Monday, June 20, 2011

Earth shattering gospel for earthquaked people

The gospel broke the world open, shattering a cosy cosmopolitanism in which religions competed side by side for influence, none daring to assume dominance unless backed by imperial sword wielders. Combining  recent reflection here on Romans, God as Trinity and Communion politics, what the gospel is, how we understand the message of Jesus comprehensively, that is both comprehending the words of Jesus as well as grasping their whole significance - their implications, applications and ramifications - is key to life. The possibility that life has meaning, that suffering and death do not reign over life, that God's judgment results in mercy not wrath, that human society may be organised around fellowship or communion rather than divisions and inqualities, that good will triumph over evil is opened up by the good news that Jesus is the Christ, Lord and Saviour of the world.

Theological battles, whether fought in the pages of Romans against re-assertion of legalism and national exclusivism, or in ecumenical councils against the diminishment of Christ as God, or even in that rather small set of churches known as the Anglican Communion against ... well, what is the key issue from a gospel perspective? Against, I suggest, ideas that the gospel is multiple in content (as compared with expressions of the gospel), that diversity more than unity represents an intended outcome of the gospel, that 'communion' is distinguishable from 'church' (when both are properly understood in theological terms). At the heart of such great theological battles is the simple but difficult question, What is the gospel?

This past week in Christchurch has been dispiriting. There is an 'exhaustion of spirit' as Bishop Victoria has aptly summed up (see Taonga and links  re Christchurch's peril). When hope drains away, when tiredness wells up, when patience is necessary but seems impossible, what is the gospel? How are Christians to proclaim the gospel here in word and in deed? Prior to September, 2010 any answer likely would have talked about the spirit of the city, the forces at work within it, culturally, spiritually, and economically. Now we have to reckon with the dispirit of the city, and the new forces at work within it, forces for despair and desperation. Further, these forces are at work within the whole population, Christian and non-Christian. Many Christians, I suggest, including myself, need to hear the gospel for the first time in our new situation before we attempt to share the gospel with others.

What is the good news of Jesus Christ when life is wrecked?


Anonymous said...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls".

(I've been checking back, hoping someone else would comment. Not wanting to be glib, nor to diminish the Gospel. But rest for our souls.... rest for your souls... to me that sounds like healing balm, salve for our wounds in a time of wrecked lives)

Anonymous said...

We don't have answers to your question - just the call to pray for and with you each day.

Father Ron Smith said...

"What is the good news of Jesus Christ when life is wrecked?"

- Dr.Peter Carrell -

Exactly the same as it has ever been: "Good News" of the love of God at work in people, through the grace and example of Jesus Christ.

Hope is our watchword. Perhaps it needs a 'near-death' experience to quicken in us our deep need of God.

On the last two Sundays at Saint Michael's in the City here in Christchurch, where all around is devastation - but somehow, we still have a Christian Sanctuary in which to thank and worship God, despite further quakes - we have experienced the life of Christ together in the Eucharist. Here, He is presented to us every day as Redeemer and Saviour of all humanity. regardless of their condition or state of life.

Both Pentecost and Trinity Sunday are reminders of our relationship to all creation, in Christ, as bearers of the divine Image and Likeness, empowered to bring hope to all - regardless of negative circumstances and situations. We don't have to rely on our own finite resources. Only God can give us the strength to carry on. This is why the Eucharist in necessary.

WE either believe what Jesus said about being with us 'To the end of Time' - in all circumstances of our lives - or we do not. And if we do not - what hope is there for non-believers? This IS The Gospel!

Anonymous said...

From Rosemary:

The Gospel is, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for excellent comments. And for praying.

Brother David said...

Knowing what you know of your experience with these ongoing quakes, imagine what it was like for folks in the cities of Europe during something such as the Black Plague. Or the folks of San Francisco or Chicago after the great fires. Or even the devastation of the small towns of the Southeastern USA after these recent tornados.

Continued prayers for Christchurch and her weary folk.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you David!

That is a healthy reminder: God's people have kept the faith and preached the gospel through worse challenges than we face.

Brother David said...

Roberto and I were living in the US during the Mexico City quake and my father encouraged us to stay put, rather than heed the feeling that we should go help.

My older brother Javier, and many cousins and uncles went to help. The devastation was indescribable. Javier called me in Washington State many, many times and wept as he tried to shake off days of particularly horrible experiences. I only know what I know vicariously through his shared experience. 26 years later, he still comes to tears relating some of the stories. You will need your strength for many years to come Padre.

From the Wikipedia;
The 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake that struck Mexico on 19 September 1985 in the morning at 7:19 local time, caused the deaths of about 10,000 people and serious damage in the nation's capital. The complete seismic event consisted of four quakes. A pre-event quake of magnitude 5.2 occurred on 28 May 1985. The main and most powerful shock occurred 19 September, followed by two aftershocks: one on 20 September 1985 of magnitude 7.5 and the fourth occurring seven months later on 30 April 1986 of magnitude 7.0. The quakes were located off the Mexican Pacific coast, more than 350 km away, but due to strength of the quake and the fact that Mexico City sits on an old lakebed, Mexico City suffered major damage. The event caused between three and four billion USD in damage as 412 buildings collapsed and another 3,124 were seriously damaged in the city. While the number is in dispute, the most-often cited number of deaths is an estimated 10,000 people but experts agreed that it could be up to 40,000.

James said...

Prayers for all of you in Christchurch.

Thanks for these reflections, Peter.

Even amidst ruin ... a gospel perspective.