Gone fishing…

I’ve noticed a tendency in me recently, whenever I have an idle moment, to head outside and do some gardening.  Maybe it’s just the sunnier days and the warmer weather encouraging me out of doors, but I think it could be something deeper.

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What The Early Church Can Teach Us About The Coronavirus

The early church was no stranger to plagues, epidemics, and mass hysteria. In fact, according to both Christian and also non-Christian accounts, one of the main catalysts for the church’s explosive growth in its early years was how Christians navigated disease, suffering, and death. The church’s posture made such a strong impression on Roman society that even pagan Roman emperors complained to pagan priests about their declining numbers, telling them to step up their game. 

So what did Christians do differently that shook the Roman Empire? And what can the early church teach us in light of the coronavirus? 

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8 Things The Coronavirus Is Teaching Us

I awoke this morning in Naples, Italy’s third city to have been placed on lockdown. Public gatherings, including church services, have been forbidden. Weddings, funerals, and baptisms have been cancelled. Schools and cinemas, museums and gyms, have all been closed. My wife and I just returned from a grocery-shopping trip that took two hours due to long checkout lines. Italy currently has the highest reported number of Coronavirus cases outside of China: 9,172 cases and 463 deaths. As a result, 60 million people have been told to remain in their homes unless absolutely necessary. How are we, as Christians, to respond to such a crisis? Answer: with faith not fear. We are to look into the eye of the storm and ask, Lord, what are you wanting me to learn through this? How are you seeking to change me? Here are eight things we’d all do well to learn, or relearn, from this Coronavirus scare.

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A eunuch for Jesus?

There is a curious conversation recorded in Matthew 19 which is often overlooked, although it is the follow up to some oft-quoted teaching on divorce. You’ll recall that the disciples asked Jesus where he stood on divorce, and when he says you can’t get divorced except if your spouse has committed adultery, the exasperated disciples exclaim  “It’s better not to get married then!”

And Jesus says “Duh!”

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To Lent or Not To Lent?

Let it be said, that in many ways, I’m about as non-conformist, non-liturgical as you can get. Instinctively, I rebel against the idea of the church year and its associated festivals. I won’t unpack my reasons for this, just take it that I’m an old Free Evangelical curmudgeon.

However, while I’m a natural iconoclast, I am enough of a historian to recognise that something would not have survived for as long as the concept of the church year if it did not have some value. I can see that in pre-literate societies, the rhythm of the church year, combined with the rolling of the seasons would have a value in teaching the message of the Gospels through a process of repetition. However, in an urban, literate society some of this value would undoubtedly be lost.

That being said, over the past few years, I’ve begun to think that churches in my tradition are missing a trick by not celebrating Lent. Let me explain.

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False gospels, poverty and justice

I don’t see his face. I know he is wearing a blue shirt and shorts, I guess he is about 10 or 12 and I think he is thin. Why do I know so little about him?  Because he is just in the edge of my vision. I am walking quickly out of the shopping mall amidst a cloud of boys.  They are asking for dinero (money). I am feeling stressed – are these guys genuine or were they sent out to beg by gang leaders? Or is that just my excuse not to stop, to give, to get involved? He isn’t asking for money, just lying on the floor, perhaps the poorest of them all. I don’t know.

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