Facilitating Connections

“technology must always work toward facilitating greater connection and communication between human beings.” [from the post cited below]

I find my friend Shane a very interesting guy: he likes the arts, spiritual disciplines and remembering the practical jokes of his youth leader days, amongst other things. I like chatting with him. So, it’s not suprising that I found his blogpost on Risen Magazine interesting. Check it out here if you are interested in thinking about technology, the mission of God on earth, hurrying and other things that you might not connect together. Or if that turns you off, have a read and be reminded how dependent we are on technology.

(Also, see my comment on his post!).

Facilitating connections,

JcJ

The Paradox of Crowds

Well, the good (blog) intentions went by the wayside over the summer – sorry for months of cyber-silence. The summery lull is well and truly a fading memory. I am still in the student world these days, as I am a student again myself! For those of you who have been following my RELAY updates, I can confirm that I got into the course I applied for and I’m now taking part in a masters programme. Thanks be to God.

So, I can still appreciate the benefits of the student lifestyle – a flexible schedule, random chats around college, the good facilities, the discounts… – while maintaining the dignified position of a graduate! Only, I have to pay for it this time.

The engulfing hustle of seeing thousands of students daily – perhaps hourly – is a strange timeless continuum to find yourself in. Sitting on the ground floor of the library, looking out the window at all the people going to wherever they are going, it is a challenging thing to focus on whatever is at hand, rather than stare and wonder at the throbbing throngs outside. There is something addictive in watching other people, so many other people. And it’s not merely a voyeuristic pursuit. The busyness of the campus is captivating. As my eyes jump from one face to another, I feel like I should recognize its owner. Each new visage is another story and sometimes I wonder what that story is.

Yet, at the same time, the busyness is isolating. If you do not know many – or any – people that you normally see in your 9to5 window, these crowded places can be lonely places. Perhaps loneliness is that time when we are most aware of our need for others and when there are no others. This is the paradox of crowds: there are so many others but there may as well be no others. There are so many faces but they’re just faces. That sounds like a big cliche and it probably is but it still strikes me.

Now, I say these things not out of loneliness (well, not entirely) – but out of awareness. I am fortunate to know a good few people on the campus – a few faces in the crowd – and I’ve met a few more since the year began. But all around me there are other faces, other people who must be aware, even if subconsciously, of the paradox of crowds, who haven’t escaped the loneliness of crowds. So, the challenge then is to be more than a face in the crowd. It’s to be someone who opens a door, who picks up a fallen book, who starts a conversation, who chats in the queue. That doesn’t come easily to me though, it takes effort and confidence and risk and time and ultimately, well, you could call it having an interest in others or you could even call it love. But these are what make a relationship and when we are lonely, perhaps that’s when we are most aware that relationship is what we need.

Trying not to avoid you in a crowded place,

JcJ.

PS. India Knight – in the Sunday Times on 12/10/08 – wrote about how us westerners are so religiously consumeristic. She mentioned the carried-along-with-the-crowd effect – how we get carried along by the bouyancy of being in a crowd and are uplifted by it, especially when shopping. So, perhaps my thoughts on crowds aren’t so watertight.

Lull-ing About

Well, it’s been over a month since my last post. I am still here. The post-students-finishing-up lull never really happened. I’ve been kept busy with finishing off the study programme; organising youth events and going to different events. Still, their has been a lull of sorts – a lovely summery lull with relaxed mornings and time for elevenses amongst a few hectic youth weekends with little sleep – and things have genuinely been a bit more sensibly paced than during the past academic year, during the weekdays, anyway. I’ve just put up my last RELAY Update, if you’d like to read some of my musings on the year.

Lovin’ the lull-bathin’,

JcJ

Thoughts on God compared to my mind or maybe my brain

A big part of the RELAY Programme is a self-study module on theology – what Christian’s believe about God and everything, based on what the Bible says. A big part of The Doctrine of God – what we believe about God – is the belief in the Trinity. Now, if you like moulding your brain into different shapes by giving it hard things to think about then you might like this. If you don’t like doing that, then maybe you should – you might discover something worth discovering or see things from a different angle or even decide that you are someone who likes moulding your brain into different shapes by giving it hard things to think about!

Anyway, back to the “this” of about 3 lines up! I was thinking about the Trinity and well, trying to get my head around it. (Sorry.) Firstly, here is a typical statement of the Doctrine of the Trinity:

God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God. Ref 1

So, Christians are saying that, somehow, God is a single entity but it is a plurality of persons. I know – the instinct is to reject it because it doesn’t make sense. But then if God is God, then it would be a bit disappointing if we weren’t at a bit of a loss as to understand entirely who He is. Here are a few thoughts that struck me on the Trinity, when I was thinking about it a while back.

When my mind wanders, it creates its own soap opera or re-runs scenes from previous experiences: a film from last night, a conversation which never happened with that pretty girl, a whole scene as Batman, ahem, whatever, you get the gist. Wherever those thoughts, that stream of babbling consciousness, comes from – that’s another discussion – some observations can be made on the mind itself. The first observation has been mentioned – part of the mind is “running” or “showing” this exclusive soap. Secondly, another part, perhaps our mind’s eye, is watching the show. Maybe a third part is making next week’s show. The point is that I have one mind, yet within it, there are different parts with different roles, which relate to each other and which interplay. There is unity – one mind – and diversity – different parts with different roles.

Perhaps, this is a good analogy for the Trinity. The Father is the Head; He plans and speaks; the Son, the “Word”, creates and the Father observes. The Holy Spirit is there making it all happen, providing the power that runs the show. This is not a perfect analogy, for there is none and anyway, we are trying to describe the largely indescribable, here. Each part of the mind is different from the other parts – it is not one of the other parts. And each of the parts is not fully the whole mind. However, these descriptions of the mind relate more easily and understandably to the brain. We can understand that one part of the brain deals with sight, another with balance, etc., etc. The existence of the mind as something existing within or by the existence and workings of the brain, means that it is harder to separate the mind into parts than the brain. Hence, this blurring of lines, blurring of our understanding of the mind, gives it a higher merit as an analogy for the Trinity than I second thought.

In delving into the un-understood, we open up possibilities for understanding God and understanding that we cannot fully understand God. And it is no small-minded thing to acknowledge that He is beyond our comprehension.

Yet, there are things that we can understand about Him, and we can know Him. The Bible tells us about Him: He is loving (in fact He “is love”); He is just; He is powerful; He is omni-[all things good and worthwhile]. The created universe also tells us things about Him – if God made everything, then He’s more than a little creative.

So, we must seek God but not expect to find all of Him. But here is another “but”: because of the fact that Jesus, who was a man, was also God, we can expect to find some of Him, to get to know Him, we can relate to Him as a person.

Now, how Jesus could be a man and be God – that is a whole other days mind-wandering.

Wandering with an aim,

JcJ.


Ref 1: Grudem, W., Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, pp226, IVP, Nottingham, 2007.

The Paradox of OUR Time?

I heard a version of the text linked below before in a sermon and found a version of it recently on Facebook. It is a decade or so old but much of it still rings true for us today and has that characteristic of all wise sayings: it smacks of experience, suffering and observation and it articulates in few words what most of us think true but have trouble expressing in many words.

The Facebook post was attributed to the American comedian, George Carlin. Another site attributed a portion of it to the Dalai Lama! This article appears to get to the bottom of it and attributes it to one Dr. Bob Moorehead, formerly of Overlake Christian Church, and what’s described as the original full version can be found there but the page won’t let me cut and paste it for you here. Have a read; it says a lot about the times we live in.

Rather disturbingly, according to the said article, Dr. Moorehead was accused of sexually abusing 17 members of his – now – former congregation and resigned from his post in 1998.

The voice of the text juxtaposes aspects of the modern world that we call “progress” with the sad realities often resulting from them. It’s ironic not only that this piece has been corrupted as it meanders around the internet but also that the realities of the writer’s own life reflect the brokenness he outlines.

Whatever the origins, contemplating this thought-fodder, for sure,

JcJ

3 L’s or 4 L’s?

One of the best things about doing RELAY with IFES Ireland is the people! In Munster, I am privileged to work alongside my co-RELAY Worker, who I’ll call “Ledge” and our supervisor, who I’ll call “Shure”. Together, we are Team Munster! As well as working alongside each other from day-to-day, we meet regularly to coordinate our work and build up our spiritual muscle. We have started to explore a book called the Historical Reliability of the Gospels. It sounds heavy and it is! So, why are we stretching our brains with this book?

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis put forward his famous “trilemma”: based on the claims that Jesus Christ made about himself, he could only have been one of three things: liar, lunatic or Lord. Either his claims were untrue and he knew it or his claims were untrue and he didn’t know it or his claims were true and he knew it. Based on the evidence put forward in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, I believe that he indeed was who he said he was, the Lord God of the Universe. But wait a minute….

Some have asked whether there should be a fourth ‘L’ added to the list: “Legend”. The above trilemma rests on the premise that what Jesus said about himself he actually said about himself and that the other things that have been recorded (which corroborate his claims) actually happened. Hence, we must ask the question could Jesus have been a legend or at least could the traits that Christians say make him unique in all history be the stuff of legend rather than the stuff of concrete truth? This is an important question. It is to this end that TM are stretching our brains; we are exploring the origin of the Gospels, which together describe this Jesus and the claims he is said to have made. We are looking at how the facts have been handed down – at first, orally and since the middle of the first century, in writing.

While challenging, it is also rewarding, as we consider how the Gospel writers composed their works and reexamine how the startling claims of Jesus Christ arrived in the Bible which so many of us know and cherish today.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Being stretched in some of the right places,

JcJ

Up The Youth

Today, I helped out with my local church youth group. It was the second meeting in the last few months; we are trying to get it going. Today, I was nervous. I had to prepare a few icebreakers and a discussion on a Nooma DVD called Rhythm. I was unsure if it would all come together. I was late. That was OK. We all said hi. We were 13 souls. We shared some naff ice-breakers, good times and pizza. We chatted about the DVD – about who we think God is, about what we think He’s like, about how we could possibly have a relationship with Him. I was reminded that we were all real people with faith and flaws and hopes and hitches in life. I hope that we will get together again soon.

God is good; even when we forget it and don’t get it, anyway.

JcJ