Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Everyday

Christian Cemetery, Fort Canning
Christian Cemetery, Fort Canning

An Easter weekend of digging the ground, pushing beneath the surface. Most of it not literally.

It started with unearthing Bach's St. Matthew's Passion with great nostalgic excitement, singing along to the familiar melody only to be put off by the soppiness that had hitherto been disguised by the harsh German intonation. And perhaps because was written for Good Friday, it ended with prematurely with Jesus' death. Hello, SPOILER ALERT: Jesus rises again on the third day!:

Philippe Herreweghe with Collegium Vocale Gent performing an apparently more authentic pacing of Johann Sebastian Bach's Matthäus Passion (BWV 244). Not for people who grew up with Karl Richter's stodgy one (or, depending on your taste, tragic one with gravitas) circa 1971.

(Happily it features Andreas Scholl though (or obviously) at the overly emo bits, eg. Können Tränen meiner Wangen. He's the sort of bootylicious well-controlled voice a superficial you would write songs about shady trees for:

Here he is warbling Ombra mai fù from Handel's Xerxes.)

Banana cupcake with Marmalade Buttercream Frosting
Later there was strumming and chatting about the propriety of Easter celebrations - the usual offence being taken by some at the Christianisation of the pagan festival celebrating the Anglo-Saxon spring/fertility goddess Ēostre, which led to discussions about the Hellenisation of the world - our calendar, our forms of government, American university fraternities and sororities, and the Olympics (see the Olympic hymn - "And Ho Yeow Sun, a pastor's wife, even led the singing!" *gasps all around*). This was faintly reminiscent of another pocket of people polishing their stakes for the European Union president and the appearance of the number 666 (that number after 665) in EU resolutions and recommendations. But just as the bad guys aren't usually cheesy enough to go about looking like they need some sun, dressed in black to offset their pallor, spotting cruel facial scars and an evil laugh, so real life isn't quite a game of Where's The AntiChrist. In fact, Jesus (and Paul after him) was more concerned with identifying and preaching himself as Saviour than picking out Satan in a demonic line-up.

Roast duck and pork noodles Teochew porridge place
Kueh-tu-tu Peanut thick toast and tea
photographic chronicle of food via iphone
More than realising that reality isn't a video game, maturing in the Christian life seems to mean, as Graeme Goldsworthy puts it in Gospel and Wisdom: Israel's Wisdom Literature in Christian Life, being able to look at the whole of reality through Christian eyes, being in the process of achieving an integrated overview of reality in those areas that belong to his experience as well as in those areas that he knows only theoretically, learning to understand all things in terms of what they are in this corrupted realm and of what God intends them to be by virtue of his redeeming work.

Food For Thought, Queen Street Food For Thought, Queen Street
A deeper strata of this is the acknowledgement that even to one who knows God, life is disorderly. It is dangerous to believe those teachers who say that the godly are richly blessed with good things in this life, and the wicked are duly cursed. Such simplistic superficiality can only have been man-manufactured. The Qohelet of Ecclesiastes reminds us that:
  1. The world was created perfect and orderly.
  2. Man's sin has distorted the order: the relationship between God and man, man and the rest of creation.
  3. We now live in a confused order that is not completely chaotic but neither is it totally knowable since even our minds with which we perceive this world has been confused.
So Christians who bring their children up in knowledge of the Lord may find that all of them later decide that the lies of this world are more desirable - was it their own failure to be faithful that led to this? Or their lack of prayer? Or their laissez faire parenting style? But surely they have already done better than agnostics and atheists, yet their children turn from the gods to this world to serve the living God.

Donuts
Or what of Christians who marry spouses they think are faithful and godly? If one partner later denounces God, would it be due to a lack of accountability to each other? Or failure to read the Bible and pray together? But if it were (solely) the influence of the one with whom one is united in matrimony, how is it that so many marrieds turn to God despite the protests of their husbands or wives?

And even if under-shepherds preach the gospel faithfully, follow-up with love and diligence, and pray nightly for their flock, this is no guarantee that the sheep will not stray off cliffs or turn out to be wolves with fleece jackets on the Last Day.

There are many mysteries remaining which the human intellect and a millennia of research can never fathom. Despite what many "Christian" self-help (a sure sign of its non-Christianity) books claim, there is no formula for the victorious Christian life. Yet the one thing that we can be sure of is that God is sovereign. He is in control of the world and we are not. He knows better and we do not. He is God and we are not. So we should obey him. For the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of God (Deuteronomy 29:29).

The Sally Port, Fort Canning
Not the Garden Tomb but the Sally Port, Fort Canning
This trust and obedience (for the two go together like horse and carriage etc) is never blind. For Easter (or whatever name one wishes to put to this event) celebrates the one thing we can be sure of, confirmed through the revelation of one such mystery: how God would make good his promise to save and redeem and restore a world so corrupted with sin - by the death of his Son (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 1:9-10). Being told about the death of Christ or watching the M18-rated The Passion of the Christ may not mean much, for everywhere, people appreciate the sentimentality and heroism of one who sacrifices his life, painfully and torturously, for others, regardless (and disregarding!) any wild claims he might have made in his lifetime. But if that man is raised from the dead, it is evidence that his crazy claims are true: that his death has paid for the sins of many, that he is the prophesised Messiah and coming Judge, that God has sovereignly arranged this and thus proved himself to be trustworthy.

For if:
there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:13-25)
(This brings forth the greater mystery of how God can be just in allowing a sinless man to die for the sins of the world. Many theories have been proferred, but perhaps it is best to say that one can trust a trustworthy God to act justly since he himself created justice.)

Cupolas, Fort Canning
Cupolas, Fort Canning Green
Easter isn't just for Easter then because in knowing Jesus' resurrection and its power, we can and will live in a certain stability on a daily basis. Even though nothing is in neat tidy boxes that we can curate and control, we are not to throw our hands up in despair when living in obedience to his word does not bring about desired consequences (eg. when there seems to be no fruit in well-watered and amply fertilised fig trees). Instead, when "experience" appears to indicate otherwise, we need to remember our fallen minds and their limited ability to interpret reality and continue to trust and obey the all-knowing, all-powerful, trustworthy God.

Hopefully, more soaking in this hot tub in our upcoming studies on Ecclesiastes and Deuteronomy...

Ecclesiastes
Easter Everyday
Quest for Immortality: EPIC FAIL (Ecclesiastes 1:1-15)
Life is Vapour, Therefore Enjoy Life (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3:15)
Life is Far Worse than an iPhone Game, Therefore Harvest the Day! (Ecclesiastes 3:16-5:7)
Rawa Island and Godly Contentment (Ecclesiastes 5:8 - 6:9)
Fallen Frangipani, Really Wise Living (Ecclesiastes 6:10-7:29)

Choo Chiang Roasted Meat Noodle House 珠江烧腊面家
1 Maritime Square
#02-37 HarbourFront Centre
Tel: +65 9664 5719

Tan's Kueh Tu Tu Coconut Cake
Food Republic, Vivocity

Joo Heng Teochew Porridge
Cheong Chin Nam Road

Old Town White Coffee
9 Yuk Tong Avenue

Food For Thought
8 Queen Street
Tel: +65 6338 9887

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2 Comments:

At April 19, 2010 5:24 pm , Anonymous Rui said...

'Christian self-help' - thanks for putting a name to the uneasy feeling i get in my stomach when i see some of this 'victorious Christian living' stuff that finds its way into my email. have always felt rather dubious about it without really being able to say why. now i know.

 
At April 19, 2010 5:24 pm , Anonymous Rui said...

'Christian self-help' - thanks for putting a name to the uneasy feeling i get in my stomach when i see some of this 'victorious Christian living' stuff that finds its way into my email. have always felt rather dubious about it without really being able to say why. now i know.

 

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