Archive for March, 2010

Questioning Easter

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

A lovely encouraging guest post from Michael Roberts (Anglican Vicar in the Blackburn Diocese)

Questioning Easter

Earlier this term I took an assembly in one of our schools to explain the communion service. When I finished they asked some questions about communion and then fired away on many questions about Jesus. They asked so many questions that in the end the head had to call a halt. These were thoughtful questions and it was clear that I could not respond with, “Now little children, believe this as I am the Vicar and I am telling you what to believe…..” (At school my brother got into trouble for asking if God exists!) The children, both juniors and infants asked questions about the death and resurrection of Jesus among other things, and from their questions did not want a simplistic answer but a serious one. Too often both children and adults are given simplistic answers or fobbed off with sayings of practical atheism, like, “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe if you are sincere.”

And so I had to answer questions on the resurrection of Jesus. I knew the silly kiddies’ answers that he came back to life again are both false and help no one, including children, even though it is often given as an answer. Sadly some adults think that is what resurrection is. I cannot remember exactly what I said or how I put it as I tried to make it as simple as possible. I pointed out that Jesus was dead in the tomb and that on Easter the tomb was empty and his body was transformed so was different to his earthly body. (This is what the Gospels say.) I also said it was difficult to understand and that many things are also difficult to understand e. g. breathing or how this computer works. They could see that and found they could think about faith rather than just accept it. (One needs to do both.)

As we considered what we didn’t understand, we could see that God is beyond us so we only partially understand Him. (If you think you understand God, then you don’t!) From there we go to the wonder and mystery of God, who is always beyond us leading us on, but became a human in Jesus to share with us and to die and rise for us. I could ramble on about this…..

So as we come to Holy Week and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, we need to see that it reflects the wonder and mystery of God and his love for us. We don’t fully understand but each year as every Christian observes both Good Friday and Easter (as every Christian will), we think a little bit more about the fantastic events of Jerusalem. His death on the cross for our forgiveness should make us think of our failings and his resurrection emphasises that death is not the end. It is not the trivial false hope of “s/he has gone to a better place”, but God has raised his Son and we shall be raised too.

This should affect the way we live our lives now, both in our behaviour and our celebration of Easter every first day of the week.

Samuel Barber: Agnus Dei (Adagio for strings)

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Ah yes,  this is where I’m at tonight:

In Judaism, the Korban Pesach is the Passover sacrifice of a spotless lamb, commanded in the Torah in the book of Exodus

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Cross-post from Joespeh @ Rosh Pina Project:

And Did Those Feet?

In Judaism, the Korban Pesach is the Passover sacrifice of a spotless lamb, commanded in the Torah in the book of Exodus. In recent years, some religious Jews in Israel have tried to bring back the Korban Pesach sacrifice, performing symbolic sacrifice services in and around the Temple Mount. In the year 2000, a symbolic sacrifice was performed on the Hill of Hananiah, and in 2004, a sacrifice took place on the Mount of Olives.

Yet there have been growing calls from national haredim to reinstate the Korban Pesach upon the Temple Mount itself. The push for this is being led by the Sanhedrin Initiative and the Temple Mount Faithful, who are seeking to establish haredi law in Israel in the shape of a new Sanhedrin based around the re-building of a third Temple.

This year, many leading Litvak rabbis in Israel including R. Chaim Kanievsky have supported these efforts to bring back the Korban Pesach, promoting a document called Tzipisa L’yeshuah (‘looking out for salvation’).

Matzav reported earlier this month:

A new effort to prepare Yidden for the coming of Moshiach in time for Pesach 5770 has received the approval from gedolim. The project is aimed at having Yidden organized in chaburos, with animals inspected and ready to be used for the korban Pesachupon Moshiach’s arrival prior to the Chag Hamatzos this year.

Whilst these developments have caused much excitement in some circles, this past week the Israeli supreme court has rejected a petition for the Korban Pesach upon the Temple Mount, fearing this may cause political tensions and potentially lead to violence (supporters of the initiative would claim they would carry out the sacrifice peacefully, and any violence would not be of their doing). This comes as a huge disappointment to attempts to revive the Sanhedrin.

Set up in 2004 and endorsed by leading Israeli rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Mordechai Eliyahu, the re-constituted Sanhedrin is itself a fascinating development, and it has made sensational headlines.

In 2004, Kahanist rabbi Yosef Dayan joined the Sanhedrin, and soon after made headlines for performing a pulsa denura (kabbalistic death curse) upon Ariel Sharon. In July 2005, members of the Sanhedrin claimed that Rabbi Dayan was most probably a descendant of King David, and the best candidate to become the king of Israel. The Sanhedrin also support the archaeology adventures of Vendyl Jones, who is on the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant and believes he is the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones. The Sanhedrin actively seek out Gentiles to become “Noahides” – Gentiles under their authority who observe the Seven Laws of Noah.

In January 2010, the Sanhedrin hosted Italian Muslim leader Sheikh Palazzi, who has recently argued on TabletMag that “Allah is a Zionist”. Back in 2006 Palazzi remarked how impressed he is with the new Sanhedrin. Recently, the Sanhedrin have allied themselves with Turkish author Adnan Oktar (Yahya), whom since meeting the Sanhedrin has moved from promoting conspiracy theories about Jews and Freemasons to publicly opposing anti-Semitism.

But if you’re reading this on a cloudy day in Hull or Bootle, and think what relevance does the Sanhedrin have for me?, well think again. If you’re British, your too should follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin.

This is Sanhedrin rabbi Michael Bar-Ron:

As I specifically told Dr.[Vendyl] Jones, I do believe there is a historical base for Anglo-Saxons to claim mixed Israelite descent, a source of inspiration to many to return to the Hebrew nation, and the Jewish People…Like Mr. Davidy, (albeit in your own unique style, and your own strong sense of purpose and destiny) continue to do what you’re doing, raising awareness of mixed Israelite ancestry of Northern Europe. It’s powerful stuff.

L’shanah ha ba’ah b’Rotherham!

My friend Kevin emailed me a picture. It was an image he snapped of a US store that specializes in Christian perfumes.

Monday, March 29th, 2010

….yep there are actual stores in the US that sell only Christian perfumes, I kid ye not:

Stuff Christians Like – Making scents of faith.

And I don’t mean Christian Dior Fragrance For Women.

47% percent of Chile’s Catholic churches were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of February 27

Monday, March 29th, 2010

No doubt Pat Robertson could alert us as to the exact “judgement” being meted out by God in this instance.

Santiago de Chile (Agenzia Fides) – 47% percent of Chile’s Catholic churches were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of February 27: this is affirmed in a Report on the damage to religious buildings published by the Statistical Office of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, on the basis of an initial diagnosis made by the diocese. According to information sent to Fides, 12 of the 10 dioceses that make up the Church in Chile have been hit. From preliminary reports, it shows that there have been 545 religious facilities damaged, of which 440 are churches. In the 9 regions involved, 80% of the churches reported damage, which means 47% of the total number of churches in Chile

The damage caused by the earthquake varies: 19% of churches reported serious damage and collapse, which means complete demolition; 24% reported severe damage, but with the possibility of recovering the structure; 25% had considerable damage, but recovered; and 32% had suffered little damage.

The number of places of worship damaged implies that about a million people cannot gather as a community to live moments of prayer (indoors). Parish priests and pastoral workers are making an effort to ensure the continuity of liturgical services and spiritual support, pastoral support and solidarity, all of which are so necessary in times of grief and adversity. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 27/03/2010)

Christian Nurse Shirley Chaplin is today the “face” of UK Christianity in the Media

Monday, March 29th, 2010

As “Christian” nurse Shirley Chaplin readies herself to take the exceedingly wicked and sinful Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital to an employment tribunal, for preventing her from expressing her religious beliefs (they asked her to conceal or remove a necklace cross for health and safety reasons), she has today become the media “face” of our Christian community:

Notice her fondling the very necklace cross for which she has suffered this most outrageous and heinous persecution, at the hands of the Devil himself no doubt.

I can almost hear her murmuring:

I will not part with you my precioussssssssss…..

I will never part with you my preciousssssssss….

And yes I am in a wicked mood and really don’t care what anyone thinks of this post.

I am sick to the back teeth of these pathetic and embarrassing so called “Christian persecution” cases. This is what the whole world sees of us in every newspaper today.

No wonder our community is held in contempt as George Pitcher and Ekklesia rightly note.

Oh the shame of it. The shame on our community and our Lord.

Christian marking of Passover concerns some Jews – Symbols of Jesus at traditional meal degrade its context, they say

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Simply found this an interesting read:

Chron Houston & Texas News

More of Houston’s 45,000 Jews will celebrate Passover — which begins at sundown today — than any other Jewish holiday. But they won’t be alone. Some local Christians are holding their own versions of the symbolic Jewish meal, adding Jesus’ redemption as the Passover lamb to the traditional exodus tale.

The Christianized Seder initially became popular about 30 years ago and seems to be experiencing a resurgence across denominations. About 20 churches in the Houston area will host Passover celebrations this week.

Some in the local Jewish community, however, fear their traditions are being used out of context.

“They take our symbols, our holiday, our ritual and start investing them in Christian meaning,” said Rabbi Stuart Federow, who leads Congregation Shaar Hashalom and speaks out against the evangelization of Jews on his Web site, WhatJewsBelieve.org. “It’s spreading out through the more liberal Christian churches. The Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians are doing this without understanding the hurt it causes to their Jewish friends.”

The Seder meal, held on the first and second nights of Passover, commemorates the Israelites’ biblical exodus from Egypt, retelling the story of Moses with song, script and symbolic foods.

Passover represents the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery, which brought them together as a people and led to God giving them the Torah.

“It’s a newer thing for churches to celebrate on their own. That’s where it can get controversial,” said Rabbi Mark Miller, president of the Houston Rabbinical Association and associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform synagogue. “If a non-Jewish group wants to celebrate a Seder, I’d prefer they do so in a Jewish setting.”

Last Supper seen as Seder

Because many of the churches work with Messianic evangelist groups such as Jews for Jesus, Seder meals and presentations held at churches can be perceived as efforts to convert Jews to Christianity and to correct their traditions by adding Jesus to the Passover narrative.

“Some churches are learning the history, but most are interested in bringing together Jews and Jesus,” said Karol Joseph, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who will lead Jews for Jesus presentations at churches across Texas — in Austin, San Antonio, Tyler and Houston.

Christians may see it as their mission to proclaim the truth of the gospel to this community, just as Christ reinterpreted Jewish tradition before his ancient audience.

“We’re one of the few denominations that actively promotes the evangelization of the Jewish people,” said Doyle Theimer, associate pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Kingwood, which will host a Jews for Jesus model Seder on Tuesday. “I understand if Jews for Jesus is controversial. I also understand their ministry is also born out of a love for God and a love for their culture.”

Churches like Theimer’s often incorporate communion into the tradition because they consider Jesus’ Last Supper, commemorated on Maundy Thursday, to have been a Seder meal. Unlike at Jewish Seders, Christians read from the New Testament, add verses about Jesus to Passover songs and reinterpret the meal’s symbols to represent his salvation.

Jewish critics say it’s wrong to assume Passover celebrations in Jesus’ time would resemble today’s version of the Seder. Most of the meal’s traditions have been added in the past 500 years or so, but Christians still use them to represent Jesus, Federow said.

For example, three pieces of matzo are stacked in the middle of the Seder table, and during the meal, the middle piece is broken and hidden. During dessert, children hunt for the missing piece, called the afikomen, and the one who finds it gets a prize. Christian Seders may present these matzot as representative of the trinity, the middle one being Jesus, the son, who is broken (killed), hidden (buried) and resurrected (returned to the table).

“When we hide the afikomen and the children go and find it, that represents Christ,” said Suzette Caldwell, associate pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church. “They receive a prize, a treat, because they looked for him and they found him, so they are blessed.”

Since 2007, Windsor Village has held three nights of Seder meals, each selling out with 1,000 people attending. Caldwell and her husband, senior pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, say they don’t see the celebrations as Jewish-specific but as a fulfillment of their congregation’s call from God.

“It’s an educational process because most people believe these festivals are for the Jews,” said Kirbyjon Caldwell. “It’s biblical. The Lord says honor the feasts … . Jesus’ Last Supper was a Passover meal. This is an expression of the real deal.”

Rabbis encourage sharing

Their motivation, like that of some other local churches, is a deeper understanding of their own Christianity.

“It’s never been our intention to see Christian traditions in every Jewish tradition or to try to usurp anything,” said Frank Varro, pastor of Westchase United Methodist Church in Houston, which held its second Seder last week. “I value personally, and for my flock, the significance of the Passover” as the basis for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Nearly all rabbis welcome Christians who are curious about Judaism to participate in Passover celebrations sponsored by Jewish groups. It’s a mitzvah, or good deed, to invite guests from outside the community to a Seder.

Beth Israel has hosted an interfaith Seder for five years, and the event draws about 160 community members from across religious backgrounds.

“It’s a nice way to share the tradition and share the message,” said Miller, one of the congregation’s rabbis.

“We all go through times where we feel enslaved, so the story of liberation still rings true.”

Though the U.S. is an overwhelmingly Christian country, a Pew Research Forum survey finds that significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs.

Monday, March 29th, 2010

One-in-four American adults (25% of the public overall) believe in astrology, including about the same proportion (23%) of Christians. Though the U.S. is an overwhelmingly Christian country, a Pew Forum survey finds that significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs. For instance, 24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation — that people will be reborn in this world again and again. Read more

Gao Zhisheng, a Christian lawyer and China’s best known rights lawyer, missing for a year and feared dead has been located

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Well this is a relief, previous post here.

Reuters

Gao Zhisheng, a Christian lawyer who helped defend members of China’s banned Falun Gong spiritual group, was abducted from his relative’s home in Shanxi province on Feb 4, 2009. Authorities have failed to provide consistent information on his fate.

Gao told Reuters by telephone on Sunday that he had been released about half a year ago and was in Wutai mountain, a sacred Buddhist landmark in coal-rich Shanxi province.

“I want to live a quiet life for a while,” said Gao, who was able to answer questions about past conversations and the venue of previous meetings he had with a Reuters reporter.

Asked if he planned to join his family in the United States, Gao said: “It’s not that easy.”

He appeared to be under some sort of police surveillance and declined further comment.

Human rights lawyer Li Heping, who had a lot of contact with Gao before the latter was jailed, confirmed he spoke to Gao by phone on Sunday.

“It’s certainly him. I spoke to him over the phone. I could tell from the way he spoke and the way he spoke to me that it’s him,” Li said, adding that Gao would not speak much about his current circumstances.

Continue Reading

Seven arrested in FBI raids linked to Adrian-based Christian militia group Hutaree whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ.

Monday, March 29th, 2010

New York Times:

ADRIAN, Mich. (AP) — Federal agents conducted raids over the weekend in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio and arrested at least three people, the F.B.I. said Sunday. A militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids had been a Christian militia group.

Federal warrants were sealed, but an F.B.I. spokeswoman, Sandra Berchtold, said there had been activity in two southeast Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. She would not say whether they were tied to the raids in the other states.

Scott Wilson, an F.B.I. spokesman in Cleveland, said agents arrested two people on Saturday after raids in two towns in Ohio. A third arrest was made in northeast Illinois on Sunday, a day after a raid took place just over the border in northwest Indiana.

Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a telephone call on Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group, who said their property in southeast Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“They said they were under attack by the A.T.F. and wanted a place to hide,” Mr. Lackomar said. “My team leader said, ‘No thanks.’ ”

The team leader was cooperating with the F.B.I. on Sunday, Mr. Lackomar said.

He said about 8 to 10 members of Hutaree trained with his organization twice in the last three years. His group holds monthly training sessions focusing on survival training and shooting practice, Mr. Lackomar said.

Continue Reading

Detroit News:

At least seven people, including some from Michigan, have been arrested in raids by a FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana as part of an investigation into an Adrian-based Christian militia group, a person familiar with the matter said.

The suspects are expected to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Monday.

On Sunday, a source close to the investigation in Washington, D.C. confirmed that FBI agents were conducting activities in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties over the weekend in connection to Hutaree, a Christian militia group. Detroit FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold told The Detroit News the federal warrants in the case are under court seal and declined further comment.

Sources have said the FBI was in the second day of raids around the southeastern Michigan city of Adrian that are connected to a militia group, known as the Hutaree, an Adrian-based group whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ.

WXYZ-TV reports that helicopters were spotted in the sky for much of Saturday night, and agents set up checkpoints throughout the area. Witnesses told the station that it was like a small army had descended on the area. The Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are also involved in the raids.

Mike Lackomar, of Michiganmilitia.com, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the Michiganmilitia.com were not a part of the raid.

Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.

“Last night and into today the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community,” he said.

Continue Reading

This is the Hutaree website if you want to check these folk out….oh dear!

Fox news have also covered this one.

This is big breaking news on the US networks.

UPDATE: This has now hit the UK news networks:

Telegraph – Christian militia group members arrested by FBI – FBI agents have arrested seven people in a series of raids targeting a Christian militia group.

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