Tag Archives: Pentecostal

Etz Chayim – reaching for the Tree of Life

It has been almost a full year since I last posted on this blog. Much has happened. After almost 7 years of ‘wilderness wandering’, we finally have our own home again and are settled, albeit out in the rural wilds of north Cornwall, far away from any kind of Messianic fellowship or congregation. I am so thankful, so surprised with joy to receive such good fortune when we thought all was lost. But still I am terribly isolated and lonely and effectively alone in terms of religious fellowship.

I may have mentioned that I had been in search of some fellowship – any kind, really, but it was a very mixed bag of good and bad experiences.

I really liked the Anglican for its freedom of conscience, although there seemed to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish side of the faith and I had the particular bad fortune of being under a priest who had a real bee in his bonnet about evangelicals. The fact that I was verging on being an ‘ex-evangelical’ seemed not to temper his ire. As far as he seemed to be concerned, I was an idiot for ever countenancing such ideas. If anything, his attitude pushed me back into the fundamentalism I was trying to leave. (Freedom of conscience didn’t extend to evangelicals, as far as he was concerned.)

We also tried an independent Pentecostal group who said they were pro-Israel, but they turned out to be extremely negative, narrow-minded and fundamentalist in every way, and the Pentecostal displays of worship put some of my children off church entirely. After everything we have been through, I can hardly blame them.

In the end, I started going to a Salvation Army while my mother was living with us (only for 6 months as it turned out) and I have continued there although it’s far from ideal. Again, there seems to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity, and the occasional anti-semitic sermon is never a surprise. It takes a lot of energy to keep looking, so for now I am staying put. I can’t say that I am entirely happy, but they do at least put Christianity in action and reach out to the poorest of the poor.

I had wondered recently in what way I can still claim to be ‘Messianic’ – without fellowship or a believing husband to encourage me, the feasts and fasts and even a proper observation of Shabbat has fallen by the wayside. I wonder if I can ever get it back again.

I have made a very good friend online with a woman who had a very different experience of the Messianic movement, having first converted to Orthodox Judaism and come into Messianic Judaism from there rather than as I did, through evangelicalism. We disagree on many things, but her lack of Christian fundamentalism has been an eye-opener for me.

I also have a very good real-life friend who is not a believer, but who was raised in Orthodox Judaism. We have a surprising amount of experiences in common, and her friendship has been a real balm to my soul.

I have started thinking though in terms of abandoning the trappings of religious tradition entirely and instead reaching out for and trying to find the ‘Etz Chayim’, that is the Jesus/ Yeshua who embodies the Tree of Life, and ‘Ha Derek’, the Way itself, Himself.

Coming out of fundamentalism is a very emotional and difficult thing, and in a way I am having to start again and weigh everything up to see what is good and what is bad. That’s probably not a bad thing in itself.

I am trying to get to know the ‘real’ Yeshua from a different perspective now.

I am still at home, muddling through being a wife and homemaker/ housewife, still home educating my youngest.

So what is the future of this blog?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my Messianic identity, and I would love to be able to start again from scratch and incorporate more of the Jewish feasts and traditions into my life.

What I don’t want to do, however, is to fall back into the trap of legalism or fundamentalism. It wasn’t life-giving, it was a bottomless pit of darkness that I slipped into gradually without even realising I was doing it, and it nearly ate me up whole before I realised. What I need now is to find the good path, and the Tree of Life.

Advertisements

Romans 5:1-5

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Find this passage at Bible Gateway (you can choose other versions if you prefer)

As I may have mentioned, we recently moved house and my mother has moved in with us. Since I am not established in a particular church, we are starting to find a new church that would suit mum. So far we have tried Methodist and the Charismatic Pentecostal church I used to go to. These notes are from the passage that was preached on this last Sunday. I won’t try and turn it into any kind of coherent study, I’ll just post the notes I took and leave them for you to make of them what you will.

hope-painting

The topic of the sermon was hope and character.

  • “Jesus intercedes hope into our lives.”
  • Faith needs to be exercised (like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the bigger it grows).
  • Nothing is impossible with God.
  • We need to take our eyes off our reality and our problems (and fix our eyes upon Jesus).
  • If we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains.
  • Prayer will turn our problems into miracles, our ‘ashes’ into beauty.
  • Suffering produces perseverance which produces character.
  • Position yourself in a place of hope
  • Pursue character
  • Consider the story of Joseph.  In between his dream and its coming into fruition was suffering which produced character. It was the same with Moses and with David.
  • The enemy won’t attack you at the place of the dream, but at the place of character. That is our foundation.

The foundation of contending for Hope and Character:

  • Live Righteously
  • Know the Word, read, study, obey
  • Pray, spend time, be in the Presence
  • Surrender to His Will
  • Worship, praise

holiness-consecrate

  • Don’t wait for the breakthrough to pray, read, worship and live rightly. The breakthrough depends upon prayer, Word, worship and holiness. This is what ushers in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Don’t turn your back on God, turn your back on the problems.

First Sunday of Lent

I am running a week behind now, as life has got in the way. Around a couple of weeks of a roller-coaster of looking after a very poorly, elderly dog, we had to have him put down last night. So right now I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed with grief . The next couple of posts will be short and I may take a break, depending on how I feel. (I may do the opposite and throw myself into blogging as a distraction, I just don’t know.)


Psalms/ Canticles: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-end or 1:11
OT Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
NT Reading: Romans 10:8b-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13


We jump back in the narrative again now, as we enter the traditional church season of Lent and follow Jesus through his 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and praying and being tempted by the devil.

The short passage in Romans quotes Deuteronomy 30:14 which tells us that “the Word is near – in our hearts and on our lips”, and states that we must both believe and confess.

When I first joined the Anglican church five years ago I was very impressed by the liturgy which even in its modern form is thoroughly Biblical, and which seemed like a solid buttress against strange teaching and error; and yet it began to dawn on me that despite repeating the liturgy every week, it was no guarantee that the words the congregation were speaking were actually believed by the speakers (or even the clergy).

This passage tells us that confession isn’t enough – belief is required as well (and when you look into the meaning of the Greek verb to believe and the Hebrew word behind it, you see that such belief must not merely be mental assent but a living, active, obedient faith, which is consistent with the whole ‘counsel of scripture’ – see for example the passage starting at Matthew 25:35).

In Pentecostal circles, the spoken word of confession and affirmation is on the other hand considered very powerful indeed – in a sense carrying the same innate power of creation “calling that which is not into being” that God used at the creation of the World, a belief that teachers like Joel Osteen may possibly take too literally – but of course in the Gospel passage, the way Jesus battles with the devil is through the Word of God which he quotes in answer to every temptation.


I’ll be honest and say that I’m not even sure that I have made the points I wanted to here, and I haven’t really covered the passages properly, but I’m going to have to leave it there as I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any more sense than this at this time.

If you can’t get hold of it, find a copy of Michael Card’s excellent album the Ancient Faith trilogy (on two CDs), which includes a lovely song called “The Word is so near”. I couldn’t find that particular song, but I’ll leave you with a youtube playlist of songs from the album. (Actually that song is in the playlist, but only an instrumental piano version – if you can seek out the original, it’s worth finding.)

Luke 8: Waiting on the Lord

These are my notes from Sunday’s sermon at the Pentecostal church. It might be a little disjointed because it is just notes, it’s not meant to be a polished article. I hope it’s of benefit to somebody.

This was actually an awesome, honest sermon – the Christian life is hard. We pray & things seem to get harder. Learning lessons is painful.

Don’t listen to the health and wealth prosperity gospel that tells you that you will get it all if you just do A, B and C. It’s not that simple.

“Count it all blessing when trials and temptations come.”

Between the vision and the season of fruition is an ‘out of season’ waiting period. Waiting for the breakthrough is the crucial time.

The day-to-day challenges of life are what move us towards the fruition of the vision.

It took Jesus 30 years before he moved into ministry. Before he came into the fullness of his destiny.

Focus on the small things to change the big things.

Luke 8:40 Jairus’ daughter. Jesus was on his way.

The woman with the issue of blood had waited 12 years. She had tried many things to be healed.

She grabbed hold of Jesus when the opportunity arose and was healed. “Your faith has healed you”.

Jairus was a synagogue leader, he must have been desperate to go to Jesus.

The woman delays Jesus, (and the girl dies). Did Jairus think she had got in the way of his miracle?

Seeing others get their breakthrough, miracle, healing, job, promotion etc. Makes us stop looking at Jesus and look jealously at them.

What about me, God?!

Then things get worse! The girl dies!

The breakthrough is impossible now! God! You missed your chance!

But Jairus doesn’t complain. He doesn’t listen when he is told “Don’t bother the teacher any more”.

Jairus trusts Jesus’ promise that he will go to his house.

“She’s not dead, she’s only sleeping.” The family doubts, but Jesus is confident, He knows the unlimited power of God.

Jesus brings life. But it might take him a while to get there.

God works on Cornish time.

We must live at peace with God’s promises. Even when Jesus’ attention seems to be elsewhere. Wait until he arrives.

Luke 8:22 Jesus calms the storm. The disciples fear they will lose their lives.

Jesus was fast asleep in the boat.

‘Waking Jesus up’ with prayer. He calms the sea but then rebukes them: “O ye of little faith”!

The disciples panicked. But Jairus did not panic.

Jesus is there in the boat, but we should know he has destiny on his life, everything will be alright. We don’t need to panic.

Jesus will bring to completion what he sets out to do. His word will not return to him void. You are in safe hands.

Luke 2: The prophetess Anna: waits in the temple, waited her whole lifetime to hear Jesus. Her faithfulness to the promise was incredible. She was 84 years old when she saw the fulfilment of the promise.

God is no liar. “All the promises of God in Christ are yea and Amen.”

Worry will not add one day to your life.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years. Why? Because they did not trust God.

In the reality of God, all things are possible. Even when hope seems dead and buried.

You have a God for whom *all things are possible*.

If the promises are from God, they will come to fruition.

You need to be in a child-like place of trusting. You can trust Him because you are a child of God.

Are you in a place of peace?

We must understand the premise of resting and waiting on the Lord.

Jesus understood rest, taking time out to be with the Father. He was okay with the enormity of his destiny. He was at peace.

Get your eyes off other people’s blessings. Fix your eyes upon Jesus.

Apply yourself to the Word, we can hold the Word accountable. Walk, stand on the promises. Trust that they will come eventually.

Do the simple things well, because that’s what you are given now, on the way to your destiny.

4th Sunday of Epiphany/ Sexagesima

Psalms/ Canticles Psalm 48
OT Reading Ezekiel 43:27-44:4
Gospel Luke 2:22-40
NT Reading 1 Corinthians 13

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion on the side of the north, the City of the Great King.” Psalm 48:1-2

Hands up who immediately hears this sung as a chorus! I am guessing those of a certain age who might have grown up attending a Pentecostal church! 🙂 Psalm 48 is really one of the loveliest psalms, and one of my favourites.

I didn’t manage to get to church at all last weekend, so apologies this is late.  Also I can’t promise any degree of coherence since the brain fog is back and I’m struggling to think clearly. But these are my thoughts for what they’re worth.

With the Gospel reading this week, we step back in time from the Wedding at Cana to Christ’s presentation in the Temple, his circumcision on the eight day according to the requirement of Torah, and the meetings with Simeon and Anna who prophesied over him and blessed him. The selection ends with “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”

The selection in 1 Corinthians is the ‘love chapter’ in which Paul outlines what true love looks like (with Christ’s love being the obvious example), and the section in Ezekiel refers to the Prince’s Gate. I’m not sure of the specific significance, but it would probably be worth doing a study on the Gates of the Temple as they all have different meanings. This short section is obviously understood to be messianic in nature, Christ being the Prince who is to come. (Curiously, from a Messianic perspective, the selection stops before the mention of the laws and ordinances since from a mainstream Christian perspective, the idea that the laws and ordinances will be in effect during the reign of Messiah is unthinkable, whereas from a Messianic perspective it is the only consistent interpretation.)

I can’t immediately see the connections between all these passages. If I am missing something obvious let me know!

I looked everywhere to find the version of Psalm 48 that I know but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so instead I will leave you with a Hebrew version by Shirei haLeviim which I hope you enjoy:

Matthew 28:19, 20 – The Great Commission

I’m sorry to have not managed to post this before now, this was from last Sunday’s sermon at the Pentecostal church.

The beginning of the service was taken up by testimonies, one in particular which was very inspiring, about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. From my point of view as a skeptical Pentecostal, I love the idea of it, but really don’t understand how that ‘voice’ is heard or how you can know God’s specific will apart from the Bible.

The sermon went on for 50 minutes which, by Pentecostal standards, isn’t outrageously long, but a bit of a culture shock after the standard 10 minute long Anglican sermons!

The pastor outlined the church’s ‘key scriptures’, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 61/ Luke 4, and Matthew 28:19


Matthew 28:19 is of course the famous ‘Great Commission’

‘Go and make disciples of every nation, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’


Considering it was a 50 minute sermon, I don’t have many notes, but probably because the majority of it was testimony about how the pastor had regretted not sharing the Gospel in the past and how he personally was attempting to share the Gospel in his everyday life now.

The pastor did mention 1 Corinthians 12 giftings and having different personality types, which I thought was really interesting as that had come up in last week’s lectionary linked with Luke 4.

He did warn against using the idea of ‘being prayer support’ as a cop-out excuse for failing to carry out the Great Commission yourself, letting others go out with their boots on, while we stay warm and say “I’ll be there with you in spirit” while we actually go back and watch TV. Personally I think that there is a really crucial need for intercessory prayer, but certainly it is true that it is easy to find excuses not to do the job ourselves – we feel inadequate, we feel that evangelism isn’t our gift, and maybe we are a little bit lazy because we don’t see it as a life and death priority, which we absolutely should do. (He alluded to the fact that the idea of ‘universalism’, where everybody is saved and goes to heaven regardless of whether they follow Christ or not, is not compatible with Pentecostal beliefs.)

However, the pastor pointed out that the most effective evangelism is genuine and authentic friendship evangelism, where we befriend people and just love them and help them (and effectively ‘be’ the gospel to them) without any ulterior motive, without the goal needing to be bringing people into the church.

I used to be quite skeptical about the idea of friendship evangelism because, I thought, people were being brought into the church without ever actually hearing the Gospel. But I think now that the Gospel is more than words, it is more than getting your doctrines correct, and it is more than church.

‘For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’
– 1 Corinthians 4:20

The Pastor also mentioned that he believed in bringing children up in the faith – not assuming that they will necessarily accept that faith, but giving our children all the benefits of a ‘Kingdom’ upbringing, he would like to see a restoration of ‘Family Discipleship’ and that we all need to take that responsibility seriously. It made me think of the passage in Romans 3 where St Paul asks the question, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” and he answers,Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (The whole passage, as is often the way with Paul’s writings, is troubling and difficult to understand, but I think in this context, it is saying that being raised in the faith can be an advantage because you know all ‘about’ God before you actually come to ‘know’ Him).

As always, I would have preferred a more scripture-rich sermon (and less showmanship to be quite honest – it’s entertaining, but I’m not convinced it is really spiritually edifying…), but I think that if I keep going to this church I will have to accept that this is just the way they do things here.

The Anointing: Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me,
He has anointed me to preach good news to the [poor]*;
He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…
[and the day of the vengeance of our God];
To comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified…”


 

At Elim this morning, the sermon was on the topic of “The Anointing”, based on Isaiah 61:1-2a, the first part quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18,19, with the exception of “the day of vengeance of our god”.

I’m just going to copy up my notes without comment to begin with, and then comment at the end.


Notes:

• This passage is a ‘key scripture’ for Jesus’ life and ministry (and has been adopted as a key scripture for our church in particular).

• The anointing is crucial for ministry

• Oil, or fat, represents the Holy Spirit

• Like the armour of God, you can’t attain it by your own efforts, it has to be given by the Anointed One, ie, Jesus.

• Anointing breaks the yoke of slavery.

• Anointing can’t be lost, but it can be exercised, it must be developed.

• For the Anointing to flow, you need to live righteously.

• The Anointing is ‘attracted’ to righteous living.

• The first step towards righteous living is honesty with God, confession, truth.

• Then, the anointing will bubble up and flow over.

• The Anointing desires intimacy with the Father.

• Oil is for healing.

• We must exercise the anointing by doing the following:

-Proclaim the Good News
(not negativity) because Life and death are in the power of the tongue.

-Proclaim Liberty

-Release the prisoners

-Give Sight to the Blind

• This is the agenda for Jesus’ life, and must be the agenda for the church.

• It is the plum line for all church programs – if they don’t meet the agenda, it’s not worth doing.


Comments:

I suspect, from the sermons I have heard in this church, that this is the standard way that scripture is handled here, and I have to say that I’m feeling a little bit uncomfortable about some aspects of it.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with what was said. It was a pretty ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon, and I quite like the passion of that. The speaker is fond of shouting “Wake up, Church” when he thinks we’re not listening.

But I wish that there was a bit more careful exposition – it’s obviously a Messianic passage, but again if you look at the whole passage you can see the mention of Zion again, and there is a lot more to the whole chapter but only the first 2 verses were addressed (see previous post on Isaiah 2).

Who is the passage addressed to?
Who or what does Zion refer to in this context?
When is the prophecy to be fulfilled?

Does the fact that Jesus stopped prior to “the day of the vengeance of our God” mean that there are multiple, partial fullfillments to this propecy?
When is the Day of Vengeance?
Is it significant that some of the good things come after the Day of Vengeance in the passage?
(Again, this was not mentioned at all. Does it matter?)

The speaker said that, in the Old Testament, one individual was specially anointed (like Isaiah or Ezekiel), whereas in the New Testament, every believer is anointed (Acts 2). Therefore, you (as a Christian) already have the anointing, you just have to exercise it.

So, is the Pentecost infilling of the Holy Spirit the same thing as Anointing?

This is interesting to me, because previously I have heard sermons saying the opposite, ie that the Anointing is something special, particularly for ministers, who have a particular, perhaps temporary anointing for a specific task or work of God.

Perhaps both are true. I’m not sure, I would like to know on what basis the two different claims are made (ie, more thorough scripture proofs), as they don’t seem to mean quite the same thing.

The very word Messiah, Mashiach in Hebrew, actually means ‘anointed’. Is that relevant at all?

I have a book on my shelf (or, I suspect, currently in storage with the rest of my books) called ‘The Anointing’ by R T Kendall, which I haven’t yet read, but I would like to. I don’t know whether it covers the first or second meaning or both, or takes a different view altogether.

*Where the KJV has the word ‘meek’, the NIV has the word ‘poor’.


I don’t know whether I am being unreasonably or unduly critical, or whether that may be due to my state of mind because I’m not well, as it takes a lot out of me to get to church.

I was a little bit heartbroken today to hear that the church had purposely decided to abandon their ministry websites, so there is no longer any provision for those who are housebound to download and listen to sermons online. As far as I could see, the sermons are no longer recorded so it doesn’t look like there’s a tape/cd ministry anymore either.

I really think that churches are unaware of how devastating the isolation from the community is for people who become housebound, and that really, really makes me sad.

When I had a relapse in 2014, I had no visits whatsoever from anybody in the Anglican church in more than six months, despite requesting one, and despite every level of the church being aware I was ill. (It’s not the first church that has happened in either.)

At some point I will put together a list of resources for people who need to worship from home, as that seems to be the only option for a lot of people. But it is really not the same as feeling that you are welcomed and included in your own physical, local community.

***This, church, is part of the ministry of the Anointing, to “proclaim liberty to the captives”, and you’re not doing it.***

Wake up, Church!

Out in the cold, dark night

So here we are, almost nine weeks after moving out of our rented house, from which we were being evicted, into the brand spanking new housing association property. Minus the mold and the awful landlord and letting agents, but also minus carpets and curtains, the gardens, the fabulous view and minus the dining room, the built-in wardrobes. (We’re also still waiting for our deposit to bé returned) I could go on, but I’m trying not to dwell on the negatives.

One negative I am really struggling with though is the lack of landline phone and internet. Thank God for my mobile phone, but it is costing me almost as much to run this mobile as our only phone and internet source as it was to run broadband and wifi for the whole house before.

Nine weeks is long enough, don’t you think? If I had a choice not to use BT I would certainly vote with my feet, but of course they rely on your inability to go to anybody else for a landline.

I have been through a few traumatic events in the last few years, so in one way I’m used to it, but in another, I feel battle-worn and weary, traumatised too many times.

I’m basically middle-aged now. I thought that by now we would have a stable, comfortable home with a stable, comfortable network of friends and family around us. Nothing could bé further from the truth.

Needless to say, my health has taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, to the extent that – apart from a few necessary errands – I am mostly needing to lay down in bed in my room. Even sitting up is too painful, my neck feels unable to hold my head up for long.

I had a conversation on Saturday morning with a pentecostal friend, and I mentioned my ill health, so she said a prayer online which she asked me to agree to, which I did, but then she said “Now we have done ‘spiritual warfare’ and you are healed. Don’t invite back the spirit of infirmity.”

I have spent some time in pentecostal churches, so it shouldn’t have surprised me but I was taken aback. If only life were that simple!

The problem with having such a simplistic worldview is that it becomes inevitably judgemental – if you don’t get well, if your circumstances don’t improve, you must have failed in some way, failed to adequately wage spiritual warfare, had a lack of faith, spoken negative words to “invite” negativity back into your life! (Remember the ‘Secret’?)

Unfortunately, unless you want a potentially self-defeating argument, you learn to have to watch what you say around people with this kind of thinking. I feel another sense of loss that I can’t trust this friend with my true thoughts and feelings.

Anyway, our big news is that, in view of our circumstances, in view of my health, our finances, my husband’s age (over 50 now), we don’t intend to pursue adoption.

That decision comes with another terrific sense of loss and grief and guilt, but we left it too late I think. I wish we had looked into it ten years ago, but on the other hand it would not have been good to put adopted children through what we have been through in the last few years. It looks like it just wasn’t meant to bé. (Either that, or I didn’t wage enough spiritual warfare. Joke.) 😦

I dreamt last night that there were a bunch of children that weren’t mine out in the shed, out in the wet cold night, and one of them broke into the house and threatened me with a gun. Somehow I knew that they were out there, and I was more shocked that I hadn’t let them in than that this child was standing in front of me with a gun. Dreams are stupid, but I expect that’s the guilt talking. I would let you in, but I don’t think I would bé very much good for you.

Vocation

I have always, for as long as I can remember, had a sense of ‘calling’. I thought for years that I was destined to be a missionary, and I was convinced I would be a minister’s wife but I ended up divorced and re-married to a non-Christian so that was the end of that.

But that sense of ‘calling’, that little voice calling me into ministry has become more insistent as I have got older. While I was in the Messianic fellowship, I heard the call more loudly than ever, but there was simply no clear path to pursue.

In most of the denominations I have had dealings with, women preachers have been an absolute no-no, but more recently of course again, I have been involved with Pentecostal churches, The Salvation Army and the Church of England, all of whom welcome female candidates.

I’m sure I have mentioned before that I considered Salvation Army officership as far back as my teens, but then when I got married, my then Officer’s Kid husband was dead against it; he had been totally put off churches, Christianity in general and The Salvation Army in particular due to his experience as an ‘OK’.

More recently, although I have felt the call, The Salvation Army has presented just too many obstacles – you have to be willing to move to London for training, and then be willing to be sent anywhere in the UK (or even, potentially the World as I speak other languages and have connections in various places).

I’m not free to do either of those things. And I’m also so far away from a Corps that the whole thing has just been impractical from the get-go. As much as I love the Army, I can’t see a way round the obstacles.

For the last 6 months, I have been attending my local Anglican, and over the last few weeks I have been exploring the possibility of Ordination.

Yesterday, I met with the Vocations Officer for an initial interview, and went through my journey of faith with him.

I’ve actually been having a little bit of a love affair with the Anglican church – despite all its faults and foibles, I have been surprised by how much I love the liturgy, the set prayers, the music, and even, despite myself, the gravitas of the Eucharist.

We talked about all the options for ministry and service within the Church of England, and were I to get that far, training for Ordination would be much more local and not full time, all of which makes it more manageable for my limitations.

The vocations officer told me that my age was no barrier, but he did make it clear that the chances of actually becoming a paid Priest (as opposed to a self-supporting one) are extremely slim, and could take a lot more years to achieve.

I didn’t realise until he told me this that it would be an issue for me, but I realise now that it is. There’s just no way I could afford to do it as a hobby, and I find that my ‘tentmaking’ skills are limited, at least in terms of being able to bring in the money.

Of course nobody goes into the ministry for financial reasons, but we do have to eat, and I have a lot of mouths to feed.

One thing that was encouraging though was that the vocations officer did confirm to me that he recognised that I do have a calling.

So it’s now in my hands, whether I want to pursue it or not.

So I’m back to square one, I hear the call, but I can’t determine from which direction it’s calling me.

Lenctentid

I don’t generally observe ‘Lent’, the fast in the month of March (which in Anglo-Saxon is Lenctentid, meaning the month in which the days start to get longer, that is, Spring). I have never done so before. It isn’t part of the traditions that I have been a part of. In fact, I had been taught that it was wholly pagan in origin and shouldn’t be observed at all. I am beginning to question these notions with caution, and wonder whether this is a practice that might be acceptable, beneficial, even desirable?

I am convinced that we, as the Body, do not fast enough.

Certainly, some of the traditions around lent seem to have rather dubious connections. The marking of foreheads with a cross seems to directly go against what Jesus said about fasting – “when you fast, wash your face and anoint your head.”  Additionally the practice of Mothering Sunday during lent does seem to have very ancient, pagan connections. More on that another time perhaps.

But for lent itself, I haven’t been able to find any evidence of pagan connections. The claim that it is connected to the ancient Babylonian ‘Weeping for Tammuz’ seems to be unfounded. I’m open to be proved wrong of course, but I think it is important to make a distinction between pagan practices that are specifically in opposition to Torah and those that are actually acceptable within Torah. I think that we can tend to be in danger of condemning pagans simply for being pagan, which does nothing to help them move away from unacceptable practices at all.

If you strip Lent down of any practice that might be pagan, is there any reason not to fast?

The Catholic Church doesn’t claim to have instituted the Lenten fast – it seems to have been already commonly practiced by at least the year 200 AD, well before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.

The question, ultimately, as for all traditions, is does the church have the authority to mark days that are not Biblical Moedim (‘appointments’), and to declare days of their choosing to be ‘holidays’ (in the sense of ‘holy’ days and in the sense of rest days or shabbat)?

What did it mean when Jesus said to Peter “I give you the keys to the Kingdom, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound on heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed on heaven”?

Pentecostals have taken this to mean something completely different (though perhaps connected?) to the Jewish understanding of binding and loosing, that is the allow or disallow – to determine halakha (a Hebrew work for ‘walking’ that is to say, the Way we are to Walk as believers).

The claim is often made that Jesus was referring to Peter when he said ‘You are Peter (Petros), and upon this Rock (Petra) I will build my church’ (upon which Rome’s claim to authority rests) and went on to give him the authority to build the church by determining halakha, but Petra, the Rock, is God himself, repeated over and over in the Old Testament. It was a play on words which emphasises that halakha must be based on the Rock, our only true foundation.

Surely legitimate halakha can only ever be that which agrees with and confirms Torah.

As for who ‘holds the keys to the Kingdom’ now, and the question of Apostolic authority, I am at a loss to see how or to whom this has been passed on down through the years. I cannot believe that the Roman Catholic church can legitimately make that claim since so many of their practices have been mixed and arguably some are in actual opposition to Torah.

I realise this subject is contentious, and my purpose is certainly not to provoke or cause offence. I would genuinely be interested to know your thoughts and your traditions. Please answer respectfully as I won’t approve responses that aren’t respectful. Shalom.