Labor that Lasts

Sorry, I’m really sorry.
It’s been over 2 weeks since I last wrote. I can accept the threatening emails, but really… killing my puppy? It’s too much.
(NB no puppies were harmed. I neither have, nor have ever, owned a puppy.
Although someone did steal our mail box, I’d like to believe that to be a completely unrelated incident…
There are really no excuses. Life has been full, I have lots to say. Take a deep breath, I’m about to download the lot.
This week is the final week of the university term at the University of Canberra. A small island of rest awaits just over the horizon. The challenge is to survive the week. We have a team of students from the Sydney Missionary Bible College (SMBC) visiting with us for the week. They are running a number of outreach activities and getting involved in a large number that we are hosting. It’s going to be a busy week but also promises to be a lot of fun, and a great mission opportunity.
This morning we had our first team meeting, there are around 25 students from the college and something like 15 staff/trainees from Crossroads/FOCUS. We all crammed into our office meeting room and talked through the week. It’s jam packed…
These are the UC events, (there are also things happening at ANU, Kid’s ministry, Work Place ministry, etc)
8.00am – Ressies BBQ Breakfast
7.30pm – Da Vinci Code Seminar (Speaker Greg Clarke)
9am-12.30pm – FOCUS Market Day Stall
12.30pm – FOCUS Main Meeting (Speaker Dan Connor)
7.30pm Open Forum – Ask your questions
8.00am Bloke’s Breaky (see Dan Anderson)
7:30pm Girls Fine Food Evening (see Kerryn Blomfield)
7.30pm – Party to Die For (see Anita King)

If you’re around at UC come along.
The team are fantastic and very enthusiastic. It’s great to be working alongside them and being able to learn from people with a different background and experiences.
Over the weekend we also had some great friends from Sydney come to stay. Michael and Julie Morrow (and baby Alicia). It was great to spend time catching up with them and admiring their beautiful daughter. Michael is doing a Ministry Traineeship in at St Andrew’s Cathedral, focussing primarily on music/sound areas. You can get some of his music on emu albums…
Last Week
Last week I spent two days away from the student ministry to attend a conference being hosted at a Theological College here in Canberra. It was a difficult decision to spend the time away from campus ministry, particularly as I missed out on the wednesday main meeting and campus outreach time. I am very conscious that when I choose not to be at things I can communicate the an idea to the students that it mustn’t matter that much. This can be really discouraging to the students who are faithful and are organizing these things, and can give excuses to those who know should be in Bible studies or talks but keep skipping out.
I went along because the keynote speaker was Bishop N.T. Wright from Durham in England. Dr Wright is regarded as one of the world’s leading theologians. He is a profound thinker and has written some of the most thought provoking books I have ever read. His book on the resurrection (The Resurrection of the Son of God) is probably going to be the most influential work on that topic written in my life time. At the same time not everything that Tom Wright says can be taken at face value, there are areas of his theology that I am not sure I agree with and need to think through more carefully (with Bible in hand). He is part of a movement called the New Perspective on Paul that sees new ways of understanding the apostle Paul by grounding him more firmly in his immediate Jewish context. There is a lot that is commendable here but the understanding of justification by faith that has been developed through this process is quite different from the Reformation doctrine. It’s all a bit much for a blog like this but there is a lot around on the net if you want to read more.
The conference was focussing on the resurrection and christian eschatology (what christians believe about the future of the world). This was discussed in the context of modern scientific understanding of the end of the universe. (ie Big Freeze/Big Fry). It was a fascinating discussion and the conference only took about 50 delegates so there was lots of time for discussion and talking together.
Why did I go?
Because I think that in order to be an effective minister to university students (to anyone actually) I need to keep being challenged to reassess the structures of my thought that I take for granted. It is easy to lapse into habitual thinking about Christian beliefs only to discover when challenged that I either don’t understand what I believe, or that my belief is a non-sense – inherited from my culture rather than the scriptures. If we are to teach the scriptures faithfully and live them obediently, we must be continually open to learning new things. Conversely, when destructive and unhelpful teaching come our way, we need occasionally to test ourselves in the fire, to be assured of the truth of what we believe, and more able to defend it to others.
If you’d like to know more about the conference drop me a line, I have copies of some of the papers presented. Also, if you’d like some recommended readings for Tom Wright, let me know.
That was the main event for last week. The rest of the week was spent trying to cram all the work I would do in 5 days into 3.
It was a great conference but also profoundly disturbing in many ways. It has driven home for me again the very physical and concrete nature of the Christian hope. The Christian future doesn’t consist merely of death, then being taken away into heaven for eternity with God. That is a parody of true christianity that owes more to greek philosophy than the authentic gospel. The christian hope is for a resurrection, just as Jesus was raised. A real physical resurrection! Heaven may receive our souls while we wait for the final day of God. But then the Bible promises a new heaven, and a new earth. That is: something some how discontinuous with this heaven and earth – a new beautiful thing. But also with elements of continuity, people with bodies, a world like this world, only more real and richer. The two best picture of the new creation we have are the risen body of Jesus which tells us a little of what we may be like, and the society of the Church, which is meant to model the future kingdom of God. This is a momentous thing to get your head around. The resurrection is the bedrock of Christian hope and the foundation of how we live our lives. Read and think about Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15.
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(1Cor 15:50-58 ESV)

I get tingles whenever I read this passage – and it has real impact in how we work in ministry (And I don’t mean by this jus
t the stuff done by a minister up the front of church). Our work of proclaiming and building Christ’s kingdom is labor that will last for eternity.
love, dan

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