on God doing his job

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:1-8

There’s an old meme floating around the internet, poking fun at Christianity. It goes something like this:

Jesus promised to get rid of sin. How many bad people do you see running around now?

Thor promised to get rid of all frost giants. How many frost giants do you see running around now?

Thor – 1, Jesus – 0.

It’s a silly old joke, but it does give voice to the idea that, well, sometimes it seems like God isn’t very good at doing his job. Or that even when he does something, he does it in a really bizarre way.

Continue reading “on God doing his job”

the whole story of the Bible in 5 parts

The Creation

The story of the Bible begins with chaos. In the beginning God creates the sky and the earth, but the earth is covered with water and nothing else. It’s shapeless and terrifying. And then God decides to speak — with his word he speaks things into being. He speaks and the sun and moon shine; he speaks and time exists; he speaks and the mountains rise up; he speaks and vines, apple trees, and rainforests spring from the ground; he speaks and whales and eels swim, seagulls and sparrows soar, and lizards, ants, mice, dogs, and elephants wander around. God is now King of all creation. But he’s not done yet — he wants to share all this with people. And so he makes a man and a woman to be just like him, to think like him, speak like him, and be together with him for all time. The King now has his people to love and to take care of what he created — everything is good, everything is at peace.

[This part of the Bible story covers Genesis chapters 1 and 2. It’s one of the most famous parts of the Bible. In recent years it’s been used to try to argue for or against scientific ideas such as evolution or the age of the earth. There’s a lot to unpack there, more than we have space to talk about here, but at least we can say that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 focus on God’s role as King of creation, rather than how exactly he created everything. And in fact that role is one of the first and most important building blocks of the Bible story — very little in the Bible will make sense if we don’t accept this as truth.]

Continue reading “the whole story of the Bible in 5 parts”

on turning people away from sin

“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” 

Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” 

And I said, “I see an almond branch.” 

Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” 

And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.”

Jeremiah 1:4-19

How would you act if you were to go meet a king? I’d probably put on my nicest clothes; I’d practice my bow beforehand; I’d act as respectfully as I could. When I was a little kid, anytime my classmates and I saw our headmistress we’d greet her very politely, but I noticed our voices always went up several octaves every time we did so. So if I were to greet a king my voice would probably sound like I was trying to sing the chorus to Let it Go.

Continue reading “on turning people away from sin”

on feeling aggrieved

I’ve been feeling aggrieved lately.

Years serving under the colours as it were and now that I’ve left abruptly, I have little to show for it: depleted finances, a dragging degree I’ve long since lost interest in, a handful of wistful photos, and a winding, misty path ahead.

I feel like I’m owed something for all I’ve done. Why haven’t You rewarded me commensurately? Aren’t You the great provider?

And all of a sudden I’m a victim of injustice. Society, church, school, and God have not delivered as I have delivered. Where is my reward? Continue reading “on feeling aggrieved”

on William Wallace’s ghost

William Wallace is one of the great names of Scottish history, quite possibly the country’s George Washington (though unlike Washington he didn’t survive his War of Independence to rule the new country — that would fall to Robert the Bruce). Like Washington, Wallace’s ghost has been periodically called up to support this or that cause. This essay will briefly explore how Wallace’s legacy has been handled and manipulated in the centuries after his death. Continue reading “on William Wallace’s ghost”

on truth and blame

We’re at a delicate moment right now.

Now that the spectre of human extinction has passed – though there may yet be dark days ahead for many countries – we’re approaching the recovery phase, and most sensationally, the planning-who-to-tar-and-feather-for-this-whole-fiasco phase.

Two things we should think about looking ahead:

Disinformation is here to stay. Given that world leaders and state apparatuses at large have been guilty of this for the past five years or so, it’s not surprising at all that the sword of untruth has been wielded these past few months to silence dissent and rally wavering political foundations.

One thing though is now different. Continue reading “on truth and blame”

flood

How do you act when the world is ending?

I imagine that when the flood comes, we all, one way or another, like to see ourselves as Noah. We stand tall, we have the answers.We have the bigass boat. We’re Kipling’s man in the storm, we’ll weather it while everyone else loses their minds. Continue reading “flood”

on tough laws

“I respect tough laws. Back home if you steal they’ll cut off your hand. So nobody steals.”

So a Palestinian coffee shop owner (perhaps rather stereotypically) vented his frustration to me. A homeless lady had come into his establishment earlier in the day, she’d pretended to look at the menu, and when his back was turned she’d grabbed some muesli bars and drinks and made a run for it. He caught her, but much to his shock the police refused to do anything about it. Less than ten quid meant no charges apparently. So the lady was let off (having pocketed some of the food) and the owner was told to go back to his business. Continue reading “on tough laws”

on glory

I’ve seen glory in Berlin. They keep their streets clean there despite the odd graffiti. They speak English there because why not. They remember their past because leaflets line the streetlamps saying Fuck The AFD. They remember their past because ruins grab rudely toward the sky alongside chrome towers, because the fruits of war need to be seen as much as the fruits of peace. Continue reading “on glory”

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