Archive | October, 2019

Why, why, why

29 Oct

You must know or remember that children at first just accept Father Christmas and tooth fairies, and are not too bothered by the rituals of mealtimes or of our worship services, but who later (we might think too soon) grow out of their unquestioning acceptance and want to know why. They might seem constantly and annoyingly to persist with this “why, why, why.” We don’t always have any answer that satisfies them, we don’t always want to tell them and often we can’t really think of suitable explanations ourselves. Eventually they acquiesce in our unwillingness or our ignorance but, hopefully, still grow in understanding how things are and how things work; and hopefully will start a process of lifelong learning. This takes time for individuals but also for societies as a whole.

The early writings of the Bible show no realisation of life after death. The exceptions perhaps are Moses (who just goes off the scene) and Elijah who is swept off his feet with an heavenly chariot. But this did change over time (over a long time) and this is particularly noticeable in the later writings like the books of Maccabees and Wisdom. And this development was helped by the culture and beliefs of the ‘pagans’ among whom they were living.

This is true of our own lives as well. We should not only be willing to ask why about things and customs or rules, but also question our own practices, habits and preferences. Be always prepared to develop, to learn more, to understand more; and always try to live better and to improve.

Praise

22 Oct

What inspires someone to be good? Christians would say that it is the grace of God or the desire to please Him. But parents and teachers and other adults know that it is praise that inspires children and all of us to be good. Praise offered when we have done something that could be counted as good really encourages us to do that sort of thing again. We are driven by praise. But that doesn’t deny the role of God, for it is secretly He who not only inspirs good actions but also inspires praising them.

Yet the saintly ideal which we imagine we are aiming for would urge us to do it for its own sake not for the praise we hope to get from it. Altruistic perhaps is the word for this high-minded activity. But when we begin to realise that acknowledgement of our good deeds elevates our self-esteem, and when we do them in order to raise our profile among others, then our motivation is not praiseworthy. This seemed to be the attitude of some of the Pharisees in the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus and the early church; so in the gospels we can see that criticism is made of them. But we should not think this is aimed at praise, but aimed at the motive of appearing better people that others.

So praise is really helpful at promoting our good actions, but ultimately we should aim to do good because it is the right thing to do. This is the case at all levels of action, ranging from speaking nicely to and of others, up to giving of our own time and skills for the benefit of other people or the good of our planet and creation. It was in the story of God’s creating that we see this praise at the beginning of everything (and at the beginning of the Bible) with the quotation “God looked at all He had made and said it was very good. And Christians still sometimes sing the words of John Henry Newman “Praise to the holiest in the height” (hear it here)

Stick at it

15 Oct

I am sure that you do some good deeds sometimes. You speak with someone you notice is ignored by people and looks lonely. This is good, but you may discover she is tiresome – maybe boring and not appreciative or too clingy and time-consuming. Is that not the time you might heed the Scriptures and the silent call of God to stick at it? Or maybe you donate to some good cause or needy person; and this is praiseworthy. But then you get bombarded with unwanted appeals and persistent begging letters; or you see no progress at all in the people you had helped. Is it then that you need to stick at it.

Perhaps, like me and all humans, you have some ‘bad’ habits; you may recognise them yourself otherwise just ask a good and honest friend to tell you. It is then that you must attempt to break your bad habit. It is not like breaking anything else – drop a glass and that’s it, betray a friend you’ve lost him. But breaking a bad habit that you have is a long uphill struggle. It’s then you need to be like a toddler learning to walk – you fall again and again but each time get up and carry on.

Think of your own examples in your own time, but God, we are told is timeless and perfect. What He wants of us, his creations, is something of this timelessness in our time of life – doing good and overcoming what is bad – the pursuance of persistence and perseverance.

Don’t be too sure

8 Oct

In most of the Old Testament there is a stress on God as god of the ‘chosen people’ as they are called. The difficulty is that if you believe in a God as supreme and the creator of all, it follows that no other god is really a god. We always like to think that what we believe is true and consequently that other beliefs are false – in all things not just religion. This almost seemed emphasised for the early Christians because they we not just different from the ‘pagans’ among whom they lived, but sometimes even persecuted by them. The gospels however, although produced by these early Christians, do illustrate a different attitude of Jesus.

Jesus was a good religious Jew, but he was not subservient to rules or attitudes and ‘normal practices of the Jews. We see this with regard to lepers, Samaritans, even Romans. Should we not think critically about some of the rules, practices and customs of our own church!

Have faith in your…

1 Oct

I was going to say have faith in yourself but that sounded rather selfish and hence irreligious. However after considering the three readings (27th Sunday C) it seemed to me that the overall message of them was ‘have faith in yourself’ but the reason and basis for this faith is the relationship God has with us. I will explain with a parallel.

Think of a father or mother taking her small child into the park to go on the swings and the slide. If the child is neglecting the slide, perhaps being somewhat fearful of it, the adult may well have faith in the child and say ‘trust yourself – you can do it!’ and then the child might well have faith in themselves and do it – probably do it again and again with spirit and with joy – and even try it in other parks and steeper slides – full of daring and enjoyment.

God has faith in us – a faith which aims to engender faith in ourselves and lead us to an enthusiasm to do what secretly we all want for the world we live in – to make it good, to help its citizens and to rejoice in its beauty and be in awe of its mystery. Lets try it!   Perhaps I should have called this jotting “Dare to do what God wants of you!’