Horizons

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 21 October 2017.

HorizonAs we draw close to the 500th anniversary of Luther’s world-changing church announcements, I was thinking about the function of milestones. Humans have been celebrating birthdays and annual festivals for as long as there have been calendars, and even before that there were moments in a person’s life that were seen as signficant. Why are we so interested in marking occasions?

Horizons serve a double function. Firstly, they place a limit upon our vision that is finite; we can see as far as a given event and anticipate it readily enough. These moments punctuate our lives and give a structure to the future that helps to give us a sense of purpose in life.

Secondly, there’s something a bit exciting about the mystery of the beyond. We look forward to discovering what comes next: we anticipate anticipation!

We’re made with a sense of time and an optimism about what it might bring - or to put it more simply, we are created as hopeful beings. One way of looking at the tragedy of sin is that it strips us of hope for eternity. Yet even greater is the truest of hopes, as we look forward to our Lord’s return, and the unrestricted horizon that lies beyond, when there is nothing left to wait for. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ...” (Colossians 2:9-10)

A Good News Story

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 14 October 2017.

IvanJust over two years ago, the Bishop of Western Sydney, Ivan Lee, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Ivan had always been full of energy, but the disease was serious and moving quickly, so the treatment was urgent and full-throated. Ivan spent a number of months pretty much wiped out.

After a time, he was able to return to work on very reduced hours - a frustration when you’re already feeling like so much time was lost - but he bore it with good humour.

We’ve been praying for Ivan and Virginia through those last two years, and God has been good. Ivan’s chemotherapy left him with little need for a barber for most of that time, but now look at the man I ran into at Synod! He’s back to full strength and brimming with enthusiasm. The old Ivan is back...

It’s not necessarily the end of the story: the cancer could return, and if it does, it will be back with a vengeance. For now, however, we can rejoice that the prayers of many have been heard.

I Can, Or I Can't?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 07 October 2017.

It was a week bookended by two opposites. At the start of the week, we were shocked by the abhorrent and senseless act of a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas. At the end of the week, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was announced: ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. We saw the greatest perversion of ‘the right to bear arms’ juxtaposed with those who argue the wrong of stockpiling arms.

Rarely do we get so clear an example of the tragedy of the human condition: able to conceive of peace, but completely unable to achieve it. And all of it taking place at the same time as another round of posturing between the United States and North Korea, reminding us once more that the Korean War never officially ended.

The 1953 armistice might have brought an end to active armed hostility, but the tension remains - clearly. In the same way, our faltering attempts at the pursuit of a global peace barely scratch the surface, while in other contexts we see our relationships strain in so many different ways, and at so many different times.

Agnus DeiAll of this points us to the fundamental problem: without peace with God, we cannot hope to have peace with our neighbour. Unless we love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, we will never love our neighbour as ourselves. There is only one thing for it: we need the sole winner of the noble prize, the Prince of Peace, the one who has overcome: he who is the Lion of Judah and Lamb of God. He could, and he did, and will do again. Come, Lord Jesus!

Seeing Things

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 30 September 2017.

The world didn’t end a week ago, despite (yet another) prediction by a crackpot drawing inspiration from the book of Revelation. Don’t worry, he’s updated his prediction to fall this month instead...so there’s still time to buy his book and read all about it.

People have been confused by the kaleidoscope of images and characters in Revelation for centuries, and it’s rare to find a bizarre interpretation that hasn’t been proposed before. It can leave the average Christian throwing their hands up in despair, but there is a better way.

We can take the things we can see, then look a little deeper, and find that the message of the book becomes clearer. That would hardly be surprising, given it comes to us from the light of the world, the one who made the blind see, he who is the way, the truth and the life! It doesn’t require a magic eye, just a faithful pair of ears, to listen to our king.

Magic Eye

Generations

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 23 September 2017.

Family TreeYesterday, I listened to the story of two brothers, both in their eighties, who were finding a way to reconcile after years of estrangement. It was a bittersweet story, with hope for a better future - for a little while, anyway - but grief for the lost years. The root of their troubles lay way back in the past, and a generation earlier. It’s a familiar dynamic: the woes of our ancestors so often spread their fingers into our present day.

The book of Genesis is built around a refrain: ‘these are the generations’ is the literal translation, which we find as ‘this is the account’ in places like Genesis 37:2. It’s a device that pushes the larger narrative into its next phase, but it’s a telling one.

As we’ve read through Genesis, we’ve seen the patterns emerge. Spousal and sibling rivalry has propagated through Abraham’s family tree (or is it through Adam’s, perhaps?). Each generation seems to make the same bizarre mistakes. I suspect they might accuse us of the same thing, were they reading our story.

The story of Joseph leaves him in an Egyptian coffin at the end of the book. That seems like a bleak finish, but it is just the opposite. It’s an expression of hope: Joseph is so confident that God will keep his promises that he binds his descendants to take his bones with them.

That’s the solution to the curse of generations: God’s entry into our family tree, which creates a truly new humanity. And the dry bones of generations past and present will live again, at last.

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