Monday, February 7, 2022

At the core of the Gospel

Let’s give “Anglican issues” a wee break. They’re not going away anytime soon, and they won’t be resolved in the twinkling of an eye glancing at a blogpost here!

Yesterday’s Gospel reading was Luke 5:1-11. I wasn’t preaching but I gave the reading some reflection and that included thinking about its parallel in John 21:1-14.

First, the fascinating parallels between the two passages: both involve an unexpected catch of fish, against the grain of failure to catch, but in response to direction from the (carpenter, not a fisherman) Lord Jesus, with Peter a central character in each story, and some connection (direct in Luke, imminent in John) of Peter being (re)commissioned for ministry. But pretty much the parallels end there. Luke’s story sets Peter on the road to being an apostle who will contribute to catching people for God - a great big catch as the Acts of the Apostles tells us; and, by implication, sets others on that apostolic pathway, because Luke’s story substitutes for Mark and Matthew’s fishing-call stories of Peter, Andrew, James and John. John’s story is part of the larger lake/beachside story of Peter being forgiven for his three denials of Jesus and re-called to “Follow me”, with the emphasis on the renewed ministry not being the apostolic mission to grow the Jesus movement but on the apostolic role of pastoral care for the flock of Jesus: Feed my lambs.

Aside: on some matters previously touched on here, this year, with respect to Anglicanism’s relationship to the Roman Catholic Church and its claims to be “the” church of God because of its Petrine roots and continuing Petrine office, John 21 is also fascinating because of the interplay there between Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, or, we might say, between differing poles of Christianity, Petrine and Johannine. Anglicanism is (we could argue) at its strongest when it both respects and honours Petrine Christianity and confidently but humbly forges its own pathway according to a different pole. We can always do worse that allow ourselves to be inspired by Johannine Christianity!

Back to Luke 5:1-11.

While I wasn’t preaching yesterday, I did hear a sermon on Luke 5:1-11 (and its related OT reading, Isaiah 6:1-8). The preacher skilfully worked from both passages, and from the specific parallel between Isaiah’s and Peter’s recognition of their uncleanness/sinfulness in relation to “the Lord’s” holiness, to highlight the power of God to change us, to transform our lives from within (when so much of what the world talks about re change is change via external factors, behaviour modifications etc).

As I continue to reflect on the relationship between church and gospel, because I believe that beyond all diagnoses and prognoses of the church’s ills and ailments, lies the simple issue of the message we proclaim and the power of that message to win adherents in our day, it struck me that yesterday’s preacher put his finger on something very important.

Whatever words, or actions we use to describe and to present the gospel, the good news of our message must be that there is a God who is able to make a measurable difference to the human situation - that is, God can change us when other means and methods cannot; in a world of amazing transformations (this amazing device on which I type these words to you via the miracle of the internet; development of a virus beating set of vaccines in record time; etc), the challenge of transformation of ourselves remains, and if the gospel offers nothing in response to that challenge, what goodness does our news of Jesus offer?

Now there is lots more to say about the content of the gospel - about the good news of Jesus as an understanding of the world which provides purpose and meaning for human existence, even in the midst of pain and suffering, and thus is a message of hope, joy, peace and love, filled with authentic and eternal content. The gospel is nothing but the good news of lots of “both-and” goodness from God, with the cornerstone message that change to our lives and hope for our lives comes from God graciously reconciling us to himself, dying in Christ on the cross that we might live abundantly and eternally, sharing in the resurrection of Christ. But today’s post gratefully acknowledges yesterday’s particular insight from the preacher’s faithful engagement with the appointed readings!

Our challenge in these difficult days is to be the church which attests to the work of God changing us, transforming us, because by gathering in Jesus’ name, God through the Spirit is visibly making us into the kind of people other people want to be.

And it is a challenge, because we are often more frail and fallible than we would like to be. God is working among us and has a lot to do, yet. The remarkable encounter between Jesus and Peter in Luke 5 was life changing but it didn’t mean Peter would not later deny his Lord three times. The further life changing encounter in John 21 sorted out a number of issues for Peter but it didn’t means that Peter would not later need sharp correction in his not-yet-mature understanding of the scope of the gospel (Acts 10-15; Galatians).

What is God doing in your life and mine?


Jean said...

I have always been interested in why the first account of the fishing story - the ‘recruiting’ account of the disciples notes the net broke with the number of fish, whilst in the account in John of the encounter with Jesus after His resurrection attention has been made in noting that although the net was full (overly full) as it was pulled ashore it did not break. Do any of you scholarly trained have some insights to add on this?

In respect to the Pauline and Johanine followings well I guess my no doubt somewhat modern take on this sits alongside Paul’s writing about new followers of the way ...”13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?…”. Christ in my mind is where true apostolic authority comes from; although I realise the value inherent in different traditions.

Transformation I think is indeed a most wonderful aspect of what God in Christ does in and through His people. I may feel personally a bit on shaky ground personally regarding this at this present point in time, although there has been much evidence of His transformation power in my life to date. Many years ago - over a decade - I was at a healing service whereby I made myself go up for prayer; unable to explain what I wanted prayer for I just said for my emotions ‘nice and general!’. After that prayer, although I physically felt nothing, I knew that a deep pain I had felt as if it was physical pain for near on the majority of my life was just gone. Before going up for prayer I had the thought, which I wasn’t completely convinced was theologically sound that if Jesus really died 2000 years ago then as well as dying for our sins he also died for the sins committed against us so we shouldn’t have to carry that burden.

When I came back to church through an Alpha course on the Holy Spirit weekend one of the leaders had had a vision of a sword through my heart, which distressed them more than me, all it did for me was explain something I had always felt. There was a number of years between the two happening but yes Jesus transforms.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Jean :-)

"O taste and see that the Lord is good!" Psalm xxxiv 8

"Let’s give 'Anglican issues' a wee break."

Consider, if you will, a tasty analogy.

Everyone who can eats well, but French chefs of the C18-20 reduced this to a system-- the codifications of Carême and Escoffier, the brigade system for organizing kitchens, knife technique, the sauce array, etc. The eternal capital of this system has been and will always be Lyon in the agricultural heartland. But its elements have spread everywhere, so that we can speak intelligibly of the French influence on San Francisco, Ho Chi Minh City, or Casablanca. This is because the ideas of French cuisine are supple enough to influence and absorb recipes native to other places. Absent that, there would have been no Asian fusion in California, only doughy spring rolls in Vietnam, and much duller vegetables in Morocco.

So where then are the **issues** in French cuisine? Because of the national investment in agricultural and food research there, some (eg nouvelle cuisine, molecular gastronomy) have arisen in France. But because the most advanced viticulture in the world is presently Down Under, one would expect some issues in the French relation of food to wine to arise in vineyards and kitchens near you. Wherever the system adapts itself to new knowledge, an issue arises.

Meanwhile chefs in Indo-Chinese cities like Bangkok that have long mediated between the cuisines of South and East Asia continue to rework that fusion on the platform of French technique. South of my own laptop, the French system has likewise been used as a model for organising the indigenous foodways of regions like Oaxaca in Mexico. Issues for the system arise as it spreads to lands far from its origin and to foods unknown to its discoverers.

Returning to the pond up here, the French system has also been used to restore recipes in the south of England and in Southern colonies here. These were well-loved a few centuries ago, but have suffered since from forgotten technique and isolation from innovation. So, because both are descended from the same Norman recipes, one can apply the C19 lessons of Carême's *chaudfroid* to its C17 Virginia cousin *tomato aspic*. Here issues arise in the system where a common idea has been treated differently by branches of the same grand culinary family.

So then, what is the news from the eternal capital of this tradition, Lyon? Do any **issues** for the system arise there? Not really.

Lyon is still the market town of one of world's great agricultural regions. The brigade system still flourishes in its kitchens. Agriculture and food science have important laboratories there. A job in that city remains a prestigious first rung on the promotion ladder for ambitious French cooks. Elsewhere, those making wines, spring rolls, mole, aspics, etc in sophisticated ways are glad to know the network of cooks thus trained.

And yet. French cuisine has global scale, and to insiders Lyon is indispensable to its continuity. However, in the system as a whole, authority is dispersed and horizontal. Food writers do visit Lyon from time to time-- spring is best-- to drink from the well-springs of tradition, but if they just took residence in the city and lived there, they would miss a sprawling forest for a few admittedly splendid local trees. And if a restaurant there should lose or gain a Michelin star, what is that to a creative chef in Christchurch who is working toward a star of her own? The **issues** that matter to the **system** mainly arise in the diffusion, not the origin.

France being French, there must be a bureau there that coordinates everything, publishes a quarterly, hosts meetings, holds pressers, puts out press kits, etc. But I cannot say that I have ever heard of it.

Those who have palates, let them taste ;-)


Anonymous said...

Two Anglicans (N T Wright & Miroslav Volf) answering questions personally, hopefully, interestingly, and sometimes laughingly about the future of the Body, local and global.

Mention of Francis, Justin, and Rowan as mutual acquaintances but only a brief allusion to the Communion. Much more about Tom's experiences in Durham as bishop and Miroslav's love of the free church ecclesiology.

At the end, answers to refreshing student questions about church unity, China & India, beauty and the gospel, the eucharist, prayer and action, recognition of the feminine, scripture in church, loss of transcendence, little deaths in Christ, the church as a moon, etc.

You will feel better after watching this.


Jean said...

It is an interesting watch Bowman, both hearing the students questions and the answers from +Wright and Miroslav... thought provoking and insightful both!

Unknown said...

Yes, Jean,

I'm still pondering that video and my response(s) to it.

I imagine that some could watch it and come away thinking that nothing new was asserted, argued, or proven. Which would be true.

But, both in person and in a dialogue like that one, Tom and Miroslav can each have a heart close to the Lord leading a sharp mind to worthwhile insight. Often-- more often, perhaps, in the past few years-- I listen most carefully for what a person cares about and why s/he cares about it.

And in the Q & A, the questions put to them took some concreteness from the Fuller students who were asking them. I've heard-- even sometimes answered-- similar queries before. But these interrogators seemed to be asking from their lived lives.

Which both Tom and Miroslav saw. Behind a microphone on a platform, one has the choice of answering the question, the questioner, or both. They sometimes missed the question, but they always answered the questioner.

I'm glad you found it interesting :-)


Anonymous said...

Hi Jean

Now and again, the conversation we watched alluded to a series of lectures and discussions about St Paul on the morrow. They are online here--

It's a wonderful stroll from Adam and Abraham to how and why theology is a task for the whole church. But if those hours are too long for your schedule, this Remnant Radio interview may be more feasible and no less attractive--

It's brief, informal, and focused on the parts of Wright's argument that intrigue and yet perplex people most-- God is with us, heaven is on earth, and the new creation began with the Resurrection.


Anonymous said...

In other news...