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The Rector's Blog

Sunday 8th August - International cat day

Understandably you might wander what a cat-day has to do with Christianity and Church, but thinking about cats, it reminded me of someone who once described a so called ‘cat-theology’.

Cat-theology was set here against dog-theology. In dog-theology the argumentation goes as follows: 'You, feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me; you must be God.' In cat-theology however, the argumentation goes: You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me; I must be God.' The international cat day gives the opportunity to search in ourselves, how much we have leaned towards the cat theology, instead of towards God.

A cartoonist once drew a scientist announcing a breakthrough in understanding cat-language: "Cats only say two things; 'Where's my dinner?' and 'Everything here is mine.'"

If we’ve leaned too much towards a cat theology, these two observations are true to us as well. In the first saying, ‘where is my dinner?’, lies hidden the search for hedonism, which means I do what I want to do, to satisfy my longing for pleasure. Whether it will be in what I want to eat, or want to cloth or want to drink or have pleasure in, the main idea is to satisfy my own longings. 

The second question, ‘everything here is mine’, seems very close connected to it. When everything here on earth is mine, why shouldn’t I want to use it? Every opportunity I have to fulfill my desires is then normal, because everything is mine anyway. 

Therefore, those who profess a cat-theology are commonly called atheists or agnostics. Although, atheists don't want to have anything to do with religion or theology, but even they have to admit that when they believe there's no god, instead they have become gods themselves. If someone rejects God, he or she rejects the existence of a higher authority. An Authority that is standing above humanity itself. This is absolutely not a new idea, or modern thought, because already Protagoras, in the 5th century BC, discussed this subject and hence coined the phrase that humanity is then the measure of all things.

When we believe or accept God’s authority by default we have to submit ourselves to His Rules and Regulations. Not only because of God’s Authority, but even more so because they are the best for ourselves including our society. They provide us with a stable framework of rules and regulations for living. God's love and commandments are not bound to the tidal changes of society or to the whims of those who rule over us. God provide us with the ingredients for a right society under the control of a loving a caring God, who gives us a hope for life and of an eternity, which nothing or no one else can offer.

After the Covid lockdowns and a reopening of our society has begun, the discussion starts again about our future welfare and well-being societal systems. Let us not be guided by a cat-theology and not forget the living presence of God with us and the rules and regulations He left us to follow in order to build a just and honest society.

Considering the wine at HC

With an email to all clergy and churchwardens on Tuesday 20 July 2021, the Bishop of the Oxford Diocese gave advice on how to proceed with Holy Communion after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted from Monday 19 July. 

In the Bishop’s email it was noted that ‘as Bishops in the Diocese of Oxford we advise extreme caution at present in respect of re-introducing the common cup at services of Holy Communion for the time being. This advice comes from the perspective of both the congregation and the priest (who will need to consume the elements). The safety and wellbeing of all, including clergy and ministers, must be foundational in decision making’.  

Two papers, as far as we were made aware of, were publicised regarding the administration of both kinds of the sacraments, bread and wine, which argued against the re-introduction of the consummation of wine to the congregation, in particular in individual glasses.

The first paper is about the Administration of the Sacrament by the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod. The second paper is called Liturgical Considerations written by a representative of the Liturgical Commission and National Liturgy and the Worship Advisor. Obviously, both papers bear less ecclesial jurisdiction than the three defining doctrines, statements and practices of the Church of England (which are the BCP, the 39 Articles and the Homilies) as both papers are either advices or considerations.

Besides, both papers refer to Section 8 of the 1547/1558 Sacrament Act to defend their case of declining the cup to the congregation, or using individual glasses, but the legal content of this Act was revoked with the publication of the 39 Articles.

Even more so, a similar case was brought forward during the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009 to withhold the wine for the communicants. Ecclesial Lawyers argued this was unlawful in their statement that ‘Even if the ‘necessitie’ provision does apply to the BCP and authorised modern liturgies and to public health scares, it certainly does not empower Archbishops and bishops to order communion under one kind only.  S.8 is addressed directly to all the clergy as ministers of the sacrament, not to bishops or Church courts.  If there is a necessity justifying refusal of the communion cup, this is for the officiating clergyman to decide…..Moreover, as a matter of law, necessity is a defence, not a basis of authority.  It is a shield, not a sword.  The courts may accept necessity as a defence to an otherwise illegal act.  However, it cannot order the commission of an illegal act on ground of necessity.  Thus the Church authorities cannot order a clergyman to refuse to administer the wine. https://ecclesiasticallaw.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/swine-flu-and-the-sacrament-act-1547/

The legal position of the Thirty-Nine Articles is established in Canon A2 and A5. Furthermore, General Synod can authorise alternative services to those in the Book of Common Prayer provided that they are neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, which are the 39 Articles.

Based on this statement the 39 Articles remain the prime Church-authoritative statement about the offering of full communion to the communicants during Holy Communion and in particular Article 28 and 30 about receiving of the wine. No mention is made in either Article 28 or 30 demanding the use of only one cup. Therefore, because Article 30 states that the cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people, it is lawful to return to offering the wine to all who are present at the Eucharist after this lockdown, because of a Governmental decree that ended all restrictions.

Once it has been favourably argued that the presentation of wine to the communicant is ecclesially lawful, the next question is how the wine is given to the communicant.

It is difficult to deny that the use of a common cup is customary for the Church of England and individual glasses are not commonly used. This custom is based on scriptural evidence where Jesus blessed a cup to share it with His disciples. Later in his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reiterates this practice.

Debate has arisen however, with what is exactly meant by drinking from the same common cup? Is there a possibility to use shot glasses if the wine is blessed in the one common cup and then poured into an individual shot glass to be consumed?

The use of the word 'drinking' is here under consideration and how literally this must be interpreted. We enter the same debate as in the 15th century when Zwingly argued (in a dispute about the Eucharist) about how we use the 'spirit of the word' to translate it into our theology. Zwingly argued for example that when Jesus calls Himself the door of the sheep, no one will think He is a wooden plank.

The translation of figurative speaking is similar to how we drink the wine. How we drink or consume the wine in itself is not the hinge of the matter, but the blessing of the cup from which each receives the wine. Even when the wine out of hygienic reasons, and based on health and safety rules, is transferred from the consecrated common cup to a small glass when being handed over to the communicant, we can still speak of drinking (as sharing) from the same cup. Arguments for allowing the use of individual wafers at the Eucharist are defended on a similar basis.

As long as we all drink/receive from the same consecrated common cup there is no contradiction in taking the wine in accordance with the command of Jesus to drink this in remembrance of Him as He spoke out in the Synoptic Gospels.

As a concluding remark Luke 22:17 springs to mind, when Luke described how Jesus shared the chalice during the Last Supper: ‘And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said; Take this and divide it among yourselves’. This is what is done during Holy Communion when wine is given from the common cup into an individual glass to each one of us; we divide it among ourselves.

Hans Taling

Mark 5:21-43

It is said about Jesus how He was one of the first who gave women an equal place with men in the sight of God and of a society modelled on the Kingdom of God, which He proclaimed. 

This view might be further established by the events that happened in the gospel of Mark 5:21-43.

The story itself is first about Jairus, who comes to Jesus to ask for help for his dying daughter at the age of 12. Being a kind of CEO of the local synagogue he was a well known and respected person who publically knelt at Jesus feet begging to come with him to heal his daughter. It’s the care and compassion of a father that is publically shown for a much beloved daughter. Jesus answer his call and goes with him to his house.

Secondly, while going with Jesus to his house, a woman came and touched Jesus clothes, also in desperation looking for help. Because she was ritually unclean, as she was suffering from a ‘flow of blood’ for 12 years, it was difficult for her to be publically within the crowd. Besides, she spent all her possessions on doctors and other means to heal her, hence she had no other place left to go to ask for help.

Jesus knew someone had touched Him, because the touch was a touch from the heart and a touch of faith, as Luther said. It is a touch of trust in the salvation and healing through Jesus Christ and as Luther wrote, we should see the story through eyes of faith. Perhaps Martin Luther explained the classical view on this part in the Bible in which he showed how faith and trust go hand in glove together. 

But Mark might have something more to say here than only retelling the story of 2 desperate people whose pleading for help was answered by Jesus. 

The remarkable observation in this story is that both persons who are healed by Jesus are called daughters. Jesus heals Jairus daughter and He heals a daughter of Israel. The young girl in Greek is thugatrion and the woman thugater, so both are called daugthers. 

Whether the number 12 has any significance is possible, but is beyond the point here.

The point is the love and care for daughters shown in this part of the Bible. First it is the father of the young daughter who loves her so much that he pleads for help humbling himself publically, and secondly Jesus who heals the woman and calling her a daughter, while praising her for her great faith.

On several places in the Bible, daughters of Israel are specifically mentioned. Examples are in Song of Solomon where in 5:16 ‘This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem’. And in the New Testament where Jesus said in Luke 23:28 ‘ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children’.

In accordance to Isaiah 62:11, daughters of Jerusalem are the daughters of  Zion, which is synonym for Israel: ‘Behold, the Lord has proclaimed unto the end of the world, say to the daughter of Zion; Behold, your salvation comes, behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him’. 

Jerusalem, Zion, Israel, it all means the same: What belongs to God and what He will save.

It looks like Mark is making a point here about the importance of the women in God’s Kingdom and how the love of God extends to each and everyone, man and woman alike. 

It is the fulfilling of the promise in Joel 2:28 that I will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, on sons and daughters alike, or as Paul later wrote in Galatians 3:28 ‘In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ’.

Trinity Sunday 2021

The Trinity is a theology that has evolved over time, but it remains a subject we don’t understand, but somehow want to comprehend. 

However in search for more clarity we are confronted with what it says in Psalm 77. Psalm 77 consists of 20 verses and from verse 10 each verse describes the greatness of God and how He helped His people Israel with miracles and mighty deeds. Then at the end, after finishing with reminding the readers how God helped His people through the Red Sea, the Psalmist wrote: ‘Yet Thy Footprints were not seen.’

So, from ancient time onwards, until this day and age, we have to live with the notion about God that: ‘Thy Footprints were not seen’. God is a hidden God, and as much as He was hidden for the Jews even so He is hidden for us today. With the notion of course that Jesus Christ has revealed God to us in as much God wanted to reveal Himself as The God Who saves. The God Who saves, but not only for the Jew, but for the whole world. God has taken the responsibility to save each and everyone, because He is the God Who saves, although His footprints are not seen.

The Bible reading on Trinity Sunday 2021 was from Romans 8:12-17 and it in Paul speaks about God as Abba, Father.

Before studying theology I always learnt, through sermons, how Abba meant something similar to daddy, like the loving father ready to give his beloved child a cuddle.

At the opening of the first academic year when begun to study theology, the Chancellor in his talk mentioned the word Abba. He spoke about the silly idea of calling God a daddy when people call Him Abba. The real meaning of Abba is more something like the One Who bears the authority and responsibility.

Later after I learned Hebrew I was able to delve deeper in the name of Abba and I discovered a deeper background to the understanding of Abba, Father. 

In the Hebrew world of the Old Testament, we should not forget that they were living in a tribal culture wherein the father was the dominant factor of its social structure. But, not in the context of him being an isolated despot, but as it says: ‘the centre from which strength, and will, emanate through the whole of the sphere which belongs to him and to which he belongs'. 

This means that for the Israelite the name of the Father always spells authority embedded in responsibility. For the Israelites, God as Father means He has to be viewed trustworthy, respected and obeyed. 

When speaking about God as Abba we should not forget that this is the same God we call Creator God. God as Abba cannot be disconnect from God as Creator. 

The Genesis story is not so much about whether God created the earth out of nothing, but that God is the sole Creator. In contrast to other ancient creation myths (like the Enumah Elis), the God in the Old Testament is self-existent and independent of the world.

Because God is the Sole Creator everything and everyone depends on Him as He has the absolute and ultimate authority over all that exists. God is set apart from all other idols and deities and He is unique and incomparable. And because of all this, God is called Abba. There is no other God, and therefore He is called the Abba. The unique God Who has authority and Who took the responsibility of offering salvation through the complete ministry of Jesus Christ

Whether God is 3 in 1, or 1 in 3, or male of female or woke or whatever is not the main issue to argue about. The real point is that God cares for us and that’s why is called Abba, Father. The only God Who acts for our defence and Who guides and supports us through all the heights and depths we might face in our lives.

Pentecost 2021

Having been a regular visitor to a Pentecostal church for 11 years, when I was part of their music-band, Pentecost was their most important festival, more than Easter or Christmas.

There is some truth in that, of course, because without Pentecost we wouldn’t have a church. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit marked the beginning of the Church. 

It was at Pentecost that a small group of fearful witnesses to what all what happened to Jesus Christ, transformed into a large gathering of Christians who with boldness proclaimed the Gospel to all around them. It says in Acts that they heard them all speaking in their own language, so even those who had no interest in listening to the Gospel, could not avoid hearing the Word of God preached to them.

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. These words of Paul leads us into 2 observations:

In the first place it indicates that there was no need for a temple anymore like the temple in Jerusalem. When Paul wrote these words the temple in Jerusalem was still standing strong. Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians 20 years or more before this temple was destroyed by the Romans. Paul died under the hands of Nero and Nero committed suicide in 68AD, while the temple was destroyed in 70AD, so surely the temple was still there when Paul wrote these words down.

Secondly was the role of the temple. The temple was the House of God in Jerusalem and all people who believed in God came at least once a year to the temple to meet God in His house and make sacrifices for the cleansing of their sins. Paul knew that this was no longer necessary through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ministry of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice of Himself on the cross did away with the function of the temple as the house of God. Paul goes even further by saying that all who believe in Christ have becomes temples of God, by the Holy Spirit living in them.

In the past people had to go to the House of  God, but now God’s House comes to the people in the form of you and me. 

When Looking to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is Acts 2, it shows us how the Holy Spirit had an effect on all the people and not only on the leaders or a chosen few. And Besides, all who heard the disciples speaking, heard them in a language they all understood.

There is no Temple, as the House of God needed anymore, where people have to go to meet God, because God is meeting the people through us. We have become the heralds of the gospel in what we say and do.

But, in all this, it is encouraging to know that the Holy Spirit will help and guide us in performing our task. If needed we can expect the same boldness to speak and live the Good News in the same way as the first disciples did, through the Holy Spirit. And like with the first disciples, everybody around us will hear and see, whether they search for the Gospel or not. Perhaps that is the greatest part of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, the Light of Christ living in all who believe in Him, will shine to each and everyone in words and actions everybody can understand.

Rogation Sunday 2021 with the Bible reading from Acts 10:44-48

As Pentecost is only 2 weeks away no mentioning of the Holy Spirit, although there's an interesting Holy Spirit occurrence in this reading from Acts. So, only a short notice on this event when the Holy Spirit fills people before they were baptised. It adds to a confusion about a theology of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit comes on people before they were baptised and after they were baptised. Not to mention events when the Holy Spirit fell on people without any reference to a baptism, like in Acts 2.

But today is also Rogation Sunday. Rogation Sunday, always celebrated on the 5th Sunday of Easter, is when the farmers asked for a blessing on their wheat. 

Traditionally the parishioners were going round the boundaries of the parish to inspect the boundary stones and pray for the protecting of their parish for the coming year. Although, an important part of the rogation walk was to find out whether farmers had illegally blocked bridle paths or other public footpaths by building on or taking those for their crops. Some things never change...

During the reign of Elizabeth I, in a book of homilies for the Elizabethan church, it is described how the Rogation, or perambulation of the boundaries,  was to remember town and other communal boundaries in a social and historical context, with extra emphasis on the stability gained from lawful boundary lines.

So, Rogation Sunday is about keeping the boundaries straight and a similar things is happening here at our reading in Acts 10. The whole chapter is about trespassing boundaries as they were set in the past. The chapter began with Peter having a vision in which he is asked to eat these things which were forbidden by Jewish religious laws. 

Peter had to draw new boundary lines of what he thought to be good or wrong. This wasn’t easy for Peter, because he was born and raised in a Jewish environment that kept itself close to the law of Moses and other regulations set out by the religious leaders of his time.

One of the most important religious laws for the Jews was and is, keeping themselves to the religious law on food. Even today, orthodox Jews kept themselves strict to what they are allowed to eat and what not. E.g. Orthodox Jews should have 2 cookers, so they cannot cross meat with milk.

So, when Peter said: I will not eat what is forbidden, it just indicates how much he obeyed the religious orders on food and how important it was for him.Crossing this boundary meant a lot for Peter and a complete renewing of his thinking and of his religious interpretations.

And today, in our own situations, we could very well be confronted with similar questions in our Christian faith. it seems we all set our own boundaries and have differences in opinion of what is good or wrong. For the one it could be a simple thing like keeping the Sunday as a day of rest, or not eating chocolate for Lent for another it can be deep seated Christian convictions.   

The big problem we’re facing in this day and age however, is whether we believe it is possible to be challenged in our own convictions, in the same way as Peter was.

Will God do a new thing, which throws away all what we always believed or think what is very important to our faith? And if that so, how do we recognise it is from God?

Over the centuries, especially in the first few centuries of Christianity, many church fathers and other theologians have been wrestling with the same question. 

The answer they found was to restrict all new teachings and Christian interpretation to new ideas in society to be checked or measured by the so called canon (kanoon in Greek means measuring stick). They called both the OT and NT together as the canon and made it God’s final and complete revelation of Himself once and for all. No more new teachings about God could be added to it. 

The RC did not fully agree with that, but believed that their Concili or Counsels bear the same weight as the canon, and take them both as authoritive teaching. But, being part of the CofE, a Church from the Reformation, we keep what is written in the canon as final.

Consequently, every new teaching or interpretation of how society develops is measured by what is written in the canon. 

Here now lays the greatest challenge, because we could all read something different in how we interpret the canon. Do we take the canon at face value or do we mix it with our own ideas, feelings or even emotions? And how far can someone interpret a standard set of beliefs differently? Does someone believe to be allowed to move beyond what is written in the canon and add new things to it? Is a change of ethics and moral in society a reason to change the canon, based on interpreting the set rules and regulations?

I will be very careful with sharing my opinion on that, because before we know it we break up in many differrent sections of Christinaity. Perhaps this the reason why we count about 45,000 different Christian denominations today.

But in all such discusions, one thing can never be changed or adapted. And that is the centre of our Christian faith which is Jesus Christ Himself. In all our differences in opinion, interpretation, explanation and beliefs of our faith, Jesus Christ has to remain the Centre. He must remain the focus of what we believe and build our hope upon. Jesus Christ the Foundation and Corner Stone and eternal hope for all who put their trust in Him.

Hans

Prince Philip

Many commentators and interviews have been aired over the last few days and many of them gave a deeper insight into his personality and so many other things that marked his as a person and supprting companion to the Queen.

Not many interviews however, I find none to be honest, were about his faith and how it made him the man he was. But, last Friday on the radio, I heard an interview with John Pritchard, the former bishop of our Diocese. John told the story how he once held a sermon with having Prince Philip under his audience. After service had ended, Prince Philip went to bishop John and said: I don’t agree with what you said.

This made me to make some observations about Prince Philip’s character. In the first place I thought: this is rather un-English to be so direct. When I started the priesthood up in the North, that although people had the character of calling 'a spade, a spade', they still were very polite when it came to responding to my sermons. It was to such an extent that when I received a compliment, my first reaction was: 'I have said somehting wrong here, but I don't know what yet'. 

The second observation is that Prince Philip wasn’t afraid of speaking his opinion, although some say it might have been wiser not to say too much avoiding problems with what he said. Saying nothing is keeping your head under the radar. No one notices you, but no one cares. Unfortunately, many Christians have that kind of attitude; keep your faith under the radar, so no one notices, but no one cares. We’re not called to put our light under a bushel or keep it in the dark. In speaking our faith in what we say, we might make the odd mistake but at least we do something with our faith for God’s glory. And people will notice it and in doing so we have become ambassadors of Jesus Christ. 

Another, third observation showed that Prince Philip was not afraid to speak about his faith, or what he deemed to be important for him. This becomes obvious when he gave his opinion to bishop John in this matter regarding of his own Christian faith. In saying he didn’t agree with bishop John he showed he had thought about the subject himself and he had come to a different conclusion. Even if the conclusion was different from bishop John’s idea’s, Prince Philip had found reasons to disagree. Reasons don’t come by themselves, but after deliberation and pondering over the subject.

As most of us, I’ve never met Prince Philip and all I know about him is from hear-say or from journalists. I’ve never heard or seen him speaking in public about his faith, but although he was not vocal about it, given the reaction to John’s sermon, he appears to have been into a certain extent like the person mentioned in our reading from the book of Lamentations: 

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 

It’s over 10 years ago by now that Margaret’s mother passed away at the age of 103. In speaking with Margaret about her mother’s faith, Margaret said her mother did not often spoke about her faith. But, as Margaret continued, her mother came from a generation and background in which the existence of God wasn’t challenged or doubted. God was there, and He was part of life, with or without words. God as being part of live was as normal as the air we breath. Going to church, saying prayers and making God part of normal life, was a norm that was practiced, not challenged. 

With the passing away of Prince Philip we’ve lost as it seems one of those personalities from a bygone era who, with all his questions, opinions and perhaps his doubts still accepted God as part of his life. And in letting God be such a part of his life, he did what he believed to be his duty.

It can be a lesson for us all, to live daily with God through Jesus Christ, so that it builds up our own faith. Making Him part of our life and pondering on His words as given to us in the Bible. And in doing this, we become ambassadors of God, and it will be noticed by others in the things we do to the glory of God our Father.

So, being an ambassador of Christ becomes visible in the things we say and in the things we do. And each one of us might be better in the one than in the other, or even good at both. But, at least we do something with our faith to let it be light for others and an example to follow. Or as the apostle Paul wrote to Titus (2:7): Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.

Easter 2021

Because of this pandemic and how badly one of the local care-homes was hit by Covid-19, we’ve seen in our Parish the passing away of quite a few people. With our ministerial team we had to take more funerals in a short period of time than ever before. And at each funeral we're all reminded again and again about what it means to have a hope in the resurrection to life eternal through Jesus Christ. 

Because of these tragic events over the last few months, now at Easter, the reality of the resurrection and the impact it has on our faith becomes even more evident.

Not so long ago there was a landslide in Italy which ruined a graveside and it had an dramatic impact on the community. After it came in the news I remembered a story of a similar event in Belgium many years ago. 

A Belgian village was struck by the effect of a kind of earthquake, which was caused by the effects of WWI because of all the bombs, tunnels, trenches and so other many kind of other activities going on, under and nearby their village.

The movement of the earth caused their churchyard to disappear in what we now might call a massive sink-hole. The people of the village went to their local pastor crying for their beloved ones buried in the churchyard to be somehow brought back. The pastor asked his parishioners what they meant with bringing back? They have never been there, the pastor replied; the gospel tells us that with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death is no longer final and because Jesus was the firstborn from the dead, they were living with Him.  

The hope for the resurrection is something which makes us so unique and so much different from the animal world. Being created in the image of God means that we find it difficult to live without hope. And amongst the many things we can hope for, is the hope that death is not the end. Many capture it in nice words like; never forgotten, always in our hearts etc, but the only tangible image we possess that death is not the end is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Easter message is the proclamation that death is not the end. 

In a search for evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ people have come up with many arguments for and against. For those against they count the faith in Christ’s resurrection as only transcendental and perhaps hidden in mystical experience or pietistic exclusiveness.

On the other side are those who defend the resurrection with all kind of arguments, but are they in the end useful? 

There’s a story of Rabbi Chama who was asked a particular question by a Persian king. The Persian king asked for evidence in the Torah about his question, but Rabbi Chama didn’t answer him. Later, pupils of Chama wondered why he didn’t answer the question and asked the Rabbi why he didn’t point the king to certain phrases in the Torah. Rabbi Chama replied: If someone is not convinced by the spirit of the law, then neither is that person convinced by the letter of the law. 

If someone doesn’t want to trust in the resurrection of Jesus Christ without scientific arguments first, neither will he or she be convinced by any of other argument.

Now at this Easter I only think about the words of Prof. Braaten, the Lutheran theologian, on which I did my PhD, if we need any evidence for Christ’s resurrection. Braaten wrote: 'Without the Light of the Easter morning, the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth would probably have remained eclipsed forever by the blackout of Friday noon'.

Palm Sunday

In the gospel of John, chapter 12, it is written how a 'huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! The King of Israel! Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it: No fear, Daughter Zion: See how Your king comes, riding a donkey’s colt.'

Whatever anyone might think about the person of Jesus, one thing cannot be denied: He was no coward. It takes a lot of courage to enter the city of Jerusalem, when it was filled to the brim with tourists or worshippers for the Jewish Passover. His courage is further seen in how He let Himseld be hailed in as the new King and the new Hero Who was going to free His people from the oppressors of their country: While He knew, they were going to ask for His blood within a week.

One chapter back in the gospel of John it was Thomas who remarked; Let’s go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die with Him. He said this because he was aware of the imminent danger of going to Jerusalem. Jesus had the same predicted when in Jerusalem not to be crowned the new King and Hero, but for the exact opposite.

Sometimes, I wish I had a little bit of His courage to do what God wants me to do without delay or murmuring or even not doing it. And looking to our world it appears that many more people are in need of some of Jesus’ courage to live in accordance to God’s commandments.

But, that’s reason why He went to Jerusalem. To give His life for us who are not capable of doing the God’s Will or follow His commandments. Jesus went to Jerusalem even when He knew it would end in ridicule, shame and death, but He did it for you and me.

Hans

John 12:22-30; Life

John 12:25 is a key text in the Bible when Jesus says: The one who loves life will loose it, but the one who hates life will win it for eternity. The same text with similar wordings is also found in Luke 9:25 and Matthew 10:39. It was deemed important enough by the Gospel writers to put these words of Jesus in their Gospels.

The words Sound quite harsh and even more so, also controversial. At face value, when Jesus wants us to hate our lives in order to win it for eternity we all better stop doing anything we like, and seek martyrdom at the earliest opportunity. Because that’s what is says in Matthew and Luke; those who loose their life for Christ’s sake will save it.

But, if we believe life is really only to be hated, why then made God life? When we believe that God made us as crown of His creation, as it says in Genesis, why then should He asks us to hate it. Our God is not a God of hate. God even sent His Beloved into the world because He loves us as He made us to His likeness. Out of love Jesus Christ gave His life for us and not because He hates us. It’s against the whole of God’s character and of Jesus’s ministry to focus on hate, or hating our lives the core message of the whole Gospel. 

The text from John 12:25 is in need of some nuance and this nuance begins with a closer look into what Jesus means with ‘Life’. 

In the original Greek text of John 12:25, the word used for life is the so called psuche or soul. But, we have to be careful here, because the psuche as soul has a Greek philosophical meaning and not a Hebrew one. Jesus was not a Greek, but a Jew and the Jewish philosophy was not the same as the Greek.

We can be quite sure that Jesus spoke Hebrew, or Aramaic which is a Hebrew dialect, so He used words expedient to His hearers. But, John, Matthew and Luke, writing their Gospel, used this Greek word psuche to explain what Jesus meant when He spoke about life. 

The word psuche is not alien to the Hebrew or Jewish people. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word psuche is not uncommon. 

When used for people the word psuche denotes a kind of life principle driving action of every type. We often call it the soul, but the soul in Jewish thinking means the whole human being in its entirety including all responsibilities. Someone's soul is therefore someone’s self, and it denotes the living person in thought, decision and action.

Later rabbinic teaching declares the body from earth and the soul from heaven and the soul dwells in the body like a guest, leaving the body at death. Then at the resurrection, body and soul are reunited and forms a unity again standing in responsibility to God.

A Rabbi's parable about 150AD puts it this way: When a blind man puts a lame man on his shoulder and both steal the fruits in an orchard, both are judged simultaneously; in the same way body and soul will be judged together.

The importance of the psuche, or soul, as the main instrument of making choices is for example seen in John 10:24. In this part, the Pharisees ask Jesus how much longer He will keep them in suspense whether He is the Christ or not. In the Greek, the same word psuche is used again, when the pharisees ask their question. So it shows how the psuche is the place where a decision is made for or against Jesus Christ.

Before finishing the question about how psuche denotes life, one question has to be answered first. And this is about what it means to hate life, in order not to loose it in eternity.

Returning back to John 12:25, there is a kind of wordplay in the original text.  It says: The one who loves - philoon - his life will lose it, but the one who hates - misoon - his life in this cosmos/creation will keep it in eternal life. Although misoon is translated as hate, its original meaning is less harsh. Miso(on) denotes the opposite of liking something, rather than hating it. In Greek miso before another word means the dislike of it, but not so much to hate it. Whereas the philo-love in the Bible  is not an overwhelming love, in the same sense, miso-hate is not an absolute hate. It is rather about what is important or not important in someone's life. 

Conclusively, we might say that understanding the word psuche and its relation to love and to hate is essentially not doing what you want to do yourself first, but looking to what God expects us to do in how we live our lives responsible in the light of His word and commandments. 

This then relates very closely to psuche as the force that drives us in our innermost being. The decision to walk with God is a free choice made by our psuche or soul. 

It is to each of us to choose whether we put our trust in God, through Christ Jesus, or not. What drives us is the first question in whatever we do. Is it out of love for God or out of love for ourselves. 

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