Sunday, 10 May 2009

Review of Hall & Lillback, A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes

Over at Reformation TheologyNathan Pitchford has posted an excellent review of A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes, edited by David W. Hall and Peter A. Lillback.  In this Calvin's 500th year, give yourself a gift!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

MEPC new service time: Sundays, 12pm

Tomorrow, MEPC going to start a new church service.  
Until now, there were four (!)  meetings at 10:30am: Arabic-language service, English-language sunday school, English-language youth group, and English-language church for young adults (post-high school).  From tomorrow, the Arabic meeting, sunday school and youth group will be at 10am.  The English service is moving to 12pm.  
By moving to the new time, the English service gets access to the main church hall.  Until now, we've been in the side hall, which is small, and the acoustics are hopeless.  By moving to the main church hall, we double the capacity, and the main hall just has a better "feel" about it.  
For years, MEPC has been trying to make its English congregation accessible to the local area, and reach out not just to people from an Arabic background, but all nations.  We want this new service time to be a key step forward for that part of our mission.  This new service is basically open to everyone who speaks good English.  Given the majority of the congregation looks middle eastern, I expect in the short run we'll still attract second-generation, English speaking young people from the middle-east.  But hopefully not just the middle-east - after all, I'm there, and if people visit they'll see me up the front.  So I hope we quickly reach sub-continentals too.  And I know there are some east Asians around as well - we saw a group of them last night at the kebab store.   
The changed time also frees up the side hall for the youth group.  They used to be relegated to this poky tin shed.  They can now have the hall formerly used by the English congregation, all to themselves.  That gives them a lot more space to have games and activities.  And they can have their own band, and own music now.  
So, this change opens a lot of opportunities.  What are the costs?  
12pm is a funny time.  Church will only finish about 1:15, maybe 1:30pm.  So people will be pretty hungry by then.  Maybe that'll be a motivation for regular fellowship lunches.  I hope it doesn't keep anyone away.  
Many of the people who come to 12pm church will be asked to serve at 10am sunday school & youth group.  And that means turning up at 9am.  That's a long & exhausting morning.  I hope we can keep it up.  It's okay for me: I have a quiet Monday.  But the rest of them have to go to school or uni or work.  
Anyway, let's see what God has in mind for us.  

Friday, 8 May 2009

Battles on Calvin on Idolatry

Ford Lewis Battles was one of the 20th century’s greatest scholars on John Calvin. His greatest work of course was his translation of Calvin’s Institutes, published in 1960. He’s written extensively on Calvin, the Institutes, and on early and Medieval Christianity – his writings span Augustine, Boethius, Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, Hugo Grotius, and more. He and Charles Miller created a computerised concordance for Calvin’s Institutes (1559 ed.).
Here’s Battle’s summary of Calvin’s view of idolatry:
… [A]n idol can be either a construct of the human mind that reduces the majesty of God and his ways of revelation to a mere shadow, or it can be a physical, palpable construction of the human hand that itself becomes an object of that worship and honor due to God alone. The one is a defect of the truth; the other, an exaggerated imitation of it. Both are false…
Page 163 of ‘Calculus Fidei: Some Ruminations on the Structure of the Theology of John Calvin’, pages in 139-178 in Interpreting John Calvin (ed. Robert Benedetto; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996).

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Sydney: a city of many countries?

Yesterday evening I visited Windsor, in the NW of Sydney metro area, for a meeting. To avoid the traffic, I drove early - which allowed me to take in the changes that have happened in the last ten or so years.
Back in the good old days, when I was just a little lad, Old Windsor Road was one lane each way. And was surrounded by pleasant green rolling farm paddocks. Now, the new suburbs of Kellyville and Rouse Hill have been built amazingly quickly. The place feels like California (well, it's what I imagine California would look like...): big, multi-lane roads, freeway overpasses, enormous shopping centres, totally inadequate public transport (!)... and everything looks to NEW and FRESH and ATTRACTIVE!
Then I got to Windsor, which is still a cute country town perched on the edge of encroaching suburbia.
This reminded me of a passing comment that Peter Hughes made once in a seminar on evangelising Sydney. He said it's useful to think of Sydney as a bunch of separate countries cobbled together. By that he meant the different parts of Sydney look and feel different. They have a different history, a different ethnic mix, a different climate. So they feel different. It's like they have a different culture.
Maybe we need to think more broadly about multicultural ministry. Maybe, if we move from one part of Sydney to another, for home, work or ministry, we need to think of ourselves as cross-cultural ministers. Maybe we need to think more deliberately about engaging the culture of the particular part of Sydney that we're in, with its particular challenges and enticements and barriers to the gospel.
Thoughts, anyone...?

Kevin Martineau on a minister, his marriage, and his ministry

Kevin Martineau has just posted some very insightful thoughts on the connection between the health of a pastor's marriage and the health of his ministry.  Well worth a read.