Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Holy Spirit in the World Today

On May 20th & 21st this year, we're organising a conference at Holy Trinity Brompton on 'the Holy Spirit in the World Today.' It's hosted by St Paul's Theological Centre and St Mellitus College along with HTB, and we have a pretty stellar line-up of speakers. Jurgen Moltmann is coming over from Tubingen, Miroslav Volf from Yale, David Ford from Cambridge, and Rowan Williams from down the road in Lambeth. Add to that Tom Smail as the grand old man of Pneumatology, Tom Greggs from Chester and a host of others doing seminars, and it promises to be a fantastic time.

I'm convinced Pneumatology is theology for the twenty-first century. The Spirit connects us into God, transforms division into unity, renews the face of the earth and revives the church. Those all sound to me like things we need rather badly in our world, let alone the church, so looking at the theology of the Spirit is just what the doctor ordered right now. To book in, go to http://www.htb.org.uk/conferences/holy-spirit-world-today - It's filling up fast, so book your place now!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Worship and Sacrifice

In our church we were recently debating the needs of different worshippers. Do we remove the chairs, leaving a more relaxed atmosphere, with space to move around, lie on the floor, or keep them in, respecting the needs of older people (like me) who need a chair to rest their creaking limbs?

It got me thinking about the relationship between worship and sacrifice. Old Testament sacrifices were not only made to atone for sin - they were often acts and offerings of worship. Pagan worship in New Testament times also took the form of sacrifice to the gods. And although Christian worship assumes the prior once-only sacrifice of Christ, it still involves sacrifice, if Romans 12 is anything to go by. Worship does benefit us - it inspires us to devotion, restores perspective etc. but perhaps that is only a secondary function of worship. Perhaps the primary aspect of worship is sacrifice - the giving up of my own energy, time, desires, preferences, to offer something to God that costs me something because it is worth something. So perhaps the main act of worship I offer when I come to gather with my fellow Christians is when I engage with a form of worship that actually I find hard, or when I give up a level of comfort that I would prefer for the sake of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, or even those on the fringes of the church, who love to worship that way - to enable them to gain some of the benefit that worship can bring.

If I am honest, although often I love it, at other times I struggle with loud contemporary music at every service and long for a little quiet Book of Common Prayer, or classical orchestral music (not the organ, please!). Yet I'm also aware mine is a minority and perhaps antiquated taste in contemporary culture. Perhaps my main act of worship is precisely NOT to insist on my preferred style and instead be willing to enter into a worship style that others find helpful and meaningful. Of course there are limits to this - we need to keep the balance between the elements of benefit (beneficium) and sacrifice (sacrificium) in worship. But if worship is an offering of something valuable, something we do ultimately for God's sake not for our own, then what we give up in worship may be more significant than what we gain.

Why Freedom is not what you think it is

I have always struggled to understand what Christians mean by freedom. There is quite a lot in the Old  Testament  about  Israel  as free...