Uncovering the Truth...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 13 July 2019.

WitchIn 1963, to mark the centenary of the death of Jacob Grimm, a man named Georg Ossegg published The Truth about Hansel and Gretel. It traced his dedicated investigation into the famous story, and how he had established that the two sweet young children were in fact murderers who had killed a woman for her recipe for lebkuchen, a German gingerbread treat, and burned her in her own oven to cover up the crime. The book sold - pun intended - like hot cakes.

The evidence was laid out neatly - archaeological discoveries, carbon dating, and even a faded recipe for lebkuchen that had been miraculously preserved in a biscuit tin. Except for the unfortunate fact that Georg was a fiction, made up by Hans Traxler for a prank, it was all very believable.

Meanwhile this week, the leader of a dig in Israel announced that they have found evidence to suggest that their site is Ziklag, the town that David was based in during his sojourn amongst the Philistines. They’ve got pottery, and the evidence of a fire from the Amalekite raid. They could well be right.

We can’t swallow everything that is found; archaeologists are human and make mistakes. And sometimes, overstate their conclusions in the quest for more funding. Over time, however, as evidence mounts from different quarters, we can have confidence in what is found. It doesn’t prove the Bible’s account, of course, but it does sometimes help us to interpret what the Bible says.

Our faith is not founded on what is, er, found under the dirt. Instead, we believe because we hear truth in God’s word. That’s where we dig for buried treasure.

Look Out!

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 07 July 2019.

To tell you the truth, I’m writing this much later in the week than I would have liked. It’s been one of those weeks where the unexpected rises up and sniggers at the plans you’ve got in your diary.

To start with, I had to spend a chunk of time working on a report for a diocesan committee that is looking at ways to do better at our care for ministry staff. Important work, but time-consuming. It will take up another day next week.

Then, out of the blue, I was asked to be the acting rector for Gerringong after the man previously filling the role had to pull out for health reasons. That didn’t take a huge amount of time out of this week, but might well need some attention in the months ahead.

We got a letter from Compassion, telling us that the child we’ve been sponsoring for the last half-dozen years has just graduated the program, having turned 18. Great news, but it meant a bit of time organising a final gift for him, and taking up the sponsorship of another child.

GlobeSuch things tend to get in the way of parish work ... but I’m glad they do. It’s all too easy for us to look only at the local, the immediate: at what affects us directly, and at what we think we can solve. Human nature will always push us to look after ourselves instead of others.

I’m glad to have things that pull my gaze outwards. It means a chance to serve the wider church - and be served, too, by the way. But even better, it saves me from having to pretend that I’m a saviour ... because there’s a far better man in that job already!

In Mean Median Mode

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 22 June 2019.

QuebecThis last week, the government of Quebec passed a law that banned public servants from wearing religious symbols while at work - and did it by a two to one majority. They weren’t discriminatory - skullcaps, hijabs, crosses, turbans - all are out. In fact, any object that “is worn in connection with a religious belief”, or might be thought to be so.

The Act was promoted by their Minister for Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, if you can imagine that. And yes, it is irredeemably foolish. I’ve read the bill, and it actually goes wider still, affecting employees of organisations that might receive government funding, like private schools, childcare centres and hospitals.

And no, it doesn’t appear that anyone’s noticed that many people wear wedding rings exchanged during a religious ceremony. Or, in fact, that it is a tenet of Christianity that believers should wear clothes to cover those parts of the body that are to be treated with modesty (1 Cor. 12:23) - it would be a bold Christian teacher indeed who attempted to follow the new law!

Most fascinating of all - the provisions are grandfathered in, so that religious folk aren’t affected as long as they stay in exactly the same job they are in on Thursday this week. It reflects the arrogant assumption that no new members of the workforce are likely to come with a religious faith - a presumption of atheism.

It’s not that they think believers don’t matter; it’s that they think for sure that soon they won’t matter. What is average will inevitably become an absolute norm, it is presumed. Heaven help the Quebecois!

Ready, Or Not?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 16 June 2019.

CoffinIn 1855, a wealthy citizen of New York came to the conclusion that when he died, his family were likely going to be too cheap to organise a proper burial for him. Not wanting to suffer the indignity of being laid to rest in a cheap coffin, he decided he’d organise things himself, and found a lovely rosewood casket, lined with white satin and finished with silver. He purchased it at once, and had it delivered to his home, where he kept it in his bedroom closet.

A year later, on a warm Saturday night at the end of July, our hero was thirsty and hopped out of bed to fetch the bottle of sherry he kept in his closet. Nobody knows how, but in the dark, he managed to knock his coffin over while tripping himself up. It fell on him with some force, cracking his skull and causing almost instant death.

Far from shaming him with a cheap funeral, his family worked hard to keep his name out of the papers. It appears that he need not have gone to such lengths to prepare his own departure.

It’s an odd story...but not as odd as it looks. For we all are guilty of this: guilty of all sorts of things, each of which earns us our death. Many of us spend our entire lives making sure we are eligible for the wages of sin - more than ready for death to claim us.

Except, just as often, we aren’t ready. Most people on the planet are woefully unprepared to face the reality that they will one day die.

But Jesus is ready for it: he’s prepared salvation for each of us, long ago - if only we’re prepared to organise that before we need it!

Oh, Noa...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 08 June 2019.

For many years, the Netherlands have “led the world” in euthanasia. Where most of the world take the term to refer to the voluntary ending of life for those who are terminally ill, the Dutch have expanded its meaning to include the killing of both infants and elderly without consent, as well as assisting in the suicide of even children.

NoaLast weekend, a 17-year-old girl called Noa Pothoven died, having stopped eating and drinking regularly last year, and having ceased completely a few days earlier.

Noa had suffered from a long list of psychological problems that stemmed from being the victim of abuse on a number of different occasions at the hands of different perpetrators. For half a dozen years the stress took its toll on her. It was her wish that she be euthanised, but this was denied her as she had yet to complete all the legal requirements, so instead she essentially took matters into her own hands.

Such a story is of course unspeakably tragic, many times over. But what got me is that she despaired because she was denied the hope she saw in euthanasia. She despaired because she was denied the opportunity to despair permanently.

It is an awful, blasted world that leaves a teenager thinking that hopelessness is her greatest hope, and then cannot deliver even this. May God have mercy and shine light on the nature of true hope, in the Netherlands, and all over this dark, dark world.

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