Where is the God of Justice?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 17 June 2012.

chamberlain-creightonThe story of Azaria Chamberlain has been part of my entire life. This week, after a period of 31 years, that story finally came to a close. For decades, two bereaved parents have fought to clear their names of the most devastating slur - two parents who profess the name of Christ and claim to trust in a god who is just.

Over the many years that this tragedy has dragged on, it must have been hugely tempting for them to echo the whine of the people, as expressed in Malachi 2:17. As the rankest criminals have escaped prosecution and the most horrific crimes have gone unsolved, the Chamberlains would have had many opportunities to cry out, ‘Why me?!’ To their credit, it appears they have not, and their words are remarkably free of bitterness.

Lindy Chamberlain spent a number of years in jail, and would still be there, were it not for David Brett. He was an English tourist who fell to his death while climbing Uluru, and it was in the recovery of his body that by chance, police recovered a small matinee jacket that Azaria had been wearing at the time she was taken. It was the key to the exoneration of the Chamberlains.

One man died, so that justice could be done. I suspect the Chamberlains appreciate the symbolism.

Where is the God of justice? Look to the cross: there he is, dying in order that we might go free.

Time Travel

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 07 June 2012.

venus-transit-2012If you were outside on Wednesday, you might have missed it. Something to do with grey skies and raindrops on telescope lenses. But nevertheless, Venus still completed its transit across the face of the sun. One or two people saw it, and I believe them.
That’s it, now, for the next 105 years. And we can’t complain - Venus swung by eight years ago, too, so we’ve had two bites at the cherry. If you missed them both, you can’t turn back the clock.
The previous pair of transits took place in 1874 and 1882. It’s kind of funny to think that we’re connected to a crowd from the 19th century that turned out to watch the same event. And turn back another round, and we reach 1761 and 1769. It was the latter that led one James Cook to Tahiti to take observations, and we know the outcome of his sideline diversion.
In some ways, we’re not that much separated by the passage of time. The world still turns, rolling its way around the sun at just the same pace. People are born, and grow, and die. Sometimes we’re a little hasty in asserting how different we are to those who’ve gone before.
Of course, we already know this. We’re part of ‘the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.’ (CS Lewis) We don’t need to go back in time - we have already! - for we will go on into forever with our king, whose transit of earth lasted a moment...the moment.

The Voice

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 01 June 2012.

Man-with-MegaphoneOver in Pop-Culture Land, the success story of the moment is a reality TV show that is ostensibly about finding and developing talented singers. Its distinctive element, the thing that set it apart from the pack and likely has attracted the audience, is that the coaches/judges/celebrities face the audience rather than the performer: they can only hear their voice.
A fair comment on the superficiality of most talent shows? Certainly. More likely to see people assessed on their singing capabilities? We can hope so. Closely tied with the real world? Perhaps not so much.
But not for the reasons you might think.
In the public sphere, everyone has a voice. That’s the distinctive element of a democracy - or, at least, it’s meant to be. Unfortunately, Christians are in the process of losing that right to speak and be heard fairly. Just this week the NSW Parliament debated a motion supporting same-sex marriage. The religious affliliations of the Christian MPs who spoke during the debate were reported, but not those of the other speakers. The message: you can discount what the Christians say, because that’s just their religion talking.
It’s not the level playing field that opinions should be shared in. And it’s as much our fault as anyone else’s; too often we allow ourselves to be silenced. God might be the why, what and how we speak, but truth stands on its own merits.
Let’s make sure we’re all singing.

A Theology of Lego

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 24 May 2012.

A what?! I know what you’re thinking. What does Lego have to do with theology? How can something so mundane be caught up in the grand purposes and character of God?
It’s all here in Genesis 4, really. Right at the beginning of the human race, we meet a character called Jubal, and are told only that he was a musician. He’s never mentioned again. Jubal would not have worked his harp, he would have played it. Music doesn’t grow crops or raise herds. It doesn’t provide shelter or clothing (...well, it didn’t then, anyway). Music is about play: enjoying the goodness of God’s creation, for no other reason than the pleasure it brings.
LegoLego, of course, is a toy. It’s for playing with; it allows a child (or their parents!) to create something for fun. In playing with some Lego bricks, we are in part living out the image of God in us - for the opening chapter of the Bible shows God at play, creating, shaping, enjoying the world he has made.
But Lego can be serious: you can build models of famous buildings, or people, or events. So too can our building be more permanent, and less for enjoyment. Jubal had a brother called Tubal-Cain who kept busy inventing tools...a scientist, I suppose we’d call him.
But more worrying is the first builder: Cain. He reminds us that our work and our play can be good, or godless. ‘Each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any other foundation than the one already laid, whic is Jesus Christ.’ (1 Cor. 3:10-11)

Don't Just Stand There

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 20 May 2012.

As the saying goes, do something! It’s fairly instinctive, isn’t it? We humans are actors: beings built for doings. What’s more, as believers, we are willing doers. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that God has planned out a lifetime of things we can do to please him and bring him glory. And we know that his Word is living and active, and his Spirit in us will turn our ears to that Word and instruct us in the path we must go.

So I was just a little bit challenged this week when a friend in ministry posed a question: ‘Application’ is what you have in a sermon when you believe that you can be saved by what you do - discuss.

They had a point. If every sermon resulted in a church being told to do something, pretty soon those doings would become a necessary part of really being a member of that church. Give it a bit more time, and you wouldn’t be a real Christian if you didn’t have the runs on the board to back it up.

Crowd ControlledFortunately, ‘application’ is more like what a trained winetaster will do - we savour the word, look at it in the light, smell its flavour, sip it, taste it, drink it down. Mere doing would be crude gorging on the riches of what God has given us.
And it could never work anyway. We’re a roomful of statues when it comes to our ability to dig our way out of the trouble our sin has brought upon us. Thanks be to God for giving us hearts of flesh in place of stone!

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