Monday, January 16, 2017

I thank God for Donald Trump

Back at work today. Great holiday - thank you, Lord. Some bits of the holiday will appear in subsequent postings. The Hell Hole of the South Pacific. Going to church with Bill English. Joy of cricket.

More than a little facetiously: the (continuing, informative, lively, provocative, profound) discussion on this blog over recent weeks since my last post and in the absence of new posts has inspired me with the thought that I need never post again ...

But the best news for this blog, really, is the ever present Donald Trump in the media, mainstream, social, you name it media. He is and will be the gift that keeps on giving to bloggers, reporters, Tweeters and dinner table conversationalists. However this is a Christian and Anglican blog, so my comments about Donald Trump or spurred on by the same, will try to have a Christian and Anglican angle to them. For starters, today, and to ease my way back into blogging for 2017 - the tenth year of ADU - I will list the reasons why I (at least) can thank God for Donald Trump.

(1) As already stated, he regularly furnishes new material for blogs. (But, Donald, if you are reading this, could you please tone it down a bit. How about one new thing to respond to each day rather than each hour?)

(2)  He is (sometimes) fun to observe and even more fun is observing the people straining to find the good in him, only to find with the next revelation that he is a complete [you fill this bit in]. And for those readers here who think there really is a lot of good in him, note the ways in which his new cabinet picks try to dial back his more outlandish thoughts (especially on hugging Russia) and how allies are genuinely concerned he might give away secret agent names to the Russians.

(3) More importantly, Trump's very divisiveness is challenging us all in respect of values, attitudes and actions. Christians and non-Christians alike: who do we serve? what do we stand for? who matters in society? who is neighbour, enemy, alien and how will we love them? Talk is cheap. Trump's era will demand action from the chattering classes of Western societies.

(4) Despite all the "post-truth" naming of this new era in politics, I think we are going to find ourselves re-searching for plain truth and, consequentially, recalibrating our ability to call a lie a falsehood. But that journey will be tough and for a time we are going to be very confused about what is and is not true, who is and who is not reliable as a truth teller and as a discerner of lies. (Dust off those Orwellian volumes, 1984 and Animal Farm: essential guides for an era in which we are not certain whether Trump is a muppet or a puppet of Putin or whether Putin is playing a shell-game in which his greatest success is that we think Trump is his poodle when in fact he is not. Though he keeps Tweeting as though he is ...

(5) I think I said something about this last year, but Trump is illustrative of a significant way in which God's judgment is worked out in the course of history. Trump is precisely the president the USA and the West deserve when we have followed the devices and desires of our own hearts, lapping up immoral entertainment from Hollywood and its satellites and worshipping in the citadels of consumerist capitalism. We will focus on the latest Tweet from Trump but we should be focusing on why we have Trump and whether we can or cannot stem the rot which is killing Western civilization. (Memo to ourselves: the best way out of the inexorable judgment of God is through repentance.)

(6) Trump will re-focus our attention on the Book of Revelation. Most of the time this book makes no sense, save for some sense that "at the end of time" it will make sense because at that time The World Will Turn To Custard in Bizarre and Terrifying Ways. Maybe that time has come. (Expect a post or two on Revelation 13-17!)

(7) This may sound a bit perverse, but I think the world has been heading towards a major war for some time (think: China, Russia, Middle East, with or without American involvement) and rather than this time dragging on for decades through this century, just maybe Trump will hasten the day of culmination. I pray it might be largely a cyber and economic war, rather than a guns and bullets war.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I'm on holiday

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers.

I am on blogging holiday for a while - till mid-January-ish - unless the world blows up, which is slightly more likely since You Know Who (USA) and You Know Who (Russia) reignited the arms race.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

2017 will be a big year, in my view. Even bigger than 2016 has turned out to be!

My final wisdom for the year, especially pertinent on Christmas Day, courtesy of something my son Tweeted a while back:

Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in the fruit salad!

Boxing Day Postscript:

At the Midnight Service at St Barnabas Fendalton I preached a sermon more or less according to the following text. (My actual text had a few mores scribbled words than this version, but I have lost that!)

"Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
It is not a very happy Christmas this year.

This year we are acutely aware that people in places such as Aleppo are in an especially unhappy situation. But closer to home we also find people in difficult situations illustrated by long queues of people outside the Auckland City Mission.

Isaiah knew about the threat of evil and oppression which stalks humanity. We heard his description of the situation using words such as “yoke,” “bar”, “rod,” and “boots.”

This year we have felt the rod of oppression and the trampling boots of the oppressors across our world and we end the year feeling next year could be worse rather than better.

It is not a very happy Christmas this year.

Yet here we are singing about light and life, greeting one another with “Merry Christmas,” and hearing readings about glad tidings of joy for all.
What is up with that?

What did Isaiah see in the midst of his dark day? He foresaw a child being born, a child full of hope and promise, serving Israel with powerful love rather than the love of power.

At the time Isaiah almost certainly thought this foresight was about the next royal baby to be born.

But for centuries no royal baby born in Israel quite matched the job description of the Prince of Peace given in that passage.

Then, and we know the story well, a baby was born, with royal lineage, in a very obscure way, placed in a feeding trough with no spare room anywhere else in a Bethlehem hostel.

And as people got to know that baby, as the baby grew to be a man, what Isaiah saw was determined to have come to pass.

Jesus was the Wonderful Counsellor or, as Paul wrote to Titus, “our great God and Saviour.”

All that is good. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the manifestation of our great God.

But there is this tiny challenge. When Christmas is not a happy Christmas for many people, has the promise of Isaiah’s prophecy been fulfilled?

Isaiah did not only foresee the coming of the Christ child, he foresaw a better world, talking of “endless peace” and the establishment of a just kingdom.

I think this challenge has to be met. We crave integrity. We want promises to match reality. 

That is why Trump won and Britain is leaving the EU. Voters in those places are tired of reality not matching politicians’ promises.

The shepherds give us a clue as to why we do not yet see Isaiah’s vision fulfilled. When told that Jesus is good news for the world they go to him.

Ever since some people, like the shepherds, have followed Jesus. But many have ignored Jesus, some have shunned him, a few have even gone further and persecuted his followers.

Even our beloved Press today [24 December 2016] has an editorial relegating Jesus to the sidelines and giving thanks for Santa Claus!

Isaiah’s vision will be fulfilled when we run towards Jesus rather than away from him. When we pay him homage, like the shepherds, rather than toss him to one side.

It is not a very happy Christmas this year. That is a challenge. At the least it is a challenge that we might help people discover or rediscover Jesus, the only way to endless peace and a just world.

Will we find our way to Jesus, like the shepherds?"

Friday, December 23, 2016

And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?

I promise you, that if you read this post on NZ productivity figures, you will get to Christmas, and the source of the lovely title to this post.

POSTSCRIPT: For something a little different, pointed and provocative about how we think about the spiritual dynamic of Christmas, read this post (H/T Josh Taylor, Spanky Moore)

POSTSCRIPT 2: Yes, terrorism is closer to home Down Under, once again, including a Melbourne church as a target.

Heading into 2017, this might help understand what will happen

The thing about 2016 and its tumults is they are of the kind which imply 2017 will be worse, not better. 2016 looks like it will be not an aberration but the deepening of a growing global crisis.

For which crisis we might have a better understanding if we read this.

It might be worth remembering that Jesus was born into the world not to found a civilisation to be later defended from the encroachment of other civilisations but to save the world, everyone in it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The very latest cathedral news

Stuff has this report up about no announcement before Christmas about the future of the Christchurch Cathedral.

Shortly I hope to be able to append here the official media statement on the matter by +Victoria (which staff were informed about a few minutes ago, as I write).

Added:

Bishop Victoria's letter to the Diocese about the non-announcement today is here.

The accompanying press release is here.

Love reaches out to all, including ...

It has been extremely refreshing in recent weeks on this blog to find that there is a topic or two other than You Know What which generates long strings of comments, to say nothing of strong arguments, robustly mounted against this blogwriter.

This "topic or two" is a bit of a mix of standing against Trumpism and standing for welcoming Muslim migration (with some obvious caveats).

Nothing I have read recently better captures the sense I have that a welcoming country like NZ should welcome Muslims along with other people groups than this Stuff article.

All people living in NZ at some point in a past of 1000-1200 years at the most have been or their forebears have been migrants moving from one land to another in search of a better life.

Long may it continue!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Full of Grace - The Sacred Truth about Christmas

As you are no doubt experiencing yourself, the path to a "happy" Christmas lies in securing the right presents for the right people in your life and that likely involves entering some shops which normally you would not enter.

Thus I found myself in a shop full of interest, theologically speaking, the other day. Full of interest because of the names given some products in that shop, as conveniently illustrated by these photos (Motto: Always carry your smartphone wherever you go):



So there it is folks, some 2000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ who came, according to John 1:17, "full of grace and truth," we have the faint residue of that revelation in a post-Christian consumerist society!