Stream of semi-consciousness
Took a couple of weeks off work recently and tried to do too many things at once.
The main target is painting some of the house and disposing of some of its contents. This is progressing.
But there are many distractions and other matters of interest and duty. Maybe all my life I have had difficulty applying myself to a task.
I have been listening to some interesting stuff while painting. Firstly a talk by Frank Viola "Developing a Narrative Ecclesiology" that he gave at a conference in the Bahamas in October 2007. I bought it from PTMIN on CD a while ago. It includes a very interesting explanation of Paul's ministry and a theory that Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was the leader of a legalistic group from Jerusalem, ex priests who went round all the churches planted by Paul teaching the need for the Law of Moses including circumcision and undermining Paul's authority.
The conference session where he gave the talk was apparently in parallel with a seminar by NT Wright and Frank was frustrated that he could not be at that seminar himself and very appreciative that a few people did not go but came to hear him instead.
So that reminded me to go looking for more stuff by NT Wright. He is currently Anglican Bishop of Durham.
And I found a set of recordings of him talking at an emerging church conference "Future of the People of God". Which is really quite remarkable ... a heavyweight Church of England Bishop theologian and historian spending two or three days with an emerging church gang of open source theologians!
So while painting I have listened to four or five hours of his talks. Excellent stuff giving a great vision of God's purpose, His intention / mission for the Church, and current ecclesiology.
See here for links to the mp3s of the talks "Future of the People of God talks"
Session 1: God’s future for the world has arrived in the person of Jesus
Session 2: Understanding and implementing Jesus’ gospel in the present
Session 3: Reimaging our mission as God’s agents of new creation in the world
Session 4: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom project for the world as a mission-shaped church)
My impressions are of, on the one hand, a thorough, deep, academic, but one whose love and enthusiasm for his subject overflows so that he can also make it accessible to the layman. I think you can hear that in these talks - now and then, there is the academic giving a lecture to his students, but he attentively takes sidesteps to explain points for those who are not up to speed. He is primarily driven by a deep love for Jesus. Out of that he weaves a complex tapestry positioning the early church, Jesus as historical fact and spiritual reality, the validity of the Bible texts, the traditions of the church and real life as we experience it with our yearnings for justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty.
He is a prolific writer, some academic theology and some accessible layman theology. In particular it seems his "Simply Christian" may become the 21st century equivalent of CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity".
I had a gift token for Amazon as part of my 25 year jubilee so I have ordered a pile of his books. We shall see if I am still as enthusiastic in six months time.
And while checking my Amazon wish list for NT Wright stuff I came across my bookmark of Sinéad O'Connor's CD "Theology".
There are many moving tracks on "Theology". Several of them are based on Psalms or other passages from the OT. One or two are personal accounts of her relationship with God - e.g. "Something Beautiful".
So this also led me to fill in gaps in my cultural history of rock by checking earlier stuff of hers. (YouTube is a great resource), The range of her performances is amazing. From a session with the Chieftains, a beautiful expression of Irish Nationalist culture, to "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" where she sounds like an English opera diva.
When she shot to fame in her youth 20 years ago, she quickly ran into scandal. Experiences from her childhood fired her anger when it became known that the church hierarchy was trying to protect Catholic priests who were guilty of child abuse. She protested about this when performing live on US TV. She tore up a picture of the Pope with the words "fight the real evil". But her point got lost in the media cacophony that followed. And within weeks she announced the end of her musical career under pressure from the furore her protest had caused.
Looking back now, since the Catholic Church has paid out millions of dollars to settle cases with victims of such abuse, her protest does not seem so out of place. She was just a little ahead of the game.
Fortunately, her love for making music brought her back and her love of God survived her bad experiences of the church. So, although her definition of "theology" probably differs from NT Wright's, they are on the same mission to rescue God from religion:
And I've heard religion say you're to be feared
But I don't buy into everything I hear
And it seems to me you're hostage to those rules
That were made by religion and not by U
And I'm wondering will u ever get yourself free
Is it bad to think U might like help from me?
Is there anything my little heart can do
To help religion share us with U?
(Out Of the Depths)
She is known for her down to earth mode of expression. A little bit of that comes through in her rendering of Psalm 91:
In the shelter
Of the most high
Lives under the protection of the Shaddai
I say of my lord
That he is my fortress
That he is my own love
In whom I trust
That he will save u
From the fowler's trap
And he will save U
From any Babylon crap
So, after looking around on the Internet for interviews, background and music related to Sinéad O'Connor I am becoming a total fan trying to catch up on twenty years of her musical output. Here is a clip from "Theology", "33" - her rendering of Psalm 33 with a collection of archive photos.
And here is one of her classic hits - "Nothing Compares to You" a song written by Prince
So there is lots more to follow from these threads - the pile of NT Wright books, the roots of Sinéad O'Connor's theology and working out how, when Frank Viola is so enthusiastic about NT Wright's theology, he deals with NT Wright's commitment to the traditional traditions of the church. More to come ...