­
EFAC Australia

Essentials

Marsha Dale shares how she was challenged to 'Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.'
Marsha is an MDiv student and is in Ministry with her husband Marc at Resurrection Church, Lockridge, WA

I heard a great pod cast on Strategic Hospitality by John Piper on the Desiring God website. In it Piper reminds us that we have freely received the liberating power of God's hospitality, making us a new and radically different kind of people. He challenges us to freely give, reflect the glory of his grace as we extend it to others in hospitality.

I love Pipers analogy...the physical force of gravity pulls everything to the centre of the earth. In order to break free from earth-centred life, thousands and thousands of pounds of energy have to push the space shuttle away from the centre. There is also a psychological force of gravity that constantly pulls our thoughts and affections and physical actions inward toward the centre of ourselves, our homes, our friends, our lives. Therefore the most natural thing in the world is to neglect hospitality.

Peter Adam points out that the Reformation sought to reform the praying of the church, and Peter seeks to continue that reform in our lives today.
Peter Adam is Rector Emeritus of St Jude’s Carlton. Vic.

We all need help in our praying. Let’s enrich our prayers by getting someone to coach us. And a good person to do so is Thomas Cranmer, the Reformation Archbishop of Canterbury. One of his most significant contributions to the welfare of God’s people was showing people how to pray, and providing good models for prayer. We might no longer use the prayers he provided for us in The Book of Common Prayer (or perhaps you still do), but he can still challenge and coach us in our prayers today. 3

The Reformation was about reforming and renewing doctrine, as it was about reforming and renewing ministry, daily life, church life, education, the structure of society, and much else. It was also about reforming and renewing prayer, and this included who prayed, to whom people prayed, what they prayed, why they prayed, and how they prayed!

Peter Brain rubs the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith into the heart of the pastor.
Bishop Peter Brain has just retired from the Parish of Rockingham, WA.

Martin Luther’s famous saying that justification by faith is the article of a standing or falling church has proven true over the past 500 years, but can be applied equally to those who are called to pastoral ministry.

The versical from Morning and Evening Prayer: 'Clothe your ministers with righteousness along with its response: And make your chosen people joyful, remind us that a very real benefit of justification by faith is that, when evident in the life and preaching of the minister, it will bring church members much joy'. This quote from Psalm 132:9 reminds us of the reformed nature of ministry, with the word minister replacing priest. Reformed pastors know that their standing with God is secure through faith in Christ not because of the size of the church they serve or the gifts they may have. Security in this truth will keep us from despair when there appears to be little response, from pride when there is and from using our members as fodder to feed our egos or drive our agendas. Ministers will want to live rightly in glad response to the one who has so graciously justified us through faith in Christ alone. This will bring joy to ministers and people alike along with glory to God.

Five Centuries Later

We don’t manage to theme each issue of Essentials, but we have made a special effort this issue to honour the five hundredth anniversary of the posting of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses by majoring on Reformation themes. There’s a trio of feature articles by a trio of Peters. Firstly Peter Brain looks at justification by faith in the heart of the pastor, then Peter Jensen reflects on the strange and precious gift of the Bible, and lastly Peter Adam urges us to benefit from the reformation of prayer that Cranmer brought to the church in the Book of Common Prayer. Another Reformation feature has Paul Bartley relating how a Reformation study tour has catalysed his interest in the historical actors, aims and outcomes of the Reformation.

Our lead articles are perhaps less obviously connected to the Reformation, but consider that anxiety over guilt before God was a powerful experience for Luther, and the joyful discovery of justification before God through faith in Christ’s atoning death electrified him and his age. What, then has happened to the sense and burden of guilt in our own age, and the desire to be morally justified? Is it still with us? In our opening leader I recommend a recent essay that explores these questions powerfully, and in our second leader, Frances Cook writes candidly of the way her Bible reading helped her in her own feelings of self-condemnation.

Peter Jensen meditates upon how, as we read it, the Bible is in some ways jarring and puzzling, but also infinitely precious.
Peter Jensen was Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2013.

This day, as far as I am aware, I met my first Tibetan. More than that, my first Tibetan Christian. I had been praying for this over the years since 2008, aware that there is a handful of Tibetans in Australia, mainly refugees. I had acquired a Tibetan Bible from India and had vowed that I would pass it on to my first Tibetan when I met them. And so I did, to the evident huge delight of the recipient. That joy reminded me how easy it is to take the scriptures for granted and how wonderful it is that they should be so readily available in our own tongue. This, of course, is the fruit of the Reformation. We praise God for William Tyndale for a start.

The more I read the Scriptures, the more I am filled with awe. Like the God whose Spirit inspired them, they are not to be treated lightly. Living as we do, in a society whose thought-forms are utterly alienated from God, we are frequently reminded how very strange the Bible is. I sometimes think that they are rather like a rough, irascible, shaggy unmannered uncle who comes to stay, creating unease and curiosity in equal measure.

Is guilt still a force in modern life? Ben Underwood recommends a recent essay on the persistence of guilt in the broken moral economy of the West.
Ben Underwood is editor of Essentials and Associate Minister at St Matthew’s Shenton Park, WA

I have a spirituality reading group, made up of fellow Shenton Park men, which I convene in order to have a chance to talk to my fellow suburbanites about deep things. Members take it in turns to choose an article, poem, book chapter, Youtube clip or immersive VR experience for us to digest and discuss. The rules are that stimulus material has to be short, and it has to raise the big questions. It’s a lot of fun, and has given me an opportunity to talk of Christian things with my neighbours. The last meeting we had was my turn to choose our material, and I stumbled across a great essay, which I felt would get us going. I was not disappointed, and we had an excellent evening of robust discussion.

The Politics of Rage

Dale Appleby

"The Second Coming: On the politics of rage". Christos Tsiolkas. The Monthly Dec 16-Jan17

The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race. David Marr Quarterly Essay 65 2017

Christos Tsiolkas concludes his article by bemoaning the impact of anger in public debate: “...but this rage and this pornography of wrath, it is proving dangerous.” (35). His discussion claims that rage is everywhere and expressed by all kinds of parties. “There is a narrative of this anger…: that the rage festers in the disenfranchised white working class of the globalised capitalist world.” (30) A narrative he says, which is mistaken. “We are fooling ourselves if we believe the rage is only misogynistic or rural, only white and right-wing, baby-boomer and not millennial.” (30)

His view is that it has invaded all aspects of public discourse. Some if it is the language of elites used against those who don’t speak that language – the less educated for example. “...identity politics has become a weapon to punish any ambivalence of thought and expression, any incorrect use of gendered, racial or theoretical nomenclature, and to launch accusations of bad faith.”

(31) Some of it is exacerbated by “..the internet, which allows for a lubrication and indulgence in wrath just as much as it does for lust” (30). It shows itself in the increase in dichotomies, false distinctions and separations. Each group thinking in their own bubbles, class divisions and lack of understandings. His suggestion is that “We have to relearn listening and we have to relearn argument, to free both activities from the indulgent wrath of the new digital age.” (34)

David Marr discusses the rise and influence of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party. Despite her appeal to those disaffected with politics and politicians, those fed up with the influence of elites, and her positioning as part of a working class and nostalgic group, her central appeal has to do with race, according to Marr. The focus of the rage against other races has changed over the years. At present it is Muslims. Previously it was Aborigines and Asians. Dr Anne Aly agrees with various researchers who think that there is around 14 per cent of the population that are clearly hostile to Muslims and another 10 per cent that hold vaguer fears towards Muslims (17).

Marr thinks Hanson has harnessed the fear and anger of this part of the population. Her power, he says, is not just that it has won her another term in the Senate, but that she holds sway over a significant voting block which affects the fortunes of the major parties. Hence the gradual and unashamed adoption of many of One Nation’s policies by the Government, and the refusal of any of the leaders of the major parties to call her on her racism. Because that would immediately alienate a group which the major parties need to woo.

Marr’s essay outlines a deliberate use of fear and racial hatred to promote a political agenda. Hanson would say that she is merely giving that 24 per cent of the population a voice. Marr’s conclusion is that “the far right where politicians are spending so much energy harvesting votes these days is not Australia. Nearly all of us are somewhere else, scattered around the centre, waiting for a government that will take this good, prosperous, generous country into the future.” (95).

Both essays are rational and irenic. Both are speaking the language of their group. Marr’s is an attempt to explain and dismiss. Tsiolkas offers some advice about listening and arguing. And a plea to give up anger. But what is the alternative, or antidote, to engineered anger?

At a community level, fear and engineered hate are ways of reinforcing tribal boundaries. Because tribal boundaries are felt as means of retaining security. Listening and arguing better may be of some help to those who want less tribal conflict. But some of the talk needs to be inside the tribe to identify other ways not to be afraid. And leadership that shows a path for righteous anger not to become festered anger.

I was at a meeting of EFAC members recently at which the discussion came around to the kind of hate that is directed towards evangelicals. Some of it is passive, of course, and most of it may not be addressed directly. Yet there is a strong antipathy to what evangelicals are perceived to stand for. Inside the evangelical tribe there is a strong desire to listen and argue gently, humbly and in a conciliatory spirit. There is also anger particularly by those who are chronically marginalised. But evangelicals don’t need to be afraid and they don’t need to feed their anger. Either as members of a church or as citizens in a nation.

What they do have is a way of thinking, living and feeling that follows the principle of “blessing those who curse you”, and of “doing to others what you want them to do to you”. Marr wants a government to lead this nation into a better future. Christians still have the opportunity to show their church and nation (and political parties) how the tribes of the earth can listen and argue and grow together in friendship.

Subcategories

­