on who is Jesus

‘Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.’ — Mark 6:45-52

This is one of those Bible passages that Christians don’t often bring up. I know I don’t. I’m not exactly sure why, but I guess because it’s just kind of weird. It features a guy walking on water and then stopping a storm. It kind of sound like a fairy tale. So some Christians (and also some well-meaning non-Christians) have tried to prove it scientifically, like maybe Jesus was walking on ice, not water, because of some natural phenomenon. And so a lot of other Christians try to bring up less strange stories. And non-Christians roll their eyes. Continue reading “on who is Jesus”

on the stories we tell

Hong Kong, my home, was rocked by major protests in 2014. Localist riots and student-led scuffles break out much more regularly now than in my parents’ day.

In June 2016, the UK voted by referendum to leave the EU. There was a spike in reported racial crimes across the country in the weeks afterward.

In July 2016 a French North African and an Afghan refugee launched attacks in Nice, France, and Wurzburg, Germany. There is little evidence for any coordination between both attacks, though Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both.

In the same month, a girl in the Indian state of Haryana was assaulted and gang-raped, allegedly by the same men who had been convicted of gang-raping her in 2013.

And as the 2016 US Presidential Election draws ever closer, both Republican and Democrat supporters are stepping up their rhetoric. International opinion mostly sides against Trump.

Every one of these stories stars a clear villain (though tellingly no clear heroes emerge). Who is to blame? Continue reading “on the stories we tell”

on subliminal gospel preaching

So I’ve been reading W.B. Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment recently and thinking about Philippians 4:11-13.

It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible to feel smug and sanctimonious about – you know how it is, verse 13 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible; people use it to give every one of their actions divine backing and therefore diving legitimacy, because they can do all things in Christ. But in fact all the ‘things’ of verse 13 are precisely the unglamorous things Paul had listed just a sentence ago: being in want, having almost nothing, being hungry. So every time I read that verse I like to smugly give myself a self-five. Nice one, you’re not like the muggles. Continue reading “on subliminal gospel preaching”

Epilogue: love

[this is the final section of this collection of stories, a single-story epilogue titled Love]

I remember sitting at the Hill of Ares in the great city of Athens. The wisemen of the city were there too, famed for their love of learning. So how surprising for us to hear a commotion one day coming from a Jew! He seemed to be peddling some god or another. Here and there you could see the furrowed brows and the puzzled looks as the greybeards humoured him and heard him out, this strange man. Continue reading “Epilogue: love”

sacrifice pt 3: the freedom of Verginia

Old Father Tiber has one more story to tell.

After the heady days of struggle against the tyrants, Rome grew fat. Our people had loved truth and freedom, now we lusted for coin, power and prestige. And so the ten decemvirs took power in our city. They were once good men who loved justice, but the taste of power poisoned the lot of them. The best and worst of them was the decemvir Appius Claudius. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 3: the freedom of Verginia”

on a boat (with Jesus)

‘As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”’ – Mark 4:35-41 (NLT)

When it comes to telling people about Jesus, one overarching idea is this: don’t focus on what’s wrong, focus on what’s right. Or in more specialised terms: the truth is not anti-heresy, the truth is the truth. Continue reading “on a boat (with Jesus)”

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