I would have liked to write about my Holy Week holiday in Malta, but unfortunately the Herald deadline falls before we depart!
I am lucky, compared with many people, to be free enough to go on holiday. Many people do not have that freedom because of lack of money, caring responsibilities and many other reasons. We probably understand what I mean by freedom here, but actually "freedom" is a far more complex word and idea than we might realize. For example, could we regard Jesus' crucifixion as an example of freedom?
That’s how a front page headline in The Times summed up the situation last month, after a High Court judge banned formal acts of prayer at town council meetings. But headlines in newspapers are there to grab our attention, so perhaps this isn’t the last word on the status of Christianity in England. Nevertheless we have seen the steady erosion, over many years, of the sense that we live in a Christian nation. What does this mean for the place of the churches and of Christian faith in our land?
The Goldilocks Enigma
“Mmmmm, this universe is just right!”
You know the story of Goldilocks? She finds three bowls of porridge in the bears’ house. One is too hot, one is too cold, but the final one was “just right”. In the context of that story it isn’t very surprising that one bowl wad “just right”. Now imagine that Goldilocks was not wandering through a forest, but shipwrecked. She manages to swim to shore on a little island with no sign of human habitation, except for a table with a bowl of porridge and a spoon. And when Goldilocks tastes a spoonful, not only is it good porridge, but the temperature is “just right”. This would be a highly surprising discovery. Enough to make her think someone knew she was coming and prepared the meal to be ready for her arrival.
Tesco has just announced that its profits have fallen drastically over Christmas (though not all supermarkets suffered!) and a certain TV chef has been pilloried in the tabloid newspapers for his "Shoplifting Shame". It is time we had a serious look at food!
Has your Christmas cake been successfully consumed yet? - ours has, but only by means of giving large chunks of it to sons to take away with them after Christmas. Now we are all getting down to a more restrained diet, ready for Lent. Do you enjoy Feasting and Fasting, or do you prefer to eat more moderately, regularly throughout the year? What would you think if you were unable to put food on the table and had no means to be able to help yourself and those dependent on you?
The Big Bang
In the years after Copernicus Galileo and Kepler, other astronomers developed our understanding of how the sun and planets fttted in to the vast array of stars. At first scientists realised that we were part of a large galaxy of stars, the Milky Way. Then, as the power of telescopes increased it became evident that blurry patches of light were not clouds of gas in the Milky Way but whole galaxies far beyond. The scale of the universe was mind-boggling.
The Birth of Modern Astrononmy
'The heavens declare the glory of God", writes the Psalmist (psalm 19:1). People throughout history have found the night sky an awesome sight. The myriad of tiny lights circling slowly above us draws us out of our daily labour to something mysterious, out of reach and beautiful. Many people ascribed divine attributes to these celestial bodies, but the Hebrew nation saw them as a witness to a marvellous and powerful Creator who had made himself known to them in a very personal way. The night sky was an inspiration to worship the one Creator God.
In recent times some have claimed that the advance in scientific knowledge has undermined religious beliefs, enabling us to explain everything through science and rendering God redundant. Although many in the scientific community are more humble than this and do not claim that science gives answers to everything, nevertheless there is an Impression that the more we know the less we need God.