Sunday, 11 May 2014

'Home'

What do we mean when we use the word ‘home’? Often we seem to mean dwelling or place, but surely a home is much more. My wife and I sold our house recently and said to friends a number of times ‘we sold our home’. But did we? Surely our home was more than the bricks and mortar and the land on which they stood. We are now living in a small apartment at New College before moving to another house. It is nothing like our old house, and yet it feels like ‘home’. We’re happy being together with a small smattering of our possessions. What makes this small apartment feel like home? Surely, in large part, that my wife and I are together in this place. But what if you are the sole occupant of your residence? Is it still home? Can a person living alone be at home? Of course! So home must be more than just a dwelling or cohabitation.

We also use the word ‘home’ to speak of our nation or ‘land’. For Indigenous Australians connection with the land is something that leads them to speak of ‘home country’, a place associated with continuous occupation by their ancestors. Such places are intertwined with shared history and stories. Newcomers to any country can take time to feel at home, and immigrants can long for landscapes lost. Travellers returning to their place of birth also speak of going home and mean more than just a place. Rather ‘home’ means nation, cultural identity, and connection with race and ethnicity. Separation from one’s nation can cause alienation and a sense of loss.

The Israelites experienced what it meant to be aliens and strangers at the hands of the Assyrians. The Psalmist wrote of their experiences:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:1-4)

The longing of the Israelites is similar to the longing we have, to be in a place where we can sing our own ‘songs of joy’ with those we love. But more than this, the foundation of this longing for home is rooted in our relationship to God. True ‘home’, as God planned it, is a place of opportunity for fellowship with him, and service that brings glory to him. It is also a place where we can know love, peace, kindness and grace, and in turn understand the need to share this with others.

Graeme Goldsworthy
This idea of longing for home is a key theme in the latest issue of Case magazine published by CASE. There are a number of essays that explore the theme. One piece by Graeme Goldsworthy traces ‘home’ from Eden, through the wanderings of exile, to the New Jerusalem, an eternal home unlike the transient and decaying dwellings of our world.

Alison Payne explores the language of homesickness. This is a sense of disconnection, ‘rootlessness’, loss of shared cultural understanding, and a longing for common stories that bind us together. An echo of Eden lost, which one day will be restored. This longing may account for the distorted ideas of home we find around us—if it could just be bigger, have polished floors, a pool—maybe then we would be satisfied.

In another essay Gordon Menzies and Susan Thorp remind us, a house can become an idol rather than a foretaste of heaven. And at the other end of the spectrum, Michelle Waterford explains that the Australian housing crisis means that finding a place to live is an increasing problem for many people, Internationally, we also see thousands forced from their homes due to persecution, war, and natural disaster. Those of us who live in safety and sufficiency have the opportunity to show hospitality to those in need.

Finally, Erin Goheen Glanville examines the metaphor of ‘hospitality’ and calls for a refreshed understanding of the concept. Christians are to show hospitality to refugees. That is, as strangers we are to help strangers.

The Bible reminds us that while we can experience ‘home’ in this life, ultimately our true home is a heavenly one. In this life we may experience a sense of belonging in nations, places and homes—though many are denied even this—but our true ‘citizenship’ is in heaven (Phil 3:20). One day we will be fellow citizens with God’s people in his heavenly household with Christ as the cornerstone (Eph 2:19-22). We will dwell together, bound by a love founded on and in Christ. This is an experience of belonging that passes understanding and can never be realised in our attempts to capture some sense of what it means to be at ‘home’ on earth.

Subscribers to Case should now have this issue. Individuals can subscribe to receive four issues per year (in hard or soft copy) for as little as $20 AUD per annum. Institutions can subscribe for $120 per annum (there is a special rate for schools and churches). You can also purchase single issues online. Explore all the options HERE

Monday, 28 April 2014

Yes is the new Maybe

A Post by Ben Gooley


Two team members arrived at our meeting with a pizza in each hand. I asked where the food came from and they explained that the event they’d just come from had unwisely catered based on the number of Facebook RSVPs.
 
“But, you know, ‘yes’ is the new ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe’ is the new ‘no’, so we all ate and there was still a whole pizza left over for each person who actually came.”


To what extent is this shift a reality, and what are we to make of the shift in meaning for the RSVP?

Late last year, Henry Alford mused on the issue in The New York Times: How the Internet has Changed the R.S.V.P., in a piece that was careful to scatter blame liberally but only lightly. Alford acknowledged the reality of the shift, and its unfortunate nature, but largely saw it as an inevitable consequence of the transition to the ease of the electronic medium for invitations.  Facebook itself has perhaps recognised the problem, now using ‘join’ for those wanting to indicate a positive response to an event invitation. Christians are far from immune from this societal drift. 

What might a Christian response be? Jesus told his disciples
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matt 5:37 ESV). 
James expands slightly on this when he writes
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12 ESV)

That seems pretty straightforward, except that I suspect many of those who use ‘yes’ to mean ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe’ to mean ‘no’, do so in an attempt to be gracious to those inviting them.  Rather than appear negative by actively and publically declining an event without their reason being clear, indicating ‘maybe’ offers a way to try to show some level of support without committing to actually making the event.  This is a potentially fraught approach, but does offer some scope for giving a public response which can be followed up privately with more detail.

Similarly, joining a large, anonymous event without actually following through by attendance may not have particular negative relational consequences and is perhaps justifiable in certain contexts.  However, responding ‘yes’, or joining an event for which your response has relational and planning implications for the event organiser, but then not attending, seems to be a fundamental breach of trust.  This would appear to fall foul of the principle behind the texts above.

The Christian should be one whose word can be trusted, and whose pledge is solid.  Christians are those who have staked their life on the promises of the One they deem faithful and so godliness is reflected in their own faithfulness to their commitments.  While there will remain times when circumstances overtake a genuine commitment – illness and honest misadventure – the Christian showing the fruit of the Spirit will exhibit faithfulness among their works (Gal 5:22).

There may be legitimate contexts in which ‘maybe’ can be used in place of ‘decline’ and where ‘join’ can be used in place of ‘maybe’.  But the Christian ought to take care that their integrity is maintained.  Paul’s words to Titus still ring true:
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 ESV).

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Taking the time to be a Father

Post by Edwina Hine

Lately, I found the following article (German vice-chancellor takes time off to be a dad, The Guardian) very interesting.  As I was reading it, I was reminded of Case Magazine #12 with the theme 'Family Foundations: What’s important for marriage, parenthood and family life.'

In Case Magazine #12  Professor Trevor Cairney writes about families, and in particular The Role of Fathers: Aligning biblical wisdom and research. It is an in-depth look at fatherhood and explores many issues that affect parents particularly dads. In the essay he sets out with two central aims.

To encourage fathers (and mothers) "...to develop an understanding of what God expects of fathers as men of God; and, second, to encourage further discussion relating to how we can work at reshaping our lives so that those of us who are fathers spend time with our families, loving them, teaching them, instructing them in God’s ways and modelling what it means to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Photo sourced from SMH
Prof Cairney draws on demographic research to illustrate the changing structure of the family, and discusses how changes in employment patterns have impacted on the family. He discusses how research suggests that changing working patterns are having many adverse effects on families. In particular, highlights that atypical hours of work are problematic with negative impacts on health, relationships, families and children’s well being. He also reminds us what the bible teaches on God-centred families and in particular fathers.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4

The article referenced in this blog post is available as a free download from the CASE Website. CASE Associates receive Case magazine 4 times per year as part of their benefits. For blog followers who are yet to be CASE Associates you can sign up HERE or order a single copy HERE.

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Heavens Declare His Glory

Guest post written by Patrick Chan

Recently my wife Vivian and I went to the Sydney Observatory at night for our first wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful experience. We managed to learn a bit about astronomy, but we also had a real sense of the 'heavens declaring the glory of God'.

Today, the Sydney Observatory is in the middle of the city near the Rocks, where the First Fleet landed. However, it's set atop a hill so we could see the southern hemisphere's constellations - or at least some of them. Of course, we could see far more - and far more clearly - than if we happened to be in the Central Business District (CBD) or city centre or downtown of Sydney.

Nevertheless, the Sydney Observatory has not functioned as a research facility for several decades primarily due to its location which predisposes it to heavy light pollution. The city lights outshine the starry nights.

Perhaps because we both hadn't been out to simply stare and take in the skies at night in quite some time, we were taken aback by the sheer beauty of it all. Let alone when we peered through the observatory's telescopes and were able to observe celestial objects like the planet Venus and the Moon. And yet, we had to be warned by the astronomer not to expect Venus, for instance, to look anything near as lovely as a digital photograph, and to be reminded that the real privilege lay in seeing the real Venus with our naked eye as well as via a telescope.

Above: Image courtesy of Wiki Commons


As I said, it was all a sight to behold, and it filled us with a sense of awe and humble praise to the Lord God who has "set his glory in the heavens," who, when we considered "the work of [his] fingers, the moon and the stars, which [he has] set in place," in turn echoed in our hearts, "what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps 8).

Indeed, the moon and the stars serve as fixed points in the present night sky, rotating in concentric circles around the south pole in the music of the spheres, some dipping under the horizon only to rise again in full crescendo. But though they're 'fixed' points, they're not permanently fixed, for the heavenly vault looks different now than it did in days gone past, and distant generations in future millennia to come will see what Vincent Van Gogh or Caspar David Friedrich did not.

Above: 'Starry Night Over the Rhone' Vincent van Gogh (courtesy Wiki Commons)

What Viv and I saw left us with great reverence for God. I can only imagine what previous generations of Christians must have seen, and how it affected them, for I suppose most would not have been city dwellers accustomed to skies occupied by skyscrapers and silence pushed out by the constant hum and background noise. I doubt they would have had to work so hard to peer beyond the fog and daze to see the cosmos glittering with its splendid gems and crystals. Perhaps they had a different, 'better' weight of glory to bear.