Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I'm not sure what this film was trying to be. Could have been a 'fish out of water' flick. Posh London girl, Juliet Ashton grows to love characterful Channel Islanders. How funny. Could have been a harrowing occupation movie. Jackbooted Nazis brutalising the only part of British Isles invaded by Germany. But they're not all bad. You know the kind of thing. Or a whodunit. What happened to the missing Elizabeth? Or a romance. Will Juliet fall for strong n' sensitive Dawsey? Or a filmic ode to the joy of reading. Or Whiskey Galore, but with Gin. Well, it's a little bit of all of these familiar tropes, but can't really decide which one to run with. 

The Downton cast-off cast did what they could, but with a meandering plot and clich├ęd script, there was no rescuing this film from its twee, knitted cardigan, mediocrity. 

Pre-showing ad was from Guernsey Tourist Board. 'You've watched the film, now visit our lovely Island'. Could as well have been the Devon equivalent. The old harbor and cobbled streets onshore looked suspiciously like Clovelly.

Never mind a pie. If this film was a biscuit, it would be a Custard Cream. Rich Tea, even. That bad.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference 2018

Later today I'll be setting off for the Banner Ministers' Conference. I started to go when I was a student at the London Seminary (1988-90). Back then I was young enough to attend the Youth Conference and then stay on for the Ministers' one. Wouldn't get away with that now. 

I love the blend of exegetical rigor, theological depth and experiential warmth that Banner represents. Together will a willingness to learn afresh the lessons of history that we might serve the Lord more faithfully and fervently in the present day.

Last year's move from the University of Leicester to Yarnfield Park, Staffordshire seems to have paid off. Excellent facilities. Apparently, this year's event sold out a weeks ago and some people had to be added to a waiting list for cancellations. 

I'm looking forward to renewing fellowship with old friends and meeting some new people too. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Facebook's Alt-Church Fail

In a speech last year Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted the social network he founded to perform the role that once used to be played by churches. He suggested that with the decline of churchgoing, “people now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else." Sounds very noble and high minded, doesn’t it? The Church of Facebook, presided over by the geeky gods of silicon valley. They monitor almost every activity of their flock and then sell the valuable data they have gathered to advertising companies so they can flog us more stuff. It’s about connecting people, you see. With retailers. Friendship has become a commodity. And then there’s the sinister manipulation of social media for political ends.

Facebook’s mission statement is to, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” But the social network is no substitute for the church. Online you can keep your ‘friends’ at a safe distance. Interact with them on your own terms. You can make sure they only see your best side, ‘Here’s me having a happy life, doing fun stuff. Hope you like my holiday snaps.’ If someone gives you grief on Facebook, you can ‘unfriend’ them with a click of a mouse or quick jab at a screen. 

Church means committing yourself to forging a community with a group of people with whom you meet on a regular basis. Actual flesh and blood people who are just as flawed and imperfect as you. They’ll get to see you at your best and worst. The frictions that come into any relationship between people have to be managed by giving and receiving forgiveness. You can’t just ‘unfriend’ your brothers and sisters in the faith. Doesn’t work like that.

The Christian faith isn’t meant to be a solitary pilgrimage to heaven. Jesus said, ‘I will build by church’. And by ‘church’ he did not mean a building, but a gathering of people who believe in him and follow him together. When Christians meet their sense of purpose and support deepens. The worship of the gathered church includes seeking God in prayer, singing his praises, hearing the Bible read and its message proclaimed, and eating the Lord’s Supper together. That’s right, eating a simple meal of bread and wine in memory of Jesus’ death upon the cross for our sins, and in hope of his return in glory. You can’t livestream, or download the Lord’s Supper, or ‘like’ a photo of other people doing it. You have to be there. And so the bonds of community are strengthened.

The church that gathers also scatters, seeking to follow Jesus in every area of life. Churches serve the wider community, running parent and toddler groups, visiting the elderly, running food banks, and so on. However much ‘virtue signalling’ we do by ‘liking’ worthy causes on social media, there is no substitute for giving practical help to actual people.

Facebook no doubt has  its uses, but Mark Zuckerberg and the gods of silicon valley can’t claim to have built a world wide community with a sense of united purpose. Hardly. They’ve just found a way of monetising us and our mates. But God has  gathered a global family of people from all nations and backgrounds. He hasn’t created this community in order to exploit it. No, God so loved his people that he was willing to give his Son to die upon the cross that they might be forgiven and become his children. That’s the church. Believe, belong.

*For Trinity Parish Magazine, Dilton Marsh & News & Views, West Lavington 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Quiet Place

It's a post-apocalyptic world. Townships are deserted. Stuff is left on shop shelves for foraging survivors. Survivors like the Abbott family. Husband and wife Lee and Evelyn (real life couple John Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt), their daughter, Regan and sons, Marcus and Beau. 

Their world is a quiet place because sound means slaughter. Nasty crab-legged, Alien-headed creatures stalk the earth in search of prey. Their favourite food is human. They see nothing, but hear everything. 

Anything for a quiet life. The alternative is death. But the Abbots have an advantage. Regan is deaf. (played by real life deaf actress, Millicent Simmonds). Hence, the family is used to communicating in sign language. 

But it's difficult for the youngest child, Beau to fully understand the need for silence. When the family heads into town, foraging for meds, the little lad takes a toy rocket from the shelf of an abandoned store. A noisy toy rocket. Dad removes the batteries before the family returns to their farmstead home. Unnoticed, Beau  reinserts them and switches the thing on, with fatal consequences. 

If trying to keep an inquisitive toddler safe is tricky, imagine what it might be like when mom gives birth. In a bath. With 'all ears' monsters prowling the house, alert to the tiniest sound. Hubby's off fishing, so no hand to squeeze. The slightest whimper could prove deadly. And then there's the challenge of keeping the newborn quiet. Talk about ratcheting up the tension. 

Lee returns to find mother and baby safe and sound. Evelyn asks, "Who are we, if we can't protect our children?" It's the question all parents of younger children ask themselves, alert of the dangers of the world. In that sense the film is a parable on the perils of parenting, real and imagined. Evelyn makes her husband promise to guard their brood at all costs. He does. It will cost him.

Lee is no feckless, responsibility-shy modern man. Resourceful, strong and tender, he takes on the traditional male roles of provider and protector. Must have been reading Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Mum isn't to be messed with, either.

Along the way the film explores the themes of guilt,  forgiveness, love and sacrifice. Before meals the family hold hands and bow their heads. Seemingly in silent prayer. "Deliver us from evil"? See here for a helpful TGC review. 

The parts are convincingly acted, so you care what happens to the characters. The tenderness and tensions of family life contrast tellingly with the mortal dangers that lurk outside (and sometimes inside) the sanctuary of home.

It's scary. The enforced silence of the Abbott household and sparing use of sountrack music mean that the slightest noise is likely to make you jump. No popcorn crunching or drink slurping in this film, please. Breathing should be kept to a minimum.

Will wholesome family values and the power of prayer prove a sufficient antidote to the chaos of a ruined, monster-infested world? Go and see for yourself. Just don't make a sound. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ten things on the Son's submission and the Trinity

1. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal in divine being and glory.

2. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not identical persons. Each has unique individualising properties. The Father is unbegotten as to his person, the Son as to his person is begotten of the Father, the Holy Spirit as to his person proceeds from the Father and the Son. No person receives the divine being from another; each is 'autotheos', or God in themselves. 

3. Each divine person indwells the others and is indwelt by the others in an eternal interchange of loving communicative action. 

4. According to the witness of Scripture there is an order of persons in the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This order is reflected in the external actions of the Three, by which all things are of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. 

5. The persons are not reducible to their relations or their functions in the economy of redemption. The Son is not the Son because he submitted to the Father in becoming man. As the eternal Son he is of the Father as to his person, and God in his own right. 

6. The divine decree of redemption is an expression of the singular will of the Triune God. The Son became man in submission to the decree to which he himself was party, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

7. In the covenant of redemption between the persons of the Trinity, the Son is the electing God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the elect One who was appointed to be sent into the world as man by the Father and through the Spirit, and also the One in whom the elect were chosen for salvation. 

8. The economic Trinity communicates the immanent Trinity. If God as he is for us does not truly disclose God as he is in himself, we are left with an unknowable Deus absconditus. With that in mind, it was reflective of the order of persons in the Trinity that it was decreed that the Son as opposed to the Father, or the Spirit became incarnate. It seems especially fitting that it was the Son, as the image of the invisible God who became human in the image of God, in order to redeem us by his blood. 

9. The Son did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but took the form of a servant and came in appearance as a man because he was in the form of God, not although he was in the form of God. For the God in whose form he was is the self-giving God of love and grace. In stooping to become one us that he might be lifted up on the cross to atone for our sins, the Son revealed the very heart of Yahweh, the God of the covenant, Exodus 3:14, John 8:28, Philippians 2:5-11. 

10. The Son's willing submission to the divine decree and humble obedience to his Father, even to the death of the cross, provide an example to believers as we seek to follow the Servant King in the whole of our lives; in the home, in church, and in the wider world. Submission leads to exaltation. Down is the only way up, Ephesians 5:22-33, Philippians 2:1-11, 1 Peter 5:5.