Revelation 21: 1-6

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once declared that “money is human happiness in the abstract”.[1]  By this, he meant that many people, unable to articulate a sense of their own happiness in concrete terms, often transfer this sense to money: they invest in money all those qualities and ideals which they associate with happiness.  The frequent result of this transference is the conviction that unless one has money, one cannot be happy; but the unintended consequence is often that even when we have money, we are not happy, because we are plagued by a gnawing sense of never having enough money, and of therefore being insufficiently happy. Continue reading “Revelation 21: 1-6”

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John 10: 22-30

I’d like to draw your attention to two symphonies, which also happen to be two pieces of music of which I am personally quite fond.  The first is Ludwig van Beethoven’s 6th Symphony; the second is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 3rd Symphony.  Most people who’ve heard either or both of these symphonies describe the dominant mood or feeling which they associate with these works as “idyllic”; and most people are therefore often not surprised when they discover (if they did not know beforehand) that both these symphonies are known as “pastoral” symphonies, and are said to reflect a romantic attachment to the landscape, environment, and lives of those who lived in rural Germany and England in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Continue reading “John 10: 22-30”

John 21: 1-19

In the last couple of weeks, we have been wrestling with the mystery of the Resurrection, trying to grasp how we, as Christians living in the 21st century, are to understand this pivotal event in the formation of the Christian understanding of God.  On Easter Sunday, we explored how Jesus’ resurrection was more than just a memory of the impact which Jesus had on the life of the disciples; we explored how, in the Resurrection, the dimension of God breaks into the dimension of human existence, making for us a promise of the transformation of human life through its consummation into the life of God.  And last week we explored the hope which Christians derive from that promise, which is not the false hope of a sublimely comfortable afterlife, but of the eternal presence of God in human life and death; a presence which relativises the power of evil and which has the final word in human history, long after all other words and voices have been silenced. Continue reading “John 21: 1-19”

Revelation 1: 4-8 (indirectly, John 20: 19-31)

The 19th century American politician, Robert Green Ingersoll, once said that hope was “the universal liar”.  In so saying, Ingersoll described the way in which hope – or, more correctly, false hope – is often used by the unscrupulous to defraud the vulnerable, to keep them emotionally (and often, financially) invested in a situation well beyond the point when it would be prudent to withdraw.  In other words, hope is often used to flog a dead horse, to keep untenable situations staggering on well past their use-by date.  And the result is often that it is not the purveyors of hope who end up losing everything and coming out of things embittered and angry, but those who had misguidedly placed their hopes and trust in them. Continue reading “Revelation 1: 4-8 (indirectly, John 20: 19-31)”

Easter Reflection 2013

In his book, Fundamentalism and Freedom, the Scottish minister Peter Cameron recalls an occasion when, during a radio interview, he quoted a remark by the theologian Rudolf Bultmann to the effect that somewhere in Palestine the bones of Jesus lay rotting.  Cameron records that, as a consequence of doing so, he was bombarded by furious letters and messages from many Christians who argued, not just for belief in a literal, bodily resurrection (and for an insistence on the historicity of the “empty tomb” which such belief requires), but that without such a belief, Christianity was pointless[1]. Continue reading “Easter Reflection 2013”