Thursday, 23 December 2010

Dancing in the snow

Post by Ash
Snow and ice doesn`t generally behave as we would want it; on tap, so to speak, and dolloped in just the right place for just the right space of time. Wouldn`t it be wonderful if it fell say on our gardens, fields and woodlands, but left our roads, railways and airports free of the nuisance, irritation and dangers that we`ve all experienced in the last week ?

Children of course love the stuff. Not for them the worry or responsibility that eventually fills the adult mind when a journey or burst pipe has to be coped with. More often than not they simply see the uncluttered possibilities of joy and opportunity. Life is exciting, the glass half-full.

Isn`t this in a sense what the Christmas story is about ? Challenges will abound, and often from the most unexpected sources. But whatever one`s beliefs, convictions or prejudices, the events of 2000 years ago remind that life can be about hope, peace and love, even when confronted with the most difficult of circumstances.With the unfettered optimism that characterised our youth and a desire to treat others with kindness and love, we too can be touched by the blessings of this story.

New Meeting members Kate and George are currently spending their Christmas in Melbourne. They tell us that the christmas service at Melbourne Unitarian Church ended with the the following wonderful thought; " life is not how you survive the storm but how you dance in the snow" . Well the white stuff, just like life, doesn`t travel in straight-lines, but may your `dancing` to the the message of Christmas give you strength to cope with the `corners`, whatever they may be.

Everyone at New Meeting House joins me in wishing you ,your friend`s, your family, both here and across the world, a healthy, happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The real `big society` ?

Post by Roger M.

What do you think about David Cameron`s idea of the `Big Society` ?

How are people persuaded to act in the way you want ?

(a).By the way of power-force them.

(b).By the way of money-bribe them.

(c).By the power of love and friendship.

Suppose you are in a position of total power and decide to share it with nine others. You are left with one-tenth of what you had.

Suppose you have £1,000 and decide to share it with nine others. You are left with one-tenth (£100) of what you had.

Suppose you decide to share your love and friendship with nine others. How much do you have left ? Not less but more; perhaps even ten times more. Why ? Because love, friendship and trust are the only things that exist by sharing. The more we share, the more we have.

Power and money both have the same result; if we win, you lose. If you win, I lose. With love and friendship we both win ! The health of a society depends upon them.

If this is what David Cameron and his `Big Society` is all about, let`s give it a go !

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Lighting up my life

Post by Graham

What light`s up my life ?

Firstly my family. It brings me great joy to see my two sons who are as different as chalk and cheese and who fought like cat and dog when they were young, get on so well together in later years.They keep in regular touch with each other and even share secrets to which I am not privy.What a delight it is for me to see them together, enjoying each other`s company.
Secondly, the laughter and exuberance of children;their naturalness,friendliness and openness to new ideas. My work with them in the local primary school is invigorating and enlivening. They are keeping me young !

Thirdly, unexpected acts of kindness from strangers. It happens more often than you think. It is not a rare occasion to find yourself in a spot of bother and discover someone completely unknown comes to your aid.

Fourthly, stories of self-sacrifice of aid workers, carers and the like. It amazes me that such people have so little regard for self and that their whole life`s mission is to be there for others. They are an example to us all !

Finally, something as simple as a lovely smile, once again often from an unexpected source. There are too many people with long faces nowadays, and to receive a beautiful smile, particularly from a stranger in the street, is a real blessing.

To sum up:what gives me real pleasure is anything that reveals the divine in us humans. It is there in abundance if we look for it.

Note: This blog also appears in the December 2010 edition of MU Now, the magazine of the Midland Unitarian Association.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Biblical Inconsistencies in the accounts of Matthew and Luke

Post by Ian

Literalists often claim that the Bible holds no inconsistency in the accounts. The mental gymnastics that have to be undergone in order to come up with this position ensure that only people who are of the same opinion will ever believe the same. There are plenty of inconsistencies in the Bible, as is only to be expected with a book written over hundreds of years, by several different authors, edited at various points in its history and subject to clerical transcription errors.

The inconsistencies in the New Testament are most easily demonstrated in the accounts of Matthew and of Luke. Where the material has not been taken from Mark, these two accounts differ widely. The simplest inconsistencies to demonstrate are those of the genealogies and the infancy accounts.

Genealogy of Jesus
The genealogies of Jesus, showing the descent of Jesus from David are different in Matthew and Luke. The genealogies have been the subject of much discussion and commentary. Several attempts have been made in the past to try and resolve the accounts, the most well known being that of Annias of Viterbo at the turn of the 16th Century.

Annias suggested that the account in Luke was the genealogy of Mary. The suggestion is rejected by the majority of Biblical scholars as there is nothing to support the claim. Annias used forged document in order to support his claim, which had been rejected by the end of the same century. In addition, the Lukan account contradicts other traditional genealogies for Mary - which have her descended from Nathan, with immediate descendency from Joachim (Heli), Barpanther and Panther (writings of John of Damascus, Justin Martyr & Ignatius).

Infancy Accounts
The accounts of Jesus' birth differ in the locations used within Matthew and Luke. The traditional nativity story mixes these two accounts in an attempt to harmonise them. They are actually two separate accounts making points about Jesus' fulfilment of prior prophecy regarding the messiah. Attempts to reconcile them again skew chronologies and add in further locations that are not in the accounts. Matthew's account highlights Jesus' Davidic descent and kingship. Luke highlights Jesus' message being for the common man.

Firstly, chronology:
The account of Matthew is set some ten years prior to the account in Luke. This can be calculated using known historical events.

Matthew includes Herod the Great in the infancy story. Herod died in 4BC, so that account is usually dated at around 6BC.

Luke includes a Roman census in his account. While there was no Empire-wide census at any time, there is a census that took place when Quirinius became governor of Syria. This census took place between 6AD and 7AD.

Hence, approximately ten years lie between the accounts.

Secondly, the locations in the accounts:
Matthew starts his account in Bethlehem, where Joseph has a house and is living with Mary. Once the child is born they continue to live in the house until visited by the Magi. Following the visit, the family flee to Egypt (having been warned of Herod the Great's impending massacre by an angel). They remain in Egypt until told of Herod the Great's death (again by angel). The family return and settle in the town of Nazareth in Galilee.

Luke has Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth to begin with. On hearing of the census they travel to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born (in a stable). The family is visited by shepherds. After eight days, Jesus is circumcised according to the law of Moses. When the time of their purification passes (thirty-three days), the family travel to Jerusalem in order to present Jesus at the temple (again, in accordance with the law). When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth (Luke 2:39). They return directly to Nazareth from Jerusalem.

So, in conclusion, there are inconsistencies. The accounts are different. No manner of mental gymnastics can rationally reconcile the accounts.

Above all: this is only a problem if one subscribes to the doctrine of literal inerrancy that Charles Hodge came up with in his Systematic Theology (1871–1873). For non-literalists, the accounts form two interesting and complimentary accounts of Jesus' birth and life. They complement each other, but definitely contradict each other in places.