Tag Archives: god

Why Coppelia is a great ballet: #2 – Insights into creative power

Now that we’ve got the synopsis and some historical context of this ballet, I’d like to draw attention to a particular theme that I appreciated in Coppelia: creative power.

If you’ve been following this series so far, you will be aware of how the plot of Coppelia climaxes in act 2, with a test of the magician’s creative power. Can he really cause a doll to come to life? He thinks so, but it all turns out to be a hoax. Act 2 ends with the failed magician crumpled on the floor. He doesn’t have the power he thought he had to create life.

But there are bigger insights into creative power going on. Framing act two are acts one and three: celebrations of the harvest festival. Inside the magician’s workshop, we see the failure of humans to cerate life. But outside, in the town centre, are ongoing celebrations of life. As Swanilda and Franz disappear into the church to be married, the town erupts with dancing. First there is a dance of hours, twelve women dancing to represent the passage of time. They are followed by a single ballerina, the dawn, representing the sun. Finally another ballerina emerges. She is prayer, representing God in all of this. Coppelia emphasises that these three factors are necessary for a successful harvest – God, the sun and the passing of time.

Here is a bigger kind of creative power. Where Dr Coppelius fails, God and his creation succeed, and continue to succeed with every year and every harvest.

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Scrubs and Suffering

Dr Cox: That was a coincidence.

Laverne: What?

Dr Cox: That knife. It just happened to go in at the exact right spot, you do not get a win for dumb luck.

Laverne: Look. If that’s the way you choose to see the world, then so be it. But don’t you dare try to take this away from me. I’ve been coming in here every day for twenty four years, watching children die and seeing good people suffer. And if I couldn’t believe that there was a bigger plan behind all this well I just wouldn’t be able to show up tomorrow. So just stop it!

Dr Cox: I’m sorry.

Laverne: It’s OK. You’d be surprised how many bad things happen around here for a reason.

Dr Cox: Well I wish I could believe that.

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A Christian perspective of suffering: Laverne is wrong.

The end is near: #4

It’s been an interesting day so far. My last Tuesday at uni and I really do think I am letting it get to me.
This morning I read three psalms in succession. They were very good together: Psalms 113-115. One had a very global focus, one had a very Israel focus and the last one had both. But they were all about God’s glory and power and authority and graciousness to his people. I have been finding it harder to pray recently, but the Psalms this morning made it easy. While I sat at the station and waited for the train I prayed properly, not in the lip service ways that are so easy to fall into. I particularly asked God to help me be helpful in the ways I related to people today – to bring glory to him in my conversations rather than to elevate myself or slander other people (as is often the case).

Wow it was a good thing that I prayed about it this morning because there were heaps of opportunities today for me to do those things. But God was gracious. There were a couple of moments where stressful things happened with Public Meetings, but God gave me clarity of mind and instead of getting mad I was able to pray about things; I found myself being patient and humble. The one time that I broke down it was the exact moment that I ran into a very good and wise friend who had all the right words to say. And in all the other moments there were amazing friends who I didn’t realise I would miss until today. All throughout the the time before, during and after public meeting, they were there thanking me for my work, hugging me or praying for me. These guys were kids, they were the small fry who started uni two or three (or four!) years after me and I was the “leader” who get to watch out for them. But today they were there for me and it was a new thing and it was really really wonderful.

I have two hours of class left to go. And three essays.

February, nearly here

Today the holidays began drawing to a close. I held the first PM meeting for the year. I was a little bit frustrated to be organising EU stuff again. The holidays have felt much to short, and now I will spend the next month sending emails and calling people and stressing. I found myself this morning looking forward to the day when I could look at the letters “PM” and see what normal people see – short hand reference to the national political leader. Not a public university bible talk. And one day too, I might even look at the letters “EU” and see, like normal people, the acronym of the European Union, rather than an acronym for a Christian group.

The frustration seemed to pass, though, by the time the meeting rolled around. Matt sent me out of the house with a prayer (due to my angst I’d forgotten to even consider God through the morning), and the meeting actually went really well. Of course, there is a long list of little jobs to do before the semester rolls in, but I finished the meeting with a real confidence that God will work – regardless of how well I do my work this month. I’ve had a breakthrough, in that I finally realise that this petty administrative work isn’t an end in itself. And neither is it unfruitful. It’s the hard yards that are put in now to see God at work among the EU when we go back this year.

It’s been a kind of bittersweet day. It began with me waiting and longing for June, and my graduation from uni and the EU. But it has ended with me realising the importance of these last few months at uni and a real vision for serving God with everything he has given me, in the communities he has put me in. I’m really excited about the next few months, and the things he will do!

This afternoon before church, my friend Yi was telling me about a conversation she had recently with a woman on the train. After seeing each other regularly on the platform and occasionally saying hi, the woman (also Chinese) came over to Yi last week and asked her if she knew anything about Falun Gong, and after Yi answered in the affirmative, asked her is she had a religion. Yi told her “she followed Jesus”, to which the woman replied:

“But Christianity is a Westerner’s religion”.

Yi was sad while she was telling us the story. She said this woman proceeded to talk to her the entire train trip, but every time Yi tried to share her own point of view the woman told her to be quiet because she knew more than her. Poor Yi.

So at church tonight when we were singing I looked around at the beautiful 1860s masonry and stained glass – a building dripping with anglo heritage. There was a small idiosyncrasy. Two pews in from of me was a box set of Korean worship CDs that had been left behind from the afternoon’s Korean service. Yi was rostered on for bible reading, so she came up afterward to read in her Mandarin accent. And then more singing, with more Mandarin accents coming from the pew behind me.

I totally get why Christianity comes across as a Western religion. I particularly understand why people think this in Australia, where mainstream culture is Western, and is built on Christian traditions inherited from England. But you know, there are more Chinese Christians in the world today than there are in any other country. South Korea has the highest proportion of Christians in the world, and I think also the largest congregations. For sure many Western nations have incorporated Christian values into their cultures over the years. But in countries outside of “the West” where the mainstream culture or the government despises Christianity, millions of Christians struggle to hold onto their faith against the odds. They face prison, torture, slavery and death. Are these people really dying for the sake of Westerner’s God?

I don’t know if you’ve ever made the same mistake as this woman on the train. Do you ever catch yourself approaching Christianity as a Westerner’s religion? If you have a few minutes to procrastinate, look here for a brief rundown of how today’s Christians live outside of “the West”.

A glory-in-humanity moment

I am washing up alone in my house and my music is playing, and right now I am struck by how amazing people are. Just the music! The songs skip from one musician to the next and it is amazing that so many people have created such diverse and beautiful music.

God is the creator, and he has created humanity in his image. It is a pretty special experience to reflect on the things that God has created. But how much more special is this: we get to participate, we get to create our own things within his world to give it even more meaning!

39 days.

We had our last week of scripture this week. Anyone who has seen me on tuesdays this year has probably heard me complaining about how hard it is and how much I hate it, but in retrospect, it’s been fantastic. Our last class in the classroom was actually last week. It was the second best lesson I had. I got to give away a bible, the kids were really into the class, and everyone listened to me (a really rare event). My classroom teacher was beautiful, she came and told me how much I had grown in skill throughout the year and apologised for not being around to help out more. I’m really going to miss her, and all the kids.

This week, our church was responsible for the combined assemblies. My friends Andrew and Fiona did all of the work to prepare it, but Fiona was away so I got to help out at the front. We sang “My God is so big” with the infants kids, and the primary kids sang some sort of Christmas carol rap fusion that Andrew put together. The kids loved it. Instead of a silly nativity play thing, Fiona had put together a slide show of the Christmas story where her year 6 kids had dressed up and taken photos. And Andrew did a sweet talk. It went so well, even the principal was impressed with it, which was very reassuring for Andrew.

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I will also miss the other Scripture teachers, after spending time with them every week, and listening to their health problems, their teaching advice, their stories about their families, their particular church politics and their daily reading habits. The best were Effie (in white) and Thelma (in pink, with her back to the camera). I won’t be back next year, but I am thinking of going back a year later, if it works. Maybe they will still be around then.

The other big thing that happened recently is that I went on National Training Event. Except that I didn’t go to the first half this year, the conference in Canberra. I only went to the last five days, where I went as part of a team of 15 to help out at a random church.

It just so happened that the random church I was allotted was Summer Hill Anglican. Summer Hill is the parish next door to Ashfield (my normal church). It is also the suburb where I spent much of my early childhood (my grandparents live there), and my adolescence (Mysty lives there, and the Muse cafe is there). So it was pretty cool ministering to the area, because there was so much connected to it. We ran scripture, we surveyed people (door knocking and talking to people on the main street), we held a kids club and a community working bee, we played chess with people in the town centre, we went to a Christmas party for the Friendship Group (a group for people with mental illnesses), visited Bethel nursing home and helped run the church service. As usual, it was a fantastic experience.

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NTE at St Andrew’s, Summer Hill