Turned backs on serious study

“Many in the church have turned their back on serious study, and have embraced an anti-intellectualism which refuses to learn anything from scholarship at all lest it corrupt their pure faith. It is time to end this stand-off, and to re-establish a hermeneutic of trust (itself a sign of the gospel!) in place of the hermeneutic of suspicion which the church has so disastrously borrowed from the postmodern world around”

Wright, N. T. (2005). Scripture and the Authority of God (p. 99). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

The ones blessing

Often people say God is the Only One Who Saves and Who blesses. Many trinitarians therefore also say the Jesus must be God because Jesus is the Saviour. First of all they do forget that many people can save other people, animals and plants, though those firefighters, surgeons, medics, animal protectors are not God. Secondly they also forget that in many religious institutions there are priests who are accepted to give blessings and to give forgiveness of sins.

Several people may question then the role of the priest when he can do nothing in the Name of God. Others may ask

If the priest who delivers blessing to the people isn’t the ultimate source of that blessing, what is her/his role?
And what does conveying or sharing blessings with or to another person even mean?

A pair of teachings, both found in Midrash Tanhuma, aim to answer the first question.

It does not suit My dignity that I should have to bless My creatures [Myself]. Rather, I am handing the blessings over to Abraham and to his progeny, and so, whosoever they bless, I will back up his blessing, as it is written: “and be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) [Midrash Tanhuma, V’zot ha’Berakha 1]

When we read between the lines of the Torah we also may find how God requires Abraham to take care for God’s People and to make sure they can be blessed. In the set apart Scriptures we also do find requests from god to bring over blessings to others.

And it came to pass, [on the day that Moses had made an end of setting up the tabernacle] – the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “In this world, I commanded Aaron and his sons to bless them, but in the future, I, in My glory, will bless them, as it is written, ‘YHWH bless thee out of Zion; even He that made heaven and earth.’” (Psalm 134:3) [Midrash Tanhuma, Naso 18]

Similarly, Midrash Tanhuma explains the role of the priest.

“In this way you shall bless” (Numbers 6:23) – Speak [amor] to them [using the ‘full’ spelling, i.e. with a vav], thus meaning: Say to them, to the priests, that just because I have told you to bless the people Israel, this does not imply that you may bless them begrudgingly or hastily [b’angaria u’v’vehilut]; rather, you should bless them wholeheartedly, so that the blessings have power for them; and thus is it written amor lahem, using the ‘full’ spelling. [Tanhuma Buber, Naso 18]

“Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: The Eternal bless you and protect you! The Eternal deal kindly and graciously with you! The Eternal bestow [divine] favor upon you and grant you peace!” (Numbers 6:23–26 TMC-E)

In pronouncing God’s favour on the people, we also find in several writings that the priest was to use a formula or blessing. Also do we find that the Elohim shall bless those who bless;

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.””
(Genesis 12:3 TMC-E)

In the past people made use of that opportunity to bless others.

“‘Bring me game and make me tasty dishes, that I may eat—and [then] bless you before the Eternal before my death.’”
(Genesis 27:7 TMC-E)

“Let peoples serve you, nations bow down to you. Be a ruler to your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed; may those who bless you be blessed.””
(Genesis 27:29 TMC-E)

“bestowing this blessing upon Rebekah: “Sister, may you become thousands of myriads; may your descendants take possession of the gates of their foes!” Rebekah and her servant girls got up and mounted the camels and followed the man, as the slave took Rebekah and went off.”
(Genesis 24:60–61 TMC-E)

Like in ancient time children asked their parents blessing, those responsible of others still should give blessings to those which they should protect. At the same time we too should ask our parents and God the Father their blessings.

“When Esau heard his father’s words, he broke into an exceedingly loud and bitter howl and said to his father, “Bless me! Me too, Father!””
(Genesis 27:34 TMC-E)

“And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” He [Jacob] said, “Bring them to me, pray, that I may bless them.””
(Genesis 48:9 TMC-E)

In those text we also read that people could bow down for others, this not meaning that they would worship that person. Lots of trinitarians say because Jesus did not resist when a person bowed his head before Christ that this meant that Jesus wanted to be honoured as the God and did not refuse that people worshipped him. But the bowing down before some one has not to mean that one worships that person. It is a matter of showing respect.

 

By facing one another and desiring goodness for one another with a full heart, we get to bring a bit of Divine goodness into the world. Priests had to be and still should be partners with God to draw down goodness. Lots of people forget that in this present age all believers in God are all priests.

To bless one another is to increase the flow of love and compassion in the world. No wonder birkat kohanim is (perhaps) our oldest and most beloved prayer!

“And may God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and numerous, so that you become a host of peoples,”
(Genesis 28:3 TMC-E)

That you may go out into the world blessing others!

Be safe and take care of yourself and others,
Being blessed and blessing in the Name of God, so that the Name of the elohim be mentioned and He will come to you and bless you.

“Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.”
(Exodus 20:21 TMC-E)

 

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Christian growth a team event

Staying True

I was recently reading Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Psalms when I came across this thought on Psalm 19:9,

‘The mark of a true bible student is a burning heart not a big head.’

The truth of this struck me instantly as did a sense of sadness at the many times I have got this wrong in my own experience in studying and sharing Bible truth. It is a timely reminder to me of the other old truth that we stop teaching the day after we stop learning. It also took me back to the words of Sir Isaac Newton when praised for his great learning he said,

‘I am like a small boy walking along a beach and turning over a stone here and there while the vast ocean of truth remains undiscovered before me.’

I am not discouraged by how little I know. I am in fact encouraged to grow in Christian understanding and living and to do my best to help others to grow along with me. Christian growth is a shared happening. We share the little we have discovered with each other and together we grow.

Christian growth is always a team event.

~ Alan Hermann

Love-Hate Relationship

I am probably exaggerating things a little, but only a little, when I say that there is a love-hate relationship developing between society at large and the church.

Whereas once the church helped society establish and find meaning in a Christian approach to morality we are now in a situation where increasingly society at large rejects Christian morality. Whereas thy church teaches love for our neighbour and endeavours, to the best of its ability, to model this, society is increasingly becoming ‘me’ centred
The church continues to put God at the centre of being but all too often society gives God no place in their life or decision making. As this antipathy to the church and its beliefs and values grows we in the church need to respond with a growing love for all people. The more we are rejected the more we love in response and reach out help in every way that we can. To paraphrase Scripture ‘they will know us by our love.’

When Jesus was attacked He responded with love, costly, sacrificial love. We can do no other. Those who malign us, misuse us, criticise our church and our faith are people for whom Jesus died and whom He loves. Let them encounter that sacrificial, caring love in us.

~ Alan Hermann

2019 A New Year of Prayer

Prayer is so simple. It’s like opening a door and slipping into the presence of God. It’s about having a conversation with Him, sharing our thoughts, our worries, our joys, our thankfulness.

So why do we (why do I) find it so difficult sometimes?

We know from Scripture that an active prayer life is essential to our spiritual health, as individuals and as a church, and the start of a new year seems like a good time to think about ways in which we can sharpen our focus on prayer together.

There’s a general feeling that since some ecclesiae stopped holding regular prayer meetings they have lost a bit of that focus. Though it is good to know that various suggestions were made by their Arranging Committees, looking for ways to develop the prayer life of their community, and one was that they would have a monthly prayer theme which they can centre their prayers around, both as an ecclesia and in their private prayers.

That requires someone to manage/lead/coordinate. But the first thing to say is that this is should always also a community initiative and, if it’s to be relevant and inspiring to everyone, the ideas, the input and the energy need to come from everyone,
young and old.

We at this site shall also some thoughts but you too may let us know how you think we can improve our prayer life, and also what, or who, you would like us to pray for, week on week.

Paul says in Colossians,

“Continue steadfast in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”,

and giving thanks in prayer is as important as petitioning. Our monthly themes should encompass both. One idea already suggested for a January theme is to remember those who are homeless. This is the worst time of the year to be on the streets, or to be a refugee without a home; news reports are telling us daily about migrants who are desperate enough to risk embarking on small boats to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world.

Over Christmas most of us have most been enjoying the warmth of food and family, so it would be a good time to thank God for those blessings and also to remember those who don’t possess such things, who are out in the cold, physically and metaphorically.

We can pray for COG, for the Food Bank and West Berkshire Homeless and the work we do with them; our praying should then prompt us to even more generous giving to those in need.

A monthly theme like this is a good start. As we focus more and more on prayer, who knows where else this will lead us? It’s an exciting prospect.

Matthew 6 10 (2).jpg

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Kler the Polish Spotlight on Poland’s Clergy Sexual Abuse

The oh so Catholic Poland now begins for many years later than our country to feel the consequences of the wrong attitude of the Catholic Church towards priests who abused young people.

New research shows that church attendance starts going down very quickly now. The Polish church also for the first time has to pay compensation to a victim of abuse.

In 1980, more than half of Poles regularly went to church, in 1986 it had dropped to a third. Nowhere in the world is church attendance decreasing so massive, the Pew Research Center concludes.

Karol Wojtyla, alias pope John-Paul II, may still be the most popular figure, but the Catholic Church not any more.

From the 28th of September the film “Kler” from the director Wojciech Smarzowski entered in cinemas. He says

I’m just a director. But I would like the church financing system to be open, paedophile priests to be sent to prison and that the Polish Church should finally take responsibility for the victims.

Wojciech Smarzowski – born in 1963. Director of the films ‘Wesele’, ‘Dom zły’, ‘Róża’, ‘Drogówka’, ‘Pod Mocnym Aniołem’. His previous film, “Wołyń” (2016), the president of TVP Jacek Kurski, awarded a special prize at the Gdynia festival.

Tadeusz Sobolewski thinks:

“Kler” will be the Polish “Spotlight“?

Spotlight (film) poster.jpgThe Oscar-winning biographical drama film directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer follows The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests.

Initially the team believed that they were following the story of one priest who was moved around several times, but soon they came to understand it was a systematic system of the church hierarchy to cover up several sexual abuses of children by Catholic priests in Massachusetts.

For Poland Wojciech Smarzowski believes:

It’s a different situation. It must be remembered that in no country has the Church itself purified itself of the fault. There had to be state help, secular institutions. Anyway, “Kler” is not just a movie about paedophilia. It was important for me to make a movie about people who only distinguish themselves by wearing cassocks. There are three vectors that drive this story: the lust for money – greed, lust for power, and sexual desire.

And since we’ve started from it, let’s take care of this sin. Studies in Germany, which were carried out by secular commissions commissioned by the episcopate, showed that there are 4 percent of priests. paedophiles. But the episcopate provided archives to the commissions. In Australia, the episcopate made available all church archives and it turned out that it was 7 percent. Of course, we did not have any research, but even if only – as in 2014, Pope Francis said – 2 percent. all priests are paedophiles, and so more or less 600 pedophiles in cassocks walk each day between our children.

***

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A few years ago, three Catholic priests’ fates were joined together by a tragic event. Their lives were miraculously saved. Now, on every anniversary the clergymen meet to celebrate their survival. Each took a different path.
Lisowski is moving up the ladder in the church administration in a big city, dreaming about the Vatican. Standing in his way is the Archbishop, a luxury-loving dignitary who uses political influence to build the largest sanctuary in Poland…
The second priest, Trybus is a rural pastor. Serving in a place full of poverty, he slowly succumbs to human weaknesses.
Kukula is not very successful, either, and despite his fervent faith, loses the trust of his parishioners overnight.
Soon, the clergymen’s paths will cross again, and the events that will take place will have an impact on the life of each of them.

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Do You Want to Believe?

The “WEIRD-people” from the Weird world may have very weird ideas loving to belong to the Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic world but seem often to be blinded by their politicians, like the present presidents of the U.S.A., Turkey and Russia, who are of the same breed and love the tyranny of a dictatorship where they must play the lead, over a a group of people who are caught up in human doctrines of one of their religions, be it a very conservative form in Christendom, or in Islam, or in Russian Orthodoxy mixed with Stalinism.

We may be asked to calm down, but what happened to our family members, our teachers and friends in the 1930ies and 1940ies is clearly printed in our heads and  here in Europe we see history repeating itself.

In Christendom there is also once again a growing hate to those of Christianity. The ones believing in a Trinity got their agricultural fork out again, trying to get down who believe in the Only One True God of Israel, (Jews, Jeshuaists, Non-Trinitarian Christians and Muslims). Those who say they are Christian often do not take on the attitude of Christ, who should be their rebbe and show how they prefer to live without a God Who has given mankind His commandments. They want others to believe we do not have to keep those commandments any more, and do live accordingly a life full of indecent and immoral actions and foul language.

Our best hope should not be on that sort of community but should direct with open eyes for a better world where people of all sorts of culture, colour or race can live together in a global community of loving and sharing people.

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To remember

  • We all have friends who believe things that seem crazy, but we don’t think our friends are crazy.
  • People adopt beliefs based on several factors. If those factors are different, then the people tend to adopt different beliefs.
  • Differences in factors as: region, economic class, ethnicity, social circles, information sources, + life experiences lead people to different beliefs.
  • differences show up mainly in emotion + intuition, which influence our political + moral judgments.
  • perhaps half of Americans accept utilitarian + universalist ideas, but also value loyalty, respect for authority, respect for the sacred, individual liberty, + support for the common good.
  • disagreements exist + also a few genuine crazies + haters: in a population of over 300 million, that’s inevitable.

Don’t let a tiny minority of crazies and haters blind you to the fact that most people want to be good and to do the right thing – even if their idea of “the right thing” sometimes clashes with ours.

  • Screaming at people, calling them names, and dismissing their concerns as unworthy of consideration => on-going conflict + social disintegration.

The Thousand-Year View

graphic-01-newrepublicMy latest blog post for The Jewish Journal:

After a bitterly divisive election season, there’s one question on everyone’s mind:

“How can people possibly believe that?”

What “that” is depends on who’s doing the talking. It means one thing to Trump supporters, something else to Clinton supporters, and who knows what to third-party supporters.

We all have friends who believe things that seem crazy, but we don’t think our friends are crazy. So we’re completely baffled. Are the people who disagree with us ignorant? Stupid? Hyper-emotional? Or – this seems to be the favorite – are they just plain evil?

It’s usually none of those things. The true answer is simpler and more innocent.

People adopt beliefs based on several factors. If those factors are different, then the people tend to adopt different beliefs.

In 2016 America, those factors differ a lot – by region, economic class, ethnicity, social…

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