Thursday, June 28, 2012

Technical difficulties

The long silence on this blog is because I can no longer access my blog at all via the library's computers. (I am currently using my neighbor's.) But all is well with us and when I get this all sorted out, I'll begin posting again. We've had some excellent adventures of late.

Friday, June 8, 2012

England 2012

Last week we had what the locals here think of as hot weather, up around 70 or more, Fahrenheit. This week we're back to the more usual rain, or rather, a fine mist, just enough to need an umbrella, maybe. But Monday was still mostly sunny, and a Bank Holiday besides, in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. So we decided to give our 'new' car its first work-out by driving into North Wales.

We are still learning about operating a car in the UK. For example, we have had no idea what it means when the white lines at the edges of the road turn into zig-zags near intersections. Dimitrios surmises it means 'stay in your lane', which seems reasonable. I've just now, while typing this, looked it up on the Internet, so now I know, and will tell my husband, what it really means: no stopping, no letting off or picking up of passengers, no blocking of this area in any way. We have also learned how the 'Pay and Display' car parks work, and where some of them are located here in Ormskirk.

Anyway, We took a leisurely drive into North Wales and found that the further you get into Wales, the more beautiful it becomes. We drove from just past the Wirral peninsula along the coastline as far as Colwyn Bay. Right about there is where the landscape began to look as I've always imagined it would: craggy and blue. And green.

Our destination, though, was the Church of St. Trillo, which by much asking, we eventually found. It is a tiny stone structure right on the stony beach, holding six worshippers or, we are told, up to 22 if they are all standing and all willing to be quite friendly. Hard to believe that. It's reputed to be the smallest church in Great Britain.

We had no idea who St. Trillo had been, or even whether he was Orthodox, meaning even whether he really was a saint. But we agreed the place had a decided feel of holiness about it. Sure enough, I now find, on the Internet, that St. Trillo was a 6th Century bishop and missionary. And prince. That seems to be about all that is known about him. See To see pictures of this charming chapel, with a bit more info about it, see

There was a square hole under the altar, which we wondered about, and now discover is a holy well. Don't know the story behind that, but regret we didn't know that and collect a bottle of the water.

I'm also hapopy to report that both the driving and the navigating went very well, so we had no repetition of last year's trauma. This car is smaller, for one thing. And we didn't need any city maps, for another.

So we had a delicious little taste of Wales to whet our appetites and make us want to spend more time seeing more of it.

Love Wins, Part 05

The other day, at our Bible study/knitting group, the deaconess, Alsion, commented that heaven is going to be right here on earth; God has promised to created a new heaven and a new earth, and they will be the same place.

Rob Bell reiterates this at some length on his chapter on heaven. I wondered why it matters to much to them. (It doesn't much to me; I'm not sure any actual 'place' is a category applicable to heaven, given that our bodies will be like Christ's resurrected and glorified one.) Turns out, the concern is that “If you believe that you’re going to leave and evacuate to somewhere else, then why do anything about this world? A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it…” (p. 46)

??????????? What about love? We minister to the world for love of it. What about communion with God? We minister to the world as part of our communion with God, who ministers to it. It surprises me that, for Rob Bell, apparently a real incentive has to have 'something in it for me'. That's what we call 'fleshly' thinking, and unfortunately it dogs this book throughout.

Anyway, here's the argument he makes, upon which I'll have another comment at the end.


The prophet Isaiah said that in that new day
”the nations will stream to” Jerusalem,
and God will
”settle disputes for many peoples”;
people will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks (chap. 2).

As we would say,
Peace on earth.

Isaiah said that everybody will walk
“in the light of the Lord”
“they will neither harm or destroy”
In that day.

The earth, Isaiah said, will be
“filled with the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea” (chap. 11)
He described
“a feast of rich food for all peoples”
Because God will
“destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
The sheet that covers all nations.
He will swall up death forever.”
God “will wipe away the tears from all faces”;
And “remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth”
(chap. 25).

The prophet Ezekiel said that people will be given grain and fruit and crops and new hearts and new spirits (chap. 36).

The prophet Amos promised that everything will be repaired and restored and rebuild and
“new wine will drip from the mountains” (chap. 9).

Life in the age to come
If this sounds like heaven on earth,
That’s because it is.

* * * of the most striking aspects of the pictures the prophets used to describe this reality is how earthly it is. Wine and crops and grain and people and feasts and buildings and homes. It’s here they were talking about, this world, the one we know—but rescued, transformed, and renewed.

When Isaiah predicted that spears would become pruning hooks, that’s a reverence to cultivating. Pruning and trimming and growing and paying close attention to the plants and whether they’re getting enough water and if their roots are deep enough. Soil under the fingernails, grapes being tramples under bard feet, fingers sticky from handling fresh fruit.

It’s that green stripe you get around the sole of your shoes when you mow the lawn

Life in the age to come.


Notice how Pastor Bell confuses the ages. He has only got two in mind, one that exists from the beginning of creation through now, and the other which is to begin when Jesus returns and will last forever. He forgets, or doesn't acknowledge, that Jesus already ushered in a new age in His first coming. His message was, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand'. It's here; it's now, even though it is to be consummate only when He comes again. But even now, we have the new wine dripping from the mountains, and the new grain - think Holy Communion - and new hearts and new spirits filled with the knowledge of God Christ imparted to us by the sending of the Holy Spirit into us. Christ has already destroyed death by His own death.

So some of these prophecies are about the age of the Church, the here and now, while others are earthy metaphors for the age still to come, and Bell needs to distinguish these.

I also fail to see how separating heaven from earth in time doesn't pose the same problem Bell thinks he sees in separating them spatially.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Love Wins, Part 04

Here are some more provocative questions for Evangelicals from Rob Bell, about the story of the Rich Young Ruler who asked Jesus how he could enter into enternal life.


The rich man’s question…is the perfect opportunity for Jesus to give a clear, straightforward answer to the only question that ultimately matters for many.

First, we can only assume, he’ll correct the man’s flawed understanding of how salvation works. He’ll show the man how eternal life isn’t something he has to earn or work for; it’s a free gift of grace.

Then, he’ll invite the man to confess, repent, trust, accept, and believe that Jesus has made a way for him to have a relationship with God.

Like any good Christian would.

Jesus, however, doesn’t do any of that.

He asks the man,”Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Enter life?”

Jesus refers to the man’s intention as “entering life”? And then he tells him that you do that by keeping the commandments? That wasn’t what Jesus was supposed to say.

* * *

Shouldn’t Jesus have given a clear answer to the man’s obvious desire to know how to go to heaven when he dies? Is that why he walks away—because Jesus blew a perfectly good “evangelistic” opportunity? How does such a simple question—one Jesus could have answered so clearly from a Christian perspective—turn into such a convoluted dialogue involving commandments and treasures and wealth and ending with the man walking away?

The answer,
It turns out,
is in the question.


(Did you notice the apparent contradiction between the second and third paragraphs? Of course, someone of the Reformed persuasion would resolve that by saying it is not the human being doing the confessing, repenting, trusting, accepting, or believing; it is God working in him. Why God should work in some, without their wanting it, but not work in others, is a question you aren't supposed to ask, because it isn't all supposed to conform to mere logic.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Love Wins, Part 03: Questions About Heaven

…and my personal answers; your mileage may vary

What will we do all day?

We will be continuously overwhelmed with joy, with love, with gratitude. We will rejoice in deep communion with one another and with God in Christ. We will do all the things God does all day. (There won’t literally be time, of course.) We shall be included in the divine perichoresis, which is the circulation, or circumincession, of the Divine Love among the Persons of the Holy Trinity. We shall be co-creators with God. We shall look upon creation with perfect satisfaction and say, with God, “It is very good.” We shall exult in our own being, the sheer joy of it, and the being of everyone and everything else, in all our glory, or rather, all radiant with God’s own glory.

Will we recognize people we used to know?


What will it be like?

Jesus taught it would be like a feast. Not just any feast, but a wedding feast. And not just any wedding feast, but that of a king, a royal wedding feast. The biggest, most lavish, best party ever.

Will there be dogs there?

How could you even ask? OF COURSE there will be dogs there, and cats! And fleas, and ticks. But all transfigured, all perfect, and living in perfect harmony and harmlessness. This is what I believe, anyway. God did not create His handiwork, any of it, for destruction or to be consigned to oblivion.

But I say this with one caveat: the things of this earth may bear the same relationship to the things of heaven as the Law of Moses did to Perfect Love; that is, the things of earth may be types or icons of what is infinitely better to come. If perchance there are no literal dogs in the age to come, there will certainly be all that each dog ever meant, except unimaginably better and more beloved.

In fact, perhaps it is correct to say Jesus Himself will be the summation and fulfillment of all things, Alpha and Omega.

How could I ever rejoice in heaven if my dog or cat or spouse or other dear one were not there?

First we must note that when speaking of heaven and hell, we use spatial metaphors to designate conditions. Heaven is being one with God in Christ, in a sense more intimate than a vine is one with its branches or a head is one with its body; hell is not being one with God at all. Heaven and hell are conditions of people already here and now, becoming fully manifest and consummate in the next life. So it’s not a question of “where” anybody will be so much as in what state, whether in love or in hatred, whether in love or in egotism, whether in love or in bitterness, etc. Those in love, in bliss, will neither wish nor be able to share the miserable state of those mired in hatred, egotism, bitterness; that is the great chasm that cannot be bridged.

Next, we notice that the question presupposes a very earthly, fleshly sort of love, such as any pagan bears to his family and friends. But whoever makes it to heaven will ipso facto have acquired True Love. True Love contains no element of “me, me, me”. That’s why when we have True Love, we forgive those who offend us and love our enemies. In other words, True Love is concerned with the other person only for his or her own sake, and not for the sake of any pleasure (or displeasure) the other person might bring to me. Another way of saying the same thing is, True Love, although it does not exclude emotions, is not based upon them. It is primarily a spiritual function rather than an emotional one. We shall have the joy of loving the other forever as God does, without feeling injured by his not wanting it or reciprocating it.

Orthodox spirituality teaches us that those in hell can find some ease of their sufferings, some respite, when we are praying for them or otherwise showing compassion toward them.

And who knows? We do not even know for sure whether there is anybody, or will be anybody, in hell. Or if there are, who is to say human beings stay there forever? Even if hell exists forever because it is for the devil and his angels, that’s not to say there have to be any people in it forever. It wasn’t meant for them, after all. Maybe, just maybe, we shall have the unimaginable joy of sharing in God’s work, and His success, in bringing home every single lost sheep.

Friday, 01 June 2012

This morning was probably the most exciting our little town of Ormskirk has had in years: the Olympic Torch passed through.

Now to me this did not seem like a particularly big deal, but as it was to pass directly behind our block of flats, I thought I’d better go along to see it anyway. Something to write home about, and anyway, how often do you get to see this? So, with our neighbor Agnes, her sister Anna, and another neighbor I met the other day, Joan, I joined the crowd.

It was a lot more exciting than I had expected, just because in a crowd, excitement is contagious. And we were near a lot of school children cheering their silly heads off as school children love to do, and pre-school children dancing and hopping all around and waving their Union Jacks. The Lord Mayor turned out to welcome the torch at Coronation Park, where arts and sports events are scheduled throughout today. Policemen and women rode by on their motorcycles, waving at the crowd, which cheered for them, too, for no particular reason except they were all hyped up. A helicopter flew overhead.

And then the torch-bearing runner passed us and a few moments later it was all over. Nothing great had really happened at all, and yet it was so exciting that momentarily, I even had a lump in my throat. Isn’t that interesting, such a huge emotional reaction to such a small happening. Demetrios says the Olympic Torch was originally Hitler’s idea. Well, it goes to show Hitler certainly did know how to do propaganda!

Demetrios, who had gone off to the library at Edge Hill University to do some writing, also saw the Torch on his way there. He says there were folk dances on campus to celebrate the Torch and he was asked to join in one of them, which he did.

Today is only the kick-off to a long weekend of celebrations; people are off work Monday and Tuesday in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. (She was crowned 60 years ago on 02 June.) The celebrations of Her Majesty’s Jubilee are on-going all year, but this weekend is billed as the centerpiece.

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to fulfill my life-long dream of seeing the Queen, but braving the crowds in London for this weekend’s events doesn’t seem bearable just for the sake of seeing the Queen as a speck on the horizon, and that’s even before we consider what a hotel room anywhere near London will cost during these four or five days or what train schedules may be like on a Bank Holiday. (You do not, not, not want to drive a car into London!) Anyway, I’ve figured out, rather to my surprise, my dream is actually not just seeing the Queen, which I can do better on television. Not, it’s having her see me, if only for the merest moment. Sigh… Some things should ideally be done earlier in life. Going back to thank your schoolteachers is another one of those things; you really need to do that before you reach the age of, say, 50.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Secret of the Universe

There are certain basic questions, answers to which any religious organization must provide if it is to survive. Otherwise it will not matter how much fun you provide to the people who walk through your door - or how colorful or solemn your ritual may be. People ultimately aren't looking for those things. They are looking for the answers to life's deepest questions. These questions include: What is man? Who am I? Where did I/we come from? Where am I/are we going? Why am I/are we here? What is the meaning of life? Why is there something instead of nothing? St. Paul writes that this is the mystery from before all the ages, now revealed in Christ.