Monday, January 18, 2021

Better 2021 or worse 2021?

The heading for my last post of 2020 raised the question whether 2021 might be better than 2020.

Cue, of course, the question of how we define the good, better or worse of one year compared to another.

The first six days of this new year were a bewildering global storm of worsening news about the Pandemic combined with unheard of political disruptions in the USA (note: the last storming of the US Capitol were by the British in 1812).*

On the other hand the first 18 days of 2021 in NZ have been a brilliant mix of superb summer sunshine, excellent cricket, cracking America's Cup challenger racing and holding the Pandemic at bay (just ... we all recognise that we may yet be overrun by new variants of the virus). The following photos are snaps from part of our holiday - water and sunshine, always a winning combo!

In the wider Anglican world I see news about a female bishop for Kenya.

In 2021 I hope (at the very least) re Trumpianism that Christians really, really address the question Who is Lord? This article is a timely and apt comment on the Jesus-less-ness of Trumpianism.

I read some great books while on holiday - all of which in their own way reinforced the absurdity of ever, ever ascribing to any national leader some kind of exalted status - and took quite a few notes towards possible talks later this year.

Let me not burden you with all my notes. Here is one notable passage from an author not always given star rating on "orthodox Christian" charts, Rob Bell:

"The first Christians had a way of talking about this massive movement, bigger than any one of us, that's sweeping across human history: they wrote that God is in the process of moving everything forward so that God will be over all and through all and in all and in another passage in the Bible it is written that God does what God does so that God may be all in all.

For God to be recognised as all in all then, we will become more and more aware of the uniting of all the depth and dimensions of being - from the physical to the spiritual, from the seen to the unseen, from matter to spirit and everything in betweeen - as we see more and more of the universe in the single, seamless reality it's always been."**

That is, a little bit of Colossians and Ephesians could go a long way to helping Christians around the world make appropriate "course corrections" in 2021 - corrections needed if we are not to be the laughing stock of the world.

I also read Andrew Shanks, Hegel and Religious Faith: Divided Brain, Atoning Spirit, London/New York: T & T Clark, 2011. This book hurt my brain because I am not a rocket scientist. I do not profess to understand much about Hegel. Possibly Shanks has made me think more favourably of this enigmatic thinker. 

Probably Hegel and Bell would get along fine! 

Certainly Christians need to think very big in our conception of God and what God is up to in the world and through time.

See you next week ...!

*See, by the way, helpful comments in the comment thread to the previous post, from Bowman Walton who lives in the States, on the whole situation re Trump, Trumpians and Trumpianism, including Christian allegiance to Trump.

** p. 187, Rob Bell, What we talk about when we talk about God, New York: Harper, 2013.


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter for this Reflection. Diana and I, too, have been on holiday - in Tekapo and Wanaka, where I was privileged to act as P.i.C. in 2005/6. It was lovely to see the parish in good heart - with a lovely new Community Building (a contract between the Wanaka Parish and the local people has enabled this community activity for ther good of both parties). Present in the congregation were two judges - one of whom was part of our Study Group in my first curacy at Whangarei - and the other, a retired high Court Judge, active in the parish administration. Altogether a very heartening experience of parish life in the Southern Lakes district of the Dunedin Diocese.

Having been off-line during our 12 daY holiday, it was good to see today's 3-minute Retreat from the Jesuits, (commenting on 1 Cor.3:9)

"From the very beginning of the Book of Genesis, we are called to be stewards of God's creation. In fact, we are more than stewards. St. Paul reminds us that we are cocreators with God. Each of us has been gifted to participate in God's work of creation in our own unique way. God's creative work continues with our cooperation, in the fields of our everyday lives.
I, too, see our calling in the Church as being 'co-creators' with God in the task of building up Christ's Kingdom where we are. Happy New Year to you and your Family.

Unknown said...

Welcome back, Peter. A happy holiday to Father Ron. And to all, a merrier Inauguration Day.


Unknown said...

Yes, Peter, by all means do think favourably of G W F Hegel. Only Aristotle can match the scope of the last major modern philosopher to acknowledge the revelation of God in Christ. And once one one can navigate its coastline, one can land anywhere and find insight, even wisdom, that only deepens as one ventures inland toward the highlands of this continent. The coastal waters are easiest for those who have reviewed Kant in outline and then dock first in Hegel's history and critique of Pyrrhonean scepticism.

Speaking of Bell's hell, or just worrying about hell's bells, an easier but timely read is an inexpensive IVP book, But What About God's Wrath? The co-authors of this volume argue from the scriptures that God's wrath performs his love for us by teaching us the hardest lessons of our sanctification, which are necessary to our eternal felicity. While the authors assume the reality of hell, their account of God's motivation in judging us is not the one that frightens small children and disgusts sensitive adults. The book narrows the gap between *universalism* and *infernalism*.


Father Ron said...

Congrats., Bowman, on America's rescue from despotism, by the Inauguration of Joe Biden as President, a practising Catholic with a heart for the people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron, for these, and for all your other prayers and kind hopes through the late unpleasantness.

Yes, it is a relief to again have a POTUS strong enough to lead with humility. In that, 46's Catholicism supports his temperament.

Meanwhile, his opposition is in disarray. 45 has left it starkly polarised into his corporatist enemies, populist fans, and seditious fanatics. This rivalry on the right will make it hard for the new President to shake hands on the deals that move bills through the Congress. It probably augurs some new phase of our two-party system.


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bowman, for you comments here.

I take heart from the daily 3-minute Retreat (on-line) from the Jesuits. Here is today's offering, discussing the 'Benedictus' passage in Luke 1:77 :-

'To give his people knowledge of salvation

"This line from the Canticle of Zechariah gives us reason to pause. The way we come to know about salvation is through the forgiveness of our sins. The forgiveness of our sins was attained through Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection. It is in and through Jesus that we come to know salvation. As we grow in our faith lives, our understanding of salvation deepens and we open ourselves more and more to the grace of being reconciled to God."

I think that one of the common failings of the Church is its insistence on emphasising Law and Judgement; whereas this passage of Scripture states the need to thank God for the grace and gift of forgiveness - implicit in the redemptive power released by the death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ, whose incarnate life of perfect obedience to the Father has 'freed us from our sins' and offers us eternal life - beginning in the here and now, with our Baptism and Holy Common-union with Jesus in the Mass.

Now who, understanding this, would not be willing to confess their common human weakness and personal sins - in order to access the grace of redemption that Jesus has promised to 'all who believe in Him'? What is at issue here is whether, or not, we can believe that God longs to forgive our sins; when we actually acknowledge the fact that we are all, indeed, sinners in constant need of God's mercy and forgiveness. (Go have mercy on me, ainner!)
Agape! Prayers for your country!

Anonymous said...

A good find, Father Ron.

After an eight-century errand to understand how it might preach the gospel to say that God is just, Westerners now imagine God to be only a judge. So for some, law is the good news that there are limits to what we might fear from that perfectionism. Others imagine God as a purely merciful judge, a shift of angle that does not change what we think we see. The Jews mostly knew God as the Creator, and Jesus showed him to be actively repairing what is broken. In that different imaginary, your Jesuits make a lot of sense.