Friday, March 30, 2007

Five truly excellent experiences in London

1. St Paul's Cathedral - a postcard can never do it justice. Amazing piece of architecture and awe inspiring size. Also went to Sung Eucharist - not usually my thing, but if you're going to do it, you might as well do it somewhere like St Paul's and get the full aesthetic experience! (though shame about the wishy washy sermon)

2. Victoria & Albert Museum - I went to see the architecture exhibition, but got lost and immersed in the vast and amazing array of European sculptures.

3. Borough Markets - I've already raved in my earlier post about the coffee here, but the whole thing was a great experience, with cheese tasting and a wild boar sausage being other highlights.

4. Trafalgar Square - I virtually stumbled into Trafalgar Square by accident, my map not clearly marking it out, and suddenly I realised I was standing in the middle of a famous postcard. A great place for gathering of crowds, and a central point for so many other landmarks.

5. The Tube - loved it. I loved the challenge of navigating my way round its tangled, yet somehow quite efficient, web. Trains every 4 minutes - something Sydneysiders can be very jealous of! You can get anywhere on this!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Five comments on coffee in London

1. London can't do coffee like Sydney can do coffee. Which I find astounding for a city so close to Italy. We on the other side of the world have allowed the Italians to influence our coffee culture far more, and this has definitely been for the better.

2. London seems more influenced by America when it comes to coffee. People specifically order filtered coffee when coffee orders are taken in restaurants (can you imagine actually voluntarily wanting to drink filtered coffee, as opposed to it being the only choice on offer??).

3. More obvious still is that Starbucks have completely taken over the city. Every second street corner has a Starbucks outlet. Indeed, according to the wikipedia article on Starbucks, London has more outlets than Manhattan! Sorry, but Starbucks do not do good coffee!

4. Order a flat white almost anywhere and be met with a blank stare!

5. If you want a good coffee, go to Monmouth Coffee Company at Borough Markets (Fridays and Saturdays). Mmmmm ... beautiful. I craved good coffee for a whole week before getting there and it was so good I had to go back for a second cup (see photo above). They got the flavour right, they got the crema right. But it's a rare find in a big city ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Five observations of All Soul's Langham Place

1. This is a big church. I reckon there'd be close to 500 people at their evening service.

2. Reflective of London itself, this is a very multicultural church, even more so than churches in Sydney. There were obviously people here originating from all four corners of the globe. Genuine mix of ages too. Nice to see.

3. I wasn't spoken to our welcomed personally by anybody, but I think I'm prepared to forgive that in a church that big. How could anyone possibly know who's a newcomer and who's not?

4. I don't know whether it was to give a little taste of home to any Aussies in the congregation, but Toni Collette was used as a sermon illustration (including a brief mention of Muriel's Wedding), and a Geoff Bullock song was sung (Power of Your Love - can you believe it - I haven't heard that song for years! That may actually be a good thing ...).

5. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the same wherever you are in the world. Isn't that great!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Five reasons why I think Christians should baptise their children

For most of my life, I've held to "believers only" baptism (i.e. usually adult, or at least older children). But tomorrow, I am having all three of my children (aged 4.5 yrs, 2 yrs and 5 mths) baptised. Why am I doing this?

I am doing this because I have come to quite firmly believe that Christian believers should baptise their children. [Note, I still do not think unbelievers or "nominal Christians" should baptise their children; it is that practice that turned me off infant baptism for so long.]

Why do I now think this? I could go on for ages, and I'm not sure I'm yet able to articulate this as well as I'd like to, but here's five reasons:

1. The starting point is to say that baptism itself is important. On its own, the mere splashing or pouring or immersing in water may not necessarily mean much, but what that water points to are things of profound and amazing wonder - the washing away of sin, our burial and resurrection with Christ, and the pouring of God's Spirit into our hearts. In the New Testament, baptism was the expected norm for the Christian, the sign that you belonged to God and were part of his community. I could go on. But the point is, we too often undervalue baptism (some can also overvalue it) but it is a wonderful thing because it points to even greater things.

2. I believe that Jesus's great commission of making disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them to obey all he had commanded, starts at home with our own family - we are to baptise and teach our children, that they too might be disciples of Christ. Indeed, we should treat them as little disciples from day 1. We treat them as part of God's family, part of the church. We don't treat them as pagans requiring conversion, but as little Christians requiring discipling.

3. It is often said that there is no precedent in the New Testament of children or infants being baptised. Putting aside the various "households" being baptised that are referred to in the book of Acts, this argument misses the whole point of Acts. The book of Acts is all about new converts, the first generation of believers. It was groundbreaking stuff. There is nothing in the New Testament that discounts the possibility that the second generation, the children of those first believers, were baptised. Indeed, the references to households being baptised suggests that is exactly what happened.

4. One difficulty with so-called believers baptism is our definition of "belief" or "faith". We seem to require a faith that is sufficiently mature before qualifying for baptism. Why is not the faith of a three year old who knows that Jesus is God not sufficient faith? Do they have to be able to articulate the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement to qualify? What about the little two year old who says a simple grace of "Dear God, dinner, Amen" - why is not that simple trust in God sufficient? Where do we draw the line? In my mind, the only logical time to baptise the child of a Christian family, who will hopefully never know a time when they did not know Jesus, is as an infant.

5. But in any event, ultimately baptism is not about my choice, my decision, my faith. What I love about infant baptism is that it shifts the emphasis to God's choice, God's decision and God's faithfulness. Just as the initiative in the baptism comes from outside the child, so too does the initiative in salvation come from outside ourselves. Our salvation is not about our own faith, but about God's faithfulness. Baptism, and especially infant baptism, points to this.