Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"I believe; help my unbelief!" -- Mark 9:24

I’m speaking this Sunday at church on Mark 9:14-29, in which a father in a crowd (whose son has been engulfed by terror), says this to Jesus:

"But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible for one who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"”

I call that a significant moment in the gospels…

I enjoyed this reflection today on 'Doubt' from Frederick Buechner's Wishful Thinking.

“Whether your faith is that there is a God or that this is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith; they keep it awake and moving.

There are two principal kinds of doubt, one of the head and the other of the stomach.
In my head there is almost nothing I can’t doubt when the fit is upon me – the divinity of Christ, the efficacy of the sacraments, the significance of the church, the existence of God. But even when I am at my most skeptical, I go on with my life as thought nothing untoward has happened.

I have never experienced stomach doubt, but I think Jesus did. When he cried out: “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me!” I don’t think he was raising a theological issue any more than he was quoting Psalm 22. I think he had looked into the abyss itself and found there a darkness that spiritually, viscerally, totally engulfed him. I think God allows that kind of darkness to happen only to his saints. The rest of us aren’t up to doubting that way – or maybe believing that way either.

When our faith is strongest, we believe with our hearts as well as with our heads, but only at a few rare moments, I think, do we feel in our stomachs what it must be like to be engulfed by light.”
Love, Justin.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Love doesn't sustain marriage. Marriage sustains Love"

In May 1943, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to a young bride and groom, advising them on the nature of the union they were about to enter:

"Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal — it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. As you gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love."

A further reflection on Bonhoeffer's quote is in this Washington Post Op-Ed piece : “Marriage was a status we graduated into, and it was bigger than we were. It defined us, and not the other way around. Now we seem to be losing the institutional imperatives of marriage, leaving only the private relationship -- and that is increasingly likely to turn on such things as personal satisfaction.” (If its a match between Bonhoeffer and Bruce Willis, I choose Bonhoeffer.)

So, my question is this: Have the following words any power under God to save a marriage? have and to hold
From this day forward,
For better or worse,
For richer or poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Until we are parted by death.
This is my solemn vow and promise.”

Love, Justin.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Message to Martha 2

Dear Martha,

From Marlene – POD – Picture of the Day. Here I am on the playground with The Boy and the Girl.

I've toured the East Village, had breakfast at Gramercy Park, shopped at the Farmer's market at Union Square, walked around the square where Harry met with Sally, went to church with Justin and Laurel, and watched a couple of chick flicks with Laurel. I’ve had NY cuisine every day so far: pretzels from a stand, lox and bagels from a Kosher store and tomorrow… Dunkin’ Donuts, Baby.

As they say… wish you were here.

Love, Marlene.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The new 'Company Talk'

Churches used to talk all the time about removing jargon from our language. This was ‘company talk’, and those looking to join the company didn’t know the lingo. So words had to be explained or avoided.

So we worked hard at not using words like ‘sin’, ‘righteousness’, ‘judgment’ and ‘atonement’. These words needed to be avoided or explained. Interestingly, you could freely use words like ‘love’, ‘peace’ and ‘hope’. I’m not sure whether jargon was the problem, so much as fear of confrontation.


Anyway, times have moved on. And the company is not quite the same as it was. So, I give you now the new company jargon. I've picked up many of these in this last year.

  • Missional
  • Worshipful
  • Emergent
  • Emerging
  • Lead Pastor
  • Wholeness
  • Wellness
  • Healthful
  • Conversant with...

I don't know what half of these words mean, and I work here.

Love, Justin.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Message to Martha

Dear Martha,

Marlene would like to send to you her POD ... Picture of the Day.

For all my other readers (i.e. Not-Martha), Marlene is Laurel's good buddy from Atlanta days, and also shares a house with Martha in CA. She is here to visit this fair city.

Love, Justin.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

11th of September.

When Laurel and I first took up residence at our apartment, we had a 'debate' about whether or not the view from our apartment looked on downtown NYC. I said 'no'. She said 'yes'. Anyway, after I apologised (she was right) we began to speculate whether, on September 11 2001, a previous tenant could have viewed the demise of the Twin Towers from our apartment. Tonight, we found out. These beams of light are confirmation that the Towers were a companion of previous residents. This photo was taken 10 minutes ago from a window in our apartment.

The four of us were downtown by 8:46am. We came up out of the ‘4’ Express Train at Wall St at 8:30am. Laurel remarked that if we were working that day, we would have made it to our desk by 8:46am. A sobering thought. There was not much to see today. There were a lot of people. The value of being there from my perspective was to pray with some gravitas about the world that we live in. I found these thoughts to be helpful for me tonight.

We spent some time at a playground near the WTC site (Pic of The Girl). We enjoyed spending time with a friend called Heidi. Heidi was there on September 11th. She had only just settled from Germany one week before the attacks. She said that she reminds herself to be thankful to God that these events drew her to Jesus. She needed answers after 9/11, and found them in Christ. I have had lot of conversations with people who were downtown that day and came out with their lives spared.

The Boy doesn't yet get the concept of a minute’s silence. Quite frankly, he doesn't get the concept of silence. The only book that we took with us to ground Zero was the Bible (Thank you to Chris and Emma Jonker). So Laurel read to The Boy the story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41). How incredibly appropriate. Smart woman, my wife. To paraphrase the disciples: "Who is this, that even terror and evil are docile before his voice?" Guess who the Boy is pointing to?

A day of reflection.

Love, Justin.

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years...

If you are in an Australian Anglican church, and if you are following a Prayer Book, you'll ask God for something like this: "We pray for Elizabeth our Queen, for the leaders of the nations, and for all in authority." And you'll also pray for "all who hold public office in this land" that "all things may be ordered in wisdom, righteousness and peace, to the honour of your holy name and the good of your church and people". Etc.

A prayer to which I can say “Amen”.

Here in the States, we pray for the three levels of government: The Executive (the President), the Legislative (the Congress) and the Judiciary...

So tonight, we prayed for the President.

And then a few minutes after our service finishes, a few minutes after praying for him, the President actually drives past the front door of the church. [To be fair, I don't think it was him driving.]

W is here for the 9/11 5th Anniversary tomorrow.

It is my day off tomorrow. I am going to get up early and take the kiddos down to Ground Zero. We’ve made a friend here who recommended watching ‘Flight 93’ on DVD (I am mentioned in the last paragraph of this review). I watched it. And after seeing it, I decided then that I needed to be down at Ground Zero this year. We’ll be there, God willing, at 8:46am.

tells me that “No one onboard any of the hijacked aircraft survived. The fatalities were in the thousands, with 2,973 people killed, including 246 on the four planes, 2,602 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. Among the fatalities were 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers. An additional 24 people remain listed as missing in the attack on the World Trade Center to this day.”

Pray for Presidents and Prime Ministers indeed.

I do not envy their jobs.

Love, Justin.

PS Anthony Philips is a good mate at Christchurch St Ives. Click on this to read his story - AP describes his experience at the WTC on 911.