Friday, 18 July 2014

The revolutionary Lord's prayer

Christianity is often seen as or hoped to be about prayers and ceremony. So when we see that Christians being arrested is the new black, what do we make of it?

One of my friends was arrested for praying in Scott Morrison's office, praying for him to change his mind on his heartless and ungodly policy of locking up children in gulag like conditions with scant regard for their dignity, let alone international law, and prayer for those children.

Another friend of mine was arrested at Maules Creek, opposing a mine that has little popular support among locals, farmers, indigenous Australians, doctors, nurses and religious leaders. It is destructive of the local environment, and via climate change of the entire globe.

I want to suggest that these and many other actions, not just private prayers and confessions but public acts of protest against issues of ethical, political and economic concern are all mandated (after careful thought about the issues themselves) by the Lord's Prayer.

I want to go through it slowly in a series of posts - but we need to think before praying this for ourselves that it is in part answered already.

The Father of the only son has shared this prayer to those who believed in his name and were made children of God (John 1:12). The kingdom has come as Jesus was crucified: dressed as a king and mocked by Roman soldiers, interrogated as king by Pilate and crucified with the title of 'king of the Jews' above him. In Romans 1 Paul makes it clear that what was said in mockery was ironically true, proved by the resurrection.

Jesus is our daily bread, the bread of life (not ignoring the fact that we need physical sustenance). Ironically too - his did the Father's will so that he was not immediately delivered from evil but handed over to be crucified so that evil may be defeated.

And yet the evil we see and the times of trial we face tell us this prayer is still to be prayed. And that will be the subject of another post.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Things, can only get better ... Genesis 5

For some reason, when reading this passage I had the song "Things can only get better" in my head. Genesis 5 is an odd passage. I once knew someone I was working with comment on the ages in Genesis 5 as "missing the decimal point". I find the ages hard to square with what we know about human history, and it is not unusual for other Ancient Near Eastern texts to speak of such long lives. But all arguments aside (this is a devotional blog), what are we supposed to learn from this?

Firstly, the author re-iterates in verses 1-2 that humans are not merely an evolutionary accident, but created in the image of God - all human beings. In a manner typical of the era, the names of the fathers are mentioned. Seth is the image and likeness of his father just as Adam (and Eve) are the image and likeness of God. The message is, it still passes down, even if marred by Adam and Eve's actions. All people bear this stamp, and it runs down Adam's line.

It is also obvious that the greater the distance from the garden in time, the more the loss of access to the tree of life is manifest. Regardless of what you think about the factual nature of the ages, it shows the growth of corruption and decay that is discussed elsewhere in this passage, be it Lamech's attitude to violence, Babel or the comments made before the flood. Things don't look like they are getting better.

Today we seem to do violence more efficiently, it is still pervasive in society (Hollywood bears some of the blame) and we've seen enough shocking events - from the Holocaust to firebombing Dresden and Tokyo, Agent Orange, death camps, gulags and drones (to name but a few) to show that progress isn't always (often) moral. This might overlook many positive benefits which I don't want to downplay, but we need to recognise genuine evil when we see it.

So where is the progress in this passage? Like all of the biblical genealogies, it's at the end with Noah. He would bring rest from toiling with the cursed ground (for those in an agricultural society, this would have spoken very loud, for us in cities it is much more muted - but wait for climate change to ramp up further). Noah's story follows soon.

But this makes me think about other genealogies, like that in Luke 3 that follows Jesus back to Adam. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians) who fulfills all that image is meant to be. In doing so, in him, things can only get better.