Between Fear and Cowardice

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 24 March 2017.

“The world is passing through troubling times.”

I’m sure that others have said as much, but one source suggested that the above sentiment was drawn from a sermon by Peter the Hermit in 1274. Nothing new under the sun, as they say - and we know that one goes back even further!

How are we to respond to adversity? Is there a Christian position that applies to all different kinds of situations? I think maybe there is.

Fear is a universally experienced human emotion; I think we can even see Jesus feeling trepidation in the garden of Gethsemane. There is nothing sinful about feeling afraid ... but cowardice is a different matter. Cowardice is what you call it when you act on your fears.

Cowardice goes wrong twice: firstly, because it reveals a failure of trust that God will look after his people, and secondly, because it assumes that the responsibility to preserve myself from dangers is entirely mine.Cowardice It’s a denial of faith, combined with the arrogance of despair. And when looked at through that prism, it’s easy to see how perverse it is.

The frightened child knows to turn to their parent for succour. In the same way, God invites us to trust him, as he has always done. He knows our weaknesses, and loves us still. His final words to Jonah should be a great comfort to the hamfisted such as me: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

Foaming at the Mouth

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 18 March 2017.

It probably wasn’t the big story you’d have expected this week. So many crazy things seem to be on offer - the latest clanger from the States, another tragedy in Syria, more cricket wars with India. It’s a great time to be trying to make a living out of newsprint, that’s for sure. But nobody would have predicted Coopersgate...

Keeping It LightTo begin with, a beer company is at face value a pretty unlikely sponsor for the Bible Society. But then they tried something really audacious: a demonstration that it is possible for adults to courteously disagree with one another, while taking pains to ensure that they understand each other’s point of view. And just to make sure they set the bar high, they picked same-sex marriage as the topic for debate.

It was always likely to be a train wreck. The only thing that was mildly surprising was how quickly the hoi polloi managed to see a video released by a niche Christian ministry. Once the cap was off the bottle, though, the outrage went straight to maximum. Coopers ducked and weaved; the Bible Society took it on the chin; and, interestingly, Tim Wilson made the very point that the video had intended. We just don’t know how to think any more.

This is the age of the knee-jerk reaction. It has become a virtue to sound off on any topic as quickly as possible - in order to obtain maximum self-righteousness.

Tilting at windmills is just so 17th century Spain these days. We might have to resort to prayer instead.

Not Fake News

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 12 March 2017.

It’s not everyday that I receive a letter from the Archbishop, but it does happen from time to time. What’s never happened before is to receive a letter from four archbishops, but that’s what came to us on Friday afternoon. Our current archbishop, and all three of his living predecessors. I think it’s safe to presume they thought it important.

They were writing to ask for help with an appeal that Anglican Aid has just launched to combat the effects of both violence and famine in East Africa. You may have heard that there is acute famine in a number of African countries; just yesterday the United Nations was reporting that around $4.5 billion dollars was needed to save those in danger of starvation - just in East Africa.

We hear less about the situation in South Sudan. Wracked by civil war, the nation is suffering while its leaders and their opponents wage a devastating conflict and ignore the damage. The town of Kajo-keji was recently caught up in the violence, and virtually overnight its population fled over the southern border into Uganda. Its population was just shy of 200,000 people.

East AfricaThese crises are affecting our brothers and sisters. I suspect it was not a coincidence that our Friday morning Bible study happened to reach James 2:16 this week (look it up!), and we were reminded that we worship a God who has shown us mercy.

Our family took the hint. If you too are in a position to help this time, you can donate to the appeal by visiting www.anglicanaid.org.au, or by calling them on 9284 1406. And all of us can pray...

The Odd Detail

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 05 March 2017.

It’s not how I would have designed the story. It was already going to be asking a bit, expecting rational human beings to believe that resurrection was possible. I mean, certainly an almighty deity could raise people from the dead if he so chose. That’s his business, I guess.

But if he wanted to persuade us that he’d done so, you’d think he’d make the story run smoothly, right? That’d make it easier to take the idea on board. So what’s with the gardener?

In John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection, he paints a scene of Mary Magdalene, standing distraught at the garden tomb, convinced that Jesus’ body had been stolen. She turns around and sees Jesus, but fails to recognise him and imagines he must be the gardener.

Yes, she’s pretty upset, and perhaps there are good reasons why she would not recognise a newly resurrected Jesus. But why do we need to know that she mistook him for a gardener, there to get the earliest of starts on his day’s work. He could have been a jogger, or a dog-walker!

GardenIt’s an odd detail, but a glorious one. It’s a signal, for those who know the whole of the Bible’s story, that time has just restarted. In the first days of human existence, God used to walk in the Garden of Eden with the man in the cool of the evening.

And now, after the passing of millennia, he walks again in the garden, this time with the woman, in the dawn of a new age. And we can be free again!

The Penalty Rates

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 26 February 2017.

Time is MoneyYou’ll have heard the news this week that penalty rates will be reduced for a sizeable number of people who work on Sundays. It’s a story that has been coming for some time, you might think.

What was interesting was in the detail of the Fair Work Commission’s decision. The question of religious observance was examined - though it seems that the submissions made by churches in this area weren’t considered relevant. Nor was it established whether anything much had changed in the last four years since the question was last examined.

What the Commission was interested in was the observation that the proportion of church attenders was lowest in the very same cohort who were most likely to be engaged in weekend jobs: those aged 15-34.

Even more telling, however, was that the Commission declared for the first time that there should be no penalty - that businesses should not be penalised for asking employees to work on Sunday. That’s a big deal. Society no longer should be thought to have the right to regulate the impact of commercial activities upon itself.

There is also one great irony. We feel the value of church, and are pained that missing it is now to be not so well compensated ... but with less reason to work on Sunday, it will actually become easier for believers to prioritise their weekly gathering ahead of their wage-gathering!

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