Questions

Question from Sunday – 18th March 2018 – Who do you say that I am?

Questions from Last week.

How does someone who has lived with shame, low sense of worth, and condemnation most of their life connect with God, especially when many of these experiences have been within church circles?

His Royal Brianness, (he’s asked me to stop calling him Pastor Brian, so I am testing various names – Seth) spoke eloquently on the need for us to be a community that loves. He said his first response was simply to apologize.  We are sorry, church is not supposed to be/feel like that. We are called love radically. Church is not a consortium of perfect people™, but a community of sinners. The truth of Jesus doesn’t make us sinless, but it should make us sin less.

One of the positive outcomes of postmodernism is that the idea of consent has gained importance, yet it can be used to justify choosing whatever one is desiring at the time. How can we sift out positive social changes from the ones which take us further from God’s authority? How can we lovingly encourage others to do so as well?

The Bryianoceros (ooh! I like that!) chose to let Seth answer this. Seth noted that postmoderinism sought to “problematize” the generic answers to questions in dominant culture. Postmodernism is the 4 year old in the philosophical conversation, always asking “why”? This kind of questioning has led to a massive (and I think, healthy) reassessment of many question and their stock answers. Christianity also questions culture and the toolkit of problematization is useful to ensuring that we 1) know what we believe and 2) are able to be “in the world but not of it”.

But some of these tool-sets have been misappropriated in ways that shut down all conversation, that render any attempt to have or defend an answer as oppressive. Postmodernism may give us useful tools which which to dig away at questions of interpretation or social justice, but as a posture of the heart they can be toxic. We have to be humble, we have to listen, we have to be willing to be wrong, but we also must ensure we are communicating in good faith, that we are part of a society that earnestly and honestly seeks for truth and wisdom. Guard you heart, lead by example.

Where does feminism fit within the Christian way of life? We’ve been brought up with the idea that the man is the head of the household but that often doesn’t fit anymore or both parents working or even one parent having to be mum AND dad. Are we independent women until we get married? How do we be christian in a feminist/postmodern thinking type world?

Our resident Patriarch, Brian mansplained to us that he believes women can be in ministry. That he believes that God can called people to leadership irregardless of gender. That women should serve alongside men in leadership. And that we should question the narratives handed to us by culture because the bible tells the story of women in leadership.

 To be a true bible believing Christian who believes that the Bible is the word of God, do we need to accept ‘creation’ over ‘evolution’?

This question will need a careful extended treatment. Watch this space.

So when you come across non-churched acquaintances with beliefs in the Universe, etc. How do you reach them? Ask more questions about their belief system?  Make it clear that we do not agree? Go with the flow until we’ve built a relationship and then share more of our faith?

Pastor John (he who doesn’t complain about being called Pastor) rejoined us to talk about this. Anyone searching for answers, for ultimate meaning is on a search for God. If they are asking the questions, answer them. If the are interested, share. Don’t force it on them, or belittle their beliefs. Give them space to ponder your answers and love them for who they are, and where they are.

Seth added that God is already looking for the seeker. Listen carefully, see if you can discern what God is already doing in their life. God is always already at work. Join him. Be humble, be real, pray. God may use your arms, but He will do the heavy lifting.

Questions about the Sermon

Is vs 20 condoning not telling the whole truth or choosing to not tell the whole truth by the fact the Jesus told the Disciples to not tell anyone that he is the Messiah.

The Wild Brianimal ventured that Jesus needed to be strategic. That Jesus knew he had an appointment with the cross at a certain, on a certain date. That he was wary to set the wheels in motion slowly, marking some things as “Not for public release” or “Embargoed until Calvary”

Seth added that the apostles may have been teaching their readers to be careful with the information being imparted. Written under intense persecution, when the treat of Martyrdom was a real and present danger, the gospel writers expanded Jesus strategic silence into a general caveat lector in the text. Be careful with this information, share wisely, be smart. We are blessed to be so free of persecution.

There are most probably people who have never heard of christianity, Jesus or anything else that could have told them about the way to salvation. Even though they have never put their faith in God, they may even be pagans, can they still go to heaven?

Catholics believe they’re right. So do brethren, Presbyterian, seventh day and so on. We believe the only way to heaven is through Jesus. Will the others be let into heaven?

The Artist formerly known as Pastor pointed out the various denominations disagree less than appears on at first glance. And that, in the end, the salvation of people is up to God. Looking at the character of God, his grace and mercy, it is hard to imagine God making a petty or vindictive choice. He mentioned the words in Genesis 18:25

“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

We can trust in the character of God. The judge with Judge rightly. Brian also mentioned Romans 1, where Paul says that “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” But also leads to a surprising place in Romans 2

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ,as my gospel declares.

Somehow, this can all be done in secret. We are here on the shore of the deepest mystery. God will judge us by the complete and profound knowledge that he has of us, and he can be trusted to make the right decision. That is as much as we can know.

 

The poet John Dryden said a similar thing in his poem Religion Laici.  The question he is answering is this:

And what Provision could from thence accrue
To Indian Souls, and Worlds discovered New?

“What’s that to these who never saw the Light?” the poet asks himself. How can we be saved if we never hear? He answers.

Of all Objections this indeed is chief
To startle Reason, stagger frail Belief:
We grant, ’tis true, that Heav’n from humane Sense
Has hid the secret paths of Providence;
But boundless Wisedom, boundless Mercy, may
Find ev’n for those be-wildred Souls, a way:
If from his Nature Foes may Pity claim,
Much more may Strangers who ne’er heard his Name.
And though no Name be for Salvation known,
But that of His Eternal Sons alone;
Who knows how far transcending Goodness can
Extend the Merits of that Son to Man?
Who knows what Reasons may his Mercy lead;
Or Ignorance invincible may plead?
Not onely Charity bids hope the best,
But more the great Apostle has exprest:
That, if the Gentiles, (whom no Law inspir’d,)
By Nature did what was by Law required,
They, who the written Rule had never known,
Were to themselves both Rule and Law alone:
To Natures plain indictment they shall plead;
And, by their Conscience, be condemn’d or freed.

This is what I tell myself when these questions creep up. If from his Nature Foes may Pity claim, Much more may Strangers who never heard his Name. Who knows how far transcending Goodness can extend the Merits of that Son to Man? The answer of course is that no one knows.

God is a God of transcending goodness. Judgement is not a transaction, it is not a system or a law, it is an encounter with the transcending goodness God is. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? Of course He will.

Seth also used this question to tell an old joke:

A man arrives at the gates of heaven.

St. Peter asks, “Religion?”

The man says, “Methodist.”

St. Peter looks down his list and says, “Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”

Another man arrives at the gates of heaven.

“Religion?”

“Lutheran.”

“Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”

A third man arrives at the gates.

“Religion?”

“Presbyterian.”

“Go to Room 11, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”

The man says, “I can understand there being different rooms for different denominations, but why must I be quiet when I pass Room 8?”

St. Peter tells him, “Well, the Baptists are in Room 8, and they think they’re the only ones here.”

There was a point to it. God will welcome who he welcomes. He will judge from his own freedom and his own goodness as God. Whether we have the eyes to see it, or the theology to comprehend it is immaterial to that decision, it’s not ours. What is ours is the responsbility to tell other the good news, and to live it!

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