Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feeling for a theology: a “sense-xegesis” of Mark 14

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am presenting a paper as part of a Colloquium on Theological Interpretation, at Laidlaw College on August 19-20. My title is: Feeling for a theology: an exploration of the place of “sense-gesis” in theological reading.

So here is one small section, in which I use senses, in particular the sense of touch, to help me as I processed the Christchurch earthquake. (more…)

Posted by steve at 12:54 PM

Monday, June 13, 2011

ophans hit by another Christchurch shake

With a long weekend here in South Australia, team Taylor hit the Barossa. Today found us wine tasting at Langmeil. Which included meeting the Orphan Bank Shiraz, which has an amazing story. Over 100 year old vines were due to be demolished for a sub-division. Enter Langmeil wines, who embarked on a project to save each one – each dug up and moved.

I used to be involved in transplanting young apricot trees. So I have some idea of what’s involved – the slow cutting of roots through the autumn and winter, the uprooting with as much soil as possible, the careful transporting, the hope that all the work yields new buds in spring.

It was a wonderful story. Yet like any metaphor, it has it’s downside. As we tasted, yet another series of earthquakes were hitting Christhchurch. No lives lost, but more damage, more buildings collapsing, more trauma, more schools closing. The photo here is of shops directly across from where we used to live.

As I drove home, I reflected on the metaphor of transplanting. Once planted, an essential step is the compacting of soil, pressing dirt down hard. The aim is to minimise root movement, aware that any shaking in the new soil makes it harder for roots to regrow and for transplanting to occur. For us, team Taylor, it feels like every quake gives not just Christchurch, but us a shake as well. It takes our hearts back to our city, opens us up to grieving friends and family. It makes our transplant so much harder.

I realise it feels indulgent to complain, when we at least on this side of the Tasman we are safe and dry. Indulgent or not, it still doesn’t change the fact that transplanting is hard work, and harder when the earth keeps shaking.

Please pray for Christchurch tonight.

Posted by steve at 07:44 PM

Thursday, May 19, 2011

being the people of God in a quakezone

Oxford Baptist Terrace is the central city Baptist church in Christchurch, built in the 1860’s. On February 22, pastoral colleagues and drinking friends were having their weekly team meeting inside the church when the Christchurch earthquake hit. They literally ran for their lives, the church falling around them.

The church will have to be demolished. Here’s some video footage of the recent memorial service, held to mark that end of so many years of ministry in that building, to allow people to grieve and to pray for the future.

I think I will show it tonight in the Reading Cultures class, as we gather around stories of spaces and places used well in mission and ministry.

Posted by steve at 09:09 AM

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Film review of The Adjustment Bureau: a theology beyond fearful puppetry

A 500 word (monthly) film review by Steve Taylor (for Touchstone magazine). Film reviews of the most common contemporary films, each with a theological perspective, (over 60) back to 2005 can be found here.

A contextual note: This review was written the weekend that a New Zealand magician, Ken Ring, was predicting that based on the moon, a major earthquake would occur again in Christchurch. Are we fearful puppets in the hands of an angry world? Or are there other ways to be human?

The Adjustment Bureau
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

The Adjustment Bureau (directed by George Nolfi) is adapted from a short story by Philip K Dick. Find a star like Matt Damon and the movie hints at being “Mr-Bourne-meets-Inception.” Sadly, the mix of action and animation is gloss for a turgid philosophical rumination on the relationship between free will and chance.

Life on earth is controlled by the “adjustment bureau.” They walk our streets, clasping black books complete with the chosen destiny in which humans must walk.

This includes the young and talented David Norris (Matt Damon). His life plan requires an “adjustment,” a casual spilling of coffee, in order that he miss a bus and thus arrive late for work. The “adjustment” fails and the life of Matt begins to go off plan.

Catching the bus, David meets the young and equally talented Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). Love beckons and a phone number is exchanged. Arriving at work on time, David stumbles onto the “adjustment bureau” in action, manipulating minds in order to engineer a chosen destiny.

This lengthy introduction sets up a number of plot tensions. Will David and Emily fall in love? How will David respond to his glimpse of the “adjustment bureau”? Do humans have free will?

A lengthy monologue explains “adjustment-theology.” In the beginning, a god upstairs gave humans free will. The result is a lengthy string of human disasters, from the Dark Ages to World Wars to global warming.

Hence the need for divine intervention, for “adjustments”, a bureau full of parent figures who control our lives with the task of making the world a better place.

Such “adjustment-theology” occurs in contrast to a moving scene (pun intended) in which Emily dances. As she does, the representative from the “adjustment bureau” offers David a choice. Without Elise (Emily Blunt), his chosen destiny will be President of the United States. The two men talk, caught in a world of logic and binary choice.

Meanwhile, Elise dances. This physical movement of fluid grace, her body supported by the strength of her partner, offers a different way to think about the relationship between divine and human, between destiny and free will.

The early church described God using the Greek word perichoresis. It is the root of the word choreography and was used to imagine God as a dancer, celebrating life in a mutual sharing of love and grace.

In the act of creation, rather than one chosen destiny, humans are instead invited into a dance – with each other, with God and with God’s creation. When history demonstrated that humans are better at stomping on feet than moving in response to God’s embrace, God intervened, not with an “adjustment bureau” but in Jesus, who enters creation and begins again the dance of life.

It provides a sharp contrast to the “adjustment bureau,” all men, all dressed mysteriously in dark suits.

It provides another contrast to responses to earthquakes, in which blame is apportioned to God, or humans (who have not listened to God), or the moon. Instead the dance invites us to move in grace and freedom no matter how shaken or stirred we might feel.

Posted by steve at 11:08 AM

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

mission made practical

This is a practical mission story. As a Taylor family, we were all pretty upset about the Feb 22 Christchurch earthquake.

In our feelings of sadness, one of the family had an idea. What about having a casuals day at school? What about asking if the whole school could swap uniforms for casual clothes, complete with a gold coin donation to help with earthquake relief in Christchurch?

A feeling. That needed a bit of courage. First an email to the school leadership – explaining the idea and making the request.

Then more courage. Because of the request – would you explain your idea to the class and seek to win their support?

And then the response, permission for the school to have a casuals day. With money raised going to Christchurch. And all the kids forming a sign on the playing fields – CHRISTCHURCH.

Which happened last week.

A feeling of sadness. Made practical with courage. A child providing caring and practical leadership in mission.

For more in mission made practical in a quakezone, go here.

Posted by steve at 08:29 PM

Sunday, March 06, 2011

mission in a quakezone

My current vocation in life is to reflect on the shape and nature of the church’s mission. I primarily do that in South Australia, which involves a lot of thinking about appropriate mission in the suburbs of ease and affluence which dot Adelaide.

But my heart remains firmly in Christchurch, in which suburbs that were formerly affluent now lie broken and twisted by nature’s force. What might be the shape and nature of the church’s mission in that city?

The dilemna is that I am now an outsider. I think from afar. So I risk being like the two old men in the Muppet Show, nothing more than a empty voice.

But I also have some space and distance and so perhaps one of the few things I can do is think. So when we discovered that the church we turned up to visit today, which according to their website was open, was actually meeting at another time and somewhere else, I tried to capture some thoughts. (more…)

Posted by steve at 04:45 PM

Saturday, February 26, 2011

earthquake damage in the church I used to pastor

Cracks in the main walls, cracks in the road, sand everywhere inside the church and out!

Posted by steve at 02:18 PM

Friday, February 25, 2011

prayer to a mothering Jesus: updated

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was the outstanding Christian theologian of the eleventh century. I’m not sure that he ever lived through an earthquake, but he certainly lived in a world subject to the whims of nature. Here’s one of his prayers, A Song of Christ’s Goodness, that I find moving, both in light of the earthquake in Christchurch and in light of my own struggle to live as a child of God.

Jesus, as a mother you gather your children to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us;
in your love and tenderness, remake us,
in your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

Read it listening to Sinead O’Connor’s This is to Mother You. (From her Gospel Oak CD which was produced in June 1997). (This still leaves the theodicy question – what type of mothering was happening during the quake. But that’s a matter for another time!)

Posted by steve at 08:19 AM