Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Congratulations!

To the US on chipping away at those draconian and immoral restrictions on gun ownership . . . I hope soon the NRA gets to give away hand guns to kids as part of their citzenship training:
     if you don't have a gun
     you just aint americun!
(I just made that poem up, but seeing as I'm not American myself, the NRA are free to shoot me and pretend they made it up)

And to the prison population of NZ, who are so tough and manly that they are going to riot (throw a tantrum) if anyone takes their ciggies away.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Only thing separating Len Brown and Jesus is the purchase of Ham

No really, or at least that is what he thinks . . . this not blogging thing is hard, but making the supercity work is going to be even harder, so maybe we should be looking at the mayoral candidates miracle working ability?  On the other hand, quitting the smokes should be a piece of cake, and might be the smartest thing Key ever does.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Going Quiet for a Bit

This is just a courtesy post to all my lovely readers that things are going to be a bit quiet on Xenos probably at least until the end of July.  I don't want to, but I currently am trying to put the finishing touches to my research thesis, have two major speaking engagements in July, and am being swamped with marking.  On top of that I need all the mental space I have spare for working out (in collaboration with my partner in marriage) what I'm going to do with my life once my studies have come to an end.  So I think I really need to swear off blogging for a period as it has a tendency to eat up more time than it warrants when life is busy.

However the good news is, expect Xenos to be back with a vengeance after that, because once all that is done I'll be fit to burst my blogging bladder!

For those of you following thesis progress, I have completed a first draft and my supervisor is happy with it, so it really is just a case now of dealing with the myriad grammar, footnote, and tone issues (apparently I tend to put things "a bit strong"! - those who know me will be smiling at that) and working through my notes and a last few books to pad out the references.  I'm really pleased with how it's turned out and will probably publish it online once it is examined. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Q&A site for Biblical Hermeneutics

This is under development and might interest.  What it really needs is a couple of serious biblical scholars to get in at the begining and help bring some direction to it, any takers?  If you are not a scholar they still need more members to get the site to launch properly, so if this is an area of interest and you have time to contribute, get in there.

http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/1817/biblical-hermeneutics

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

don't take the sting out of the tail

[this post origianlly appeared here at the Kiwi-Made Preaching blog]

Nearly two years ago I was reading a book by John Wright, Telling God’s Story. One of the book’s valuable observations is that as preachers we tend towards comic rather than tragic sermons.  This has nothing to do with being funny or not, but is rather the tendency to resolve our sermons on good notes rather than leaving the listeners hanging and feeling bad.  So, for example, we might preach on the story of the rich young ruler, but we will make sure by the end of it the congregation doesn’t feel the need to sell everything they possess.  For Wright this has the effect of letting the listeners off the hook. Scripture confronts them with a harsh challenge but the preacher does his or her best to soften the blow so that the congregation can end the sermon feeling good, rather than convicted.  The comic sermon has a happy ending, and so it seldom provokes a response.  The tragic sermon leaves the listener unsettled and thus provokes transformation (in theory at least).


Providentially, as I was reading the book an invitation came up to preach at another church, which gave me an opportunity to try out Wright’s tragic ending without jeopardising my relationship with my home church.  Even more providentially, the text I was asked to speak upon was James 5:1-6.  I could not have dreamed of a passage more amenable to tragic preaching! During the sermon I fastidiously avoided the urge (and it was strong!) to mitigate or moderate the withering fire of James’ diatribe.  I gave it to them with both barrels.
I half expected to get run out of town at the end of it, or at least have them take me to the top of a cliff and threaten to throw me off (is my messiah complex showing?).  To my amazement, in my discussions with people after the service I realised that they had all supplied their own comic endings to the sermon that I had deliberately preached without one.  The congregation didn’t need me to let them off the hook, they knew how to do it themselves.  My conclusion then was that people are so used to the comic sermon that if one is not provided they reflexively soften the message regardless.

About two months ago I was pleased to be invited back to that church.  An invite back can either be understood as approval or a gracious second chance.  I took this as the latter.  This time the story of Naaman was my text.  I had preached on this text before, but as I prepared it this time I realised that previously I had ignored the story of Gehazi which concludes the narrative sequence.  The seemingly comic story of Naaman’s healing is subverted into a tragedy by Gehazi’s sin.  Once again I preached a tragic sermon (you can read an outline here).  This time though the tragic ending seemed to bite home, I certainly felt in conversations afterwards that the point had gone across much better.  It was a long time between the two sermons; it couldn’t have been a cumulative effect.  Besides, half the congregation didn’t even remember me.  Then I began to wonder if the problem with the first sermon had not been so much a congregation unable to receive a tragic sermon as a preacher who was not used to giving them.

Let me know what you think :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

For the love of language

I am thinking of becoming a linguist...
yes i know it is not something you can become, you have to be "gifted"...
but, despite never showing much promise with language, my biggest educational regret is not having stuck at the different languages I had the oportunity to learn. and of course there will be many mistakes and misunderstandings caused by such an endevour, like this one, recounted by George,
On a lighter note, discussing the danger inherent in learning another language, Ed Loving shared an unfortunate episode where a man was recounting that his wife could not bear children:
His first attempt to share this information was, “My wife is inconceivable.” Noting that this was not received well, he tried again: “She is impregnable…” Still facing a great language barrier, he finally tried, “She is unbearable!”
I also don't expect i will ever catch up with those who started when their brains were fresher and more maleable... but if there is one thing I am getting better at with old age, it is turning regrets into motivation for action. As they sing in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: "from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success!"

David and Elijah for today

2 very different sermons which have in common that they are both excellently imaginative readings of OT narratives:

Steve Taylor on Elijah and the Widow (1 Kings 17)

Sam Wells on David and Goliath (1 Sam 17)

Please note that being imaginative does not entail ignoring the text but noticing the details that a less imaginative reading might consider irrelevant!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

#300! A best of blog . . .

This is my 300th post on Xenos. Too celebrate this milestone I have collected one of the better posts from each lot of 50.  It's interesting to see how the blog has changed over time.  It started of when I thought I knew a lot, having just finished my undergrad studies.  Now I know a lot less, coming to the end of my research degree. :-) Thanks to everyone who has contributed, interacted, and read it.  As I come to the end of my MTh degree it will be interesting to see how the blog develops, whether it gets more attention (due to no looming deadlines) or less (due to no dealines causing procrastination reflex).  Eitherway, I'm looking forward to the next 300 and hope you'll join me on the journey.  :-)

A reflection on 1 Samuel from Dec 2008 
I used to do more of these kind of devotional readings of the OT.  Will have to get back into the habit.
As sermon about the ethiopian eunuch from March 2009
This sermon works best delivered whilst holding two rocks suitable for crushing testicles and grinding them together whenever you talk about the eunuch's experience (but not on any actual testicles).
A critique of Charles Stanley's preaching from June 2009
This was a cheap shot, an easy target, but gets heaps of hits, and got me called "a muslim."  Whoever wrote that was probably misguided enought to think it was an insult.  I would like to do some more critiques of TV preachers, but really life is too short to sit through that drivel. Maybe one day...
A reflection on why bad music is good from Sept 2009
One of the regretably few anecdotes I have about my missionary/pastor grandfather inspired these thoughts about music.
Some biblical contradictions explored in Nov 2009
This was the first post linked to by one of the mega-blogs, whch saw a massive spike in hits to the blog . . . for that post only.  Then I learned, getting people to come to your blog once was no guarantee that they would return.
A first stab at a theology of scripture in Dec 2009
A subject dear to my heart and something I still feel contemporary Christians are all at sea about.  This post is hardly a life boat, but it is perhaps a first lesson in doggy paddle?
An coversation about vengeance and the gospel in March 2010
Sometimes my dander just gets up and I have to stick my oar in.  This was one of those times.It doesn't mean I think i'm right, it just means i'm agitated.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Paul Windsor for Lunch

Paul Windsor, blogger, former principal of Carey College, and current associate director of Langham Preaching, of which Kiwi-Made Preaching is an initiative, came back to Carey this week and was interviewed over our community lunch. As usual he had lots of challenging stuff to share.  Some thoughts that resonated with me:

Obedience first then gifts
Paul put his finger on what often bothers me about the Christian obsession with Myers-Briggs and other "gift-finder" type methods.  They suggest that our job is to find out what we are good at and enjoy and then our obedience lies in doing those things.  Paul, on the other hand argued that for the Christian our obedience lies in seeking God's will for our lives and then trusting him to provide the gifts we need to obey.  The gifts don't define our obedience, our obedience is followed by gifting.

Gifts don't define effectiveness
Paul also spoke out against the assumption that our effectiveness in ministry is defined by how good we are at certain tasks but instead by our weaknesses.  Our awareness of our weaknesses and our willingness to deal with them and allow them to be areas in which God's grace works is what will primarily affect our effectiveness.

The need for maturity as well as mission
Paul shared how in the developing world they had no problem with mission but were mostly concerned with how to grow in maturity.  He contrasted this with the west where we talk about mission constantly but worry little about maturity.  His concern with the NZ situation is that the church's concern to be involved in community work and being "salt" to the community around them was not matched by an equal investment in growing in God's word and being "light."  I thought that was an interesting challenge, should we seek to match our investment in outreach/mission with our upreach/growing in maturity? 

Humility and the "C.V" culture
Paul also talked about humility as being a critical virtue for Christian ministry.  Interestingly he related this critically to the "C.V." culture where we believe we should apply for ministry roles by putting our best attributes on a piece of paper and sending that off to a prospective employer.  Having sent off a few CVs in my time for ministry roles I could relate to what he was saying.  I had definately felt uncomfortable with the rather one-sided portrayal of myself and also with the danger that people would be atracted to me as a candidate because of what I had done and could do instead of whether or not they discerned that God was calling me to that role!  On the other hand I could see little point in listing every human weakness (I have them all) knowing that that would result in my disqualification from any role.  He remarked that he had a set of questions which he asked when making appointments at Carey, and always found those much more enlightening.  I'm quite tempted to ask him to provide an example set of questions, and prepare my own "anti-C.V."  How should those committed to the service of Christ present their credentials in those times when they are asked to?

Thanks Paul,
Let me know what you think :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June's Headlines from the Barnabas Fund

EGYPT: CHRISTIAN TEENAGE BROTHERS LOSE COURT CASE
INDIA: BRUTAL MURDER OF EVANGELIST
IRAN: PRAYERS ANSWERED IN IRAN
KENYA: PANEL OF JUDGES RULE IN FAVOUR OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS
ERITREA: IMPRISONED CHRISTIAN WOMAN DIES
IRAQ: CHRISTIAN STUDENTS INJURED IN BOMB BLASTS
UZBEKISTAN: SERVICE RAIDED, CHURCH SEARCHED AND CHRISTIANS ARRESTED
NIGERIA: CHURCHES AND PASTOR’S HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE

Full stories here 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why are the PM's dangly bits more interesting than education?

If you want to know what is wrong with our news reporting in NZ, I have found the epitome this morning.  Derek Cheng allows a Prime Ministerial quip about getting a vasectomy to trump the real news which was the goverment's change to early childhood education funding.  Is anyone remotely surprised or even interested in whether or not the PM has had the snip?  The rather sensible reforms to encourage trained ECE teachers to spread themselves around a bit more are far more worthy as news, but no!, the silly, the trivial, the genital, that is what excites our news hacks, and so that is the news we get!

Xenos themes from around the blogosphere

Bruce Hamil on how the Bible subverts our consumer culture

Steve on choosing to believe as a basis for theology

Tim on Christian life as diaspora