Weekly Meanderings, 14 September 2019

Weekly Meanderings, 14 September 2019 September 14, 2019

Wonderful:

Former Florida State safety Myron Rolle was scheduled to travel Wednesday to the Bahamas to aid in the country’s recovery from Hurricane Dorian, according to the Tallahassee Democrat‘s Jim Henry.

Rolle tweeted Monday he was joining colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital to provide medical aid:

“People have been displaced, it has been difficult getting resources, food, proper medications, basic necessities,” Rolle told Henry. “We will assist with medical needs—physical exams, assessments, treatments, administering IVs—whatever we can do in our scope of practice, we will do it there. I am really motivated to help because those people are hurting.”

Rolle played for Florida State for three years. During the 2008 season, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford.

Upon graduating from Florida State’s medical school in 2017, he started a residency for neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

This is what Lucy is all about!

A few things have happened to me in the past few months that have made me want to write something on the fact that seemingly very few Christians are reading the Bible and engaging in theological reflection, why this might be the case, and what we’re doing about it.

In doing this, I’m assuming that studying the Scriptures and engaging in theological reflection is a good thing for Christians to do. I wrote a bit about that a while ago in relation to charismatics here http://theologicalmisc.net/2018/09/

One of the things that got me thinking is that this year I processed the bulk of our applications for the coming year. That job normally falls to Matt as the Academic Dean, but as he was on sabbatical, I got to do it. I loved it, actually—reading through the reasons that people want to put their time, money, and effort into studying theology—getting to read some of their stories and some of their hopes and fears—while all the time knowing what’s ahead of them when they arrive and knowing that they’re going to love it!

The two words that stood out more than any other in the applications were “hunger” and “depth.” People are hungry, and they want something of substance. I’m assuming that all the people starting at the other theological colleges this September have written similar things.

The second thing that happened was that I spoke at New Wine, giving the main Bible talks. I thought it was brave of Paul Harcourt and his team to ask me. I’m not well known and I’m mainly now an academic although I have been involved in church leadership for 30 years. I’ve heard hundreds of talks in my charismatic evangelical world and I know what people are accustomed to from that kind of mainstage presence. But as I was preparing for New Wine, I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to follow any kind of ‘style’, and that I was just going to have to be myself.

What I did in the end was essentially to give six WTC-style lectures. Now I know for sure that I won’t have been everybody’s cup of tea, and I’ve learned over the years that most Christians in our circle here in the UK are too polite to say when they don’t like something. So most of us probably only get the positive feedback in the end. Nevertheless, I think that what I saw in the way that people fed back to me was that a lot of people had found doing Bible study and theology like that thought-provoking and rewarding. I have a joke with my friend, Lindsey Hall, about our lovely mutual friend Gavin D’Costa who turned to me once after an academic discussion and said, “Well that was thrilling!” So nerdy, but so true.

The third thing was that Tim Brearley from Bible Society asked me and my husband, Nick, if we would do a short video for them on why we thought people didn’t read the Bible and what we thought could be done about it. I think we must have talked with Tim for about three hours all in all for a 3-4 minute video! We were all fascinated by the topic and talked around loads of different themes. Tim asked us some great questions and got us thinking.

The fourth thing was Nick launching his Bible for Life website in a great new format. I realized how effective he is being in providing a resource that could enable this generation to engage with Scripture in ways that are fruitful, accessible, and interesting—at no cost apart from just putting the time in. His background as a good evangelical and a Navigator have been put to great use for something much more exciting than ticking off your quiet time every morning. After years of young men and women seeking him out to study the Bible with him, I’ve been encouraging him to write something on how to engage with Scripture. Look up Bible for Life and watch this space. https://bibleforlife.co.uk/

The last thing was something that has stayed with me since March. A great friend of mine, Tina Cooke, travelled to Winchester from London to hear my Lent Lectures, which meant a lot to me. I think the lectures were a bit too dense really and not as thrilling as they might have been. But Tina wrote me a beautiful email in response and included this. “I turned to my neighbour and said, ‘The thing is, you don’t realize how thirsty you are until someone puts a glass of water in front of you.’”

Hunger, thirst, depth. People are hungry. I know they are. And the Bible is a fascinating book. It is also food for the soul.

Italy on the cheap:

An underpopulated region in southern Italy is offering newcomers €700 per month for three years to live in one of its villages.

There are a few catches, however: the village must have fewer than 2,000 residents, and the newcomer must pledge to open a business.

“If we had offered funding, it would have been yet another charity gesture,” Donato Toma, the president of Molise, told the Guardian. “We wanted to do more; we wanted people to invest here. They can open any sort of activity: a bread shop, a stationery shop, a restaurant, anything. It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.”

Toma also announced that each town with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants would receive €10,000 (£9,000) with which it would build infrastructure and promote cultural activities.

“It’s not just a matter of increasing the population. People also need infrastructure and a reason to stay, otherwise we’ll end up back where we started in a few years,” he said.

According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat), Molise, with a population of 305,000, is among the regions that has lost more inhabitants in recent years – in excess of 9,000 have left since 2014.

In 2018, more than 2,800 inhabitants died or moved to another area, almost 1,000 more than the previous year. Not a single birth was registered in nine of its towns.

For the first time in 90 years, the number of Italian citizens living in Italy has fallen to about 55 million, according to Istat.

In 2014-18 the number of Italian citizens resident in the country fell by 677,000. Two factors are behind the decline, according to experts: a decrease in births, which is at an all-time low since the unification of Italy, and an increase in the migration of young people to other European countries in search of job opportunities. Nearly 157,000 people left the country in 2018, Istat said.

Italy is the only major European economy whose population is expected to decline further in the next five years, the UN has said. It ranks second – behind Japan – as the country with the greatest proportion of older people, with an estimated 168.7 over-65s for every 100 young people.

Carmen Imes on serving communion:

It may not seem like such a big deal to stand there holding a tray of bread squares. Don’t be fooled. It’s a very big deal.

Let me back up. Two years ago I arrived at Prairie College as professor of Old Testament. I was ready to teach and ready to serve. In my first couple of weeks here, a colleague approached me to see if I’d be willing to help serve communion at our convocation chapel. I was surprised at how much this meant to me. Forty years old at the time, I couldn’t recall having ever been asked to serve communion before. I’ve attended church my entire life — not casually, but devotedly. If there is such a thing, I’m a professional Christian. I’ve dedicated my life to this faith, to this message. I’ve been to Bible college and seminary. I spent 15 years as a missionary. But I’m a woman. Perhaps that’s why I had never been asked to pass out bread squares and tiny cups of juice to fellow believers.

For chapel we passed the trays down long rows. Somehow I messed up the every-other rhythm or sent the wrong tray first down the row, which meant that people were trying to hold a cup while passing a tray and taking bread. That didn’t work very well (these things take practice, of which I had none!). In the end, everyone was served and our job was done. I felt mostly like an imperfect cog in a machine. Happy to help, but nervous and clumsy.

This year was different. This year at our convocation chapel those of us serving stood at the front of the auditorium. Everyone came forward to receive communion. I held the tray of bread as people passed in front of me. I looked each one in the eye and told them, “The body of Christ, broken for you.”

The music was a bit loud. I’m not sure whether most of them even heard me. But something powerful happened as I said over and over, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” I knew most of these people by name. I knew many of their stories. Some of them I loved deeply. Others — to be frank — not so much. In context of these relationships, those simple words became profound as my heart silently completed each sentence:

“The body of Christ, broken for you . . . whose body is also broken.
“The body of Christ, broken for you . . . whose spirit is crushed.
“The body of Christ, broken for you . . . whose mental health is tenuous.
“The body of Christ, broken for you . . . whose family is estranged.
“The body of Christ, broken for you . . . whose sin is still hidden.
“The body of Christ, broken for you . . . who is growing in grace.

A few people approached who I’ve never really clicked with. People who annoy me. They’ve never seemed to like me, either, but they had no choice but to come to me for bread.

“The body of Christ, broken for you.”

My words to them were the same as to all the others, and this time the Spirit gently convicted me. Would you withhold love from one I love enough to die for?

I felt ugly places in my heart close over with forgiving love as I silently repented.

I heard a still small voice say to me, “The body of Christ, broken for you . . . who have failed to love.” I needed as much grace as every other person I served. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

That Viking was after all a woman:

MORE THAN A millennium ago in what’s now southeastern Sweden, a wealthy Viking warrior was laid to rest, in a resplendent grave filled with swords, arrowheads, and two sacrificed horses. The site reflected the ideal of Viking male warrior life, or so many archaeologists had thought.

New DNA analyses of the bones, however, confirm a revelatory find: the grave belonged to a woman.

The study, published recently in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, sends ripples of surprise through archaeologists’ understanding of the Vikings, medieval seafarers who traded and raided across Europe for centuries. (Explore how Vikings really lived in National Geographic magazine.)

“It was held up before as kind of the ‘ideal’ Viking male warrior grave,” says Baylor University archaeologist Davide Zori, who wasn’t involved with the research. “[The new study] goes to the heart of archaeological interpretation: that we’ve always mapped on our idea of what gender roles were.”

Viking lore had long hinted that not all warriors were men. One early tenth-century Irish text tells of Inghen Ruaidh (“Red Girl”), a female warrior who led a Viking fleet to Ireland. And Zori notes that numerous Viking sagas, such as the 13th-century Saga of the Volsungs, tell of “shield-maidens” fighting alongside male warriors.

But some archaeologists had considered these female warriors to be merely mythological embellishments—a belief colored by modern expectations of gender roles.

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