Tag Archive | law

Second Sunday of Epiphany

The following are my scattered thoughts on the CW lectionary passages for the second Sunday of Epiphany, Year C, 17th January 2016. It is a Bible study rather than a sermon, but if anybody finds my notes of use in drawing up their own sermon, I would be very happy for you to make use of them. (Do let me know if you do!)


Psalms/ Canticles: Psalms 36:5-10
Old Testament: Isaiah 62:1-5
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Gospel Reading: John 2:1-11


The Wedding at Cana is significant as Jesus’ first miracle and the inauguration of his ministry. But it can also be understood as representing two Covenants by the water and the wine, the wine signifying the New Covenant which is made between God, Judah and the whole house of Israel (that is, the Jewish people and all those whom God will call to himself).

Jesus’ mother (John never refers to her name as Mary) may be understood as representing the Jewish people in general, and the Levitical priesthood in particular (she is a Levi by family bloodline) , whereas we are told in Hebrews 7 that Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. She draws Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine and directs to servants to do whatever Jesus asks them to, and he tells them to fill the jars with water which he transforms into wine.

Water is often significant in scripture and generally represents life, especially spiritual life, and may also be understood as representing the Torah, which in Judaism is referred to as ‘The Tree of Life’. In Messianic Jewish thought, Jesus is called the Tree of Life, or the Living Torah.

So what is wine that it would be more desirable and preferable to life itself? Well, the Hebrew word for wine is yayin (Strong’s Hebrew word no. 3196) from an unused root yayanto ferment or to effervesce, and so the wine may be understood as containing good yeast, that is, the Holy Spirit.

If we look back to the first explicit mention of the New Covenant, in Jeremiah 31:31-34, it is a Covenant in which God will write the law (the Torah) on people’s hearts. This can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting that Jesus tells his mother in response, “My hour is not yet come.” Does he mean that it is too early for his ministry to start? Or is it perhaps referring to the fact that the New Covenant cannot be fully inaugurated yet, not until the coming of the Holy Spirit, after his death?


The passage in Isaiah is a very beautiful passage, of obvious Messianic significance (and by Messianic I mean both pertaining to Jewish believers and relating to the Messiah) but I’m not entirely sure why that particular passage was selected as I’m not immediately seeing the connection. If anybody has any ideas on this, I would be interested!

The New Testament passage in 1 Corinthians relates to spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit imparts to the church.

The passage from Psalm 36 is on the topic of God’s love, but it refers to drinking from the ‘river of delights’,  the ‘fountain of life’, which can be seen to reflect the same topic of water as life, but here it is linked to the love of God.


Collect: Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new; transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory:
Through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

 

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Study Plans for 2016

I haven’t done any formal studying for a while now. Something went wrong with the funding for my OU course and, since I didn’t really get on with DD101 (I know I passed, but I never had any feedback or a score or anything) and for a whole host of other reasons, I won’t be picking it up again any time soon. But as it turned out, we had a really bad year which made not studying a good thing, I could not have coped with study deadlines at the same time.

I changed my OU degree from Q69, Combined Social Science, to an Open Degree, but nothing really appeals at the moment. So if I do pick it up again, I don’t know what direction I will go in. I wasn’t impressed with the way the OU worked, the materials, the tutor, and it felt like a waste of time, money and effort.

I had been considering the possibilities of studying Theology (which obviously would necessitate moving to another college anyway, St John’s Nottingham is an online option) – firstly in the hope of following the vocation of the priesthood, and secondly as a back-up plan, I could use it for teaching (primary or secondary) or alternatively as a chaplain of some sort or another (hospital/ school/ college/ military).

All of those possible paths have stumbling blocks – principally of the financial kind, and my health has been very poor this year, so I don’t know if I will even be able to take up a career any time soon even if I do manage to get qualified, I’ll be 45 this year, and I have already had 12 years of ME.
So at this point I’m just shrugging my shoulders and letting it all wash over me and trying not to care or worry.

A (virtual) friend of mine with ME started a Law Degree a few years ago. I can’t imagine how you would manage that with this illness, but he seemed to. I took an intro to Law (a 10 point OU course) It wasn’t hard, but it didn’t exactly thrill me!

But in an effort to ensure that my brain doesn’t turn to mush, I will probably start looking into what’s available to study informally this year again. I don’t like the idea that schools, colleges and universities act as the gate-keepers of knowledge. The whole qualification and student finance game seems like a big racket to me.

I have previously bought OU materials to study on my own without going through the rigmarole of the course and the debt. I have even toyed with the idea of studying medicine just for the fun of it. It might come in handy, you never know.

Do any of you have recommendations for any good courses coming up? So many books! So little time! 🙂

More thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling

Following on from my earlier post which looked at the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage from a liberty / legal / government / democracy point of view, I said I would post again looking at the ruling from a religious / moral perspective.

I haven’t waded into the debate on homosexuality previously, because I feel inherently out of my depth and ill-equipped to make a coherent argument that is both loving and faithful.

I think that this has been the church’s own trouble in this issue – the inability to disagree in a loving way.

I have seen some very ‘black and white’ comments (in contrast to the shades of grey, or rainbow if you prefer) using words like, ‘sin’, ‘righteousness’, ‘wickedness’, ‘abomination’ and suchlike. These are Biblical words of course, but they’re not terribly helpful here.

Sin is a word loaded with baggage of years of oppressive church imposition of morality by way of guilt and shame, which actually are in a way antithetical to New Testament Christianity which is supposed to be all about a heart-change and love.

So what does it mean? The Westminster catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God”.

So why would the law of God, who defines himself as unchangeably and fundamentally good, as Love incarnate, legislate against homosexuality?

The tendency recently has been to view homosexuality and gay marriage as a question of love. How can you possibly legislate against an emotion, a thought, and how can love ever be morally wrong? Of course it would be a nonsense. Israel’s King David loved his friend Jonathan, and Jewish tradition has it that it was exactly the kind of love that we’re talking about here.

But I don’t think that love is the real issue. David’s love for Jonathan was never depicted as a sin, because it was a feeling, an emotion. As passionate as it may have been, there was never any suggestion of lust or a physical or sexual consumation of that love.

So the law is not against love, but the physical, sexual act of love in a relationship that is outside of the boundaries of what is considered appropriate (or what you might say is outside of the design for sex and sexuality, which is ultimately reproduction.) And of course, there is a long list of which relationships are deemed inappropriate for sexual acts.

As I have mentioned before, Biblical law, the Torah, is traditionally divided into three in Christianity – civil, ceremonial and moral, and laws on sexual behaviour are considered part of the moral law which was traditionally considered binding on Christians, while the rest was rejected.

More recently, in the last century particularly, the moral law has begun to be thrown off as well. I won’t go into the theological reasons for this shift, but suffice to say only the more conservative denominations have rejected this abandonment of traditional morals (although, somewhat inconsistently I would say).

At the same time, the idea of God designing sex, people and the world as part of creation has also been eroded, so the idea that there are boundaries to sexual activity inherent in the design of creation no longer holds much sway even with most Christians.

So it could be said that the two most basic Christian arguments against homosexuality are no longer considered valid, either by the world or the church. That is certainly the logical position we find ourselves in.

Now, although I would tend to be very conservative in some respects – accepting the two premises above which are now generally rejected, I do however realise that gender, sex and sexuality are complex and complicated, and a lot less ‘black and white’ than the Bible and conservative Christians seem to portray them.

From a liberty perspective, I’m very uncomfortable allowing the government to be the arbiter of rights and liberties and prioritise the liberties of one group or individual over another’s. Where it is an adult, consensual relationship, I can’t see the government’s intrusion as legitimate.

From a religious perspective though, the government’s role would legitimately be to limit the ‘sin’ of the nation by legislating according to the moral law… But of course, we don’t have a Christian government.

I saw a post which said something along the lines of “banning my gay marriage because it’s against your religion is like banning my chocolate cake because you’re on a diet” in other words, it’s none of your business, get off my liberty! Well, yes.

In a post-Christian world, there is no obvious reason that would make Christians imposing their morality on others and limiting their morality legitimate.

So on most levels, I have no problem with loving, monogamous, consensual homosexuality, and I have no real problem with gay marriage, providing nobody forces anybody else to do, say or think anything they don’t want to.

But on a spiritual level, I can’t help wondering if there is more to it than what we see on the surface. If God is real, if God really created man and woman with a design, plan and purpose, and determined that there should be limitations on our sexual activity, are we wounding our spirits when we cross those boundaries? (And that wouldn’t apply only to homosexuality but to any kind of sexual activity outside the design – pre-marital, extra-marital, whatever.) Again, that’s not going to carry any weight of argument for anybody who has a different religious or spiritual perspective. But it gives me pause.

I have seen a few people saying that this ruling ‘has crossed the line’, leading America into some kind of gross immorality which will remove God’s blessing and protection on her. Personally, I think that line was crossed a long time ago with the Roe v Wade ruling. But that’s just me.

Thoughts on the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling

I’m seeing rainbows everywhere and it’s all very pretty…

But I’m curious to understand how the Supreme Court of the United States works, how did the case come before the Supreme Court, who brought the case, and is the granting of rights over all of the states the norm, or is it unprecedented? Is the Constitution affected in any way, and if so how?

I am wondering how the decision (that no state can deny marriage to a homosexual couple) affects the separation of church and state – does the ruling affect only civil weddings or religious weddings as well? If not, will the US take the next step, as the UK has, to permit gay marriage in churches? (If churches had decided to do it before the ruling, would the Government’s rules trump the churches? Would such weddings / marriages be declared illegitimate?)

Here in the UK we’re left with the ridiculous situation that only Anglican Churches are not permitted to conduct weddings for homosexual couples, not to mention the discrepancy between civil partnerships only being available to homosexuals, a situation which cannot possibly continue. The next logical and inevitable step is to declare, on equality grounds, that no churches are permitted to deny weddings to homosexuals.

That, like the ruling forcing businesses like Asher’s bakery and the bed & breakfast in Cornwall to do business against their conscience, would be a step too far, in my opinion, since it tramples on the rights of others to freedom of conscience amongst other things. But again, this is the inevitable logical conclusion when government is the arbiter of rights and liberties and has unfettered power to prioritise one group’s rights over another’s.

The permitting of rights, by the way, is antithetical to the very basis of UK law, which is grounded on the foundational idea that anything is permitted except that which is banned by government, as opposed to Napoleonic law which automatically bans anything which is not permitted by government – a very dangerous precedent and a very slippery slope. As I understand it (and I may be wrong, perhaps somebody can clarify this for me), this basic system of permitting rights is the US system as well.

And so then, more fundamentally, if the Supreme Court had ruled against gay marriage, how legitimate would that ruling be? (Was there an existing law banning gay marriage, or was it just automatically banned because it was previously not permitted?) At what point did the US Government become empowered to grant or deny rights? Do people even realise and understand the implications of it having such power?

If the Ireland vote a few weeks ago had ruled against gay marriage, the majority ruling against the rights of a minority, would that have been ok? Would it have been legitimate?

The whole idea that anybody should be permitted to vote against somebody else’s rights is troubling to say the least.

I saw a snippet of Rand Paul saying that the government ought to get out of the marriage business, and I’m inclined to agree (although I can’t find the exact quote, and I don’t know his reasons, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say I agree with him personally).

There’s a much bigger question about the role of Government, its boundaries, its legitimate powers, and I haven’t even touched upon the religious / spiritual dimension. That is perhaps for another post, when I have sorted through my thoughts.

Suffice to say that I’m uneasy about the whole idea of governments granting marriage licences (or refusing to do so), and on the other hand religious weddings aren’t, or perhaps shouldn’t be, the same entity as civil weddings. Of course there is no separation of church and state in the UK, so it’s all a bit more complicated.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts from a legal / liberty perspective. I hope it’s not too disjointed.