Gospel reading, the last words were:

The Father and I are one (John 10:30).

The unity of the Father and the Son is one of the great themes of John's Gospel, if not the greatest theme of them all.

The mission of the Son in Johannine thought is the unification of humanity with God.

The church sort of understands that (e.g. when Paul in Ephesians writes about God's universal plan, "to gather up all things in [Christ]", 1:10) and sort of doesn't (e.g. when it has lots of factions such as Paul tackles in chapter after chapter of 1 Corinthians).

Division among churches at best is a handbrake on our participation in God's mission (we get distracted by issues internal to Christian life) and at worst it is a barrier to hearing the Good News  (non-Christians are turned off the purse gospel by the confusion of versions of Christianity). (

Aside: I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry yesterday driving down a street in one of our towns in which the Baptist Church is next door to the Catholic Church and Catholic School which is next door to the Union Church!

A special interest of this blog through its zillions of posts is unity among Anglicans. Putting the Union back into Anglican Communion!

On the good news front, I hear that more bishops than expected are planning to go to the Lambeth Conference in July this year. Cool!

On the what's going to happen front is the question of this week's Australian Anglican church's General Synod (here and here), where That Topic will be discussed.

This is my best understanding of what could happen - happy to be corrected by any Australian readers.

1. No particular change to the current situation which is somewhat unsettled (and looking forward to this GS settling one way or another).

2. An affirmation that various moves in a few dioceses in favour of blessing of same sex marriages are good to continue (but this may lead to disaffiliations from dioceses by some parishes; and even to some kind of separation by some dioceses from the national Anglican church).

3. An affirmation that any moves anywhere to bless any relationship other than marriage between a man and a woman is wrong (unconstitutional, heretical, and the like) - unlikely to lead to disaffiliations by those who disagree; would there by rebellion against such an affirmation?

I have no particular insight or information which leads to a prediction.

But I do want to say a few things about the framing of the differences and divisions in Anglicanlands about That Topic. 

Reading around the traps I see some conservative commentary which sees these matters as binary: light versus darkness, holiness versus sinfulness and consequently as matters over which people should leave the church to reform around what they believe. (Some talk, for instance, that the progressives should have the courage of their convictions and leave to form a church better suited to their view of Anglicanism).

My own preference is to see these matters as matters on which Anglicans have reasonable grounds for reasonable difference. 

At the heart of debates over homosexuality in 21st century life are two (or more views) on homosexuality as a phenomenon of human life. 

Some Anglicans view homosexuality as a result of the Fall and thus all strictures against blessing same sex marriages are logical extensions of a view that only sexual commitment in line with creation's intention itself can be blessed. 

Some Anglicans view homosexuality as a longstanding variation within human sexuality, likely present since the emergence of humanity (homo sapiens) from the evolutionary process and thus a state of life which is within nature rather than against nature, with a consequential hesitancy to interpret Scripture as constraining two homosexuals from committing to each other in lifelong, faithful love.

Given that no definitive statement of Anglicanism found in the BCP or the 39A determines that it is unreasonable for Anglicans to hold to either view of homosexuality, is it not within the bounds of Anglicanism for there to be differences of view on how our church might respond to two homosexuals seeking ecclesiastical blessing for a legal state of life? (We might note that there are statements within Anglicanism about the respected role of the magistrate in civil life ...!).

If such debate is framed in this way, then isn't it incumbent within Anglicanlands to find ways to accommodate our differences on such matters rather than to divide over such matters?

Monday, May 2, 2022

The explosion of the resurrection across the pages of the New Testament (with an exception)

Preaching yesterday morning (Easter 3), when the readings were Acts 9:1-6 (the Conversion of St. Paul), Revelation 5:11-14 (the worship of the Lamb in heaven) and John 21:1-19 (Fishing on the Sea of Tiberias) got me thinking ...

The resurrection is like an explosion with a massive rippling effect across the pages of the New Testament.

Sure, most of the four gospels could have been written without the resurrection (which takes up just the last chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke and the last two chapters of John). But without the resurrection there is no conversion of Saul to become Paul and no history of the first Christians which is Acts. No epistles of Paul, no other epistles, except may be the Epistle of James. And no Revelation with its vision of a heaven transformed through the presence of the once slain, now resurrected Lamb.

Which makes it all the more intriguing that the Gospel passage yesterday begins with no sign at all of an explosive resurrection impacting the main disciples of Jesus:

Simon Peter said to [the other disciples with him at the Sea of Tiberias], "I am going fishing." (21:3)

Simon and his fishing mates seem to be at a loose end! Now, sure, to be a bit anachronistic, workers for God need a day off, annual leave, team building exercises, and, within the 40 days (per Luke's account in Acts 1), there could have been a lull in activity in Galilee (though, per Luke the disciples do not go to Galilee, in contrast to Matthew, Luke and John).

Yes, the historical accounts of the appearances of the risen Jesus, especially in relationship to the commissioning-by-Jesus-and-what-happens-next, are intriguing as we note tension across the accounts between Jerusalem and Galilee and, in John 20 and 21, between Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, to say nothing of the tension between the explosive character of the resurrection and this exceptional lull at the beginning of John 21.

Perhaps that might keep us humble as readers many centuries later - humble in the sense of not being too sure and certain about exactly what happened, even as (through the witness of the apostles, embedded in the pages of the New Testament) we have high and joyful confidence that the Lord is risen and lives among us, as he did in the heady days of the expanding Christian church in the first century AD.

There are other things to keep us humble these days - or they ought to. Globally we have the continuing scandal of the Russian Orthodox Church showing not one scintilla of compassion for Ukraine and Ukrainians from its top leadership. Locally, Down Under, we have media stories about serious misconduct and unsatisfactory conduct in churches in Australia and New Zealand. Even when it is only a few named churches which feature in the headlines, it seems to me that all churches are tarred with the same reputational damaging brush.

I have been delighted, nevertheless, to read recently one heartwarming media story about a Down Under church - it concerns Curate Church in Tauranga and can be read here. (That's "curate" in a non-Anglican sense of the word "curate" - an active noun versus a role description!!)

Of course bad stories about churches do nothing to create, let alone enhance some kind of warm, questing space in people's minds re the existence of God and the possibility that God has revealed God's self to be compassionate and merciful. Secularism (in the sense of a society and its cultural expectations excluding the possibility of God's existence and interest in our world) grows apace hereabouts.

Interestingly, in this morning's Christchurch Press a local scientific commentator, Peter Griffin, has a column about the origins of life. As far as it goes it is an informative column, informing us of the possible role of meteorites (as carriers of DNA etc) in the development of life here. But its last sentence highlights the contrast between a questing science which knows not of God's revelation and a questing Christian (i.e. someone interested in meteorites) who knows of Genesis 1:

"Our origin story is still to be fully understood and written. But it will eventually make for one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of life itself."

(Incidentally, the thread of comments below the column is delightful!) 

These are challenging times. A person with no acceptance of the role of God as Creator is unlikely to be open to the thought that the power of the Creator has resurrected our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The pathway along which we hope the good news travels into people's hearts is beset with blocking landslides and unbridgeable chasms.

Yesterday Psalm 8 was read in a service. It struck me that verse 4 is the question which all of Scripture answers:

"what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?"

But the question presupposes the Being to whom the question may be addressed and from whom an answer has come. We live in a world, many of us on this planet, in which it is denied that there is anyone who minds us!



Monday, April 25, 2022

A Little More on the Resurrection Narratives?

Indulge me, please, with another resurrection post ... we are still well within the "50 Days of Easter"! It will be last one for Pascha 2022.

I have never noticed before the unusual character of the verse, Luke 24:12.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (NRSV)

Notes:

1. Not all ancient manuscripts have this verse. That means it may not have been known to Luke himself and may have been added later (e.g. to bring Peter into the story at an earlier stage than otherwise, see Luke 24:34). REB confines the verse to a footnote.

2. The verse is reminiscent of aspects of Peter and the Beloved Disciple's racing/running to the tomb and seeing into it, in John 20:3-10: thus:

20:3 Then Peter and ... set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together ...

20:5 He [the Beloved Disciple] bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there ...

20:6 ... Simon Peter ... saw the linen wrapping lying there ...

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes ...

The emboldened words in Luke 24:12 and John 20:5 are exactly the same in Greek.

3. How to explain the relationship between Luke 24:12 and John 20:3-10. Did one copy/adapt from the other? Did they both draw on a common tradition? 

C.F. Evans, in his commentary, Saint Luke (SCM/Trinity Press International, 1990), pp. 899-900 lists three explanations for Luke 24:12:

A. "Luke wrote the verse, and it was later used by John." He then observes, "Against this is that some of the common language is characteristic of John rather than of Luke."

B. "Luke and John have used a common tradition of the empty tomb story in which disciples (Peter) were connected with the tomb, each doing so in his own way. Luke has combined it with Mark's story, while John has incorporated the beloved disciple into it." Evans then observes, "Against this, apart from the Johannine character of the language referred to above, the verse would be the only evidence for such a common tradition to be found in Luke's version, which is otherwise based on Mark's, and it follow awkwardly after 'an idle tale', giving the impression of something tacked on.

Yes, explanation C is the one!

C. "The verse is a later harmonizing addition to Luke's text, formed largely out of language borrowed from John 20:1-10, with the object of improving the transition to the narrative of appearances, and of brining Peter (cf. v. 34) into relation to the tomb." For Evans, "This is the most likely explanation of the presence of the verse here, and of its clumsiness."

Now various things can be contested here (e.g. I have seen a commentator deny that the language in v. 12 is Johannine), but the verse is a clumsy one relative to the verses preceding and succeeding it, and explanation C has a certain plausibility to it.

What does this mean for insight into the composition of the resurrection narratives?

Perhaps there are many insights!

Here is one insight:

The narratives across Mark, Luke and John are interested in the role of Peter as a witness to the resurrection - noting that Paul's tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:5 reports a specific appearance "to Cephas" prior to an appearance "then to the twelve."

Matthew, who follows Mark to a significant degree in Matthew 28:1-7, fails to follow Mark 16:7, where the messenger from God at the tomb says, "But go, tell his disciples and Peter ...".

Luke (who avoids any talk of appearances of Jesus in Galilee, in both Luke 24 and Acts 1) notes in 24:34 a specific appearance to "Simon", but via an indirect report. Luke 24:34 is consistent with 1 Corinthians 15:5. 

Luke 24:12 places Simon Peter at the tomb but without account of an appearance of the risen Lord to him. 

Otherwise, we assume in Matthew's Galilee appearance (28:16-20) and Luke's Jerusalem appearance to all the gathered disciples, that Peter is present in that group.

Similarly, in John 20, we assume that Peter is present in both accounts of appearances to the gathered disciples - only Thomas is noted as missing from the first account.

Nevertheless, in John 21, the appearance of the Lord to seven disciples gathered together at the Sea of Tiberias (i.e. in Galilee) becomes a major encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Is there a developing interest in the role of Simon Peter as a witness to the resurrection, through the decades in which the gospels are composed (and, in the case of Luke 24:12 edited)?

But, why then does Matthew show no interest in Peter in his post resurrection narratives?

A possible deduction is that Matthew is a Palestine-based gospel and Peter is long gone from Palestine to Rome.

By contrast, if Mark is Rome-based (as many have supposed), then his interest in Peter is understandable. Luke is not as interested in Peter as he is in Paul, but Peter is important, and Paul himself does not omit the "appearance to Peter" tradition from his list in 1 Corinthians 15.

John, as best we can tell, is neither a Palestine nor a Rome based gospel. Possibly he composes his gospel in Ephesus. But his gospel represents a distinctive form of early Christianity, Johannine Christianity and this development is in contrast, if not in tension with the Pauline - Petrine Christianity across the water in Rome. So Peter figures prominently in John's Gospel, especially in the epilogue which is chapter 21. But the emphasis on Peter is not about boosting Petrine Christianity; it's about defending Johannine Christianity as a worthy form of Christianity, with as strong a foundation in the ministry of Jesus Christ as Petrine Christianity has.

All this is pretty well known.

Luke 24:12 offers the possibility of a strengthening of this analysis.





Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Empty Tomb and the Subsequent Appearances

It is that time again, to make observations about the resurrection narratives. (For reccent previous years see: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 (Pt 1), 2018 (Pt 2).)

This year a couple of things have struck me in reading the gospel accounts in preparation for two sermons (one re Luke 24:1-12 and one re John 20:1-18). I am treating Mark 16:1-8 as the original ending of that Gospel.

Empty Tomb then Appearances

Now, this is pretty obvious, but it has struck me that each of the gospel accounts tells us the tomb is empty (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-13) and only then tells us of the first appearance of Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 24:13-35; John 20:14-18 - Mark anticipates a later appearance, 16:7).

None of the accounts mixes up the Empty Tomb with an Appearance (e.g. imagines Jesus himself is in the tomb, waiting for visitors). The "guide(s)" at the tomb ("angel", Matthew 28:5; "young man", Mark 16:5; "two men ... in dazzling apparel", Luke 24:4; "two angels in white", John 20:12) are distinct from Jesus.

So, the appearances (with a modest exception in Matthew*) then become the second part of the resurrection narratives for each gospel (including Mark's narrative, by implication).

Clearly, picking up Paul's account of Appearances of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, there were - between "died ... buried ... raised on the third day" and Paul's conversion - appearances of the risen Jesus to a range of individuals and groups. 

Understandably, the Gospels tell us about Appearances. 

Not so understandable, of course, is that the Gospels (a) do not offer between them a particularly coherent account of these appearances, and (b) do not match well with Paul's list (with its air of authoritative tradition).

But, I muse ... were there a range of appearances of Jesus to people? From near the tomb to Galilee, were there many appearances during a limited period of time? And, so, from that range, are we now able to read in the gospels a selection of testimonies of those appearances? Thus: near the tomb (Matthew, John), in Jerusalem (Luke, John), near Jerusalem (Luke), and in Galilee (Matthew, anticipated in Mark, John).

Clearly there is a degree of creativity as the gospel writers (c) support the narrative of the Empty Tomb with a narrative or narratives of Appearances of Jesus, and (d) draw their overall accounts to a conclusion. So, we find on the matter of Jesus commissioning his disciples that there are three different commissionings by the risen Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-53/Acts 1:1-8; John 20:21-23/21:15-22).

Then, Luke and John show extraordinary theological depth as well as the ability to include a wide range of theological themes as they respectively tell of the Road to Emmaus appearance (Luke 24:13-35) and the "third appearance" in the Big Catch of Fish (John 21). 

*That modest exception is that between Matthew's first appearance account (28:9-10) and second account (28:16-20), Matthew refers back to the Empty Tomb by wait of a story about how a rumour was initiated by the authorities to explain the emptiness of the tomb (28:11-15).

Sight and Recognition

There is a lot of "seeing" and "recognising" (or not) going on in each of the resurrection narratives, with respect to the actual or anticipated appearances of Jesus.

Matthew 28:6: "Come, see the place where he lay."

Matthew 28:7: "... he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him."

Matthew 28:10: "... there they will see me."

Mark 16:6: "... see the place where they laid him."

Mark 16:7: "...he is going before you to Galileee; there you will see him."

Luke 24:12: " ... But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves."

John 20:5: "and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in."

John 20:8: "Then the other disciples, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;"

John 20: 14: "Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus."

John 20:18: "Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; 

Luke 24:16: "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him"

Luke 24:24: "... but him they did not see."

Luke 24:31: "And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight."

Luke 24:37: "But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit."

Luke 24:39: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have."

John 20:20: "When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord."

John 20:25: "So, the other disciples told him [Thomas], "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands ..."

John 20:29: 'Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."'

John 21:4: "Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus."

John 21:12: "Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord."

Matthew 28:17: "And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted."

To be honest, I am not sure what to make of these texts. Perhaps, at the least, they make the point that the first witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus were eye-witnesses. They could be questioned as to what they saw, whether they understood what they saw, and what led to their recognition of the Lord.

Ultimately the gospel writers are painting word pictures of the risen Jesus for their readers (for you and me): we may not see Jesus with our own eyes, but we see Jesus with their eyes.

And we see Jesus with the eyes of faith: we believe because of their testimony.


Sunday, April 10, 2022

What is Holy Week and Easter without the Gospel of John?

Just as hot cross buns are nothing much to taste without sultanas and diced dried apricots [my faves for this year's homemade buns], so are the Gospel accounts of the events of Holy Week and Easter if we imagine only having Matthew, Mark and Luke and no John.

Here are a few of the ways in which John enriches us (if not entrances us with loads of puzzles):

- a key event is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, an event not even hinted out in the other Gospels (John 11);

- John tells the anointing of Jesus by a woman differently (but with enough similarities for us to accept that it is the same anointing): "six days before Passover" (not two); at the home of Lazarus (not Simon); with the anointing woman named, Mary (not anonymous);

- John's Last Supper is devoid of elements of "the institution of the Lord's Supper" narrative, otherwise made known to us not only in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but also in 1 Corinthians 11:17-31;

- Only in John's Last Supper is a ceremony of foot washing narrated;

- And there is the somewhat oodles of doctoral theses generating challenge of John's chronology re his timing of the Passover: the Synoptics place the Last Supper on the evening of Passover (so Jesus dies the next day, during Passover), whereas John times Jesus' death to occur when the lambs for the Passover meal are being slaughtered (19:14), so the Last Supper is not actually a Passover meal;

- only John supplies the so-called Farewell Discourses through his chapters 14-17;

- then there are his Resurrection Narratives, though we can note that when it comes to Resurrection Narratives, there are considerable divergences across all four Gospels: only John tells us of Jesus' encounter with Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter and the Beloved Disciple.

Now my point here is not rehearse things likely well known to readers of ADU but to note that I am delighted this Holy Week and Easter to have the assistance of a new commentary on John's Gospel.


David F. Ford is a renowned British theologian and tells us at the beginning of The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2021) that he has been working on this book for a couple of decades (p. vii). 

At the end of the commentary, as he discusses at greater length the people and books that have influenced him and been conversational partners with him, he mentions an opportunity in 2009 to engage in a "sustained conversation around John that has acted as an inspiration and a benchmark. Richard Bauckham had retired from St Andrews University to Cambridge and Richard Hays was in Cambridge for a six month sabbatical. We put twenty-one three-hour sessions in our diaries, and the three of us read the whole Gospel together" (p. 439-40). Oh, to be a fly on the wall ... 

Like all commentaries, there is much to look up on specific passages and their associated puzzles and controversies, and I intend to do that over the next week re the kinds of matters I have listed above. It could be a bit boring, however, from a blogging perspective, to list all the things he says (even if each is interesting in its own right) so I will simply finish here with his opening paragraph, not least because I have never previously thought of his summary description of John's Gospel before, though it is one of those brilliant, lovely insights that are completely obvious (especially if we think of John 10:10 as both a summary of Jesus' intended mission and as the centre/middle of the Gospel)!

From page 1, my bold:

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:16). John is a Gospel of abundance. The prologue first sounds this note; the first sign that Jesus does turns a huge amount of water into good wine: the Spirit is a wind that blows where it will and is given "without measure" (3:34); the "living water" that Jesus gives is "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (4:14); when Jesus feeds five thousand with five loaves, there are twelve baskets of fragments left over; through Jesus there is abundance of glory, healing, light, life, trugh, fruitfulness, joy, and love; the last sign that Jesus does brings about a large catch of big fish; and John's closing sentence responds to the impossible task of writing all that could be said about what Jesus did: "if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (21:25).

There is, indeed, an abundance in this commentary of things to be enriched by. 

May all readers of ADU have an enriched, abundant Holy Week and Paschal Festival full of meaning and significance.

Bonus Feature:

This is my recipe for Hot Cross buns (using a breadmaker, in my case a rather recent and IMHO brilliant Panasonic one):

(in this order in the bread maker)

1 cup of sultanas and diced dried apricots (either in the nifty breadmaker device which releases them automatically at the right time, or added to the dough cycle when your breadmaker signals for that to happen).

3 to 3.5 teaspoons of breadmaker yeast mixture (can this be obtained outside of NZ?)

3.5 cups of high quality flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 tablespoon oil

270 mls water (with the Panasonic this can be as it comes out of the tap; otherwise slightly warm)

Press start on the "raison dough" cycle

Near the end of the alotted time, prepare a thick flour-and-water mix for the crosses.

Once dough is ready, make eight (possibly nine) balls of dough and place in a container such as a roasting dish and let rise for about 30 - 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn oven on to bake at 180 degrees Celsius

Add the crosses to each potential bun

Once 180 degrees is reached:

Place container in the oven for however long it takes to cook the buns.

Option: make a hot syrup from brown sugar and a little water (or brown sugar, honey and a little water).

When the buns are cooked, pour the syrup over the buns (hence the roasting dish as this catches any excess syrup flowing off the buns).

Place the buns on a cooling rack

EAT.